I remember going to conferences and wishing that I could be one of the authors whom attendees were there to see. I wanted to stand in front of a room of writers and talk about the struggles and rewards, the publishing industry that is sometimes moves like a glacier and sometimes like a roller coaster.
Then I was invited to be the afternoon keynote speaker at the Arkansas Writers Conference. I said “yes” even though my anxiety was screaming “HELL NO!” I’ve led workshops and given very short talks, but a 45-minute keynote speech was new terrain for me.
After doing absolutely nothing about it for a couple of months other than some occasional pacing and nail-biting, I finally started preparing. I was on a read, write, repeat schedule for several days. I sought advice from friends and watched YouTube videos of other writers speaking.
I wrote my speech as honestly as possible, touching on the simultaneous terror and joy of my position. Following the advice of friends who have gone before me, I did my best to be honest and authentic.
In the days leading up to the conference, my anxiety level grew to a fever pitch. But here’s the thing: it was totally fine, even enjoyable. A friend told me to remember that the crowd would want me to succeed, and I could feel that vibe from them. My cousin was there for support, which was a giant help. And originally I was worried about toiling the morning away with my nerves getting worse while waiting for my 1:30 time slot. But instead I was able to meet some attendees and sell a few books before I took my turn at the podium. Every person I met was incredibly kind.
Like so many other times in my life, I worried for nothing. It went great, but even if it hadn’t, I would have had something to write about. And really that’s the most important thing.
Update: a couple of people were kind enough to reblog this post for me, so the contest deadline has been extended to 11:59 tonight (Saturday, April 28). Happy writing!
I found this photograph on neatorama.com. It’s by a photographer named Alena Beljakova. The artist obviously had her own vision when it comes to what this photograph means. But what does it mean to you?
Write a story in 100 words or less and add it to the comments below for a chance to win a free autographed copy of KRICKET or ON THE BRICKS (your choice). I’ll have a couple of guest judges so you guys won’t have to worry about me playing favorites or accepting bribes (I’ll totally accept bribes).
The contest closes on Friday, April 27. Get on it!
This summer I was tasked with rewriting one of my old manuscripts. For those of you who have read my drafts along the way, it was yet another rewrite of Kricket. I have no idea what draft number I’m on with this thing. I wrote the first draft in 2010, and it’s been a pain in my ass ever since.
My publisher and I decided it was time to revisit this story, which I shelved in 2015 after splitting with my agent. My wonderful editor sent me the suggested changes at the beginning of this summer. One of the suggestions was to rewrite it in first person. I agreed with her assessment and got started.
As I rewrote it, I found plot problems and fixes everywhere. I ended up scrapping about 75% of the original book. Meanwhile, my kids were home all day and we had company in and out all the time. It was nearly impossible to get it together.
And then I was given a deadline. Obviously I needed that to happen so I would get my work done. But I still struggled with time management because it was SUMMER. I plugged along as best I could, but I couldn’t really hit it until school started back on September 5 (which was only a half day because of course it was). Meanwhile, my deadline was September 12. I wrote when I could, but progress was slow.
My editor took pity on me and granted my request to move the deadline to September 19.
I spent every day from September 6 to September 19 doing nothing but writing except when I slept. Before this writing frenzy, my personal word count record for one day’s work was 2,000. Now that record is 6,000. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I went days without showering, I didn’t cook, I didn’t grocery shop, I didn’t clean (but I don’t do a lot of that anyway). I did enough laundry to keep us in clean underwear, but I cut it close more than once. I didn’t have time to obsess over daily news. It was glorious.
The manuscript is out of my hands once again. I don’t know if the overhaul puts the manuscript where it should be. I only spent two days on plot editing, so it could go either way.
I emerged from the writing frenzy on Monday night to an unexpected sadness. I had to get back to my responsibilities again. I had to grocery shop, answer emails, and get back in the gym. I started reading the news again.
It’s easier for me to live my life in fiction, constantly thinking about my story instead of reality. I have to walk out into the sun sometimes to exercise, to see friends, to help my kids with homework. But I think it’s time for me to spend more time in my world of make-believe.
I’ve been blocked lately. Historically I don’t stay blocked long, but this time is different. I wish there was some kind of Miralax for the writer’s soul.
It started in October. I had overdosed on news and my creativity started to suffer. I eventually turned a corner in November and started up again. But lost it all in January. Sometimes the words come to me, but not consistently enough to finish anything as quickly as I’d like.
Fortunately the work I have created doesn’t go away. It waits for me while I stare at the blank page or binge watch TV in the name of dissecting story arcs. Honestly though, I don’t know where most of my time goes. It’s slipping away without leaving clues that it was ever here.
I’m currently in a workshop led by the amazing Ariel Gore. Ideas seem to be loosening up again. And May is usually a creative month for me. Hopefully it’s time to turn things around. But first I really do have to turn off the news. I have to let go of the threat of nuclear war, the dissolving relationships with our allies, the civil rights issues, and the threats to the first amendment. But if I do that, I’m not being a responsible citizen. So maybe I just need to compartmentalize. I need to shove all of my worries in a drawer in my brain until writing time is over every day.
Writing is extremely therapeutic for me. So not writing only makes the stress worse. If I’m not thinking about story ideas, I’m mentally listing the items we need for our make-believe basement bunker.
So I’m going to just keep trying. Every single day. My voice isn’t gone, it just needs some help getting out.
On the Bricks was released by Pandamoon Publishing out of Austin. One of the things that makes Pandamoon different from larger publishers is that we are a close-knit group. This includes the authors, editors, publishers, artists, and PR staff. Thanks to the internet we interact daily. And now, several of us are taking it to real life.
This weekend we are meeting at C2E2 in Chicago. C2E2 is a fan convention for comic books, graphic novels, video games, pop culture, etc. On the Bricks is not typical con fare. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity to hang out with my fellow Pandamoon authors. If I sell a few books, that will be a bonus.
We’re also having a pitch party, so if you’re in the Chicago area and would like to pitch your book in person, stop by on Friday or Saturday. Or just stop by to meet some awesome authors and buy a few books. I’ll be at booth 142 with David Valdes Greenwood, Christine Gabriel, Elgon Williams, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Meg Bonney, and Dana Faletti. See you in Chicago!
Where: C2E2 Booth 142, Pandamoon Publishing, South Building at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. (Note: Ticket to convention required, purchased separately)
When: April 21 1PM & 4PM; April 22 1PM & 4PM; April 23 11AM & 1PM
How: Sign-up starts at 10AM each day; maximum 20 pitches per slot. Stop by Booth 142 and sign up for one slot only. If you are signing up for a different day, you must show your pass is good for that day. When all slots are filled, sign-ups end.
What: Pitch your novel in a genre represented by Pandamoon Publishing. (No plays, screenplays, poetry collections, manuals for auto repair, etc.) You have only 2-3 minutes so be sure to include: your genre, title, logline, plot summary in 50 words or less, and hint of your personality!
Why: The aspiring author with the best pitch from each session will be invited to directly submit the full proposal to Pandamoon Publishing without waiting for the annual submission window to re-open.
Does a pitch party really work? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it will never work for you if you don’t try.
Not ready to pitch yet? Come listen to others and prepare for your chance in the future.
I borrowed this post from DVG Books & Plays. I encourage you to hop over there and check out his fabulous content.
See you in Chicago!
I have recently recommitted myself to my writing after a prolonged break. And by break I don’t mean that I wasn’t writing at all. I mean that I wasn’t working on a specific project for very long, and I wasn’t writing every day.
For me the only way to get a book written is to write approximately 1000 words a day. That is about the length of one of my scenes. I have tried different methods in the past. At my personal busiest I tried for 500 words a day. The problem with that pace was that I couldn’t make progress fast enough, and I sometimes didn’t complete my thought before finishing my daily quota but I would walk away anyway because I had other shit to do. I’ve also tried for 1500 words a day. Though it’s not a ridiculous amount, I found myself burning out quickly, and it needed to be 1000 or 2000 to get my scene lengths right.
A scene a day is the best way for me to keep my forward momentum without stressing myself out and giving up. I love writing, but it can become just another responsibility if let it. And who wants to be stressed out by his or her art?
It takes me about an hour to write 1000 words. But that is the actual writing of words that I keep and don’t delete. I’m usually “writing” for more than an hour. But this gives me time to write blog posts, edit what I’ve already written, grocery shop, cook, do laundry, exercise, pick my kids up from school, and read. The other parts of my life demand just as much attention.
As part of my renewed commitment, I’m learning how to say “no”. I have a big problem with over-planning, as any of my good friends can attest. It’s tough for me, as I’m very social and I feel a responsibility to volunteer for school activities.
Books don’t write themselves. And I can carry ideas in my head forever without using them. But any writer can tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than failing to get words down on paper. So I’m going to keep going now. I’ll go scene by scene.
My friend Laura Ellen Scott posed an interesting question at the end of a blog post a few months back. The question was what does your family/community think of what you do, and does that affect how you write?
My mom isn’t crazy about my writing. Don’t get me wrong: she does the best she can when reading my swear-leaden prose which conflicts directly with her Southern Baptist morals. She encourages my art, but can’t avoid saying things like “I’m not crazy about the language”.
I don’t write things she disagrees with on purpose. It’s my muse’s fault.
My muse is a foul-mouthed, white-trash sadist. Think 1990’s Courtney Love, only Southern and into pills instead of heroin. I don’t mind a bit. I made peace with her a long time ago. The problem lies with some of my loved-ones.
My mom asked me to send her a copy of my next book with all of the “bad language” blacked out with a marker. I happily agreed. It’s a compromise I can live with, even if it my integrity suffers a little. Mothers are worth compromising integrity for now and again.
I have tried to tone it down, to write things more suitable for my mostly conservative family. But the writing reflected my restraint, and that wasn’t okay.
My community of friends and writers aren’t as squeamish about foul language, fornication and overdoses. They accept that my muse would never be invited to sit on the PTA. But I am not my muse. I’m just a writer.