Category Archives: rejection and success

you have to have one before the other.

After the Ecstasy, the Editing

Everything editors, agents, and authors have told me at SCBWI conferences has turned out to be true, particularly the things I didn’t believe would be true for me.

For example, I’ve been told that getting a book deal will not magically transform me into a permanently satisfied, optimistic, and resilient human.  When SCBWI folks said stuff like that, I remember thinking, “Oh, I’m sure that’s true for the other pre-published writers here, but not me. Once I get a book deal, I may still be an easily-exhausted anxiety-prone weirdo, but then I’ll be that weirdo WITH A BOOK DEAL AND THAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.”

Nope. Sigh.

After the ecstasy of getting “the call” in 2016 from my darling agent and connecting with my talented editor to begin the publication journey for my debut middle-grade novel, I expected to wallow in utter contentment for a long time. Years of wallowing. At the very least I’d wallow through the whole process of getting my manuscript out into the world.

Then the first round of revision edits was delivered to my door, and with it arrived the Mind Games Writers Play On Ourselves (yep, MGWPOO).

I got caught up in such MGWPOO favorites as:Shel Silverstein head

  • I’m Not a Real Writer
  • Before I Can Handle Criticism, I Need to Die
  • Chasing False Measures of Success
  • Envy of All the Other Writers Who Don’t Struggle with This Crap
  • The 33 -Minute Limit of Success-Fueled Joy-Basking Before I Find a Way to Undermine Myself
  • The Permanent Longing for Success That Makes Hope Painful.

 

TheySidecar (4) come roaring along with every new delivery of manuscript revisions, like rumbling motorcycles leaving greasy tire tracks across my soul, and this thousand-pound steel sidecar is attached to every single one: Beating Myself Up for Falling into Mind Games Again.

What’s an anxiety-prone weirdo to do?

First, I think, find another writer somewhere who will tell you that you are not alone in this. (You’ve found me. I’m telling you. You’re not.) Airing out the mind games, bringing them into the light of discussion with your fellow writers shows them up for what they are: common. Common as commas.  I’m beginning to think none of us can publish a manuscript with some of them in the mix.

Editing Kit Kats

Next, it seems smart not to assume the mind games will pass us by.  We must arm ourselves for the ongoing battle; perhaps with weapons of Show Kindness to Fellow Writers and Give Yourself Time and Turn the Nebulous Sense of Mortal Despair into a Concrete To-Do List. I’m still working on this concept as my battle armor currently consists of a jar of Kit Kats.

But I’ve got my MGWPOO out in the open now, here in the light of EMU’s Debuts, and that’s a start.

(Many thanks for the warm wit and wisdom of my agency-mates Anne Nesbet, Ann Bedichek, and Sophie Petersen for convening the Special Committee on Writerly Mind Games and How to Defeat Them. Check out Anne Nesbet’s Middle Grade Mayhem post on the same topic!)


Christina Uss

CHRISTINA USS is a bike writer, bike rider, mother of twins and dweller of Massachusetts. Her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out Spring 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House. Help her learn to dodge the MGWPOO at http://www.christinauss.com.


 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, jealousy, process, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

What Success Looks Like: Lessons from Little League

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This spring, it felt like my life had been taken over by little league. I had a daughter playing softball and a son playing baseball and between the two of them, we seemed to do little else. (Practice, games, driving, washing uniforms, packing snacks, Gatorade runs, etc.)

Things got significantly more exciting at the end of the season, because,

1. My daughter’s team won the championship, and

2. My son finally got a chance to pitch.

Each of these gave me a picture of what success looks like that I’ve been pondering ever since. As long as we’re writing, we’ll be judging our writing and determining its success. Sometimes by valid measures, sometimes not. Sometimes by internal measures, sometimes external. Each of us has a picture of what success would look like–a finished manuscript, an agent, a book deal, a bestseller, a movie deal, a starred review, a National Book Award. The picture changes as we move forward, and sometimes the finish line seems to recede on the horizon. When can we truly count ourselves successful?

Here’s what I learned from each of these little league experiences.

Lesson #1: As I mentioned, my daughter’s team won the championship. I think the magnitude of this is best illustrated by a conversation I had with my husband the night before the tournament started.

Me: Do you think we need to keep Wednesday clear on the schedule?

Husband: [laughs] No.

Me: Yeah. You’re right. At this point, there is a 0% chance they’ll be in the championship game.

Yes, I said those actual words. I wasn’t being cruel or pessimistic, just as realistic as possible. The team had lost almost all of their games. They were having fun, and we absolutely considered it a successful season, but 0% seemed like an honest assessment of their chances of winning their first two games and making it to the championship. But, of course, they did, and we scrambled to get her to that championship game, which her team won soundly. This is how happy she was:

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So what’s the lesson in this? You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if you’re being absolutely practical (or even pessimistic) about your chances of success and determine the odds to be near zero, success may find you anyway. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.

Lesson #2: Ever since the Giants won the World Series in 2014 almost entirely on the pitching of Madison Bumgarner, my son has wanted to be a pitcher. And not in that “I want to be a pitcher and now I’m going to play video games” kind of way. He has pitched to his dad and his grandpa and his coaches and friends, and when nobody was there to catch the ball, he pitched to the back fence. He practiced almost every day, but for most of the season, there were better pitchers on the team and he played second base. But still, he pitched to people and walls and threw invisible baseballs in the kitchen.

And then his time came. He got to pitch a couple of innings. He walked the first batter, then pulled it together and shut down the next two innings, including four strikeouts. The next game, his coach let him pitch until he’d reached the league maximum pitch count. His coach later described the game as “by far the best pitching performance we’ve seen all season.”

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This one was a strike for sure. 🙂

Again, the lesson: You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if all your hard work seems to have gotten you nowhere, your big break (pun intended) may be in the very next inning. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.

His team didn’t win the championship. She practiced and never got to throw a pitch in a game. Neither reached every goal they set out to accomplish. But do all three of us consider these little league seasons successful? Absolutely. Because success depends on showing up and working hard and, yes, achievement, but it’s about perspective too. We have to allow ourselves to celebrate. We have to create room in our hearts to recognize the successes, and to set things aside to shoot for next season.

I believe in you, readers. Whatever your picture of success looks like, I would not put your odds at 0%, and clearly it wouldn’t matter if I did. If you show up and work hard, good things will happen, often when you least expect them. In the words of my wonderful grandmother, who never once wished me good luck:

“Luck has nothing to do with it. You’re ready! I wish you success!”

____________________________________________

profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Inspiration, rejection and success, Satisfaction

When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

You hear authors say “I’ve been writing all my life” or “I’ve been writing since I was a little kid.” But for many of us I think the moment we actually label ourselves a “writer” can represent a significant step in this journey we’re on. This was true for me. In one of my early journals I wrote the following –

IMG_0152I couldn’t spell (thank the gods for spell check), but I obviously knew I wanted to write. I wrote all through high school, won a statewide poetry award, but then life got in the way. I wasn’t confident that I could make a living writing. I got interested in environmental issues and went a more scientific path. Even so the sneaky writing muse was watching out for me. I didn’t end up in a lab, I became a planner and project manager with significant responsibilities in, you guessed it, technical writing. But the writing I do for work is as far from creative writing as you can get while still using words.

For years I thought I couldn’t write creatively and do the technical work I was making my living at – then after a while (and I mean a decade or two) my thinking shifted. I give huge credit to my parents, they always remembered I was a writer when I forgot, and this helped me admit that since there were always four or five stories gamboling about in my head, I might as well write them down.

For a while it was my little secret. I didn’t tell family or friends. Then over time when people asked “what’s new” I would shyly admit that I was doing some writing on the side. It was well into my second full manuscript, that I realized two fundamental truths. First – if I called myself a writer, not only would others take me more seriously, but I would feel more grounded in the responsibility of putting butt in chair and getting the work done. Second, I’d been hesitant to call myself a writer because I didn’t have an agent and I wasn’t published, but in fact I was a writer. I was putting the words down, reading, honing my craft skills, and becoming active in this amazing world of other writers doing the same thing. So, if you are in that place between “doing some writing” and “being a writer” I urge you to take that leap. Honor your skills and the hard work you’re doing by calling yourself what you are. Print up business cards. Put it on your Face Book page. Then enjoy the journey.

P.S. if you want more in this vein, run don’t walk to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC. Empowering – I promise.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter @Darcey_r

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Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life

Handling Rejection

Last fall, I read an inspiring article on Tara Lazar’s PiBoMo blog by Karen Henry Clark describing her struggle to get published. Eventually, in 2010, her beautiful picture book, Sweet Baby Moon: An Adoption Tale, was picked up by Knopf. Since then, all her manuscripts have been rejected.

She concludes, “What I’ve come to understand is that success requires more than writing a great story. You have to understand your writing journey. . . . Sometimes you land in a canyon, but you can write down there, too. I am.”

On the same day, I read an article by Joelle Han in Yoga Journal titled, “How to Fail Up.” Han states, “Sometimes falling short of your goal, or even missing it entirely, is the first step toward success.” She offers several steps for dealing with failure, but I found the first two to be the most important.

But I thought I was supreme dictator.

WHY me? Why ME? Why NOT me?

First, “Sit with the misery.” Your disappointment is normal. This is the canyon Clark talks about.

Second, “Decouple your ego from your action.” As a writer, I interpret this to mean, “Don’t take it personally.” Having weathered dozens of rejections – some from editors who had accepted my previous work – I’ve become a pragmatist. Yes, you may write with all your heart and soul, but that’s not what you are selling.

Your manuscript is a product. If your agent takes it on, she believes a publisher out there may choose to invest the time and money to print and distribute it. Maybe this won’t happen. Maybe, if you persevere, it will.

Writing and revising a manuscript is like designing and sewing a unique garment, hoping to find an editor who declares it a “perfect fit.” This may take years. In 2006, I began submitting my manuscript Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More! Poems for Two Voices, to publishers who, at that time, accepted unagented submissions. It got dozens of slow rejections. Three years later, Sally Doherty at Holt “plucked it from the slush pile. ” She loved some of the poems, but wanted some new ones on specific topics to unify the theme. Would I be willing to write them? Of course!

SeedsBeesButterflies high res cvr Five years later (in this industry, everything is slow!), Seeds, Bees was published. It received excellent reviews. Kids loved it.  Teachers blogged about it.  A five-star review on Goodreads called it “Brilliant.”  In 2014 it was named a “notable” poetry book by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Yay for me right? Holt would surely want to publish another book of poems for two voices. But no. Though the editor loved my first book, the finance people said sales – though acceptable – were not stellar. Translation: they needed a bigger return on their investment.

Wah for me! I put the second “Poems for Two Voices” manuscript aside and worked on other projects. Recently, I reread the first few poems and decided to write more. Meantime, Ammi-Joan Paquette has sold Ten Busy Brooms to Doubleday and “nearly” sold another manuscript to Sterling. (Another case of the editor loving it but the sales team rejecting it.) Joan is also circulating two other PB manuscripts that haven’t yet found the right “fit” with an editor. We’re both optimistic.

Meantime, like Karen Henry Clark, I’ll write from my canyon. I’ll sit briefly with my misery.  But I’ll keep on writing. I hope you will, too.

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Filed under Advice, rejection and success

A Fan Letter to Readers

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Dear Readers Everywhere,

I know you probably hear this a lot, but I’m seriously your biggest fan! I’ve wanted to meet you for over a decade, and now that it’s finally happened, I’m totally FREAKING OUT!

You know that one day when you said how much you loved my book? Oh . . . my . . . gosh. My heart was beating a million times a minute. I keep wondering if you’re all secretly related to me, or if maybe my mother has made a hundred or so sock-puppet Goodreads accounts just so she can encourage me to keep writing.

But then you tell me you’re from the Philippines, or Texas, or Canada, or London, or Slovenia, or that gorgeous African island of Mauritius, and I just can’t wrap my head around it! And never in a million years did I think that even one of the 1.2 billion people in India would even know I existed, let alone be excited to read a novel I wrote! Like . . . what?!

You do realize that I grew up in a small town of about 5,000 people, right? That the most outrageous thing I ever dreamed of was going to Hawaii one day? And when that happened at sixteen (my first plane ride), I thought, “Wow. That’s about as good as life can get.”

But then I decided to be a writer. And I hoped people would actually like what I wrote, enough to even pay money for it. But I soon learned that this dream was, as some teenagers today might have told me, totes cray cray.

I had no clue whatsoever how much work would be involved, or how many times I would get my heart broken, or feel like a complete and utter idiot for even thinking I could become a published author.

But you, super-awesome readers, have changed everything. You’ve made me believe that all of the hard work and heartache was not only worth it, but have given me so much HAPPINESS that I’m jumping up and down with jazz hands in the air, wanting to do it all over again!

So sign me up for even more writer’s block, and self-doubt, and pulling my hair out! Go ahead and toss in some of that heartache and rejection! That’s right!

I’m ready.

This time I’m well prepared for the crazy/awful/awesome pathway to publication, because I now know who’s waiting for me at the end of it.

You.

 

All of my fan-girling love and deepest gratitude,

Amy Finnegan, Published author of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, Bloomsbury 2014 (OMG!!!)

Book for Chris

Just one of many amazing people I signed a book for in the past month! #Star-Lord

Gabrielle

Gabrielle from New Hampshire. The first reader I know of to spy it & buy it in the wild!

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Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, Instagram: StrangerThanFictionWriter, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, reading, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Updates on our Books!, Writing and Life

Enter the Sophomore EMU, with Wild Eyes and Frothy Spittle

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The original EMU’s Debuters: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Natalie Lorenzi, L.B. Schulman, Jeannie Mobley, J Anderson Coats, Cynthia Levinson (not pictured, Mike Jung and Michelle Garson Ray)

It’s been about four years since I first got the idea of creating EMU’s Debuts We started out as eight writers who had all sold our debut books close in time, and wanted to band together through the debut experience and share it with the world. But after our debut books came out? Well–we weren’t really thinking that far ahead four years ago. We were all still reveling in the glorious glow of that first book sale–of passing through the golden gate of We Made It and All Our Troubles Are Over Now.

It's no wonder each step is a surprise when I'm walking around on these weird dinosaur emu feet.

Walking the path together is always better when you have a mob of emus walking it with you.

We all gained a fringe benefit we hadn’t counted on with the blog. We became a strong support group for each other as we entered the forests of Oh My God, What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?! found just on the other side of the golden gate. Together, we traversed the You Want the Revisions When?! Mountains, and passed through the desolation of the Waiting For Reviews Wastelands. And of course, we were all there together with aid and confetti for the Who Knew A Book Release Was this Much Work?! stretch at the finish line. And that turned out to be really, really good support to have.

Where our reasoning broke down, however, was in the belief that there was, in fact, a finish line. In the confusion between whether the debut book release was the finish line, or the starting line. Because after the first book, there is–hopefully–a second book, and then–hopefully–a third book, and so on. And none of those book deals are necessarily easier than the first. That’s right. That gold on the gate? It’s just spray paint.

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

So, here I am, back to celebrate the release of my sophomore book, and wondering why we didn’t set up a sophomore book blog, or a…Um. What is the third book? Junior book blog? That sounds odd.

There aren’t many blogs that talk about those second book deals, which is a shame, because several people have told me that around the second to third book is when it gets really rough–when a lot of authors find themselves in a convoluted morass that threatens their careers and sanity. I didn’t really believe the people who told me this. Some of them, I suspected, were just looking for an excuse to slip the word “morass” into a sentence. Others had that wild look in their eye or that weird tic at the corner of their slightly frothing mouths that rendered them, in my opinion, a bit untrustworthy.

But here’s the truth. The second book is hard. Just like the first book is hard. And also, in totally different ways to how the first book is hard. There. I said it, and very little foam escaped my lips when I did. So you can trust me on this.

The truth is, this is a hard industry, and the minute you let yourself think, “I made it! It’s going to be a cakewalk from here on out!” you’re in for a heap of trouble and disappointment.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn't a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina's Wish release party in 2012.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn’t a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina’s Wish release party in 2012.

I learned this lesson on the afternoon before the release party for my debut novel, Katerina’s Wish. I was less than 24 hours away from having a whole crowd of friends and family at the library celebrating my rising star as a novelist, when I got the email to let me know that my editor was rejecting both of my next two manuscripts. Two manuscripts that, to me, felt so much stronger and better than the book that was coming out. Manuscripts that I had already anticipated would set up my future. When Katerina’s Wish had gone out on submission, I had no reason to believe it would be acquired. Now I had a great relationship with an editor, and two new manuscripts in which I had incorporated all I had learned from the first book. I was sure they were the next big thing. I had made assumptions that I had some kind of “in” that was going to see my way to success. Now there I was, facing a release party where I had to smile and give everyone the impression my career was roaring forward when I had just slammed face first into a brick wall, and my career was a twisted wreckage around my feet.

That was my first lesson about the sophomore book. Assume nothing. Every book is unique in the acquisition process (unless you get one of those crazy multi-book deals, which can have its own pitfalls, including the high probability that I’m going to totally hate you for it.) Selling one book predicts very little about selling the second. Or the third, or probably the four thousandth. I’ll report back in about a million years and let you know for sure about the four thousandth.

As it turned out, however, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, probably cast by that bonfire of my vanities. Because a conversation with my editor a few weeks later about one of the two rejected manuscripts led to revisions, and my editor acquired the revised manuscript about four months later. And so the sophomore book process began, despite the terrible timing that had cast it all in such devastating light.

The difference between getting the second book out into the world compared to the first, though, was that the debut book was an adventure–a dive into the unknown. The second book, at least for me, was acquired, and then I felt like the main work was done and I needed to be looking farther forward. After it was acquired, I didn’t feel I could relax into the process of publishing that book. Revisions, copy edits, first pass pages–the whole process felt like something of an afterthought, because my focus moved immediately to what I needed to do to get the next manuscript out there. The crushing smack of reality that came with those rejections somehow reframed my thinking into a focus more on the career track than on the individual manuscripts. Which is not to say I was writing for the market–not at all. But I did become much more concerned with the struggle for survival as a published author.

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A metaphoric representation of the novelist after her debut. She’s the big cow, in case you were wondering. (Photo credit: Corinata, via Wikicommons.)

With the first book, there is a sense that you have been given life, that you are growing, thriving, coming into your own. After that, it’s just the tooth and claw struggle to survive in a dog eat dog world, where every scratch and bite has the potential to fester, gangrenous on your soul, until you rot from the inside out and

 

die

DIE

DIIIEEEE!!!!!

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I get a little frothy spittle on your face there? Let me just wipe that off.

Years ago, when I first decided to go from writing for a hobby to pursuing it as a career, I hesitated, afraid doing so would take the enjoyment out of the process for me. This is what I let overtake me in the years of my sophomore book.

I let myself bog down in the industry details, railing and storming against the walls and barriers and silent indifference that blocked my way forward. I struggled fruitlessly in the conflicts between my vision and the vision others have for my work. I got lost in the morass of difficulties that had nothing to do with the bottom line–me and my muse and the words on the page.

And that was my biggest error. I let the business of being an author overshadow the joy, the beauty, the story at the heart of being a writer. I forgot to play- with language, with my characters, with plot. I forgot that that is what matters, because that is all I can do, all I can control. All that will make me better, instead of bitter.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

And so here I am, the sophomore novelist, having come through the fire–one that I no doubt stoked myself. Ironically, my second novel, Searching for Silverheels is the story of an innocent, romantically minded girl and a cynical old woman, a story of what feels a bit like the old me and the new me, although I penned it well before the events that would reshape me began. The book now feels somehow prophetic.

I hope to eventually have a third book, and a fourth, and eventually, a viable career. But in the mean time, I’m playing. I’m seeking joy. And I’m rereading my ending, where the cynic and the romantic find a peaceful, secure path forward together. And I’m wishing every writer out there, debut or otherwise, the good luck and good sense to find their way through, or better yet, around the morass. Because, seriously. It’s an awesome word, but you can find other ways to slip it into a sentence.

Relish the joy, and the celebration of every book, published or otherwise.

 

***

About Searching For Silverheels

by Jeannie Mobley

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

“An engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines with a touch of romance and intrigue.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Readers follow Pearl in her quest to learn the truth about the dancer nicknamed Silverheels, and they see her shed her complacence for a determination to do right, no matter the cost. Mobley uses the microcosm of Como to echo the broader issues of the day—women’s suffrage, the Great War, prejudice, and class divisions—yet she doesn’t overwhelm readers or the town with these themes.” (School Library Journal)

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Filed under Happiness, Launch, Patience, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

BE A CHANGEMAKER: Celebrating with Quotes!

Be A Changemaker by Laurie Ann ThompsonWe are continuing the celebration for Laurie Ann Thompson’s debut Be A Changemaker, which will be published on September 16. Inspirational quotes are peppered throughout the book, and so we Emu’s decided to share quotes that have been meaningful and motivating to us. We’d love to hear your favorite quotes too!

And remember, comment on any post this week and be entered to win a signed copy of Be A Changemaker!

 

 

From Donna Bowman Bratton:

This quote by Ben Franklin has been posted above my computer for years. It obviously speaks to the writer in me, but it hints, too, at taking conscious actions for change.

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 I love this quote by Charles Lamb because it so simply speaks to the heart of any good deed, large or small.

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Of course, the ultimate quote for any changemaker comes from Mahatma Gandhi:
 
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From Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

This quote reinforces my belief that even our smallest actions can make a difference, even though we may never witness the impact, and reminds me that I want to be someone who brightens the day for others, rather than tarnishes it.

 

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From Christine Hayes:

You can probably see why, as a writer, I find this quote inspiring. 🙂 I usually substitute “people” for “men” in my own mind, and I’ve seen that done all over the web as well, but I’m guessing the version below is the correct one. On the days when I feel especially short on talent, this quote keeps me going.

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From Amy Finnigan:

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From Penny Parker Klostermann:

Dr. Seuss is kind of my go-to guy for a laugh or for a quick reminder that I’m in charge of doing the work it takes to reach my dreams.

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From Lindsey Lane:

What I love about this quote is that Goethe was born in 1749 and I’ve experienced the ‘truth’ of his observation time and again. If I don’t begin, nothing happens.

 

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From Mylisa Larsen:

Usually when you see someone making something look effortless, it’s because they spent thousands of hours mastering whatever they’re making seem simple and inevitable. This is a quote that gets me back to my desk to put in some more hours.

 

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From Joshua McCune:

This quote adapted from Emerson’s poem “Merlin’s Song” reminds me to not just live life to the fullest, but to live it as myself, to open myself to new experiences, and to do it with joy. It’s that last part that’s hardest for me. Scowl, and the world scowls at you. Smile, and the world smiles with you. The world could use more smiles.

DTWA

 

From Megan Morrison:

This idea is at the marrow of my personal belief system. Success requires two things: a clear vision and the will to carry it out, and this is true whether you want to change your wallpaper or change the world.  The first part is tricky, because it requires that we are honest with ourselves about what we want and what we are willing to do. The second part is grueling, because it requires consistent action over a long period of time, and that action must be sustained even during times of doubt and lack of inspiration. But commitment is its own reward. Nothing is more satisfying than to look back after many months and years of climbing a personal mountain to see how far you’ve really come.
 
First-say-to-yourself
 

 

 
 
 
From Rebecca Van Slyke:
I like this quote because I was so, SO close to that ‘give up’ point, but a friend sat me down and pointedly told me that I needed to keep going, fire my current agent, pursue a different agent, and keep writing. A few months later I had 4 books in contract.
 
 
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From Dana Walrath:
 
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You can get your own copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations, Creativity, Discipline, Faith, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, Patience, rejection and success

On overnight success (Surprise! It’s a lot like failure.)

Both of last week’s posts here were about failure, or at least the constant perceived threat of failure that so often makes it hard for us to move forward. I’m going to continue the theme, but on a slightly different note. Our own Emu Empress, Erin MUrphy, once said something along the lines of, “For every success, there is a waiting period that feels like failure.” And in a post on this very blog almost three years ago, she followed that up with, “But it’s NOT! It’s just waiting!”

When she wrote that post back in 2011, I’d only been with the agency for a few months. One year from now, I’ll have three books published. That doesn’t seem like very much waiting, especially to those familiar with the pace of the publishing industry. Many of my writer friends have walked up to me and said something to the effect of, “Wow, you’re on FIRE!” Some say things like, “I guess you’ve been busy lately!” Others ask, “So, what’s your secret?” as if I’m holding out on them. A few say, “Boy, did you get lucky!” never thinking that some authors might be a little bit offended by that. (I never am: Yes, indeed, I have gotten very, very lucky!)

So, in the interests of dispelling myths and keeping things real, I thought it might be helpful to break down my “overnight success:”

  • Early 1970s: I fell in love with reading: books, magazines, encyclopedias, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, you name it, I read it.
  • Somewhere around 1980: I sent away for the application to the Institute of Children’s Literature, filled it out and was accepted! Sadly, my parents didn’t think I was quite ready for a literary career, since I was still in elementary school.
  • Late 1980s: I wrote lots of angsty teen poetry, got my first word processor, and discovered term papers – what fun!
  • Early 1990s: I minored in technical writing and grammar in college and took honors English courses, even while I went for a “sensible” career in software engineering.
  • 2000: A good friend told me I should stop telling her about all the things I was learning and just write my explanations down for everyone to read. I suspect she might have just been trying to shut me up, but I jumped at the suggestion.
  • 2004: My first article was published by a regional parenting magazine.
  • 2004: I started working on the manuscript that would become both EMMANUEL’S DREAM and BE A CHANGEMAKER (yes, a picture-book biography and a teen how-to guide both evolved from the same project).
  • 2006: I enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature course… finally!
  • 2006: My first magazine article for kids was published.
  • 2008: I joined SCBWI.
  • 2009: I wrote MY DOG IS THE BEST for an online workshop with Anastasia Suen.
  • 2011: I signed with my amazing agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary.
  • 2012: EMMANUEL’S DREAM sold.
  • 2013: BE A CHANGEMAKER and MY DOG IS THE BEST sold.

You can see that there was an awful lot of waiting that felt like failure in there. Of course, I wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing in those spaces between the bullet points, either. I was constantly taking classes, reading, studying, writing, getting feedback, revising, submitting… I have dozens of manuscripts and proposals that will never become books and hundreds of ideas that will never even become manuscripts. I’ve collected what feels like thousands of rejections, and still that number continues to grow!

Each one of those could be seen as failure (and, believe me, some days they sure do feel like it), but I try to look at them more as necessary delays, like with air traffic control… or Frogger. Remember how you had to ride the log until another one came by and then jump at just the right moment? Having just the right wait time will eventually put me on the right track with the right skills and life experience for the right idea for the right editor at the right time (hopefully!). After all, what can we do but keep working, putting our work out there, and hoping, even if that means to perpetually risk failure? It’s the only way I know of to get to success.


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, will be published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. She also has two upcoming picture books: EMMANUEL’S DREAM, a picture-book biography with Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House (January 2015), and MY DOG IS THE BEST, a fiction picture book with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Discipline, Faith, Rejection, rejection and success, Writing and Life

The Importance of Knowing Yourself

[Ed. note: Today we have a special treat for you, as fellow EMLA author Corinne Duyvis stops by for a guest post feature to celebrate the launch of her own debut, OTHERBOUND!]

Whether you’re searching for an agent, hoping to snag a publisher, or going it alone with self-publishing, writing is often a difficult and stressful job. Add the complications of having a day job, a family, and/or a disability, and it becomes even more difficult to keep up your spirits and your productivity.

My first novel only just released, so I’m in the early stages of being a professional author. I’ve still had my share of publishing heartbreak: the novels I’ve had to shelve, the agent that didn’t work out, the negative reviews, the rejections—both before and after the book deal–and I’m sure that list will only grow.

(Though, um, I’d rather it doesn’t.)

The most important thing I’ve had to learn throughout all this is me.

In order to survive this business, no matter which route of publishing you choose, it’s so, so important to learn your own desires and reactions, your strengths and weaknesses.

What are you looking for? If you’re querying or interviewing agents, it can be tempting to either stick to the huge names you see in the Twittersphere or to contact any agent who takes your genre. This can work out perfectly. It can also work out terribly.

To protect yourself from heartbreak and ending up in no-win situations, figure out what you want, and do it early. Do you value lightning-quick communication? One-day turnarounds on manuscripts? In-depth editing? Massive deals? Perfect author-editor, book-publisher fits? Do you want to have your hand held, or to be whacked on the back of the head when you’re not writing quickly enough? Or do you want to be left to your own devices as much as possible?

Know what you want, look for just that, and communicate your needs clearly.

It also applies to later stages of publishing. Some authors can’t handle feedback at an early stage; make sure to explain that so you can come to a mutual agreement about when to submit your work.

Conversely, if you’re constantly worrying about which project to work on next, you’ll want to find an agent who will help you decide, or you’ll want to ask your editor which of your pitches she thinks is most interesting. It isn’t a guarantee of a book deal, but it might set your mind at ease knowing there’s interest.

I’m one of the latter. I need feedback to stay motivated.

Not everyone will need this. Decide whether you do.

So far, this has been about communication, about navigating your publishing partnerships, but it works at any level.

If you know yourself, you know how you cope with deadlines.

Whether you struggle to write while waiting for feedback.

Whether you work better in mornings or evenings.

Whether feedback at an early stage will invigorate you or crush your creativity.

Whether keeping track of your word count helps you or hurts you.

Whether the magic happens in the drafting stage, or when you’re tweaking sentences later down the line.

Whether editing or drafting requires more focus.

Whether bad news can throw you off your game, and how long for.

And if you know all these things, you can guard yourself appropriately. It seems obvious, but it surprised me just how much of this I didn’t know about myself—or how much I thought I knew, and was wrong about.

Even better, it surprised just how much of it can be worked around with some foresight, flexibility, and planning.

Publishing is hard enough already. It’s OK to look around and figure out how to make it a little easier on yourself. Guard against your weaknesses, capitalize on your strengths, and tweak your habits and partnerships accordingly.

(And when you need it, don’t hesitate to break out the hot chocolate.)


Corinne DuyvisA lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible.

Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, released this week from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. It has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and BCCB. Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut,” while BCCB called it “a brilliantly paced edge-of-your seat adventure” and praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.”

Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr.

OTHERBOUND cover

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, rejection and success, Writing and Life

No’s Job, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rejection

     “Dear Author,
Thank you for your recent submission to XYZ Publishing Company. I regret to inform you that …”

Does this letter look familiar to you? If you’ve ever tried to submit a manuscript for publication, chances are you’ve gotten a response similar to this at some time in your writing career. I remember the first one I ever got. I was in college, and my professor had suggested that I submit the dummy that I had done for his literature class to his publisher. Finally- FINALLY- I would be a published author! And at such a young age!

I sent it in. I waited. After a week, every time I went to the mailbox I was sure that this would be the day I would get my SASE back with a contract in the mail. I began to think about changing my major from teaching to writing.

After a few more days (okay, six months), my SASE came back! I pulled out my manuscript dummy and… a tiny postcard that began, “Dear Author…” I was crushed. I cried. I sent it out again in a massive simultaneous submission to every publisher that did picture books.
I got a massive simultaneous rejection.

But I kept writing. I kept learning. I joined SCBWI. I went to conferences, joined a critique group, and took classes. I kept submitting, but I submitted smarter. (Turns out that some publishers only publish certain kinds of books! Who knew?)

I got a LOT more rejection letters.

But. While each rejection letter still felt like, well, a rejection, I noticed that after a while they changed. I was getting some letters that began, “Dear Ms. Van Slyke.” There would be a reference to my actual manuscript, like they had read it. And sometimes the editor would tell me why it wasn’t a good fit for them.

I started to look for an agent. And- oh, goody!- NEW rejection letters came pouring in!
I eventually did get an agent. Unfortunately, it was, shall we say, not a happy match. The rejection letters stopped coming to me. But, as I later learned, that was most likely because no manuscripts were going out. I came to the decision that an unproductive agent was worse than no agent, so we parted ways.

Fortunately, I did get another agent, and manuscripts began going out again. As proof, I started getting rejection letters again. By this time, though, either because my writing had improved or (more likely) my agent was matching them more closely to the right editor, the rejections were very specific. And they started coming with offers to look at more of my writing, or even to look at a manuscript again after a few changes.

Now, after a few sales, I’m still getting rejection letters. LOTS of rejection letters. But I look at them differently now. Instead of focusing on the “No,” I look for themes. Does a manuscript get rejected because it’s weak or because the publisher already has a pirate book on their list? Do I see several of the same comments on the same manuscript? Perhaps it’s time to try another revision based on that feedback.

Most of all, though, rejection letters mean that I’m doing my job: writing. Submitting. Revising. Submitting again. Writing new manuscripts.

Because sometimes instead of a no, there will be a “Yes.”

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Editor, Education, Panic, Patience, Publishers and Editors, Rejection, rejection and success, Uncategorized