Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sending your babies out into the world

In less than 2 weeks, The Haunted House Project officially releases.  However, Amazon started shipping pre-orders this week, so my book is about to be in the hands of friends and family (and eventually, perfect strangers).  I always tell my students in public speaking that I'm a little odd.  Most people like audience filled with people they know.  I'll take a roomful of strangers every time.  I feel less pressure.  I worry less about disappointing.

Each stage of the publishing process presented a new challenge.  From writing and draft work to querying agents to submitting to editors to revising and waiting, waiting, waiting for this moment.  And now that it's almost here, it's far scarier than I anticipated. Did I do the characters justice? Is it good enough?

Of course the biggest is, "What if everyone hates it?"

This morning I can't help but compare this process to being a parent. Each stage of parenting presents new challenges.  Holy cow I could not wait to get through that awful toddler stage, but my goodness they don't stop talking at around four.  It's hard to appreciate where you are when you're there because you're so busy focused on how the next phase is going to be better. 

Eventually (way too flipping soon!) you have to send those babies out into the world.  Did I do them justice?  Are they good enough?

And of course the biggest is, "What if I failed?"

You know you didn't fail.  You know they're good, but they'll make mistakes.  You know they'll succeed … most of the time.  I imagine you always worry, but eventually, you see them become their own person and the pride takes over.

I'm hopeful anyway that's where I'll get.

I'm hopeful I'll feel that way about my book, too.  I know not everyone will love it. And that's okay, right? 

Because I can be proud what I did, the characters who didn't exist before I brought them to life.

They're ready for me to send them out into the world. 

Be good.  Play Nice.  Make friends. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Pumped up for PitchWars!

I'm so excited to be serving as a co-mentor with the amazing Laura Shovan in this round of PitchWars. You can view all the details of our preferences and interests on her blog. The big day is almost here:  It's down to hours before we'll be open for submissions.  It's going to be interesting to be on the other "side" of things.

I know what it's like to get the email requesting more material. 

I also know what it's like to receive rejection letters.  Lots of them.

I have numerous blog posts about my query journey and then my submission story.  Both requires patience and perseverance. Thankfully, my alter ego is "Tenacious T" because I sure didn't get through this process because of my patience.

Here are a few things to remember (and hey you can use this for more things than PitchWars!)

  • It's not personal.  
It may FEEL personal.  All rejection feels personal, but unless only one person submits to my partner and me, we will have to choose only one mentee.  In our case, we'll also be negotiating two potentially different opinions. We may be equally devastated to walk away from a manuscript and/or author.
  • You are not a failure.
I know people have said this like a million times over, but seriously, you wrote a manuscript.  You're doing great.  If you don't get selected as a mentee, the journey doesn't end.  I didn't.  And less than six months later, I had an agent.  
  • It isn't luck.
I put this in here because sometimes when we face rejection we try to come up with reasons why we didn't succeed, justifications. I often hear people talk about how someone just got lucky.  In the world of book publishing, that's pretty rare.  It's because of the work put in; not just any work, the right work.  I have manuscripts I'm still revising after like seven years because they simply aren't ready.  
  • Relationships are good.
This is another thing I hear a lot--it's about who you know.  A little.  Sure.  It can help.  Relationships are especially good at helping you figure stuff out and finding good critique partners. 
  • But the writing comes first.

Polish that manuscript!

Good luck!  Team TLC cannot wait to read those submissions!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Book that Stays Gold

In my last blog post, I linked my Sweet Sixteener bio, and I hinted that my next blog topic was in that post.  Did you read it?  Did you guess?

I'm currently gearing up to be a Pitch Wars mentor, and I'll be talking quite a bit about that in the upcoming months.  It sparked reflection on my favorite middle grade novels (some border YA).  I'm going to start with a couple from my youth and then move into some more contemporary options. I already talked about my love for Little House, so next up has to The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

I cannot begin to express the level of freakishness that I achieved in my love for this book.  I mentioned it in my bio post on the Sweet Sixteens, but I lost count of how many times I read it, at least twenty one summer alone.  I really did put Vaseline in my hair in my effort to pretend I was a the long lost Curtis sister.  I went to camp that summer, and people thought I was a total nut job because I wouldn't put the book down (I'm sure they were right). 

If the internet had existed, I have no doubt I would have discovered fanfiction and fan communities more than twenty-five years sooner than I eventually did. 

What was it about that book?  

Who knows why we connect so deeply to some stories, movies, T.V. shows, music, etc. more than others?  Thank goodness for choices that allow us to all find our escapes in different ways.

Ultimately, though, I think there are three things that made The Outsiders so powerful to me.

1. The world-building. No, it's not Narnia.  Tulsa is real.  The era is real.  It's that a great story kidnapped me and held me captive even in a place decidedly different from my midwest, middle class, lifestyle. I entered a world of rebellion and youth at a time when I was just beginning to exert independence.  

2. Theme of injustice. I have a love/hate relationship with this theme.  If it goes to far, I get mad and I'll stop reading. This story was more revelatory than anything.  It demonstrated how socio-economics impacts both general groups of people as well as specific individuals.  It was an early and powerful lesson for me about privilege, and Cherry Valence, and identifiable character who taught me about the diffic
ulties of speaking out about injustice.

3. Emotional explosion. Media use theories teach us that one immense value of popular culture is the ability to experience emotions in guilt free environments.  What a roller coaster this story was, with two major character deaths, hints of love, family struggles, anger, and ultimately a journey to catharsis. 

My most-read, beloved favorite childhood book.  I'll be talking about more favorites, but I'm curious.
What book have you read the most?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Meet the Author Post at the Sweet Sixteener Blog

Please take a moment to check me out at The Sweet Sixteeners Blog.  I'm the featured "meet the author".  Read closely because my next post is is going to be about something in this interview. 

Meet the Author, Sweet Sixteeners

Can you guess the topic of my next blog entry?

See you soon!

Friday, June 17, 2016

What would Ma and Pa do?

I'm back.  I think.  I want to be anyway.  Now, that summer is here, I'm trying to carve more time for writing-related activities, and this blog has been pushed aside for too long.

Like most people, my heart has been heavy the last few days.  Politics are frustrating to say the least. The massacre in Orlando is both depressing and infuriating. The internet is filled with bad news, over-reaction, judgement, finger-pointing, pathetic argumentation/rhetoric, self-promotion, and hatred.  I'm tired of it.  And you have to know, I love the internet.  I'm sure I'm addicted.  Even so, I kind of want to run away for awhile, but every day, I feel on edge, and I'm sure it's connected to how much nastiness I'm reading on a daily basis.

I've been wanting to blog or respond to so many things, but I can't think of a valuable or original way to contribute to the conversation.  Plenty of people have said what I'm thinking.  Plenty of people yell and throw stuff at them.  And back and forth it goes.

One of the reasons I read and write YA and MG fiction is because at it's heart, children's literature is hopeful. People make mistakes, and they are forgiven.  Bad people find karma knocking on their front doors. It's a world in which characters experience emotions such as love and heartache for the first time--so many powerful feelings, so many struggles.  Still, in the end, the characters grow and learn and thrive.

One of my favorite book series while growing up was Little House on the Prairie.  
Who didn't love it? I adored the T.V. series, too.  In the wake of so much
cruddiness all around me, I can't help but think, "What would Pa do?'

And you know what's funny?  I'm not the only one to think this way because a quick Google search yielded far more entries on "lessons learned from Little House" (link 1, link 2, link 3)  than I expected.  So, yeah, I guess I'm not that original, but I still want to go there.  I'll keep in short.

1. When new people come to town, welcome them.

Pa didn't care what you looked like or where you came from or how you got there, he would always be there to shake a hand and offer to help each new person who came to town.

2. Listen and respect each other.

People on the prairie didn't always agree, even in the closest of relationships.  Even in a world of traditional gender roles, when Ma and Pa had differences, there was mutual respect and admiration. 

3. Bullies don't win because in the end, they are never happy.

Nellie and Harriet, anyone?  They were cruel and judgmental with others, but it was clear that they didn't like themselves very much, and it never got them very far.  

4. Life is complicated and sometimes doing the right thing is, too.

Remember when Pa made shoes for Olga even though her dad didn't want him to?  Or when Amy Hearn faked her own funeral in order to get her kids to visit? Characters in the show faced all kind of very real problems, from loss to substance abuse to racism and sexism. Sure, it's a T.V. show, and there was always a resolution, but that didn't mean it was easy.  

It means that life is messy.  It means sometimes, we have to step out of our comfort zones and stand up for others even if it would be easier to keep our heads in the sand.  It means we may have to put our own needs above others. It should force us to ask questions like, "How does this benefit my community?  What can I do to help others? Am I fighting because I want to be right or because the cause really is right for everyone?"

I've said before, watching the first few seasons of Little House pretty much teaches you everything you need to know about being a good person.  

Maybe the Internet could have one giant watch-along! 

Did you have a favorite episode?  Or book that helps center you on important life values?  

As a writer, a teacher, a critic, and a parent, I'd love to call for a little less anger and a lot more Little House. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Submission Process: Part II


More Waiting.

Then an offer!  Whoo hoo, the waiting is over!

Just kidding. 

I had heard stories over the years about how things move slowly in the publishing world, but I'm not sure I ever really understood that. 

It took about two months to go from the offer to a signed contract/announcement of the deal.  What was the delay?  First, we had to give time for other potential publishers to respond, just like in the query process.  In that time frame, I was able to have a conversion with my editor and get a feel for her vision, which was great. But what really took the most time? The contract itself.

This is the part where I say I am so glad I had an agent. 
I know that lots of people do this without an agent, but I would have had no clue how to read that document nor what was the most important aspect of negotiation, particularly in relationship to rights.

One of the things that became very clear is that it wasn't just having an agent, but having someone you trusted had your best interests in mind, someone who could explain why something was important.

I probably would have signed the first draft because I just wanted to be published so badly. 

And this was a small deal with a smaller publisher on what I perceive is a quiet book.  I can't imagine how complicated it gets with bigger books and bigger deals.

I've said this before in my blogging process, but it's a life lesson that I keep learning over and over.  You need to surround yourself with the right people, the right support and then let them support you.

I'm self-confessed control freak, pretty independent overall, but there's not a stage of the writing and publishing process that hasn't been improved by trusting other people to help me. 
It kind of makes me wonder if I'll ever remember that in other aspects of my life, too. 

How easy is it for you to let go of control?  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Submission Process Part 1: Dante and the waiting game

Previously, I talked about the process of finding an agent (it was long and I made many mistakes). I also wanted to share my experience taking a manuscript to publishers.  I know this will be more valuable for the writers out there, but this process has taught me many lessons about patience and accepting the unexpected.  It's also shaped new ideas about how to measure success.  Perhaps, those will be useful to you. For this post, then, I'll give more of a brief background and move into the lessons next time around. 

When I was querying, it seemed as if  finding an agent was the holy grail.  If I could just land an agent, my path to publication would look like this:

Straight, narrow, and with the perfect final destination. 

Ah, if only.  It probably looks a little more like this:

Rocky, difficult, and with unknown destination.

My agent and I worked for a couple of months to get the manuscript in tip top shape before she sent it off to editors. It was finally official.  I was "on submission," and I was equal parts excited and nervous.  

On the absolutewrite forums, they refer to being on submission as the next circle of hell, and while I wouldn't say it's quite that bad, it's definitely true that being becoming agented is a step toward publication.  Much like writing itself or querying, for some folks, a sale is practically instant.  Others may have to move on to another project. Obviously, an agent won't take you on if they don't think they will be successful, but they can't predict everything either. 

I admit I was relieved to be on submission probably more than anything.  After such a long query process where I had to actively monitor everything, I could just sit back and wait.  And I had to wait a long time. It took us about six months before we got any feedback.  My agent had prepared me for potentially slow responses, but that certainly put a damper on my dreams.  Still, life was busy, and I managed to forget to worry about it for months at a time.  Then my agent and I would touch bases with new rejections (all maddeningly positive, as Jen said).  After a year, though, I pretty much assumed it was time to let it go.  I started talking to Jen about which manuscript to prepare next.  

Like that proverbial watched pot that doesn't boil, the minute I started thinking more about other projects, I got the amazing news about an offer.  

As joyful as it was to get the news, I think all the waiting and the fear made it difficult to fully embrace and accept that it's real.  

Plus, the waiting isn't over.

Stay tuned for Submission Process Part Two: Serious business (and more waiting).  I'll post that next week as part of the Insecure Writer's Group for the first Wednesday of the month. 

In the meantime, does waiting build your anticipation? Are you able to avoid negative thoughts when waiting for news?