Showing posts with label Goals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goals. 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, March 3, 2014

Pass the Burnt Toast

Lately I've been suffering from that dreaded ailment all writers and artists fear: creative burnout. I've always thought creative burnout was something that happened when you spent too much time creating. But the truth is, I haven't done a whole lot of creating at all lately, and what I have done, I haven't exactly been enjoying. You may have noticed the blog has been quiet silent for the last couple of weeks. The reason is simple: I haven't had anything to say. I've been fresh out of ideas, even if I did have the energy at the end of the day to write something. I don't even have a book review to post because I'm only halfway through the novel I started reading a month ago. UGH. Enter cranky Ashley. Apologies to my poor husband and children.

This weekend I decided enough was enough. I was going to figure out what the problem was and fix it. And here's the conclusion I've come to: My creative burnout is really just plain old, everyday burnout. I suspect most of you will identify with me when I say I've just been too damn busy. I wake up in the morning with a to-do list at the forefront of my mind and by the end of the day if I haven't checked off EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM I feel like a complete and utter failure. There's always one more thing that needs to be done, but no matter what I'm doing I always feel like I should be doing something else. And relaxing? Ain't nobody got time for that. (Sorry, I couldn't resist)

As a result, my post-kids'-bedtime writing routine is no longer working because by the end of the day I'm exhausted, frustrated, and the last thing my brain wants to do is function. Writing has become a chore, just another thing on my crushing to-do list. And when your passion becomes a chore, you've got a problem.

So...what to do about it?


Easier said than done, right? It's a question I've heard a lot from my creative friends, especially those friends who are also moms. How do you balance doing what you want to do with doing what you need/have to do? Yes, I'd love to finish writing that novel, but there's also a house to be cleaned, the kids have to be taken to school (or if you're a homeschool mom like me, be schooled), the family has to be fed, this job has to be finished by that deadline...and on and on and on.

So how does one go from complaining (because let's be honest, we've all had a good whine about our schedules) to changing?

I'm not sure I have a one-size-fits-all answer, but I'd like to share my personal plan with you. I'm going to shake things up. I'm going to stand my usual routine on its head and attempt to go from night owl to early bird. Why? Because I'm tired of busyness stealing my joy. I really want to write that novel. And I want to implement something awesome from Don Miller, author of one of my all time favorite books, Blue Like Jazz. On his blog, Don has provided a free download of his Storyline Productivity Schedule. The first thing that struck me about the idea behind this schedule was Don's opening question: "What if problems like writers block and procrastination were less about your shortcomings and more about how you structure your work day?" The Storyline Productivity Schedule is all about managing your mental energy, not just your time. It helps you focus on one thing at a time, prioritize your day, finish projects, and allows for rewards and rest to help you periodically recharge. 

I don't know about you, but I think that sounds fantastic.

So for the next 30 days, I'm going to utilize the Productivity Schedule and hopefully be on my way to a healthier, more creative, more productive, and--most of all--more present and happier me. I'll let you know how it goes. If you're interested in joining me, you can read more about the schedule and download your free copy on the Storyline Blog. And if nothing else, I hope you find some encouragement knowing you're not the only one who struggles with finding a daily balance. We're all in this together. 

Here's to doing more by slowing down. Cheers!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Whatever

I don't know about you, but when it comes to the daily to-do list, I have a tendency to focus on all the things I haven't accomplished, rather than all the things I have.

For instance, I spent a good portion of this morning worrying over the fact that I haven't posted anything on the blog in two weeks. I mean, that's terrible blog etiquette. I missed a prime opportunity to start off the new year with a blogging bang. I really should be more prepared with these things. Maybe I need to add "be more organized" to my list of New Year's Resolutions Goals.

But then I looked at the quote that I meant to post last week (but of course never got around to) and I was reminded of one of things I actually do want to be better at this year.


In the last 14 days I've celebrated Christmas and rung in a new year, visited with family, learned how to play Farkle, worked on several graphic design projects, spent time with good friends, scored an awesome pair of shoes on clearance, watched my husband and son put together over a thousand Lego bricks, discussed wedding plans with my future sister-in-law, played about twenty games of Sorry! with my kids, and wrote and/or edited almost every single day. The house has been moderately clean, the bills have been paid, the laundry has been washed (if not put away), and all persons and cats have been fed.

That's a lot of awesome. The fact that I didn't put up a blog post doesn't seem like that big of a deal when compared with all the things I did do.

With 2014 ahead of us, all shiny and new and ripe with possibility, it's good to remember that one year is made up of 365 days. In the midst of setting goals and making resolutions, let's have grace with ourselves and our days--especially when they don't go as planned. Because there really is more to life than what makes it on the to-do list.