I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that very few people who would like to get published will. The good news—almost everyone who sticks at it long enough and works at it hard enough, will.
The question, of course, is—is it worth the time and effort? If not, then it is perfectly reasonable to quit trying, to spend your time doing something else that provides a greater return on investment.
If your decision is based on financial return for time invested, then you will probably realize it isn’t worth it. But there are many reasons to write, to want to publish. And the more of these reasons that drive you, the more likely it is that you will stick at it long enough to make it work.
The following are, in no particular order, some resources that will help you become a better writer and, hopefully, will help you get published.
Utahchildrenswriters@yahoogroups.com is a group of people in Utah, who have lived in Utah, who have passed through Utah, who know where Utah is, and who are interested in writing for children. There are about 700 people on the list, though most don’t comment often, if at all. This is a place to hear about upcoming events, to get suggestions for your writing, to meet people who can form a critique group with you, and more. If you have any questions about writing or publishing this is a good place to ask them. Somebody will probably know the answer. To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to email@example.com
Utahwriters@yahoogroups.com is a monthly newsletter that lists what local authors and illustrators are doing–their new sales, new publications, awards, signings, conferences, events, etc. This is a good place to find out events that you can use to help you become a better writer. It is also a good place to find out about books that you might want to read. Pay particular attention to the signing events which authors list. Authors will be excited to see you, to have someone to talk to. To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you look around, you will find other local and national listservs that will help you become a better writer and marketer.
A class is a great place to learn about the industry, about writing, to get great feedback, to meet people. Most colleges and universities have some types of writing courses, as do many community school programs. I teach a couple classes at BYU. They are evening courses and anyone can take them.
My children’s publishing industry class, ELANG 421R, is a great way to learn about the industry. Each week I invite a different specialist—author, illustrator, editor, publisher, agent, book buyer, bookseller, librarian, academic, awards judge, anybody interested in the industry who I think can enlighten us on what is happening. The class is for anyone who is interested in the children’s publishing industry, or in the publishing industry in general. This class is taught winter semesters at BYU on either Tuesday or Wednesday from 5:10 to 7:40 pm.
There are several other great writers at BYU who teach writing classes: Carol Lynch Williams, Chris Crowe, Ann Dee Ellis, Cheri Earl, Brandon Sanderson, Laura Card, and others. It is a great resource for writers.
Conferences and Workshops
Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers is the best of the workshops in the state–and in the west. It’s a great place to learn your craft, as you work every morning for a week with a professional in the field and several dedicated students. Afternoons you go into breakout sessions where you hear the wisdom and insights of the other faculty members, which include authors, editors, agents, and more. Several authors have published from this conference. To find out more go to http://www.wifyr.com.
The Utah Valley University Conference is primarily for teachers and librarians, but is a good way to get to know other authors, as they usually bring in a big name or two. Usually held in March.
LTUE—Life the Universe and Everything— This nearly free conference has several main guests and an editor or two. And even if you don’t write science fiction or fantasy, there are workshops that would be just right for you. Usually held in February.
Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Midwinter Workshop– a great place to learn about story, about various ways of telling stories. There’s a track specifically for writers. Usually held in January or February.
LDS Storymakers puts on a conference where editors, agents, and authors teach about writing and publishing. Usually held in May.
Writers at Work is a long running conference geared mostly towards adult writing, and literary fiction. Usually held in June.
Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers is a great event for meeting and listening to top-tier authors and illustrators talk about their work. Usually held in July.
There are several festivals in the state that involve books. There’s the BYU Festival of the Book. There are events at a wide range of libraries. The Provo Library in particular brings in a lot of big name authors. So does the Salt Lake City Library. Go and listen to them. You will absorb a lot of information.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is one of the leading storytelling festivals in the country. While not technically about books, the storytellers do publish their stories sometimes, and it is a great way to learn about story structure, getting story ideas, etc.
Bookstores. It’s a little known fact that bookstore signings are not as glamorous as they’re cracked up to be. Most of the time when an author goes to a signing at a bookstore nobody comes. That leaves one lonely author. Desperately seeking to talk with anybody. And if you come up, show some interest, some knowledge about them, and can get them talking, they are frequently very grateful and will remember you and give you great advice. And then when you see them at another event they might remember you and you eventually might become friends. A great networking tool. And cheap. Especially if you don’t buy the book. But buy the book anyway. It will endear you to the author.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrations is a national organization for professional writers and illustrators. You don’t have to be published to join. There are a lot of resources for beginners. To find out more about this organization go to http://www.scbwi.org. Many of the professional authors and illustrators in the country belong to this group.
A critique group is a great way to get feedback on your manuscript. To find a critique group, join one of the listservs and ask, check at your library, meet somebody at a conference, or organize one yourself with friends that you know who write.
An internship can be a valuable educational experience. Even if they don’t pay. With a free internship, the supervisor feels obligated to give you a good experience, along with your work. They might arrange for you to meet authors, and will help with your career goals, give advice, and even more important is that you get to be on the inside looking at what life is really like for a writer. Sometimes you will help them with their mail, their research, help them with events, etc.
To get an internship, talk to me. Or ask one of your favorite authors if they want an intern. You might also consider some of the authors you don’t know.