This time last year, we were just returning from California. We visited Disneyland and had the best trip...EVER. While there, we met up with friends and I told them that I was attending a writer's conference in October. I said that I was getting to sit down with an agent and an author to share some of my work. They said to let them know how that all worked out. September came and went in a blur, much like this one will, and in October, I attended that conference. If you've read my blog before, you know I ended up signing with an agent for my picture book: The Princess and the Please. Signing with an agent was like a catalyst for me. I had always been "a writer". But after a professional said, "I like your work enough to sign you", ideas and words exploded. Since that time, I've written 3 more picture books, a young adult novel, 2 full length novels, and a novella. That wouldn't have happened, at least not at this point in my life I don't think, if I hadn't gone to the conference last year.
Since then, I've also amicably parted ways with the agent, met a wide network of absolutely lovely, helpful people that I wish I knew in real life, not just on Twitter. I've grown stronger as a writer, listening to and accepting feedback. I've learned how to write a proper query letter, a synopsis, and what a chore editing can be. I've learned to pitch my work in 35 words, I've had requests for pages, partials, and fulls. I've received multiple rejections and learned to take the advice in them (if they had any). I learned what CP (critique partner) means and I have one. I'm even hosting a give away for the re-release of Jessa Russo's book EVER. I've become a part of an amazing writing community and learned that it's okay that I'm not yet published or still agented. I always say I started in the middle and got put back at the starting line.
In October, I'm attending a writing conference. This time, I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing so there'll be no flukes or luck. When I sit down with an agent this time, I'll know what I want and be offering them my best writing. In the last year, I've also learned that my heart lies in contemporary romance, though picture books are great fun. It'll be very interesting to see what this year brings.
Experience is a harder teacher because she gives the tests first, the lesson afterward.
"We would really like to see more of your manuscript. Please email the full ASAP and let us know if you receive any offers."
"Thank you for sending us your manuscript. Unfortunately it is not the right fit for us."
Yes, those were from the same agency. So I spent a lot of time wondering, what happened? When my students have to solve a problem, we start with "What do we know?" In this instance, we know that my Twitter Pitch or first 250 words captured someone's attention. Good. Second, we know that the first couple chapters intrigued them and made them want more. Great. Third, it didn't work for them. Uh-oh.
As I have been "yo-yo"-ing back and forth like this for a few months now, I've had to stop and ask myself a few questions because when you get a rejection, you feel like this:
And then you have to decide, do you keep going because it is normal to be rejected, even though it feels lousy? Or do you pack it in and take it as a sign that you don't know what you're doing. Perhaps a little of both because, as I've found, it feels lousy but I must know something because I'm getting past the first barrier. Clearly, there's more for me to learn. What I needed to ask myself was:
Did I just want to publish a book or did I want to be a writer?
With the help of the wisdom of others and listening to my own heart, I decided it was the latter. I don't want to pursue something if I have no talent. Rejection sucks but, as I've said before, I'd rather someone just said, "DO NOT GO ON AMERICAN IDOL! YOU CANNOT SING!" instead of letting me try out and when I failed have them say, "Oh, that's just three judges. You keep trying." I'm not that person. I'm okay with hard work and I have ambition in spades (once I get out of bed) but I value honesty and don't want to pursue something that is not mine to pursue. Getting published and being a writer are two different things. My best friend asked me (during one of my "I'm giving up writing for good" rants) if I would actually stop writing. I said "no, but I'll stop submitting." That's when I realized the difference and how I know I'm a writer. I can't stop writing. I can't stop the fact that when lyrics come into my head, my mind wanders to a conversation that could be had between two characters. I can't help that, as my husband told me this week, I smile when something good is happening while I write. It's part of me and, truthfully, always has been. Maybe I won't get published despite my pursuits but I won't ever stop writing.
The benefit of the yo-yo existence is that there is so much support, help, and encouragement. I do not believe that there is any other industry that would be so amazingly gracious about the success of others. I have a friend who stars on the hit show Graceland so I can ask him to be sure, but I'm almost positive that he's never earned a role and had the guy who was trying out for the same role say to him, "Man, that's awesome. I'm totally going to spread the word that you just succeeded!!" But that's what happens in the writing community. There are constantly tweets about new books, cover reveals, helpful advice, contests.
Speaking of contests, there was one this week called WriteonCon. Pretty amazing, really. It's like a huge conference, with workshops, speakers, agents, and other professionals that you can attend without leaving your house. Other writers and agents will look at your work and give feedback, and suggestions. They want to succeed themselves but they're online, in forums critiquing and helping others writers be better. Imagine if that same attitude, that pay it forward-we're all in this together mentality, was applied to other areas of life. Today, I watched, in a Google Hangout, an agent see my Twitter Pitch and give me constructive criticism and an explanation of why that picture book would be hard to sell right now. Yo-Yo down, right? But, she was kind and supportive about it and offered feedback. Yo-Yo up.
I might never get published traditionally, but all of this up and down, back and forth, highs and lows has really made me question what I want out of this journey. I want to write things I feel good about. I want to connect with other writers (um....JILL SHALVIS responded to a tweet of mine). I want to learn more and improve. And I guess, I want to share my writing. I didn't realize how much I wanted that until this part of my writing journey started last October. But now that it has, I'm very aware of how much I like the feedback of others and how it helps me be better. It's a lot like teaching. Only, I'm the student in this scenario.
Publishing is not a fast paced, give it to me now world. We're pretty used to that world but for someone like me, that forgets to stop and breathe, it might be a good thing. It's making me stronger, more aware of what I want, and connecting me with some pretty amazing people.
What do you want out of your writing? Have you asked yourself what you're after?
It would make sense that someone who writes has a plethora of words in their brain, ready to be used in efficient and beautiful ways. This might be true when there is pen and paper or keyboards and screens involved but, for me, when it is time to be verbal, it would seem I have run out of words. Several times, just today, I have had sentences go like this:
While cleaning today, I got upset with my kids twice (or twice x a lot) because they weren't following directions. They answered, "But you said _______!" To which I would then reply, "But that's not what I meant!" Why don't they know what I meant to say? And why can't I say what started out sounding normal in my brain? If you're lucky, you have people that "get" you. They understand what words need to be used in the blanks or when you say the exact opposite of what you really need to say. My best friend calls this "speaking fluent Jody". The more I write, the more important it seems for people to start understanding the language I now speak: the language where I used up all of the good words in my writing and am now left with a very tiny word bank. This bank mostly consists of "um", "you know", "but", "huh?", "uh".
While this might seem amusing, consider my predicament when I'm trying to get my way with my husband or trying to prove to someone that I am, indeed, quite educated. Not easy. Especially since very recently, my verbal genius included pronouncing "ruching" as "rush-et-ing". Yup. As I said, despite having many of them written on paper, there, really, are no words.
Tell me I'm not alone with my inability to form complete sentences when I need to speak aloud. What's the funniest mispronunciation you've heard or said?
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