Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why I Love Being a Book Therapist

Guest Blogger: Sarah Anne Sumpolec

I love the whole concept of Book Therapy. Imagine! A place where you can get useful feedback? It could save people years of submitting. So often writers just get a "No, thank you" when they submit to publishers or agents. But that doesn't help them improve or grow or discover what they can do to make their work better.

When I first started writing, I had some precious people who offered me advice and help. They let me ask every silly question and answered each one with patience and love. So just as people gave to me so generously, I want to turn around and give back to others.

My Book Therapy gives me a chance to do that. I think I was built by God to want to teach and encourage. I love looking for ways to strengthen a story or make the characters come alive on the pages. I love taking a good story to a great story by infusing it with layers and subplots and themes that will resonate with readers. I love seeing where a story can go when you give it wings.

I'm so glad I get to be a part of My Book Therapy, especially as a YA Specialist. Writing for Young Adults is something I am passionate about, so I have a vested interest in helping see that teens have great reading material in the years to come.

A Therapist's Thought

I spend most of my weekends working as a director with a Christian Youth Theater. A typical show will have eighty kids that range in age from eight to 18. As a director, I get to look at the big picture of what we want to accomplish and then help each kid do their best work to make that big picture happen. But these aren't puppets, these are kids. So directing them must be about bringing the best out of each one of them individually. And at the end of it all, I am dressed in black, hiding in the wings, watching them shine on stage. I get so much joy out of it. I know I played a vital role, but I don't need the applause - all I want is to see them bring joy to that audience.

Directing is a lot like Book Therapy. You've got this story to tell and you want to tell it in a way that's going to have the greatest effect on your audience. A therapist can come in and help you find ways to make the story stronger, ways to make the characters more real, and ways to explore all the possibilities. Just like an actor can't always see what the audience sees, a writer can't always tell what effect their story is having until a skilled writer comes along and asks the hard questions.

And really, it can be hard. It's natural for us to just want praise. It's harder when someone comes along and says, "We've got some work to do here." But it's worth it. It's worth it when you take a story to the next level and realize that you can impact your readers in new and amazing ways. It's worth it when you discover tools that can help you grow. And it's worth it when you finally get to share that story with the world. And at the end of it all, it's still your story, your moment on stage to shine. But I'll be the one in the wings cheering you on.

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