Welcome to the Winners’ Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Today we are celebrating published author MaryLou Driedger!
What is the name of your book? Who is the publisher?
Lost on the Prairie
Give us a short summary of your book.
Set between Kansas and Saskatchewan in 1907, this middle-grade novel follows a young boy who gets separated from his family en route to Canada and must find his way alone across the immense prairie landscape.
Tell us a bit about your path to publishing, from idea to submission to published.
My novel was inspired by a few sentences in my great aunt’s memoir which mentioned that when my grandfather’s family immigrated to Canada the train car in which my grandfather had been travelling with the horses became uncoupled from the rest of the train. I wrote the story over a period of some four years doing lots of research including a research trip to the area in South Dakota where a major portion of the novel is set. I am a member of a children’s writer’s group and every chapter was read to them and received critique. A friend who is a professional editor then helped me work through the whole manuscript again. I submitted it to several different readers and entered it in contests to get more feedback. I tried several different publishers and was rejected but Heritage House in Victoria proved to be a perfect fit for my novel.
How long have you been writing?
I have been a freelance journalist and newspaper columnist for about 35 years. When I retired from my career as a teacher I decided I wanted to try children’s writing and my first step in that direction was taking the ICL course with Pegi Deitz Shea as my instructor.
What’s your favorite genre to write and why?
I have been most successful with my middle grade fiction writing but I also have several picture books I’d love to publish. I have a daily blog which I also enjoy writing.
Please list the course or courses you’ve taken with us.
How has taking our courses helped your writing and/or career?
Pegi was a very encouraging mentor and really helped me take my first steps into the children’s writing world. She was so affirming and assured me I would be successful.
Have any of your class assignments been published? If so, where and when?
Do you have a favorite writing tip you’d like to share?
I write a blog post every day and have done so now for ten years. That constant writing practice is vital. With my novel writing I always just tell myself to take one step at a time. Write the next chapter. Take the next course. Go to the next writing conference. Read at the next writer’s group meeting. Submit to the next publisher.
If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of writing advice, how far back would you go, and what would you tell yourself?
I had my first story published in the newspaper when I was ten. My mother framed it and I still have it. The fact my mother believed in me as a writer made all the difference. She cut out every single thing I ever published and pasted them all in scrapbooks. I have dedicated my book to her. So I would say my advice would be to try and find someone who believes in you.
What will your next published work be?
I am just working on the last chapter of a novel called 60s Girl about a girl growing up during the 60s decade.
Please tell us the best or most valuable thing you learned from your experience with ICL and IFW.
I learned how to set up a professional submission but also I gained confidence from Pegi, my instructor. She made me believe I had talent and potential as a children’s writer.