Success Story Spotlight Interview
with Sarah Glenn Fortson
The Austin Literary Community is a tight knit group of talented writers, illustrators, publishers, and industry gurus, alike. When one person is successful it isn’t difficult to celebrate that success as if it were our own. Many times, we here at The Writing Barn aren’t just friends with the writers we meet and teach, but fans of them as well. That’s why we’ve created this new blog series entitled ”Success Story Spotlight,” to showcase the achievements of authors who, having studied at The Writing Barn, were able to make their dreams into a reality.
So tell us about your exciting news?
I’ve just signed-on with literary agent, Danielle Smith of Lupine Grove Creative!
How did the The Writing Barn aid you in achieving this goal?
The Writing Barn offers a Picture Book Intensive weekend. As part of the weekend I submitted a manuscript for critique and happened to be assigned to Danielle. During our meeting, Danielle offered excellent suggestions for improving the story and mentioned that she would be interested in reading it again after my revisions. However, that manuscript was not totally responsible for our new partnership! On Saturday night, each attendee was asked to read a story of 500 words or less. With around 25 attendees, I’m thinking…choose something short and light. So, I chose my potty book. I knew I could be blowing a chance to shine, because I mean it’s a “potty” book. But it seems Texan’s love potty books, especially when the MC is a cowgirl. To put it humbly, I got some laughs. And afterwards Danielle approached me and asked if we could talk.
Have you made friendships/colleagues as well? How has that supported you?
Oh my goodness, I made so many new friends. Even some who live not far from me in Chicago, but I had to go to Austin to find them! As a result, I’ve joined the most amazing kidlit book club. And then there’s Danielle! Her positive energy and core beliefs are the scaffolding every writer needs. But I wouldn’t have had any of this happen for me if not for Bethany, who has created a paradise for writers. I’ve already admitted, I would rather go to The Writing Barn in Austin than to a beach in the tropics.
Why do you think attending workshops/classes is important to writers at all stages of their career?
I began seriously writing for the children’s market five years ago. In those five years, I’ve probably attended twenty-five workshops/classes…maybe more. There’s so much to learn and it’s not a linear kind of learning. There’s a lot of circling back and forth. Plus the market changes and there’s no better way to keep up with the trends than being in the midst of people who know.
What is a takeaway you will carry with you far beyond this good news as you continue to build and develop your career?
I repeat the mantra in my head, “live in this moment.” But it’s really hard to do. I often spin my wheels plotting out life and how I believe it should happen for me. At some point at The Writing Barn, I found myself actually living in the moment and letting go of my expectations. I want to remember that things happen at the divine right time and in the divine right order, as I move forward in my writing career.
Any advice you have for writers/creatives having trouble staying the course in pursuing their goals?
The advice I give myself is the advice I share with others. You can’t force life to happen the way you want it. But if you are a true writer/creative, even when you have those down times and think of quitting…you won’t. Some bit of new inspiration will come along. You’ll latch on, all jazzed to be onto your next project.
For me, writing is a second career. I was an educator for a long time and probably still am in a sense. I love my new life as a writer. I’ve enjoyed summers at Iowa’s Writing Festival and one summer at Northwestern University’s Talent Development Center where I taught creative writing to gifted elementary and middle schoolers. In winter I’ve painted in Fairhope, Alabama at the infamous art studio, which was once a gas station. Illustration is probably not in my future, but sometimes stories form in my head while I paint.
I’m a member of SCBWI and Off Campus Writers in Winnetka, Illinois. I enjoy taking writing classes online and on site. I’ve attended classes at Highlights Foundation, the Wild, Wild Midwest conference, Week of Writing Retreat, Picture Book Summit and of course, The Writing Barn. I’m intrigued with writing picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, but have middle grade and young adult projects as well. I look forward to working with Danielle and to my next visit to Austin! Thank you, Bethany.