Prequel: Back in 1995, I was my sister's class' 6th grade camp counselor at the Poconos Environmental Education Center. Some of that rolled into the manuscript, but that's a story for another time. Fast-forwarding to this decade:
The story started as a spark of inspiration in February, 2012, thanks to comments from a few friends about something I'd posted about in this blog. I wrote a scene in the woods between Phoebe and Dev, two characters that popped into my head, and the idea for a YA contemporary took root.
But. I didn't want to write a contemporary. I wrote contemporary fantasy and paranormal and, wow, "plain old" contemporary was hard. And didn't have magical things (or so I thought!) Still, the idea bugged me, begging to be turned into a book-shaped thing.
Contemporary was... meh. But... intriguing.
Then, Kimberly Sabatini talked me into going to the Eastern PA SCBWI Poconos conference in April, 2012. Listening to her was the best decision I ever made. Even though I was clutching my contemporary fantasy at the conference, every single workshop fit together in my head like perfect Bookishly-shaped puzzle pieces.
- In Stacy Cantor-Abram's workshop, I found Phoebe's voice and a good percentage of the paragraphs I wrote thanks to her writing prompt actually make up Bookishly's first page (for now... we'll see where edits take it.)
- In Sara Sargeant's workshop, I was finally able to work out the timing and pacing of the plot and how to stretch a story over a year without being clunky.
- In Laurie Halse Anderson's workshop (after I stopped crying on her like a baby) I learned how to love revision. Now, I truly believe what she told us-- Revision truly is the best part.
- And I made friends at the conference who turned into supporters who cheered me on through this journey and critique partners who made Bookishly better through a gajillion revisions.
April 2012-April 2013: I wrote and revised. I kept falling in love with my story. "You and I" turned into "Bookishly Ever After" and I revised again (see the gajillion revisions and 'Revision is the best part' above.)
Contemporary wasn't so bad, after all. Nope. In fact, I kind-of loved writing contemporary.
April 2013: Back to the Poconos, this time at the Highlights Foundation, where I shared the most adorable cabin on the planet with Deena. That year, they had two tracks for middle grade and YA: one for finished books with Kathy Erskine, to help push them the rest of the way into query shape, and one for unfinished WIPs. I dragged my Bookishly printout into the finished book workshop. Between Kathy's workshop and the peer critiques, I was able to work out some of the parts of Bookishly that were bothering me. After a weekend in one of the prettiest places on the planet, I came back home refreshed and ready to take on anything.
Contemporary rocked (and I found the magic in it.)
I call Bookishly Ever After my SCBWI EPA Poconos conference book because it came full circle at this conference. This May, I'm going back to the conference, WIPs in hand and ready to keep learning and growing.
I can't wait.
To learn more about the Poconos conference, go here.