#ok16scbwi

So. It’s February. Cold and wind and ick, right?

But today was different. The wind wasn’t attacking, the clouds were in hiding, and the thermometer was reasonable. It was a crazy seventy-four degrees today, so I went for a walk.

Even though I knew I was supposed to have already published this blog post, in anticipation for the conference. Whoops.

After all, the conference is sixty-five days away, right? There’s time.

But then…I went for my walk. And whoa it was nice outside. And suddenly, spring didn’t seem that far away anymore. Spring is just about here, and the conference is coming with it. And that’s exciting. But it also means that it’s time to dust off the manuscripts and get ready.

I just procrastinated here because this is such a rambly post, and went to twitter. Our social media coordinator, Valerie, mentioned that she was looking forward to some great animated gifs in this post. So I’m going to go find one now.

best croissant everBest croissant ever.

So, if you’re a procrastinator like me, you’ll really want to get going on this thing, because there’s less than a week before the deadline for paid critiques and pitch sessions and other awesome stuff like that. That deadline is Feb. 17. That’s seriously coming up.

You can check it all out on the Oklahoma SCBWI web site, and then get signed up.

Do that first. And then eat your croissant. But it won’t be as good as hers.

 

 

I have an agent!

IT HAS HAPPENED.

And I am so excited to announce that I am now represented by literary agent Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency!

yes

Every time I write that, it seems a little more real. It has happened!

But I already said that.

So.

Here is the story of how I got an amazing, perfect agent!!!

I went into this journey like many, with an optimistic attitude and a fresh new novel. First off, I was astounded that I was able to complete an entire novel at all. That was my sci-fi, PAIRS. And yeah, I still love it. And so did my betas.

But I didn’t get an agent with it.

But that was okay. Keep writing. Keep trying. So I did. I wrote THE LAST LETTERBOXES. I poured my heart and soul into it. And I queried that.

And I didn’t get an agent with it.

wait what 2

But I DID get chosen in Pitch Wars, an incredible contest ran by author Brenda Drake. Back in the olden days (2013), mentors in Pitch Wars selected a mentee and two alternates and helped polish their query and manuscript for submission to agents. And I was lifted out of the slush pile by the amazing, gifted Evelyn Skye, who helped me, and guided me, through a query revision and the first few chapters of THE LAST LETTERBOXES. It got SO MUCH BETTER thanks to her wisdom.

The first chapter was posted online, for agents to read and request. And request they did. I got ELEVEN requests, which was kind of a big deal. It was going to happen. Finally.

But…it didn’t. I got a lot of nice rejection letters.

And the nicest rejection letter of all came from Rena Rossner.

I teared up when I was reading it. She read my story (MY STORY!!) in one sitting. And it made her cry more than once. But ultimately, she thought she wasn’t quite the best person for it, and she referred me to a friend. And the friend seemed enthusiastic. So on we went.

But then…that agent never responded.

Okay.

So in the meantime, I wrote another book. Well, I actually wrote two, but one of those seemed a little more ready than the other. So I entered it in Pitch Wars for 2014.

And I didn’t get in.

I didn’t get in.

That was hard. Really hard.

Even though I knew not everyone could be picked. And I knew that the competition was amazing. It was still hard.

I was in a pretty dark place. So I did something to try to help lift myself up.

I read that old email from Rena. I reread how she had enjoyed the manuscript, and how she identified with the characters. How with a few tweaks, she thought my story had a great chance.

It had been more than a year since I’d heard from the agent she referred me to. And she’d been so encouraging with LETTERBOXES.

And I desperately needed some encouraging.

So I sent her CANDID DATES.

That was February 2014. In May, she requested the full.

And in June, she responded.

With a revise and resubmit!!

And the things she said! Like, if it was 20,000 longer she would have offered rep right then. And that she knew exactly what she thought I should do to get it to that point.

It was amazing!

And so I dove right in, right? Right?!?

Yeah. I didn’t. First, I had just started a new manuscript. So I thought I’d just get that out of the way. I’m a pretty fast writer – my first novel was done in about 21 days. And I was really excited about the one I was working on. Plus, another agent had a full of mine after we met at the spring 2015 SCBWI Oklahoma conference. And she had critiqued my first ten pages and chose me as the best of her conference submissions, and met with me. And I felt like we clicked. And she’d loved my first ten. So I thought I had a pretty good chance there. (And this wasn’t CANDID DATES. This was MAYBE, BABY, which I was incredibly swoony over at the time.) Also, revisions are HARD.

So I piddled around. Did a little here, and a little there. It was stupid. Incredibly stupid. This is what I wanted. What I’d been working toward for YEARS. But I’d had R&Rs before that hadn’t gone anywhere. Excitement that hadn’t gone anywhere. I really was losing my optimism. Even with an R&R.

But then an amazing thing happened.

Rena reached out to me. To ME. About CANDID DATES. In late August. Asking how revisions were going.

You remember those revisions. The ones where I basically had been thinking about it, but not actually putting anything down on paper.

So I patted the manuscript I was working on (YES, the same one, and YES, it had definitely been longer than 21 days) on the head and started work on CANDID DATES. Hard. For real. And that was September and October. (Yeah, that’s a long time, but it was like 27,000 new words and I homeschool my kids so be cool, okay?) My goal was to finish it before our SCBWI Oklahoma fall conference. And I did. With several minutes to spare. Seriously. I didn’t start packing for the conference until after I finished the rewrites. Which meant I had about an hour and a half to pack.

But I did it.

And then I sat on it some more.

Of course.

The conference was so good, and I felt so inspired. But I was giving the manuscript the old “wait a couple of weeks before rereading” treatment. I wanted it to be perfect when I sent.

And Rena reached out again, BLESS HER.

Because she was going to be in New York for two weeks, and she wanted to be able to talk about my novel with editors if she ended up offering me rep.

Whut.

I reread that bad boy IMMEDIATELY, corrected a handful of typos, and sent it off.

And after the longest eight days of my life, she offered representation!!!

AMAZING!!

I felt like breakdancing. I didn’t, but I felt like it.

Shot out the emails to agents who had my other stuff. No one had CANDID DATES, but I had some fulls and partials out. I even sent an email to the agent who had never responded to my other nudges. She didn’t respond.

But the others did! The congratulations and good luck passing emails came back in, nice and neat.

Except for one. A request for more time. And it was from…my dream agent. The one I’d had an agent crush on since meeting him at a conference in 2013. (Hey, just an agent crush, okay? He’s married. And I’m married.) But he was funny, and charismatic, and he liked my stuff. He’d had a couple of my manuscripts, always had good things to say, and always asked for more. I’d sent him LETTERBOXES. Because why not. And he asked for more time to finish it.

And this was a problem.

Because I talked to Rena on the phone and I fell head over heels. Her vision for my novel…the way she gets it…gets me…I don’t think it could ever be replicated. This was what I wanted. Exactly what I wanted.

But dream agent…

Did I mention that he’s consistently on the top sales lists for young adult novels? And he’s practically an icon in the industry?

And everyone I had let in on the secret kept asking. If he offers, what will you do? I tried not to think about it. To not put the cart before the horse.

To my overwhelmed mind, it looked like on paper, he was the obvious choice. But my heart wanted Rena. I really felt like she was the one.

And I’ve generally always listened to my heart over my head.

But I’m also a person who can’t let go of the past. I didn’t want to spend my entire life wondering what would have happened if I had gone the other way, regardless of the choice. I hate decisions. And somehow I’m the main decision maker in my house, which SUCKS. But this decision was a little different than buying a car or what color to paint a room. This one would be a life-changer.

And so I prayed. I prayed hard.

And my prayers were answered.

He passed.

His email to me was so complimentary, so encouraging, so warm and kind. No wonder I loved him for so long. (I still do, actually.) I teared up at the wonderful things he said about my writing. But he also said that it sounded like the offering agent was really excited about my work, and he would step aside for that.

And I couldn’t have been more grateful.

It happened just the way it was supposed to happen.

I can’t wait to get started.

Slump

In a bit of a slump lately.

sticker calendar

Every sticker means a good writing day. All those stickers mean I’m a winner. Unfortunately, the opposite also applies.

I got this sweet idea from twitter, to give myself a sticker for every good writing day. Of course, I don’t remember who I got the idea from (it was on a retweet from someone) but it sure sounded good to me.

So I finally flipped my Frozen calendar from the beautiful picture of Hans and Anna dancing together, from February (can I just mention how perfect it is that the calendar people put their picture on the same month as Valentines? Sigh.) Anyway, every day I did at least 500 words on my revision, I got a sticker. Most days I got more than 1,000, and some days were 2,000+, so even on the few 500 days it all worked out to some pretty good writing days.

Of course, I’m showing this picture because that was nearing the end of the streak. I wrote through the 12th, and then everything stopped. Just stopped.

Just like THAT

I did get one more sticker, for the 18th, when I met with my writers’ group for Friday writing lunch. Got a lot done. And the ending is so close on the revision that I can taste it.

But I’m still unmotivated to finish. I guess I have a lot on my mind. There’s a medical thing I’m dealing with, and money issues, and a new project I’m thinking about. I’m not 100 percent happy with one of the scenes I wrote in the revision, and that keeps weighing down on me too. There’s a million other things, but I know they’re all excuses, and even if it seems that all odds are against me, I really should just buck up and get back to writing.

hans pulls out sword

Yes. Because that’s what Hans would do.

And we all know that ended well.

Seriously, though, I don’t want to be that other Arendelle guard guy behind Hans, holding that spear but unable to move. Whether it’s a good choice or a bad one, I want to move forward. I want to attack my obstacles and fight to overcome.

I’m tired of standing still.

 

A new beginning

Well, I officially started the first rough draft of LIDDY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER this week. I began writing on Monday, and I’ve done all right getting some work done on it each day. My vision for this is still a little murky at this point, but I think things were the same on my other novels at this point, so it should be fine. I’ll probably jot down some more plot points I know I want to hit, so I stay on track during the early days of this draft. I’m excited about getting this story down on paper. It’s going to be a wild ride.

I’m also working on some minor edits on one story, and more major ones on another. I usually focus on one thing when I’m writing a first draft, so having to split myself will be a new experience. Luckily, I have different playlists for each novel, so if I start up Spotify, I should be able to transition between worlds easier.

I’m making the kids clean while I write this. That’s another thing I don’t do well when writing a first draft – taking care of things in the real world. Here’s hoping I can at least direct them to pick up after themselves, so the house doesn’t collapse under the weight of the filth over the next few months.

And I’m going to write my goal here, in an effort to stick with it. I’d like to have Liddy’s story complete by my birthday, August 6. That only gives me two months to get the whole thing done. I don’t have a goal word count at this point – I always strive to get at least 50K and then see how far it goes after that. So I need to focus on a minimum of 1K a day. Hopefully more.

So now I have to hold myself accountable.

Here we go.

New things

Today I decided to jot down the first rough outline for my next novel. It’s going to be a YA contemporary called LIDDY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER. I’m so crazy excited about this thing – and I knocked out almost 1,500 words of planning in no time at all.

Now I have my idea written down, with the storyline, main characters, and plan for the first scene. I don’t know when I’ll start. I have a billion other things clamoring for my attention, and a visiting niece, and when I start writing I kind of lose focus on everything else.

But creating something new – and writing down those ideas felt so good.

I’ve been hesitant to plunge into Liddy’s world, so I’ve forced my daydreaming thoughts onto my past novels. Writing’s like a drug, almost, for me. Until I type the last words, I’m hooked by the story’s siren song. Homeschooling, housecleaning, cooking, showering, (ha ha) (kind of) and other necessities fall to the wayside as I become the main character and everyone else. It’s not a healthy place to be…but it is a wonderful place to be.

I’ve never started actually writing on a novel without the first sentence or two already in my mind. So maybe it’s time to open my mind to the possibility, and wait for the first words to come to me.

I’m exhilarated by the idea. And a little scared.

Happy, busy days

We had our awesome, amazing, SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference this weekend. I had an amazing time. Great speakers, fun with friends, and lots more made for an unforgettable time. I’m still daydreaming about all the many amazing moments throughout my day. I might do a recap, but I might not, since I know Valerie Lawson will do better than I could over at her blog.

Something really good did happen at the conference…like unbelievably good, and it’s done a lot for my overall mood and confidence, yay.

I also came back even more excited for my next novel. I haven’t quite gotten it condensed down to a quick pitch, but I have the title over on my Current Works page, so that means it’s gonna happen for realsies. I also made a new board on my Pinterest for it, so I can start collecting things that make me think of this manuscript and characters. This one might take a little more research than before, but I’m excited about it. I can say this – it’s about identical twins.

Also, my niece is coming this week to spend two months with us. She’s six! There’ll be FOUR kids hanging at my house needing schooling and to be fed and stuff. I’m still feeling good about it! This is going to be a pretty thrilling spring, I think.

So…yeah. Currently feeling cautiously optimistic, plus stoked about getting back to creating a new first draft.

Let’s do this.

What to expect at an Oklahoma SCBWI conference

Our Okahoma SCBWI spring conference is next month!! This year’s theme is “Ignite the Spark,” and it’s going to be incredible. There’s a great lineup of publishing professionals on the roster, and I can NOT wait.

And check out this awesome poster for the event, designed by our regional illustrator coordinator, Jerry Bennett!

Conference Ad (1)
It’s funny that it’s only been two years since I attended my first spring conference. That one was in Tulsa, too (we alternate between Tulsa and Oklahoma City) and I was really nervous about it. I had only joined SCBWI a few months before, but I made a point of attending the Critique-a-thon in January and both OKC Schmoozes before the conference, in February and March, so I had at least made a few friends. I asked if anyone wanted to rideshare (partially to ensure I’d have someone to hang with) and got three lovely ladies who agreed to ride up with me. We left early in the morning and came back late that night, and it was hands-down the best day I’d had with SCBWI, up to that point.

Anyway, I still remember how scared I was about it. Having others around me who knew what was going on helped. I was worried about 1) driving to TULSA (the horrors); 2) finding the hotel; 3) knowing where to park; 4) knowing where to go when I actually got inside the hotel…

And this was all before I even made it to the conference room!

But luckily, I had friends, I had a new dress and new shoes and a manicure and a pair of spanx and I was ready to wow everyone with my shiny new novel.

And also scared.

And if you’ve never gone to an Oklahoma SCBWI conference, maybe you feel like I did. Or maybe you’re super confident in all situations and awesome, in which case, woohoo for you! Maybe we can hang when I have to go in a new situation next time.

In the meantime, I’m gonna post a few thoughts about what you can expect at an Oklahoma SCBWI conference. Your experience may vary, but I think some things are universal.

1. People are gonna be really, really nice and welcoming.

 

As soon as you see our crowd at the registration table, you’ll be greeted by sincerely friendly people. We’ll be happy to see you! We want you to succeed in your publishing dreams, and we can all make that happen together!

2. The speakers are excellent – informative and highly motivational.

Also, are speakers are actively looking for new talent. Even if they’re not living in a van down by the river. (But if they are, then even more reason for them to want your fabulous book, right?)

3. Our speakers are also wildly entertaining. Always.

At least, that’s been my experience. I’ve only been to four Oklahoma SCBWI conferences now, two spring and two fall, but I’ve never been bored.

4. You’re going to learn a TON. 

The speakers WILL be incredible. Bring a notebook or laptop because your brain won’t even be able to take it all in at once. Your mind will be blown.

5. The speakers will be accessible. 

I mean, you don’t want to smother them, but they will be hanging out at certain times, and you’ll be able to visit with them. For reals.

6. You’ll get to pick up some new reading material. 

books in a wagon

Both traditionally and independently published Oklahoma authors and illustrators will have books there to purchase. You can even get them signed and take a big pile home with you!

6. You’ll meet a whole lot of people who get it.

People who love books. Who love creating books. You know…people like you.

8. You’re going to get really, really excited about writing and illustrating for children. 

big bird on roller skates

There’s an amazing energy in the air at SCBWI conferences, and it’s contagious. Before it’s over, you will be super ready to do fantastic things.

9. And you’ll believe in yourself! 

Shake off all the doubt because you CAN do this! You WILL do this! And it’s gonna be GREAT!

10. And finally…the FUN!

so fun

It might seem scary before you go (or maybe not) but trust me, it will be fun. It’ll be really fun. Yes. Seriously. As much fun as Rapunzel is having. Maybe funner. You won’t regret it.

So…will you come? Please? PLEASE?

Registration information for the SCBWI Oklahoma Spring 2015 conference

SCBWIOK on twitter

 

 

critiques and things

Our Oklahoma SCBWI spring conference is drawing near. Manuscripts for critique are due in less than two weeks. We’re really gearing up with publicity efforts. And I am turning a seriously critical eye to my first ten pages. I’m reading others’ work too, and critiquing, even though I’m not sure I’m super-fabulous at it. I’m trying.

So. I wrote that first paragraph, and I wanted to find an animated gif to go with it, and I’m not finding anything I wanted. So I went through all my gifs that have usless names like tumblr_n8wwtwooV11tuo5ngo2_250 and rewrote them with better names, like hans anna love. You know. Important stuff. And none of them were what I wanted.

And I was going to write about how I’ve been critiquing for people, and I’ve asked some people to critique my new 10 pages, and how I have critique group tonight, and now, two hours later, I’ve kind of lost steam.

So here’s one of the gifs I forgot I had. This is how I’m rolling today.

 

Only ‘Insert appropriate number’ days left til Christmas!

My NaNoWriMo project is going well. I’m glad I decided to drag a novel into it again this year. I absolutely loathe NaNo, and how it makes me feel anxious and desperate to finish on time. On the other hand, I know perfectly well that I do perform well under deadlines, and NaNo’s a great way for me to get my rear in gear and just finish already. So. I’m a few thousand over where I absolutely have to be at present, yay.

drunk vegard

Of course, November isn’t just the month to bully yourself into finishing a novel. It’s also time to think of Christmas, ha ha! (See what a great segue that was? Srsly.)

Some of my very favorite Oklahoma SCBWI members have books that are Christmas themed. If you’re looking to get in the holiday mood, it might do you well to check these out!

sauer christmasI’m gonna start with Tammi Sauer’s adorable holiday book The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma, with illustrations by Victoria Hutto. Tammi’s book takes readers on a trip all around the Sooner State, spotlighting some of the things that makes Oklahoma such an amazing place! From the description on Amazon: Are you ready for rodeos, road trips down Route 66, and more? That’s Christmas, Oklahoma-style, with magical crystal bridges, a cowboy (and girl) museum, reconstructed Native American dwellings, outlaw hideouts, and cool dune buggy rides. And don’t forget the mistletoe–Oklahoma’s floral emblem. What a happy way to spend a holiday!

And there’s several other Christmas books from Okie authors that you might enjoy.

townsend christmasUna Belle Townsend’s Racecar Driver’s Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Rick Anderson, is part of Pelican’s Night Before Christmas series, which brings new adventures of Santa Claus to eager readers each year. From Amazon’s description: After organizing a special Christmas Eve race in Daytona, drivers Junior and Michael are in for a holiday treat when a strange car pulls up on the track. It’s covered in blinking lights and tinsel and smells of green pine, and the driver is Santy Claus, who is ready to race. Racecar Driver’s Night Before Christmas is a holiday story unlike any other as Santy Claus competes for the gold in the Jingle Bell Jammer, outracing the best and leaving presents of pistons and brakes behind for the racecar drivers who have been good all year.

macy christmas 1 Carolyn Macy has two books she’s written and illustrated for the holidays. The first, Hawaiian Night Before Christmas, is also part of the Pelican line. From Amazon: It is Christmas Eve on the tropical isle of Hawaii, a holiday the locals refer to as Kalikimaka. As all of the little keiki (children) drift off to sleep, Santa surfs to the island on his outrigger canoe led by his majestic sea turtles. As he arrives at their homes, or hale, he listens as the holiday ornaments magically come to life. The decorations bob and dance all around, whispering to Santa what gifts he should leave for the children. When Santa begins to leave, mama and papa give him a lei and bid him farewell as he rides the waves out of sight.

tate christmas picCarolyn’s other holiday book is Oklahoma Night Before Christmas. From Amazon: Very seldom does Santa ever find snow covering the land in Oklahoma. This sometimes gives him problems getting all his presents to the sleeping children. In this version of the popular tale, Santa brings his gifts on a four-wheeling ATV as blasts of freezing cold sweep into the state, and even his cozy Santa suit can’t keep him warm. When radar signals pick up his flying machine, the airport controllers become concerned about the unidentified object in the sky. And then there’s that pesky raccoon that digs into Santa’s bag. Is Santa ever going to be able to complete this Christmas ride? Find out in Oklahoma Night Before Christmas.

Una Belle and Carolyn will be signing their books on Thursday, November 20 (2014) at Spanish Cove Retirement Village in Yukon, and at Full Circle Books, 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City, on Saturday, November 22. Una Belle will also be signing at Best of Books in Edmond on December 9!

20141115_131317


Una Belle Townsend (left) and Carolyn Macy signing their books earlier this month. Carolyn has her turtle, for Hawaiian Night Before Christmas and her raccoon puppet, for Oklahoma Night Before Christmas. Una Belle’s holding the puppets (elephant and cow) that she uses with two of her non-seasonal books, Grady’s in the Silo and Great Elephant Escape.

 

Want some Christmas books by Oklahoma authors? Here’s links to order on Amazon:

Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma

Racecar Driver’s Night Before Christmas

Hawaiian Night Before Christmas

Oklahoma Night Before Christmas

Happy holidays!