by Jennifer Hudson
For the past several years, I have ventured into the world of writing children’s books. As a novice, it is a very intimidating world to enter. Shortly after I began writing, my friend Beth begged me to come to a meeting. A group of children’s book writers were planning to start a critique group. Reluctantly I agreed. Surrounded by a diverse group of talented and dedicated children’s book writers, I was even more humbled. I told Beth I didn’t belong in such a group, but she convinced me to join anyway. Thus, I became a Mudskipper.
While I take baby steps to becoming a children’s book writer, I feel like a toddler. Toddlers go through a developmental stage as they begin to explore their environment. They wander a certain distance from their mother and then stop. They are nervous and uncomfortable about how far they are from mom, so they quickly run back to home base. Mom looks down at them, says an encouraging word or lays a hand on their shoulder and they are refueled. They can venture out a little further the next time.
Until now, I have only written picture books. I had an idea for a novel. After discussing it with Beth one night, I sat and wrote out the introduction and first chapter. I suddenly stopped, disgusted. It wasn’t writers block, I just had no idea how to go any further. It wasn’t working and I decided writing novels is for the more serious, talented writers. I put it away.
At our last Mudskippers meeting, our newest member, Valerie, asked the group, “Is anyone working on a novel?”
I looked away. Finally, I mumbled “I’m not good enough of a writer for that.” But as the small group discussed novels, I decided to throw out my idea of what I had started. The enthusiasm and energy of the group was contagious as they helped me figure out how to get started again.
“Just write different scenes,” Tameka told me. “You can figure out later how to weave them together.”
I was refueled. I came home from the meeting and sat down and wrote out three scenes. And I continue to work on more. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with this novel, but I can count on my critique group to refuel me whenever I need encouragement.