Bitter - Party of One

So I had become bitter and jaded.

This past weekend I went a writing conference. It was the annual gathering for the North Texas regional chapter of SCBWI.

I did not want to go.  I was bitter and jaded.

Last year when I attended the conference I was about 5 months into my attempt to become a "real writer." I had been working hard a batch of picture books and came to the conference ( a 6 hour drive) wide eyed and gungho. I was like the kid with a new pet, all excited to pet it and love it.  I was complimented on my stories by other authors and even the big time agents that were there. I left thinking the world was mine. I would have a book deal and agent in no time.  Go me!

I became bitter and jaded.

As evidence by this blog I just stopped. Part of that was due to real life stuff such as jobs and family but really it was because I just stopped.  I got in a rut. I stopped writing. I stopped critiquing for others. I stopped sending out query letters because I wasn't scooped up right away. Geez, I sound so cliche'.

So fast forward to three weeks when I messaged the head of the North Texas chapter and told her I quit.  LOL.  She responded that 1. I shouldn't quit because my writing was good and 2. I should come to the conference.    I am first to say that this response started a chain of events that lead me to this blog.  She could have blown me off, she could have just said...well anything....or nothing. But she chose to encourage and sometimes encouragement goes a long way. Thank you Jackie. You rock.

But still I was bitter and jaded.  Just didn't want to do it.  (It's a 6 hour drive!)

So every excuse I found to not go was taken care of.  Money? I won an auction that allowed me to attend at a cheaper rate.  Hotel? We had good friends who we could stay with. Food? I took a lunch.  Gas? Well we still had to pay for gas but with all the money we saved from the other stuff it was taken care of.

So I went.  Bitter and jaded.

Whats the point? I came last year and nothing happened.  I didn't want to get all excited again just to have another year of nothing.  Even as I being dropped off by my lovely, supportive, amazing, sacrificial wife I told her  "I don't want to do this." She just laughed and kicked me out.

I decided that going in I was going to be honest about the past year. I believe in honesty and there is no reason to sugar coat anything. I saw Jackie as soon as I walked in and she was crazy busy but took the time hug and greet me.  I was honest.  I had little hopes for my writing.  I felt like a 5th year senior who didn't graduate and came back for another year.

I got my stuff, registered, went and sat. In the back. At an empty table. By myself.  I declared the table the land of bitter and jaded and none shall sit there!

But people did sit there. Awesome people.

The first to come and join me was a lady who recognized me as someone who I had swap stories with. She was awesome and had a cool last name....UPCHURCH! Little did I know that my first bit of encouragement was about to happen. "I really loved that story you did about the rats" she tells me.  I was floored. Because that was the story I was going to pitch later to a publisher. I has struggled all week on which story to pitch and that was so encouraging that she liked that story and remembered it even though she read it months ago.  Score one for me!

Then this small, energetic, spitfire of a lady joined us. Her name was Amy or Dr. Amy! She instantly recognized me from facebook and the fact that we had swapped stories. She too was very awesome, very nice and a joy to sit by all day. Her book is coming out soon and everyone should buy it!  My plan to surround myself with no one or with just fellow bitter and jaded people was failing fast.  The table completed itself with the rest of Upchurch's critique group who were all so nice. AND! There was another guy at the table! I think there were only about 10 men in attendance which is great when it is time for a bathroom break.

Sergi is the coolest. He was so engrossed in his young adult novel that it was encouraging to me. Oh yeah. I started a YA novel that I hadnt finished.  Sergi has an awesome idea/world for his novel and I can't wait to read it.  Yeah! Go men!

Now for the kick in the pants that I needed.  The first keynote speaker was author Kayla Olson.  Kayla has a book out called "The Sandcastle Empire". I had already heard of it and in fact it had been in my Amazon cart for months. I had tweeted Kayla to let her know that I was going to be at the conference and was finally determined to get her book (I actually got the last copy there, thank you Claudette).  Kayla's talk was outstanding. I mean amazing.  There was a lot that she talked about but I will focus on the part that hit me.....right in the bitter and jades.

"If you are unhappy writing it is probably because you have stopped writing."


Spot. On.

How can something so simple be a solution?  But she is right or "write".  If you are a creative person and love creating then you need to be consistently creating.  Before I knew it I started to feel that stirring in my belly, that fire in there that I think all creative people have when they start to feel something coming.

The rest of the day was awesome.  All the talks were so helpful and I got to meet some really cool people. Even a lady who loves Donkeys!  But I kept coming back to that one thing Kayla said.

"If you are unhappy writing it is probably because you have stopped writing."

That was the key for me.  I made a plan for the week because God blesses organization and I need to be focused.

I started writing.

I have become less bitter and jaded.

So my advice to you? The moral of the blog?

1. Be encouraging to fellow writers. If Jackie hadn't responded to me in the manner that she did then I probably would just have stayed bitter and jaded. And stayed home.

2. Go to conferences. Go to workshops.  Learn and be around other writers. I am set to go to another conference in October and February.

3. Just write. Even if it's only 5 minutes a day. Stay in the habit. Stay in your story. Stay the course.

If you don't do these three things you will become....

Bitter and jaded.

***thank for taking time to read this blog, I know it is long but I hope someone will get something out of it. If you ever need to talk someone about writing and staying the course then feel free to email me at****

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James Arthur

A children's picture book writer who lives in Texas with his wife and daughter. James lived in Taiwan for two years where he taught English and wrote stories for an international children's magazine.

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  1. This is fabulous Jimmy! And not just because you say so many nice things bout me ;) I am so glad you found your spark again and are passing on your experience to other authors. I'll see you at another conference very soon!

  2. <3 this post, it was wonderful to see you there. I am very glad Jackie changed your decision and you showed up and we got to banter about baseball for a second. I know it is a long drive over. Just keep writing!

  3. Thanks for sharing your struggles. Sometimes it's easy to feel like we're the only writer struggling to find an agent, or finish a story:)