Resolutions, I’ve Had a Few

A newly hatched Emu here, wishing you all a happy new year! In Laurie’s last post, she asked, “Do any of you do any kind of year-end self-review or forward-looking career planning?”

I’ve always been a resolution maker. Since my teenage years, I have started each year with a list of goals for myself. The questions that frame my list are “Where do I want to be this time next year?” and “What steps can I take to get myself there?”

Looking over the past five years of resolutions, you might notice a trend with my professional goals. I’ll make some notes on whether or not I met my resolutions in each year.

2009:

  • Finish revision of Book Scavenger. Nope.
  • Find an agent. Nope.
  • Sell a book. Nope.

I refer to 2009 as The Year That Shall Not Be Named. It was a really bad year. It was the kind of year that tries to break you, and I’ll be honest, it did for a while. I got very little writing done that year, much less met any of my resolutions.

2010:

  • Finish revision of Book Scavenger. No.
  • Find an agent. No.
  • Sell a book. Hahahaha–no.

Although I didn’t accomplish any of my resolutions this year, I did get my writing mojo going again. Because of the scope of the revision I was undertaking–really re-writing the book when it came down to it–I could tell it was going to take me a while to get my story where I wanted it to be. This realization was a bitter pill to swallow, especially because there was a wonderful editor who had expressed enthusiasm for my book premise and writing four years prior.  Several writing friends encouraged me to send my current draft so I didn’t lose out on this editor’s interest. There were many good bits in that old draft, but it wasn’t working together as a whole, and what was on paper didn’t match what was in my head. I knew if I couldn’t execute my premise in a satisfying way, it wouldn’t matter how good the writing was. I stuck to my guns and kept plowing forward.

Summarizing my resolve like that makes it seem simpler than it was. That point in my writing journey was filled with frustration and self-doubt. To distract myself from that and give myself a positive outlet for engaging in the children’s literature community that I love so much, I began an interview series on my blog called “Creative Spaces”. Doing this was daunting, fun, inspirational, and in retrospect I think it played a crucial role in keeping me moving forward with my book and pursuing my dreams of being a children’s book author.

2011:

  • Finish revision of Book ScavengerYes!
  • Find an agent. No.
  • Sell a book. Yeah, no.

I finished my second draft in January, and man, did that feel great! I knew it still needed work and after getting feedback from critique partners I started on Draft 3.

And while I didn’t find an agent, I did receive a lovely surprise email from Ammi-Joan Paquette, who had visited my blog and was intrigued by the pitch line I’d posted about my novel: “The Westing Game meets Goonies at a slumber party thrown by Edgar Allen Poe.” I told her I was revising the novel but had a picture book manuscript that had been very nearly accepted for publication twice. Joan loved the picture book, but didn’t sign clients unless they had at least 2 or 3 picture book manuscripts ready to go. I had two others in pretty good shape and was going to send them to her, but had a picture book conference that weekend. I figured the picture books would be better after I received feedback on them at the conference, so I held off and in the meantime sent Joan the first 50 pages of Book Scavenger. After the conference, I was toiling away on the picture book revisions when Joan sent me an incredibly enthusiastic email about what she’d read of my novel. I scrapped my plans to revise the picture books and poured all my writing time back into Book Scavenger.

2012:

  • Finish revision of Book ScavengerYes!
  • Find an agent. Not yet.
  • Sell a book. Not even close.

I finished my third draft of Book Scavenger and sent it to Ammi-Joan Paquette. She loved it, but wanted me to cut it down from 75,000 words to 50,000.

2013:

  • Finish revision of Book ScavengerYes!
  • Find an agent. YES!
  • Sell a book. YES!!!

I finished my 4th draft of Book Scavenger, following Joan’s suggestions, and brought the final word count in around 50k. Joan loved what I did with the 4th draft and she signed me as her client this past March. I did another revision mainly focusing on the ending, and after ten years in the making, Book Scavenger finally went on submission in July. Not only did I sell Book Scavenger, but my publisher bought a sequel and a third stand-alone middle-grade mystery on proposal.

So as you can see, using the past five years as a guide, I fell flat on my face as far as accomplishing resolutions were concerned about 90% of the time. But I don’t consider them failures. Why? Because I continued to move forward and I continued to try. That’s what makes the difference between a resolution and wishful thinking. I can resolve to lose twenty pounds but not change anything about the way I eat or exercise. As long as I take steps forward, whether they are drastic (cut out sugar and join an exercise boot camp) or subtle (resolve to eat one healthy meal a week and go on more walks), I’m proactively changing the trajectory of my arc.

This year when I sat down to make my list as usual, a funny thing happened. I drew a big, fat blank. At first I worried that something was wrong with my goal-oriented sensibilities. But then I realized that 2013 had rushed by in a blur of life-altering, goal-achieving moments. Not just professionally but personally too. My husband and I bought our first home together and we celebrated our son’s first birthday. Like my writing goals, those were long sought after aspirations, and I’m not ready to move on to the next thing yet. I want to sit and savor where I’m at, what I’ve accomplished.

So my resolution for 2014 is to enjoy the moment. This time next year, my son will be a chatterbox and I’ll be thinking about things like preschool and T-ball. This time next year, our house will be a home–more lived in, more unpacked, more of our life and personality stamped onto every room. This time next year, my edits for Book Scavenger will be done. I’ll have completed a draft for my second book–possibly even a revision. I’ll have a game plan in motion for the Book Scavenger sequel. Holy cow, I’ll be preparing for the launch of my debut novel!

Everything I am experiencing right now is fleeting and once-in-a-lifetime. My son will only be 20-months-old once. This house will only be new and a blank slate once. I will only be in the post-book deal/pre-published author limbo once. Instead of focusing on what else I hope to accomplish and where I want to go next, in 2014 I want to embrace what is happening right now. Appreciate what fills my life right now.

It occurs to me that this is true of all moments in time. Every moment we are living is fleeting, whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between. Everything is temporary and it all goes by so fast in retrospect. It would probably be wise of me to keep this resolution for all years to come and combine it with my forward-looking goal-oriented approach. Dream big and make plans to move toward them, but appreciate the journey along the way.

But that’s for next year. For 2014: Savor the moment.

 

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Jennifer Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, The Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). The Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “Resolutions, I’ve Had a Few

  1. Your journey really resonates with me, Jenn. I think that the Year That Shall Not Be Named is the kind of thing we all want to forget, but that really shapes and readies us for this path. I’m so glad you kept on pushing through! Congratulations on BOOK SCAVENGER.

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  2. This is such a fantastic intro, Jenn! I’m so glad you’re here with us at the Emu’s. 🙂

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  3. Great post, Jenn, and such good advice to keep in mind. I think I tend to focus too much on what happened and what could happen next, and not enough on what is happening right now. And you’re right: this is a pretty cool place to be! 🙂 So, as of right now, I’m adopting “Savor the moment” as one of my big goals for 2014, too. Here’s to us, and welcome aboard!

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  4. Loved your post, Jenn! Boy, did I have a lot of those years of ugh (2008 was a killer). So glad you stuck with it! Your goal for 2014 is very, very wise, and I shall borrow it as well.

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  5. Ann Bedichek

    Savor the moment. I love that as a new years resolution — especially given where you’ve come from. I feel like we’re always pushing, pushing, pushing for the next thing, and really, stopping to recognize how far we’ve come is crucial!

    Thank you so much for this post!

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  6. Jenn, Love this post! The message resonates with me! It’s easy to get so caught up in “what I need to do” that I don’t slow down and savor! I’m going to do a little more savoring and think of it as just as important as “what I need to do”. I think savoring will help add a little happy slow motion to the blur of busyness!

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  7. I LOVE this post, Jenn. I can realte to so much in it. So honest, so wise.

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  8. Jenn, thanks so much for sharing your journey, your goals and progress toward meeting them. This work is so much about perseverance that, yes, it is important to savor the moment.

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  9. Loved reading this.
    What blew me away was that your wonderful agent initially *contacted you.* Does this really happen? Well, it did to you, so it must happen sometime.
    Never mind 2009-2012. Two thousand and thirteen was your year. Many good wishes for the one we just entered.

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    • Thank you, Mirka! And yeah, that blew me away too. I didn’t think it happened either and freaked me out in the best possible way when Joan’s name popped up in my inbox. Best wishes for your 2014 journey as well!

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  10. It was probably in 2009 or 2010 when you and I had one of our coffee shop meet-ups and you told me about this great blog for writers: EMUs Debuts. And now here you are! I have always known you would hit all of those resolutions — revised, agented, published — because you are such a talented writer, and I could not be more thrilled for you. I look forward to sharing your journey here on this blog… and don’t get so famous we can’t still meet up for chai! 🙂

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  11. Love everything about this post 🙂 And huge congratulations, can’t wait to read The Book Scavenger!

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  12. kevanjatt

    Continuing to move forward. The most important take away here. Thanks for sharing this year after year progress, Jenn! Very inspiring/encouraging!

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  13. leandrajwallace

    Hooray for your 2013! Persistance and belief really are key. Here’s to savoring 2014! 🙂

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  14. Some years are meant for sowing and some for harvesting. What a great 2013 it was. Wishing you all the best to savour in 2014!

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  15. Oh, I love this, Jenn. I think we can all relate. And you’re right that you absolutely must slow down and savor these fleeting moments. Happy New Year!

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  16. Gotta love 2013!!! Congratulations! 🙂 e

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  17. I’m a teen and I really love your blog! I want to be a writer one day. So one of my New Year’s Resolution is to prepare myself and like you mentioned, Enjoy my way along the journey. I probably should read more and more books to improve my English, (Since English is my second language). I really look forward to the day where I can meet you in person and share all of your AMAZING experience 🙂

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    • Hi Daniel! Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I firmly believe if you want to be a published writer, you can be and you will be. Just keep working at it no matter what challenges get thrown your way. Take in everything that life offers you–it’s all fodder for future stories. And read a lot! Good luck to you!

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