A Dreamer Becomes an Author

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                                                Me and my rejection letters

Two days to deadline–I should be editing instead of blogging, but I wanted to share this.

Many of you know that my publishing journey has been filled with ups and downs, many rejections, and times I nearly quit believing in myself and the possibility of a dream I held in my heart for so many years.

This video makes me cry (in the good way) because Jacob captured so much of that in these images. *

I still recall the sting of rejection, and the way every failed opportunity bruised my heart a little–but MORE than that, I remember the people who cheered me past it–who believed in me even when I only felt doubt.

I’ve held on to my rejection letters (literally hundreds of them) for years. Even on days of discouragement, I imagined myself one day holding up that stack and saying, “This happened, BUT . . .”

Rejection doesn’t have to define us. The desire to create art or tell stories doesn’t end with the evaluation of other people. We do it because we love it. That’s really what got me to this point. I decided I was going to keep writing, whether I ever published or not.

It’s funny, but that’s when I wrote FLASHFALL. I had an agent interested in another manuscript, but I felt compelled to work on this new book. It was personal for me, and it poured out in cathartic ways–the story of a girl who got knocked down again and again, but didn’t give up because she believed there was a way past a terrifying, impassable wall.

“This happened, BUT . . .”

If that’s you–a dreamer coming up against barriers–try to see them instead as steps along the way, motivation to push creative boundaries and work harder. If you can carve out time to do what you love–what feeds your soul–than you are already winning. You’ve succeeded. And yes–we want an audience, people who will experience and feel moved by what we’ve created. So find that friend, or critique partner or writing group.

Give voice to the things your heart is saying.

*thank you to my amazing husband and the team at Luminary, for your creative talents, and for helping me share my publishing story in ways more powerful than words.

 

 

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

 

 

How I quit, started over, and finally received offers of representation.

I remember the moment when I got my first full request for my historical fantasy, THE DESCENDED.

I went into the ugly cry, clutching my laptop to my chest like a beloved friend. “The agent loves it,” I exclaimed through my tears. “She thinks it has potential.” *continued incoherent mumbling*

“I knew it!” my husband shouted. Then there may have been some awkward dancing with the laptop clasped between us.

Because, finally, finally I’d MADE it. Two years of writing and revising my manuscript and months of rejections had led precipitously to this moment when an agent—a fabulous agent whom I liked and admired—opened the hallowed DOOR OF PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITY.

Only . . .not.

I had a lot to learn about the query process then. *shakes head at naive, younger self*

Fast forward months of maniacal email inbox stalking to the kind, but vague rejection. No dancing this time. Straight up despair.

That was it. I sucked. My dream was just the delusion of a crazy person. A talentless crazy person. So I did what any sensitive, creative type would do in my shoes.

I quit.

There I was, crying on a treadmill at the gym with my husband running beside me. (I was at a sedate, depressed walk) I attuned my heart and mind to the things I could do with my life that didn’t involve, you know, words and imagination.

“Don’t quit,” my husband said. “Use what you learned and write the next one.”

Very Obi Wan Kenobi of him. I scoffed and snot-cried. Then did something that seriously surprised me and my battered ego. I went home and started my first YA, THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY. A story about a girl who’s terrified to speak her dreams aloud and then learns that it’s those very dreams that empower her. (Basically, a long note to myself.) I was not going to fear my dreams—even if they sometimes led to heartache and rejection.

Because, at the end of the day, my passion is to write. I crave an audience like every artist, but something in my soul needs to create these worlds and characters—even if I’m the only one who experiences them.

I was a lot smarter this time making the query rounds. Slog it out in the query trenches long enough and you learn a few things. Mainly–have critique partners comb through your manuscript before you send it out into the world.

DREAMSPEAKER’S did well. I won contests, I got requests. LOTS of requests.

THIS WAS IT. I was poised on the brink of REPRESENTATION. Even the rejections coming in were personalized and detailed, so complimentary that I printed some of them and tacked them to my inspiration board. Then . . .

EVERY. DOOR. CLOSED.

No weeping treadmill pity party this time. No Yoda-like pep talk from my husband.

I was not giving up. Period. So I sent another draft to my CPs and Betas. Took all their critiques on the chin like a champ (some of them were tough) My revised manuscript morphed like a snake shedding its skin. I attended conferences. I read EVERYTHING in my genre (and outside of it). THEN, finally, I sent my polished little baby out into another batch of queries.

But, like I said, I was smarter now. So, instead of focusing on the queries and rejections, I started another speculative YA, SUBPARS.

And this story, I LOVED. The main character is a knock-me-down-but-I’m-getting-back-up kind of protagonist that inspired me and challenged me through the PITS OF QUERY HELL.

I couldn’t wait to query the agents who liked my writing with DREAMSPEAKER”S. In a fit of bravado, I even queried a couple agents I thought were unreachable–the ones I’d admired from afar and Twitter/Blog stalked for years. So with a shaking finger on the send button, and a please, please, please mantra in my head, I sent them SUBPARS.

I heard back right away from THREE AGENTS OF AWESOMENESS. Requests!! And the next few days went something like this:

“Ohmygosh, I’m so HAPPY!!”

Then,

“I’ll never make it. This SUCKS. I am in rejection HADES!!!”

I was told great things about my writing, but that the paranormal and speculative markets were FLOODED. And DEAD.

*Cue violin* I slid right into a post-rejection funk.

I may have drank my celebratory champagne spitefully. I may have bought myself a few pairs of shoes to cheer myself up. I zombied out on Twitter, read other writers’ success stories. All I needed was balloons and black crepe paper to make my pity party complete.

It just wasn’t going to happen for me. I was a writer—an author, even. But I just wouldn’t be a published one.

I told myself I was okay with this. And ate excessive amounts of chocolate.

I hoped against all hope for good news in my inbox.

Meanwhile, I completed an R&R (revise and re-submit) with an agent who was interested in DREAMSPEAKER’S. I focused hard on that project. (And re-wrote the novel from start to finish)

I waited. And refreshed my email constantly. And said please, please, please a thousand times in my heart.

And then.

I got an offer of representation from the agent who had my R&R. I sent emails to all the agents who had my queries for both manuscripts.

More agents responded.

The UNREACHABLES reached out. They LOVED SUBPARS. They loved my writing.

With my feet floating above the ground, I tried to make sense of the words I was reading in my emails–because all at once, multiple agents were offering me representation.

I drank champagne again. My boys toasted my joy with sparkling cider. We danced around to the song “Happy.” I wore my red rejection shoes just because.

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So, here it is, the moral of the story: Dream big. Quit if you need to. But then start over. Dream bigger. Grow. Learn. And above all—HOPE.

This isn’t the end for me. Just a new chapter on a journey that may or may not ultimately lead to my book sitting on a shelf in Barnes and Noble (please, please, please)

I’ve got more rejection to face. Probably more closed doors. Definitely new books to write. But hope is the one essential ingredient in it all.

Well, and puppies. Puppies really do make everything better. And shoes. And friends who “get it.” So there you go, fellow dreamers and writers. I get it. Hang in there. Keep on going after it—your own happy dance might be right around the corner.

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.