A Continuing Education, by Eva Polites

So September’s theme—education—should have been an easy off the cuff post to write. After all I have been in school since I was four. In my forty-five years in the educational system, I shouldn’t be searching for what to write. But that’s exactly what I’ve done for the past two-months. And until this evening, I had nothing to write about.

It finally dawned on me that I was approaching this topic from all the wrong angles. Every thought that went nowhere revolved around my special “perspective” as an educator.

This evening I realized that I needed to discuss education from the perspective of a student. At this time, I am not a traditional student. However, education and student are words that are not limited to the formality of a classroom.

Over the years, I have had many creative ideas for stories. Some I wrote down others I didn’t. When my oldest left for college, I decided to write. The first attempt started with what I thought was a thorough research process. I outlined and then I started writing. Chapter one down and I showed it to my son who said it was too confusing. I realized that starting to write involved educating myself.

I spent the next year reading and rereading middle grade books I enjoyed as a child, books my kids liked, and recently released books. I tore them apart. How was the first chapter constructed? What type of word choice and sentence structure did authors use? How were characters introduced and described? How did writers handle dialogue? How did authors provide background without resorting to info dumps? I also read as much as I could on craft, including Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kid Lit. After eight months, I felt ready to start over and write a new first chapter.

By the third chapter, I realized I needed more research. Not necessarily on middle grade fiction but on my topic—eighth century Denmark. I spent the next month working on research, and then I picked up my story and finished it. I gave the manuscript what I thought was a thorough editing, and then handed it off to friends and spouse to critique. Thankfully, no one was too critical, which gave me the courage to revise some more based on feedback. Unfortunately, no one was too critical, and I blissfully went forth, thinking I was ready to submit my new creation.

I found lots of information about querying (sometimes confusing and contradictory). I learned about literary agents. Most importantly, I discovered SCBWI and got involved. I am still researching both the industry and my craft. I am continuing my education as a writer and honing my writing skills and my understanding of the business of writing.

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2 Responses to A Continuing Education, by Eva Polites

  1. Thanks Eva, it does feel as if I am a forever-student when it comes to learning about the things I love. And being a writer allows me to create my own curriculum 🙂

  2. Brinton Culp says:

    Thanks for your post. “Teachers” are forever learning more than “students”–may we always keep on learning ☺

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