On the very first day of my writing workshop, my professor, Sarah Weeks, asked myself and my classmates what we wanted to write about. She wasn’t all that shocked to discover that the majority of us wanted to write young adult novels. However, our concentration isn’t just Writing for Young Adults, it’s Writing for Children & Young Adults. So for our very first workshop we were required to do both, writing a picture book, a middle grade short story, and the first chapter of a YA fantasy. Similarly, in my literary seminar, we read only picture books and middle grade novels.
This was a challenge for me. Not because picture books and middle grade novels are hard to read (they’re not), but because they weren’t what I was reading in my free time nor were they anything I ever had an interesting in writing. Still, I was in school to learn and I wanted to push myself to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. Plus, I didn’t really have a choice; it was my homework.
While the picture book I wrote for my workshop, and then my literary seminar midterm, will never see the light of day, I found that the best thing I wrote this semester was actually my middle grade short story. Loosely based on my own personal experiences with my paternal grandmother, it was the story I got the most compliments on from not only my classmates but also my professor. And though I had no intention of ever writing a middle grade novel, suddenly I had this story that I wanted to expand and even though I don’t know when that will happen (I have a whole other book I’m trying to finish at the moment) I think it will happen. Some day.
And I think that is the best summary of why I loved my first semester of grad school. Because it made me step out of a box I’d put myself in (strictly writing YA, that is), and try something I don’t think I would’ve thought to do on my own. Besides that, I was also introduced to 13 other writers who a) are trying to do the same thing I am (become better writers) and b) provide different feedback that has helped me over the course of the semester, and I’m sure will continue to help shape my writing in the future. They’re also just cool people that I can talk to about books, which is an added bonus, though they’ve made my to-be-read pile even longer.
My first semester went by incredibly fast, which is both exciting and scary. Exciting, because my grad school experience is now 25 percent completed. Scary, because I’m one step closer to being a grad school graduate and I would like to believe that when I get there I’ll have a completed manuscript and, hopefully, an agent too. But I still have some time for that. So for now, I’m going to enjoy my winter break by reading, writing, and blogging, and I look forward to continuing my education in the spring.