Scaffolding

Life is interesting.

Back in 2007, when I decided to get serious about writing, there was a lot I didn’t know about how this all worked. But I started hanging out on disreputable corners on line and meeting a variety of people. And now, thanks to the miraculous powers of the Internet, I “know” people who are nominated for the Nebulas. Who have been on the New York Times Best Seller list. Who have been asked to speak at the NASA Ted conference. Who are very savvy about the business of writing, are successful, and thoughtful and insightful.

People who go on tour world-wide. People who have been kind enough to teach me, both formally and informally. Who have been convention guests. What’s interesting about that is all of these writers were just like me at one time. And most of them still take the time to talk to me. Which is nice of them, given my struggling to publish status. Hell, I’ve sang karaoke with a couple of them. I meet one periodically for coffee, and I’m never quite sure what’s in it for her.

Almost every writer I’ve talked to–on-line and off–will answer questions and share their experience. They really are a friendly bunch, if you don’t present yourself as a total dork. Even on those occasions you fan all over them, they’ll treat you pretty well.

I’m finding that if you stick with writing, and you write, and you don’t present yourself as “that guy,” other writers, editors and agents will talk to you, and in the course of that conversation, teach you what they know. You can say things like, “I think Jig the Goblin represents every man,” and they still take you seriously. (Jig does, you know.)

There are also opportunities for these folks to teach you. I’m treating the pursuit of my writing education like the new grad school. Clearly I can get only so far on my own. Practice improves me, but education changes what I do. So, formal and informal–I’m keeping my ears open. And again, other writers will be there to scaffold me.

I’m also finding that you meet lots of peers who support you, who haven’t spoken at NASA…yet. These people you see the potential in. If you think of the journey to good writing as a bus trip, some of them get off at different stops, in different places, but when you’re on the bus together, you can have a pretty good conversation.

So. This isn’t an entry about where I’m going or where I’ve been. I’m surprised that writers of all levels are just so darned friendly and helpful. Even if you don’t pay them money. I’m liking that.

I’ve got to start thinking of ways to pay that forward.

Catherine

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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