Brian Henry Workshops and Clinging to Undoubtedly

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I made the drive out to Kingston, Ontario to partake in a workshop led by Brian Henry on writing for children. Can I just say that if you have to travel 170kms each way for anything, its best done with a great friend, a fully charged i-pod and a driver with a lead foot. Oh! And the ability to understand freeway numbers according to Google maps might also prove helpful.

Brian took us through many aspects of children”s publishing. Explaining the different styles of juvenile fiction, when its worth getting an agent – and when its not! – and all manner of other helpful hints. With 25 years experience in editing and teaching creative writing, you get the impression that Brian Henry knows what he is talking about. In manner and appearance, Brian resembles a teddy bear. Quietly spoken,  its quite obvious the pleasure and pride he takes in encouraging and discovering new talent. Graciously, over the course of the workshop he spent time with each of the 16+ participants going through sample chapters and completed picture  book manuscripts.

The beginnings of a story book began to form in my mind back in 2007. It sat on my computer hard drive for years. Years in which I thought that my dream of ever writing a book and having it published seemed more impossible than finding a pot of gold a the end of the rainbow. If you have every done any research on writing for children, you know that it’s apparently even harder than it is writing fiction for adults. So the idea of ever producing a story good enough for a published picture book was put away in the ‘nevah gunna happen’ file I have in my mind.

Over the past year as I grown in confidence in my abilities from being involved in my writing group (Publish or Die – PoD) I started working on the piece again. Edit after edit after edit happened until I got to the point of being brave enough to share the draft with the other PoD members. With their encouragement I kept working the piece and took a copy to the workshop to show Brian. I can still recall Brian’s face as he read my piece several times, smiling with enjoyment. I also recall his words;

“You should enter this in the children’s competition with the Writers Union of  Canada .  Undoubtedly when you make the top ten of the competition it will be sent to three different publishers…”

“Uh…sorry… what did you say?”

“Undoubtedly when you make top ten. UNDOUBTEDLY.” He repeated the word, tapping the table with each syllable  as he took in my look of confusion and disbelief.

Truly I hope that I don’t disappoint Brian and bomb out, not even making the second round of cuts by the judges, because on average there are 500 to 600 entries every year. Truly I hope that this isn’t the year to have the most brilliant writers for children come out of the woodwork and enter their new works. Truly I hope that Brian will be able to gloat that he picked another great book in my piece. I’m not sure when the top ten is even announced.  Perhaps as I write this blog piece the top ten are already receiving phone calls and I will make a total fool of myself even putting this ‘out there’ when I don’t receive a call. But I entered the competition despite my nerves. I entered my first ever serious competition for writing. If I got nothing else from the workshop from Brian Henry, it was the confidence to  put my work out there and have a go. And that in itself made the workshop invaluable to me.

And the other great piece of news?

Brian Henry and PoD are working on creating a writing workshop for writers here in Ottawa, Canada later in the year.  More news as the pieces of the workshop fall into place. And it goes without saying, if I get a phone call from the Writers Union you will be the first to know.

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