Revisions and dance

I’m at my daughters’ dance competition, listening to music in my earbuds and also super loud dance music while I sit in the back row with my laptop. I am looking at my new revisions and thinking about them.

I sound so boring today, but I kind of feel that way. I’m only blogging because I thought that would be a good thing to do today, since I’m not actually writing new words. And I’m only planning to read all my agent’s revision notes, not actually begin revising. But reading all the notes and thinking about them is still progress.

I’m doing well with the instagram writers’ thing. I’m on day 13 and I actually haven’t missed a day yet. It’s basically a miracle.

I’m also just too darn busy with all the other things I do. My eldest is graduating next month and there is an awful lot to do. There’s only ten graduates, since it’s for our homeschool group, and they all get a lot of special things…but Mom gets to do all the work! I’m also swamped with stuff for the dance studio, the local theatre, and my scbwi group. And I love all those things, I really do, but I’m not quite as good at balancing everything as I’d like to be.

Anyway. Back to work. Wish me luck.

igwritersapril

So I’m doing this thing on Instagram this month under the hashtag #igwritersapril. It’s supposed to be fun but it is also a challenge because I am so gosh darn lazy. Anyway, I did the first two days and they weren’t super easy but today’s subject is bookshelf and that sounds very appealing. All I have to do is actually clean mine up a little so it looks presentable and then take a picture of it. Much easier than trying to describe my work in progress using photographs.

Of course I actually have like six bookshelves, so theoretically I could take pictures of all of them. But then I’d have to clean all of them. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So maybe I will. But writing comes first. I can’t really claim to be a writer on instagram if don’t, you know, actually write and stuff.

My darling writing conference starts on Friday. I’m so happy to be going again. I really enjoy it. There’s still time to get registered over at the SCBWI Oklahoma web page, so if you are or wanna be a writer or illustrator, get thee to the site and join us!

A new twist

So I hosted a SCBWI thing at my house on Saturday. That went well. We didn’t have a lot of people but it was fun and informative. Afterward, Kim stayed and talked to me a little about a manuscript that I am working on revising. I was having issues with something, but after talking it through, I was able to recognize a problem in it I just couldn’t see, and then I had an idea how to fix it – and bonus, it gave me another interesting wrinkle to add to the manuscript, which I love. It just takes things a little bit deeper.

I have critique group tonight too, and I’ve got my pages printed out but not stapled yet. Oh, and I just remembered that I was going to print those double sided and I never turned the paper over. Maybe I should check on that, lol.

Also, here’s a picture after the thing at my house.

Critique partners and writing friends are highly recommended.

Now to check the printer.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to Host Spring Conference

Spring-Conference-11x17-flyerProfessionals from established publishing companies and literary agencies will share their insights about children’s literature at the upcoming Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. The Oklahoma Chapter of SCBWI, a professional organization of writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people holds an annual conference to allow aspiring writers and illustrators to meet publishing professionals in person. This year’s conference will be held on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City.

In addition to a full day of professional speakers on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., this year’s spring conference includes an Friday night program at no additional cost to registered attendees. Two breakout sessions will be available to choose from – “How an Oklahoman Made it in Children’s Publishing, and Lightning Tips” or “Finding Your Visual Voice.” Both will be led by publishing professionals and will be followed with a time for attendees to mingle with the speakers.

The SCBWI spring conference also offers a limited number of slots for paid written critiques from editors and agents. Top manuscripts, selected by the critiquers, will have a ten-minute meeting during the conference with the editor or agent who critiqued their manuscript. Manuscript deadline is Feb. 26. To hold a place, fees must be paid before the deadline. Off-site professional critiques are also available, with a deadline of March 16.

Chad W. Beckerman, Creative Director for Amulet Books, Abrams Books for Young Readers, and ComicArts, will conduct face-to-face paid art critiques during the conference.

All illustrators are encouraged to display their portfolio for conference viewing. Illustrators do not have to pay for a critique to display their portfolios.

Attendees also have the opportunity to purchase one-on-one paid face time with a professional. There will be a limited number of discussion times available. This can be used to ask for career advice, discuss your work, ask them to do a cold read of a first page and give comments, or any topic dealing with writing or illustrating.

This year, attendees will also have the option of participating in the crowd-favorite illustration postcard contest and the crowd-favorite 40-word pitch contest. Both are free to participate and include the prize of a free one-on-one face session with an art director, editor, or agent.

All conference registrations include the Friday night sessions, lunch on Saturday, and Saturday Social with Autograph Party at the end of the conference.

Registration is $150 for SCBWI members and $180 for non-members. SCBWI Student members will receive a ten percent discount upon registering, and non-member student registration is $155.

More information and registration forms can be found at www.oklahoma.scbwi.org.

This year’s publishing professionals include:

  • Chad W. Beckerman, Creative Director for Amulet Books, Abrams Books for Young Readers, and Comic Arts
  • Andrea Hall, Associate Editor with Albert Whitman & Company
  • Hannah Mann, Junior Agent with Writers House Literary Agency
  • Daniel Nayeri, Publisher at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
  • Allison Remcheck, Associate Agent with Stimola Literary Group
  • Emily Heddleson, Senior Manager, Library & Educational Marketing
  • Jerry Bennett, Oklahoma Illustrator Coordinator and Professional Artist

 

About SCBWI

Founded in 1971, by authors Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 20,000 members worldwide. It is the only professional organization for those specifically working in mediums of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia, and makes an annual presentation of the Golden Kite Awards, the only award presented to children’s book authors and artists by their peers.

Writing retreat day 4

So it occurred to me on Tuesday that I never wrote the final day of the writing retreat. That’s okay, though, because instead I wrote some more on the wip and got it to 15,000 words!! That means I wrote more than 10,000 during the weekend, which is pretty bomb. I haven’t done anything with it since, but I’ve been busy working on the celebration of life stuff for my friend.

When I got back I learned about the sexual harassment stuff that’s going on with SCBWI. That was disconcerting. It hit close to home and reminded me how important the novel I’m working on really is, at least to me. If it can help someone in the future, that would be amazing. It’s helping me right now, and that’s amazing too.

Balance

Finding balance is something that seems to keep eluding me. I used to have no problem getting my books written and handling the rest of my life as well. I mean, it wasn’t easy, but it was doable.

It’s harder now. I finally thought I found a solution, and went to a relative’s unoccupied house for what was supposed to be several days. I did a lot of plotting and wrote more than twice what I consider enough for a truly “successful” day. But the next day, my family needed me. They then reassured me that they had everything under control, but I couldn’t write anymore. I couldn’t just sit and write and selfishly take all that time for myself when my family was crying out. So I drove the three hours home and didn’t write any more.

Now it’s several days later and I’ve still to write more. I’m currently in my regular writing spot – a couch in the corner of our TV room while several other family members watch TV. Sometimes I use headphones while I do this, but I haven’t seen them since I took them to my aunt and uncle’s anniversary party (I wrote words on the long car ride).

Anyway. Going out of town proved to me that I do still have the ability to write, and to write a lot of words and write well. But I still have the issue that when other matters press down on me, it stifles my creativity. That’ the balance I’m looking for – how to take time for myself and do the project I want to do, but also to care for the ones I love in the way I need to.

Also, I want to encourage you all to visit my friend Sonia Gensler’s blog today and learn about how to find community at an SCBWI conference. It’s part 2 in our blog parade, leading up to our SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference the first week of April. Check it out!

SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference Blog Parade

blog parade banner 2018

I am so stoked to announce the 2018 SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference Blog Parade!!

blog parade blogger picsWe have a great lineup of bloggers this year and I am honored to be the first out of the chute. Our other volunteers are Holly Abston (hollyabston.com), illustrator of two children’s books (Mila Denton’s Worst Week Ever! and The Night the Mice Sang); Sonia Gensler (soniagensler.com), award-winning author of young adult and middle grade novels (The Revenant, The Dark Between, and Ghostlight); Jennifer Latham (jenniferlatham.com), author of two young adult novels (Scarlett Undercover and Dreamland Burning); Valerie R Lawson (valerierlawson.wordpress.com), who writes young adult and middle grade, volunteers as social media coordinator for SCBWI Oklahoma, and runs the successful twitter chat #okscbwichat each month; Mariana Llanos (marianallanos.com), award-winning author of six books for children (A Superpower for Me, No Birthday for Mara, Tristan Wolf, A Planet for Tristan Wolf, The Wanting Monster, and The Staircase on Pine Street); Barbara Lowell (barbaralowell.com), award winning author of three nonfiction books (Daring Amelia, George Ferris: What a Wheel, and Engineering AT&T Stadium) plus nine forthcoming books for children; Gaye Sanders (gayesanders.com), author of one picture book (The Survivor Tree) which debuted in 2017; Doug Solter (dougsolter.com), author of young adult novels (The Gems: Spies Like Me, Skid, Rivals, Legends, Champions, and My Girlfriend Bites); Kim Ventrella (kimventrella.com), whose debut middle grade novel (Skeleton Tree) was published in late 2017; and KJ Williams (booklover1blog.com), author of a forthcoming children’s book (Camp Not Allowed) debuting in February 2018.
blog parade blogger names

Each one of these fine bloggers will be taking a turn writing about our conference through the beginning of April (see sidebar with the specific dates for each blogger).
You can see why I am honored to be part of such a great group!
Make sure to stop by each bloggers site and keep up with all the information about this year’s spring conference (which will be held April 6-7 in Oklahoma City). You can also find out more about the conference by visiting our website (oklahoma.scbwi.org) or checking out SCBWI Oklahoma on facebook, twitter, or Instagram.

 

About SCBWI:

Founded in 1971 by a group of Los Angeles-based children’s writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a non-profit, 501 (c)3 organization which is  one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators. It is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia. Several of the most prestigious children’s literature professionals sit on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.

The SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. As a unified body, the SCBWI acts as a powerful force to effect important changes within the field of children’s literature, promoting new copyright legislation, equitable treatment of authors and artists and fair contract terms.

There are currently more than 22,000 members worldwide, in over 70 regional chapters writing and illustrating in all genres for young readers, making it the largest children’s writing organization in the world.

Issues

So I’m having a bunch of stupid stuff going on my my life with now. Some of it is health related for me. Some is health related for family. One is health related for a far-away friend, which is resulting in me not getting to talk to this friend. That’s super stressful in itself, really.

I’ve been wallowing in self pity a little bit, but today I’ve tried to move my mind to other things and get some work done. It went reasonably well, except I did have to do some paperworkey type things for my health thing and certain family members kept haranguing me about things I felt a little overwhelmed to deal with. But I did get several things done for SCBWI that I’ve been putting off, and I got the downstairs part of the house fairly clean. Only about a third of the things on my to-do list are checked off, but some of those things have to wait until tomorrow anyway, so that’s okay.

I feel like a lot of things that have been happening to me will work their way into my future writing, so that’s at least a positive way to look at it.

In other news, I decided to listen to the soundtrack for Hamilton today, and it is amazing. I haven’t even heard all of it and I want to buy it already. I’m sad because I can’t listen to it now because I have company.

I also have an actual important blog post to do, for my friend Evelyn. I signed up to be part of the blog parade for her debut novel. It seemed like a really good idea when I did this, but now I’m afraid what I do is not going to measure up. I have no clear idea of what I’m going to do, although I might do better with that when my company is not talking to me about the things running through her head that are a little much for me to think about today.

I’m rambling. Time to check off the box next to “Write a blog post” and then work on the next one. “Write the parade post.”

#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.