Everyone has heard the old adage, "Look before you leap." Well, sometimes it's best to just leap right in before you look. Looking often stops us dead in our tracks and prevents us from moving forward. Anyone who knows me would probably say I boldly push my way through most barriers. Why? Because I have my eye on the prize, and I can be very persistent, I've been told--perhaps akin to a puppy who wants a treat. :-)
Weeks ago, one of my writer friends posted a notice to our writing group--I think it was Crime Writers of Canada. The post revealed that bestselling author Gail Bowen had accepted the role of Writer-In-Residence at the Toronto Public Library and was accepting samples of manuscripts and would give in-person critiques.
Now Gail and I go waaaaaay back. Well, not me and her personally, but me and her books and movies. I've been a fan of the Joanne Kilbourn murder mysteries since forever. The movies, starring Wendy Crewson, were one of my first experiences at watching something originally created by an author I had read--other than all the Stephen King movies. When the powers that be stopped filming the Joanne Kilbourn movies, I was heartbroken. (Rumour has it that they may be filming 4 more in the future. YAY!)
I followed the link in the email to the Toronto Library website and very quickly scanned the page for the mailing address. Then I immediately printed off the first 3 chapters of Divine Justice, a novel that is in final edits before it goes to my agent. Sealing the envelope, I walked to the post office, told the gal there that my sample was going to be critiqued by the awe-inspiring Gail Bowen, kissed the envelope (ok, I do that sometimes) and sent it on its merry way.
Shortly after, I received an email from Peggy Perdue, Librarian and Curator of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. When she discovered I wouldn't be able to go to Toronto and that I had assumed (yes, I know...) that Gail would have lots of submissions from out-of-town writers and that she'd maybe email a critique, Peggy mentioned I didn't really qualify. To which I replied, "I do understand why you'd keep this local. But...darn. Perhaps you could slip my manuscript under her door...hehe I'd love to chat with Gail."
Resolved to my fate and believing my manuscript would be shredded as I requested, I crawled back into my den and licked my wounds. No Gail...waaaaa! It's not fair! Why didn't I move to Toronto? Then I put this out of my mind and focused on my next project.
A month passed and I received my sample in the mail. The first thing I saw was a lovely note Gail Bowen had written on the first page. She said Divine Justice was "wonderful--strong, original & compelling!" This made my month! Having a writing peer, especially one I admire so much, tell me my work is wonderful is a piece of heaven, and something I'll never forget. Throughout my manuscript she'd added notes, tips, suggestions--everything I then added to my manuscript on my computer.
We need writers like Gail, ones who are willing to relocate temporarily and sacrifice their time to help other writers. The Writer-In-Residence program is so vital to our literary culture and to writers. Having this opportunity helps me believe a little more that I'm in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. Having a positive critique experience is not always a common thing, but it's evident that Gail really took the time to get to know my characters, the hint of plot, my humour and what I thought was one of my best lines. I learned so much through this critique.
Thank you, Gail, for giving your time and expertise as a WIR, and for taking on an additional out-of-town project. I so appreciate it. And yes, Gail, one day we'll celebrate our successes over a glass--or bottle--of wine. :-)
The moral of this tale: Sometimes it's best to leap before you look!
If I'd spent time really looking over the website, I probably would have figured out it really pertained to Toronto writers. Or I would have talked myself out of doing it for any number of reasons. If I'd emailed and asked about the critique program, I would have found out I didn't really qualify--and never mailed my sample.
Fate? Destiny? Law of attraction? Darn right!
For more info on Toronto Public Library's Writer-In-Residence program, please go HERE.