Monday, June 27, 2011

How much do you help other writers?

When I first started writing seriously, I was amazed by how supportive the writing community out there really is. People going to each other's book, signings, plugging each other's books, websites--it is all so edifying.

I know for me, I love helping people, so anytime I come across a new writer who needs helps, I'm happy to point them in any direction I can. As far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many good books on the shelves, too many good authors out there. Plus, I strongly feel in the "pay it forward" concept--that if you've been helped, you have a responsibility to go forward and helps someone else. People might call it good karma, but I call it just being a good human.

How are some ways that you help other writers? How much time do you invest? Do you go to book signings, buy your friends' books ...what else? Comment on blogs, friend people on Twitter, Facebook--I feel like I'm still learning, so I'd love some tips out there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Are you OUT?

This is a question I have for other writers: who and how many people do you tell that you are a writer? When in your writing process or career do you actually start thinking of yourself as a writer, and not just a person messing around on the computer?

A couple of years ago, it all began late one night with a blank computer screen and an idea. At first I thought: I could write a page. And when one page turned into 50, and 50 turned into a book, at first I was very, very secretive about the fact that I was trying to write a book. Little by little, my husband, kids, and very closest friends got in on my little secret. When I joined my critique group, it did get easier to identify as a writer, much in part because suddenly I was surrounded by other writers. But still, it was hard to "come out" to people.

"I am writing a book."

The reponses, well most of the time they were kind of patronizing, like, oh how cute--she is taking on a new hobby.

I think my parents thought I was having a mid-life crisis. Once I got an agent, I thought it would be easier to tell certain people, that I would have more of a sense of credibility, but then I realized that most non-writers have no idea how hard it is to just get an agent. The struggle is lost on them. I found that some just weren't going to believe it until a book was in their little hands.

My dad has asked liked a million times if I paid my agent to take my book, and, "don't you know there are a lot of scams out there?" Sigh. I guess he can be forgiven because he is a farmer, and the publishing world is about as foreign to him as growing crops are for me.

So my method is, tell only people who will give me the most positive response, and when that book hits the shelves, point them in the direction of the nearest bookstore and smile.

But what I'm really curious about, is--are there some people out there who, the day after they started writing, told people what they were a writer? That takes real bravery, I think.

Anyone out there wait until agented? Their book sold? Hit the shelves? Got a website?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why does YA save?

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain --and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

-Robert Frost

Why this poem? It's always been one of my favorites, I think. To me, it's about connecting with other people, sharing their pain, whether it be empathy or sympathy or just that thing which is human connection.

I remember I was thirteen the first time I read Anne Frank's Diary of a Girl. It was such a powerful book. I remember thinking, why, she's just like me. We think the same exact things.We have the same fears. We both want to kiss a boy! We are both worried about our future.

And I could say this, and despite the fact that she was long dead, and we spoke a different language, and I would never meet Anne Frank, that it was true. We were alike, and despite never meeting, we connected.

That's what good YA does--connects. Supports. It says, I, too, have been one acquainted with the night. And you have, too.

It's so nice that we are friends.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Upon Which She Finds Herself Agented...Again

This blogging thing continues to be awkward, I think because part of me feels like, "who out there possibly cares about my silly little life?" But then I remember (I SO remember) when I was in the earlier stages of my writing career, and any little scrap of encouragement I got from blogs, any little story of how authors got agents, got their books published...helped. Tremendously. (Still does, in fact.)

Because of this, I thought I'd share what happened to me, in hopes that others might find something of value to take away.

Back in late March, I signed with my first agent. I was elated! She was sweet, professional, enthusiastic, and most of all, she really got my book. We were a very good fit. And she helped me edit my book--thanks to her critique, in a month's time I added about 12,000 words and a whole lot of texture to the story. We were just about to get ready to go to submission when she told me that she needed to leave agenting to pursue her own writing career.

Oh, I was bummed. Devastated for a brief, brief moment, but then I realized, you know what? It was meant to be. She needs to follow her dream, and I need to keep following mine. So I picked myself back up, brushed off my query, gave it a mini-makeover (extra lip-gloss and hair product, so fab), and started querying again in May.

Things happened, guys. This time, I got a lot of interest right away. Nine requests for fulls. And for a grand total, five offers. Wow. Needless to say, I was stunned that the situation was so different! I had five lovely phone calls with five amazing agents, and instead of being elated, I was stressed (I know, I know--how ridiculous). But it was very hard to choose, partly because I hate to hurt people's feelings and partly because it was all so overwhelming! (But in a good way, my husband kept reminding me.)

In the end, I decided to sign with the lovely Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch. She loved my book, and I think when she referenced The Bachelorette, I knew she was a girl I could hang with. But most of all, she got my book, and the thought of FINDING PONY on a bookstore shelf is just...well...I'm pinching myself.

So here it is, my little story. It sounds cliche, but I guess the lesson here is when you have a dream, don't give up, and keep trying. You will get there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

OneRepublic - Secrets

You Have Issues...

I have issues, you have issues, everyone has issues. As writers, even our characters. Especially our characters, hopefully.

I belong to a weekly critique group led by the amazingly talented YA author, Bonnie Hearn Hill. She says that everyone has a hole in their heart that really lends to who they are, and what motivates their actions. She always wants to know what our character's "hole" is. This has been so helpful in my writing and in creating authentic backstories for my characters.

Why is it so important for your characters to have issues? Well, I think most importantly, because it makes them empathetic. It's hard to like someone who's perfect, or read about them, because for one they're not interesting, and secondly, because we can't relate. We read because we want to see ourselves on the paper, and we want to see the characters making the same kinds of mistakes, having the same kinds of problems that we do. It's human.

It's kind of like how some women tend to always go for the bad boy. Why do they do it? Because they see vulnerability within them. Take Captain Kirk in the most recent Star Trek movie. He was definintely a bad boy, but he was an empathetic character becaus we knew that the reason he was having such a hard time was because his dad died when he was young, his mom was always away on other planets, yada yada yada....and we liked him despite his actions because we believed he was really good on the inside. He has issues, and once we saw that, we started to root for him (well, and Chris Pine is sort of gorgeous...)

So anyway, if you have a character who is seemingly perfect, you better rethink that. Give them some character flaws, create some backstory, and you'll go from making your characters from flat to round.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This looks awfully appealing right about now...

My oldest just got out of school to today and so for me it officially feels like summer. The pool's fired up, the weather's finally feels really good right about now.

Looking forward to reading lots and lots of good books (naturally), and I have a goal of finishing a WIP I've started. As a family, we are planning a few nice trips, and the kids have the usual array of summer camps and activities.

...Also, I have some really good news that I've been sitting on, and I can't wait to share it with everyone, hopefully by next week.

In the meantime, watching Bear taking a nap outside is just waay too tempting, so think I'll lay down for awhile, read some books, and take a quick nap.

Hope everyone out there has a great, wonderful weekend! Cheers!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What was Your Favorite Summer Books as a Kid?

Last day of school today for my kiddos. The last week has been an everlasting parade of parties and awards and papers coming home, and now it's here. Summer. And for me summer means (besides of course, swimming and trips and ice-cream and movies and fireworks etc...) books. Lots and lots of wonderful, glorious, can't-wait-to-fall-into-them...books.

As a kid, my highlight of the week was when my mom would take us to the local library, and we would get to pick out our books for the week. I can remember when I first discovered THE BLACK STALLION, that was my summer of horse books. Then another summer, I plowed through the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, The Lloyd Alexander books, and all the J.R.R. Tolkein books. Anyone fall in love with ANNE OF GREEN GABLES? Oh, that was a happy summer reading all of those--I think there are like nine. What about all the Nancy Drews, or Hardy Boys? And as an adult nursing my second son, I remember discovering with delight the Harry Potter books, and reading them one right after the other, baby on one arm, book in another.

Here is a quick list I made of some of my favorite summer reads:

1. Lord of the Rings series

2. Harry Potter series

3. Chronicles of Narnia

4. The Black Stallion series

5. Anne of Green Gables

6. Hunger Games trilogy

7. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer

8. All of Jane Austen's books

9. Little Women, Little Men

10. Stephen King's The Stand, The Shining, The Gunslinger Series

The list goes on and on, for sure.

So...I'd love to hear what were some of your favorite summer reads as a kid. Are there some I'm missing?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Public Service Announcement!

Hellooo there. To keep myself on track a little bit better, I decided that I'd try to give myself a sort of schedule for blogging. It also will give all y'all who stop by from time to time something to expect. So, without further blogging schedule!

Mondays: Writerly Stuff and What-not  On Mondays I plan to talk about my foray into publishing, getting an agent, writing my book, etc... . I also hope to talk about all that other great stuff associated with writing: voice, character, plotting, etc... etc... and from time to time talk about my book FINDING PONY and my other works-in-progress.

Wednesday: Social Worker-y Stuff  I am a social worker with a Master's in Social Work, and I currently work in adoptions. I've had some pretty cool and interesting jobs in the past: worked in a group home, an emergency shelter, homeless shelter, adoptions, CPS, and many of my experiences have still stayed with me and effect my writing. Oh yeah, that. I also write issue-driven fiction; it didn't start out that way, but I guess because I love what I do and the kids I work with, that it just seeps through and travels into my brain and through my fingertips. So on Wednesdays, I may talk about anything on my mind related to social work and issues teens face: foster care, gangs, sexual abuse, physical abuse, teen homelessness, adoption, get the picture.

Friday: Fun Day! My kindergartener's teacher does this thing on Fridays called Friday Fun-Day. Doesn't that Yeah, to me, too. Fridays will be a day where I'll just post something fun, a video, a poem, a book review, maybe even a picture or a recipe or two. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks for stopping by!