Take a Risk

You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. – Annie Dillard

Summer of 2014 might have been my busiest summer yet. I had a week and a half to breathe—to sleep in past 5:00AM, to not work 12-14 hours a day, and to really reflect on all that I’ve experienced.

I’ve been writing religiously every morning, working on project after project, and feeling like I wasn’t making much headway. My mom planned to be here for the summer (from Thailand, where she usually lives) and I knew I had an opportunity to attend the week-long WOW conference in Georgia, organized by Kristen Fulton. Childcare, one of my biggest obstacles in being gone for a week, was taken care of. I took a risk. Hesitant about leaving my kids for a week, I had misgivings. I’d be sharing dorm space with strangers. Would the money and the time given up be worth it?

I took a risk and went.

All of my fears were replaced by friends. Friends that I knew online and finally met in real life. Sharing dorm space wasn’t a problem, it was fun. I felt like I got my money’s worth on day 1 in a day long workshop with Lisa Wheeler. I knew if I learned nothing else that week, I’d already made a good investment in myself as a writer.

Jodell Sadler, literary agent, was in attendance. She came about halfway through the week. I introduced myself. She spoke about picture book pacing. I’d been following her for awhile and really connected with her use of mentor texts, even reaching out before the conference via e-mail as a possible poster on my blog. I hadn’t signed up for a critique with her though.

I took a risk and asked her for a critique.

She willingly worked me in. In my risk, all I’d hoped for was an honest critique. I knew she was an editorial agent, so I wanted to get some feedback on a picture books I’d never sent out before. She really liked it and offered to represent me. I wanted to make sure she really liked more than one thing, so I gave her more work. Which she also liked.

I prepared lots of questions to ask her before accepting her offer. We chatted in person and by phone.

My husband finally said, “Marcie, take a risk.”

It didn’t seem like a risk, but more of a step in the right direction.

Then in August, I had the privilege to attend a picture book workshop with Lola Schaefer and Rebecca Kai Dotlich in Indianapolis. One thing that Lola said stood out to me. She said,

When writing your stories, take a risk.

She encouraged us to try something different and not be afraid to stretch ourselves as writers.

I’m not much of a risk-taker. But sometimes I realize, I have to leap, even when I don’t know the outcome.

In the words of fellow Hollins gal, Annie Dillard, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

My goal for the remainder of this year is to be braver in my writing life. To take more risks. To not play it safe, but to stretch myself.

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  1. Debra Shumaker says:

    Yeah for risk-taking! I’m so glad we got to hang out on the retreat and I am especially happy for you for signing with Jodell! Have fun “stretching yourself” for the remainder of the year. You’re on a roll!