Tag Archives: Christine Hayes

This Woman Is So Neurotic, You Won’t BELIEVE What She’ll Do to Avoid Revisions

Sorry for the silly title. I read an article this week about the people who write those dramatic headlines for Upworthy. The drama taking place in my head right now seemed to warrant a sensational title of its own.

As you may have guessed, I received the revision notes for MOTHMAN not long ago. There’s a lot to fix, but that’s not what’s tripping me up. I’ve revised projects before. Many times. Many, many times. The difference this time is that the project is under contract. Someone actually plans to give me money for this. Every change I make feels live-or-die important. I fret that each page will be scrutinized, criticized, analyzed–not just by my editor but by eventual, real-life readers. It feels so real this time, because it is.

ruler

Striking fear into knuckles everywhere.

Let me first reassure my kind, patient editor if she happens to be reading that I’m making progress (no, really!). But never have I so badly needed my own personal schoolmarm to rap my knuckles with a ruler when I stray off task. Or avoid being on task in the first place. I suddenly discover urgent errands to run, closets to reorganize, correspondence to catch up on. I’m simultaneously frustrated by and grateful for interruptions. I tear apart and rebuild the same sentence ten times, then convince myself it was better before I messed with it.

Is there a name for this crippling revision syndrome? For those of you who’ve conquered it, what’s your secret? Fear of failure is an excellent motivator, so I’ll tuck that away and call it Plan B if nothing else proves helpful. But I’d rather learn to work through this like a healthy, teachable human being. Because every once in a while, I’ll polish up a sentence and pat it on the head and send it on back to the paragraph its shares with its brothers and sisters, and lo and behold: it’s pretty good! That’s a great moment. I can actually feel myself grow as a writer, with the proof right there on the page. At least until I read through it again the next day and realize how terrible it is.

MountainPic

Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Maybe the key is simple persistence. Stubbornness. Refusal to yield. Like every other step in the publishing process. We claw our way up the mountain until we reach the next peak. We take a moment to celebrate and shout words of encouragement to the people still climbing. And we hum, loudly and rather off-key, pretending not to see that next impossible peak stretching ahead into the clouds.

In other news: Congratulations to Amie Norris, winner of FAIR COIN by E.C. Myers, from Tara Dairman’s book giveaway in last week’s post. Yay, Amie!!!

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May Arboretum 027Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Helpful or Otherwise, Writing, Writing and Life

The Emus Retreat

One of the many special things about the Erin Murphy Literary Agency is the annual client retreat. This summer, the retreat took place at Big Sky Resort in Montana. Emus came from all across the country–often at great personal expense–to connect, recharge, learn, explore, and laugh. The whole experience reminded me once again how blessed I am to be a part of this community and how important this community is to me, both professionally and personally.

We heard insights and advice from guest speakers and a panel of experts. We broke into small groups to discuss our own individual career quandaries. We shared our works in progress and the ugliest sweaters we could find (or make). We got serious, and we also got plenty silly. We wrote, hiked, ate, drank, took in the scenery, and didn’t get nearly enough sleep (well, some of us didn’t). We took notes, pictures, and videos. We listened to our very own in-house band, sang, clapped, cheered, and maybe even shed a tear or two. For many of us, events like these can tax our introverted natures, causing us to retreat from the retreat. That was not only allowed, but understood and valued. Through it all, in doses we could all be comfortable with, we got to know one another better. What a treat!

 
Some Emus

[Some of the current Emu’s Debuts: Christine Hayes, Kevan Atteberry, Pat Miller, Laurie Thompson, Joshua McCune, Carol Brendler, and Tara Dairman.]

 

I’m mostly an analytical type, so I like to try to quantify things: What exactly did I get out of this retreat? What is one thing I can point to that makes the retreat worth the time and money I spent to go there? What will I be able to directly use from this experience to further my career? I don’t have a satisfactory answer to any of those questions.

Still, I know it was all worth it. The connections made and relationships built will keep me going when things get hard. They make me feel like not only am I a part of something magical, but I actually belong there! I think so many people are drawn to writing because at some point in their life they felt awkward, marginalized, forced to stand on the sidelines and watch the “cool” people have all the fun. Well, at an EMLA retreat, we get to hang out with some of the coolest people out there, and we find out they’re actually a whole lot like us.

Priceless.

 

p.s. We also got to see an advance copy of Pat Miller’s SOPHIE’S SQUASH, and we were absolutely charmed and delighted. You will be hearing more about this fabulous book, I guarantee it! In fact, you might just want to pre-order your copy right now, before they’re all sold out.

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Filed under Colleagues, Happiness, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

The Long and Winding Road

daydreamerYou know how you picture something in your head, something really amazing that you desperately want, so you plan it all out down to the last teensy detail and then it goes nothing like you planned but somehow it turns out great anyhow?

My countdown to The Call was a lot like that.

My fascination with books and writing had blossomed by age four, but the goal of writing for kids didn’t come into focus until I took a college course in children’s literature nearly 20 years later. It was like rediscovering a cherished childhood treasure.

envelopes

The practically prehistoric submission method known as “snail mail.”

Somewhere in between marriage and kids and jobs and a move overseas, I wrote Book #1. I figured out pretty quickly (and by quickly, I mean not quickly at all, unless you’re measuring in Publishing Standard Time), that I needed the help of an agent. I still have a huge box of manila envelopes in my desk drawer from the days of submitting actual, printed material to publishers and waiting a year before getting that dreaded form rejection in the mail. Back then agents were just starting to accept email queries, and I took advantage of it. What a time saver! I queried with abandon. I still have the 50+ rejections to show for it. And although I did get one agent call, it wasn’t The One. 

Book #2: To soothe the hurt feelings of my lonely, unwanted novel, I wrote it a nice little sequel. It never went further than my computer’s hard drive, but it served as a form of therapy, allowing me to eventually move forward with a new project. What’s one more year in the grand scheme of things, right? Okay, so it was a pretty wasteful form of therapy, but also a valuable lesson learned.

Book #3: I was excited about the characters and concept for this one. My grasp of voice and point of view had improved. Still, when several agent queries yielded mild interest but no offers, I finally got wise and asked for help. A writing blog posted my query letter and offered tips for improvement. Cue the Halleluiah choir, because the incomparable Ammi-Joan Paquette saw the query and requested pages. We spoke on the phone, she suggested revisions. I revised. She read the manuscript again, we spoke on the phone, she suggested revisions. I revised again.

And then, one the magical day of 1-11-11, I got The Agent Call. She offered representation. Now, every time I see a series of 1’s anywhere, I smile. It makes me feel hopeful and happy and reminds me to get back to work.

My beloved book #3 didn’t sell, even after a few more rounds of revisions. Maybe it will someday. But I had another book idea in the wings. In fact, I’d written 30 pages and then neglected them for over a year. At last, in the fall of 2012, I knew it was time to move on. My husband even told me, “I think you need to finish this book.” (Thanks honey!) I wrote like a woman possessed, finished it, polished it up, and sent it to Joan on Dec. 31.

After a quick revision, we sent out the first submissions in late February. Deirdre Langeland (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan) read it right away and wrote to Joan to say she loved it. Two weeks later, her mention of the phrase “acquisitions meeting” triggered an epic battle of hope and denial in my brain, also known as “Team Happy Dance” vs. “Team They’re Going to Hate It and Laugh in Your Face, via Email.”

I actually had a call with Deirdre to confirm that I’d be willing to revise the opening chapter. Three more weeks went by. The wait was brutal. I didn’t think I could survive another disappointment. But at last, on an evening in April, I got The Call from Joan—we had an offer! I happened to be in a restaurant at a work meeting with 20 other women; I had to step outside when the phone rang. I shook, I stammered, and may have shed a tear or two, but I returned to the meeting with a huge smile that wouldn’t leave my face. My super-supportive husband was out of town, so I had to settle for texting him three wonderful words: “It finally happened!”

winding road

This. This right here.

That’s my twisty path to my first book deal, many years in the making. THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE is due out spring 2015. It will have illustrations! I’m still pinching myself to make sure I didn’t suffer a mental break and imagine the whole thing. Then again, I don’t think I could have pictureed a more unpredictable journey if I tried.

I’m Christine, I write middle grade fiction with paranormal elements, and I’m SO THRILLED to be here, rubbing virtual shoulders with such talented debut authors.

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Filed under Introduction, The Call