Monday, October 28, 2013

Blog Tour

Thanks so much to Stephanie Kelley for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour! Go read her blog post for the tour. It was fun to get to know her better.

Without further ado, here are my answers to the questions:

1. What are you working on right now? 

I’m currently prepping my literary MG contemporary novel for NaNoWriMo. Here’s the pitch:


Em Perkins' distracted writer father has Relapsing-Remitting MS, and her grandmother has cataracts. Em herself has a case of Relapsing-Remitting invisibility, and it's about to become chronic. The day she writes a description of herself into her father's novel, and he deletes it, she knows time is running out to make herself visible again. But when she snips one of Mrs. Hindley's roses, she hears the words that change everything. "I see you, Em Perkins." Bad deeds can make an invisible child visible, if only for a little while. But when Em's unlikely friend, dirty, fat, neglected Henry is going to have to spend three weeks in summer with his abusive father, Emily knows they've got to become visible, permanently. Otherwise how will anyone pay attention to what they say, and how can she save Henry? How to pull it off--commit an act of Ultimate Evil.

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Tough question. I think this story is not edgy at all. It’s really innocent and sweet. It has a literary feel, and I think it will make people cry. If my test audiences are any indication, it will. I hope people will fall in love with my spunky, action-oriented MC. She is a fireball, and she won’t stay down for long.

3. Why do you write what you do? 

I write for children because I can’t bring myself to care about writing for adults. I enjoy reading about adults, but when I try to think up an adult novel concept, I draw a complete blank. Always have.

I finished reading The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and the Casson Family series by Hilary McKay—both masterpieces—and I knew my next project had to be a literary MG with a familial feel. Something that almost feels like it was written in another time, because it’s so innocent and ageless. This story came to me, and I had almost the whole thing plotted in a few days while I attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Martine Leavitt and her lectures on desire and obstacles in fiction were life-changing for me as an author.

This story was born from learning how to use those building blocks to make a story with high stakes. Also, I think children’s feelings are amazing. I will never stop being interested in what makes us grow and progress and discover who we are.

My last two novels were YA contemporary stories. I am so excited to write about the emotional journeys of teenagers. They are right in the crucible of becoming. It never gets old to examine why they do what they do, why they feel what they feel.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to professionally relive their deepest fears, most embarrassing moments, and first loves? It’s a permanent high.

4. How does your writing process work? 
It involves a lot of stolen moments. Early mornings before my kids wake up for school, nap time sprint-writing, post-bedtime while my husband works on his MBA and I type until my fingers fall off with my friend Rebecca checking in with me every half an hour to keep us both accountable.

I draft at about 1000 words a day. I go from beginning to end, straight through. Whenever I make a major change, I make note of what I have to go back and fix, and keep writing. I’ve learned that if I keep going back to Chapter 1 to tweak things, I’ll never finish, and I’ll never find out what my book really is in the end. I do write to an outline, but I change things all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever write a book straight through as originally planned.

When that is finished, I chop up the novel, cutting out all the stuff that no longer fits, and rewriting for story.

Then I do a syllabic, word-choice cutting edit. This last novel required a cut of about 25%. Honestly, I think I’ll do that every time. It was amazing, watching my writing grow stronger by the minute. I cut 34,000 words in about three and a half weeks. My brain hurt. Then I lay down and died, and my children climbed all over me, so thankful to have their mommy back.

Then, I get several critiques, and do another round of revisions, and send things off to my fabulous agent, Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

At least… that’s what I do this time around.

I’m learning the process one day at a time. Maybe one of these days, I’ll just know how to write an awesome novel straight through, but I’m not holding my breath.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Author Interview with YA Author Natalie Whipple

Today, my post on was an author interview with Harper Teen author, Natalie Whipple. She is delightful, and her books are, too. Head on over and check it out!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Anne Lamott - Bird by Bird

 This is not a formal review. I don't do those. I just read books, and then I think about them a lot and then, sometimes, if I'm feeling bloggerly, I tell you the takeaway.

1. Don't read this book if you're one of those angry, hostile writers Anne is always talking about who just want to get published, and want her to tell you how to do this. She will not tell you how. She will tell you that you most likely won't succeed in gaining this dream, and that if you do, you will most likely not enjoy it once you get there.

How's that for an upper?

2. Anne Lamott is a real person. Her voice and her experience are dripping with down-in-the-trenches-beside-you-my-sista kind of wisdom. She's been there. She's suffered that. She's a human being with all her battle-wounds, and she is going to tell it to you straight. Which is what she wants from you. She wants you to write who you are, with no gloss and no candy-coating. I get the impression that Anne and I could sit down for a four-hour heart-to-heart therapy session, and I'd come away feeling like nothing I said could really surprise her.

3. Anne says that writers need to be present. They need to really live, observe, listen, experience. They need to live life to its fullest. She says that writer's block is a misnomer, because nothing is blocked, in reality we're empty, when we're stuck like that. That we need to fill back up. Live our lives, be with people, view the minutiae, and express it.

I was on a family camping trip with strep throat this weekend while I devoured her book, along with Natalie Whipple's Transparent, and Robison Wells' Variant. (It's amazing what being away from all my responsibilities can do for my reading speed. Good night, I love to lose myself in a good book.) Anyhoo, I was on this camping trip with all these amazing people who I love, and I found myself settling into the moments, noticing things, really noticing them. Seeing the magic in the people and the beauty of the world around me, and writing about it.

4. Anne Lamott is all about the art. She is not about the money or the fame or the idea of being published, although she admits to struggling with all of those demons. But at the heart of it, this book is for people who love to express life honestly through the written word, and want to do more of that in little pieces every day.

5. This book is humane, humble, hilarious, pessimistic, realistic, and delightful. *Go read it, my darlings.

*Go read it with the caveat that her language is a mite salty. She is not too reverent to toss around a few "colorful metaphors." (Thank you Spock in Star Trek IV for that expression.)

6. I am done now. What are you still doing here? If I had been planning on this review, I'd have quotes for you and a format for this blog post. I'm going to bed. But not before brushing off the gross pizza breath from my teeth. Hooray for Colgate.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Word Count Disaster

Writing along. Loving every minute. Delighted by my characters, my story, my dialog. So excited to finish my novel on May 6th. 80,000 word deadline set.

80,000 word deadline met.

Only trouble is...

I'm just at the midpoint, story-wise.

And I'm pretty sure my agent and her editor friends would tell me that a 160,000 word YA contemporary is... ahem... unpublishable.

Grandiose? Self-indulgent? Not. Happening.

So, new goal for the month of May.

Every day instead of producing 1000 words minimum, I have to produce 500 new words minimum, and then delete their equivalent from somewhere earlier in the story. I'll be working on the story from two different places, and that may make me unproductive, or less efficient. I'll have to see. If it's problematic, maybe I'll rotate days. Cutting day and writing day. But I kind of like the idea of earning my new words by cutting old ones.

My only problem is that if I stop producing new content, I lose the momentum, and I find myself paralyzed for a few days when I come back to writing prose. Which is bad for my arbitrary and totally self-imposed deadlines.

My husband and I have a smallish house and a large wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Awhile ago I told him that until we have a bigger house, once the shelves are totally full, we either have to get rid of books or stop buying new ones. Thank heaven for him the e-reader came along. Whew! Dilemma solved.

I'm viewing my novel like those beastly shelves. You want new words? You want your MC to ever get to find out the meaning of her life, make the tough choices, and get the guy? Then sacrifice her ten paragraph rant about how rough her life is in chapter 2. (I kid. If there is such a rant, may I be barred from my keyboard. Although if it does exist, that might make cutting 20,000 words a little les torturous!)

Nikki, seriously, you're not going to take the axe to my story for me? Caryn? Anyone?

I tremble in fear of today's writing session, but I thought stating the truth here might help keep me honest about the tough love this novel needs.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fifteen Ever-Living Minutes A Day!

I've had people ask recently how I've gotten so consistent with my writing. This has not always been the case.

The first few writing years were filled with... I love writing. I want to write. I love having written. I hate writing. I can't write. I'm PARALYZED. I'm taking a break from writing... for oh, a year or so.

But now, I write. In January I was 25,000 words into my current WIP. Today, I'm almost to 80,000 words.

In the past four years, I've done two seriously vomitacious pregnancies, given birth to my second and third babies, kept two newborns alive through the grueling first six months, and completed the first draft of Novel #1, co-written Novel #2 with my husband, re-written and revised Novel #1 extensively, nearly completed draft 1 of Novel #3, queried, entered contests, attended writing conventions, gotten an agent, revised for her, and said farewell to Novel #1 as it went out on submission. And I've done it while running my photography business and serving in church callings and canning fruit and managing to sleep, eat, and exercise.

Because why? What has made this craziness possible?

Fifteen minutes a day.

If I'm consistent, and I write fifteen minutes a day, I can produce a chapter every one to two weeks.

Now, granted, at this point, I write more like 1-2 hours a day. And I brainstorm and think and talk writing with all of my friends.

But on days when I'm paralyzed and I think I'm awful and I question this whole exercise in frustration, I sit my butt in my chair, and I pound on the keyboard for fifteen minutes.

Don't tell me you can't do it. Because you can. Fifteen minutes every single day will either become more, become rewarding, and start to create magic, or it won't.

But either way, lots of really smart people have been telling me since I got the itch as a teenager that real writers write.

So do.

Or don't.

We can be friends either way, but wouldn't you rather be writing friends?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Writing YA Fiction - Saying Something True About Love

I'm a writer because I am a reader. I love books. I love the escape, the entertainment, the new worlds, and the messages. Most of all, I love reading truth. No matter the genre, I recognize truth when it speaks to me. I cringe with an antagonist when I see in him or her a reflection of my worst self. I rejoice in the triumphs and cry for the failures of characters.

As a writer, I feel that I am responsible for every word I print on the page and send out into the world. While my stories are organic, and not driven by message, I still feel responsible for the statements my books make. I think about the ethics of my profession, and of my offering to the world a lot—and I haven't even been published yet.

But more about that later.

Today I am babysitting for my friend's three youngest kids while she gets LASIK surgery. In my home right now, I have my thirteen-month-old, my three-year-old, her eight-month-old, two-year-old, and four-year-old. Three in diapers and two in full-blown choking hazard phase.

They've been here since 7:20 AM, and I should be exhausted by now. It's twelve o'clock, after all.

But I'm doing great. I feel refreshed and calm and happy. Only a small part of that is because my friend's baby is a bundle of joy, and hasn't cried yet.

The biggest part is due to my husband, Cody. He didn't need to leave this morning until about eleven. When he got home from exercising, he helped me feed the kids breakfast, and then offered to watch all five kids for me so I could go to water aerobics for an hour and a half. He was persuasive, and I took him up on his offer. When I came home, he had put both babies down for their morning naps, and cleaned the whole kitchen.

This is true love. This is what makes me weak in the knees.

I kissed him, told him he was a rock star, and as I headed down the hall to make my bed, I thought how it's sad that I can't write this into my YA romance novels. And then I remembered what I said to Cody last night as I read him a scene with Evan, my current teen romantic hero.

I write Cody into all of my romantic leading men because it's the only way I can understand real romance. I write men who are selfless, calming, validating, and who serve the women they care about. I write men who bring peace to the chaos of my main characters' worlds. And yes, they are also handsome, exciting, and desirable. 

Though it was unintentional to begin with, writing about love that heals and blesses instead of violence or domination or straight sex appeal has become one of my goals a writer.

When a teenage girl reads my books, I want her to see a glimpse of what she can really have. I want her to understand the power of kindness, and the value of peace.

Besides, it's what stirs my heart. It's what fills me up.

Discussing a scene that I finished a week ago, my husband told me that teenage girls would be DYING over the romance between Tessa and Evan.

"But it's not remotely sexy," I said.

"Depends on your definition of sexy," Cody said.

"But there's nothing salacious."

"You're right," he said, "It's one hundred percent pure. But the girls will die all the same."

He should know. He's a romantic hero himself.

And I love that a piece of Cody goes into Evan and Sheldon and all the teenage leading men in my books. It will happen naturally as I try to capture love page by page, and I remain determined to say something true.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Outlining Is Hard: A Sneak-Peak At My WIP

I think outlining is hard.

I said it.

I need it, but it ties me up in knots.

I'm about 40,000 words into my WIP and I'm still taking off a few days every week or so to toy with the outline. A suggestion from my genius sister finally helped make this outline into something I can hold on to. She told me to put it in the voice of my main character, from her perspective. Then, she said, "If your character spits the line of text back in your face, you'll know if wasn't really something she would think, say, or do." This worked amazingly for me.

Want a peak at what I wrote tonight?

Tessa’s Story: 
I’m sixteen and pregnant. My mother says not for long, but she’s crazy if she thinks I’m getting an abortion just because when she was a pregnant teenager she kept me—and always regretted it. One look at the ultrasound and I know I can’t go through with it. There is a tiny person waving a miniature hand at me, and I could be looking at myself, all those years ago. Mom will be too busy drinking to notice anyway.

I make the mistake of telling my boyfriend, Johnny. He says there’s no way the baby is his. Walks away from me while I crumple into a ball behind Burger Boy. Then the idiot tells the whole school on Facebook. So, now all my friends think his lies are truth—that I’m pregnant because I cheated on him. Then my best friend Brielle’s mom tells my mom everything and she blows up—kicks me out with nowhere to go. If it weren’t for my former dance teacher Julie taking me in to live with her, I’d be sleeping in a women’s shelter, headed for foster care. This world is seriously screwed up, because Julie has never been able to have children, while I’m apparently too stupid to keep from getting pregnant.

I’ve lost most of my friends to Team Johnny. I’ve had to give up dance and cheer. And with my body stretching and swelling to the approximate proportions of a whale, it’s lucky for me I have Evan, my coworker at Burger Boy. He’s the only person who doesn’t look at my belly first, these days; seems to really see me.

Then stupid Brielle and Johnny start dating, which turns my ginormous stomach. And when Julie miscarries after her last try at in vitro, I worry just a little bit that adopting my baby is the only reason she’s letting me stay. I go home to see if moving back in with Mom is an option now that she’s cooled off, but apparently her cooling-off process involved moving without leaving me so much as a forwarding address.

Beer. Beer suddenly seems like a good idea, so I have a couple of drinks at the party where Evan’s band is playing. Stupid? Whatever. I just don’t want to think anymore. Good thing I have Evan and Julie to do my thinking for me. Acting all disappointed in me, Evan drags me home to Julie, who decides to get all parental all of a sudden. I can stay with her until the end of the pregnancy, but only if I do nothing illegal, immoral, or harmful to myself—or more importantly, the baby. By the time the buzz has worn off, I can see that they’re right—not like I’ll admit that to them. 

The next day I go to my twenty-week ultrasound. And I see that baby. That perfect little tiny person. It’s a girl. I’m going to have a girl. I will name her something awesome. A strong name for a strong girl who will never be dumb enough to have sex without protection just because her boyfriend tells her it will feel better. Samantha. Looking at her, I realize something amazing. I don’t have to wait to find a guy who will love me for me, or hold out the crazy hope that someday I’ll have a mother who’s not too busy being broken to love me. I have the baby. She’s beautiful. She’s perfect. And she’s mine. She will love me the most, put me first, and be all the family I’ll ever need. 

If only it were that simple and I could skip right to the perfect ending. Julie's bossing me around these days, getting all serious with curfews and chores and "natural consequences." And Evan's confusing me by being way more attractive and less nerdy than I thought at first. Which makes me think of dizzying possibilities for how to support myself and Samantha with nothing but a minimum wage fast food job, a high school sophomore education, and a desperate hope that my baby will fix the broken parts of me.
The twenty remaining weeks of my pregnancy are plenty of time to figure out how all this is going to work, aren't they? 

Mwahahahaha... Of course that's all you get, right now. Just up to the midpoint—when Tessa's reaction turns to action. The moment where she thinks she knows everything she needs and starts to plan to get it. If you want more you have to read the book.

Well... I have to write the book and then my agent has to love it and pitch it and sell it and someone has to publish it. And then you have to read it... please.

Now that I'm happy with my outline, I've got to get my nose back to the grindstone and keep cranking out prose for my self-imposed deadline in May. 

But first I have to sleep. As for the book, like Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Secrets Of The Universe

Writing fiction is interesting. You want to tell a satisfying story. You can only do this if you can create a satisfying arc for your main character. Which means taking them from one point to a different point where they have learned an important lesson or grown in some meaningful way, and demonstrated their growth through their actions. Essentially, along the way you need to teach your main character the secrets of the universe. Yesterday I was teaching my main character that love is unselfish. That when you truly love, you are willing to sacrifice for the people you care about.

You don't spend that kind of time considering these kinds of moral values without being changed. It's one of the things I love most about writing. Yesterday night I was sick. I felt miserable. And I wanted to go to bed. But my husband had worked late and the house was a wreck. Remembering the lessons I'm trying to teach my main character, I spent an hour sacrificing sleep, and cleaning so Cody could come home to a peaceful house.

And it was satisfying.

Like a character arc that really works!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We'll Run Out Of Stuff To Write When We're Dead

A writing friend commented on Facebook the other day that she had so much left to do on her book. I made the offhanded comment that we always have so much left to do, and we'll run out of stuff to write when we're dead.

I've since thought about this comment. It says a lot about my new way of looking at writing. For years, I've been an on-again-off-again writer. If I don't write for three or four days, I'm done. The very thought of opening my manuscript is paralyzing to me. But the minute I actually force myself to start writing again, the other me takes over. The one who wanted to become a writer in the first place.

Consistency, for me, is the key.

And if I stop to think too much about the big picture, I get overwhelmed and freak out and stop for two or three days, which can become two or three months without even trying.

My point is, if I'm a writer, I write. Every day. But it doesn't have to consume every thought, every relationship, every interaction.

So, for me, learning to turn it on and off is important. And learning that as a writer, every day I do my time, and then I also live my life. And then the next day, I write again. It doesn't matter which piece of the puzzle I'm working on if I don't think so hard about the whole picture. I can navigate between projects, focusing on whatever is most pressing. I can switch to revising for my agent, and back to working on my WIP without initiating a writer's block breakdown

And I'm not planning to ever finish. The goal is not to be done. The goal is to write.

(Responsible, Real-World Heather chiming in here: Obviously we have to finish certain manuscripts and revisions on deadlines... but like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll think about that tomorrow. Nothing kills my creative flow like the demand that I be funny, poignant, and articulate on a schedule. If I think about it in a pressure-free way, I am my most productive.) 

And we're writers. So we'll run out of things to write about when we're dead. And even in heaven, I hope I can spend a little time each day with the heavenly equivalent of my laptop and characters and glorious, delicious words.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing Journey: From First Attempts to Agent!

Fair warning: You are about to embark on reading the longest blog post of my bloggerly life. It may bore you. If you don’t care about how this writer started writing—with all of the mind-bogglingly verbose details—skip this one and come back for a normal post another day.

This started out as a guest post for Monica, my awesome coach from The Writer’s Voice—the contest responsible for helping me find my agent—and turned into a history of my life, at least as pertains to writing. Monica got the edited version. I got to keep the beast. Aaaaand, here goes.

Sometimes writing can be frustrating—a conversation with no one talking on the other end. You spend your days creating drama and solving problems for pretend people. This particular brand of nerdery can leave you lonely.

In junior high school in Canada, the majority of my social life happened in my head, with characters whose dramas were so much more life-and-death than mine. They were going to die in childbirth, or crossing the plains, or of a broken heart. They rode in buggies, or walked the halls of castles.

Meanwhile, back in real life teenagerville, I was just wondering what to wear, who I’d eat lunch with, and if any boy would ever acknowledge my existence.

I owe a lot of my early writerly journey to my best friend through junior high. She was unique, imaginative, and a ton more fun than the popular kids who were obsessed with Guess and Esprit and Beaver Canoe. Yes, indeed… I lived in Canada. And Beaver Canoe was a seriously coveted brand. The cliché blows my mind, too.

Anyhoo, Christy and I shared the wonderful writerly world of make believe. And she made it okay for me to enjoy it. In a way, she was my first writing group. We hung out at Heritage Park, a pioneer theme park where you could go and pretend for a few hours that you were in another world. We even dressed up a few times, and people thought we were park employees. I remember eating lunches from Christy’s picnic basket on the lawn of the manor house, wandering out to the lighthouse, and watching the ferry departing. I populated our stories with characters and dialog, while Christy made sure their wardrobe was well-designed and their houses impeccably decorated. I hope she went on to be a fashion designer or an architect.

I never lost the need to tell stories. From childhood when I’d narrate my sister Kathryn off to sleep every night with the plots of my novels, my scribbling in notebooks has kept me marvelous company.

I took a brief break from writing and reading for pleasure in college and in my first years of teaching, although my French major and English minor kept me immersed in classic literature.

It wasn’t until my first two years as a stay-at-home mom that I finally wanted to write again. I spent my days with a delightful toddler, but she didn’t talk to me much, and I needed more than just my relationship with her to sustain me. Enter my good buddy, NaNoWriMo.

I’ll admit straight out that I have never once succeeded in making the full 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, but I owe the rest of my career as a writer to setting the goal and working to meet it. And to learning that writing is more than planning and outlining and imagining. Writing is more like… actually… writing. Moving your fingers on the keyboard as words come to life under your fingers. Experimenting with voice and description and dialogue. Creation, pure and simple. Exhilarating, thrilling, compulsive, and exasperating.

My first NaNoWriMo netted me 25,000 words of an epic fantasy novel. I didn’t do much outlining. I just wrote until I got bored or frustrated, which was when I skipped to the most thrilling scenes. I never went back and did the drudgery of writing the boring parts. (It didn’t occur to me until later that if there are boring parts, you shouldn’t ever go back and write them. If there is some empty space in a book, you should definitely fill it with something that makes your arm hair stand on end.) Eventually, figuring out court intrigues, battle scenes, and what to feed my medieval princess for breakfast forced me to try to write what I know.

NaNoWrimo #2 yielded a very rough 25,000 words of JUST THIS ONCE—A book about a perfectionist teen working to get into Yale from her broken-down trailer while she tutors a rich, popular sports hero who is the perfect person to help her embrace her fears, open her heart, and learn to accept her life.
I ended up with six chapters of telling—not showing. I’d toy with my readers in paragraph after paragraph, describing scenes they’d never get to actually read.

(See following approximate though exaggerated passage from NaNoWriMo#2)

Whew, thought Main Character. That was a raucous good time we all had doing that hilarious project for history class. Everyone was laughing so hard at jokes that the author is too lazy to think up or write here. My goodness, I’m still blushing when I think of all the serious chemistry I felt with Romantic Hero. He was so intense. Seriously. We felt something magical. Guess you had to be there.

Umm… yeah.

Four years and almost no writing later, I found myself commiserating with my friend Juliana that we were writers who didn’t write—a sad waste of our talents and interests. And we decided then and there to form a weekly writing group. During the two-and-a-half years that followed, I finished my contemporary manuscript, co-wrote a middle grade mystery with my husband, revised my contemporary manuscript, had another baby, and started a new YA novel.  Without my writing group, I doubt I would have finished my first draft of my first book.

Last year I queried my MG mystery to 20 agents. I received 12 form rejections, one personal rejection, and seven no responses. I felt like no one would ever care what I was saying from my solitary living room on my little laptop. I also queried JUST THIS ONCE to several  small publishers, who all rejected it. One told me that they loved it, but were no longer marketing this genre to their readers. One told me thanks, but no thanks. My favorite rejection letter said that my writing was exceptional but that they felt that my story had no hook, was not unique, and that I should limit my MC’s internal musings and learn to write authentic dialogue.

Ouch! I wonder what they say to authors when they don’t feel their writing is exceptional.

If you never cry at all during the process of trying to find an audience for your work, you are a robot with a heart of stone. But you get tougher and more certain that what you are saying has value, even if you’re still locked in a one way conversation with only your MC to tell you how amazingly witty you are.

Last May my agented writer friend Caryn suggested that I enter The Writer’s Voice contest. I was hesitant to enter because I just didn’t think my manuscript was right for the competition. But my sister called and encouraged me, and I decided to go ahead. What could it hurt, right? I tried and failed to get entered on the first wave of entries, and that afternoon, I tried again. I remember sitting at my computer with my heart pounding and my finger on refresh waiting for the link widget to appear so I could type in my name. And this time, I made it.

Most of the coaches had picked their teams, and only Monica had waited to announce, choosing not to fight with the other coaches for some of the more popular entries. She picked some less obvious choices. When she emailed to say she wanted my query and first page on her team I couldn’t believe it. It was the first positive feedback I’d had about any of my queries. I was excited for her coaching to help me improve my query, but I never thought it would actually be the doorway to getting an agent. Her comments really improved my query and first page.

Near the end of the agent voting, Kevan Lyon and Louise Fury nearly gave me heart failure by voting for me. I sent off a partial manuscript to each of these women, and a third agent who asked for a full.

Two of the agents rejected the manuscript, saying it just wasn’t for them, and Louise never responded. No worries. All part of the process. I’m getting good at the whole not-holding-my-breath thing by now.

But at the end of December I got an alert that Louise Fury was now following me on Twitter. Um… why? Why would this agent who’s had my manuscript since May be suddenly following me? I almost never tweet. Authorial sacrilege, I know. Anyway, I told myself it was probably nothing.

But FIVE MINUTES LATER I got an email requesting the full manuscript. LOUISE FURY loved my voice and was excited to read more. Breathe. Must. Breathe.

So I calmed myself down and sent it off to her. And pretended to forget about it. 

And… she’s an agent, and must have a finely tuned sense for drama, right? NEW YEAR’S DAY! That’s when I got her next email. Three days after receiving my full, she emailed. I was just heading to bed, and Louise thought she should make good and sure I didn’t sleep. Ever. Again.

She said that her team had read my book, and that they thought I was a “seriously talented writer,” (This phrase is burned forever into my brain, incidentally) and she wanted to talk to me on the phone the next day. It is a seriously good thing that I didn’t fall down and die. 

The next day lives on in my memory as one of the most surreal experiences of my life. It was like a fairy tale. I told myself to keep my expectations low for her call. I let myself fantasize briefly about her offering to represent my novel.

Our conversation was better than anything I could have dreamed up.

For every question I asked Louise, her answer showed that she was the perfect agent for me. The way she thinks about my manuscript and respects my vision for my story, while helping me to improve it with clear, incisive feedback is amazing to me. I’ve only been working with her for a month, but we have already been through two full sets of revisions, and she has already helped me so much. Now I’m immersed in my WIP, and my book is in her capable hands while we prepare for the next step—submission.

It’s an exciting journey, though I have little control over where it goes next. I am writing, though, and that’s what matters, right? I have learned that for those of us pursuing the dream, we are closer than we know. The line between an agented writer and someone in the slush piles telling themselves not to give up is a fine one. It’s a matter of finding the right person at the right time who will look closer and see what they are looking for in your work. Simple? Maybe not. But achievable. I know. One month ago I had never had any requests for fulls or partials from any of my query letters. Today I have an amazing agent who is passionate about my manuscript.  

As writers, we often downplay what we do until someone else validates our work. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve worried that I was wasting my time with something that would never benefit anyone but me. And I know many other writers who have felt the same. Don’t give up on your dreams. Just keep networking and querying and believing and WRITING! And don’t give up on yourself because no one is currently reading your work. If you write, you are a writer. You can do it! The one-way conversation is worth it. All the uncertainty and lack of control is worth it.

Heh… I’m telling you this as a writer who doesn’t have and may never have a book deal. I’m your friend, on my laptop frantically trying to help another MC out of this or that disaster. And hoping that someday someone besides my critique partners will ever know that she figured out the secrets of life and found love.  Speaking of which… I’d better get back to work. Hasta!