A Day in the Life of a Writer …

Writers like me live our lives waiting for the extraordinary. That one defining moment when the call or the offer comes rolling in, like an enormous ocean wave preparing to create a big splash in our lives. We hope. We wait.

Just for kicks and giggles as they say, here is an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary writer like me …

6:30 am: California sunshine comes streaming through the window blinds. Time to start another day. The house is quiet. I do a little reading and thoughtful meditation.

More recently, I’ve subscribed to Jane Yolen’s poem for the day. Waking to a new poem in my inbox from Jane is an inspiring way to start the morning.

7:30 am: Breakfast is usually oatmeal or a bagel and a cup of tea, and after the getting-ready-for-the-day routine is done, I check my primary emails.

8:30-9:30: Sometimes an educational editor/publisher will respond to my query’s and request additional writing samples, or maybe they will inform me that I’ve been placed on a list for future writer-for-hire assignments. I will reply to those emails.

Other times, I will get an email from my agent. A few weeks ago she wrote that my MG novel, The Wanderings of Abby Rose went out to a few editors. There isn’t much I can do but wait. Though I do spend more needless hours than I should fretting and thinking, “If only one, just one editor would love it like we do … if only.”

There are other times when my email brings rejection letters. On those days I treat myself to ice cream or cookies or both. Sometimes cake too. Cake makes everything better, don’t you think?

But many many days, my email is crickets. Crickets rubbing their spindly legs together, chirping the song of silence. Complete and utter nothingness. A void.

9:30 to 9:45: A quick look at social media. It’s always nice to scroll down a Twitter feed and read about the milestones and setbacks of my fellow writers. In times past, this would depress me, but focusing on being a support to my peers by replying, retweeting, and liking their posts makes me feel like I’m contributing, like I’m giving them a little boost for the day.

9:45 to 11:45: Writing. Or sometimes revisions. And getting ready to teach school. My son does an online high school through Texas Tech University where my hubby got his undergraduate degree. I’m always nearby if he has a question.

Sometimes while he works, I’ll pause from what I’m doing, and gaze outside the window. Sometimes I imagine what it would feel like to see my novel in print, on the shelf in a bookstore, and in my hands, a real living breathing book.

Noon to 1: Lunch and returning texts and personal phone calls.

1-3: More schoolwork and writing and reading. More checking of emails.

3-bedtime: Preparing and having dinner. Chatting with the hubby and son about our day. More wondering and dreaming and hoping. And maybe a little tv watching.

My days aren’t always this structured, and usually many other personal events are happening throughout the day too, but this is an overall idea of what a typical day in the life of a writer looks like.

I’m not certain how other writers spend their days. But this writer loves to spend a little time each day dreaming of the possibility of what might someday be.

TIME TO TALK NUMBERS (From Query to Agent Offer) …

While querying my MG manuscript I would soak up success stories online, hoping to find clues that would help me formulate a plan for my own eventual success story.  For every 100 queries sent to agents, approximately 5 to 7 partial or full requests, and from there at least one offer of representation. Boom! Done.

Not so much.

There is no cookie-cutter formula. Like a snowflake, or a fingerprint, every writer’s success story is different, unique to their individual journey. And in my opinion, being brave enough to write a solid query letter, pushing send, and taking the risk to put your dream out there for others to critique is a success story in itself. To me, all writers who take the chance are heroes, whether they are offered representation or not.

My main reason for sharing my numbers is to encourage my writer friends, to help them (you) to see how each rejection inched me closer to my goal; and honestly, how toward the end I felt like giving up. Possibly, you have been there too. Or maybe even there right now.

In the spring and early summer of 2018 I queried 110 agents.

Form Rejections: 39

Personal Rejections: 3

Closed No Response (CNR): 58

Partial Requests: 3

Full Requests: 7

Re-write and Resubmit (R&R): 1

Offer(s):  0

I received the R&R on my birthday in July. The task seemed so daunting, I put the manuscript aside for two months and ruminated. I wanted to give up.

By early autumn, I ordered a how-to-book about plot and character arcs. One of the agents who had sent a personal rejection suggested the book, “Creating Character Arcs” by K.M. Weiland.

I spent months studying, jotting notes in the margins, wondering if I had the writing chops to pull it off. There were many times when I wasn’t sure, but by late autumn the manuscript was complete.

I felt insecure. What if I sent the R&R back to the agent and she didn’t like it? I felt a strong compulsion to wait.

I had an idea to start querying again. If I received a few requests, maybe the revised manuscript was strong enough to be resubmitted. Maybe. And so, I began to requery and received 6 requests from 54 queries. One of the requests was a partial that became a full within two weeks. I thought this was a good sign.

With this good news, I thought it would be a good time to send the R&R agent the vetted and newly revised manuscript, but it was early December, and so I decided to wait until after the holidays.

And then on December 5th, I received an email from one of the six agents who had requested. She says that she “love, love, loves” my story and wants to chat. What a surprise! Oh, my! Yay!!

I immediately sent the R&R agent the manuscript along with a detailed letter that I had previously drafted regarding the changes I had made using bullet points, etc. She wrote back that she would get to it after the holidays. I had a feeling the “chat” with the other agent was going to be an offer, but there was no guarantee of that. She may have been requesting revisions. And I wanted the R&R agent to get the ms just in case.

Yes, the “chat” was an offer to represent my MG book. I was, of course, elated! I contacted the other agents who had requested materials, and a few pending queries about the offer, but since the deadline was two days before Christmas Eve many of the agents and another who had requested the full were rushed. Many of them said they needed more time, and the others who had read it quickly, like the R&R agent, said it was “lovely” and I’m a “great writer” but they weren’t connecting, mainly because of the rushed reading.

Yet I was overjoyed with my offer, and I sincerely enjoyed chatting with Patty, so I accepted her offer. And after the holidays I signed my contract with Metamorphosis Lit Agency. I already feel like part of the family there, and everyone has been so supportive.

I share my story and these numbers to show my fellow writers and others that yes, I made some mistakes along the way. I made some strategic miscalls too. Many times I wanted to give up. But still, it all somehow came together. I never gave up, and in the end that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet My New Agent, Patty Carothers …

I am thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Metamorphosis Literary agency!

I love the approach my agent, Patty, is taking with my MG book. I love how after our chat, she sent an official offer letter and a sample of the contract for me to consider. I love how after I accepted her offer that I signed an electronic contract with no muss, simple and easy. I love how every author is interviewed on their blog. I love how I felt welcomed by the entire agency, including co-agent, Amy Brewer, as well as the owner, Stephanie Hansen. I love how Patty is an author herself. And last of all, I love that she loves my book.

The word metamorphosis means a transformation, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. My name, Venessa, means “butterfly.”

I believe I have found my little niche, the place where I will finally blossom to become the writer/author I have always dreamed to be.

A New Picture Outside my Window…

When I look outside my window I see palm trees, rolling hills, and sunny skies. My writing space faces the window. A pretty picture to glimpse at every so often while I think and imagine new plots and characters.

I miss Idaho. I miss the old picture outside my old window. But like an old sweater that loses its shape, it was time to reshape our lives. So here we are, grateful for our new adventure.

Part of my new life is querying and submitting to agents. I will always always appreciate my former agent. She taught me so much! But this last year, being the year of new adventures, I have had some amazing opportunities. My educational book as part of a STEM series debuted, MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY INSPIRED BY NATURE.

Also, I have an R &R with a great agent with “no expiration date” so I’m really being thoughtful and taking my time with the revisions. Something else my former agent taught me.

The picture outside my window has changed, but the beauty of the picture is celebrating the old while admiring the new.

FIRE TRUCK DREAMS F&G giveaway!

Check out my friend Sharon Chriscoe’s up-and-coming picture book! Best of all, here’s your chance to win a free copy!

Sharon Chriscoe

Sound the giveaway fire alarm because Fire Truck and I are gearing up and super excited that he’ll release into the world in SIX short months!

In honor of the count down to his release, Fire Truck and I are doing a giveaway away BEFORE his release! We’ll be giving away ONE copy of his F&G to one lucky winner!

How to enter:

It’s simple! Share this Fire Truck’s pre-order campaign link anywhere you’d like (a friend, a family member, social media, anywhere!)

THEN

Fill out this short ENTRY form and you ARE entered.

That’s it!

The winner will be announced April 30th! Good luck and thank you for sharing FIRE TRUCK DREAMS!!

Fire Truck cover

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Ding! Ding! Ding! Fire Truck Dreams rolls on the scene!

Cover reveal of my friend, Sharon Chriscoe’s up-and-coming PB (YAY!)…

Sharon Chriscoe

What do you get when you add a Fire Truck to the ‘vehicle dreams’ series?

An adorable fire truck, a cute little Dalmatian, a toy bucket, and lots of s’mores!

Here’s a blurb for FIRE TRUCK DREAMS:

Fire Truck has had a long day of putting out fires and saving kittens from trees. He’s tired and heads home to bed.

He washes his bumper, slurps up something to eat, and chooses his favorite book about rescuers to read before turning out the light.

As his hose deflates, he drifts off to dream . . .

about sirens sounding and a fire that needs extinguishing!

And here is his super cute cover!! Isn’t he adorable!

Fire Truck Dreams cover

FIRE TRUCK DREAMS releases October 9th, 2018! I can’t wait for him to join his friends Bulldozer and Race Car who are available NOW!

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A WRITER’S CURSE, Grr! (grumble, grumble)…

When I was in my early twenties, I woke up one morning, shuffling down the hallway of our small apartment, not far from Texas Tech University, where I worked as a receptionist and administrative assistant, and my husband took classes, where all at once I realized that, “Hey, why is it that every morning there’s music and words inside my head?” Song lyrics, and random words, stories that poked and prodded and came spilling out of my brain.

So, I wrote a short poem to capture what I had been experiencing, not just that morning, but likely most mornings and days of my growing up years, because for as long as I could remember I had been driven by words. Words that wouldn’t stop coming.

Here’s my not-so-good poem (but sort of funny in a way):

Early bright, sunrise

I ponder upon

A story I have drawn

WORDS swirl inside my head

I have no FEAR

or FRET

or DREAD

I wish at noon they’d come instead

A WRITER’S CURSE YOU SEE …

I know, not very profound. But the point is that writers, like me, are bound, tethered, prisoners of WORDS, and no matter what we do, or try to will ourselves to STOP thinking about them, and creating stories by them, they just keep coming.

Yesterday was Labor Day. The first Monday of September, a federal holiday where many take the day off from their secular employment, or really, like the families I know, it’s just a long weekend at the end of summer to go camping, or catch up on movies (we went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind for its 40th Anniversary showing), or have a barbecue of some sort.

But I had never thought about the history of Labor Day. The Washington Post columnist, Rachel Siegel wrote about the controversy surrounding the reason for making Labor Day a federal holiday, the motivations behind doing so, and its turbulent origins. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/09/04/who-started-labor-day-the-bloody-and-confusing-history-of-an-american-holiday/?utm_term=.64a2c1da9851

And so, for some, even though there are certain days or times to rest from working, it’s nearly impossible to do so because even while supposedly resting, the brain is still toiling. Not only for writers like me, but many, many others have experienced this as well. While watching the movie yesterday, I was actually making mental notes of plot points, dialogue interactions, and the way the film was developing its characters. Ugh! All I wanted to do was rest my brain and enjoy the movie. No rest for the weary.

But really, as with any curse, comes the blessings, the good. I’d rather spend the day after Labor Day thinking about those, why waking up each morning to WORDS moving inside my head is a good thing. I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Dusting Off Old Ambitions…

Dear Blog,

I’ve been neglectful these last months, I know. But during my absence, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve dusted off old ambitions and made some new ones. Books and stories that have been tucked away in the cobwebby corners of my doc files have resurfaced to see a new light of day. The plots are still solid, and the characters sweet and soulful, but now, the old stories are new again. They have been repurposed to fit current trends.

The last you heard from me, I was preparing to send my revised MG manuscript to my agent. It took several more weeks of betas and tweaking, but I finally pushed SEND, and the waiting began. So since I’m not one for twiddling my thumbs, I rolled up my sleeves and dusted off old projects. It’s been exciting. Here’s what I have going:

My old fantasy chapter book, well, it had lots of dust. Sitting for years in the shadows, between several drafts and versions of its former self, it shouted from the doc file, Help me! See, Blog, you’re not the only one in need of attention. So I registered for a chapter book webinar with KidLit College, an hour and a half of great advice, tips, and ideas about how to structure, plot, and develop characters by Jenne Abramowitz and Jill Corcoran. It was fantastic!

Afterwards, I also signed up for an online Mentoring Critique workshop hosted by agent, Jodell Sadler (KidLit College). It included two online sessions where participants (there were about seven of us) submitted a PB manuscript, or in my case, the first chapter of my chapter book, and as the pages are displayed on the screen for all to see, we would read our work out loud. Thereafter, Jo would comment on ways to improve the story. Not only did I learn how to improve my own work, but gleaned so much by listening to her comment on other writer’s books.

What was really helpful, was how we had the opportunity to meet two weeks later with our newly polished stories. Did they improve? Since I had to delete the entire first chapter and start on the second chapter, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, but I was determined to take her suggestions because although I couldn’t envision it right away, I knew she was right.

Two weeks later, we met online with our new stories, ready to share. I had deleted the first chapter (just like Jo said) and started on chapter two, rewriting the exposition to be sure the characters were introduced and the story still had a beginning. But in the interim, my characters all blended, and their personalities went flat. Plus, she said my dialogue tags were distracting, and some other comments.

Well, Blog, the workshop ended about eight p.m., and I felt tired. So, I sat in my favorite blue-striped chair and numbed out on television. But a few hours later, I started thinking about what Jo said, and how I could fix these issues. So I worked on my chapter book until 2 a.m., and it metamorphosed into this beautiful first chapter that I love. Yes, it was an old dusty manuscript, that is now a clean, new chapter book. Over the weeks, I rewrote and rewrote, and I must say, it’s much better, and I like it a lot!

I did similar workshops with my other books, too. They’re all shiny and dust-free. So, I’m sorry to have been so neglectful, but it was for a good cause. From now on, I will be more mindful of you. I promise. But today is my wedding anniversary, and I have a chocolate-chip-mint ice cream cake waiting for me!

Your Author,

Venessa

 

THOUGHTS ABOUT REVISIONS and the Peanut’s song, Happiness is…

“Two kinds of ice cream. Finding your skate key. Telling the time.” I sang this song in the second grade. So sweet! But happiness is also … four rounds of revisions. Sending out to beta’s, hoping it’s done. This is me. So close to getting this novel done.

Several months ago, I sent my book to my agent, she read the manuscript, and then offered her feedback by notes and observations. I was happy to get them. It took some time to analyze the comments and decipher how to apply them to the manuscript. In my opinion, it’s always good to go beyond the face value of revision suggestions. It’s better to dig a little deeper.

By taking a few days or even weeks to mull things over, I’ve found that the actual revision process goes faster and a bit more smoothly. For instance, my book’s ending was tied up “too nicely,” so the final narrative became bogged down with telling, like I rushed to make everything sum up in a neat and tidy, perfect little bow.

At first, I didn’t do anything about that particular revision. I thought about it. A lot. I imagined a different ending, one that would have a satisfying ending but also leave room for possibility. I envisioned the new ending. Not every detail, but the general idea. 

I think I just had to believe in the new ending myself first, before I could sell it to anyone else … future readers, my agent, anybody at all.

So when I finally sat down to revise and DELETED the whole last chapter and a half, it wasn’t that scary. I knew what I was going to replace those lost words with. I was ready to go. With my comfy cotton shirt and loosefitting pants, I put my headsets on and cranked up the jams. The book’s new ending flowed out onto the page in just a few hours. It was magic!

Yes, happiness is … “Learning to whistle, tying your shoe for the very first time … And happiness is walking hand-in-hand.” 

But it is also … Learning how to make revisions into a shiny new story, believing the words first before writing them down. And happiness is … Completing your book and persevering until the end.

Why Book Characters Need Purpose …

This seems simple, but it’s not. It took one month to write the first draft of my novel, but three long years to revise. And during those years, I hired a professional editor to brainstorm the development of the plot, characters, and flow of the narrative. I had several readers critique the story, some were published and well-established authors themselves.

Also during that time, I attended more seminars than my brain can even recall, receiving feedback on my story, prompting me to rewrite and revise again and again. Sometimes I wanted to give up.

I joined writing contest. I was turned down by writing contest. I signed up for webinars to weed my poetic garden of words. I attended a series of “critique and chats” where editors gave face-to-face feedback and manuscript edits.

I hired more editors to line edit and proofread. And at last, I thought the book was complete. I followed all of the rules. I did everything just so. I was done!

But I was not done.

One afternoon last November, I disembarked from a family cruise and checked my emails. Author and editor, Jill Davis, from Harper Collins sent a critique of my novel from an online webinar I had attended months before.

She had a lot of kind things to say, like she “enjoyed the world and circumstances” I created and so on. But I had a major problem. My book was lacking clarity because my main protagonist needed purpose. He was “wandering around and bumping into various people … and the book loses focus.”

Her editor letter and feedback was long and detailed. She said this situation reminded her of something Steven Roxburgh said about her own writing. I had what he called, “a pathological need to complicate.” In other words, right when my character was driven toward his purpose, I’d veer off and go in a completely different direction.

She went on to use other analogies, giving examples of how to figure out moment to moment what my MC really wanted in the “big picture.”

And I got it.

I spent the entire month thinking about it. Just thinking. Finally, I realized that my MC did have a purpose. It was there all along, but never defined or clearly stated in the beginning chapters. Now, I had the tools to veer my MC through the plot, his purpose driving his thoughts, actions and feelings throughout until the rising action and denouement.

The novel began to breathe. It read and felt like a real book. It was alive.

And now for the first time I can see and identify a character’s purpose in everything I write and even read. My eyes have been opened.