Friday, April 30, 2010

I am now a Twit. Or a tweeter. Or something

Phwew. Deep breath. In and out.

Yep, I did it. I jumped into the world of Twitter. I really have no clue what I'm doing, but I will try to figure it out quickly. Any suggestions? hints? life preservers? I'm still trying to figure out what the #something means, and I'm pretty sure @sarablarson is how you follow me. But if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me and help me and hold my cyber-hand... right? RIGHT?

Okay, anyway, I'd love for you to follow me! :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In which I am distracted...

Do any of you ever get affected by the "d-word?" You know, distractions. With a capital D. Kids, moving, books, Dancing with the Stars--oh wait, I mean, um... I know. I actually watched a TV show. (Those of you who know me, understand that this is seriously rare.)There's this lovely invention that seems to be forcing me to go to bed late. It's called a TiVO or DVR or something. It records shows and you can watch them whenever you want. Brilliant, right?

No. Evil. It. Is. Evil.

I had to make a decision a couple years ago when I got serious about writing and getting published on how to spend my (rare) free time. I have young children, and a husband who (shockingly, I know) actually likes when I pay attention to him. Not to mention pets (a maltese who is unfortunately getting up in years and a goldfish named CottonCandy who is never going to die, I swear). Then there are the bills, housework, laundry, driving kids to preschool/lessons/checkups/etc. Oh, how the list goes on and on. Sometimes I find myself sitting next to my kids writing on my laptop while they play, or while the baby is napping and the older one zones out to PBS sprout. Mother of the year award? I own it. Or not. I try to do my best, but isn't it strange that the moments where I should be focusing on my kids, I'm totally distracted wanting to write? Then, at the end of the day when I should be writing, I'm totally distracted by wanting to read or watch DWTS, or wishing I had played a little bit longer with my kids?

So what does this have to do with boxes that sit on top of your TV and record the shows? They are distractions. It was easy for me to not watch TV when I never was able to sit down and watch it while it was on anyway. But now... ah, now I can record it and watch it later. I need to be honest. I don't have a problem focusing on writing when I'm immersed in a new project, or have a revision needing to be done. But there are certain things I have a hard time making myself focus on. For example, today I'm supposed to be writing my synopsis for book 2 of the one my agent is *hopefully* going to be pitching in about a month or so. I keep staring at that blank page on the computer, or the somewhat legible notes I've scrawled in my notebook on where I want the plot to go, and I'm drawing a big fat blank. I need to focus, and get this done. But instead, I want to go watch Maxsim tear off his shirt--uh, I mean, dance again. I can, you know. Since it's recorded, all I have to do is push play.

Or maybe Derek. He's fun to watch, too. Does anyone else wonder who their partner would be if they got all uber-famous and went on this show? No? Okay, nevermind. Anyway, so I want to go watch it again because--

Oh, wait. I better get to work instead.
How do you deal with distractions?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A great conference!

Well, I did it! I spoke at my first writer's conference as an "author." I felt sort of like an interloper, sitting up there on the stand with published authors (since I don't have a publishing deal yet), but I enjoyed it all the same! I think I did okay, no major mistakes, so that's a relief.

It was so fun to hear some great authors speak about their journeys to publication/getting an agent. I've mentioned before that I'm friends with Ally Condie, and I already knew she was a lovely, funny, wonderful person. I didn't know what an amazing speaker she was! I figured she would be, but I was blown away by how hilarious, thoughtful, and inspiring her keynote address was. If you have the opportunity to hear her speak--do it! She did great. I am so excited for all that she has ahead of her!

I didn't know the other authors personally before, but it was fun to meet new friends. Natalie Whipple (go check out her blog here) did great, too! Thankfully, she didn't pass out (she had blogged earlier about her fear that she would), and I didn't have to employ my nursing skills to save her (as I had blogged back to tell her I would, if necessary). Phwew!

I did have to leave a little early this year, because it is my DH's birthday. I wish I could have stayed for more of the classes, but the ones I was able to be there were for were great! Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture with my co-authors/presenters. Whoops. So here's what I have instead...
This is me and Ally celebrating that we got agents:
(Don't worry, for those of you who know us, the drinks were "virgin.") ;-)

The wonderfully sweet, cute and funny Natalie Whipple (I pulled the pic from your blog, hopefully you don't care Natalie!). I can't wait to read her book, it sounds so fun. It was a pleasure to meet her in person.

All in all, it was a great day. Happy weekend everyone! (...and Happy Birthday Hon, thanks for letting me do this on your special day!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Am I weird?

I actually enjoy speaking. I don't mean just talking to my friends or family (although that's fun, too). I mean talking in front of people. Yes, I mean... public speaking. Gasp! I know most people dread it. Some people actually pass out from it, so I hear. Am I totally weird that I enjoy it? Maybe it stems from the times when I've had the opportunity to listen to a truly amazing speaker, and felt so motivated and excited that I wanted to go out and conquer the world. Or at least accomplish my next goal. But instead of just thinking, wow, was awesome. I think, Wow, I hope I can be the person up there giving an amazing speech like that someday! I don't think I am that person yet, but I love to challenge myself and try and learn. I take notes and pay attention to what great speakers do that make me love to listen to them. Then I try to emulate it. To my mirror. Or my husband. Or just in my head. I've spoken in church before, and at a business meeting a few times; but overall, I haven't had too many opportunities to do it.

So why am I blogging about this? (Still on my MIL's computer while son #1 is at preschool, because we're still moving, and I still don't have internet, I might add...)

I am going to be doing my first "speaking engagement" as an "author" this Saturday morning! I use the terms "speaking engagement" and "author" loosely, since really I've only been asked to take 5-10 minutes to talk about my journey to getting an agent, and I'm not published yet... but I'm still thrilled! It's at the American Fork Arts Council Writer's Conference, and I've got some great ideas of what I could do in my limited time. I want to make those five minutes amazing. (ha ha, we'll see how well I pull that off...)

But I'd like to hear from you: if you were in the audience, would rather hear about the actual physical account of what I went through to get an agent? (How long it's been, how many queries I sent off, etc. etc.); or would you rather hear more about the emotional journey--what kept me going, what my advice is to struggling authors, etc.?

Wish me luck! Hopefully those nerves everyone talks about won't make a sudden arrival in my stomach on Saturday...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Revisions while Moving. With NO INTERNET

Yes, that's right. I got my revision notes from my agent last week, the day after we started moving. And got our internet disconnected to transfer houses... and still hasn't been reconnected. Um, yeah. It's been a crazy week/weekend to say the least. So now I am blogging on my MIL's computer at her preschool--the only computer with internet I have access to right now.

And my 1 year old keeps grabbing my hand and trying to make me stop typing (in between pulling all of my MIL's papers off of her desk, and dumping the paper clips on the ground--for the second time--and...) Yeah. Maybe I should stop blogging and go be a Mommy. Or keep moving stuff.

At least I got the revision done!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shout out for the Cover of MATCHED!!!

I HAD to post about this. My good friend Ally Condie's book MATCHED is coming out November 30 of this year (this book is a BIG deal, and I am just so excited for her!!! Trust me, it couldn't have happened to a better person!), and she just posted the cover of it on her website/blog. I don't know if I'm allowed to post it, so I will just post the link for you. Check it out. I'm serious. Click right here RIGHT NOW and look it at. Ogle it. Drool and sigh and be breathless over it, like I did.

It is AMAZING. Just like her book is. I'm so excited for you Ally! I can't wait to own this book!!

Okay. Go look at it. Now.

Why are you still reading this? Go! :-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What keeps you motivated?

One thing I've had to learn over the last couple of years of highs and lows (an agent requested the full! Squeee!!... The agent "loved it but not enough" and rejected the full. Major frowny face...), is how to push through the lows. I've had to figure out how to keep motivated to write, to keep going forward, no matter what kind of day I've had.

Everyone has different ways to cope with roadblocks, or rejections, or whatever else may get you down. Is it going back and rereading the email from your friend/hubby/crit partner who loved your writing and gushed about it for three paragraphs? Do you turn on your favorite song and belt it out at the top of your lungs? I'd love to hear your ideas.

For me, different things work on different days. Over on Elana Johnson's blog, she asked what makes you giddy, and it got me thinking about one thing that works pretty well for me. I love singing -- particularly in my car. I love turning up an amazing song and belting it out. (I can pretend my voice is as good as the person I'm singing with that way!) One song that seems to help me feel better is from WICKED called Defying Gravity. (Oh, how I love that musical!) Sometimes, it feels like hitting some of my goals is about as difficult as defying gravity. I love powerful music, and I think that is a gorgeous song, especially when I'm needing a boost. "They'll never keep me down!" Try it sometime.

Or for the sake of my children's ears (and those of the driver's around me), maybe you should tell me what your ideas are. :-)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just a quick note about giveaways...

My goal is to post once a week (sometimes more), but I had to quickly let you know about some fun stuff!

There is an amazing giveaway over on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog Lisa and Laura Write: Check it out and enter to win some awesome prizes!

And speaking of giveaways, I will be doing them in the future, so keep an eye out! Make sure and become a follower now--people who are already following will get extra entries. ;-)

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The love/hate relationship

Can you guess what I'm talking about? Yep, you got it. Revisions.

Why am I writing about revisions? It probably has nothing to do with the fact that I'm waiting for my first revision notes from my agent. Nothing at all. (Did I mention I'm going to be revising my book for my agent? Wow, is that an awesome feeling!) Anyway, I digress.

Revising can be hard, or it can be liberating, depending on how you view it. You can look at it as taking your carefully plotted, written and finished manuscript and tearing it to pieces. Destroying all your hours of work. Making you feel like a worthless loser who really can't write at all. (And if that's how you feel, take two deep breaths and keep reading.) Or, as I've learned over the last couple of years, you can look at it as an opportunity to take the basis of what you've done and perfect it. Polish it until it shines. I love getting a suggestion and having an "aha!" moment, where I realize just how right it is. When I can see the shape of a more perfect novel coming to light. Revising is a gift. Trust me on this--it really is. If rough drafts of novels were what got published... Yikes. That's all I have to say.

So how do you get to the point where you enjoy revising? First, find a good critique partner (or partners). Any good CP (or agent or editor, I assume) is going to give you suggestions you can see value in. They might sting at first, but they should eventually make a ton of sense. The "why didn't I think of that? You're a genius!" kind of sense that brings a grin to your face. Not all suggestions will, but if more than half do, you know you have a good partner (imo). For me, those moments where I'm grinning and typing furiously as I see the diamond emerging from, well, you know the saying; that's when I get excited and remember just how much I love revising.

I learned this lesson the first time when I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine (who happened to be a former acquisitions editor and a published author) read my WIP and edit it. She only marked the first fifty pages because it took so long (and told me to find all the similar mistakes throughout the rest of it). Every one of those fifty pages were marked from top to bottom in red pen. Whoa. I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Ashamed that she had to read such crap. (What else could it be to have been marked up so much? Didn't "publishable" authors write perfect books?) Then she explained that all her red marks were actually compliments. She told me she wouldn't have spent so much time showing me the mistakes I was making, if she didn't think I had the talent and potential to make it worth her time. If my writing had truly been awful, she would have just said, "looks pretty good, maybe try working on ___." She wouldn't have taken the time to be detailed and thorough if it wouldn't have been worth it.

So remember, getting those revision letters are compliments. It means someone thinks your writing is worth their time and effort.

Remind me of that when I get my revision notes this week, okay?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

Begins with a single step."

So often I hear people say, "I've always wanted to write a book, but I just don't have time." Or "I don't know how." Or (insert excuse/reason here). My advice? Take that first step. And then another. And another. Devote just thirty minutes before bed to it, instead of watching that sitcom. Read books like the one you want to write, so you understand what's out there, why yours is different and what you have to offer. Find a class or a critique group to help you and motivate you. Sit down, and start typing. Sure, taking steps into the unknown is scary and oftentimes hard. You might land in a mud puddle, or twist your ankle, or get stung by a scorpion or something (hey, I'm trying to be philosophical), but don't give up. Don't quit moving forward, because you never know which step is going to be the one that will propel you to your goal. Even the painful steps have meaning. When you do reach your goal, it will feel that much sweeter.

I first started writing books when I was in second grade (or at least those are the first ones I can remember writing), so I've been writing for a while. I still have my Little Mermaid notebook that I wrote them in. Not too many of my "early works" were fairy tales though, despite the cover of my notebook. I was a... precocious child. I'm sure my parents would agree. I wrote a story about a girl whose mom had a premature baby. There may have even been a "to scale" drawing of how big the baby would be. Also, it may have been written when my mom was six months pregnant with one of my sisters. I'm sure my story was very comforting to her.
Anyway, the point is, I started early. However, that doesn't really matter. Whether you are eight, or eighteen, thirty, fifty, or eighty--if you have a story you've been wanting to write--I say start now.

None of us can change our pasts, but we have absolute power to influence the course of our future.

On the hardest days of this journey, I would tell my hubby, "I wish I didn't care so much. I wish that I could quit, and have it not matter." That might not make much sense, so let me try to explain. Even in my darkest moments of self-doubt and frustration, I knew I didn't have it in me to quit. I wanted it too much. Even if I felt like it right then, I knew that within a few hours, or maybe a few days, I would be back at the computer revising my book, or reworking my query, maybe just sending more out, or deciding it was time to work on a new project to give me hope for the future. I couldn't quit, because I didn't want to be fifty, or eighty, and think "What if?"

"What if I hadn't quit?"

"What if I would have sent out another round of queries?"

"What if I would have written just one more book, and that would have been the one?"

I persevered and I finally reached the first major milestone of this business. I have an agent.
Good thing I didn't quit in February when I thought about it again...

Take that first step, and see where it leads you.