Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

The recent restock I did of my Bath & Body Works cache. I’ve been a fan of their body creams and shower gels and candles since I worked there a million years ago, which is also when I discovered my signature scent: Moonlight Path. (A Thousand Wishes is a new favorite.) You can stock up, too, because Signature Scents are currently buy three, get two free. Such a bargain!

Reading

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore which is like Romeo and Juliet if the Capulets and Montagues were traveling circus-esque performers. The writing is lovely and the story is so imaginative. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Watching

Season 2 of The 100, finally! I’m woefully behind on TV viewing, but I’m definitely wrapped up in this second season of a show I never would’ve imagined liking. Movie-wise, my husband and I recently saw The Revenant, which was excellent. Super graphic and visceral and intense. I can totally see why Leonardo DiCaprio is getting so many accolades during this award season.

Listening To

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, a non-fiction book that’s both compelling and accessible. It centers around a set of identical twin brothers, Jonas and Wyatt, and Wyatt’s slow (often rocky) transition into his true self, a girl named Nicole. I’ve learned so much about gender and gender identity thanks to this book, and I’m so impressed with Nicole and her strength. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Thinking About

The #AuthorLifeMonth photo challenge, hosted by Dahlia Adler. It’s all about books and writing and inspiration, and I’m having a blast with it. Check out the hashtag on Instagram for pictures from days 1 and 2, then join us!

Anticipating

My birthday… It’s in a few weeks and I’ll be 35 and I’m feeling pretty chill about it, actually. Here’s to another year of wisdom and experience, I guess. 😉

Wishing

For another month of excellent reading. January was full of stand-out books, all of which I reviewed in my monthly Wrap-Up post. If you’re looking for recommendations, I’ve got four YAs and an adult fantasy (The Night Circus — love, love, love!) for you to consider. Hopefully February will bring just as many amazing stories.

Making Me Happy

Remember my last Currently… post, in which I wished for snow? Well, we got it! A legit blizzard hammered the east coast; it started snowing last Friday at lunchtime and didn’t stop until late Saturday night. We had feet of snow — there’s still tons of it lining the roads. My daughter and her friends have had so much fun playing in it (she was out of school for seven days, plus the weekend in-between) and we didn’t lose power, so well done, winter.

 
 

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

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On Patience, Perseverance, & the Elusive Book Deal

In case you missed it, Kissing Max Holden sold to Swoon Reads/Macmillan!

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been! I’m thrilled, grateful, overwhelmed (in the best way), and just really, really relieved.

You see, I was starting to think this publishing thing might not happen for me. I’ve been at it a long time. I’ve had a lot of almosts and not-quites and so many incidents of um, maybe… wait, actually… no, thanks I’d need a bazillion blog posts to cover them all.

Real talk: It’s been a challenge to press on, to keep at it through years of polite declines. It’s been tough to keep writing through persistent disappointment. I’ve considered giving up more times than I can count.

Some backstory…

I began writing with the goal of publication when my daughter was a year old. We lived in a rainy Washington town, then moved to beautiful Monterey, then to the steamy Florida panhandle, then to bustling Virginia – moves during which I continued to draft stories. As I’ve meandered around the country and along the rutted road to publication, my husband has left for and returned from four separate deployments and earned a master’s degree, and my daughter has become a confident, story-loving third grader. I’ve written through tons of change and loads of personal challenges, along with countless revisions, hundreds of rejections, and dozens of Katy’s a wonderful writer, but

Kissing Max Holden‘s sale hasn’t come easy.

When I started my first manuscript in 2008, I was convinced it would be The One. I would field multiple offers from agents, and then my tome (let’s call it what it was) would sell at auction and be loved be all, the end.

That manuscript didn’t sell, or even score me an agent. It was really, really bad.

I wrote a second manuscript, the plotless, melodramatic story that, after many years and many rewrites, would become Kissing Max Holden. Even then, messy and flawed, I loved it. I queried it, and while it was received with more enthusiasm than my first effort, it didn’t go anywhere.

It was around this time that a lot of my writer friends were starting to sign with literary agents and (seemingly quickly and with very few hurdles) began to sell their books. I was thrilled for them. Truly. But I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a little jealous, too.

I wrote a third manuscript — a ghost story, my strongest yet — and signed with an agent. She submitted the manuscript to editors. It didn’t sell, but that was okay because it’s not uncommon for first-books-on-sub to go unsold. I started working on that plotless, melodramatic manuscript again, the future Kissing Max Holden, because Jillian and Max were still in my head. But then I had to set it aside because things went awry with my then-agent, who I ultimately left.

I was discouraged – I felt like I’d taken a huge step backward – so I worked harder. I signed with a new agent, Victoria Marini, who is awesome. I wrote a new manuscript, a bleak tale with three 3rd-person points of view and a tragic ending. Drafting it was difficult but fulfilling, and editors generally liked the story, but not enough to buy it.

I was really disappointed.

So, I went back to my previous manuscripts; I was looking for familiarity, for comfort. I worked on the ghost story I’d first been signed for, and the manuscript that’s now Kissing Max Holden. I developed characters. I raised stakes. I intensified relationships. I improved pacing. I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote. My work improved and, in the meantime, I experienced some submission close-calls. But no successes.

Years had passed since I started writing and, honestly, I felt like I’d done my time in the trenches. I’d congratulated my more triumphant friends with sincere smiles and undeniable pings of envy. I’d waded through some serious BS and a lot of rejection. Surely it would be my turn soon.

I wrote on, because what else was I supposed to do?

I branched out; I drafted a story about an epic road trip, and worked on a NaNoWriMo project with bits of verse. I read a lot. I revised a lot. I went on a writing retreat. I traded manuscripts with my talented CPs, and learned from their writing. I tried to focus more on the craft, the art, the experience, and less on the business.

Still, Jillian and Max and their complicated romance lingered. Kissing Max Holden was my second attempt at a novel, and the first time I felt like I might be able to make it at this writing thing. Authors often talk about the “book of their heart” – a story that is personal and particularly significant. To borrow from Beth Revis, a project that is “ripped from their soul” and means more than any other. For me, that book has always been Kissing Max Holden. Even as I wrote new stories, lovely stories that made me proud, I couldn’t let this story go.

And then I happened upon Swoon Reads

See, the Swoon Reads model is different. Instead of manuscripts languishing in slush piles or on editors’ desks while writers wait and wonder and stress, Swoon Reads puts power into the hands of real readers. It works like this: Writers upload their manuscripts, promote them as they see fit, and hope Swoon Reads members will read, rate, and comment. Manuscripts that are highly rated are read and considered for publication by the Swoon Reads staff.

To me, Kissing Max Holden felt like the perfect Swoon Reads story – it’s about falling in love, after all. And so, after several months of research and consideration, I uploaded my story to the site. Then I (anxiously) waited for the November 15th deadline – the date after which the Swoon Reads staff would start considering manuscripts.

While I waited, I did two things: I started a new story (it’s currently sitting pretty at 30K words) and applied to be a substitute teacher in my daughter’s school district, mostly because I was tired of piling all my eggs in the book deal basket.

Seriously. What if it never happened?

Between drafting my new story and obsessively checking Swoon Reads ratings, I accepted a one-month substitute teaching position. I figured Swoon Reads would need weeks (at the very least) to read manuscripts and come to a decision about which stories to pursue. I figured I’d be done with my long-term sub job by the time I heard anything, good or bad. I figured I’d keep busy while I waited…

Wouldn’t you know it — I got an email from Swoon Reads just as I was leaving school after my very first day of substitute teaching.

They wanted to talk about Kissing Max Holden.

I had a delightful chat with Swoon Reads staffers Lauren and Holly — about my story, its strengths and weaknesses, revision ideas, and an actual publishing contract. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning, but there was never a question in my mind as to whether I would choose to work with Swoon Reads; I couldn’t wait to work with Swoon Reads!

Lots has happened between then and now: emails with my agent, emails with Swoon Reads, phone calls with my husband and my family, a celebratory pizza-and-Bud-Light dinner, revision brainstorming sessions, and a mock-up book cover drawn by my daughter.

Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real. But it is, and I’m over the moon. I have been since the day I got that first Swoon Reads email…

I’ve been at this writing thing long enough to learn some stuff, and since I’m being all reflective and candid, I thought I’d share the nuggets of wisdom I’ve collected over the years…

  1. Everyone’s journey is different. There is no right or wrong road to publication. Don’t be afraid to try knew things – to take chances!
  2. Positivity is crucial. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed as badly as you want to succeed yourself.
  3. Timing is very much a factor. So is luck.
  4. Nobody is judging you for how long you’ve been at it — except for, maybe, you. Keep your eyes on your own paper is very good advice.
  5. If you seek representation, sign with a competent, encouraging, savvy agent. Trust your intuition.
  6. Be kind. Be gracious. Return favors. Say thank you. People will remember you and the way you’ve behaved.
  7. Write the sort of book you want to read. Your story has to interest you before it’ll interest anyone else.
  8. Related: Write the sort of book that’ll stretch your skills and your creativity. Learn. Grow.
  9. Find smart, supportive CPs. When in doubt (or in need of a boost), turn to those CPs.
  10. Always have your next project(s) in mind.
  11. Don’t. Give. Up.

Finally, all the gratitude to my husband and my daughter, my parents and my in-laws – thank you for believing this would happen. Victoria – thank you for sticking with me, for your savviness and positivity. Alison, Temre, Riley, Elodie – thank you for years of friendship, emails of commiseration, and words of encouragement. You (and your writing) inspire me. Tracey, Amie, Jessica, Liz, Erin, Amanda, Jolene, Jaime, Kate, Taryn, and Christa, thank you for your support and feedback and enthusiasm. My writing is better because of you. And to everyone who read, rated, and commented on Kissing Max Holden over at Swoon Reads… I owe you oodles of cookies!

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My new Nikes, which I’ve been eyeing for months. Chestnut Praline Lattes with coconut milk, ’cause everything’s better with coconut milk. Erin Condren notebooks — since I’m going with an InkWell Press Planner in 2016 (!!!), I used my stockpile of EC credits to score a notebook and several dividers, and I’m going to use it to record family recipes. Finally, Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting — so yummy!

Reading

I recently finished Violent Ends, an anthology about a school shooting which totally blew me away. Find my review and an opportunity to win a copy of your own HERE. Last night I finished The Game Plan by Kristin Callihan, the recently released third book in her Game On series, which I’m kind of obsessed with. A smutty good time. 😉 Now I’m reading Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers, which is excellent so far.

 

Watching

Parks and Recreation. Sitcoms aren’t usually my thing, but this one… I’ve been watching compulsively, and ~literally~ every episode makes me laugh. Plus, they’re short, easy to fit in while I’m folding laundry or cleaning a bathroom. (My life is so glam.)

Listening To

I 💜 Echosmith!

Thinking About

My WiP, a contemporary YA set in Northern Virginia/DC. It’s been extra fun to draft because I’ve taken myself on a few field trips to visit some of the locations where scenes are set. For example, the Washington National Cathedral, which is gorgeous. My WiP’s hovering right around 30K, and I’m currently brainstorming fun and unexpected ways to move it forward. 
Anticipating

November 15th, the last day readers can leave ratings and comments on their favorite Swoon Reads stories to help give them a shot at publication. After the 15th, Swoon Reads editors will start reading and considering… All the nerves! (Find my story, Kissing Max Holden, HERE.)

Related… A reader at Swoon Reads recently left the loveliest comment on Kissing Max Holden — totally made my day. An excerpt from her review: This seems like it wasn’t written to impress anyone. No ego in it – just humanity in all its joyous and shattering pieces.

Wishing

That I could relive this night! I met Judy Blume, guys, and she was wonderful. So sweet and enthusiastic and encouraging and inspirational. She was exactly the woman I’ve imagined over the nearly thirty years that I’ve been a fan. ❤

 

Making Me Happy

Sip Swap is approaching! I’ve signed up for this super fun writers’ mug exchange hosted by Kelsey Macke and Jessica Love — have you?!

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(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.)

Currently

Loving

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!

Reading

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.

Watching

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.

Anticipating

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!)

Wishing

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?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently” post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me… Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Starbucks is my least favorite coffee chain, but they have (a version of) coconut milk now, and it is delicious with their chai, iced or hot. Also, Cougar Gold Cheese (one of my husband’s coworkers, a fellow Coug, recently hooked us up with a can — yummy!). And then there’s this “Holy Swoon” t-shirt that I want so bad, but it’s $50 and I’m trying to be reasonable and responsible. It’s really difficult. Oh, and I’m totally in love with my Pilot Frixion Erasable Markers — so cool! And, finally, my Erin Condren Life Planner which, miraculously, is just as fun to use today as it was when I got it back in February.

Reading

Last week I finished Katie Cotugno’s 99 Days, which I absolutely loved — it’s messy and angsty and enlightening. This week I read Kathleen Davitt Bell’s recently released I Remember You, a unique and heart-wrenching YA romance with an MC who I found rather prickly. More on both of these YAs in my upcoming May Reading Wrap-Up post. I also flew through two NAs: Kristen Callihan’s The Friend Zone, and Dahlia Adler’s Last Will and Testament. I definitely wouldn’t put either of these in a young adult’s hands, but they’re both super good!

Watching

On Friday we went to see Pitch Perfect 2, which was a blast. I kept my expectations low (because the original is just so freaking good), and I’m happy to report that said expectations were blown clear out of the water. I mean, there were some ridiculously silly moments, but overall, I thought the sequel was funny and genuine and entertaining. Recommend!

Listening To

I recently discovered a most excellent podcast called The Narrative Breakdown. It’s about writing of all sorts (fiction, screenplays, journals, etc), as well as the many aspects of books and publishing (character, dialogue, literary agents and query letters, etc). I highly recommend it if you’re a podcast person with an interest in growing your craft.

Thinking About

Our move. Ugh. But… we found a house and we’ve got a signed lease, and that’s all a huge, HUGE relief. I really like the house, too, and the neighborhood, and I think (hope!) we’ll be happy there for the next few years.

Anticipating

Ready. Set. WRITE! It’s 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 within our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts will be Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, Elodie Nowodazkij, and myself. Find more info HERE, and look for a post with this year’s details next week. We hope you’ll join us for the fun!

Wishing

On a star (or a dandelion) that my most recently completed WiP will find success, and that my newest project (still in its brainstorming/plotting stages) will quit being such a jerk and just submit already. 😉

Making Me Happy

Date nights with my husband, and a recent visit with my mom.

  

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(Since I’m not What’s-Up-Wednesday-ing anymore, I thought I might go back to an old favorite –> “Currently…” I originally got the idea from Kate Hart, who snagged the idea from Amy Lukavics, who picked it up here. I’m planning to post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me!)

Loving

Jelly Bellies (duh). Quilting. Florida’s warm, sunny spring. My planner. Emails with writing buddies and book besties. This milk frothing gadget. Sirious XM Radio. Uppercase book subscriptions. My emerging tan. This homemade mac-n-cheese recipe. Those times a person contacts me to let me know they’ve just read a book they think I’ll love. Chai tea. Essie’s spring colors. Fresh donuts.

Reading

Yesterday I finished recently-released Vanishing Girls, and I liked it quite a lot. I consider Lauren Oliver an insta-buy author and, as usual, her prose is enviable. I figured out what was going on in the story fairly early on (I’ve read a few other books in the last couple of years that have a comparable premise), so I wasn’t exactly surprised by the last 100 pages. That said, I recommend this one for its gorgeous writing and super complex characters.

Watching

Gossip Girl. Still. It literally takes me three days to get through an episode because I pretty much only watch while I’m folding laundry, or on the rare occasions I put on makeup. I’m nearing the end of season 5, though, and it’s the best sort of bizarre. **Spoiler Alert** –> Dan and Blair together? No way! Chuck ♡ Blair forever!

Listening To

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill — totally random, I know. I bought the CD my senior year of high school and listened to it constantly for months. I’ve just now rediscovered it, and I’m falling in love all over again. (Favorite: Tell Him)

Thinking About

Our summer move, and hoping it will be easy, easy, easy. House-hunting from afar sucks. Packing sucks. Leaving a state you love sucks. Moving sucks. BUT. I am incredibly excited to live near some of my favorite writerly friends, and in a place with a thriving YA community. Plus, it’ll be nice to be in a city with plenty of educational and culturally diverse things to do and see.

Anticipating

Notes from my agent regarding my latest manuscript, Stars Like Dust. This project was such a stretch, guys. Writing it was a challenge and a joy and I love the (sort of) finished product deeply, but I’m nervous about what others will think. Some days this story makes me feel excited and confident; some days it makes me feel insecure, like a complete hack. Aah, writerly angst… Something else I’m anticipating? Rock the Drop!

Wishing

That I’d made Daphne a quilt earlier! She loves hers, and we had a blast putting it together. My daughter picked out all the fabrics, and I did the sewing. Now that it’s done, I’m checking off another of my Thirty Before 35 goals — yay!

Making Me Happy

Beach days with my favorite girl. There are few things better than sitting back, sinking my toes in the sand, and watching my kiddo play in the surf.

 

What’s currently making YOU happy?

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is 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. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Last week I read Isla Bick’s Drowning Instinct, a very intense, very dark contemporary. I love that there are no real heroes or heroines — just a bunch of broken people making messes of each others’ lives. It’s really well done. I’m currently making my way through Victoria Aveyard’s fantasy debut, Red Queen so I can participate in YA Book Club next week.

  

What I’m Writing: NOTHING. I sent Stars Like Dust to my agent yesterday. Phew! Now, I wait (and stress about whether she likes it). In the meantime, I’m reading a most excellent manuscript by my CP, Alison Miller. This one’s super smart, heartfelt, and truly funny — like, legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. And, it’s so unique, I refuse to tell you any more about it. 🙂

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Last week I skipped out on WUW because we took an impromptu journey across the U.S. to Washington. My husband’s grandmother passed away, and we wanted to be at her funeral. She was a fun and fiesty French lady, and we loved her lots.


While there were some sad moments during our trip, there were some good times, too. We saw family and reveled in the Pacific Northwest’s (rainy) spring.

 
Now, it’s spring break and I’ve been spending quality time with my girl. Over the weekend we saw Cinderella (say what you will about its lack of fierceness/ingenuity, but I loved it!), on Monday we treated ourselves to fro yo, and yesterday we went strawberry picking. Today, we’re off to the beach!

What Works For Me: I’ve been feeling the writerly blues lately. Not really sure why, but this happens to me from time to time, and usually the best cure is a step back — time away to freshen my perspective. I recently reread a pretty fabulous blog post by writer Robin Lafevers titled Surviving Almost There. If you’re feeling stuck or stagnant or like it’s NEVER going to happen, I highly recommend checking it out. 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?