Showing posts with label Pitching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pitching. Show all posts

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Give Up (Or, Why I Heart Pitch Wars)

I've noticed a common theme among the mentor's Pitch Wars tweets this year: DON'T GIVE UP. Now, I know it's sometimes hard to hear that from another writer when they've already got the finished book, the agent, AND the book deal. If we're being honest, we've all thought it at some point...

Easy for you to say.

Well, as a hopeful, yet-to-be-published Pitch Wars submitter, I'd like to echo the "keep at it" sentiments. (Also, you shouldn't compare your journey to someone else's, but I already wrote a post about that here.)

Last year I submitted to Pitch Wars right after receiving a pretty heartbreaking rejection. It went something like this:

Start querying first MG novel.
Get a bunch of rejections.
Get a full request! Huzzah!
Have phone call with agent. Double huzzah!
Be told book is awesome, but too quiet to sell as debut. Huzzah?
"Do you have any other books?"
Scramble to finish WIP and send to agent, hoping it's enough to tip the scales.
Email notification dings. Heart leaps. Open email...
Heart sinks.

Let me just say, this agent was over-the-moon wonderful and encouraging and supportive, and I could not have had a more lovely interaction with her. But the very nice, very complimentary no was still a no, and of course I was disappointed. So I had some Ben and Jerry's...

...decided it wasn't meant to be, determined I wouldn't let it get me down, and that very night I submitted my manuscript to Pitch Wars.

I didn't get any requests for additional pages.
I didn't get picked as a mentee.

I did get feedback. (Thank you Michelle Hauck and Joy McCullough!) And wouldn't you know it, they both said the same thing: lovely voice, hard to market the story. But they also had some really great advice on what they felt could be improved. Because of them, and tweets from some of the other mentors, I at least knew what I had done wrong in my query and I'd grown as a writer. I knew it was time to move on to the next book.

So I didn't give up, and I kept going, and it was all rainbows and unicorns from there, right?

Um, yeah, no.

About six months (and a slew of rejections) later, I'm in the midst of waffling between two WIPs, and feeling like this...

It had been FOREVER since I'd made any real progress, and I was desperate to just FINISH SOMETHING, DAMMIT. I had three-quarters of a novel--why was the last bit SO FRIGGIN' HARD? I felt like a complete failure. Like maybe I should just give up on this whole writing thing.

I felt like all I would ever be was an almost.

Almost good enough.
Almost represented.
Almost published.

It was really, really hard to write. I ignored my manuscript(s) for weeks. But eventually I admitted it felt worse to NOT write. So I limped along. Some nights I think I managed to add one decent paragraph to my almost finished novel. Then, after borrowing Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell from a dear friend/CP, I had a plot breakthrough. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could do this. 

I gave myself a deadline: Pitch Wars 2015. I started to feel the excitement of possibility again. Several sleep-deprived weeks later...

The Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop went live and I sat down to make a list of the mentors I wanted to submit my FINISHED manuscript to. 

Would I love to sit at the feet of a mentor for the next two months? Of course. But whether we get picked or not, or whether our manuscripts are all shiny and ready for the world or a hot mess that needs way more work, we'll have to remind ourselves to keep going. There's always more to be learned, more stories to write, more ways to improve. There will always be super awesome 2,000-word days and really, really crappy one-sentence days. If there's one thing I've learned thus far, it's that this writing thing takes a lot of working and waiting...and then working and waiting some more. I happen to think it's worth it.

So for those of you in the Pitch Wars trenches (or the querying trenches, or the WIP trenches), let me be that annoying person who says it for the one hundredth time: DON'T GIVE UP.

And THANK YOU Brenda Drake, and Pitch Wars mentors. Whether I get picked or not, I have a novel. I've gained invaluable advice from the mentor's tweets and blog posts, not to mention connections with other writers. I've remembered what it feels like to be passionate about telling stories. To be hopeful and positive and excited about my writing journey. This year's contest has seriously been so encouraging and helped me so, so much. It's been exactly what I needed. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Pitch Wars twitter stalking...

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Pitch Wars Mentee Bio!

(If you're reading this and wondering what on earth Pitch Wars is, go here to find out.)

Hi, I'm Ashley and I'm a night owl with a caffeine intolerance.

Seriously, there should be a support group for this.

I'm also a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two--one girl and one boy, ages (almost) 10 and 7, respectively. Now that I think about it, a support group for that would be handy, too.

I write middle grade--a.k.a. the best age category--and my Pitch Wars submission is a fantasy novel titled FOLLOW ME. (Fun fact: The first draft of FOLLOW ME was written during NaNoWriMo 2013.)

When all the other kids still wanted to be zookeepers and astronauts, I wanted to be a writer. Sure, the elephants and giraffes tempted me on occasion, but books always had my heart.

When I'd get in trouble as a kid, my mom didn't take away my allowance, she gave it to me--and then banned me from the bookstore for a week.

I was a very obedient child.

Some of my favorite books (I'll keep it to 10, though it pains me to list so few):
THE MEANING OF MAGGIE by Megan Jean Sovern
The Flavia de Luce novels by Alan Bradley
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
And just to prove that I do occasionally read adult fiction:
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

It's always been my dream to be a published author and over the last few years I've stopped just dreaming and started hustling. It's been a challenging road paved with my fair share of rejection letters, but I have no plans of quitting. So...

Why should you pick me?

1. I'm a hard worker, ready and eager to scrub, wax, spit-shine, and otherwise polish my manuscript.

2. I can take feedback, edits, and constructive criticism with gratitude and grace. Confession: When I was taking courses with the Institute of Children's Literature, my very first assignment came back covered in red ink because I'd managed to type "it's" instead of "its" through my entire short story. If that doesn't humble you as a writer (and make you an obsessive compulsive editor), I don't know what will. Also, I swear I passed the second grade.

3. I'm an INFJ, which means you can brag to your fellow mentors that your mentee is the scarcest form of introvert, rarely seen in the wild.

Which means I have even more time to work on my manuscript.

Thanks for stalking stopping by! And thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my words with you. Best of luck to all my fellow Pitch Wars hopefuls! (Feel free to visit some of their mentee bios via the handy list here.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Milestones and Hope

I reached a new milestone in my writing career this week--I sent out my very first book query! *SQUEEE!* My book has officially left the nest to try and find its place in the world. It was a lot more nerve-wracking than I anticipated and I definitely felt some nervous jitters as I hit send. But that was nothing compared to the excitement I felt when the confirmation email popped up in my inbox.

My first ten pages are sitting in an agent's inbox right now. Whoa.

Now comes 6-8 weeks of waiting. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. Not because I have a hard time being patient, but because I have a really hard time being optimistic. I'm much more of a realist when it comes to things like this. Part of me wants to believe my manuscript can and will be accepted by my number-one agency/agent pick on my first try. But the other part of me thinks, if it took sixty queries for a book like The Help to find success, who am I to think I'll find success right off the bat? Plus, there's this feeling that--besides it being statistically unlikely--it wouldn't be fair. After all, so many amazing authors have had to work incredibly hard to land an agent. Who am I to hope I could nail it on a first try? And isn't it better not to hope for too much, so I won't be disappointed if things don't work out?

But despite all of that, I hope. This time, optimism seems to have taken hold of me. I really, truly hope that this particular agent will choose to represent me. Sure, it might not happen. And that's cool. I'll find another potential agent, send another query, and hope some more. Because I realized something as I waffled between optimism and my perception of reality. Even though it may seem like I'm hoping for too much, what point is there in trying if you don't hope for--and even anticipate--success? If all you hope for and expect is failure, your dream is going to have a super sad existence. And dreams aren't meant to be super sad, pessimistic creatures. It goes against their very nature.

So...make your dream happy. Feed it some hope.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Meet Pinkletin

One of my early sketches of Pinkletin

Wondering why my blog is called Lemon Biscuits? For the answer, here's the synopsis part of the pitch I submitted to Pitchapalooza last month:

"But now, Pinkletin found that his list was much larger than his knapsack. And so it was that Mole found him, trying to decide between a set of encyclopedia and a tin of lemon biscuits..."

Dear Reader, allow me to introduce you to a teacup-sailing frog named Pinkletin. A frog with an adventurous spirit and an insatiable curiosity to find out what marvelous things are waiting across the pond, down the stream and over the horizon. From falling under the spell of the fairies' tales, to battling river pirates and accidentally joining the circus, Pinkletin soon discovers it doesn't take much to turn an ordinary journey into a fantastic adventure.

Hopefully Pinkletin and his delicious pastries will be hitting the shelves of a bookstore near you in the future. For now, I hope to have The Fantastical Adventures of Pinkletin Frog ready for beta-readers around June. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On a Whim (Or How I Bought My Favorite Band Coffee)

You know that post I wrote a couple of weeks ago? The one about going for it? Well, when the list of Pitchapalooza winners went up on Tuesday, my name wasn't among them. Which is okay. Even though my pitch wasn't chosen to be critiqued and thrown in the hat for the grand prize, the biggest win is that I HAVE A PITCH...FOR MY NOVEL...WHICH I JUST FINISHED WRITING. That's huge!

Despite knowing all that, I will admit to feeling bummed (and to reading the list through a second time, r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, just to make sure I hadn't missed my name in there somewhere). But then something really cool happened. Something that reminded me of the importance of just going for it, in every area of life.

I read the list of Pitchapalooza winners while sitting in a City Brew in Missoula. My husband and I were there to see two of our favorite bands in concert (Paper Route and Anberlin) and were killing time before we could go check into our hotel. Of course this meant that we were both perusing the interwebs while sipping our chai lattes. Round about the time I was getting over my disappointment, my husband was on Twitter. At that particular moment, Anberlin tweeted that they were sound checking. On a whim, my husband (who is much better at just going for things than I am) decided to reply.

"Hey @anberlin @paperroute you guys need a coffee run? We are at City Brew and will bring you some!"

Crazy, right?  An hour later we were sitting in our hotel room when we got this reply from Paper Route:

"@A_RMartin Seriously?"

And that's how we ended up taking coffee to our favorite band.

The moral of the story? If you have the opportunity to do something cool, go for it. Even if it seems crazy.

Oh, and the fun didn't stop there. Later that night I replied to a tweet by fellow writer and blogger Ksenia Anske to tell her about my successful strategy of tackling my novel one chapter at a time. She replied with this:

"Everyone, guess what, @AshleyN_Martin has completed 1st Draft of her novel. Let's all shout, WOW YOU DID IT!"

I was immediately flooded with congratulations and well wishes from a bunch of wonderful, encouraging, totally awesome complete strangers. 

All in all, it was a pretty great night.

To everyone who took the time to send those beautiful tweets my way--thank you! I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing community of creative and talented people. Keep up the good work and don't be afraid to have a little whimsy and go for it! You never know what might happen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Lessons: Go for It

I've learned a lot of lessons as a writer over the past few years.

-In dialogue, characters can speak, shout, and whisper words, but never laugh or smile them.
-It is possible to edit 1100 words down to 500.
-I need to proof read carefully because my pinky finger has a mind of its own when I'm typing and insists on turning every "its" into an "it's".

But one of the biggest and best lessons I've learned is to just go for it. So many great things in life can come out of a willingness to take a chance.

I took a chance and, at the urging of my wonderfully supportive husband, enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature. I've sent out dozens of short story manuscripts to children's magazines and braved the sting of rejection letters. I started a writers' group and began handing over pages filled with my heart and soul to be critiqued. Because of these things I learned how to pursue my dream of being a writer, received 5 publication acceptances, gained some wonderful friends, and my first children's novel is being edited and polished into something beautiful.

Last year I submitted a picture book manuscript to an agent. She didn't choose to take me on as a client. She said my book wasn't unique enough to make it in such a competitive market. But she did have some very nice things to say about my story. And if I hadn't gone for it, if I had chosen to let fear of rejection, fear of a harsh critique stop me, I would have never gotten those encouraging words that helped me feel like there was hope for my dream. (Not to mention that next time I get ready to contact an agent, I'll feel like I kinda, sorta know what I'm doing).

Last week I took another chance. I pitched my children's novel to NaNoWriMo's pitchapalooza. I'm sure I am just one of thousands vying for the 25 critique slots. And chances are probably slim that I'll be chosen as the grand prize winner and be introduced to an agent. But in the end, winning isn't the sole purpose of my submission. The purpose is practice. The purpose is growth. The purpose is to go for it. Like the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you're going to chase a dream, you're going to have to take risks and put yourself out there. Sure, it might not happen. March 5th might come around and there will be 25 pitches and their accompanying critiques posted on the website, and it's very possible none of them will have my name on it. But then again, one of them could. One thing I know: Absolute statements like "that could never happen" don't belong in my vocabulary.

Mark Twain sums it up well in this quote, which I'll leave you with...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.