Writing has always been a passion of mine; though it manifest itself as more of a dream than a reality for many years. I grew up loving words, the creation of worlds, and the weaving of fictional stories. The concept of story intrigued me from a young age, and, since I could hold a pen, I’ve been crafting stories of my own.
Like many young writers, my stories started out along the lines of “Once upon a time, something great happened, and after something great happened, the prince and the princess lived happily ever after. The End.” Over time, I grew and matured, and, alongside of that, my writing began to change as well. However, it wasn’t until my 16th birthday that the ultimate turning point came.
The summer I was fifteen, a friend of mine came to me at church one afternoon and told me about this amazing curriculum that his mom had gotten for him. I smiled and nodded, and told him that was great. Then he said, “You know, it’s a writing curriculum…” That caught my attention. Seriously? I’d looked into writing curriculums before, but none of them held what I was looking for. I asked him what it was like. “It’s for writing a novel in a year,” he told me. That was it. The hooking process was complete for me with the words “writing a novel”. I didn’t really care how long it took. This was my dream, and here, perhaps, was a chance at it.
I went home from church that afternoon and said to my mom, “You know, I haven’t asked for anything for my birthday this year….and, well…there’s this curriculum deal that I heard about….” Mom stood there for a few moments, holding a dripping dish rag and blinking at me, before saying, “You want a curriculum for your birthday?” I suppose it may have been a somewhat strange request. But I was determined to have a look at this program, and so if I didn’t get it for my birthday, I was ready to save up for it and buy it myself.
It turns out, my mom was thrilled with my request for learning materials, and The One Year Adventure Novel showed up when I turned sixteen. Needless to say, I was psyched. Right here in my hands was what I’d wanted for as long as I could remember: something to show me the building blocks of a story! I tore open the box and began working that very day.
It wasn’t long before I began to sense a change in my mentality towards writing, and with that, a visible improvement in my work. The concepts explained by Daniel Schwabauer, or Mr. S, as the students refer to him, were fairly simple and easy to grasp. For the first time, I felt like I might be able to make something of myself as a writer. Like my dream may someday become more than just a fantasy.
When I reached seventeen, I had a complete rough draft of my first novel; a story about a Confederate cavalryman entitled, “Assassins in Blue”. The story was 52,000 words, and the growth I had experienced as an author from beginning to end was evident in the proof-read that I did several months later. For the first time, I had characters I could relate to on a deeper level than one would relate to stick figures or cardboard cutouts, as well as a storyline that carried with it a degree of intrigue and originality. I had my first step towards the dream of becoming a true author.
But things didn’t end there. In June of 2013, I attended my first OYAN Summer Workshop, where my learning skyrocketed off of the foundation laid by the curriculum. The Schwabauers, as well as other speakers, expounded on the contents of the curriculum as well as some fresh concepts, going deeper than ever before into the aspects of story, such as character development, plot design, world building, and arc. This opened up a whole new door for me to step through with my writing. Opportunities appeared from every direction, and the week I spent in the heart of OYAN taught me more than I can properly express on this page.
One of the most beneficial things for me personally, was the critique groups. As a solitary writer, I never got much constructive feedback on my stories—especially from other writers. And constructive feedback is something that is entirely crucial to the improvement of one’s writing. I realized that there was only so much I could do on my own, if I ever wanted to pursue serious writing. I’d hit a plateau, and the only thing that was going to keep me improving was the feedback of others.
Some other things that I benefitted from were the connections that I made, not only to other writers, but to publishers, editors, and agents as well. The environment that the Schwabauers provide to their students, I realized, is truly one-of-a-kind. I’ll never forget the day that I had breakfast with Jeff Gerke, head of the publishing house, Marcher Lord Press, or the conversations that I had with Jill Williamson, author of Captives, and The Blood of Kings Trilogy, and of course, Mr. S himself. The insight and advice they were able to provide me with was incredible; something that I don’t take for granted, and I know other OYANers don’t either. Our opportunities are unique, and we are thankful for them. I am thankful for them. They’ve helped me to grow both as a writer, and as a young adult, and I’ve witnessed the same thing in many of my friends as well. OYAN is truly a blessing to all of us.
The things that the One Year Adventure Novel Curriculum, as well as the Workshops have taught me reach far beyond the fundamentals of writing, and into the fundamentals of life. They taught me what it is to have a dream, and what it’s like to pursue that dream. They taught me to persevere, even with things are hard. To keep working, even with it’s more of a grind than anything else. All of you fellow writers know that feeling, and parents and siblings of writers have no doubt seen us struggle through it. OYAN taught me that the struggle, though difficult, is worth it, and that the best things in life are worth waiting for, and working for.
OYAN caused me to see the world in a different light, and, believe it or not, to seek God in a new way. After all, He is the great Storyteller, and the crafter of all true stories. Pursuing writing in this new way made me want to draw closer to Him, and understand His plans and His story. And the more I pursue everything that OYAN has to offer me, the more I see Him and His blessings, and His plans.
Learning alongside others on the same journey towards writing, and towards God has been one of the most blessed experiences of my life, and I’m thrilled to say that my adventure isn’t over. At eighteen, I am now looking at the possibility of an internship with the Schwabauers, so that I can continue to deepen my knowledge of the art of storytelling, as well as broaden my connections in hopes of one day publishing. I also hope to use the gifts that OYAN (specifically the workshops and the critique groups) have given me, in order to pursue the possible career of a freelance editor. I’ve already had the blessing of two paid editing jobs, and hope to continue with it, seeing that it’s just one more thing that OYAN has taught me to enjoy: making things beautiful.
Seeing my writing change from “once upon a time”, to a thrilling adventure has been one of the most fulfilling things that I could ask for in my education, both throughout high school, and now that I am at college age. And here, my pursuit of writing hasn’t stopped, nor have the opportunities that OYAN has provided. In a week, I’ll be traveling to Olathe, KS for my second Winter Workshop, a specialized college class led by the Schwabauers for a smaller group of One Year Adventure Novel students eighteen and older by application.
The things that I learned last year, when I attended the first Winter Workshop at its birth helped to solidify and enrich my entire experience with OYAN, and I’m looking forward very much to taking this second class to further stretch my abilities and sharpen my skills. I suppose that I could sum up this post by saying that the learning never really stops, nor does it have to. The OYAN curriculum is definitely one that I would recommend to anyone with a passion and a desire to write. The S’s open doors for us that previously, and alone, I would’ve thought impossible. And throughout all of this, God has blessed me with a way to turn my dreams into a reality.