by Kris Maze
When writers take risks, it's a chance to infuse fresh energy into their craft. Whether it's experimenting with new writing methods or exploring innovative ways to connect with readers, embracing change can invigorate your work.
Nearly a decade ago, I made a deliberate choice to pursue my dream of becoming a published author by taking risks. I sought wisdom from experienced writers, publishers, agents, and editors through articles, conferences, and classes. This in itself was a risk, considering I was already pushing my limits of time and energy as a full-time teacher with a family.
Trying something new can be challenging, but it's never dull. In this blog post, I'll share the adventures and lessons I gained from these risks as a writer.
I followed blogs and watched YouTube videos on writing, craft, and marketing. I invested in small courses that honed the finer nuances of crafting compelling stories.
I joined local writing groups and made weekly visits to libraries for in-depth discussions about novels. I immersed myself in the writer's community.
I pushed through the arduous process of completing the first draft of a YA thriller novel and diligently sought beta readers. Their feedback was invaluable, prompting me to embark on a comprehensive rewrite. One which still sits on a dusty closet shelf.
I hustled to find an agent, sending out queries to publishers while scouring the internet for any opportunities that aligned with my manuscript, tracked under #MSWL. In the end, what I collected was a folder full of rejection emails.
I scoured contest listings and submitted to every competition that vaguely seemed to match the essence of my story. Looking back, I realize the importance of thoroughly researching the compatibility between my work and the publishing entity with more precision. And for those contest judges and organizers of those days, I apologize for my light indiscretions and literary version of spam. Sorry about that!
I went to conferences. Conferences that required getting onto a plane and traveling to some exotic locale called LA in California, far from my small community. There, I had the privilege of meeting fellow writer-people. Some of us banded together to form a writing accountability group that continues to this day, hosting weekly calls that offer support and insights into the ever-evolving world of publishing.
I found a small publisher who discovered my story through one of the many contests I entered and offered me a publishing contract. My book hit the market in the summer of 2020, but unfortunately, my well-laid plans for in-person promotions fell flat.
I didn't let setbacks deter me. Instead, I reclaimed the rights to my work and reimagined my story within a niche I intimately understood, thanks to my decades of work in education.
I made the decision to invest in editing, formatting, and proofreading services, to polish my manuscripts.
I sought guidance from exceptional writing teachers and coaches, tirelessly honing my skills and expanding my knowledge.
I undertook a website overhaul, introducing user-friendly store interfaces and a sleek, modern look. In the digital age, I understood the need to stay current.
Throughout this journey, I leaned on my trusty accountability groups, celebrating our collective successes and offering a supportive ear when we faced challenges. Together, we strengthened our resolve and pressed further into our writing goals.
During this past summer, a realization struck me - a connection existed between my journey as an author and the unfulfilled aspirations of other creative educators like me. I researched within my professional niche, identifying opportunities for conference presentations.
I submitted applications to speak, creating sessions designed to cater to the needs I once had as an attendee. I focused on four regional organizations and presented my proposals, hoping for the best, but not really expecting a response. This wasn't my first time submitting proposals, but it's the first time I've felt confident in the message I have to share. Despite several personal constraints, such as tight schedules and life pressures, I seized the opportunity and took the risk.
As summer transitioned to fall and I resumed my responsibilities in education, acceptance emails began to arrive. One came in mid-September, followed by two more in the subsequent week. At the time of this post's publication, I am arranging logistics for three out of the four proposals, including all the minutia of making accommodations and ensuring microphone accessibility at various venues along the U.S. West Coast.
During these developments, I've taken calculated risks and found immense satisfaction in imparting the knowledge I've accumulated during this journey to my fellow Teacher-Authors, but I'd like to clarify that my intent here isn't to provide a blueprint for delivering exceptional presentations or securing speaking engagements. Instead, my aim is to share my experience of growth, hoping it may inspire and encourage fellow writers to take risks in their author journeys.
Writers in The Storm Blog has many resources on public speaking. Here are a few posts full of valuable advice.
Risks can be an author’s friend and an impetus for growth. I’ve been a fan of taking calculated risks for some time, and besides helping my author presence grow, I have learned far more than if I had only made safe decisions that kept me comfortable.
I'm also keenly aware that I took another risk in this post as my grammar and spell-checking software screamed that I've begun nearly every paragraph with the word ‘I’, a faux pas in writing for so many reasons.
But as writers, we know when to override the rules and make our own path. Sometimes it is the difference between being stuck or finishing your novel. Dreading a social media event or having fun promoting your work. If your author’s dreams are stalling or losing luster, consider making some changes. How are you going to break your writing-career-mold and take a risk today?
Kris Maze is an author, writing coach, and teacher. She has worked in education for many years and writes for various publications, including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and the award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her horror stories and young adult writing on her website. Keep up with future projects and events by subscribing to her newsletter. And other writing work HERE.
A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors.
And occasionally, she makes homemade mac-n-cheese as comfort food for others.
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