How I learnt to stop blaming the A-Team and find my writing community!

I loved the A-Team.

When I was growing up, unlikely my fancy cousins in Dublin with their BBC and their UTV (luxury!), we had only the two Irish tv stations. So I never missed the A-Team’s weekly visit to our house.

I loved the A-Team whole heartedly. I never questioned their funding structures (no one seemed to pay them) nor the fact that the baddies gave up easily (and would probably return and wreak vengeance once the heroes left town). I never noticed the tired gender politics (too busy having my first crushes on the various attractive assistants). Humble as ever, I always thought of myself as the Murdoch type.

A team with me in itBut only a few years ago I discovered the extent to which the A-Team had skewed and warped my beliefs about writing…

In July 2014…

I left a full time job to become a stay at home parent to my kids and to write middle grade kidslit. It was an incredible change of pace. In my previous job I had a work day ruled by a work mobile phone that never stopped ringing and a packed diary of activities that took me all over the city and beyond. At home, there was just the silence of a spare bedroom, the same view out onto neighbours’ back gardens every day, a phone that rarely rang and nothing in my diary.

But the writing itself was the biggest surprise. I had thought that joy and beauty and genius would flow out of my finger tips onto the screen as easily as breathing.  In fact I thought writing would be like the writing in A-Team creator Stephen J. Cannell’s little production company titles at the end of each episode. The A-Team had secretly been brainwashing my innnocent mind to think writing would be like this –

But now that I’d starting writing full time, I discovered Stephen J Cannell and the A-Team had lied to me. Writing wasn’t joy and beauty. Genius didn’t flow out of my finger tips. And there weren’t a pile of writing awards behind me.

Writing was work.

Although writing was definitely easier for me than my previous job (although equally hard to do well), as the writing fantasy faded, I missed being part of a work team. I missed being one of a group of individuals with a joint purpose who shared struggles and successes with each other.

I realised I needed to get over my delusions and get a plan for writing long term and for building up my writing community.

 Now…

More than three years on, writing is still nothing like the A-Team end credits sold it to me. And certainly there are no writing trophies amassed around me. But with the handy assistance of an internet blocker, I write every day. But equally importatntly I’ve found my kidslit writing community.

For the UK, it’s been primarily through the wonderful and supportive #UKmgchat Twitter chat that I found my peeps. In Ireland I met loads of Irish writers through ER Murray‘s #Mgiechat twitter chat (dormant now, but ready to erupt again at any time). I joined a writing group run out of the Irish Writer’s Centre by the very talented (and impossible to spell) Simone Schuemmelfeder and built up a group of indispensable colleagues there. And the monthly blogging here has helped me no end too.

I saw this writing community in practice less than two months ago when I attended the wonderful Children’s Books Ireland annual conference. Within one minute of walking into the conference room, I was waved over to join a group of about ten talented kidslit writers I’d only ever met online. By lunchtime I’d met more. Some of us published, some unpublished, all of us a community. And it was a wonder to realise I liked them as much in the flesh as virtually.

CBI conference ed
From front left clockwise to front right: Muireann Ní Chíobháin, Marc Diamond, Sinead O’Hart, Olivia Hope, Kieran Fanning, Kieran Crowley, Me, Niamh Garvey, Eve McDonnell (Photo courtesy of Eve’s phone)

This makes me all the more excited to announce that…

After blogging monthly for a year and a half (and not one month missed), I’m ready for a new blog journey, but I’m not embarking on this journey alone. I’m undertaking it with the cream of the Irish kidslit writing community in Ireland.

From January 2018, I’ll be doing a year long blog series. It’ll still be published on the first Monday of every month (other than bank holidays). It will be a mix of an ongoing, fun story-line with genuine writing tips from a different Irish middle-grade author each month. It’s aimed at middle grade age children, their educators and parents and anyone who loves middle grade writing and writers. The provisional title is The StoryThief Challenges!

I’m very proud and honoured to have five of the twelve writers needed for the series already agreed to take the plunge on The StoryThief with me. All these talented authors have had books published in 2017 or have books coming out in 2018. They’re my A-Team. Thank you very much to…

ER Murray 

Caroline Busher

Sinead O’Hart 

Nigel Quinlan

Kieran Crowley

I’ll tell you more about this series in my December blog post, but in the meantime I’m proud to have found my kidslit writing community and looking forward to building it in the new year. So as Hannibal might say –

I love it when a plan comes together!

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