I recently attended my second SCBWI Conference in Winchester. I don’t really need an excuse to travel to Winchester. It must be one of the most charming, beautiful, inspirational towns I’ve ever been to. Winchester is a medieval paradise. My cousin-in-law’s husband was telling me how they churned up some ancients bits of pottery when they were reworking their garden. Nothing that was recognizable as an urn or anything like that, but still, it was all very ancient.
This ancient atmosphere stirs something inside of me. Maybe it’s the tumble-down castle that you can walk through. Maybe it’s the understated portal at the edge of town that let’s you know that you are entering a different time and space, even if you can (unfortunately) see the golden arches sign looming in the background.
On the Saturday Eve of the conference, we were all invited to a gala event at the Guildhall. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. I mixed and mingled with publisher, agents, published authors and, a term a learned that evening, pre-published authors. I was told that I can consider myself part of the latter category. Very exciting on paper. Scary in reality.
I had charming conversations with some of the freshly published authors. Not one of them said that it was their first book written that was being published. I found that interesting. A publisher confirmed what I was hearing. It was one woman’s 11th book that was her first published. I asked what had happened to the other ones. She told me and a new acquaintance, J., that she still had them and hoped one day to dust off her Babies and have them published.
J. and I talked about this astonishing 11th book fact on the way back to our hotel. Then she said something interesting: “I’ve been told that my baby is ugly.” I knew instantly what she meant. A writer’s Baby is that first idea, that first ‘Once Upon a Time’ that is written down or hacked into the computer. It is your dream and you just know that this will be the one story that the world has been waiting on. Reality often looks different, though. That first book is often The Ugly Baby. It is an attempt at learning your craft. It is a confusion of every idea you’ve ever had mixed with everything you like and dislike in everything you’ve ever read.
It’s hard to accept that one’s work might be The Ugly Baby. After all, every child is beautiful and special in it’s own way. It’s not uncommon for writers to go back to rejected work and find an audience after they make a name for themselves. I don’t know whether my Baby is The Ugly Baby or not, but even if it is, I know that there still might be hope, but I also have the strength to be able to let it go.