Saturday, February 12, 2022

Keynote: Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber is the #1 New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of THE CARAVAL SERIES, which has been translated in over 25 languages. Her newest book, ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART, came out late last year and is the start of a brand new series.

Before being agented or published (and at the time also unemployed) Stephanie tells us the story about being on a date and getting asked what she wanted to do with her life. When she replied that she hoped to be on the NYT best seller list one day... The date went sideways. She felt so ashamed, embarrassed, and rejected that she stopped sharing her dream out loud. And when Stephanie learned about SCBWI, these same feelings kept her reluctant to join and fearing the worst until she attended her first conference which Stephanie described as life changing.

Some of those life-changing keynotes from SCBWI conferences were given by Lin Oliver, Richard Peck, and Mac Barnett. And from those inspiring keynotes Stephanie started to gain confidence again in having her big, NYT list dream. Though Stephanie had a full-time job at a college, the writing she was doing in her spare time as her passion project turned out to be a much better match than that original jerky date and she found herself falling in love with writing stories. For her, pursuing publication was the only way she could see being able to afford to write full time.

Stephanie is a big fan of big goals and dreams and says, "Goals and dreams don't need to be explained or justified, but they should be big and out of reach. Big, impossible dreams make for big goals and big writing... Have a dream so big that it makes other people laugh, those are the dreams that bring stories to life."

Stephanie found that burying her big NYT dream made her writing suffer and made her feel like she wasn't herself. When she tried to make her dreams "more practical" she found she stopped having fun and was writing from a place of fear. Great, big-goal writing needs three things. Here are the first two:

1."You have to banish fear," says Stephanie, "Fear shrinks your brain and makes you less creative, even if we don't know the science behind that we know we can feel that. Look for the fears you may not know you have but that may be holding you back, discover your fears so you can banish them." 

2. Write with your superpower, but do you know what that power is and are you currently using it? Stephanie was compared to Anne Shirley a lot as a kid, she was very dramatic—crying wasn't just crying, it was wailing in the depths of despair. But there's more to Anne than emoting, it's how she sees the whole world through a lens of romance and drama. Stephanie loves that lens, too, and writes romance, drama and settings that feel beautifully alive. Your superpower might not be something you love about yourself, at first, but try fully embracing it and see how that changes your writing.

Stephanie says 50% of writing and publishing is simply failing, so accept that and then ask yourself: 

If you knew whatever you wrote would succeed, what would you write? What kind of story would you want to tell?

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