Do You Want to Write for Children or Young Adults?
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If you currently write for children or young adults, or are thinking about doing so, becoming a Children’s Lit Fellow at Stony Brook Southampton might be just for you. It was for me in more ways than one.
First, a little backstory…
Following my mother’s near-death experience in 2014*, I embarked on a journey I could have never anticipated. During my mother’s hospitalization and recovery, I began to realize I had lost most of the mojo I had for a fulfilling, nearly two decades-long career as a nutrition author/writer, speaker, and spokesperson. Of course, when something serious and unexpected happens, life as you know it is seldom the same. And it takes time to get things back to “normal,” or to acclimate to a “new normal.” So I rode the wave, caring for my mother with my father while trying to resume my work life. But my numb feelings about my work persisted for a few months. Instead of making any radical decisions, I slowly scaled back on my work commitments. But then, about four months after my mother fell ill, something great happened: seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars made me feel so many feelings—I hadn’t felt so strongly about a movie since I had seen Titanic while pregnant with my first son (and after a three-day mandatory bedrest). Seeing TFIOS sparked to want to write something—anything—that could make others feel the way that movie made me feel. I went home and ordered the book.
Now, three-and-a-half years later, I am fully entrenched in the world of writing for children and young adults. And couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled. While I’ve met so many amazing, talented people and have had so many positive experiences in the classroom, at SCBWI conferences, at VCFA novel writing retreats, and at YallFest and YallWest and other book festivals, one of the true highlights was being a Children’s Lit Fellow at Stony Brook Southampton.
Of course, I’m proud to have earned an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Writing for Children and Young Adults in January 2017. But being a part of the year-long experience was the real gift. I learned so much from several wonderful people including Emma Walton Hamilton (our Director extraordinaire) as well as Patricia McCormick, Gayle Forman, Tricia Rayburn, and Donna Freitas (four amazing, accomplished mentors). I also learned from my incredible fellow fellows (pictured below), forming several bonds along the way.
I’m so very glad I took the chance and applied to the graduate program. Not only did it fit nicely into my life as a nutrition writer and mother of two, but it taught me so much about both the craft of fiction writing and the business of writing for children—things I am sure will serve me well on my quest to become a published young adult author.
Here are several of my fellow fellows’ thoughts about our shared experience:
“To me, the best part of this program was that it taught me how to say with conviction, “I am a writer.” Without the camaraderie of the 11 other writers, I would be home wondering what I could be. Of course, I’m still wondering when I will find the magical recipe that someone is interested in publishing, but it’s so much easier knowing I have the tools and connections I need to get there. The program stretched and forced me way outside my comfort zone, but the professionals and my classmates felt like my biggest fans. (They still do!) ~Maureen Herman Morrison
“Stony Brook University’s Children’s Literature Fellowship is a unique program, one that combines a rigorous program with creative heart. I highly recommend it. It offers one on one mentors who provide constructive editorial critiques of your work in progress, it provides pitch practice workshops along with the opportunity to pitch to editors and agents in the field, and it supplies you with valuable insider publishing information. As if that wasn’t enough, it encourages and facilitates collegial friendships that will last a lifetime.” ~Janice Milusich
“I am so grateful for the year I spent as a Children’s Literature Fellow, and for the unique structure of the program. My mentors gave me valuable advice and much needed direction as I created (and completed) a manuscript I could feel proud of. Emma, Patty, and colleagues offered abundant practical knowledge about the business of getting published. Most of all, though, what I got from being a Fellow—and what I hope I will always have—is a writing community: friends with a shared experience, a shared passion, and a shared pursuit.” ~Vera Hough
“Being a 2016 Children Lit Fellow gifted me something unexpected: a community of life-long friends with a shared passion for writing for young people and the determination to keep at it. The friendships I made over the year have really helped sustain me.” ~Eugenie Havemeyer
“Without the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Lit Fellowship, my story would not be where it is today. Yes, I’m still working on completing it, but in one year this Fellowship gave me one- on-one experience with published authors, structure, deadlines, and most importantly, a group of writers who are on this journey with me.” ~Stephanie Reese
“The best parts about being a Stony Brook Children’s Lit Fellow were the parts that weren’t promised or mentioned in the program information. The best parts about being a Stony Brook Lit Fellow were finding a powerful village to help me hone my craft, the face-toface meetings with agents and publishers and being able to submit to them directly, as well as enjoying friendships that I know will last a lifetime. It was the quantum leap my writing needed!” ~Jessica DeHart
“The summer conference was definitely my favorite part of the program. Writing can often be a solitary calling and the program helped me find a supportive community of other amazing writers. The assignments were certainly daunting at times, but they helped me push myself and write even when I didn’t want to write. The program forced me to stick with one project for an extended period of time instead of jumping around. But most importantly, it made me prioritize writing ahead of all the other things that get in the way! I would recommend this program to anyone who craves writing accountability in their life, is looking to push their craft to the next level, or really wants to finish that novel they’ve been working on for ages. Be prepared to spend a lot of time writing, expect a few crises of faith along the way, but know that you will feel like a writer. It’s a great program that I wish I could do again!” ~Svetlana Zaitseva
If you’re thinking about applying to the program and would like to learn more, visit the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Lit page. The deadline is November 15th, so don’t delay!
*Knock on wood, my mom is fully recovered and doing great.
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