(Thanks to summertime and RSW, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a “Currently”but I plan to get back into posting every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)



My new “Soho” jeans from New York & Company. I have a really hard time finding jeans that fit my long legs, and pants that get saggy throughout the day are a major pet peeve, which is why I’m obsessed with this brand and fit — they’re perfect! In other news, my 2016 InkWELL Press planner arrived! It’s so pretty (I chose the “Modern Mermaid” cover), and it’s full of awesome organizational tools printed on lovely paper. Can’t wait to start using it!


I’ve been horrible about reading lately. I’m drafting one project and editing another, and there doesn’t seem to be room left in my brain for someone else’s words. BUT. I recently started Tarryn Fisher‘s Marrow (because Riley Edgewood said I had to) and it’s keeping me engaged with it’s weirdness and sadness and beautiful, beautiful prose. If you’re curious about what I read last month, check out my September Reading Wrap-Up.


I’m nearly done with the final season of Gilmore Girls and, I’m not gonna lie, I really hate how things appear to be wrapping up. (Spoilers ahead…) I’m so disappointed by how Luke was written during most of season 6. The fact that he morphed into a liar and was totally blasé about ending his engagement with Lorelai was grossly out of character. It’s so obvious that the two of them belong together! I do enjoy Logan, though, so I’m sticking it out ’til the end to see what happens with him and Rory.

Over the weekend, we saw The Martian, which was quite good. I’m not a big space person (terrifying), but I was definitely not bored. My husband read the book and he said the movie was even better. So, recommend!

Listening To

My usual podcasts. Plus (and I’m not proud of this), I am ~obsessed~ with R5’s All Night. I listen to it on repeat. Often. So fun!

Thinking About

All the fun I had at the Baltimore Book Festival. Living in the DC area is not my preference, but I do love being close to so many fantastic bookish friends and events. I spent a long weekend with a few of my favorites, listening to panels, eating yummy food, drinking lots of coffee, and writing, writing, writing.


Halloween with my girlie. She wants to be a black cat (sort of like our Daphne) and we’re looking forward to going costume shopping. She’s going to be such a cute kitty! We’ve got a Saturday at the pumpkin patch planned, too. I’m not an autumn person, but I do love some of the fall traditions. 🍁🍂

(Oh, and I have some exciting writerly news to share in the next few weeks.
Stay tuned!)


For some good news on the submission front. I’m due for some, right?

Making Me Happy

My new WiP! I’m about 18K in, and I’m feeling inspired, which is excellent. Also, I think I’ve mostly got an ending worked out, so this one just might be finish-able. And, it has a pretty, pretty mood board. ❤

PicMonkey Collage

 What’s currently making YOU happy?


RSW Update 4

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and myself. Find the rest of the details HERE.

* How I did on last week’s goal(s).

1. Complete a revision of my contemporary YA, Where Poppies Bloom… IN PROGRESS. I’d been hoping to be done by now, but still… nope. I revised ten scenes this week, and I have twelve left to go.

2. Complete the first draft of my contemporary YA, The Road So Far, by the close of RSW… IN PROGRESS. I didn’t work on this project at all last week. Poppies has to be my priority now, but I can’t wait to get back to this one!

3. Read (on average) one YA/adult novel per week… YES! I read Amy Christine Parker’s Gated, a seriously creepy contemporary about life in a cult.

4. Read (on average) one MG novel with my daughter every two weeks… YES! We’re working on one of Sara Mylnowski’s Whatever After books, and my girl read a chapter book on her own, one from the Baby-Sitters Little Sisters series.

5. Maintain my tan… YES! My family and I went to the beach on Independence Day and spent all morning in the sun.

* My goal(s) for this week.

Finish my Where Poppies Bloom revision. Send it to Alison. 🙂

* A favorite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

The first line from Where Poppies Bloom

I never used to be the type of girl who hotboxes her bathroom.

* The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I had family in town all week which was awesome, and of course I wanted to spend my time doing fun things with them. Revisions took a backseat, but I’m back at them now. My girlie’s going to Zoo Camp this week (!), so I’ll have every day from 9-3 to work, work, work.

* Something I love about my WiP. 

I kind of want to strangle my WiP right now, so… I baked Danish Puff and Texas Chocolate Cake. I love these desserts more than anything I’ve written lately.

In other news… July is the month of RSW giveaways! 

For the next four weeks, ErinJaimeAlison, and I will be giving away some pretty spectacular Writer’s Care Packages. All you have to do to be eligible is participate in Ready. Set. Write! and enter via the Rafflecopter link below.

This week, Erin’s giving away an adorable package including a journal, to-do notepad, mug, 2 kinds of tea (in the gold bag: wild cherry & chai chilli pepper), tea filters, rainbow pens, sticky tabs, Post-its, paperclips, Tic Tacs, and gum.

Erin's Pic

Enter to win here: A Rafflecopter giveaway!

I can’t wait to read about how Ready. Set. Write! is going for you.
Don’t forget to share the link of your latest post below!

On Insanity…

(This is one of those posts in which I attempt to make myself feel more normal by commiserating with all of you. Thanks in advance for humoring me. ♥♥♥)

By “the same thing over and over again,” I’m referring to revising and/or rewriting repeatedly with the goal of one day launching a publishing career.

So. I understand that with each completed draft I become a stronger writer. And that makes me SO happy. And I understand that publishing can be slow and frustrating and that there are no guarantees. I understand that not every writer becomes a published author, and I get that all writers experience moments of doubt and defeat. I have a well-researched, realistic view on the industry, and I realize that no matter how glamorous an author’s life may seem, no one has had an easy go of it. Writing is hard. Rejection is hard. Publishing is hard.

That being said, I  have a determined (stubborn?) streak that will not let me give up. I will continue to march toward my goal for as long as I am mentally capable of imagining and physically capable of typing. But…

Lately, when  family and friends (who are very sweet and well-meaning) ask me the dreaded, “Hey, when’s your book going to be published?” question, I have to suppress cringe. Because… I don’t know. I don’t know when my book’s going to be published. I don’t even know if this particular book will  see the light of day, ever. It’s kind of out of my hands at this point.

So, when asked that dreaded question, I end up answering with mumbles about an umpteenth revision, and then the family member or friend ends up giving me The Look. You probably know the one: It’s kind of confused and kind of piteous. Like, Oh, you cute girl (or bored housewife or crazy person). You must have such fun with your imaginary friends. Another revision, huh? How many revisions have you done on that book, anyway? When will the madness end? 

Yes. Yes, I am revising again. Yes, I know that probably sounds insane. Yes, sometimes I feel insane, and that sucks. But my story is better for it. And when my first book sells, trust that I will shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, you’ll probably be sick to death of hearing about it by the time the book ever sits on a bookstore shelf.

Until then, I’m going to embrace the insanity and continue to plug away, honing my craft, reading everything I can get my hands on, and just… writing.

Want to get in on my brand of crazy?

What’s Up Wednesday

Today I’m jumping in on “What’s Up Wednesday,” a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

Fantastic, right? So, here’s what’s up with me…

What I’m Reading: I just finished Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster. I’ll share more about my thoughts tomorrow, but I have to say… I was entertained by all the angst. Trav and Abby’s dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship kept me captivated. Yesterday I started Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which is predictably awesome so far.

What I’m Writing: *sigh* There’s the epic rewrite I’ve mostly sidelined but still think about often, and there’s the SNI WiP (the one that’s inspired by a Tim McGraw song), that I love, LoVe, LOVE, but has also put on the back burner. Mostly, I’m working on a requested revision of Cross My Heart that has mad potential thanks to notes from my amazingly brilliant and insightful agent. Motivation and inspiration and excitement are beautiful things.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Running. No surprise there. I ended up with 171 total miles for the month of April, putting me at 665 miles for 2013. Not too shabby. We’ve had gorgeous weather lately, so my girlie and I have been spending lots of time at the various parks in our neighborhood. Also, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones obsessively. I love that show SO MUCH. Daenerys is so compassionate, yet such a badass. I’m swooning over the recent romantic developments in Jon Snow’s storyline (though I wholeheartedly agree with Forever YA’s comment about the bath coming first). And King Slayer Jaime Lannister, once one of my most loathed characters, has turned out to be so very complex and fascinating (that final scene with Brienne on Sunday night… Whoa.). If you’re not watching this show, start now!

What Inspires Me Right Now: Last month I flaked on Fat Mum Slim‘s Photo a Day Challenge, but I think I’m going to jump back on the bandwagon this month. I’m finding these prompts quite inspiring…

And, since I’m doing lots of writing and revising these days, I’ve been listening to plenty of emotional country music. I’m particularly loving Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, and Tim McGraw’s Southern Voice.

In Other, Far Sadder News: Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our sweet dog, Lucy. My husband and I adopted her when she was six weeks old, just after we were married nearly ten years ago. She’s been with us through several military moves, the adoption of an additional dog (Daisy, who is currently very sad), the birth and subsequent growing up of our daughter, and several deployments. Lucy was spunky and sassy and loved peanut butter with unrivaled passion. As much as I’ve complained about her shedding, her sneaky naps on the couch, and her shrill litte bark, I adored her. She was a loyal and wonderful pet. We will miss you very much, Lucy Goose. ♥♥♥

What have you been up to lately?

2012 in Review…

Last year I posted a 2011 Year in Review. Not only was it fun to share the highs and lows of my year with you all, it was also fun to look back on all that had happened over the previous twelve months.

So, of course I had to take some time to reflect on 2012. While I wasn’t successful in ALL of my goals, I did meet many. I had tons of fun with my family, I grew as a writer and reader, and I made some fantastic new friends along the way.  It’s been a busy year, full of changes, hard work, and lots of fun…


I blogged about goals, and decided on RESOLVE as my all-encompassing word for 2012. I also mused about the struggles of rewriting.

 I survived a winter storm that threatened my sanity.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) The Fault in Our Stars
I started the year off reading and reviewing a couple of awesome books: A Million Suns by Beth Revis and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

At the end of the month, my girlie and I welcomed my husband home from  Afghanistan (yay!).

The DisenchantmentsI raved about another favorite of 2012, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour.


I blogged about my preference for character-driven YA, and shared my Two-Minute Tension Test.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day with BOTH of my loves!

I turned thirty-one. No comment.

021I attended my husband’s Welcome Home Ball and had a *little* too much fun. 🙂


Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)I read and reviewed another 2012 favorite: Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium.

I worked on a substantial revision of Where Poppies Bloom and resubmitted it to the agent I was working with at the time. (In case you’re wondering, I eventually came to the very difficult realization that Poppies isn’t going to sell the way it’s currently written. As of now, the story is “retired” and waiting for a rewrite that will hopefully come in 2013… Tough stuff.)

I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Vancouver BC with my husband. Such a fun, beautiful city!

Saw The Hunger Games. Awesome!

I blogged about my on-again-off-again struggles with procrastination (and why it’s not always a bad thing).


successfully completed the A-Z  Blogging Challenge, which was so fun! Thank you again to all of the hosts and organizers!

I Rocked the Drop!

I met a few of my favorite authors (Gayle Forman, Nina LaCour, and Stephanie Perkins) during the Seattle stop of the YA or Bust Tour.

I was invited to become an Operative over at YA Confidential. Love my fantastic new blogging buddies!


I participated in Blog Me MAYbe, brainchild of writer/blogger/all-around-awesome-person Sara McClung.

blogged about The Page Sixty-Nine Test, a writer’s trick I learned from clever author Gayle Forman.

We moved from Washington to central California, and made a big ol’ road trip out of the ordeal.

After we settled in to our new house, I shared a little bit about how I plot stories and write first drafts.

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary!

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)I read and recommended Veronica Rossi’s stunning debut, Under the Never Sky.

shared my miracle cures for writer’s block, and started tackling a major rewrite of my YA contemporary manuscript, Cross My Heart.


Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneOh, look! Another outstanding 2012 book: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfeld.

Around this time, I scored a few amazing new critique partners. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for Temre, Taryn, and Alison!

My cutie pie got her very first library card, and had quite the Marilyn moment.


I posted about “gap books” and committed to reading a few of mine (including The Book Thief), and brought the “One Space or Two” debate to my blog.

I read and gushed about Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, my VERY FAVORITE book of 2012!

I completed my Cross My Heart rewrite! 

My girlie and I made the loooong trip to Phoenix to visit my parents, my brother, and my cutie pie nephew.

My husband and I saw Brad Paisley and The Band Perry… Incredible!


I helped my sweet girl celebrate her fifth birthday

and watched as she headed off to kindergarten. Very bittersweet!


I tackled a frustrating revision of Cross My Heart, one that came with some bad-but-unrelated writing news. I threw myself a pity party, but that pain in the ass revision eventually made Cross My Heart what it is today.

This Is Not a TestI posted about yet another phenomenal 2012 release: This is Not a Test by the infinitely brilliant Courtney Summers.

Took a trip to Washington to visit family and see Tim McGraw(!).

I posted about taking a break and why it’s important, jumped on the “Currently…” bandwagon, blogged about how running parallels revising, and shared my take on Banned Books Week.


I visited an apple orchard with my girlie, and blogged about method writing (which, for me, involves A LOT of baking and running).

I talked about Cross My Heart, my “Next Big Thing,” and scored some awesomely encouraging comments in the process!

I wrote six words of advice for Teen Katy, which Erin L. Schneider combined with the advice of many other YA bloggers/writers into this amazing video.

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Perfectly creepy-weird. I couldn’t help but sing its praises!

I indulged my girlie and “dressed up” for Halloween. Little Miss Merida just LOVES this holiday!


I took a risk and signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time. The WiP I worked on is an upper YA contemporary romance. What else? 😉

I ran (and finished!) the Big Sur Half Marathon, meeting a goal I’d set for myself ages ago. I was exhausted at the end, yet so proud!

I blogged about all the things I’m thankful for

Saving June…and raved about another amazing book, Hannah Harrington’s Saving June (not released in 2012, but one of the best books I read this year).

In slightly less positive news, I parted ways with my former agent and began querying new agents. I didn’t blog about the ordeal until later, but this experience put a bit of a damper on an otherwise extraordinary month.

I WON National Novel Writing Month! (No matter that I haven’t touched the manuscript since November — I still love it! And, I plan on finishing the first draft and making in CP-worthy during the month of January.)


I accepted super-agent Victoria Marini’s offer of representation. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Victoria, and I look forward to seeing what the New Year brings in the way of manuscript submissions!

I got to go to Disneyland! Seriously. The happiest place on Earth.

I read and recommended yet another amazing 2012 book: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNarama. Love, love, love!

I celebrated my husband’s birthday WITH him for once. It was a fantastic day full of The Hobbit, Buffalo Wild Wings, and homemade birthday cake.

I co-hosted the Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest with  Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller. Such a great turn-out this year. My To-Read list grew about a mile!

And last but not least, I celebrated the holidays with my husband and this sweet girl, and took some time to reflect on the passing year.


Tell Me: How was your 2012? What are your hopes for 2013?

Big Changes and Amazing News…

So… Last month I quietly removed the “Represented by…” bit from my blog and Twitter bios and posted all cryptically about being down in the dumps. The reason? My previous agent and I parted ways. While the split was amicable, I was left feeling really, um… grouchy. I know I’m not the only person who has severed ties with her agent, and I know there are far bigger problems in the world, but in my world, the split felt huge and devastating and hopeless. I was smack in the middle of trying to win National Novel Writing Month, suddenly agentless, facing the oh-so-daunting query trenches.


But, it wasn’t all bad. I had a complete and polished manuscript (Cross My Heart, for those of you who’ve been around this blog awhile), a decent start on a blurb that would soon become the meat of my query letter, and a few priceless referrals from writing buddies and industry insiders. Plus, I had my trusted friends, people I was able to turn to when I needed to vent, when I needed help with said query letter, and, eventually, when it was time to celebrate. (THANK YOU, Taryn and Alison and Temre and Elodie!)

I queried while I NaNo-ed which, while overwhelming, kept my mind busy. I racked up a few requests, and a week after I sent my first query, I received a phone call from a lovely and enthusiastic agent who wanted to represent me and my work. Oh my God. I was ecstatic. And relieved. And astonished. It took me two-and-a-half years and three manuscripts to snag an agent’s attention my first go around; it was difficult to process the swiftness with which this second effort went down. To make a long story short, I emailed the other agents who had already requested my work, as well as those I’d queried and hadn’t yet heard back from. A few passed on the initial query and a few never responded, but I somehow ended up with numerous fulls out to be considered.

Over the course of the next week, I received several kind and complimentary passes. I also received a couple more offers and had a couple more phone calls. To be honest, each agent I spoke to was delightful in her own way; I’d be lucky to work with any of them. But still… one stood out. She was just SO passionate and knowledgeable. She understood my characters and their journey, and seemed to love my story in all the same ways I love it. Her revision suggestions were stellar, and even in the weird between-offer-and-acceptance phase, she was super quick to respond to my emails and inquiries. As if all that isn’t enough, her reputation in the writing community is outstanding. She’s pretty much a perfect storm of awesome.

On Monday night, two whirlwind weeks after I sent out my first query letter, I formerly accepted an offer of representation from Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency.

Guys. I could not be more thrilled!

Celebratory flowers from my husband, who is amazing and has put up with all kinds of crazy over the last few weeks . ♥

On Querying:

(I’m slowly making my return to blogging. My husband recently deployed and I have a bit more free time on my hands. Happy to be back!)

A few weeks ago I got an email from a fellow writer who’d read my Holy Crap: I Have an Agent! post. As well as offering congratulations, she asked for advice on querying. At first I was surprised and flattered, but not long after opening her email I started to get a feeling of… I don’t know. Unworthiness? I’m so not qualified to be doling out advice! When I told my husband this, he said, “Uh, why not? You’ve been querying off and on for the last year and now you’ve landed an agent. You’re totally qualified.”

Shouldn't everything in life be this cut and dry?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized he might be right. While I’m certainly not an expert on querying (is anyone?), I have had a fair amount of experience and I’ve gained some wisdom that’s probably worth sharing. 

Below are the top ten things I’ve learned regarding the query process. Of course, the following advice only applies once you have an edited, critiqued, revised, sparklingly clean, complete manuscript, as well as a compelling query letter…

1) You won’t know if you’re truly ready to query until you send out a few letters. Of course you shouldn’t  send out your first batch of query letters the same day you type The End at the bottom of your first draft.  It goes without saying that there should be much critiquing, editing and revising before you ever contact an agent about your manuscript. But, you can theoretically spend ages  seeking feedback and tinkering with your story. At some point, scary as it is, you have to be DONE. That isn’t to say you won’t want to revise again (and again) sometime down the line–especially after you start receiving replies on that first batch of query letters.

2) Put a blurb about your manuscript (and possibly a short excerpt) on your blog, and don’t forget your easy-to-find email address. Last fall I had an agent (one who is legit and respected, but isn’t open to unsolicited queries) happen upon my blog. She read the blurb and excerpt I’d posted about a previous WIP, and emailed me to request pages. Talk about surprising! While most agents probably don’t spend a lot of time trolling writer blogs, it does happen. Why not entice them any way possible?

3) Take advantage of helpful agent-focused blogs like Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre’s Literary Rambles, Krista V.’s Mother. Write. Repeat., and  Jay Eckert’s Sharpened Pen. These people have graciously put hours and hours of time into their agent lists, databases and interviews. They are amazing resources! I learned about new agents, agents’ tastes, current clients, sales, query pet peeves, and more from sites like these. Querying is incredibly time-consuming, and accurate information on agents and agencies is sometimes hard to find online. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s quicker (and easier) to cross-check information that’s already been compiled for you than it is to start from scratch.

4) Stay organized. Be on top of outgoing queries and incoming replies. Know which agents you’ve queried and when. Know the name of their agency. Know their usual response times, or if they’re of the no reply is a no school. And keep querying! I tried to have about eight queries out at all times. When I received a pass, I sent out a new query letter. Rejection is easier to take when you know you’ve got other options out there. On the flip side, when I received a request for pages I sent them immediately, PLUS a new query letter to a different agent.

5) Follow the blogs of agents who interest you well before it’s time to query them. More often than not, they post wish lists, favorite published books, and/or general hints about their tastes. This is a fantastic information to reference when personalizing query letters, and also a great way to gauge whether an agent might be interested in your concept.

6) Follow agents who interest you on Twitter. I reluctantly joined Twitter about a year ago (I did NOT need more social media to suck up my time!). Now, I’m so glad I did. Not only is Twitter is an excellent way to connect with other writers, but it’s taught me so much about querying and literary agents. Many agents tweet tons of helpful publishing information, plus hints on what they’re seeking in their slush. I also made a habit of following the clients of my top-choice agents. A lot can be revealed about client/agent relationships (or lack thereof) through social media interactions.

7) Participate in blogfests, contests and online conferences like WriteOn-Con, especially if they relate to query letters, pitches, voice, or opening lines/pages. Not only are blogfests, contest and many online conferences free, they are a great way to get feedback and connect with writers in the same stage of the journey as you. Plus, they keep your mind occupied while you obsessively refresh your email. Added bonus: Contest finalists often receive prizes like critiques and/or requests.

8 ) Keep an open mind about feedback from CPs/betas, blogfests/contests, and agent replies. Not all critiques are good critiques, but there’s room for improvement in any work. I tried to keep a flexible attitude about my pitch, query letter, and manuscript. When I received a critique, I truly considered it (sometimes for days) before deciding whether to make the suggested revisions. At the end of the day, this is your work. You don’t want to have eventual regrets about making changes you aren’t truly comfortable with.   

9) Make friends at all stages of the game. I’m the last of my CPs to snag an agent. At times, this sucked. They were all moving forward, finalizing agent-requested revisions, going out on submission, and making sales(!) while I was stuck in the query trenches. However, when I ended up with two offers of representation and needed to make a choice, I was so thankful to have friends with experience who could offer sound advice. That said, while having writing friends who’ve progressed farther than you on the path to publication is fantastic, it’s also great to know people who are flailing in the same stage as you. Commiseration is a powerful thing, and sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone.   

10) Know there are no guarantees, but that everything happens for a reason. Personal story time: A few months ago I had a phone call with an agent. We had a nice little chat during which she told me she torn and wasn’t ready to offer representation, but offered some revision notes and asked me to resubmit. I was ecstatic. All I had to do was revise to her notes (which were good) and I’d have an agent. I poured my heart into that revision and was so pleased with how it turned out. I sent my manuscript back to her and spent the next week vibrating with excitement: I was positive I was going to get an offer! Imagine my disappointment when I received her reply and another comment about being “torn,” accompanied by an additional list of new issues she had with the story. She wanted me to revise and resubmit AGAIN. At that point, I had to make a decision. Would I revise indefinitely for an agent who didn’t seem to truly love my story, or would I consider her feedback and continue my search for an agent who “got” what I was writing? I decided to move on, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Sure, I was discouraged at first, but I eventually realized that had I not completed the original revision for that first agent, my story wouldn’t be what it is today. I might not have received the offers of representation I eventually did.

There are no guarantees, but every query, every request for pages, every revision, every NO…

What about you? Do you have any fantastic querying advice to pass on?

Good news, good news, GOOD NEWS!

Remember how I was going to take a blog hiatus? Well, I’m thinking there’s no better time to interrupt that hiatus than to share some pretty amazing news… I’ve signed with a literary agent!

There’s a lengthy story behind my search for an agent. Here’s the moderately exciting condensed version (because I’m aways curious about how others arrive at agentdom): I wrote a story, queried it, and soon figured out it wasn’t fit for publication. I trunked it. I wrote another story, queried it, and soon figured out it was in need of rewriting. I shelved it. I wrote another story, truly believed in it, queried it widely, raked in some requests and then some “This is lovely, but I just didn’t fall in love” rejections. I revised, then revised again, queried some more, raked in some more requests. And then… THEN…

I scheduled a vacation with my family. I resolved not to stress about writing, not to query, not even THINK about querying. I climbed on a plane with my kiddo and turned off my phone. I flew, then landed. I turned my phone back on. And, of course, there was an email from one of the agents who’d been reading my full: I’d like to schedule a phone call to talk about your story.

Isn’t that always the way it is? When you stop obsessing, big things happen.

I spoke to the agent on April 29th while I was in Georgia, the day my husband graduated from Ranger School. She offered representation. Naturally, I was thrilled. A fun side note: A few months ago, my husband and I set goals for 2011. His was to get through Ranger School. Mine was to sign with a literary agent. Though I didn’t actually sign with an agent on that day, I had serious interest. It was as if my husband and I both hit our goals right at the same time, and it was very cool.

I happen to have a picture from April 29th (because all blog posts are better with pictures!).

After speaking with the offering agent, I emailed the agents who were reading partials or fulls of my manuscript and asked them to get back to me within ten days (serious torture for an impatient girl like me!).

Turns out the wait was worth it. Another offer came in about a week later, from Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management. Vickie had been at the top of my list since I started reading her blog a few months ago. (She has awesome taste in YA literature and does a fantastic Wednesday Reads series. Check it out!) When we spoke on the phone the next day, I just knew she’d be amazing to work with. She’s friendly, smart, collaborative, and has some incredibly thoughtful revision ideas for my story. Still, I made myself think, really consider my choice from all angles, and as much as I liked the first agent who offered, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: I wanted to work with Vickie.

It was seriously difficult to contain my enthusiasm when I emailed her to accept her offer of representation.

Me and my I-Have-An-Agent Bubbly!

So, now I’m agented (so surreal!) and I get to tackle another revision of Where Poppies Bloom, (one recommended by Vickie :)). I can’t wait to get started!

Tales from the Trenches: KEEP CALM and WRITE ON

So, today my über talented and supremely generous cousin, Carla Essen*, sent me an enigmatic DM: What’s your favorite color? I’m making you something. My curiosity was immediately piqued, so I replied with: Pink or red, then I waited. A short while later I found this gem** in my inbox:

First, I’m so glad she chose pink for me. Second, how cute is that crown on top?! And third, I’ve taken the above statement on as my new mantra.

This industry has too many stresses that are too easy to get caught up in, especially if you’re stuck in the query trenches (like me!) or trudging down the long submission road (so I’ve heard!). I often find myself so keyed up about query etiquette, social networking, the perfect pitch, blogging and blog reading, the unforeseeable future of publishing, who’s gotten how big an advance, and (insert any number of trivial things here), that I forget my main goal: Write and write well.

So, from now on I’m going to KEEP CALM and WRITE ON. You should too!

*Carla has an amazing talent for photography, among many other things.
**You have Carla’s permission (and mine!) to lift this graphic to use on your own blog if you’d like. 🙂

Beginning Again…

I’m starting a new manuscript. Mostly because I had this burst of inspiration a few weeks ago that’s finally had enough time to simmer, but also to help preserve my sanity while trudging through the query trenches.  The idea of “starting to write a book” is so intimidating, and while it’s always a scary prospect, I’ve gotten into a sort of preliminary planning routine that seems to be working for me. While I’m certainly no expert, I’ve done this a few times now, and I thought I’d share a bit about my process.

WIP inspiration...

After I’ve mentally toyed with my shiny new idea for a few weeks (or a few months), I dive in to Lori Wilde’s Got High Concept ebook. Going through her various brainstorming exercises helps me flesh out my idea, narrow the focus of the story I want to tell, and get to the heart of my of my characters’ backgrounds, desires, and vulnerabilities. I’m also able to come up with ways to really challenge my characters, as well as integrate plot devices, enticing topics and universal themes.

By the time I finish with Got High Concept, I’m able to write a compelling pitch that helps me stay focused on the heart of the story. Big rule: the pitch must be twenty-five words or less. Later, I use this pitch to craft a three-line pitch, and then a query. The pitch I came up with for Where Poppies Bloom (before I ever started writing the story itself) was: Guilt-ridden Callie Ryan chooses between life with the golden boy who dulls her pain, or eternal escape with the ghost who holds a dark secret.

Once I’ve zeroed in on the basic premise of the story, I make a really basic list of  the scenes I already have in my head. Then, I tackle a beat sheet, plugging scenes into appropriate places, and coming up with new ones to fill in the gaps. The beat sheet I use is a sort of custom melding of the one in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and the summary of steps in The Hero’s Journey. I like a lot of detail. It looks something like this:
Ordinary World/Opening Image
Inciting Incident/Call to Adventure
Resistance to Call to Adventure
Meeting with Mentor
1st Turning Point
Pinch #1
Midpoint/Inmost Cave
Rosy Glow/Celebration scene
Pinch #2
2nd Turning Point
All is Lost/Dark Moment
The Road Back
Final Image

More WIP inspiration.

It takes me awhile (like, several weeks) to get my beat sheet completely filled in. Once I do, the story starts to feel more manageable, not like the jumbled mess of actions, reactions and interactions it was in my head. I use my beat sheet to then craft a more detailed scene outline, one I follow pretty closely once I begin to write. Of course my scene outline isn’t set in stone. I add and delete as I go, because once I start writing, the story begins to come to life and certain aspects inevitably become more or less important.

And more WIP inspiration...

I should mention that all this planning is done in conjunction with researching whatever aspects of the story I need to (setting, random legal/medical stuff, names, dates, whatever…). While my process may seem formulaic (sometimes I wish I could just start writing and see where I end up!), an organized start is exactly what I need to gain enough confidence to dive in to a two-hundred-fifty page story.

What about you? Are you a plotter? An outliner? A user of Post-It notes? A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-panster? How do you prepare to begin writing a story?