Showing posts with label Dream. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dream. Show all posts

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Very Own "How I Got My Agent" Story!

I have a literary agent.

Did I really just get to type that sentence?!

Two weeks later, and it's finally starting to sink in. It's something I've hoped for, worked toward, and daydreamed about for such a long time. Now that it's real, I'll do my best to squash into a few paragraphs the crazy journey that got me to this point, in the hopes that my story can encourage someone else. (Basically, I'm here to once again be that annoying person that shouts at you, "DON'T GIVE UP!")

All I ever wanted to be was a writer. I remember writing some of my first stories in elementary school. My go-to Mother's Day gifts were poems, decorated with doodles and stickers and homemade cardboard frames. (My mom still has one of them, tucked away in a box filled with old family photographs.) But somewhere around high school, becoming an author turned into a pipe dream--as likely as becoming a pop star, or an actress, or living in one of the castles on the posters I had pinned to my wall. (That's right, while my friends had N'SYNC and Backstreet Boys, I plastered my walls with maps of Europe.)

Still, there was a hope...maybe someday.

A few years later, and I still had my someday dream. The desire to write wouldn't leave me alone, and neither would my amazing husband who nudged and encouraged me to actually do something about it. So I enrolled in a writing course from the Institute of Children's Literature. I learned a lot about the basics of good storytelling, but most importantly, I learned what comes after you write the story: Querying.

Suddenly, the path to publication didn't seem so mysterious. It started to feel less like a pipe dream, and more like a possibility. Especially when I got my first acceptance letter for a short story I'd submitted to a children's magazine. But could I really go from short story, to full length novel?

Enter NaNoWriMo.

I wrote my first novel in November of 2009. 50K in 30 days. A young adult fantasy that no one else will ever, EVER set eyes on. (Seriously, you would probably fall into a plot hole and never be heard from again. But it proved to me that I really could write enough words for a whole book and for that reason, I will allow it to live out its days in peace, buried in a folder on my laptop.) I continued to participate in NaNoWriMo every November, and in 2012, I wrote my first children's novel. In 2013, I wrote my second, a middle grade fantasy called FOLLOW ME, which would eventually...

(fast forward to more recent months)

...earn me a spot as a mentee in Brenda Drake's 2015 Pitch Wars contest. My amazing mentor, Kara Seal, helped me make FOLLOW ME even stronger. I got a handful of requests in the Pitch Wars agent round, but it would be the slush pile that would finally land me an agent: the ever-so-lovely Marietta Zacker of the Gallt-Zacker Literary Agency! Marietta had actually read FOLLOW ME almost two years ago when it was still...well, let's just say "in progress." (AKA it was a hot mess, but Marietta's encouraging words spurred me to take it from "almost there" to "By George, I think she's got it!") After Pitch Wars, I queried her again with the revised manuscript, and I'm SO glad I did! From our very first conversation, I knew that having Marietta as my agent would mean having an incredible champion in my corner. I feel very fortunate to have found such a great match; someone who is passionate about my stories, loves my characters as much as I do, and is excited to help me build my writing career. 

The road here has been filled with highs and lows, plenty of rejections, tears, frustrations, and triumphs. Not to mention countless hours of rewrites, edits, and revisions (and a fair share of both pity-party and celebratory ice cream). I have gone from optimistic and sure of myself one day, to depressed and feeling like the worst writer ever the next. There were times I wanted to quit, but thankfully I have a community of family, friends, and fellow writers (and, of course, those pesky characters demanding their stories be written) who wouldn't let me. 

So here it is (I warned you it was coming)...

Even if it feels like a pipe dream...

Even if you feel like you've been at it forever...

Even if you've gotten a hundred rejections...

Even if it means shelving one story and starting a new one...

Even if the words don't come easily...

Even if you're terrified it's never going to happen...

DON'T GIVE UP. 

If you require further convincing, check out this blog post I wrote while I was in the midst of writing FOLLOW ME (and pretty convinced it was going nowhere): The Day I Almost Quit.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Pursue}

Dreaming is the easy part. But we all know how hard it can be to chase those dreams and try to turn them into a reality. The pursuit takes persistence, dedication, and lots and lots of courage. But isn't it all worth it? I hope you're encouraged (I need it to!) by this reminder that dreams can come true!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Own It

Last week someone said to me, "So you're an author?" It threw me for a second because most people who ask about this ask if I'm a writer. I'd never had someone ask me if I was an author. I mustered up all the courage I owned and forced a hesitant-yet-hopefully-confident "yeah" through my lips. Then I promptly chickened out and backtracked. "Well, I haven't published a book yet. Right now I'm in the process of trying to get an agent for my children's book." My gaze darted to the door where I was sure the writing police were about to burst through, ticket for false identification in hand. I squeaked out a quick defense of my earlier affirmation: "But I have had some short stories published in a few magazines!" So much for confidence.

After having conversations with other writers and reading blog posts and Twitter feed comments, I've come to realize I'm not the only one who has a hard time labeling who I am as a writer. In fact, there seems to be a trend--a pattern to the words we use to describe ourselves, depending on our level of confidence and/or perceived accomplishments.

When we first venture into the writing world we tend to define ourselves as "aspiring writers". This is the newbie level. We walk by the exclusive Writer's Club and we can see the bright lights and smell the freshly published books and hear whispers of 5-star reviews. We cast longing glances toward the line of people waiting to get through the door and say to ourselves, "Someday..."

Fast forward a few short stories and a couple of NaNoWriMos later, and we get brave, drop the "aspiring" and move up to just "writer". Writing is something we love doing, and we do it often enough to be (somewhat) comfortable allowing ourselves the title. At last we feel like we've reached a high enough word count and taken enough classes or read enough craft books to sneak to the back of the line. But then panic sets in because suddenly there's a rumor cascading down the queue that only authors are allowed through the door and you don't know if you're an author yet and you can only shuffle closer and closer to the door with anxious pulse and sweating hands and hope your name's on the bouncer's ultra secret clip board because who really knows where the point is that you cross the threshold from "writer" to "author" and who makes that decision anyway? And the closer you get to the door, the more you convince yourself that you should just step out of the line and wait until your name graces the cover of a book inside a real Barnes and Noble and you can bring it along as proof that you really are what you consider yourself to be deep down inside.

*deep breath and...exhale*

Here's the reality: There's no difference between being a writer and being an author. Merriam-Webster's definition of author is this:
1 :one that originates or creates
2 : the writer of a literary work 
By definition, you are the author of anything you have written. Therefore, I am an author. And I'm hoping the more I repeat that to myself, the easier it will be to simply answer, "yes" the next time someone asks. (So if you see me mumbling to myself, don't worry, it's just a confidence building exercise.)

Now some of you may hesitate to even go so far as to call yourself a writer, much less an author. As if you have to be published (aka getting paid) in order to lay claim to that title. But I say, NAY! I became a mother the moment my first child entered the world. I don't have to put in 10 quality years of child rearing, or wait until my daughter successfully graduates from college in order to earn the title of Mom. (And last time I checked, I'm not getting a paycheck.) The moment you wrote down that first idea, that first line--the moment you birthed your story--you became a writer.

Own it.

Because the bouncer isn't there to check if someone else put you on the list. He's there to see if you'll put yourself on the list. He's there to ask one question.

Are you a writer? Are you an author?

Whether or not you get in is entirely up to you.
  


Check out these great posts for more encouragement on owning your writer/author label:

Don’t Eat the Butt–Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career #1 - Kristen Lamb (one of my favorite bloggers)

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf



Friday, July 26, 2013

Oh Hello, Irony

There are times when the truth slaps you with a load of irony.

It goes something like this: First you're like, "whoa", and then there's this awkward moment when you realize you're going to have to admit you were wrong, and then you do and you feel SO much better.

At least, that's been my experience.

You may recall a post I wrote a couple weeks ago involving unicorns and writer's block. Well, the reason I was so desperate to overcome my creatively stuck position, was because something awesome was about to start and I had made a goal--a goal which I had shared with a major author and a couple thousand people.

Let's flashback a bit and this will make more sense...

Earlier this month, I responded to a blog post by Jon Acuff, in which he gave a Safety Not Guaranteed-esque call to those willing to go on an unspecified adventure. If you were willing to embark on said adventure, without knowing any details, you were to email him your name and mailing address. And in true clandestine fashion, the blog post was set to self-destruct in 24 hours.

Thus began the Start Experiment. A group of individuals from all over the world, taking a chance and ultimately being grouped together to encourage and assist one another in the pursuit of a dream or a goal, punching fear in the face in the process. One of the first things we were asked was what we were each willing to risk--what would our goal (to be moved toward over the course of 24 days) be? I immediately knew what mine would be: To write the first draft of my second novel.

Hence the need to be able to actually write.

The entire foundation of Jon's experiment, and the theme of his latest book, START, is that fear needs to be overcome in order for you to move toward your goal. So I was going to overcome the fear of stalling out, the fear of not being able to write, the fear of running out of ideas. Fear was going down!

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the fear smack-down. After coming out of the first week of the experiment with a super lame word-count, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that my risk was actually driven by fear. 

Helloooo, Irony.

You see, I finished editing and polishing my first children's novel in May, and queried my first agent the beginning of June. And instead of taking time to celebrate my accomplishment and focus on getting an agent/getting published, I immediately put a huge bunch of pressure on myself to write a second book. I convinced myself that one book wasn't enough to make an agent feel I was worth his/her time, that I needed to at least have a second one started to prove I was a real author and not a one-hit wonder. 

And then I wondered why I felt stressed-out, overwhelmed, uninspired and generally unhappy with my writing.

And so, after a jolly good laugh, irony and I parted ways and I took a new path. Now my risk is pursuing my dream of getting published by focusing on my finished book and preparing more queries to send out in the next couple of weeks. I've created a neatly ordered list of agents that I would love to have represent me, and I'm going to start tailoring my individual queries next week. I'm also continuing to write by working on some picture book ideas that I've been cultivating. This has been much less stressful and--hallelujah!--FUN. And come November, I will happily don my novel writing hat once more and leap into the literary abandon of my fifth NaNoWriMo. Until then, I will pour my heart and soul into a project fueled by hopes and dreams, not fear.

So, in case that was a lot to follow, here's a quick recap:

Fear 0 - Ashley 1


Monday, July 15, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Sail}

Today's picture quote is one of my favorite Twain quotes. Thanks to my friend Jacqui for letting me use her stunning photo! You can see more of her work at her website, Simply Jacqui Photography.