Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections and Resolutions

I didn't start this year with any resolutions other than getting healthy and trying to get my life back to normal. Well, as normal as possible with a little person. So I don't have a handy list of goals to look at and check off.  But I thought it might be nice to see what I have accomplished this year - writing-wise - so I can feel puffed up and happy about myself.  And create a list of goals to look back at this time next year.


1. I took the leap into contests with EX-DRAMA QUEEN, and started querying again. Lots of partial and full requests, and even an R&R.  I stopped querying for the holidays, but am going to jump in again soon.

2. I finished drafting and revising DON'T FALL DOWN. I have a query letter I'm happy with (or so I think, anyway), and I've started making a list of agents to query. I entered the Baker's Dozen contest with this manuscript, got in, and received bids. It also won an award at a conference I went to this past September. I feel really good about this book, and I'm excited to send it out into the world and see what happens.

3. I attempted NaNoWriMo for the *ahem*sixth*ahem* year. Key word is attempted. I never "win" - but I have 20,000ish words I didn't have before November on a new WIP. I enjoyed writing it, and I'm eager to finish the draft by spring.

4. Twitter! I re-found Twitter and jumped in feet first. It's the best thing I've done for my writing and my sanity since I don't even know when. I've met so many friendly, helpful, funny people - writers, agents, bloggers. I love you all! I also have some awesome new critique partners and beta readers, all from Twitter and the contests I found through Twitter.

5.  Conferences and such...I went to a plot workshop in April with the amazing Cheryl Klein, editor with Arthur Levine. She changed the way I revise. I feel SO much more organized with my revisions than I did before I went to her workshop. I also went to the SCBWI Midsouth Conference in September, where I reconnected with some amazing semi-local writers and won an award! Wins all around there.

6.  Morning writing. Through Twitter, I found a small group of writers who drag themselves out of bed at the godawful hour of 5 a.m. And I joined them (mostly. sometimes I'm lazy.).  I discovered I'm very productive first thing in the morning, and I loved having time specifically devoted to writing. #5amwritersclub - you guys are the best!


1. Query, query, query my two finished manuscripts.

2. Enter DON'T FALL DOWN in more contests.

3. Have new WIP in shape for querying by fall (unless, you know, I don't have to send queries any more because I'm represented by an awesome agent).

4. Outline and research crazy new idea for a YA historical. (Brain: You write MG Contemporary - what are you thinking?? Romantic Writer's Heart: But it's a good idea...and there's kissing! Brain: You are insane. Heart: I know that...)

5. Go to two conferences and/or workshops.

6.  See my awesome critique partners and friends land agents and book deals. Oh wait - I don't have any control over that, do I?

7.  Keep writing!

I'm sure I could keep adding to this list, but I need to get Little E up from her nap or she'll never go to sleep later.

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whee, I got tagged! Awesome YA/MG writer Veronica Bartles tagged me for The Next Big Thing.
I'm in the mood to talk about my newest WIP (a hopefully funny, kind-of-adventure MG), so here you go...

What is the working title of your book?

Knitting Sweaters for Dogs.  (Yes, seriously. Yes, I know I suck at titles. Yes, I will think of a better one later - like when I have a complete first draft.)

Where did the idea come from for your book?

At the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference this year, keynote speaker Dan Yaccarino offered some of the simplest, most helpful advice about choosing what to write: "Write what you're interested in." As I sat in my uncomfortable conference room chair, I realized I already do this. I loved being in plays as a kid (and still love theater), so Ex-Drama Queen.  I love figure skating, so Don't Fall Down.
What else am I interested in?  Travel, especially road-trip-style travel. Last year, I happened upon a ton of travel blogs written by families who live full-time in an RV. I was fascinated.  How do they do school? What about mail? How do they pay bills? How do they not kill each other living in a space smaller than a NYC apartment?  And Knitting Sweaters for Dogs was born.  (*cue heavenly music*)

What genre does your book fall under?

MG Contemporary, with some humor and a bit of adventure tossed in.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Um. Huh. No idea. Let me think...

Maya (MC) - a young Candace Cameron (yes, I'm dating myself here)

Bug (Maya's little sis) - a really young Alyson Hannigan

Adalie - a young Emma Stone

Mom - not a clue.  This is really hard!

Dad - an older Ashton Kutcher
Yeah, I didn't do so well with that question. 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

12 year old Maya's parents move the family into an RV to travel the country - and then go missing.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I love this question. It makes finding an agent sound so simple.  HAHA. But yes, am hoping for an agent.

How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?'s not finished yet. I got to the halfway point during NaNoWriMo.  Plan on digging in again in January.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the answer to "Where did the idea come from for your book?"

What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?

It's funny, I hope! :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm alive!

No, I haven't fallen off a bridge or been swept out to sea.  Just busy!

Here's how I've spent my writing time the past couple of months:

-revising Don't Fall Down
-querying Ex-Drama Queen
-NaNoWriMo-ing a new WIP (Just for the record, I've done NaNo since 2006 and never won.  Why do I torture myself every November?  I love getting a headstart into a new manuscript.  And the writing camaraderie   Because you can't beat having a gazillion other people toiling under the same madness at one time.)
-beta reading and critiquing
-waking up at 5 am a few times a week to squeeze in some writing time (yes, this is painful)
-entering contests

And about the entering contests thing, I got into Baker's Dozen with Don't Fall Down!  Talk about a surprise.  There were 280+ MG and YA entries, and by some magic/luck/deity's blessing, my little skating manuscript made it in.

The entries go live on Friday.  I'll be number 34.  So, of course I'm all EXCITED.  And nervous. So nervous.  I'm looking forward to the critiques and (hopefully!) a request.  I can't wait to read all the other entries.  It's a good thing Husband's working Friday night because I'll be neck deep in Baker's Dozen Goodness.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I feel as if I've been revising the same WIP forever.  But that's only because I find every excuse not to work on it.  I'm one of those people who loves writing first drafts and isn't particularly fond of revising. 

Usually, once I dive into the work, I'm good to go for at least an hour.  It's the starting that's the problem.  I almost have to bribe myself (Hey, self, you can check Twitter ONLY if you revise one whole scene).

Tonight I've been working on one very, very long scene.  I need to delete chunks of it and break up the rest into shorter scenes.  And I have to move some stuff around, and add a few bits of info that are important for later in the book.  When I first looked at this scene tonight, the changes seemed insurmountable.  But now I'm 3/4 of the way finished with it.  Of course, that's taken me over an hour to get through, but the book will be better for it.

I'm just ready to have this manuscript revised and off to beta readers.  But I'm only on the plot revisions.  I still have to comb through it at least two more times - once for character arcs and once for continuity and stronger writing. 

Patience is not easy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game of Tomes

Epic fantasy is so not my thing.  At all.  Elves and dwarfs and impossible to pronounce names like Thworesselynyn = not for me.

But after watching the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones (via Netflix because Husband and I are too cheap to pay for HBO) and Husband telling me how good it is, I dug into the Song of Fire and Ice series.

That was in April.  I'm now almost finished with Book 3.

Why, you ask, has it taken me five months to read three books?  Because they are HUGE.  And the description.  Well, hello description.  If I put that much description in my books, my partials and fulls would come back with the words HA HA WTF? scrawled across the front page.

But - as long as it's taking me to read these books (and despite the ten straight pages of naming every single ship in the bay in Book 2), I'm really enjoying them. 

No, really.  Here's why:

1) Plot twists I could only dream of creating. And that's all I'll say, because almost every plot twist has been ruined for me so far. (Thank you, local newspaper features section. And thank you, Husband, who kept asking me pointed questions about who was doing what.)

2) The characters. The books are told from multiple POVs, which sounds insane. It is, for a normal writer. But George RR Martin must have entire rooms of his house devoted to character arcs.  Pieces of paper taped to the walls, with little strings connecting the intersecting plotlines. Somehow, he's managed to create a whole barrage of characters, each with a unique voice.  They aren't confusing and they don't all sound the same. I'm excited to read from each character's viewpoint. I don't go, "Ugh, not another Sansa chapter." (Although people who have read the books often don't like Sansa. Why? I don't know. I love Sansa. Heck, I was a Sansa when I was a kid. I cannot possibly be the only girl on the entire planet who liked to dress up and not get dirty and dream about romance. There are others out there. They just won't own up to it.)

3) The books read more like historical fiction than epic fantasy.  Minus the made-up places, they could pass for something like Arthurian legend.  And I love (LOVE!) historical fiction and Arthurian legend.

4) Back to the descriptions. Yes, I could've done without the gazillion and two ships named one by one in Book 2, but I like luxuriating in the food and clothing descriptions. They feel like a guilty pleasure. (Seventy-seven courses at a wedding feast? Oh, yes, please tell me every single one!  Nom Nom Nom.)

5) The little nuggets of great writing. Every once in a while, I stumble upon a phrase that is so perfectly written, I nearly swoon. My favorite is from Book 2: "Arya watched and listened and polished her hates the way Gendry had once polished his horned helm." Swoon.

So, yeah, I'll keep reading.  By this time next year, I might be finished with Book 5.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Color me embarrassed...

So you know how in my last blog post, I was all, "Wah, nobody follows me!"

Yeah.  That's because I didn't have a follow button on my blog. (Thanks to @akossket on Twitter, who let me in on that fact!)  Am a total noob.

<-----------Over there, somewhere on the left, is a follow button now.  Yay!  I also added a twitter stream, so I'm feeling pretty up on the blog design thing.

One day soon, I'll add a picture or something really exciting like that.

(I know you're all jealous of my blog design skillz.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reader Appreciation Award

The awesome Tamara gave me the Reader Appreciation Award.  (You should visit her blog - she's a friendly, talented writer.) I'd love to pass it on, but since my blog is pretty new, I have no actual followers! (I know people read it, because I get hits...but if you follow me, I won't feel so lonesome;)

Anyway, I still want to play along, so here goes the 7 things you don't know about me:

1) When I was about 12 or 13, I wrote a "book" (it was 35 handwritten notebook pages) entitled The Ghost In the Attic.  It was not about a ghost in the attic. Go figure.

2) My ancestors were among the founding families of Salisbury, Massachusetts.

3) I am addicted to the following foods, in no particular order: brie, Runts candy, these fried cheese things with mint chutney from my local Indian restaurant, dark chocolate, this peanut butter and chocolate ice cream Husband and I call "peanut butter crack", Pringles Cheese 'Ums (I can't ever remember the new name for them), pesto, and pad thai.

4) I'm two days older than Heath Ledger (RIP).

5) I'm generally not a fan of sci-fi, but I love (LOVE!) Firefly

6) I minored in French. Just don't ask me to say anything that isn't in present tense.

7) I know all the words to Rent and Les Miserables.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writing Highs and Lows

These past two weeks have been full of writing highs and writing lows for me.

Right now, I'm winding down (or trying to wind down) from a crazy, fun, inspirational, busy day at the SCBWI Midsouth Conference.  I thought I'd take a moment and reflect on the past couple of weeks, writing-wise.

Writing Highs!!

1) Today, I found out I received an honorable mention for the first ten pages of my most recently-completed middle grade novel.  You guys - I got an AWARD!  At an SCBWI conference!  They called my name, and it literally took me a few seconds to process it.  It's not a huge award, but still - they picked me!  Even more awesome, the award comes with an invitation to submit a full to the editor who judged the competition.  I can't use enough exclamation points to describe how I feel about this!!!!!!!!!!

2) I participated in #PitMad on Twitter this past Thursday and got three requests.  One of those agents has already asked for a full. (Excuse me while I squee! and re-enact my happy dance from Thursday)

3) I got the world's most awesome rejection yesterday (this was from a query unrelated to the #PitMad requests).  I don't feel comfortable posting specifics online (in order to respect this agent's privacy), but it was the most ego-boosting rejection I've ever received.  It revived my belief in this particular manuscript.

4) Conferences.  I love, love, love conferences.  The energy, meeting other writers, talking about things only other writers get (ie. awesome personalized rejections).  Being here is one of the best things I could do for my writing.  I challenged myself by signing up for a pitch session with an agent, and I'm so glad I did it.  She was friendly and encouraging, and so much fun to talk to.

Writing Lows:(

1) I entered a few online contests, and haven't made it past the first round yet.  I've gotten some very useful feedback on my work, met some fun & talented writers, and I'm proud of myself for putting my work out there.  And, God knows, I've gotten tons of rejections on my writing before.  I have a thicker skin than I used to, but - I won't lie - rejection does still hurt a little.  It does, however, make me determined to enter more contests!

2) A critique.  I signed up for a paid critique session with an editor at this conference.  And she was...very honest (though quite nice about it & full of helpful suggestions).  I always appreciate honesty in a critique, as opposed to the ever-so-unhelpful "This is nice."  But still...ouch.  And to show how subjective this industry is - the ten pages from this critique are the exact same ten pages that won the honorable mention from a different editor (see #1 in Writing Highs).

I know this industry doesn't get any easier.  If anything, it gets harder.  Once you break in, there are revisions stacked upon more revisions.  Then the submissions process.  Then, if you survive that, more revisions.  Then stress about marketing your book and fear that it won't sell.  Then the pressure to write something just as good, if not better.  And on and on and on.

And, the highs will always trump the lows.

Monday, September 10, 2012

GUTGAA Pitch Polish

Just a quick post to mention that the query and first 150 words of Ex-Drama Queen have been posted on Deana Barnhart's blog for critique. 

So hop on over and have at it!  I'm number 21.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's conference time!

This is my cat, Nutmeg.  She has nothing to
do with this post.  But she is awfully cute.
Well, almost.  Next week, I'm off to the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference in Nashville.  I'm really excited - and a little nervous. 

SCBWI Midsouth is full of talented and friendly writers, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing those I know and meeting new people.  And I can't wait to get a critique on the first few pages of my WIP (Don't Fall Down).  There are some great editors, agents, and writers on the faculty, too, and the sessions all sound really interesting.

So, what am I nervous about?  I signed up for a one-on-one pitch session with an agent.  I've never done this before, and just thinking about it makes my heart race.  I read this agent's blog and I follow her on Twitter.  She seems like a really nice person, so I doubt she'll be all like "OMG, your ideas suck." 

But I'm still nervous.  I think it has more to do with selling myself than with talking to an agent.  I've chatted with other agents at conferences, and they've all been friendly and easy to talk to.  It's the talking about me and making my writing sound like the best thing ever that's giving me palpitations.  Plus, when I get nervous, I start to laugh too much and say "um" and "you know" and "like" a lot.  I want my pitches to sound conversational (as opposed to memorized), but I have a hard time doing that without rambling.

Have you guys ever pitched an agent in person?  If so, how did it go?  Any advice? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA Meet & Greet!

GUTGAA (Gearing Up to Get an Agent) is this awesome blogfest hosted by Deana Barnhart (who also happens to live in Kentucky, like me!).  This week is Meet and Greet.  Below is my bio and my nswers to the M&G questions:

I'm 33, married to the guy I started dating in 12th grade, and mama to an almost one-year-old baby girl.  For lack of any other direction in life (read: I got a master's in US history and didn't want to teach or get a PhD), I went to law school.  I practiced for a little while, but now I work at a great non-profit.  I write upper middle grade/tween contemporary girly novels.   And, yes, my husband has read them all.  :)   And, he's playing with the little one right now so I can steal a few moments to write this blog entry! 

Like most other writers, I wrote as a kid and a teenager (mostly, I tried to emulate RL Stine and Christopher Pike), but I re-found (is that a word?) writing in '06 when I was neck deep in law school and tired of reading cases.  One day in the law library, I closed my Real Estate Law book, popped open my laptop, and began pecking out the beginnings of a middle grade novel.   Then I found SCBWI, the Verla Kay blueboards, and couldn't stop writing.

On to the questions...

-Where do you write? On the old couch in my living room.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?  The TV and shelves of such fabulous film fare as Young Guns, Ice Castles, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Three Amigos, Wayne's World, 3:10 to Yuma, Knocked Up, and Husband's extensive anime collection.

-Favorite time to write? Definitely morning, but since I'm working most mornings, I write in the evening by default. 

-Drink of choice while writing? Husband and I swore off buying Diet Pepsi, so now it's either some variety of Crystal Light, water, or wine.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? Silence. 

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? The manuscript I have in revisions is a skating novel that came from my years as a skater.  The Shiny New Idea was inspired by my travels out west.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?  Go to conferences and writing workshops.  I always find myself full of of ideas and energy after a conference.  I went to this great plot workshop with Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine books in April.  I learned SO much, and I can say that my WIP is 10x better now because of that workshop.  I use all my Christmas and birthday money for these things - so worth it!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mountains! And trees! And scenery!

I'm so not kidding about the snow.  Or the 1,000,000 buffalo.
Taken in Yellowstone, June 2011.

So, husband and I love to travel.  Every kind of traveling - domestic, international, cities, wilderness, beaches, mountains, cruises, camping... 

In 2010, we discovered The Roap Trip.  I don't mean rolling a couple hours down the road to the next big city, but full-out, 2-3 week, 6000 mile, live-out-of-the-car road trips.  We spent most of the month of August that year seeing places neither of us had seen before. 

The grand total:

-14 states
-6500 miles
-8 National Parks
-1,000,000 buffalo
-1 torrential, monsoon-like downpour in Navajo country
-1 homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder
-8 nights in a tent
-15 Subway sandwich stops
-1 incident of overheated brakes
-14,000+ feet above sealevel
-(result: 1 bout of altitude sickness)
-1 lost hubcap in the Middle of Nowhere, Kansas (speaking of hubcaps, did you how freaking expensive those things are!?)

It was amazing.  As a writer, I know there have to be better words to describe it, but "amazing" is the word I always come back to. 

In fact, it was so amazing that we went back to Grand Teton and Yellowstone in June of 2011 (when I was 6 months pregnant).  (And there was snow.  And we slept in a tent.  Did I mention the snow?  LOTS of snow.  In June.  And I was pregnant.  So I had to pee a lot at night.  That part wasn't fun.  But the rest was amazing.) 

There is a point to this post, I swear.  As a result of all this road-tripping, I remembered how much I love wild places.  My favorite escape from the mundane is pulling up the National Park Service webcams.  From my computer, in between filling in spreadsheets and checking my email, I can watch the seasons change in Rocky Mountain NP, or the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful erupt at Yellowstone.  I pull up the cameras at Glacier and Yosemite and daydream about a future road trip. 

There's just something so freeing about knowing that I could get in my car and be at one of these incredible places.  Just head west on I-70, and surround myself with peace and beauty and wonder. 

(And, yes, I'm fairly certain I read Laura Ingalls Wilder a few too many times as a child. I'm just thankful cars are faster than covered wagons!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

About Me and blah blah blah

While I'm trying to figure out all the nifty things I can do to fix this blog up, I'll talk about myself.  Because I'm the most interesting woman in the world.  Haha.   

Anyhow....I'm thirtysomething, married, have a sweet baby girl (who will be one year old in just a few weeks!), and have a houseful of cats.

When I'm not writing, I'm working at a non-profit, playing with my daughter, pretending to garden (as in, I plant a lot of stuff but get too lazy to weed or water very often), figure skating, hiking, traveling (when the $ allows), watching tv or movies with the husband, letting the husband drag me to social events (I married an extrovert...which is good, or I'd be a crazy cat lady who stayed home all the time watching Hoarders), and doing all that boring housework that never seems to be finished.

I write upper middle grade contemporary fiction.  I have one shelved novel, one complete novel I need to resume querying on, one novel in revisions, and one I need to begin outlining.  The three books I've written have all been pantsed, NaNoWriMo-style.  I have big plans for turning myself into a plotter for the next WIP...we'll see how that goes. ;)

One day I'd love to try my hand at contemporary YA and at either MG or YA historical fiction.  YA scares me a bit because of all the sexybits, and historical scares me because I have a masters in US history and I know exactly how much research I'd make myself do before started writing.  And properly cited footnotes.  Yeah, I'd have to get over that.  One day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jumping in...again

I keep saying I'll start a new blog.  I'm good at starting blogs, and not so great at keeping up with them.  I've left a graveyard of abandoned blogs behind me. 

This one will be different!

(I hope.)