By Deborah Abela
In 2020, I missed the world.
Especially the kid lit world. I missed talking to other writers, seeing kids at schools and festivals and chatting to the many many gorgeous librarians who make it their lives’ work to get kids excited about books.
By staying at home, I wasn’t having those conversations I’d normally have.
I’ve written 27 books over the last 20 years and I have LOVED so many of the people I’ve met. Having conversations with those who not only love what I do, they get it! They understand why we struggle and scribble and draw and LOVE this kid lit world so much, even with all its difficulties, foibles and rejections.
For all of us writers and illustrators, it’s so important to immerse ourselves in this world. To read and write often, but also to get together with others who love what we do, to talk about our projects out loud, to share our ideas, successes and failures.
So I spoke to a writer friend of mine, whose work I admire, and suggested creating an online critique group. We chatted about who else we’d like to invite and in July last year, we had our first meeting.
We set very strict rules. A week before each meeting, we send writing we’d like to be critiqued. During the meeting, we allow 15 minutes to catch up, then we each have 15 minutes for our work to be discussed.
And I love our group! They are all fiercely talented and kind and smart! Recently, I sent a few chapters of my new novel, that I was quietly happy with, and after they shared some lovely comments, they told me I’d written an entire chapter where a character told a story about what had happened to her rather than shownit! It was so obvious! But I didn’t see it. After the meeting, I trashed the chapters and rewrote them, but with my character leading the action and taking charge of the story! I have almost finished the novel, but so far these are two of my favourite chapters.
So as we come out of this global hibernation, I hope you’re finding ways to stay connected with your kid lit buddies, because they’re some of the smartest, most generous, kindest of people. They’ll help you, support you and, hopefully, tell you when you need to trash your work, but don’t worry, it’s good for you and your work.
Deborah’s latest book is Bear in Space, a 2021 CBCA Notable book.
The Secrets of Diverse and Interesting Middle Grade Novels - How to Keep Them Reading
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