Courage for Dreamers: (In which I get a Tattoo)

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It’s interesting, the things that give us courage. Sometimes it only takes a few words to remind us of what’s true, and we are suddenly braver than our fears.

Many things inspire me. I surround myself with images and quotes that serve as touchstones, helping me find my way on a path that can be lonely and doubt-filled at times. Going after your dreams can be terrifying. With every door that closes, you must decide whether or not to try again. You weigh the risks and ask yourself to count the cost of hurt and discouragement. How much is a dream—a difficult, unlikely dream—truly worth?

I could never have made it this far without the family and friends who’ve supported me and encouraged me to believe—to keep reaching. They helped me be brave when my doubts and fears seemed bigger than the possibilities. My book deals—and all that’s happened this past year, still seem surreal. I wanted to mark this time in a special way.

So I got a tattoo.

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C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and this is from his book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Edmund, Lucy and Caspian sail into Darkness, and everyone is afraid. They can’t find their way, and their fears begin to materialize around them. A seagull circles the mast, and Lucy hears Aslan say, “Courage, dear heart.” They follow the gull back into the light. I have always loved this quote. These words hang near my computer and I’ve looked at them after reading countless rejection letters. I have felt like Lucy many times.

So now I wear them. On my writing hand—to remind me to write bravely. And also as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I hope to inspire other artists and dreamers.

Sometimes, all we need is the right voice—at just the right time.

Take risks, dream big. Never give up.

Courage, dear heart.

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Reaching Past Rejection: How Dreaming Big Led to a Book Deal

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I wrote this in the sand the day before I met my agent in person, at this past summer’s SCBWI LA conference. I was in a bit of a creative/emotional funk, wrapping up months of revisions and getting ready to send my manuscript out into the great big world of publishing. I had one of the best agents in the business, (and her amazing editorial skills), but I had no guarantee that the doors I hoped would open, wouldn’t in fact—close.

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I stood barefoot in the surf and stared toward the horizon, making wishes on the waves. I picked up two sea stones, held them tight and thought of every dream I had for myself as a writer, and threw one of those rocks back to sea. I let the waves carry away the hopes and dreams I’d made, and kept the other stone, as a reminder to myself that those dreams were still out there—waiting for the right time and place to land.

As my feet sank into the sand, I gave myself a pep talk: if things didn’t go as I hoped, I’d allow myself a good cry, then get right back on that metaphorical horse. This wasn’t my first Rejection Rodeo. I had persevered through years of rejected queries and manuscripts to get to this point. The fact that I hadn’t given up was something to celebrate.

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One of the promises I made myself as I watched the August sun sink into the ocean, was that—whether I landed a book deal or not—I’d keep writing.

What I couldn’t know then, was that I’d make it through the ups and downs of the submission process with more than one editor who wanted the stories I had to tell. I couldn’t know then, as I drew those letters in the sand, what Sarah’s voice would sound like when she called and said, “how does it feel to know you’re going to be a published author?” Or how I would cry happy tears when she told me they wanted not just one, but two books.

As I threw my rock out to sea, I didn’t know that some of my dreams would find their landing just eight weeks from that day.

That sea-tossed stone now sits on my desk, a reminder of when I let go of what I couldn’t control, and celebrated what I had accomplished so far.

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If you are holding your own sort of sea stone, remember the dreams you painted inside your heart. Keep pushing. Keep running. Keep learning and growing and doing everything else but give up. And if you’ve been too afraid to go after what you love—maybe this is your moment. Whisper your dreams to the waves and be true to the courageous voice inside you that says “reach.”

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Out of the Query Trenches

I’d been in the Query Trenches a loooong time. For the past few years, I’d pretty much lived there. I had my own mailbox and a clown with a little dancing dog that came by every so often to cheer me up. (Okay—the dog is real, but my husband would not appreciate the clown metaphor.)

Anyone who’s ever written a manuscript and sent their baby out into the daunting world of slush piles and literary agents knows the particular kind of hell this journey is for most writers.

It’s said that Mark Twain wallpapered his attic in rejection letters before he published Tom Sawyer. I used to print and save my rejection letters and post them on the wall until I realized that a room decorated with rejection was really depressing.

So I treated myself to cupcakes (or wine) whenever a pass came in, and for the really tough ones—rejections on full requests—I bought shoes. And a puppy.

Emmy and shoes

But today, I’m relinquishing my spot in the query trenches to another hopeful writer. Not because I quit, but because I didn’t quit.

And finally, finally . . . I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

*pops cork*    *twirls *

I am so deliriously excited to announce that THE AMAZING SARAH DAVIES of The Greenhouse Literary Agency has offered to represent me!!!

Yep. I just looked down, and my feet are still floating off the ground. And yes, her name requires SHOUTY CAPS–she is that kind of agent.

It is such a gift to have a champion for this story, and I know my manuscript is in the very best hands.

I’ll soon be pitching my tent over in the Submission Trenches. I’m sure the clown and his little dancing dog will visit from time to time. Hopefully, before too long, my story will find a home with a publisher.

Whatever happens, I’m taking with me the most important lesson I learned in the Query Trenches–one I want to encourage you with, fellow dreamers . . .

Never-never-never-give-up

 

 

Rejection Rescue: Never Give Up

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
― Winston Churchill

It’s always hard when something you’ve put your heart and soul into gets what feels like a ‘meh’ response.  That’s the nature of art–as it’s an extension of the person who created it.  If we didn’t care what people thought, we wouldn’t be trying to get an audience for our work in the first place.  We want to make people feel…just not feel ‘meh’.

Today #pitchmadness was whittled down to the finalists and for all those who didn’t make the cut, it’s hard not to feel left behind in the land of Not Good Enough.  Are you dealing with rejection?  Take heart, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get back on the horse, and [insert favorite metaphor here.]

I’m diving back into my newest book, immersing myself in a world and characters that are still coming to life around me.  In this world, anything is possible; the only limits are the ones I set.  I kind of feel that way about real life, too.  That’s the dreamer in me.

Get back to what you love.  And never give up.

The dream is still possible…you just have to keep trying.

Out of the Zombie Slush Pile (my #pitchmadness entry)

Hooray! I made it out of the “zombie slush pile” with my pitch for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY.  On to Round 2 of the crazy, creative frenzy that is #pitchmadness.

Many of my fellow zombie slushees requested I post my entry…so here it is, with a few thoughts to encourage as well…

Name: Jenny Moyer
Title: THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY
Genre: YA
Word Count: 89,000

Pitch:
Brier hides her ability to speak her dreams into existence, but when a secret dream lab comes after her she must push the boundaries of her dreamspeaking abilities to save herself and those she loves.

Excerpt:

When I turned six, I learned the monsters in my closet were real—but what scared me most was realizing I had put them there.

This is my first thought when I wake in the basement closet sprawled beside the baseboards. My fingers trace the grooves of claw marks—in the place my mother couldn’t cover with paint.  Her words from that night come back to me and I’m reminded that, as scary as the creature in the closet was, the people who will come for me if I’m discovered are worse.

My second thought is that I have to get my dreamspeaking under control, because this is the third time this week I’ve woken up in the damn closet

The floor creaks and a light switches on.

“Brier?”  My sister’s muffled voice reaches me beyond a wall of old coats.

Squinting against the sudden brightness, I scramble out on my hands and knees.  “Owen?  What are you doing up?  It’s the middle of the night.”

“I thought I heard you on the stairs.”  Her eyes search my face, drop down my Hello Kitty shirt and tattered flannel shorts.  “Why are you in the closet?”

“A…mouse.”  My eyes shift toward the shadows.  “I saw a mouse.”

“And you followed it into the closet?”

Taking her arm, I steer her toward the stairs.  “Just one mouse can cause a lot of problems.  We’re talking infestation.”  I switch off the light and lead the way back to our rooms.

Thoughts on contests:

I’m going to be honest: pitch contests will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with the hype, the excitement, the swelling hope…and the sometimes letdown.  I know writers who find this process harder than querying.  Don’t get me wrong–I think querying writers should use every opportunity to get their work in front of agents–but I’ve learned that you have to keep contests in perspective so you don’t emerge crushed (and convinced you should throw your book out the window.)

#1: Use the opportunity to HONE YOUR PITCH/HOOK/LOGLINE.  Ditto with the first 250 words.  Make them as strong and grabby as they can be and LEARN from the other writers doing the same thing…

#2 DON’T LET A PASS GET YOU DOWN (for long) It’s subjective–just like in the real query world. Find encouragement from all the other writers in your boat, then hone your pitch and let the experience springboard you back into querying. (and writing and revising!)

#3 MEET OTHER AWESOME WRITERS This is the REAL gem of contests. I’ve met some of the best critique partners this way–not to mention fellow writers who are beside me in the query trenches.

#4 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK  Is your MS drifting in an endless sea of rejection? Maybe it’s time to set it aside (for now) and dive in to that next book. Nearly every author I know has at least one “shelved” book.

I’m excited to have made it this far, but if I don’t make one of the teams, it’s on to #pitmad on March 29th (an even crazier contest!) Hope to see many of you there! Last time, I tweeted and pitched like a madwoman (or a very determined writer) and #pitmad led to multiple partial and full requests for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY. It happens.

So, here’s to every one of the over 400 writers who bravely put themselves out on the proverbial rejection ledge, and diligently whittled their manuscripts down to compelling 35 word pitches for  #pitchmadness. We all deserve awards for bravery and commitment to our publishing dreams! So MANY GREAT concepts did not make it out of the slush, and even fewer will make it to Round 3.  Good luck to those of you still on the coaster, and for everyone else…NEVER EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP.  See you at #pitmad March 29!