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When you dream something and envision it, goals drive you onwards.

At the encouragement of my childhood friend, I became an SCBWI member and attended the 2013 Los Angeles summer conference. Although I wrote marketing copy or non-fiction often at work, and had developed stories and poems for fun, I never considered myself a writer. In my misbelief, only English majors became authors. That was not me. I could not write like them.

Regardless, I attended the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference.

The event was filled with people who loved literature and kids, just like me. I felt welcomed, eager to learn, like this was the place for me.

SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver’s speech at the conference helped change my misbelief. She spoke about how we should own the title of writer or author. How we should recognize we are one, whether we are published or not. Pre-published was the term she suggested. Her words helped me stop saying “I want to be a writer.” Instead, I began to introduce myself as a writer when people asked about my career.

Here is a poem inspired by Lin’s words:

On Writing

By Barbara Bagwell

The first step is to dream.

   that you want

   that you can

   that you will

The next step is to practice. 

   so you learn

   so you can

   so you will

The next step is to edit.

   learn skills

   gather tips

   execute them

   so you can

   so you will

The next step is critique. 

   so you connect 

   so you share

   so you dare

The scary step is submission. 

   Yes, you can.

   Yes, you will.

You are a writer already. 

   You believe it,

   you practice it,

   you revise it,

   you share it,

   then you grow.

Barbara A. Bagwell (left) with Dr. Christina Gessler (middle) and Beverly M. Collins (right) at the 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference.

Breaking my misbelief provided a launching point. I set a specific goal: write full-time at work and home. I developed my characters and story concepts into completed manuscripts. I pushed on to edit those manuscripts. Years passed as I gleaned more knowledge and challenged myself further.

Attending local SCBWI events, and meeting monthly with a small critique group, helped me edit my young adult and new adult stories. It inspired me to write more poetry. A poet friend and coworker encouraged me to attend poetry events and we regularly discussed writing. While performing at local readings, I grew as a poet and writer. I became a featured poet. The encouragement of my SCBWI friends supported my first submissions to contests and poetry journals. Those friends remained my advocates along the journey.

Poetry performance at the Pasadena Central Library.

Recognizing my writing abilities helped me navigate goals along my writing career path. Now, I write for a tech company. My immediate goals outside my day job? Finalize the edit of my YA manuscript, submit it, and publish the novel.

My overall mission is to cultivate hope. SCBWI and my fellow writers helped me achieve that while sharing my stories and poems along the way. Thank you, also, to Lin Oliver for the springboard I needed to soar and grow wings.

If you’re an SCBWI member in good standing and would like to contribute to “Community Corner,” see our submissions page for more info.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

Barbara A. Bagwell’s mission is to cultivate hope. A writer and web content manager, Bagwell has been a featured poet at readings and published in poetry journals. A New Adult short story also published. Her contemporary YA on hunger and bullying won runner-up in Santa Barbara Writer’s Contest due to the heroine’s engaging voice. She is editing it for submission.

Author headshot (c)Erin McKenzie Photography. Other images provided by author.