Monday, May 23, 2016

A word of thanks to the Millbrook Literary Festival Committee

(L-R)  Anna Paret, finalist; Scott's wife Alison Meyer;
Ray Fashona, winner; author and judge Valerie Martin;
Festival Chair Sam Falk; and Finalist Laurie Treacy.
Writing is such a solitary art. When the voices inside my head insisted that I write down what they had to say, I finally gave in and decided to pursue writing stories and books for young adults and children. So after 13 years of working for a Westchester weekly newspaper, I exchanged fact for fiction.

But in order to make writing something more than a hobby, I needed to take it seriously. That meant educating myself. Learning about the elements of a story and novel. Voice. Plot. Setting. Point-of-View. The ‘hook.’ Synopsis. Query letter. Critiques. Editors. Agents. Reading in the genres I wanted to write in. I was a newb, and yet I decided to pursue my storytelling love at the highlight of YA’s golden age. A time when the term Young Adult had become a household word--all because a boy named Harry and a girl named Bella had paved the way.

What a great time to be a writer and to write! Books featuring my favorite types of supernatural creatures—witches, vampires, shifters, ghoststopped the charts. I began taking classes and workshops and attending conferences. I also joined the SCBWI.

My very first workshop, “Writing and Selling the YA Novel” with K.L. Going was held at Merritt Books. Inside the room upstairs I met a group of people just like me: passionate about writing for teens. Little did I know that some of those people would become friends and respected colleagues. I met Kimberly Sabatini there. She moved on to become a successful published YA author and whose debut novel I instantly fell in love with when I read it. I also met Linda Hanlon there. Linda would become the co-leader of the monthly SCBWI Shop Talk meetings (along with Kim) held in Poughkeepsie and also a friend.

Scott Meyer 
There is another person I met at Merritt and his name was Scott Meyer. He owned the bookstore and greeted us with a warm smile and wit. We immediately relaxed and knew that he was a kindred soula staunch supporter of books, authors, and the written wordand that this store was a special place.

Over time, I returned to Merritt for other workshops and author events. Each time Mr. Meyer greeted us, taking the time to speak to us, and he remembered our names. Through him, I met author Eileen Charbonneau who ran summer writing classes there. Again, I found a kindred spirit and I am proud to call Eileen my friend and mentor today.

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary art. If we writers look around, we can find others who share our passions. We can also find places to network. To meet up with. To communicate with and learn from or help. Critique groups. Workshops. Libraries. Bookstores. There is a community for us. We just need to leave the safety of our writing spaces and search them out.

Judy Blume once said. “Our finger prints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” Touch. It’s a powerful word. At one time I was a ten-year-old girl reading by flashlight well into the night about girls named Margaret, Deenie, and Katherine. Ms. Blume’s words touched me, her characters could be me, I felt as if the author was writing to me and only me. Me. A kid. Accustomed to being talked down to by adults. Suddenly there was an adult who understood me. Got me. Knew about my innermost secrets. Fears. Concerns. Wow.

Her books impacted my life I knew one thing: I wanted to do that. 

In his own unique way, Scott Meyer touched many of us. With his smile, conversation (he knew so much about so many books and subjectswhat a mind!), the offerings at his bookstores, his love for and support of writers published or on their way, the list goes on. The second floor of Merritt Books provided this introvert with the perfect environment which enabled me to grow and learn. Thank you to the Millbrook Literary Festival Committee members for reading my short story, The Haunting Season, and  choosing it from the other submissions to become part of a select group of finalists. I am honored to be a finalist for the first annual Scott Meyer Award. Congratulations to Ray Fashona, the winner.

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