3 S.R. Johannes: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From the Inside Out

I have had several people ask me about my writing process. (Truly I have no idea why :) Keep in mind - as you read this - that I am currently "unpublished" so this is purely "non-expert" writing advice. I did get some of these ideas from many editors that responded to me personally during my first book's submission process.

So read at your own risk!

Backstory -
To date - I have written 2 MG/YA books: 1 epic MG fantasy (50,000 words/350 pages) and my current YA thriller (30,000 words and 150 pages).

I used different processes on both.

First Book - no process! what a mistake!
The first book - I simply wrote haphazardly trying to envision where my character was going and how she was growing. My book did not do bad but obviously it did not get sold. I did get about 5 requests for manuscripts, 2 Acquisitions Meetings opportunities, and several personal editorial letters. When it still did not sell, I used an editor (Harold Underdown) to review the book for me not understanding what was wrong. He told me I had major plotting issues and inconsistencies and suggested I create a "File" of information including an outline. I went through all of Harold's comments - (and trust me there were alot! about a 10 pages editorial letter) and tracked where all my problems stemmed from.

That editorial letter along with some other personal advice from editors/agents helped me form my second book.

I actually shelved this book because going back and replotting seemed impossible at this point.

Second Book
I like to say when I am creating a book - I am creating a whole person from the inside out so here is how I envision it.

1) The Soul/Heart - I created character profiles for the people I knew I would have in the story - at first it is main characters. I try to include descriptions and backstory. I eventually add in mannerisms, phrases, clothing style - anything I needed to keep track of . I feel is is very easy to forget these little things that make your characters real - especially when you are writing a long book - it is easy to get confused and lose track. Even JK Rowling has her characters and their backstory written out. You may not use it all but it help breath life into your characters from the very beginning.

2) The Brain. I then go on to write a high-level summary about the story that I want to tell. I think most writers know what they want their story to be about. That is why you start writing it. To me - if you can not really pin down what you want your story to be about - you may miss the mark. Kinda like if you go on a trip - you know where you are going. You may not know how you are going to get there or how long it takes or what you see along the way - but you know you generally the direction and destination. This - in a way - is a beginning step to your one-page synopsis. But at this point - I do not spend alot of time on it. Again - this does not mean your story can not evolve - my story is different than when I first started - it just gives you a starting point. I also make sure I include what are the 3 things that make my book different from the other that may be in the same genre. I have to make sure I play up those 3 things so my book is sellable.

3) Pick the Bones - I create a high-level outline. Yes an outline. This is like my skeleton. I know some people do not like outlines. But to me - this is a general path of how you are going to tell your story. Again, if you know you are going to California, you draw out a way to get there. You may not take that route - you may get off track - but you generally need to know that you wont end up in Oregon. In my first book - I refused an outline because I felt it hindered my creative process. Unfortunately, my character ended up in Oregon when I wanted her in Southern California. I realize now it just gave me a rough path to follow. This does not mean - I fully outlined my entire book. My outline is as organic as my book is. I just helped me decide what the chapter was really about which kept my story focused. At first I only wrote a sentence about what happened in that chapter.

4) Building a frame- I go through and write the book. As I write my chapters - I always kept my outline open and added to it as I go. This helps me track things that came up in the writing process or remember question/lines/plot points that I want to include later. During this time, I do not stop to fix anything, I just write from my heart. Most of it is fixed later. I do not worry about spelling or grammar (like I have that anyway :) I just write with no judgement without really thinking. I try to go as far as I can. I force my way to the end, keeping my outline updated as I go.

5) Look at the Skeleton. After my first sweep - I print out my book and read it as a book. This is a very rough draft with tons of spelling and alot of the story is not in place yet. But this helps me see the big picture and figure out where holes are. As I read it - I get ideas on how to build out the story and where my holes are.

6) Reshape Frame. I go back and blow out my detailed outline and character descriptions based on what I read and figured out. I add more detail to the outline and try to have a paragraph for each chapter. I may move chapters around based on what I read. I cut and paste alot. My story may change and the chapter order may alter. Some characters comes in, some change, and some even leave. If they are not needed, they get the boot. I don't like to many characters in a book. I like enough to create a world but not too many that I cant keep track and that they are not generic. They are all essential to the story. For example - I don't bring in the butcher or teacher or a friend unless it is critical to my story line. I try to find a way for that character to have some information for the reader.

7) Add the Meat - Here I focus purely on my plot line. What are the clues? What are the steps on my characters journey to growth? What are the plot points in each chapter? What does the reader discover in each chapter? What is each chapter really about? I work on my outline until it feels complete. I track all my clues and plot events in the outline. I mark them in blue if they are addressed and red if they are a loose end or may not be needed. I make sure all these line up in the story. Every clue has a place. This doe snot just have to be mysteries, there should be clues or points where the reader learns something in each story that pushes the story forward - even they learn something about them selves. I find each chapter needs at least one things learned or it is a wasted chapter. This helps me spread out the information. I cut out any chapters that don't offer something.

For example - I took the book into a 6 week critique class and my whole book has evolved much more just since my last draft.But it feels complete. I have redone my outline, added to character descriptions and kept my process going. I put everything in its place.

8) Add in the fat - I expand the chapters to be sure everything i think needs to be included is. I go back through the book and add in little details. ie - Instead of my character having long hair. I had in mannerisms - she brushes her bangs back alot - nervous habit. She says - "Crapola" alot. She never looks in the mirror and actually avoids them at all cost. Little things like that. I try and sprinkle those through the book. These are things I go back and add to my character descriptions. This helps me make sure that all my characters do not have the same color eyes or say the same phrases or talk the same. I try to give them each 3-5 characteristics that make them different. For example in my Grace book - her Native American boss called her Elu (Native American for Grace), her ex calls her "G", her dad calls her Gracie, her boyfriend calls her "blossom." Things like that. IN the first drafts - they probably all called her Grace.

9) The Whole person - I read the book aloud to someone - this is where my critique group, my mother, and my poor hub get dragged into my process. God bless them! This process may happen several times deepening on changes. I take notes and make sure there are no loose ends and everything is where it needs to be. At this point, the chapters do not change order and the story is finalized.

10) Trim the Fat - I go back through and cut anything that does not have a specific purpose in the chapter or any chapters that don't in some way move the story along. This is where I am now and it is hard. I cut great lines, funny dialog, overstated descriptions that stall the story. Alot of good writing is cut here but it is in the best interest for the reader.

In the end, I have a book, a synopsis I have added to, character descriptions, and a detailed outline with clues and key events. And more importantly, I hope a publishable book.

Side note:

I thought I would include a few things that help this writing process....

  1. Music - I like to write to music (it is the ADHD side of me). I know some people can't but I do. I actually choose a song for each chapter that I feel gets me in that moment. For example - I use Pink - I'm not dead for my opening chase scene. I now have a playlist that follows my book so I listen to those songs as I write that chapter. I don't know why but it helps me get into the moment and block out the world.
  2. M&Ms - unfortunately these are an issue :) I like the peanut kind and have to reign myself in from getting them too often. I've tried fruits and veggies but it does not give me the same effect.
  3. Coke Zero or Coffee with flavored cream - this can also be dangerous. But helps.
  4. Darkness - I especially like to write at night when everything is quiet - besides my music of course.
  5. My dog at my feet.
  6. My comfy leather chair.

This process helps me keep the organic side of writing alive while still being systematic in creating a compelling story.

Hope this helps :) Feel free to ask me questions.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Over the Hump

I am finally over my first hump in the revision process.

For the past 6 weeks, I have been re-plotting, re-writing, and re-cutting my entire YA novel (50,000 words and 400 pages worth). I am in the home stretch - the last 1/3 of the book which is where the fewest changes occurred.

I stayed up until 1 am last night fighting through the mangled mess of words and events only to shoot out the other side.


I can breath a sigh of relief. I made it and I did not know if I would. After all, I gave up on my first book at this stage because it was just too hard.

But this time, I fought through it and finally see a glimmer of light and hope at the end of my writing tunnel. Out of 150 pages, I have rewritten 2/3rds of the book. It has been the hardest, most frustrating, exhausting, mind-boggling journey.

I am about to rebirth a brand new baby and I love what it has become. I am a proud mama. Thanks to Harold and Eileen at First Pages (the proud grandparents :)

Now that I am out of the fog and have been rejuvenated. I am almost ready to submit to agents. I feel good about my manuscript and am ready to get started.

My book is better than it was before.

Came across this quote and it felt very appropriate for my situation:

"You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence."(Octavia Butler)"

So 3 cheers for completing the revision process!!!!!!

At least until the next one ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Toot Toot - Says my Horn

After the conference this past weekend, no matter how great it was and how full I felt afterwards, I still found myself disappointed on Sunday night. For those of you who do not know me - this is not surprising. Because I am by nature a pessimist, a problem solver, and always seem to find a crack in a seemingly-perfect world. When great things happen, I tend to look up waiting for a piece of my "happy place" to fall.

Don't get me wrong - I love going to conference, they inspire me, push me, teach me, and I leave feeling happy. But soon after I return home, I begin to dwell on how hard it is to get published, how hard the biz is, and how far I seem to be away from really getting published. That's OK. I go through a period of feeling pressure to finish, pressure to submit, and pressure to write more.

This year, I made some pretty aggressive goals at the conference:
  1. Write 15 hrs a week - whether it be blogging or working on my novel
  2. Submit to agents this year as opposed to publishers
  3. Research agents my top 20 agents/agencies
  4. Submit query package by end of Oct.

So far I have written about 2 hrs a day - leaving me at about 6 hrs thru Wed (week is Mon-Fri so I still have time). I did not realize a few things, when I made these goals. Kinda like when you make a NY years resolution to loose weight but then realize you eat bags of MMs at midnight. (Wait - do those things NOT go together?) But I am motivated by achievement and the flaw of never going back on my word -so I push forward. Soon I realize:

  1. I have to give up Wipeout. (You'd be surprised how much time you can squeeze out of a night when you turn off the T.V.)
  2. I lose 2 hrs of sleep a night. (Unfortunately I am a procrastinator so by the time I start writing, I go to bed later. Yawn - no pain, no gain!)
  3. I need more MMs (which now means I have to work out more. There adds another 5 hrs a week.)

I digress.

Sunday night, I sent a prayer to all the world about positivity and peace. But I snuck in one of my own :)

Give me a sign that I am doing the right thing!

You see, sometimes I need to know I am on the right path. That I am broke for something. That I miss my daughter's soccer game for a rare conference. That I miss Wipeout or Grey's Anatomy to write. That I use my family's money to go to conferences, send out packets, buy books. I need to be reminded it is not all just a big waste.

I digress!

After my prayer, I went to sleep thinking and envisioning myself as a published, bestselling author, being interviewed on Oprah. (Doesn't every writer do that?)

The next morning, I wake up to a critique sitting in my inbox. I have been a part of a 6 week class where 2 experienced editors throw darts and rip holes in my "once-completed" manuscript as I fight through a sea of revisions and replotting. I am all for revising but this was chopping and cutting and twisting everything my mind had organized. Needless, to say the last 6 weeks have been very hard! And at times, I wanted to give up but I kept going because I believe in this book. For the record - it is worth it. I have seen a HUGE difference in my book and know it is much better than before. But when you are in the middle of revising - you never quiet know if it is for the best until you fight your way through it. (or until you get published). I just have to trust the process. (I digress.)

I wait until I am alone (kids in school, hubby at work) before I read the email - again procrastination assuming more revisions are coming. (As a side note: this editor used to be an executive editor at Scholastic press publishing 151 books a year, with an average of 2-3 new series a year, for grades K-5, both fiction and nonfiction publishing. But who is counting! ;)

Drum roll please. Now, here are a few quotes from that critique: (please know as you read this I bawled like a baby (great just what I need is a cliche) and have been smiling every since:)

  • Great Job! I had to read this twice to try to find something... and you left my pen idle.
  • Terrific! Absolutely terrific, and I don’t get to say that very often.
  • You have mastered the major elements in these first few chapters – setting, characterization, dialogue, pacing and progression.
  • You’ve done an excellent job defining all of the characters.
  • That brings me to dialogue – you are very good at it.
  • As a reader, I was engaged immediately and I think the choice to show a future scene and then flash the reader back to what happened prior to this event, was a good one.
  • I like the cadence of your sentences. The flow between short, sharp sentences and long descriptive ones are well balanced. Your verbs and descriptions are great.
  • I don’t know how the rest of your novel reads, but if I were receiving in-house submissions, I would certainly want to see more based on these first chapters.
  • The plot is adventurous and I’d want to see how you do it. This is definitely ready for submission.

And there you have it! The blood, sweat, tears, and more tears are paying off. Thank the Lord!

This little nugget of hope was what I needed. It will push me just a bit further in this sometimes disheartening process and jumbled process - called publishing.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Insider Information - Midsouth Notes

Keynote: Bruce Coville – “What we do matters?”

In your stories, you want a:
· Ha - laugh
· Wha – tears (sad or joy)
· Yikes – when a story turns on itself – conflict or surprise

2 ways to fail
1) so tasteful no one wants to read it
2) character does not save herself – someone else does it

  • Ask yourself questions about your scene – why is XX doing this? Answer it and then ask "why" again. You don’t want the easy answer – you want to underlying answer.
  • Use 3 of the 5 senses in every scene – taste, smell, sight, touch or hear
  • Make sure you have set ups for every payoffs – for example - if a boy’s book falls into a puddle (payoff), the set up is that it has to rain the night before

Amalia Ellison – Confessions of an Asst Editor

Used to work at Random, has a grad degree in Literature from New School in NYC. Is also a writer – the heart of a writer with the knowledge of a publisher

Benefits of an agent

  1. more money
  2. more protection
  3. editing
  4. buffer and advocate for you with editor
  5. manages legal aspect
  6. watches rights
  7. makes sure your advance is not so high that you cannot earn out (either make break even point or sell X number of copies)
  8. set up a vetting screen for editors. If you come agented – editors automatically perceive better than those unagented.

General Notes

  • Editors are only allowed to offer X$ to unagented authors. Even if they should make more and they were the next JK Rowling, if they came unagented – there is a limit.
  • If an editor is working with you and has not mentioned a contract in any way yet. You have time to get an agent. You can even ask the editor – may I tell an agent you may be interested. If I say yes, you may be able to get an agent easier. But if I have told you I am drawing up a contract and provide an offer – then it is too late to get an agent. You have already committed to the process. You can walk away but if you said at this point – let me get an agent – I would probably retract offer. It would not be good.
  • When submitting, go for asst agents and asst editors at reputable houses. They are hungry and need to prove themselves. Be sure they have acquiring power. They have more time and energy to work harder.
  • Sometimes small and mediums size houses offer more to authors because they are more intimate. You can tell by how much they publish – look in catalogs. Mid size – Abrams, FSG, Candlewick. Small – Holiday house, Greenwillow
  • Abrams does not rank authors – they are all top priority. Some houses have mid lists and rank authors from top to bottom
  • Take your book and know what makes it different than others. Think about reversing it or twisting it around. ie – If a book is about a girl sports – instead of softball - why not use football and have protagonist the only girl on an all male team?
    High Concept dramas are hot right now – ie Lost, Harry Potter, Twilight, Heros. Watch TV shows – they allude to trends even in book market. You don’t see a lot of sitcoms, you see dramas.
  • Picture books and nonfiction – hardest to sell. PBs cost a lot
  • Have discussions about covers and illustrations before illustrator is picked. Offer editor a few you like so they can see styles. Let them know your vision.
  • If your book goes to acquisitions meeting – you are in good shape.
  • It is ok to do illustration notes in PB submissions
  • This year Abrams has 6-8 YA, 6-8 MG, a few picture books.

2 types of auctions:
1) best offer – one round, best overall offer wins. Editor does not see any other bids, just puts in best offer.
2) bid auction – at least 3 rounds – editors can bid against each other and can see all bids

Top 3 problems she comes across in books:

  1. authors talk down to kids. unauthentic voice
  2. it just does not fit her personal taste or her houses taste – do your research!
  3. authors seem to spend more time on letter than book. She does not even like letters

Harold Underdown – Analyzing Catalogs (this was great! Hard to take notes unless you have a catalog to look at)

General Notes

  • Know and research imprints. They have their own staff but are owned by larger houses.
  • Find out if you can submit separately to each imprint or you can only submit to one.
  • Check out catalogs – count number of PBs, MG, YA and nonfiction. It will tell you what the imprints focus is on.
  • Check out conferences at NCTE, ALA Book Expos. Most houses have booths and catalogs. You can order catalogs online at some houses.
  • Don’t try to figure out editors taste. Editors go from house to house. They have to stay in alignment with house and imprint taste. It is better to learn the “tastes” of the houses then to track editors.

Information you can find in House Catalogs:

  • what kind of books they do
  • “bestselling” or “number of copies in print run” – this assumes Commercial books
  • “awards” and “reviews” – assumes books for teachers or libraries
  • marketing plans and budgets - are they do signings at bookstores or libraries - are they doing ads? displays, budgets – larger budgets – bigger books,
  • how many spreads given to each books. tells what the focus is. If PBs get 2 pages and YAs get 1. PBs seem to be the focus.
  • Tells what rights are sold.
  • Lists how many pages books are and target ages of audiences
  • Sometimes tells you the agency if all right have not been sold.
  • USCOM – means can be sold in US, Canada and Open market (in countries where English is first language only.)
  • W – can sell worldwide in any language.
  • Tells if authors have other books. Can tell how many of the books are first time authors.
  • Tone of the books. Are they quirky, serious, dramas, chick lit etc.?

Bruce Coville – Creating a Series

Started with book packagers. Has total of 93 books. Found book packaging job in Publisher Weekly classified section.

Funny Quotes

  • “As writers – we need to always shoot to do better than we did before.”
  • You can only write if you are at the keyboard. Can only get published if you send out your work.”
  • “Inspiration without craft is basket making. Craft without Inspiration is Modern Art.

Book packagers

  • Good way to eneter biz
  • When you write a series, always try to write a book better than expected.
    Don’t work for a book packager too long.
    If you are ever offered a flat fee or royalty. Always take the royalty, bet on yoursel

Where do series come from?

When writing a series – try to leave something to wonder at the end. Don’t tie everything up too neatly. Leave some questions that create demand.

1) Planned Series – you get a “bible’ which has all background. Usually comes from Book Packagers. ie Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins
2) Accidental Series –
a – character driven – character needs to grow and does organically
b – by demand – fans/readers want more

Types of Series
1) Template – all start the same. Nancy Drew
2) Evolutionary – characters develop over time. Harry Potter, Narnia Chronicles

How to create a Series Bible?
Always write your own BIBLES – includes setting, character profiles, and plot summaries
1) setting – what is your world about? what does it look like. Add details
2) create description of main characters. This should include positive and negative characters – all opposing forces.
3) Do synopsis for a few books. Be sure stories can stand alone with an overarching story.

(a) Create strong main character
(b) Up suspense – write the book then try to find a way to condense plot to create sense of urgency.
(c) Keep it fresh. Start with a story. Identify ways to make it unique. Switch points of view, change characters, create the unexpected.
(d) If you need to have a synopsis to keep readers up to speed. Try writing prologue in characters voice
(e) Know when to stop

Misc. Notes

Submission Statistics

  • 70% picture books
  • 20% MG/YA
  • 10% non-fiction
    o Out of these, only 1% get personal rejections/go to acquisitions/editorial letters
    o Out of this 1% – 1% get published (5,000 a year published – this is 1% of the total submissions

Best fonts
o serif fonts
o bookman old style 12.5
o always double space – not 1.5 spacing. always 1 inch margins.

Good books on craft
o Story by Robert McKee
o Art and Fear
o 30 days to a better PB

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Perfect Solace

I just got back from a fabulous weekend at the Mid-South Fall Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I never knew my should could be so full.

I got to hang out with writers and talk about writing all weekend.

I have gone to conferences in the past but always alone. So I never really spoke to many others unless approached. I always kept to myself. I liked taking in knowledge and then going back to my room and writing.

This time, I went with a couple girls from my fabulous critique group.

And we had a blast.

For about 72 hrs, all we talked about was writing, editors, agents, writing, our books, writing, getting published, funny stories, writing, writing and more writing. It was so wonderful to have a group of people that loved to talk about writing as much as I do. I have never had that before. None of my friends write and my hubby can only talk about it so much and for so long.

I finally got my fix and I am truly addicted.

What did I learn? here are a few nuggets...
  • out of 5 million submissions, only 5,000 get published a year.
  • Only about 2% of the 5 million submissions get editorial letters, get to acquisitions meetings or get personal rejections. (that's me!)
  • You need inspiration and craft. "Inspiratin without art is basket making. Craft without inspiration is modern art."
  • "You don't write if you are not in front of your computer. You don't get published if you don't send out your work"
  • I am committed to this life and career - no matter what!
  • My time will come.
Not only was the weekend full of writing, but I had the best time. I laughed and giggled - like the hard laugh where you almost pee in your pants but don't for fear of rejection :). These 2 girls who I have only know for a few months felt like lifelong friends.

So not only did I learn about my craft and get re-inspired to write more. But I made a couple new friends that I feel I will know for years to come.

My soul is truly bursting with joy since I got back.

I have not stopped smiling or writing since.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Connecting the Dots

In my "day job" of marketing, many people ask me - how did you decide to get into writing?

I've been asked this question, so much. I thought I would share it.

I always say, "I did not really decide to be in writing, writing decided on me."

Here are the major milestones that led me to my writing epiphany...

1) When I was in Elementary school, I entered an essay contest. I was asked to write an essay on nutrition. My paper, "Be a Smart Cookie" won first place. For that - I got to meet the mayor, be in the local paper, and got tickets as a VIP to see the minor league. Keep in mind this was a small town in Florida so that was like visiting the president, getting into Oprah magazine, and seats to see Michael Phelps and the US Swim team.

2) I wrote a book of poems. I still have this notebook today. When I was about 12, I started writing poems about the environment, boys, my parents, and my brother, This continued until I was about 16 (then I was just too cool for words). Some of them are good but most of them are bad. But for a teen, to me, they were fabulous.

3) This is where I got sidetracked yet I now realize, the seeds were still being planted. I went to college, studied Risk Management (don't ask) and took my first job in writing Marketing proposals at an insurance company. My boss was a old lady who hated me and my salary was minuscule. I was not focused and had started dating my middle school sweetheart) who was studying Mass Journalism.

4) After a year, many "love-sick" days and a whim, I quit and just up and decided to go to back to school to get my MBA in Marketing& Communications. I am sure you can only imagine why? I am embarrassed to say that this was just an excuse to be with my BO at school. My parents bought it and they were all for higher education as long as I PAID for it. So I took out student loans and headed to Alabama for more biz training. What I am trying to tell you is it this milestone that seems to impress people was really not even education-motivated. Yet some how, it was still on my path.

5) I graduated in 1 1/2 years with alot of "out-of-state tuition" debt and a degree. At the time, I did not really understand that I would still be making payments today (only 2 more years.) I was still happily dating my BO! Meanwhile, my BO walked away from a promising career in pro-football to be a writer. (Anyone see a pattern starting here?)

6) While he was out looking for a job, I got a consulting job. They gave me a late start date so I had a lot time off before i started my big corp job in Training & communications (there is that word again) consultant.

7) My BO and I moved back to our parents homes . My dad was not too happy about the "time off part" and my "free ride" at home. So until my job started, I got a part time job at the new Barnes & Noble that opened close to his house! I was assigned to the Children's Department where I helped moms find books, cataloged and filed new inventory, scheduled authors for kids, and did a weekly story time for kids. Just another seed being planted.

8) When I started my job, I was assigned to another city. My BO moved there with me and got a job at B&N (with my reference of course :). As I worked on the communications of companies, he started freelancing for the city paper as a reporter. I became a high-falutin' consultant, he became a great reporter. I began to travel overseas and found the Harry Potter series - which was not out in US yet. IN fact my first book is the UK cover.
9) My BO decided he wanted to be a published author. He had written a book that was never published, but he decided to get serious. He spent long hours writing a great mystery book. I spent long hours doing his submission packets, editing his drafts, and as he would call it - his research asst. I put as much into the book as he did and was so excited when he sold it to a top publishing house. (For you writers, this was a slush pile contract) . I went through the whole book process with him - writing, editing, PR, marketing, contracts. The house did not give him much money for PR (imagine that) so I did all his marketing and publicity tours myself. Soon, we got engaged.

10) Unfortunately, our engagement was called off a couple weeks before we our wedding (after dating 10 years - this is a private and sad story that I will leave out for now. Just know, it was a must have for me to be on my writing path. And we are still -quasi-friends today with occasional emails speckled with his great writing advice) I moved to the beach to recenter myself and work for a few months until I decided what I was going to do with my life. There, I read and read and read any book I could get my hands on. I had immersed myself into other people's lives so the heartbreak of mine would hurt less. I had always read books, I was always an avid reader, especially of adult mystery. But now, adult books felt too deep and heavy so I turned to reading YA and middle grade books. That's when I got into the Harry Potter series.

11) I eventually moved back to Atlanta. I had been traveling for 6 years and just wanted to be home. My friends were here and my family was here which was what I needed at the time. I begged my company to staff me in town but they couldn't and wanted to quickly send me back out on the road. I needed to heal and needed some stability. I quit and 2 weeks later started freelancing with a friend. Meanwhile, I kept on reading YA/MG.

12) I eventually got a contract/job at a bank - doing communications. I quickly climbed the corporate ladder, make money, traveled overseas, and married an fabulous Englishman who believed in Celtic Fairy mythology :). I visited England with him and found my way into a shop called "the Broken-Winged Fairy". I got my first idea for a book. This was in 2000.

13) I had my first baby and started reading picture books to her. I took 5 months off for maternity leave and while my little fairy was sleeping, I wrote my first book, On Tattered Wings - a MG book that is shelved for the time being. But is about a "broken-winged fairy". I had never written a day in my life. No creative writing classes, really bad at grammar.For some reason, it felt right. I now credit alot of that to my writer BO and my hubby. My BO always encouraged me to write children's books - he thought I had a great imagination. I always said - you're the writer, I am the marketing guru. I was right and he was wrong - just don't tell him that. :) My hubby was the one who pushed me to do it and knew alot about fairies. I always say "my daughter sat on something inside of me and made me believe I could "create" anything if I could create her.

14) When I finished my book - after 6 long months - I immediately sent it out thinking it was just a matter of time until I was the next JK Rowling. I had no idea about the publishing world, about scbwi (http://www.scbwi.com/) yet nor had I bought the Writers Market yet. Just sent it out blind to about 40 people. Kinda dumb but I got 5 requests for manuscripts and many personal rejection letters.

15) After months of work and revisions - still no sale :( I will say it made it to 3 Acquisition meetings but no luck :( and I was already back at work. I climbed the corporate ladder during the day and wrote at night. I became an executive making awesome money, but it took up more of my time. I slowly got back off track. Writing fell to the way side and my anxiety doubled. I wanted to quit but I felt obligated to stay. My hubby told me to leave and be a writer if I wanted to but I felt trapped by the power and money. I started having panic attacks and was hospitalized for chest pains. There I prayed for a sign. Then I got it!

16) Sometimes your prayers are answered in the oddest ways. Two weeks later, I left BofA (I wont go into the whole story but there is a very long tragic story here. I'll just say that I crossed the wrong person at work who was very politically connected and it cost me my job. I was not very - nor had I really ever been - corporate savvy. I always prided myself as the renegade in corporate america. Now I see it was all for the best!) This was a bad time for me, I lost a job which was half of my family's income, had a miscarriage a month after, and lost my confidence all in one shot.

16) For the next year, I struggled to start my life over from scratch. I was depressed and lost. If it was not for my hubby and friends, who knows where I would be. Eventually, I went back to freelancing as a copywriter. My biz took off. I got pregnant again and had another baby. I semi-refocused on my writing.

That leads us to today. I am happy again.

Over the past few years, I have struggled to start back at the bottom of the pile.

But I love it immensely.

And - looking back at my bizarre journey - I now know it was meant to be.

The seeds to my path were being planted along the way.

Then, I didn't see it.

Now, I write about it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm grateful already!

I heard a talk this week about "the law of attraction."

Basis premise? What you focus on gets bigger. So focus on what you want.

One question I have is if I focus on getting published - why am I not published!! Does this thing work? ;)

But the part that stuck out to me is that "gratitude" is a critical component of the law of attraction.
Not only being grateful for the small things, but especially being grateful for the obstacles and problems (ie crappy times, depressing times) you face with the understanding that it is a small piece to a larger puzzle.

So, I figure if I am really going to get published (2009 is my year), I'll try to find the GOOD in the BAD & UGLY of the publishing world.

So here I go... "In my writing - I am grateful for..." (Warning: some of these may seem crazy and surprise you)

1) getting under 100 rejections in my writing career (so far). (At least it is not over 100.)

2) getting 10 personal rejections instead of form letters. (Now I know editors and agents are actually real people not just computers spitting out form letters like lotto numbers until that lucky someone gets the winning book ticket!)

3) joining SCBWI and meeting great people at great conferences. (Amen!)

4) not getting my FIRST book published. (BTW - it is now under lock and key. Who knows when I hit JK Rowling heights, maybe it'll sell as a "what not to do book" :)

5) for being a struggling writer ( better than Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs as a garbage collector, chimney sweeper and road-kill cleaner).

6) not making any money (as a struggling write and someone who needs new jeans, this was a hard one, but I am trying to be grateful here people!)

6) getting to work from home with kiddos. (Bonus. I may complain when my precious little ones spill Hi-C on my papers, get dirty fingers on my laptop screen, or color on my rejection letters, but I secretly cherish their stickiness, dirtiness and creativity)

7) getting great ideas even if they come with dangling participles and comma splices. (All too common in my writing world)

8) having Bikram yoga to peace out my mind and get the creative ideas flowin' (Namaste)

9) having a laptop (thank the LORD! I don't see how you people write books in long hand. My current one is 40,000 words. No way!)

10) The fabulous function called "Cut and paste"!!!!!

11) Microsoft for creating Word that allows the fabulous function called "Cut and paste"!!!!!

12) My best friends - Mr. Thesaurus, Ms. Dictionary, Miss RhymeZone (http://www.rhymezone.com/) , and Senior OneLook (http://www.onelook.com/).

13) Verla Kay Forum (http://www.verlakay.com/) - (I am not alone in this crazy journey)

14) F1rst pages class (http://www.f1rstpages.com/) that is helping me make my book better (as well as helping me to practice my swear words as I cut and re-cut my beloved book)

15) my critique group - The Calliope Circle (a moment of silence please for the poor writers who have to listen to pages and pages of my HUGE YA book over and over and over again, when they only need me to read a small 400 word picture book. And when I say small - I purely mean in size. They are all giants in substance.)

16) my index fingers who take on the sole responsibility of typing (and who have also forgiven me for cheating on my high school typing exam. peck, peck)

17) Lindsey Leavitt (http://www.lindsey-leavitt.livejournal.com/) - who does not even know me and probably thinks I am a crazy blog stalker - which I am :)- for reigniting my flame and dwindling hope with her amazing story.

Last, but certainly, not least...

18) my hunk of a hubby - for giving me time to write, letting me go to conferences, keeping kiddos out of my office, supplying me with MMs, and listening to my huge YA book over and over and over again.

But most of all, for believing in me even when I doubt myself.


Now, can i get published please?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Am I a Tryer-Higher


What do I love about having a 4.5 year old? They say the darnest things.

Today in the car, my 4.5 (or as she would say 4 and 3/4s) year old starts reminding me of tasks that she obviously has heard me regurgitate.



"Did you make my dentist appointment?"

"No, i need to do that."

"Cuz I don't want my teeth to fall out."

"Me neither. Thanks for reminding me."

"Did you tell the fire department that I want to sell lemnade (translation: lemonade?)"

"Not yet honey?"

"Cuz I want to give some money to them for being so brave."

"That is so sweet"

Did you call the soccer corch (translation: coach)?

"I'm going to do that today."

"Oh, Mommy!"

"Yes honey."

"You forgot."

"Forgot what?"

"That you need to call American Girl?"


"Because of your book."

(For those few who don't know, one of my books was being considered for AG publication. My daughter knew about it b/c as I was desperately making edits to it - she sat across from me coloring ). I made it to the top 2 and then got (what's the word?) oh yeah -REJECTED. :(

"Oh. Well. I heard from them. unfortunately, they didn't not buy my book."

"That stinks. Why not?"

"They bought one from someone else. But I got second place. It's ok though."

"Yeah, don't give up Mommy."

"I won't."

"Yeah because you know what you are?"


"Because you are a tryer higher NOT a giver upper."

So there you have it.

I am a tryer higher writer!

I don't feel like it... but luckily somehow my daughter knows it. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Am I a "diabolical sadist"?

As embarrassing as it is to talk about this subject... I have decided to sequester my ego and speak out - at the risk of exposing my addiction to "trash" T.V.

Who thinks that "Wipeout" is the funniest show on T.V.? http://abc.go.com/primetime/wipeout/index?pn=index

I do! (I think my hubby would agree but he is English so he may not be able to politely admit it. Crumbs!)
Ok people seriously - this show is HI-Larious! It is mindless and really quite pointless. But it is "crack up, laugh out loud, pee in your pants" funny.

For some reason, to me, there is nothing funnier than watching people trip and fall. It happens to me all the time when I am at the mall, when I am walking in neighborhood, or at the airport. I'll see a grown woman or man walking along and then take a trip. Now of course, if someone goes down, it's not as funny. (Not to mention, they are usually hurt and I do not laugh at pain.) The funny part is them TRYING NOT TO FALL. The waving of the arms, the shuffling of the feet, and then the infamous look back to see what large object reached up and grabbed their leg. Just thinking about it gives me the giggles. And for the record, I do it all the time. I am clumsy and could trip on a thread.

But in Wipeout, bizarro people choose to do an obstacle course and what is worse - they all brag about how they are going to whoop the course's arse. Then of course, they head into the "Sucker Punch" (they get punched in the face by fake fists), bounce off "The Big Balls", hurl in "The Spinner" fly into "The Launch Pad" , and get fired up in "The Flaming Sweeper".

Let's face it, even the names of the events are funny.

This year, they added an obstacle called "The Butt Kicker". Which is really "The Sucker Punch" made-over. They swapped out the boxing gloves for tennis shoes which spring from the wall and kick players in the face and gut, launching them into a discusting mud pit. The contestants basically get a "swift kick in the ass" and I get another great laugh. Seeing someone kickedin the face with a fake foot is funny, I don't care who you are.

I think what makes it even funnier is 1) sometimes the hostess (Jill) laughs so hard she cannot talk to the contestants from the sideline, and 2) The commentator guy is hilarious - the same guy that used to do Talk Soup - John Henson (no not Kermit's friend!).

Some of my favorite lines from Henson?

"It's OK. He broke the fall with his face."
"You know it's bad when they give you a mouthpiece."
“I love the explosion of those colored balls against the night sky.”
"On paper, Jared is one of our toughest competitors. Unfortunately, we
don't play the game on paper, we play it on the big balls!."

Yesterday, I was kinda cranky. (My hubby is out of town and I am on my own so the day was longish and I was beat). I finally got the kids down and sat down to have my TV dinner in front of - where else but the TV (isnt that what its for? and Yes, I know what you are thinking and you are probably right - I should have been writing!!!! )

I flipped on "Wipeout" and cracked up for 2 hrs (Lucky for me - it was the season kickoff so they had 2 episodes back to back. 8D We are talking face-planting, butt smacking, ass whooping funny. Remember those days in college or with your friends (maybe even after a few martinis) where you would laugh and laugh. The real belly laugh where you get the giggles and just can't stop. I love to laugh like that.

And though I am a bit embarrassed about coming out of the trash Tv closet, today I feel much lighter after going to bed on a natural high.

So here's a shout out to Wipeout - for giving us laughs and the best human carnage.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Through the years...

The other day, I was talking to a friend and had a "moment" where I realized I now sounded like my parents (Uggg).

How did I get from talking about princesses, fairies, and dreams to discussing money, politics, ailments, and rising weight?

What happened? I now sound like my parents did when I would sneak out of my bedroom and listen at their bedroom door (usually talking about me).

I want to be light-hearted again. Is that possible? No worries, massive amounts of time, never busy?

Since I just turned (cough), I find myself remembering more of my past and traveling back to the stages of my former lives. A life before insurance issues and before large bills, but after diapers.

When I was a little girl, I thought:

  • people over 20 were old and people over 30 were ancient!
  • my house was huge, and my room was too small.
  • my parents knew everything
  • sharks lived in pools
  • my stuffed animals were real
  • animals could talk - at least to me - and that I actually understood them
  • my small town of Vero Beach was the only town in the world
  • my feet were too big for my size - PS they were!
  • wearing glasses was cool
  • names couldn't hurt me - but my brother throwing rocks at my face could and did
  • i could fly or even be invisible
  • strange things came out in the dark and hid under my bed
  • my brother was cool and fun
  • a small white mouse - named snowball - was my best friend
  • i could teach my cats to use the toilet - esp if i locked them in the bathroom
  • only moms cooked and cleaned
  • my parents were rich
  • broccoli was just a baby tree
  • i could pee standing up (not well I might add)
  • stupid was a "potty word"
When I became a kid (adolescence is the adult word), I decided...

  • my parents didn't know as much as they thought or pretended
  • my brother was not so cool (kind of annoying back then)
  • I had boobs and needed a real bra (even when I didn't)
  • I needed to show my own style
  • I could be in the Olympics
  • I didn't need veggies or fruit
  • there was not much difference between a zucchini and a cucumber
  • I could do anything boys could do
  • I liked boys better than girls (more fun and less catty).
  • I was a tomboy
  • I should get a dog (if it just wasn't for those stupid cats)
  • everything was stupid
  • glasses were cool - only to me
  • the brownies and girl scouts taught wilderness survival
  • i didn't care that my mom was a beauty queen (ok, first runner-up)
  • my grandparents would not live forever
  • cats run away
  • i was competitive
  • squeezing my feet into shoes (two sizes too small) did NOT make my feet look smaller. (They just hurt.)
  • I wanted to write poetry and created a book of poems
  • I could write because I won an state essay contest on Nutrition (mine was called One Smart Cookie.) Prize - 100$, meeting the mayor, picture in local paper, and see the vero beach dodgers :) score!
  • I had a crush on a guy in my HomeEc Class (Ace Atkins)
  • my mom's makeup would look good on me (the more the better)

When I became a teen, I realized...

  • the world was a big place, sometimes magical, sometimes frightening
  • A's were harder to get than I thought
  • I hated trig and anything to do with math or numbers
  • I wanted to play guitar
  • I wanted to be a cheerleader and did for 4 years (don't ask!)
  • I had a my first love (Craig Bolier :)
  • my naturally curly hair was in style (thx to Julia Roberts)
  • my hair was not big enough naturally so I had to perm it (again, don't ask)
  • I did not look good in florescent leggings (am I telling my age?)
  • getting my period was a pain (need I say more?)
  • I could sneak out of my second story window
  • girls could be mean
  • I could wear makeup
  • I was not an artist
  • I would never be homecoming queen
  • my parents were human too
  • I had to drive my parents van (and take my drivers test in it) that had a sign on it saying "USS JOhannes (embarrassing!)
  • if you were not cool, you could just pretend you were and people might not notice

Later, in college, I found out...

  • my crush from homeEc (Ace Atkins) liked me too. (and we dated for about 10 years)
  • poetry does not pay, but business does ( a fact I could have lived without)
  • college was expensive
  • I could make 10$ an hr serving food at Sam's wholesale club
  • if I ate jello and rice - I could lose weight
  • I could vote for president
  • joining a sorority was a way to find friends
  • UGA was more fun than expected
  • i could sing with a band and make money
  • i was lucky to be alive
  • how hard it was to do laundry and cook
  • I was afraid to die
  • people could surprise you (good and bad)

In the real world, I ...discovered

  • things don't always turn out the way you want or need them to
  • love could break your heart - in many ways
  • I needed to live in the moment
  • how to appreciate the small simple things
  • That I could love again and love better
  • that weddings did not have to be stressful
  • that working came easy - so I worked too hard
  • I could travel to Europe by myself
  • I could buy my first dog (Bud and he is still here with me)
  • life's not always fair
  • how much my parents loved me
  • how a child could change your life and stretch your heart (and your tummy :)
  • C-sections were tougher than people admitted

Now, I have transformed. I am

  • a good wife, great mother, and better friend
  • appreciative of my parents
  • independent
  • hopeful
  • world-traveler
  • a writer
  • yoga lover
  • environmentally conscious
  • in love with my hubby and kids
  • a survivor
  • a struggling writer

Today, after everything I have accomplished, I have now chosen to start over. Back to square one. Back to the basics. Back to the days of poetry and essays. Back to writing. Back to idealism.

Now, after everything I have been through - I sit and dream of being a published writer.

"Better late than never."

But do "late" birds ever get the worm?

Stay Tuned......