Space to Write
For the past four to five years, I've written in multiple places. Mostly at the kitchen table, but I've also started and completed novels on the couch, in my bedroom, sitting in bed, on the floor, and in my car. At the start of summer, we moved and after a series of decisions that are never really as simple as they seem, my beautiful office became an actual thing.
I have a Pinterest board titled if I ever get an office. I truly wasn't sure I'd ever have one and because I'm a big time self-doubter, I wasn't sure I needed/deserved one. After all, an entire room in our house dedicated to me putting words down on the page not only sounded indulgent, but...nerve-wracking.
What if I put time and money into a beautiful space and couldn't write anymore books! Yes, my husband and best friend rolled their eyes as well. We decided, that should that happen...which so far, thankfully, it hasn't, we'll use this space as a lovely little library.
Which, of course, means I need more books. A lot more books because my "library" is now on my kindles. I do have several of my favorite stories on my gorgeous shelves, but nowhere near the number I used to have. I need to remedy this situation because what better inspiration for writing than being surrounded by books?
It's not quite done, but for those of you who follow my author page on Facebook, you've seen the small steps from beginning to middle to...almost close to the end. It still needs a few things: pictures to go up, a couple more shelves over my desk, and as I mentioned, more books, but it is definitely a dream space, even as is. I love it. My cozy couch arrived last week which allowed me to display my cool bookish pillows (also need more of those).
So if you ever wonder where I spend my time while typing out the words, now you know. Though I can't promise that I won't sneak up to the kitchen table now and again out of habit.
Happy Fall everyone.
The best gift this Christmas
Including my two self-published Christmas titles, More than Friends is my eighth book release. It has been the best one yet. This is likely for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest ones, I think, is the fact that people have read (and enjoyed) some of my other work.
We're told, as authors, to build a platform and you never really know what that means while you're hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, joining book groups, and adding to your TBR pile on Goodreads.
The cool thing about releasing this book, More than Friends (other than the amazing support of a truly fantastic publisher, editors, publicists, author friends, and so much more) is that there were people (other than my mom and best friend) who were excited to read what I'd written. They were waiting for my next book. The way I wait for the newest release from an author I like. That is and was such a cool feeling this week.
Every bit as cool, were the number of reviews that said it was their first read of mine, but wouldn't be there last.
The absolute greatest thing out of all of this is the fact that readers are connecting with Owen and Gabby. It makes me so happy that people are falling into the story, caring about the characters, and enjoying the words.
I often say this quote to my daughters. It's about doing things because they mean something to us, because they matter. We don't need validation to make something worth it. But when you put a story out there and share pieces of yourself-- especially when you've created this fictional world with people you care about-- it's really awesome to know that it touched people in the way you meant for it to.
And really, we all need validation sometimes. We need to know that what we're putting out there into the universe is reaching someone. It makes us feel connected. Books and words have an amazing power to lift people up, bring them happiness, escape, and joy. It has been an amazing week, knowing that More than Friends brought happiness to people, that it mattered or made them smile. I'm so grateful that I get to share my books. It is the kind of gift you can't put a price on.
Worth the wait...
Yes, this is that post. The one where I tell you I have an agent
I am beyond excited to announce that I am now represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. I have been sending her my stories since the summer of 2012 and this summer, I sent her one that was just right.
Sometimes, things happen and you feel like despite all the waiting and worrying, it happened just when it should have. This is how I felt on Tuesday when Fran called me to tell me she was going to represent me. I had planned to 'play it cool' and tell her I'd get back to her after I spoke to the other agents who had my work.
But anyone who knows me, knows I couldn't possibly wait. Waiting is not my thing...ironic, considering so much of publishing relies on just that. Of course, there'll still be plenty of waiting, but it seems less daunting with Fran having my back.
That's not all
You'd think that was enough right? It is and it was but there's more. While telling Fran how happy I am, I also mentioned that I absolutely love the work of an illustrator she represents. He does the covers for one of my favourite middle grade series, The Goddess Girls. His work is fun and brilliant. It turns out that Glen Hanson was looking for someone to co-author a series with him. After talking to each other on the phone and sharing some ideas, I am thrilled to say he wants to work with ME. I'll have more details on that as time goes by but what's in store is pretty awesome. So much good. I feel so incredibly grateful.
All the things all at once
There are so many things happening around me right now that are out of my control that it feels impossible to sit still and encapsulate how I feel about that fact. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with #yesallwomen and I want to weigh in but I'm not sure how to summarize all of my feelings so I basically just read the hashtags all week. Because yes, I think, all women, but I also think, all people. We all have a fundamental stake in being good people. To others and to ourselves. Every day, we should be the kind of person we would want our kids to be proud of, be the kind of person we want them to be. And if you don't have kids, then be the kind of person you'd want to be friends with. The kind of person that you would count on. One of my favourite quotes (ever) is "The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday." We get a blank slate every day to right wrongs, make better choices, be better people. Women and men. Kids and Adults. All of us.
Something else weighing heavy in my mind is the politics surrounding teaching right now. It's horrible. It's horrible to watch and horrible to be part of. When you become a teacher, you want to work with kids. You want to make someone's life, day, next ten minutes just a little better. You want to see them succeed, get over the hurdles, and achieve their potential. There are a lot of deterrents in that path. There are crowded classrooms, higher needs, budget cuts, and mountains of curriculum. That's not what bugs me though. And no, it's not the wage either. What bothers me is the overall shift I'm seeing that makes me think that people are devaluing teachers. Not all, maybe not even most, but some. Margaret Mead says “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I love this quote and find it quite true. The flip side of it though is that a small group of people committed to making you see the negative can actually create change too. When I was growing up, I loved a lot of my teachers. There is an undeniable bond, for most people, between themselves and a least one teacher in their memory. While we were on strike today, we talked about who that one teacher for us was. For some it was their home economics teacher. Others, it was their Language Arts teacher. For me, it was my high school drama teacher. Whoever it was, it is very likely that you had a teacher touch your life in a positive way. Teachers shape us, spend time with us, watch us grow, notice when we surpass our own expectations, applaud us, push us back up when we fall. When I was little, we studied community helpers: police officers, firemen, doctors, and teachers. They were people you could trust. People that wanted to impact someone else's life in a positive way. We still matter because your kids will always matter. They are the next generation that will make choices based on the core values that we instill in them, together.
The last thing that is on my mind is the Book Expo of America. I'm an odd person in that I am intensely jealous of all the wonderful people that I "know" who are there now, walking the aisles with Rainbow Rowell, Neil Patrick Harris, Jeff Kinney, and so many more. I wish I were there. But then I think, what would I do if I were there? Most likely, I would freak a little at the thought of talking to these people. I'd be ultra nervous and quite certain that every wrong word ever invented would come out of my mouth at exactly the wrong time. I would laugh too loud and babble incessantly. Someone who was brave enough to say that yes, they were actually with me, would smile politely and yank on my sweater sleeve, trying to save the poor person I'm talking to. This is why my interaction is better online. The delete button doesn't work in real life. Which brings us full circle-- #yesallwomen, #yesallpeople because the delete button is not an option and we don't know what word or gesture, attitude or comment will impact the person around us, or how. We all matter. It's important that we not only remember that, but teach it to the next generation-- to your children, your friend's child. Manners still matter, thoughtfulness isn't out of date, thinking before you speak never goes out of style. And you really don't understand someone until you've walked in their shoes. So instead, walk beside them, without judgement, and just do your best to keep moving forward.
Sorry if this was just straight up rambling, but I did warn you in the title that it was #allthethings
Know your limit. Write within it.
It's possible that last summer I may have had a little problem...an addiction of sorts...to all things contest and query related. In fact, there may even have been an element of longing to get noticed or validated. In addition to this, I was also suffering with need-to-write-every-single-second-so-that-I-don't-lose-my-chance syndrome. I believe I caught this from Twitter, where you can find writers galore, contests galore, and constant updates on which writer raked in the good news of the day. Like a good game of poker, it's exciting to be sitting at the table, trying your hand, and seeing if you can stay in the game. It's exhilarating when someone "calls" (or favorites your tweet). There's strategy and technique in crafting the perfect query letter, ensuring that your submission is strong. There's luck in finding the right match for yourself. But there's also the necessity of knowing when to fold. When to back down and realize that the stakes might be 'too rich' for you. It might even be necessary to walk away from the table. Until you're sure you can handle being there. Until you understand that it's not a high stakes, winner takes all game. And until you understand that you, may lose a lot of hands before you finally win.
When you start querying, entering contests, and "showing your cards", you learn what you're made of as a writer (and a person). It is not easy to go from the rush of someone wanting your work to the edge of your seat waiting for them to read it to the hard landing of rejection. It may build character but it also leaves a mark. It is incredibly hard to make yourself understand that they are rejecting your work, not you. Because of course, our work feels like part of us. If you can't face the reality that not everyone is going to love your work, that not everyone is going to want it, or you, even if you thought they might, then maybe you're not ready. Or at least, that is what I learned. I wasn't prepared for the slide down. The attention is wonderful and validating, but the time in between scoops out your self-esteem. And it becomes a cycle. If you let it. If you're writing to prove something or because you think you have to, then you're writing for the wrong reason and it won't be authentic. You have to write because you can't not write. Because it's part of you. If you feel this way, then you'll know, or come to know, that sitting out a round, standing on the edges for a bit, doesn't pull you out of the game. It just lets you breathe.
I sat out the last twitter contest and I thought I would be sorry but I'm not. I like the conclusion that I've come to in the last several months: if I slow down it will not make me disappear. If I don't get an agent, it will not make me stop. But if I had entered the contest, when I finally feel like, okay, I can just breathe and write at the same time, I would have thrown myself back into the cycle. And right now, it's not where I want to be. The point is, you have to know what your limits are, what you can handle, and what you can give. This leads me to my second decision.
I've decided not to participate in the A-Z challenge, which I think looks incredibly cool. Writing a different blog every day for 26 days is a fantastic way to be motivated, be part of something special, and be creative. And I signed up. I even chose a theme (a good one) and organized my drafts file to get myself ready. But then I asked myself, "why"? I have been welcomed into a small community of gracious, funny, and talented writers. I have a support system and a couple of critique partners that I respect. So was I pushing myself because I wanted to just play one more hand or because I felt that this hand would be a building block for the rest of the game. Right now, my building blocks include co-authoring a romantic suspense novel, waiting on agent responses to another romantic suspense novel, being a critique partner, and writing things that I enjoy. I'm putting less pressure on myself to do it all. It all sounds great...but this is how you burn out. It becomes overwhelming and emotionally exhausting if you push yourself past your limit or worse, if you don't recognize you have a limit.
Sitting out and opting out are hard choices as a writer. You feel like, even though everything is moving slower than you ever would have thought humanly possible, there's so much happening around you, without you. And it can become nerve wracking. A friend of mine said this week, "Unless you have an editor breathing down your neck, write for fun or what's the point?" I don't have to spread myself thin trying to be a part of every challenge and every contest. But last summer, I had myself convinced that I did. That if I didn't play every hand, that I'd lose for sure. Really, the only thing I was losing was sleep. And maybe some sanity but that may or may not be tied to writing.
In the last year, my writing has become infinitely stronger. But so have I. By taking away the urgency, I've side-stepped the pressure that I was putting on myself. I've stopped telling myself I have to enter everything I can (though I highly recommend many of the fantastic contests and pitching events you can find on twitter). Instead, I'm telling myself to make what I do write, what I do query, the best it can be. In the process of slowing down, finding balance, and gaining some insight, I may even have become slightly less annoying to those who have to put up with me when I get a little too caught up. One of my favorite quotes is below. That's what I'll aim for. As a person and as a writer.
Top ten of 2013
I like lists. I like making them, looking at them, and checking them off. Here's a list of ten (writing related) things that happened to me this year that mattered:
10: I received over one dozen partial and/or full requests from agents since May (I am still waiting to hear back from 5 for one manuscript and 1 for another manuscript)
9: I had my blogs read by real authors like Ellen Potter and Tanya Lloyd Kyi.
8: I sat in a room with Diana Gabaldon, Michael Slade, and Jack Whyte for an entire evening. I didn't say much but I nodded like a fool and didn't hide in the bathroom.
7: I connected with an amazing group of fellow writers via Twitter, such as Brenda Drake, Jessa Russo, Rachel Pudelek, Roselle Kaes, Lauren Spieller and so many more I'm probably forgetting but not because they aren't awesome.
6: Rainbow Rowell and Jill Shalvis tweeted me and The Bloggess followed me. All three events made me inexplicably happy.
5: I read Elenor and Park. It matters. It made me want to be better.
4: I met this truly awesome agent that I won't name. She might not be my agent, but she became my friend, which is pretty cool all by itself. Turns out agents are real people.
3: I found critique partners and new friends, Tara and Kelli, that will go beyond writing and be part of what makes 2014 special.
2: My story, A Not So Lonely Christmas, was published in Foreward Lit's anthology, Holiday Spice
1: I self published Forever Christmas via Amazon
When it rains...
Technically, it rains a lot in BC. But that's not really what this is about. This is about me waiting for things to happen and realizing that so much IS happening. I have some publishing news that I want to share but I haven't received my confirmation email so I'm cautiously waiting but promise I'll tell as soon as I can. But here's what's up in October:
October 9th.................................So You Think You Can Write
Top 50 entries chosen
October 15th................................Gold Rose Competition
Finalists are notified
October 18th.................................WE Day Vancouver
I will take 20 kids to see amazing and motivating
speakers & be reminded of what really matters in life.
October 24th................................Dinner with REAL authors
I was invited last year, by a friend, to spend an
evening w/writers like Diana Gabaldon, Sam Sykes,
Jack Whyte, and Michael Slade. Last year I was too
nervous to speak. This year I will talk to someone!
October 25th.................................Surrey International Writers Conference
Keynote speakers, workshops, authors AND
I will get to meet/talk to Michelle Johnson,
Carolyn Forde, and Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg
All the while, I'll be waiting to hear back from agents who are reading Damaged, my newest contemporary romantic suspense manuscript. Busy. And let's not forget what this month is really all about, according to my ten year old and seven year old (because writing is great and being published would be lovely but does not hold a candle in their world to:) HALLOWEEN
Keep anxious and carry on
Keep Calm and anything doesn't really suit my nature. I mean it when I reply to people who tell me, inanely, to 'relax' that "this is me relaxed". My brain works on overdrive all the time. A situation that would bring a few questions to mind for most people, generates hundreds of questions in my head. So, as you might guess, waiting patiently is not my thing. I think maybe, in some alternate universe where I try to see the good side, having to wait for answers about my writing is a good thing for me. I'm slowly learning that everything does not need to happen RIGHT NOW. My friend sent me a beautiful quote that, oddly enough, did making me relax a little.
I always feel like I just have this short window of opportunity to start and complete something but this a self-imposed window. I box myself in by creating deadlines or telling myself that I have something to prove. This works against you in writing. There is no time limit here and this needs to be remembered. Also, it's true when you're told that this is a subjective business. So far, for my current query, I've had a few "it's not right for me" but "perhaps another agent", rejection letters. It is hard to have someone turn down something that matters to you. In fact, I sent my best friend and husband a text earlier this week that said something along the lines of:
I don't want to do this anymore. I can't keep sending my work out there.
I, with my inability to WAIT for anything, got a little down when I entered a very cool pitch contest on Brenda Drake's website and had no immediate responses. I felt that if I got some requests, I should keep going, but if I didn't, I should take a break. Here's the important thing though: I can't take a break from writing. The words and characters won't stop forming in my head so, in the end, whether I get published or not, if my work is requested or not, it's part of who I am. Keep calm? I have to write to do that. I have a tendency to obsess and need immediate results. This is not a good combo in the writing world. Fortunately, I have a strong support system that is used to me, ignores my defeatest texts, tells me to take a breath and doesn't mock me, too much, when I send a follow up text about an hour later that reads:
Disregard last text. Just got a request. Still bring pop, please.
Actually, I got three requests from the "Pitch Party" and I am thrilled and excited and feel like I'm starting at the bottom of the roller coaster, again. However, I think it was a good little learning curve for me because it reinforced what I've already said: you have to write for you. It's where your best writing comes from. You have to be willing to listen and accept feedback and critiques AND rejection. If you decide to pursue the path to being published, you have to be willing to move forward, fight for it, get your writing out there and understand that it is a subjective business. It's like anything in life, I suppose, you have to really want it and the harder it is to get, the more you'll appreciate it when the good moments come.
Happy Mother's Day in picture books
As writers, we must be readers. In honor of Mother's Day and the fact that I have a picture book on submission, I wanted to share my top ten favourite cuddle-up-with-mom-and-read picture books. We are inspired by everything around us and what we read helps shape what we write. So if you write picture books, or just want a great read with your little one,
here are some great ones.
Crazy little thing called faith
While playing the game of Life with my oldest daughter yesterday, she said the simplest and sweetest of things and it reminded me that, sometimes, you just have to let it go, let things work themselves out, and believe.
She was beating me mercilessly, as usual. I had four children, lost my job twice, got sued, and went on a $35,000 vacation. She, in turn, had bought a mansion, found treasure, and got a book deal. She wasn't gloating though, so she clearly takes after me more than her dad.
When she landed on the "You signed a book deal, collect $200,000", I commented, in passing, "I wish that would happen to me."
While collecting her money, she says, "It will. But for real, not just in a game. You'll see."
Just like that. Now, I do hope that one day my book, which is on sub, gets picked up and has success. It's a fun story. However, I in no way think that I'll become rich in any way. From what I've learned about the book/publishing industry, you write for the same reason you teach: because you love it. Which is fine; more than fine.
What struck me is the simplicity of her statement and her conviction. When we're young, we believe in fairy tales, happily ever after, and ourselves. Sometimes, we lose that along the way. As the truth about fairy tales and reality, we let go of that blind faith in things we cannot see. I don't consider myself a jaded person. I believe in people, that good things happen and that good triumphs in the end.
But I can't tell you how good it made me feel to know my daughter believes in me, even when I forget to. That simple show of faith reminded me that, in the real world, believing in something (like yourself) can't be measured by time, accolades, or even your definition of success. Believing in yourself, and in turn, in your writing, needs to be a constant. It's what keeps you moving forward. I read an excellent quote the other day:
“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.”– Margaret Shepard
This could not be more true. We need people in our lives that will remind us of this when we forget. I feel grateful to the people I have in my life that do this for me.