Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Squee Heard Round the Target

by Laurie Boyle Crompton

We all have special moments in life when we get that ‘this is it’ feeling inside. That ‘wow this could be kind of a big deal.’ I’ve had my share, getting engaged, married, selling my first YA novel and five more books after, and twice I’ve been blessed to experience the ‘this is it’ moment of giving birth. For me, personally, becoming a mother kind of blows the others away.

So I will always have a crystal-clear memory of going into labor with my first child right in the middle of a shopping trip at our local Target. Living on Long Island means having a limitless selection of stores to shop in, but I’ve always gotten lucky at Target, finding just what I need. It was quite fitting that my unborn daughter turned out to be a big fan as well.

I was at the very end of my pregnancy when my mother and I had the urge to add to the nursery’s already considerable baby clothes collection. My husband and I lived in Long Beach, NY at the time, the land of tiny bungalow houses, and so the baby’s room was small. But ‘just one more onsie’ had become my mom’s mantra, so off to Target we went. 

I’d done plenty of walking along the beach each day, but strolling through that Target must have triggered something in my little girl. I got that deep sense of ‘this is it’ in the form of sudden labor pains! My daughter took her sweet time in coming and so we got to the hospital without drama, but I will never forget rubbing my huge belly as I told the checkout clerk I needed to use her phone to call my doctor. “I’m in labor,” I told her wide-eyed look of surprise. She very quickly ushered me right to the front of the line at customer service. 

Eighteen years later, we still tease my daughter about her deep love of Target. Every time we go she finds something great. So when I got the exciting news that my latest YA novel, PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY, is being stocked at Target it wasn’t hard to convince my daughter to come along and check it out. Below is the video she recorded of my ‘this is it’ moment of seeing my book in the exact same store where our journey together began. As you can see, it makes me a *little* happy.

My favorite part of the whole joy-filled video? When we got to the aisle, my daughter spotted my book right away. If you listen, you can hear her give a little gasp when she sees it. Each time watch this clip it makes me think: That’s right, baby girl, just another magical moment together in the aisle of our local Target.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Not So Overnight Success (Alissa Grosso)

I used to live in a community in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania where our mail was delivered to one of those cluster box units roughly a couple of blocks from my house. This meant that getting the mail was usually combined with walking the dog. Since one of my cats was convinced he was a dog and also needed to go for walks, he usually joined us. I remember that afternoon well as I flipped through the usual pile of bills and junk as our strange little parade made its way home and an envelope caught my eye.

A few months ago I had submitted a short story to something called the Centra PA Writing Contest. Though it was technically open to all Pennsylvania residents, I figured the fact that I lived up in the northeastern corner of the state would work against me, but I was proud of the little story I wrote, and thought it might be worthy enough for at least an honorable mention.

At that point I had been writing for decades, and had spent at least the past five years seriously trying to get somewhere with my writing. I had amassed a very large collection of rejection letters, and here and there had a few small successes. To qualify, by small I mean that no piece of fiction I had written up to that point had earned me more than fifty dollars.

As I juggled the dog leash and the stack of mail, I opened the Central PA Writing Contest envelope. There was a single letter inside that didn't have the look of the standard form rejection letter--I'd become something of an expert when it came to recognizing rejection letters.

I read through the letter quickly as we walked, and then with my heart nearly ready to burst out of my chest, I read it through again to be sure, but I hadn't imagined it. The letter stated that my short story had been chosen as the first place winner, which came with a prize of $500, and I was invited to a special reception.

I know what you're thinking, $500 is hardly a life-changing amount of money, but it was 10 times more than I had ever earned from a piece of fiction. They had picked my little story as the first place winner. I was ecstatic.

Winning that writing contest might seem like a small thing, but it was huge for me. It gave me the confidence to keep pursuing my writing dreams. That small success was one of the things that led to me completing and later selling my first novel.

A lot has changed for me since reading that letter while walking my animals home. I now have seven published books and have earned way more than $500 from my fiction, but I can recall that day like it was yesterday and still feel a thrill when I think about reading the news in that happy letter because I know how important that success was to me and how much it contributed to all my subsequent successes.

What success is waiting out there for you? And where will it lead?

Alissa Grosso writes young adult novels and adult thrillers and chronicles the ups and downs of being an author on her Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Defining Success...One Hug At A Time (Jodi Moore)

I keep a calendar/planner book. I know it’s not “techy”. In fact, it may be downright old-fashioned, but there’s a great sense of accomplishment when I pen my “to do” list (with my favorite colorful Sharpies), and then check off each item as it’s finished.


If you ask 100 people to define the word, you’ll most likely get 100 different answers. That being said, if you ask me to define the word 100 times in that many days, you’ll probably also get 100 different answers.

You see, my perception of success is fairly fluid. It has to be…or I’m not sure I could survive. Writing is…well, hard. The publishing world is subjective. It’s filled with rejection, from industry professionals to booksellers to readers. As with most things in life, there are many variables we can’t control.

So in my humble opinion, sometimes success means simply controlling what we can…and celebrating our little accomplishments along the way. We may wonder if we're making any progress, but as my husband says, falling on your face is still a step forward.

Some days, success can be measured by the act of completing a manuscript. Other days, it’s finding one perfect word. Admittedly, many days it’s being able to forgive myself for accomplishing neither.

Sometimes, it’s sending that completed manuscript out to an agent or editor. Other times, if I receive a rejection (or the dreaded, “no response means no”), it’s managing to eat only one bowl of ice cream instead of wolfing down the entire half gallon.

Some may measure success in literary awards – which are pretty sweet indeed! – but it’s just as important, if not more so, to recognize the family, friends and writer buddies who are there to celebrate with you when you’re up…and support you when you’re down. (For instance, share some ice cream.) Here I am pictured with my bestie, the uber-talented Kimberly Sabatini upon the birth of her fantastic book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE. (I'm like a proud auntie!)

And while I wish I was independently wealthy and could write just because I love it and want to make the world a better place, there comes a time when one must consider finances. After all, writing is a business. So…on the days that I’m out of ice cream, need to pay for a conference or realize how much we still owe on our home and college loans, success means earning royalties and/or securing author visits.

(Full disclosure? We don’t really have control over earnings or even booking events…try as we may.)

But oh, those visits! This is where I get to meet, interact and connect with my readers. They fill my heart to overflowing with their smiles, energy, inspiration and hugs.

What is it they say? A picture is worth a thousand words:

How can this not be the very definition of success?

Oh, look! “Upload YAOTL blog” is on my list. * grabs purple Sharpie* Check!

Ah. Success.

Monday, February 11, 2019

What Success Looks Like (Maryanne Fantalis)

At the end of December, I finished Loving Beatrice, my second book in the Shakespeare's Women Speak series, and sent it off to my publisher.

That's success.

For some reason -- for many reasons -- I struggled to write this second book. Writers often talk about the sophomore slump: how writing the next novel, after you've gotten one published, is really, really hard. I thought the notion was ridiculous... until it happened to me.

I had always assumed that once I was published, the sheer joy of that notion would infuse my writing life with passion. Instead, the idea that people were waiting on this book -- real people, publishing people, readers -- nearly paralyzed me. For a long time, I could not write. I tinkered, I researched, I fidgeted, I pretended, but I didn't produce anything of substance. I, who had long prided myself on never getting "blocked" -- I could not write.

And so, finishing this book is what success looks like to me right now.

Overcoming the almost stultifying fear that I could not write another novel at a level I think is good enough for publication: that's success.

Reminding myself that, in fact, I did have processes in place to accomplish this task: that's success.

Rediscovering my main character's voice: that's success.

Remembering that, no, I do not have to write linearly and that when I sat for nearly SIX MONTHS in one scene, that was a really stupid thing to do and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent writing other scenes and THAT'S a mistake I'll never make again: SUCCESS!

Figuring out that setting unrealistic deadlines and then beating yourself up when you don't reach them and then wallowing in guilt is a bad idea: that's success

Deciding to cheer yourself on when you make progress, even if it's only a hundred words or a bit of planning: also success

Jumping with glee right into the next novel within a couple of weeks after sending off the last one, feeling energized and ready to go, with a mountain of emotional baggage lifted from your shoulders...

Well, yeah. All of that is how I define success right about now. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Success is Always Just a Word Away By: Kimberly Sabatini

Success is...
showing up to write and learn every day--
no matter how long it takes to sell another book.
But believing you will.

Success is...
finding joy in writing--
unaware of where the story will take you.
And always being surprised at the twists and turns.

Success is...
 hearing from readers who find something on your pages and between your words--
and it's changed them.
Which changes you.

Success is...
giving back to your writing community--
because you'll never forget what it felt like to put yourself out there the first time.
And being supported.

Success is...
buying more books than you could ever read--
because every book you rescue from the shelf, gives another author wings.
And teaches you many things.

Success is...
being part of the Kidlit community--
because they rise to the occasion with every natural or human-made disaster.
On multiple levels, books save lives.

Success is...
having Indie Bookstores in your community--
and hanging out within their walls.
Books are meant to be touched.

Success is...
that quiet, stolen chunk of time--
when all the words come tumbling out--inspired.
The spark of Big Magic.

Success is...
the days when you feel anything but successful--
yet you show up to write and learn anyway.
And eat chocolate.
Success is always just a word away.

What makes you feel like a success?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Success: I’ll Know It When I See It (Mary Strand)

This month, the blog topic is supposed to be what “success” looks like to me now.

I’m tempted to keep this short and say “Nooooo idea.”

Still, I hate to waste a perfectly good law degree — from Georgetown, no less, which had the best basketball team in the country at the time, no matter what you may say. (HOYA SAXA.)

So, in a pathetic attempt to take a wild stab at defining success, I’ll start by comparing any definition of success with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which the Supremes were asked to define hard-core pornography: “I shall not today attempt further to define [blah blah blah hard-core pornography]... But I know it when I see it.”

Yeah. Pretty much how I feel about success: I won’t attempt to define it, but I know it when I see it.

A corollary, WAY less famous because I’m the one who says it, usually to my kids: “There are pluses and minuses to everything.”

In other words, success in one thing may result in failure (or at least negatives) in other things, so, really, how can you possibly say what success is?

If I write a gazillion books and they do well, it means fame and glory and money (with any luck), but I won’t have as much time to do other things I may love as much or more: playing guitar, playing sports, listening to live music, or sneaking out with my college-age kid to share Punch Pizza’s AMAZING chocolate hazelnut panini. (Hypothetically speaking. heh heh.)
Chocolate hazelnut panini IS success. Um, I'm pretty sure.

And if, encouraged by success, I start spending all my time writing and promoting my books, will I be happy? Highly doubtful. (In my case. Your mileage may vary.)

Seriously, I have no idea how to deal with this blog topic! Make it go away!

<looks furtively in every direction for savior from this topic> <damn> <foiled again>

Since no blog-topic rescuer is in sight, so I’m indeed forced to answer this burning question, I’ll say this: to me, success isn’t one huge thing, let alone a major culmination of events or the greatest destination in the history of destinations. It’s simply a series of tiny good things that, at particular moments in my life, I think are great. Nice. Sweet.

That’s all. And it’s good enough for me.

 As a queen of lists, I’ll even list a few examples:
  • I sell a book!
  • A friend (or stranger) gives me an out-of-the-ordinary compliment
  • I conquer a guitar solo
  • I win a contest (ANY contest, with any prize)
  • I score fantastic seats to a concert or gig I really, really want to attend
  • My daughter tells me, on a day she’s pissed at me, that I’m a great writer
  • My son texts that he loves me and uses several exclamation points
  • I pop out of the water on my first waterski run of the year
  • I drive the lane on a basketball court and do a loop-de-loop up the middle
  • I write a song
  • I’m there for a friend when he or she really needs me (or vice versa)
Or maybe, late one night when I should either be sleeping or practicing guitar, success is as simple as managing to write a blog post about a topic I’m convinced I can’t possibly write about. Like, for instance, what success looks like to me now.
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Writer's Moving Target: Success

by Fae Rowen

The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus gives these synonyms for success: triumph, victory, smash hit, winner, best seller, sensation, phenomenon.

I'll take any one of those to describe my writing career. Who wouldn't?

Like most things in life, my idea of success as a writer has changed over the years. At first I just wanted to win a writing contest. Then I wanted to get an editor of a large New York publishing house to make an offer for one of my books before I signed with an agent. After that, I would sign with that golden agent everyone dreams of, you know, the one who orchestrates a huge seven-figure auction for the rights to your book. That first book would be a best seller and my agent would have to fight off Hollywood directors who wanted to make it into a movie. Yes, another auction, but I'd keep lots of rights—to be on the set, to veto any changes in the book that I didn't like in the screenplay, to help choose the actors.

Yes, I'm laughing right now. Really. I was naive, and that's being very kind.

I watched my critique partner and friend sign with an agent, then sign multi-book contracts with not one, but two, big New York houses. I was thrilled for her. I knew my time would come soon. Science fiction romance was a harder sell then. Young Adult wasn't even a category yet.

My friend treated her writing and interactions with her agent and editors as a real butt-in-seat job. She
maintained a writing schedule with a daily word count, grew her social media footprint, and wrote great books. She wasn't particularly happy with her covers, or her changing editors, who edited some stories so much they hardly resembled the original. I saw her frustration, even though she never complained and was a "good soldier"—meeting her deadlines and making the requested revisions. She wrote proposals for her agent to pitch and started teaching writing to local writing chapters and at conferences far enough away to need a plane ticket.

During those years, I found someone that I filed away as my dream editor—if I ever had a choice to work with her. I found a cover designer who understood what I wanted and delivered even more. I had a website designed and built a social media platform. I spoke at a couple of conferences. When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew it was the right one for me because I needed control over the publishing pieces that my friend doesn't have.

Yes, I gave up distribution and what marketing New York gives to a debut author (not much these days), but I got to make my own production schedule and I got to work with the team of professionals I'd found. Right now, that's more important to me than large advances and royalty checks. I didn't start writing to make a fortune. I started writing for myself. That others enjoy what I have to say is profoundly gratifying.

It may take me a little longer to make a name for myself, but I still intend to attend the premiere of the movie made from one of my books. Would I sign a contract with a New York house? Maybe. If I found the right agent. But I don't need those contracts now to feel triumph and victory, or to be a smash hit or best seller.

Talking to my readers about my first book, listening to them discuss the characters, how they are waiting for the second book in the series, and hearing their conjectures on what might happen to the people they feel are real, that makes me a winner. Sharing a bit of myself and my vision of what our society might become is my victory.

My feelings about the victory define my success.

And I keep writing. To reach a bigger audience, make a bolder statement, explore more of my ideas.  Will my idea of writing success change? Probably. But that's part of growing up—or into—my new career.

I'd like to wish everyone success today, on the Lunar New Year. This is the Year of the Earth Boar (or Pig), whose motto is "I am eager." This is a year that traditionally holds success, so enjoy all it has to offer you! I wish you a year of great prosperity and happiness. Gung hay fat choy!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

How To Succeed in Writing By Really, Really Trying - Janet Raye Stevens

Hello YA-Outside-the-Liners and welcome to February! 

We’re one month closer to spring and maybe even closer than that if we take Punxsutawney Phil’s word for it (in case you were huddling in a groundhog hole for warmth yesterday and missed it, Phil didn’t see his shadow, so that means an early end to winter!).

This month’s theme is what success looks like now. I was thinking of writing about what success in my everyday life looks like but recounting my skill at successfully matching up every pair of socks I pull out of the dryer or my uncanny ability to snag the last bunch of ripe bananas at the supermarket, while riveting, seems off-topic.

So, I’ll talk about success in writing. And instead of focusing on the now, I’ll start by taking us back to yesteryear and what I thought writing, or rather publishing, success looked like then—back in the days when traditional publishing was king, queen, and emperor all rolled into one. When the big New York publishers actually promoted mid-list authors and “self-publishing” was a dirty (hyphenated) word.

Back then, success to me looked like this:
  • Big book deal with a big-time publisher
  • In-house PR department & promotion
  • Conference appearances
  • Keynote speaker opportunity
  • Book tour 
  • Book signings
  • Multiple print runs
  • Swag & free author copies to pass around
  • Books released in print (both mass-market and trade paperback size)
  • ...and of course, money

Unrealistic, I know, even back then. But when I first started writing for publication, I wanted all of that. Correction, I thought I wanted all of that. 

Since then, the industry has changed, and I’ve changed with it. We’ve both matured. We’ve both been battered by the vagaries of the market and the times that are a-changing. While Amazon and the indie-pub revolution has been chipping away at traditional publishing’s success, I’ve been traveling a convoluted route as I've striven to find my own publishing success. 

I’ve taken classes and workshops and seminars, learning my craft. I’ve sent out hundreds of queries and received an equal number of rejections in return. I had a literary agent offer to rep me and 2 days later change their mind. I’ve entered numerous contests, finalled in and even won some of them, got another agent, and yet another. I’ve been writing and writing and managed to get eight short stories published. All while hoping to eventually ink that big book deal, get that keynote speaking engagement, the multiple print runs, all the swag, and of course, the money. 

Then, one day at a conference, as I sat listening to a multi-best-selling author talk about her long and equally convoluted and Sisyphus-ian journey to success, I realized I didn’t want any of that anymore. Didn’t care about being a keynote speaker or the swag or any of the woo-woo stuff. 

I just wanted to write. And write well.

Success to me now is writing. Cooking up fun and fabulous new plots and bringing those plots to life. Diving into research of other times and places. Continuing to learn the craft and delighting in discovering new facets of my abilities. Success is meeting other authors and becoming friends. Cheering their successes and commiserating with them on their rejections or bad reviews or myriad other un-successes. And success is, of course, the money, in the form of a royalty check I just received for one of my short stories totaling an impressive $2.25.

But most of all, success is having someone tell me they loved reading something I wrote.

Janet Raye Stevens is the successful author of YA, mystery, paranormal, and contemporary romance novels and such short stories with long titles as Mrs. Featherpatch and the Case of the Skewered Ham.