Writing News, or “A Bucket of Barf, Oodles of Gratitude, and a Side of Hope”

This post is for you, dear writer, as you struggle through the querying trenches year after year (after year, after year), revised-to-the-guts manuscript in one hand and trusty barf bucket in the other. Querying is not for the weak. You, who soldier on in spite of rejection, striving to improve your craft and find the right word, the right genre, the right story, are brave. You, who willingly embark on such torture with each new manuscript, clinging to each new shred of hope, are the young poet to whom Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?”

youngpoet

Yes. Of course you must.

People told me that this story would be an inspiration to other writers someday. A lesson in persistence. Because mine is not one of those amazing enter-one-contest-and-get-five-offers stories. Nor did this happen after completing two, three, four, or even five manuscripts. No, my first taste of success has only come after twelve long years working on six manuscripts and four long years of querying.

If I can do this, you can do this.

Over my years in the trenches, I queried (or got contest/conference requests from) agents 176 times, netting 71 total requests. This might sound like a lot, but unfortunately a request doesn’t always lead to an offer of representation. I first queried my agent (*pause* my agent!) in 2013 when she tweeted an #MSWL that matched my fifth manuscript. I was thrilled that my first pages piqued her interest back then, but it was hardly a done deal. While she made her way through her reading pile, I was hard at work writing and revising my sixth manuscript. She ultimately suggested revisions on my fifth manuscript and signed me after reading the sixth, almost two years after my original query. So to echo what countless others have said before me, keep learning, keep submitting, and above all, keep writing!

I certainly couldn’t have done this alone, and honestly, I’m filled with so much gratitude to have reached this stage that I simply can’t take full credit. I’m so thankful to my wonderfully supportive family, of course, as well as the children’s writing community as a whole, and my own little circle in it. My amazing critique group, my plethora of fantastic critique partners and beta readers, and my lovely writing friends. The publishing professionals giving time at conferences, workshops, and retreats, the agents and editors reading all those queries and all those manuscripts–for nothing in return! Kind-hearted souls setting up and running contests to get writers’ work in front of agents, and my personal mentors who have helped me bring my work to the next level. You all know who you are, and I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for your help, your time, and your faith in my work.

While giving up writing along the way wasn’t an option, I did consider giving up querying on more than one occasion. One particularly dark moment came only a few months ago, after having gotten really close yet again only to be turned away. I happened to receive this beautiful notebook from my cousin, Amanda, that very same day:

choosehope

I choose hope! I burst into maniacal laughter-tears upon receiving it, of course. As one does. And yet, according to my wise critique partner, Monica, choosing hope was the only option, and so—albeit grudgingly at the time—I did.

And now for the sentence I never thought I’d be able to write: I finally have an agent! Me. I’m thrilled to be represented by the incredible Roseanne Wells with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I couldn’t have found a more perfect match for my work, and I’m so very eager to take my next steps down this strange and terrifying path with her in my corner. Thank you, Roseanne, for believing in me!

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April might be well underway, but it’s certainly not to late to celebrate National Poetry Month! Last year, I wrote a short essay to defend my personal favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. This year, in keeping with the theme of 5 we’re celebrating over at YARN: the YA Review Network to celebrate our fifth year of publication, I’m sharing 5 ways to celebrate the spirit of the month.
 
1. Read poems! Read something by your favorite poet, discover a new poet, or read poems to children in your life. Some of the oft-read books in my household include these.

librosdepoemas

2. Attend a local poetry event. Poets.org has a handy search feature to track down events in your area.
 
3. Write your own poem. Even if you’re not Shakespeare or Rilke, you might surprise yourself by what you come up with. My own contribution for the month:
 
Sevilla
 
I open the window
and breathe
the clean air of spring
all sunlight and blue sky
and the slightest hint of azahar.
 
The morning is
café con leche,
pan con tomate,
and the sweet-salty bocado
of chocolate con churros.
 
Red, yellow, yellow, red
the flag salutes
from the highest point
of the Real Maestranza
flapping above its red walls and yellow sand.
 
Hands clap and heels tap
as bailaoras swirl and swish and thump
to ferocious rhythms
that bleed through the floor,
ole.
 
My hands are a bowl
and I catch
five orange blossoms and
cradle them, tiny doves,
in my palms.
 
4. Enter a contest! The #yarn5 poetry contest at YARN calls for any and all riffs on the number 5, and includes some pretty fantastic prizes, so be sure to enter by the 4/20 deadline.
 
5. Follow the #npm15 hashtag on twitter to learn more about poetry, poets, and how to celebrate the month in style.
 

Sucker Literary Volume 3 Cover Reveal

 

Sucker 3 purpleBookCoverPreview

 

Sucker Literary Volume 3

Available April 15, 2014

Add it on Goodreads!

Book Trailer

 
Bullied and alone, Ainsley seeks refuge in the arms of a strange boy. Time is slipping away for overachieving Sadie Lin, but reigniting an old flame might help. Scarred by a pressuring ex, Alexandra finally faces the rain. “Pasty and chubby” Charlotte makes a public play for the “Tan and Smooth” king. The beautiful girl in the black, lacy push-up bra says that it’s time for Brenn to stop lying . . . at least to herself. A halfway house is no home for Dawn—or is it? How will Dana survive knowing everyone at school thinks she’s a monster, when they just may be right? JJ and her crush finally get a moment alone—at his girlfriend’s hottest party of the year. Sixteen-year old Sarah prepares for her first day of school by chaining up her Mamí in her bedroom. Alyssa’s life is a well-rehearsed ballet until a tragedy sends her hurtling towards a fall. Loving a boy is as simple as chemistry . . . unless that boy is an unstable element.

 

Eleven stories that delve into the depths of our experience—driven by fierce and untouched love that makes us seek, lose, fear, desire, long, reflect, survive, steal, protect, fall, and confess.

 

Founding Editor:

Hannah R. Goodman

 

Contributors:

The H8TE Lilliam Rivera

Valentine’s Day Claudia Classon 

Halfway From Shelli Cornelison

Her Tree Boy Blaze Lina Branter

How To Fall Kacey Vanderkarr 

If it Rains Kristina Wojtaszek

Black Lacy  Kimberly Kreines

Superpower Mary Malhotra 

The Chemistry of You and Me Evelyn Ehrlich

Just a Matter of Time Charity Tahmaseb

A Different Kind of Cute Hannah R. Goodman

 

www.suckerliterary.com
 

Twitter: @suckerlitmag

 

 

 

Why Querying Is Like October Baseball

As a Red Sox fan, I’ve seen my fair share of October baseball. Making it past the regular season is a big deal, and it got me thinking about how similar it is to the querying process. Here are my top ten reasons why they’re alike:
 
10. Dude, you made it this far. You completed and polished an entire novel. Or, yanno, beat out all the other teams vying for a World Series appearance. Well done!
 
9. Everyone’s cheering for you. Your critique partners, family, friends, published authors, agents, and editors all want you to succeed.
 
8. Your characters are lovable. We feel their pain when they strike out, drop a ball, or experience The Dark Night of the Soul.
 
7. You sometimes take up strange rituals, like not trimming your beard or rubbing on your special-good-vibes-lucky-ladybug-necklace when clicking send.
 
6. Sometimes you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is a concept so familiar to Sox fans that I won’t go into detail here, but in the querying world, it’s like: partial request–boom! Full request–boom! Endearing pass on the material–oh, crap.
 
5. Sometimes you actually snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That agent who seemed too good for you? You never know. Query and you just might get a request!
 
4. Never give up. You may have the bases loaded with no outs, but if you’re the pitcher, you’ve got to stay cool and throw a strike. Bam!
 
3. There’s no crying in baseball. No, seriously. You can cry in Little League, but if you want to play big time ball, you have to get used to failure and rejection. No team can win every single game.
 
2. There are lots of chances. Best four out of seven games! You could lose the first three games and still walk away with a win. Your odds are even better in querying. In baseball, you have to win four, and in querying all you need is one.
 
1. There’s always next year. Because you’re already hard at work on the next novel, right?
 
boston_fenway_kandb

Ready. Set. WRITE!

ready set write button

What I’m Writing (and What Inspires Me):

Anyone who knows me knows I’m kind of always writing. I might take a random week off here or there, but for the most part, I get up crazy-early every morning and use that time for drafting, revising, plotting, or the like.

But things are a little weird right now. I’m querying one novel and had outlined a new one I was planning to work on next. Then one of my critique partners tweeted this:

beth_tweet

I knew the answer to this question right away–and not because I was thinking about my freshly-outlined new project. It was a bit like standing at the altar with someone who’d recently swept me away and realizing I couldn’t do this, and more than that, realizing that my heart belonged with my one true love, and OH MY GOD, GET ME OUT OF HERE AND OVER THERE NOW!

Nope, it’s neither my new manuscript nor the one I’m querying, but my previous one–my favorite project ever. This one. It’s had a nice long rest, but I’m not content to let it sit in my drawer anymore.

So, goals: I’m planning on taking it slow, setting the manuscript up as a new project in my pal Scrivener and working through the big-picture issues in my outline to start with. There will probably be lots of Thinking, and I’m not planning to do any actual writing on it until the fall, at which point I plan to do a full rewrite from scratch. This definitely won’t be a quick, fun draft, but all I know is that if I could only write one more story, it would be this.

orpheus

What I’m Reading:

I just finished THE 5TH WAVE, which is every bit as amazeballs as they say, and I’m continuing my Sci-fi kick now with THESE BROKEN STARS. I already know I’ll be diving back into some historicals after this though, since I just ordered BELLE EPOQUE today, and already can’t wait for it!

What Else I’ve Been Doing:

Preschool ended for my small twins last week, so we’ve already had a flurry of zoo visits, swims, walks, and picnics, all interspersed with tons of books, of course. Much more of the same to come for the rest of the summer!

Inspired by … travel!

thurschilbadgejpg

When it comes to brainstorming new story ideas, one of the things that often grabs me strongest is the setting. This probably stems from my passion for travel. My favorite part about traveling besides the food (because FOOD) …

parador_breakfast

… is the way it makes me notice what the people who live there see every day with fresh eyes. Every little detail is a novelty, and every new corner holds some surprise. Highlighting the right amount of detail in the worlds we create–providing readers with this same sense of novelty we get when we travel–is part of our job as writers.

parador_heads

I’m currently polishing a WIP set in the skies over Iceland. The setting came to me before anything with this story–even before the characters. I’ve only been to Iceland once, but it was enough for the haunting landscape to blow me away with its beauty. I tucked away everything I saw in a corner of my mind and waited for the chance to use it.

In contrast, I just got back from an amazing trip to Spain. My husband is from there, his whole family lives there, and we’ve been there to visit too many times to count. I know, I know, I am soooo lucky! I adore Spain.

But … but … I found that I really had to work much harder to capture those little details in my mind this time. For the first time in all my visits, Spain actually felt like home. I’ve become fluent enough in Spanish that I don’t have the language barrier anymore. I know my way around the family’s neighborhoods in Madrid and Valencia. There are even fewer new foods to try and instead favorite standbys I have to make sure to sample while I can.

Luckily, I realized this. I worked harder and opened my eyes and looked for the details. And of course, they were there. Do you see them too?

parador_night

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

When they nail it …

I’ve met bunches of other writers through all kinds of crazy connections on twitter, and one of my favorite things about meeting all these other wonderful people is exchanging manuscripts. I have to admit, I love getting feedback on my own stuff from fresh eyes.

But beyond that, I adore reading other manuscripts. Not only because it sometimes makes me notice similar things in my own writing–which definitely helps me, too–but because I become attached to these writers and their stories in a much more profound way when I’ve read their work when it wasn’t quite ready.

SAMSUNG

Most of my friends know I’ve been serious about the writing gig for a long time–ten years this spring. In that time, my original critique partners (who are still my closest and first-line CPs) have all gotten published. I have a nice shelf of books with acknowledgements, and I love it that I got to see those stories transform into what the rest of the world sees in print.

But I’m lucky enough to have even more CPs now–more great things to read, and more wonderful stories to root for.  Today I saw that a manuscript I read and loved months ago–but before it was ready for prime time–was picked to move on to the agent round in Cupid’s Blind Speed Dating contest. Check it out in all its glory here:

One, Two, Three query and first 250 words

I can’t even begin to express how proud I am. There’s something pretty special about reading someone’s work before the big breakthrough. It’s the chance to watch a great story morph into something amazing.  

How about you? Got a moment of great CP pride to share? Spread the love!

The Girl with the Green Pen!

I’ve recommended the TEEN EYES editorial service to several people over the past few months, and as one of Taryn Albright’s lucky clients, I’m thrilled to pass on her exciting news that she’s just launched a new venture, The Girl with the Green Pen!

A little more about what she offers:

My mission is to guide writers through the daunting task of revision. From idea development to editorial feedback to general publishing advice, I love working with stories and those who create them. As a nationally ranked swimmer, I know the value of time, so I believe in quick responses from the first email to the last.

I am not just another freelance editor. Beyond providing an experienced and thorough critique, my secondary goal is to establish a relationship with my clients. I want to support you throughout the stressful submission process and celebrate with you upon any and all good news. Writers may put pen to paper alone, but it is through a community that the book gets finished, polished, and submitted.

To chime in again as a Teen Eyes client, I can’t recommend Taryn enough. Not only is she spot-on and detailed with her feedback, but she’s as dedicated as she is savvy. I love having her as a cheerleader in my corner. And she’s not kidding about the speed of her responses, either!

A little more about The Girl with the Green Pen:

Why The Girl with the Green Pen? Why green?

Most edits are made with a red pen. If someone critiques your manuscript, s/he will most likely cover it with red ink, right? Not so much here. I make all my notes in green because I like to reflect the idea of moving forward. Green means go, it means new life. These are ways to think of your revisions, and this is how I like to think of the editing process.

But why are you leaving Teen Eyes?

I founded Teen Eyes in August 2011 to critique your YA manuscript from the perspective of a YA. Since then, I’ve expanded my interest in editing. Plus I’ll be 20 soon, so the “teen” part won’t work much longer. I still love Teen Eyes, but I wanted to do something bigger.

I’m currently your client / have been your client in the past. What does this mean for me?

I hope nothing! I will continue to give the notes you have come to expect. This is only a change in scenery, really, and I hope you’ll be excited as I am about my growth in this area.

September #Wipmadness Week 4!

It’s hard to believe we began last week with the midpoint of the month and we’ll close this week with the month’s end. This whole month flew by for me, but I ended up hitting my15K new words goal this past weekend! Since I’m on a roll, I’m going for 6K more this week so I can finish up the month with a nice, even 50K total. How are you all doing on your goals?

No mater how you did, I hope you’re still trying. It’s so motivating for me to see your shining faces here each week. We’ve been discussing what inspires us to work on our WIPs this month, and this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about one more great source of inspiration: you all, my #wipmadness writing buddies.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to share the joys and challenges of the writing life with you all. I’ve read many of your wonderful manuscripts, cheered for you when you got agents (OK, sometimes screamed for you when you got agents!), and gave or gotten virtual hugs at the bumps on the road. Writing may be very solitary, but I definitely need this support network to motivate me as much as I need my WIP to inspire me on its own. So a huge thank-you to all of you!

And on that note, this week’s prize goes to:

Angelina!

Congratulations! Just let me know which book you want: Circle 9 or The Breakup Bible.

Hope you continue to find all kinds of wonderful inspiration–and writing friends–all around you. And best of luck racing to the finish line this last week of September!

Week 3 of #Wipmadness–Halfway There!

Welcome to week 3 of September’s #wipmadness! First off, the #wipmadness prize from the lucky Sox cap last week goes to:

Alissa!

Just let me know which of the remaining books you want (The Forest for the Trees, Circle 9, or The Breakup Bible), and I’ll get it off to you this week.

Who else is surprised that we’re starting week 3 already? I personally can’t believe how fast the days go by when I’m drafting. I managed to hit 10K new words on the WIP this month so far, and should be hitting 40K total on the WIP any day now. Even so, my head’s spinning a little at the thought that we’ve just hit the halfway point of the month. Craziness!

Like a manuscript, the middle point of a writing month can potentially get a little droopy–when you’re well past the inspiration of the beginning and far from the other end of the tunnel. At this auspicious point in the month, I thought I’d share something else that keeps me motivated while drafting: WIP-music.

I’m probably one of the only people I know without an iPod! Am I right? Do you all have one? I haven’t felt the need because we have a cool system set up at home. I buy CDs and then my husband rips and compress them into an OGG-Vorbis fomat, which compresses audio files much smaller than the typical .mp3 or .aiff formats, and then he loads them up on our “Squeeze Box” music server that holds our whole collection.

I treated myself earlier this month to the latest CD by Sigur Rós (Valtari), one of my favorite Icelandic bands.

Part of the reason I’ve loved the Icelandic setting of my WIP so much is because of the music that goes along with it. Sigur Rós and múm are two of my favorite bands, and I’ve been playing their albums pretty much every day for a little extra inspiration. I know some people need silence to write, but I often have to work with other people around me (my teeny desk is in our living room), so I’ve found the extra creativity surge from related music to be just the thing I need to help pull me into the WIP.

Anyone other wipsters find inspiration in WIP-related music? What’s on your playlist for your current WIP?

In the meantime, hope you all made some progress last week and that the coming week treats you well, too!