I’ve been at this writer thing for about 4 years now. Like Kristy Thomas, I’m disciplined and have had some minor successes on my own (Kristy was already taking babysitting gigs before the BSC). I feel like I sort-of know what I’m doing—or should be doing (I’m also bossy). Fortunately, I also have a local writer’s group who are now some of my closest friends, but none of these accomplished writes are into middle grade—or MG for those in the know.
But, what I didn’t have was a close group of peeps who were exactly where I was on my journey—in the trenches, improving their craft, querying and also willing to read my stuff and set me straight. Kind of like how the BSC rallied and gently helped Mary Anne transform from kiddie to tween and stand up to her dad. Where was my Stacey to make over my manuscript? Was there another Kristy-type out there ready to shake my shoulders and force me to get out of my comfort zone?
The fact that I am sitting here writing this is proof that there was. Putting off setting up a website was my plan, until I found my crew and they pushed me to take this step. Two years ago, I joined Twitter thinking I’d find some like-minded folks and a critique partner. I thought it would be a snap. Ha! Listen, if you want your bedroom to be as cool as Claudia Kishi’s, you actually have to work at it. I’m using a lot of metaphors here, but hopefully you get my drift. So, I worked a bit harder on Twitter. Mentor contest were entered—last year I did Pitch Wars, AMM and RevPit, and I hoped that through these venues I’d find writing partners. Of course, that was secondary to hoping I’d be selected as a mentee.
Anyway, through these contests (none which I won) I did amp up my engagement and meet others, but mostly I was tentative and waited for others to come to me. Seriously, thank goodness for other people; maybe I really am more of a Mary Anne than I thought. My Kristy turned out to be Susan Needham, who invited me to join a Slack group of other folks who entered RevPit. Susan is trés organized and she and two other writers had us swapping pages in a super coordinated, round-robin fashion. My people!!! But, as things happen, the group petered out a bit. Even so, I still engage with most of those writers. Baby steps—sometimes you have to land the small gigs (and keep up with those clients) before the Pike family invites you to the beach.
Earlier this year, I ramped up my engagement with the Manuscript Academy and their Facebook group, Ten Minutes with an Expert. It was in the chat at one of their zoom events that I met Malia Maunakea. Like me, Malia was also planning to enter Pitch Wars and we hit it off. Soon we texted 5-10 times a day and were chatting on the phone. We traded our entry packages and obsessed over which mentors to apply to. I felt like I met my person! And if it all ended there it would have been good enough.
Remember that slack group that Susan formed? Well one of the members, Jenny Mattern, contacted me via twitter to say she had recently joined up with a bunch of other MG PitchWars hopefuls, and would I like to join the Twitter DM group?
Long story short (okay, not so short. I recognize this is a bit long, but hey, it’s my first blog), this little DM group had some fantastic people that I was already following and were in our old group. It magically snowballed, both in members and support. Not really. There is no magic, except that we got very lucky in that the now 30ish folks are VERY engaged and VERY pumped to help each other. We call ourselves the MG Waves—hoping to ride each other’s wave of success.
Now that we’ve found each other, engagement continues to be the lifeblood and secret of our success as a group. We trade pages, share craft resources, highlight any interesting agent or contest info we come across, and basically are each other’s biggest fans. We’ve met via Zoom many times over and have been lucky enough to attract some notice from a few very kind MG authors who joined us in a Zoom to share advice. Even better, members of our group are starting to see success. Two were chosen for PitchWars and another three have found agents! And no, I don’t feel jealous (thank goodness) I feel inspired!
My lesson from this? Push yourself to meet other writers, because over the past two years on Twitter I learned that one thing sometimes does lead to another, and you just have to keep putting yourself out there. I mean, if she hadn’t, Mary Anne would have never met Logan, right?
So, if you’d like to meet the other MG Waves (#MGwaves on Twitter), look no further:
Susan Leigh Needham