The Kid Lit 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.
Success Story Spotlight
with Jason Gallaher
Please share your exciting news!
It’s been one year since my first Writing Barn Picture Book Intensive, and thanks to that weekend, I signed with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!
Taking the Picture Book Intensive at the Writing Barn helped me immensely because it allowed me to meet Erin Murphy. She is just fabulous, and we really clicked. A few weeks after our WB weekend, I sent Erin a slew of picture book manuscripts that she forwarded to Tricia. Tricia then called me and we spoke for two hours. It was love at first phone ring! Our book tastes are super similar and thankfully Trish appreciates my whacky sense of humor!
How long have you been writing/pursuing an agent/publishing deal?
I’ve been writing ever since elementary school (my favorite piece back then was a reimagining of Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth” that I performed for my class in second grade). When I entered college, however, I thought that I couldn’t actually pursue writing as a career. I had that whole “everyone wants to be a writer, you’ll never make it” self doubt creeping in. After trying out journalism for a bit, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I decided to take the plunge and really commit myself to writing. It was about two years after I made that decision that I was lucky enough to sign with Tricia.
What fears/hopes did you have before the event?
My fear before the event was that I was a complete buffoon that could never, ever, EVER write a picture book and that not only would I be laughed out of the Barn, but that there would actually be barnyard animals there as well that would neigh and moo and oink at how horrendous my manuscripts were. Fortunately, there aren’t any malicious horses/cows/pigs on the property, and when people laughed at me, it was at a point in my reading that I was hoping for a chuckle. The whole Writing Barn crew, both staff and attendees, were so welcoming. I felt like a part of a family within the first half hour!
The atmosphere of the Writing Barn is completely warm and inviting. Everyone asks about your writing and your goals, and people were constantly ready to throw ideas at each other and get positive, constructive feedback. It was such a safe space! I also made friends from that weekend that I’m still talking to today, and who I miss like crazy! I wish I could go to the Barn every weekend!
Have you made friendships/colleagues as well? How has that supported you?
I’ve definitely made friends/colleagues/conspirators who are always ready to talk shop, and ready to talk about life in general. It’s been so nice to have a group of writers to fall back on who not only want to talk about manuscripts, but who want to talk about the goods and bads of life as well that an amazing story might spring from.
Why do you think attending workshops/classes is important to writers at all stages of their career?
Workshops are the reason I am where I am in my writing career and if you ever have the chance to attend one, DO IT! Granted, I’m still just a puppy in writing and not an experienced Author Great Dane, but the few steps I’ve been lucky enough to make have been because of the people I’ve met at workshops and classes. This is largely because of the amazing critiques I’ve received while at these events. Taking the advice of authors, agents, and editors during critiques has allowed me to see my work in a whole new light and to shape my manuscripts into pieces that I get genuinely excited about. It can be scary as all get out to have your work read by a real deal professional, but it is so worth the jitters! In my first Writing Barn weekend, I had a fabulous critique with Audrey Vernick in which I laughed my head off and had the greatest AHA moment!
What is a takeaway you will carry with you far beyond this good news as you continue to build an develop your career?
I’ve learned to always read my work out loud to people whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is a concept that still terrifies me. Literally every time I’m in front of a room of people about to read a picture book manuscript, I feel like I’m on the verge of wetting myself (TMI?). But the feedback from your audience’s reaction is phenomenal, and people tend to give you great constructive criticism afterward. Every time I’ve read a piece out loud, I’ve received tips from listeners that have made my manuscripts stronger.
Any advice you have for writers/creatives having trouble staying the course in pursuing their goals?
Surround yourself with other writers. Also puppies. The writers help you feel sane; they are all going through the crazy emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs that you are, and it’s nice to know you’re not alone on this wild ride. The puppies help turn the emotional downs on this rollercoaster into out-of-this-world-cuteness-OMG-I’m-so-happy-look-at-how-fluffy-it’s-so-itty-bitty-awwwww highs!
Jason Gallaher is a PB, MG writer. Tried and true Hufflepuff. He is also a Writing Barn Regular and has acted as Editor for Young Adult Books Central. Currently he is repped by @authorblogger of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.