Monday, December 31, 2012

JANUARY GIVEAWAY - HOLLY SCHINDLER

In honor of our fantastic readers, we're holding a giveaway extravaganza throughout January, as the video below explains! 

Enter each giveaway as many times as you'd like. If you have any trouble with the Rafflecopter forms, enter by emailing writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com.

International Giveaway #1:
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

International Giveaway #2:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

US / Canadian Giveaway #1:
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

US / Canadian Giveaway #2:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

US / Canadian Giveaway #3:
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US / Canadian Giveaway #4:
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

It Was a Year


Well. It’s been a year all right.

Most of you who follow this blog know I lost my mom this year. That’s been hard. To put it as simply and mildly as possible.

Those who’ve followed my posts here even longer will remember that, last year and the beginning of this one, I was teetering on the edge of the chasm of no longer making a living as a writer. I know I’m lucky to have done so since 1998, but it was looking like that was drawing to a close. My books were not selling. At least, not here. In the UK they were doing well. I thought maybe their tastes were a bit different across the pond. I thought maybe people just didn’t want to read what I want to write. I tend to challenge the reader a bit, and I thought maybe not enough people wanted to be challenged by what they read.

I thought all kinds of things.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t think is that maybe it wasn’t really a reflection on the work.

In March of this year, almost exactly the same time my mom went on Hospice care, one of my Indie adult books, When I Found You, took off in Kindle. It made it up to #12 in Kindle paid, with a popularity ranking of #3 in Kindle, #5 on Amazon as a whole. Granted, this was only for a few days, but I actually got to see it hovering between a couple of Hunger Games books on the Kindle home page. It made enough of a splash that Amazon publishing approached me and picked up two titles. Enough that I am now making a living at my writing again. Catching up on some debt.

So, was it a happy year? A sad year? Yes. It was.

When I’m questioned about why I ended my novel Pay It Forward the way I did, I say a couple of honest and serious things. First of all, in my observation, we don’t make big, sweeping changes when everything’s fine. We change when the roof falls in. No pain, no change. I don’t like it any better than anybody else, but I am beginning to see that it has a purpose. Also, I don’t want to write an “all happy” ending because that’s not the world I see around me. What I see is more a process by which much is lost but even more is gained. My life is never all happy, but it’s usually good.

I can honestly say it was a year. 

2012

We'll, you have to admit, it's been a crazy year. And though I don't have a new book to brag about, I still consider myself pretty lucky.
2012 Year in Review
I have a job that allows me to spend three months out of the year writing. I have an incredible family that supports my neurosis and bad moods during the ups and downs of publishing, and I have a wonderful editor who never stopped believing in me. I have great fans who take the time to tell me that my books meant something to them.

Thank you all. Hopefully this time next year, I will have found a home for one of my four unpublished novels.

Since I can't think of a way to end this, here's a link to a chewing gum commercial from the 70s.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking back, looking forward: the same resolution (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

For the past few years, I’ve made the same New Year’s resolution: To do less. To hurry less and worry less, to stop rushing and overcrowding my schedule.

And this year, I actually managed to do that, although I didn’t cut back to the point where I feel that I’m getting enough rest, enough alone time, enough leisure time.

So it will be the same resolution for 2013. This is the kind of resolution it’s a pleasure to make. I look toward the new year not with the dread of having a thousand commitments, but the anticipation of having more time to do right by the commitments I’ve already made.

It’s the kind of resolution that requires me to say “no” a lot. Which is not always easy to say.

I don’t say “no” to everything, though. I’m not entering a hermit cave. Some of what I drop is replaced by newer things: opportunities I’ve worked for, things I’ve always wanted to try. Like almost everyone else I know, I’m seeking that ever-elusive balance.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 in Review

2012 was a crazy awesome year for me. Several of my babies joined the world: Shadows, Onyx, Pure, Tempting the Best Man (J. Lynn), Cursed, Tempting the Player (J. Lynn), Deity, Elixir, and Opal. 

I feel like I'm missing one.

In 2012, I also signed new book contracts. Don't Look Back and a yet untitled YA book was contracted with Disney/Hyperion. Obsession with Entangled Covet. Frigid and a yet untitled New Adult book with Spencer Hill Contemporary.

I also got to attend RT and BEA for the first time and I attended several book festivals: PAYA, Baltimore Book Festival to name a few, and I also went on three tours: Daemon Invasion in June, Good Gods it's Cold Deity tour in November, and the Opal Release Party in Texas. I got to meet many amazing readers and authors.

Like I said, it has been wonderfully insane and I'm not sure another year could top this one.

But what really made this year awesome sauce with an extra heaping of sauce is some really great books I read this year. I wanted to share four books I think you need to pick up before the year is out!

Foretold by Jana Oliver
Foretold is the last book in the Demon Trapper's Daughter series and it was an amazing finish. If you haven't read this series yet, you need to pick it up now if you are a fan of action, suspense, and romance. 

Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent
Before I Wake is the next to the last book in the Soul Screamers series. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this series. It has such a unique premise (Banshees, baby) and you can really relate to the characters. And it has Tod. Enough said. If you haven't started this one yet, you NEED to. The series brings all the feels. 
 
Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins
Sweet Peril is out yet, but I was lucky enough to beta read for Wendy and if you loved Sweet Evil, you will be obsessed after Sweet Peril. It definitely does not have the sophomore slump syndrome. Stakes are higher, smexy times more steamy, and it has Kai. Yum.

Losing It by Cora Carmack
Losing It was by far my favorite read of 2012. It stands out among all the New Adult titles this year. If you're like me and want less crazy angst and more humor, Losing It tickled by funny bone while it made me blush. The book is hilarious. CAT! So if you like funny and romance, this is the book for you. I cannot say enough good things about it. If you're new to NA, start with this book.

So what were some of your favorite moments/books of 2012?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

a little magic - Alisa M. Libby

I could do a wrap-up of 2012, but other writers have already done this so wonderfully (thank you,

heck out the work of a mysterious book sculptor in Scotland: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/gallery/2012/nov/30/scotland-secret-book-sculptures-in-pictures#/?picture=400318100&index=0

This image of Wendy in the Peter Pan sculpture made me weep a little bit. Magical.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The In-Between Year (Anna Staniszewski)

In November 2011, I was the proud parent of a bouncing baby book!

Not only was I thrilled to have my debut novel out in the world, but I was excited that it would be the first in a trilogy. The second book, however, was scheduled for early 2013, which meant that 2012 was going to be a big, fat in-between year.

So what does an author do during her in-between year?

She writes.

And revises.

And writes some more.

And tries not to overdose on chocolate.

I must say that this year has flown by, mostly because I've been busy with revising Book 2, drafting Book 3, and working on other projects. (And I was lucky enough to sell a new series to my awesome publisher.)

One tricky thing about this year has been momentum. Having a year-and-a-half lag between the first and second books in a trilogy means that now I have to work to rebuild momentum for the second book. I've tried to do that by releasing a free short e-prequel for the trilogy (if you're interested, you can download it here) and by giving readers glimpses of the second book, including a sneak peek of the first chapter. I suppose I could jump around and wave "UnFairy Tale" flags, but I'll try to restrain myself. :-)

Another tricky thing has been keeping myself in "author shape." Sitting at home in front of my laptop in my pajamas doesn't exactly make me feel like a real-life author. So I've tried to continue doing events so that I don't totally get out of the habit of being in front of audiences. 

But honestly, as in-between years go, this has been a pretty good one. I've been able to keep writing--which I love--all with the knowledge that soon I'll be welcoming another bouncing baby book into the world. In fact, 2012 hasn't felt very "in-between" at all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why 2012 Was Made of Awesome (Rachel Harris)


2012 was made of awesome for many reasons. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it was filled with moments of pure perfection. This was the year I attended my first big conference as a published author. This was the year I saw a book I wrote on a bookstore shelf. And this was the year I sat on an author panel and actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about.

I hung out with some of my favorite authors… and totally fangirled. I had drinks with my publisher and didn’t stammer uncontrollably. (Okay, maybe I stammered a little). I had book signings and guest speaking opportunities and met countless fantabulous bloggers and readers who not only read my book, but also said sweet, mind-boggling things about it. I grew in my craft, challenged myself and pushed the boundaries of what I was comfortable with, and dreamed big.

But I think that at the end of the day, even with all that in mind, my favorite thing about 2012 was seeing the smiles on my daughters’ faces the day my book was released. Hearing their squeals as they danced around Barnes and Noble, because yes, they are my children, and we do participate in public displays of giddiness. And listening to the stories they’ve created the past year, believing now that they too can become authors someday.

See, my dreaming big has encouraged my children to do the same. It has inspired them to pursue their passions and believe that nothing is impossible if we want it badly enough and are willing to work hard to achieve it. The cool thing is that I homeschool my children and every day we discuss big ideas and learn amazing facts, but I don’t know if any of those things are more important than the lesson this experience has taught them.

Now that 2012 is dwindling to a few short weeks, I can see how much I’ve grown the last twelve months. I see the things I did well and cringe at those I rather sucked at. And I move forward into 2013 with a full plate of writing books and attending even more conferences and events where I’m sure I’ll fangirl on even more authors. But it’s my hope that as all that is happening, I never lose the sense of excitement and wonder that this year has brought. This profound feeling of blessing. I’m doing what I love and people are reading what I write. Seriously, how cool is that?

So, dear friends and readers, as another year comes to a close, my wish is that each of your 2013s be filled excitement, wonder, and blessing, whatever it is you are hoping to achieve. Dream big; know that nothing is impossible. And take a moment to fangirl over your favorite authors if you see them. It keeps you young.

What have been YOUR favorite moments of 2012? Any hopes for 2013? Come chat with me in the comments :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My year in pictures by Lauren Bjorkman


The year started with panic! I had 5 days to respond to my editor's comments on MISS FORTUNE COOKIE and MOVE. My family and I had accumulated a lot of crap over the years.

Luckily the new house--designed by my non-architect husband, btw--is small. My friend and I started a local freecycle on FB, and gave away half of the aforementioned crap.



While settling in, I began rewriting a novel my agent felt would be a hard sell. I still love the book, and have almost finished.

Right outside my window, hawks dive bomb prairie dogs and coyotes hunt for dinner. My cats have managed to avoid getting eaten. (Photo by Geraint Smith, a local photography genius.)



My editor showed me my new book cover. When I raised a concern about stereotypical fonts, she asked the design team to make changes.

Before:



After:



My oldest son grew taller than me. He started high school. More panic ensued.

My book launched in November. My idol (and friend) John Nichols came to my local signing at Moby Dickens.



Former President Lincoln read my book and loved it!



An hour ago we were having a blizzard, but the sun has come out. Happy holidays everyone!




Monday, December 17, 2012

A Year in Review by Wendy Delsol


The Mayan End of Days. The fiscal cliff. Honey Boo Boo named as one of Barbara Walter’s most fascinating people. 2012 has been quite the odyssey.

 

While my own year can’t quite match the above-mentioned events, it’s had its moments.

 

This year saw the publication of the third and final book (Flock) in my Stork trilogy. My publishing journey began in 2002 with a personal vow to write a novel. It took eight years and four practice books before I saw Stork published in 2010. Another two years behind me and I have four book in print (an adult contemporary is the fourth).

 

Because I do not have a 2013 release, the timing of this month’s year-in-review topic is fortuitous. With my trilogy complete, it’s an opportunity for reflection. I’m grateful to Candlewick for believing in my story. I feel incredibly fortunate to have met so many wonderful readers and fellow authors. My 2012 highlights include BEA in June, RWA in July, and the Iowa City Book Festival (also in July).

 

I couldn’t recap this year without mentioning the shoulder surgery I underwent 5 weeks ago. The hiatus it necessitated has been equal parts mental frustration and restoration (physically it’s been grueling). Having written under deadline for the past three years, it’s nice to know that I actually miss the creative process. What I haven’t missed is the self-marketing and promotion side of this job. For more than a month now, my on-line presence (Twitter, Facebook, blog) has been almost nothing. It’s been a much needed breather. One I highly recommend.

 

Finally, I’d feel remiss not to mention the horrific events that took place only a few days ago at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. I was deeply saddened and troubled by the news, as were millions around the world. While I don’t pretend to understand the grief the family and friends of those lost are experiencing, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newtown. I am moved by the condolences pouring in from around the globe. May we remember to cherish our loved ones this holiday season.

 

Wishing you and yours peace and joy in 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012: An Awesome Year (except for one thing) --by Jody Casella



When the kids were little my husband and I used to play a dinnertime game with them every night called High/Low. Each person around the table would share the high point of the day and the low and then tag someone else to share. The game led to some interesting conversations and often we learned new things about each other that went beyond stuff like who had a rough day at work or got an A on a test.

So in the spirit of taking stock this year, I want to play High/Low. I'll start with the high. It was a big one. After years of pursuing publication (and often whining about the fact that it might never happen--see here, and here, and here, and here, and here for just a taste of this.) DRUM ROLL, please... I got a book deal!

Which led to many cool mini highs throughout the year that had me walking around pinching myself, alternately bursting into tears and giggling like a doofball. I've been dreaming about this thing happening for so long that now that it is, it's kinda surreal. When you have your entire life to dream about something, your dreams tend to be very specific--down to the clothes you're wearing at your book signings and the multiple ways you will spend the advance check.

I also imagined myself buying a hairdryer.

Bear with me here for a brief digression. I probably would not have gotten to this stage in my writing journey if I hadn't decided to stand in line at a port-a-potty at the Highlights Children's Writing Conference in Chautauqua four years ago. I was at a low point when I signed up for that conference. I'd already been writing for many years and I didn't seem to be making any progress. I was even toying with the idea of quitting, and the conference, I decided, would be a last shot at a (failing) dream. My goals: to stop thinking I knew everything about writing, hear what the presenters had to teach me, and find a critique partner.

Cut to: the port-a-potty line. It was a long one and I got to talking with a woman--I will call her DK--who seemed a lot like me. Mom. Long-time writer. Um, maybe with some similar bladder control issues. After the conference DK and I kept communicating and accidentally fell into an exchange that changed the course of both of our writing lives. We call ourselves accountability partners. Every morning we email our writing goals and every evening we share our progress. Amazing how such a simple thing can do wonders for your self-discipline! Over that time, we also became friends, sharing each other's successes and crying over each other's rejections. There were moments when DK wanted to quit and I talked her into not quitting (maybe for selfish reasons. I need my critique partner!) There was a day when she called me right after I got a particularly heartbreaking rejection and all I did was sob while she crooned to me how much she loved my writing and me.

So now you are probably thinking: but what does this have to do with buying a hairdryer?

Well, Steven King, in his book On Writing, tells this story about when he got his first book deal. I think at the time he was struggling as an underpaid teacher making like 6000 dollars a year. He wrote Carrie and threw it in the trash and his wife fished it out and told him to submit it and later his agent called with news of an astronomical deal--several hundred thousand dollars. He dropped the phone and walked around in a daze for a while before deciding that he must buy something for his wife. For some reason all he could come up with was a hairdryer.

DK and I loved this story and vowed early on that when we got our book deals the first thing we'd do was buy the other one a hair dryer.

And that is what I did after I sold my book. I bought DK a hair dryer.

Which brings me to my low of this year. DK is an amazing writer, and she deserves to be here with me on this part of the journey and it bugs the heck out of me that she isn't.

Here's what I realized during this awesome year: buying the hairdryer for DK was cool. It's a symbol of a dream come true and a symbol too of a beautiful friendship with a fellow writer. But buying the hairdryer--getting the book deal--was not enough.

I want the book deal for DK too. I guess what I'm saying is I want my own hairdryer!

Dear DK: crossing my fingers for you and saying every prayer I know to the publishing gods, that 2013 will be YOUR year.




Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Failure (Cheryl Renée Herbsman)

As the year draws to a close, and we reflect on goals and achievements reached, I want to take a moment to talk about failure.

Some of you may know I just returned from Stockholm, where I witnessed my father receiving the Nobel prize. There aren't many higher markers of success. Of all the interviews he gave in recent months, my favorite one is where he talks about the importance of failure. In it he says that he's not happy when his lab is finding too much success, because "'It means we're not asking the right questions.'" He went on to say, "'I think a lot of my fellows in the lab would agree we're asking the right questions right now, because we're facing a lot of failure!'" I think this can mean that if your desired results are coming too swiftly, perhaps you're not challenging yourself in the right way. (That's not to say that success is a bad thing!)

I think it's easier to appreciate failure once you've found major success, but I also think it's important when you're trying to get there to remember the importance of the role failure plays. With writing and publishing, there can be many reasons for "failure," many of them out of our control. I've written manuscripts since my debut novel that have not been published, but with each of them I've learned something key about the process and the craft of novel writing. Each project leads me to the next one, even if they seemingly have nothing to do with one another. Each one teaches me something new about story, or character, or setting, or pace.

Few among us would say we enjoy failure. But I think as we look back each year at what we've accomplished, it's also worth taking the time to appreciate what we've learned from our so-called failures. Maybe it's even worth taking them out of the dark trunk, shining them up, and setting them out on the mantel, saying, "Look at these beautiful failures I've been blessed with." Because in the end, they are part of our path and part of who we are and we wouldn't be the same without them.

In the year ahead, I wish you all much success and also some healthy failures that lead you someplace wonderful and unexpected.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What’s your top 10 list for 2012? Julie Chibbaro


It seems to me that everyone else gets to make top ten lists, but I never do, or at least, the ones I make don’t get published in the NY Times or Gawker.  So you know what, the hell with it, I’m going to make my own top ten list for 2012.  Watch out, it’s random!

1. Elections.  I was never so distracted in my life than during this election.  Watching polls takes time, lots of time.

2. My break from Facebook.  I have to admit, early in the year, I was an addict.  This was probably from doing all the publicity for Deadly, but now I’m rewriting my novel, and it’s time to be serious and focused.  I hope my friends understand.  I’ll be back!

3. Daughter’s tooth loss.  Is it normal a kid loses 6 teeth in the span of 3 months?  I don’t know.

4. Da gym.  Hey, I joined a gym.  Of course, I only use it to sit in the whirlpool, but still, I’m there.

5.  Awards and lists.  OK, my Deadly got a few of those this year.  Pretty cool.

6.  Rewrites.  So this book I’ve been writing since 1993 finally got sold to Penguin, and first thing I find out is they want a complete rewrite.  Well, that’s starting to feel familiar with this baby.  Working on it all year, and I’m almost done! And it’s better, it really is.

7.  Newspaper.  I got a freelance gig with the local rag, and I’m really enjoying it.

8.  Bike.  I got my first bicycle in about 20 years.  Still not sure I can handle it, what with my poor physical condition and all.  I’ll let you know how it goes in next year’s list.

9.  Picture book.  Agent likes our draft of our first picture book.  Hubby’s doing some amazing drawings.  Fingers crossed a publisher will love it too!

10.  Personal growth.  Listen, I gotta add something corny in here, don’t I?  But really, I do feel like maybe I grew a couple of inches this year.

What would your 2012 top ten list look like?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012--The Year I Took My Writing To Therapy (Stephanie Kuehnert)

I started 2012 in a very scary place, having the frightening realization that I wasn't even sure I enjoyed writing anymore. Writer's block had turned into a writing slump and self-doubt became a full-on crisis of faith. I described what brought me to the point of consistently questioning if writing was what I'm meant to do and how it feels in this article I wrote for Rookie magazine. It's something I've dealing with for a while, probably going on three years now, so instead of making concrete writing goals for 2012 (ie. finish a manuscript), I declared it a year of re-evaluation. I had to find what made me happy, and if I wanted to continue doing this writing thing, I had to learn how to love it again.

I took baby steps, playing in the world of the novel I was working with and eventually setting small goals for myself. By the end of February, I was swept up and in March I thought I was over the crisis.  I'd written the first third of a book that I was insanely proud of and my agent was so excited about she sent it out on partial. I had high hopes... Hopes that faded and twisted into anxiety after the first month of being on sub. At first, for much of May, I tried to write my way through it. I set lofty goals to finish  a draft of the book by mid-July. Instead, by the beginning of June I was already behind on my personal deadline, frustrated and hating every word I put down. Once again, writing had become an agonizing chore. More than that, it was making my feel self-destructive. As I teenager, I struggled with depression, substance abuse and self-injury. I've long-credited writing as my savior from those things. Once I found my voice I had the strength to pull myself out of that hole. The idea of falling back in was terrifying. I couldn't let it happen.

So I decided to go to therapy for the first time in almost a decade. I'd been therapy when I was still cutting and drinking to cope with the aftermath of emotionally abusive relationship. That seemed like a legitimate reason to be in therapy. I wasn't very sure at first that being a floundering writer was a legitimate reason or that any therapist could actually help me with feeling better about it unless they happened to also have sway over a publishing company. But I figured what the hell, find someone sliding scale that I could afford and go a couple times to see if it helped. 

I've been going every week since the beginning of July now. It's been that helpful. There is some personal stuff I'm working on too of course and there are a lot of connections between being an abuse survivor and my fear of losing control, which definitely affects my writing, but I've also learned some general things about myself as a writer that could probably be universal, so I thought, why not share the wisdom:


  • The first thing I needed to figure out/acknowledge is that at my core I'm a writer. Writing is not one of those things that's a job or a career. It's a part of the fabric of your being. Yes, I would like to be able to earn at least part of a living at it. For the foreseeable future that might only be a very, very tiny part via my non-fiction writing for places like Rookie, and next year instead of working a jumble of part-time jobs, I might have to find a full-time job (hopefully one I really love) and have a lot less time for writing, but it's still there. It's in me. And whether I'm doing it for publication or not, I'll always end up telling stories.
  • When one project isn't working, break free and start another. I don't like doing this. I was really freaked out that stopping halfway through that project that had gone on submission as a partial would mean I was giving up and never going back, especially because with that particular project, I feel like I've already started it over several times and it is something I really want to write and get right. But as a published writer I know this is part of the job. Sometimes you are in the middle of a first draft and you get revision notes and a deadline and have to switch gears. If I can be flexible in that way, can't I be flexible for myself? 
  • My mentality that I have to work on one project at a time and stick with it til the end (or til interrupted by an obligation) is just one of the many rules that I've made for myself that I had to realize was exactly that--a made-up rule, not a statement of fact. The idea that I have to write at least 5 days a week to keep momentum going? Yeah, it's helpful, but when push comes to shove, not an actual fact. And I *know* this because I used to binge write when I was in college. I'd spend a one day or maybe two writing a ton and then have to spend the rest of the week doing other things. In the meantime, I'd be thinking about my story, jotting things down on occasion, but not actually writing. And you know what, I still finished my book. Like my fairy god sister, Beth Revis reinforced this when she made a video to speak to a YA Fiction class I taught this fall. She admitted that she doesn't write every day, she does a lot of what I mentioned above and you know what, she's writing some STELLAR books. I've long told my students and myself that every writer is different and every book is different, but the truth of the matter is every day is different. If I'm stuck and doing things the way I've always done them--writing linearly for example--why not try something completely different even if it goes against my comfort zone?
  • The writing "routine" is a myth. At least for me, especially right now while I'm cobbling together all of these part-time jobs. I've spent the past four years trying to figure out my ideal writing routine. I thought I had it figured out--which days of the week I would spend writing, that I would always ALWAYS start in the morning when I was my freshest. I came up with all these tricks of writing in 90 minute sprints. But since I kept telling myself that morning was my best time for writing, if I had a bad morning, I would let it ruin my entire day and sometimes a bad day would put me off track of my goals and then it spiraled into a bad week. A lot of times I would be struggling in the morning because I knew I had some other deadline (freelance or teaching work) hanging over my head. I would insist to myself that mornings were for fiction writing, even though I couldn't actually concentrate on my novel while worrying about this other work. So now I tell myself that while I prefer to write fiction in the morning and I prefer to write on certain days, I have to go with the flow, evaluate my day or week and figure out what is actually going to be productive because...
  • Deep down--no, not even deep down, I am totally conscious and aware of when I'm procrastinating working on something and when I actually need to do something other than work on my novel because otherwise it is going to impede my writing. There's a difference between that basket of laundry that doesn't really need to be put away or surfing the internet and letting a project that has a deadline take precedence. If I get that project done, I can stop worrying about it and actually fully immerse myself in my fiction writing. And as writers, that's when we feel best, when we are able to be fully immersed. Sometimes we might only be able to be fully immersed for 15 minutes. Don't discount that. Enjoy it.
  • My therapist asked me a really great question, "Are you desensitized to major or important accomplishments in your writing?" I think most of us are, published or unpublished. We look at major accomplishments in terms of book sales or awards or reviews. The fact of the matter is writing a really stellar scene--or paragraph or line--is a major accomplishment. Finally figuring out a plot point is a major accomplishment. Flying through a very rough draft of a chapter you were struggling with, accomplishment. And it is important to acknowledge these to enjoy writing. I keep a spreadsheet where I keep track of my productivity--the day, the time I'm writing, how long, how many words, in case there is a magical pattern to find. My therapist encouraged me to add a "gratitude" column to the spreadsheet, so that I acknowledge every day, big or small what went well. Sometimes I'm over the moon about everything I wrote, sometimes I'm thrilled about one small section, and sometimes I just acknowledge that despite all the stress going on in my life, I'm happy that I managed to focus for an hour.
  • When I do get stuck, it's important to look at it in a fresh way. I was cruising along with another book idea (the one I decided to go to because the one on sub was causing me too much anxiety) and I reached the middle and suddenly felt overwhelmed. "This always happens," I told my therapist. "I always get to a certain point either halfway or 3/4ths of the way where I break the book. I feel like I'll never tie everything up. It's just broken." And I went on to explain how I'd broken and fixed my first two novels and then how I'd broken my third and it took forever to fix and how I'd broken the fourth and just given up and skipped to this new book, so now I was freaked. "You need a new term," she told me. That old term of "broken" kept me focused on all the past ways I'd dealt with this struggle--and in this case, that fact that it was so hard with my third book and I'd given up on my fourth. With my third book, I had to write really slowly to fix the huge problem and work it all out. This time, the solution might be to write really fast even though I think that I hate that and it goes against everything I usually do.
  • Finally, crises of faith like the one I'm dealing with don't just disappear overnight. There is no magic fix, not even selling a book. Each day I have to find a way to gather up enough strength and faith in myself to continue. Some days may be easier than others, but eventually I'll get through to the other side.
So, this was a hard year in a lot of ways. Personally, I dealt with a major loss. My elderly kitty, Sid was sick for the majority of the year and passed away right after Thanksgiving. I had two really good months of writing (March on one project and end of August/beginning of September on another), spent most of the beginning of the year hating what I was writing or hating myself for not writing. But I did spend the rest of the year re-evaluating and figuring out how best to cope. I'm admittedly a bit weary right now (lots of teaching and freelance deadlines), but I plan to recover  over the next two weeks and start next year strong with a lot of tools and growing faith.  Like my fellow YAOTL blogger Jenny O'Connell, I'm really hoping that 2013 will be a lucky year (13 is my lucky number after all)--one of recovery, change, and accomplishments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Birthday gifts for Mom (Patty Blount)


Once upon a time there was a little girl whose mother called her Patty Ann. She was bored.

Very very bored.

So her mom introduced her to books. First, she read them to her. And then, she taught Patty Ann to read at the age of four. Patty Ann thought it would be awesome to make books. To be a writer. To be an author. To have people read her stories and tell her how much they love her characters. To have fans.
So she wrote and read and grew and grew and read and wrote. And people told her her writing was good, but Patty Ann didn’t believe it… not then. No, she wouldn’t believe it until many years later.

Many, many years later.

The year 2000 to be exact.

She thought it would be incredible to have her name on a book on a shelf in a store someday. Her mom did, too. She wrote a book. Er… well… she tried to write a book. But it was boring and she gave up. Her mom encouraged her to try again with another book. And in 2005, she finally nailed it. She finished a full length novel called Penalty Killer.

It wasn’t very good.

But her mom enjoyed it. So did her sons. And, judging by the amount of red correction marks, so did their teachers.

In the years that followed, she wrote a few more novels and then in 2011, it finally happened. An editor read Patty Ann’s manuscript and wanted to publish it. In 2012, that editor put her name on a book and put that book on shelves in stores. In 2012, people read Patty Ann’s story and sent her messages about how much they love her characters, like this one:

And by the last month of that year, Patty Ann learned to be a real author with deadlines and commitments and speaking engagements and revisions and readers – actual readers and it’s been everything she always knew it would be since she was four years old and wishes more than anything that her mom had lived to see what she’d started all those years ago simply by opening a book and reading these words…

Once upon a time…

Happy birthday, Mom! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Year of Rewrites--Jan Blazanin


2012 has been a year of writing-related firsts, challenges and frustrations, exciting accomplishments-- and rewrites.

January—Two years of planning, writing, and revising produced a finished first draft. Then my story was off to my writing group for critiquing.

February—Based on their suggestions, I made more revisions.

March--The manuscript was finally off to my agent. In between bouts of anxiously biting my nails, I put together my first writing conference presentation, “Plotting the Novel” for the April SCBWI-Iowa Conference. My time allotment was two hours!

April—The long-awaited letter arrived from my agent and her assistant. Although they loved the idea, my story was far from being ready to submit. Think major rewrite. Could I do it? With that churning in the back of my brain, I gave my presentation to a gracious SCBWI audience. Fun!!!

May—Rewriting

June—Rewriting                       

July—Rewriting 

August—You guessed it: Rewriting

September—Rewrite finished. After comments from my writing group and more revisions, it’s back to my agent. Holding my breath!

October—Writing Month Extraordinaire
My agent responded super-fast. Unfortunately, she asked for more revisions. Not as many. Not as extensive. But more.
In Iowa City I heard the legendary Lois Lowry, and got my hands on a signed copy of SON. If you haven’t read it, DO!
Spent a weekend retreating with fellow authors, participated in the Wonder of Words book festival, and attended the fall SCBWI-Iowa conference.

November—Two writer friends reviewed my finished revisions. 
    
December—My agent signed off on my revisions!!!! My manuscript is good to go.

On to 2013, The Year of Book Sales. :-)

Monday, December 10, 2012

The End of The World (Sydney Salter)

Just eleven more days until the end of the world.

I've been discussing that one particular Mayan calendar which ominously ends on December 21, 2012 since my book Jungle Crossing came out three years ago. I've had agonizingly awkward conversations with adults who probably should know better than to believe what they read online, and don't seem convinced by what I've studied in dozens of books by respected archeologists and historians. Inevitably every school visit Q&A session includes the End Of The World Question.

I can't wait for December 22, 2012.

The sun will rise as another conspiracy theory falls. And I will celebrate my birthday with German Chocolate Cake. Yup, in addition to the Mayan calendar hysteria (people in Russia are doing what?), I'm enduring a lot of "guess I don't need to buy you a present" jokes. It's bad enough to have a too-close to Christmas birthday, but a day after the End of The World birthday? Give me a break!

Here's my favorite response to the End of The World question:


But if I get caught speeding during the next ten days, I'm totally using the End of the World excuse--gotta practice driving like John Cusak in the movie 2012!



Wishing everyone a happy December 22nd and wonderful 2013!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lucky 13 - Jenny O'Connell

Yes, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And the holiday music is playing. And the pine-scented candles are burning (because even if I LOVE Christmas time, I hate cleaning up needles so I have a "simulated" tree that lacks the lovely smell of a fresh one).

2012 was one hell of a year for so many reasons. I'd never say I'm glad to get it over with, because I'll take any year I can get, but I have high hopes for 2013. I really think 13 will be my lucky number.

Why? Well there are so many awesome, wonderful things going on now that it feels like the start of something amazing. OK, so I didn't finish my book in 2012 like I'd hoped, and the sequel to LUKE isn't done either, and a third book I was working on with a collaborator has to wait until those first two things happen... so, you see? 2012 was like being stuck on the spin cycle. 2013 on the other hand, the start of awesome. On so many fronts.

I know that 13 has so many bad connotations (I mean, entire buildings exist without labeling a 13th floor, and you'd think engineers and architects and developers would be the least superstitious people around). But I know that 13 is my lucky number. And it starts in exactly 23 days. I will be ringing in the new year in the most special way and buckling up for 2013. It's going to be an amazing ride! And I can't wait!