June 30, 2011

On My Bookshelf

Have you guys heard the story how I'm switching my WIP from 1st person present to 3rd person past?

No? Well, it is so fun!

Haha.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to switch the POV in my YA alternate history. Yipes! Yeah, it's a lot of work. And kind of headache inducing. But it's making my story stronger so it must be done! Much like taking vitamins or eating my vegetables. (Boo! Hiss! Burgers FTW!)

The thing is...I've never written a YA novel in 3rd person before. Which has caused me to flail a little. What am I to dooooo?!

So I went to the library a few days ago and gathered up as many YA novels I could find that were written in 3rd person past. I thought this was going to be kind of difficult--doesn't everyone write in 1st person present these days?--but I've been pleasantly surprised. Here's my pile so far:

Mistwood by Leah Cypess


I read this novel last week and I liked how it had a Graceling vibe. (High fantasy, interesting world, kick ass heroine.) I especially loved the writing--lovely and rich and full of interesting twists of phrases. Fingers tightly crossed, I'm hoping I can infuse my WIP with a similar literary quality that I found in Mistwood.

Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton


This book is about goblins. Interesting, right? I'm usually not a big fan of paranormal novels (sorry, Edward Cullen!) but I liked the premise of this book and I especially liked how the heroine, Teagan, has dreams about becoming a veterinarian. It's refreshing to read a YA protagonist who has such strong convictions about her future and I'd love to instill this ambition in my WIP's main character Zara.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan


When I asked people on Twitter for recommendations on YA novels written in 3rd person, I received a slew of comments saying, "Demon's Lexicon! Demon's Lexicon!" And fortunately for me, I found a copy at my library! Yay, libraries! I've read a couple chapters so far and I'm liking the ominous tone of the book. That's something I really want my own novel to have. Since my book features Nazis. And Nazis are rather ominous, don't you think?

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda 


Ah, Devil's Kiss! This is kind of my Bible right now. It has everything I'm striving for in my re-write: an accessible 3rd person voice, a strong heroine who's more vulnerable than she thinks, and crazy-good world-building that I want to steal. I bought this book in 2009 on my husband's Kindle and now I"m kicking myself for not buying it in physical form. 'Cause Justin is in Kabul right now and he has his Kindle with him. Damn it! But guess what? B&N just sent me a 15% Off coupon! Woot!

So there you have it! These are the books in my TBR pile right now. How about you? What are you reading? And do you have any YA novels written in 3rd person that you would recommend for me?

June 27, 2011

I'm quitting writing! But...now what do I do?

Forgive the inflammatory blog post title! No, I'm not quitting writing. (I can't do it! I just can't!) But two weeks ago, during my jaunt to the Pit of Despair, I had a moment where I seriously wanted to give it all up. Here's a peek into my thought process...

Me: *Sobs* I hate writing! It's too hard! I can't do this anymore!
Brain: You need to slap yourself. Stop crying, for the love of God.
Me: *Sobs*
Brain: Ugh, fine. Whatever. If you're going to quit writing, then what're you going to do next?
Me: Um...?
Brain: Careers? Professions? What's the plan?
Me: *Thinks for a long time* I don't love anything more than writing.
Brain: Good. Now, stop crying. Pick up your laptop and get back to work.
Me: Yes, Brain. Thank you, Brain. Sometimes, I kind of hate you, Brain.

I'm sure all of you can totally relate! I mean, don't we all have pretend conversations with our brains? Why, just yesterday my Brain and I were taking a walk and discussing who should win So You Think You Can Dance this season...

But I digress.

So yeah. There are moments when I seriously want to give up writing. But then I think about how empty my life would be if I didn't type another word, if I didn't write another story. And that's not the kind of life I want. BUT! If the following three jobs happened to exist, I might be tempted to put novel-writing on the back burner, at least for a few years or so.

1. JEDI KNIGHT!

Seriously, folks. How freaking awesome would it be to become a Jedi Knight?! Cool light saber, awesome robes, meetings with Yoda! I could zip around the galaxy in my uber-cool spaceship and zap Sith Lords with my uber-neat saber skills. And I'd have the Force! I could move things with my mind and find the remote control with the swish of my hand. 

In one word: bad-assery. 

(Yeah, that's definitely not a real word.)

2. PANDA RANCHER!


I totally made up this job but you know what? I don't care! 'Cause what would be more awesome than a panda rancher? I'd spend my days cuddling with cute baby pandas, cultivating my bamboo crops for them to eat, and then cuddling with more pandas at night!

Pandas don't kill people, right? Hmm, I should do more research on this...

3. HOGWARTS ART TEACHER!


When it comes to employment opportunities at Hogwarts, I'm not terribly qualified for any of them.

Herbology? I'm awful with plants.
Quidditch Instructor? I'm bad at sports, even magical ones.
Gameskeeper? Love animals. Hate shoveling poop.

But Hogwarts is in desperate need of an art teacher, don't you think? Dumbledore should definitely hire me! I mean, I'm pretty good with paints and watercolors. (OK, not really.) I can draw. (Kind of.) And I can make ceramics! (Maybe.) I'm super qualified! Plus, I think Hogwarts could use a few more talking portraits, right? And who better to tackle such a job than a Muggle like myself? Equal employment opportunity, yo!

There you have it! Those are the 3 jobs I would gladly take in case I ever give up writing. (I'd also be more than happy to captain the Starship Enterprise. Make it so!) Anyone hear of any job openings?

So what sort of fantastical jobs would you guys want to tackle? Come one! I know you have one!

June 23, 2011

Random Thoughts on this Muggy Thursday

Hola, mi amigos!

Hmm, that's the extent of my seven years of Spanish class... Senora Porto Carreiro would be so ashamed!

Anyhoo, just wanted to share a few things that have been on my mind lately!

1. My funny and fabulous friend Ellen Oh invited me to write a guest post on her blog, which was posted yesterday. She has a great new series called "What's the Best Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self?" and she was kind enough to let me join in on the fun! Sometimes, I really wish I could give advice to Caroline circa 2007. Such as, find more balance in your life! And, be nicer to Justin! And, lay off those cookies!

2. My agent sister (and fantastically fashionable friend) Jessica Spotswood recently revealed the cover of her YA novel, BORN WICKED! I've been lucky enough to read this novel and IT. IS. AMAZING. The characters are vibrant, the plot is heart-wrenchingly fast-paced, and the prose is simply like buttah. Fluid, smooth, poetic, and lovely. And the cover is awesome, don't you think?


3. Okay...how this ever happened to you guys before? I went to B&N last week to buy the newest book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants story, and I was excited to read the novel that I found a chair and started flipping through the pages. I figured I'd read a chapter or two and head to the check-out line but...I couldn't stop reading. Two hours later, I had finished the book! Eep! And now I feel so bad that I didn't buy the book that I think I have to go back and purchase it. I mean, I was kind of stealing, right? Maybe? I have no idea.

4. Oh, I watched this video yesterday and I thought it was hilarious! Hope it gives you guys a laugh.

June 20, 2011

How to Dig Out of the Pit of Despair

Guys! I'm so sorry that I went MIA on the blog last week. I had a couple posts lined up in my head but then the Doubt Monsters set in and I flopped head-first into the Pit of Despair.

I'm sure a lot of you have visited the Pit before. It's not a very pleasant place to be, full of doubt and angst and frustration and the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. I think most writers, if not all, have entered the Pit at some stage of their careers. And I think most of us, if not all, have made this journey more than once.

The silver lining in this situation? The more I do this writing gig, the more I realize that the Pit is all part of the process. We all experience feelings of doubt and despair, but these emotions do pass. Eventually. Yes, it may take a few days or a few weeks or even a few months, but they do go away. Eventually.

But when you're in the Pit of Despair---when you're right in the thick of it---it's really hard to think about feeling gung-ho about your writing again. And so, I've come up with a few tips on how to dig yourself out of this awful Pit of gloom.

Tip #1
Realize that this is only a phase. You know how artists are often called "tortured" and "self-loathing"? Well, there's a reason for that---the artistic process can be heartbreaking and infinitely heart-wrenching. Of course, there are many highs that come with the lows but this creative life can be a frustrating one.

The same goes with writing. Writing, after all, is an art form. It's a creative process. And boy, it is NOT easy to birth something from your mind and translate it into a physical medium. This writing thing is hard. Extremely hard. And so, it's perfectly logical to feel doubt and frustration and, yes, even despair.

Tip #2
Get drunk.

(Kidding! Kind of...)

Tip #3
Commiserate with writing friends. When you're knee-deep in the Pit of Despair, you have to lean on your friends for much-needed support. Not just any friends, your writing friends. 'Cause they've been there before, honey. They know what you're going through.

So throw a pity party! Go out for drinks or grab a yummy lunch and don't feel bad about feeling bad. Your friends are there to support you and, later on, you'll be there to return the favor.

Tip #4
Exercise. I know, I know. I can't believe I'm saying this! I'm such a couch potato! But physical activity will do you some good. Last week when I was mired in the Pit, for instance, my dad asked me to help him with some yard work. I grudgingly agreed. An hour later, I had eight mosquito bites and a weird crick in my neck but you know what? I felt great. The sun on my back. The clean smell of the air. The ability to step back and admire the work that I had done. It was awesome---and it totally lifted me out of my haze of doubts.

So get off your butt! Go take a walk or play a round of tennis! Trust me, you need those endorphins right now.

Tip #5
Take a break. This writing thing sure can be hard, eh? So give yourself some time off. No writing. No blogging. No frantic email checking. Unplug! Maybe you only need a day off from technology or maybe you need a week or more. Whatever works.

At the end of the day, you need to keep your mental health in check because this is a crazy roller-coaster of a business. The highs are mega-highs but the lows tend to be mega-lows. (Hence, the Pit of Despair.) We have to take care ourselves because that's the most important thing: our well-being. Our health. Our freakin' sanity!

So there you have it. My five tips for digging yourself out of the Pit of Despair. Hopefully, my next trip to the Pit won't be any time soon. I've seen enough of that place for now!

June 13, 2011

After The Call: Interview with YA Writer Katy Upperman

"After the Call" is a  regular feature on my blog! It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, how to communicate with your new agent, what the revision process is like, etc. For previous posts in this series, please see the "After The Call" sidebar to the right.

Today, I'm very excited to interview Katy Upperman for my "After The Call" series! I met Katy on Twitter a few months ago and I can't say enough good things about her: she's super friendly, she runs a great blog, and she's such a talented writer to boot. (I've lurked on a few contests where she posted the opening of her book and I love her voice!) Recently, Katy received multiple offers of representation for her YA novel and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her decision process.


1. Welcome to my blog, Katy, and congratulations on signing with your agent Vickie Motter! Can you tell us a little about the book that landed you with Vickie? 

First, thanks so much for having me, Caroline! I’ve been reading your After the Call series since it began and I’ve found it so helpful and enlightening. The book that landed me my agent, Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management, is called Where Poppies Bloom. 

It’s a young adult ghost story about a seventeen-year-old girl named Callie, who’s drowning in guilt stemming from her sister’s death. She travels to the Oregon coast to spend the summer with her aunt and meets cheerful Tucker, who she’s immediately drawn to. But she also finds unlikely companionship in Nathan, the ghost mysteriously bound to her aunt’s Victorian house. When Callie discovers a chilling, decades-old connection between Tucker and Nathan, she’s forced to choose between life with the boy who dulls her pain, and eternal escape with the ghost who’s not exactly selfless.

2. Oh, such a cool love triangle! Can I read this book now, please? Please?! So what was your querying process like for this novel? For instance, how many queries did you send out in total? How did you choose the agents? 

Where Poppies Bloom is the third novel I’ve queried, so I was pretty familiar with the process. Over the last year, I compiled a list of agents I was interested in working with. I found them through agent-focused blogs (Literary Rambles is my favorite), Twitter, acknowledgement pages in novels I’ve enjoyed, and already-agented writer friends. 

With Poppies, I sent out a few batches of queries and received several full requests. None of them panned out, but many of the agents offered great notes (my characters needed flaws, the manuscript needed more tension, etc…) so I paused my querying to revise according to their feedback. Once I’d revised, I sent out a few more batches of queries, got a few more requests, and eventually two offers of representation. 

Overall, I sent out around 50 queries (many more than I sent while querying the first two manuscripts I wrote). My first queries went out on January 3rd, my first offer of representation came on April 29th, and I signed a contract with Andrea Hurst Literary Management on May 10th, so the whole process took just over four months. 

3. Now that you've signed with Vickie, do you have any advice about the whole querying process?

Oh, I’ve been around the block with querying, so I have all kinds of advice… I got into the habit of writing a query letter before I started writing the manuscript itself. Then, as I drafted and revised, I could tweak the query until it was exactly what I wanted. I also got lots of feedback on my query letter before I ever sent it to an agent. I turned to my critique partners (who are awesome!) and to query-focused blogfests for unbiased criticism, then edited as I saw fit. 

I also think it’s extremely important to follow guidelines and to personalize query letters. Let the agent know you’re querying her for a reason. Mention something specific you liked on her blog or a relative tidbit from her Twitter feed. Also, stay organized. Know who you’ve queried and when, and when you receive a rejection, balance it out by sending out a new query. Finally, pay attention to responses. Don’t hesitate to modify your query letter if you’re seeing tons of form rejections, and consider revising your manuscript if agents are routinely passing on your partial/full. 

4. Such awesome advice! I love the idea of writing a query before you even start the manuscript---it sounds like a great way to frame a novel. What did you do first when you got your offer of representation? Scream in elation? Jump for joy? Faint?

Um, I was in a public library when I got my first offer of representation, so I had to tone down my excitement just a bit. :) I was actually on vacation with my husband, daughter, and in-laws, so the first thing I did was tell all of them, then I called my parents to share the news with them. Later, we went out to a celebratory dinner that included beer and lots of pie. That night I emailed the agents who were reading either partials or fulls of Poppies, plus a few agents who I’d recently queried to let them know about my offer. I gave them a total of nine days (two full weekends) to read, and asked them to get back to me before that deadline. Then I had to wait, and it was torture!

5. Holy cow, I can't believe you received your first offer in a library! It would have been hilarious if you jumped up and down and the librarians had to escort you out! So how did the agents offer rep? Via email? Or a cold call?

The first agent emailed me to schedule a call. She was pretty vague in the email, so I tried hard not to get my hopes up about speaking to her. We had a great chat, she had some fantastic ideas for my manuscript, and it was a pleasant surprise when she offered. Vickie emailed me the day before my nine day deadline (on Mother’s Day!) to tell me she wanted to offer representation. We spoke on the phone the following morning, and she was incredibly enthusiastic. She was really easy to talk to, and she also had some awesome revisions ideas for my story.

6. What sort of questions did you ask during the phone calls? Did you find any to be particularly helpful?

I had a list of about 25 questions all set to ask, but when it came down to the actual calls, I only asked a few of them. Most helpful for me in making my decision were: How close is my manuscript to “ready” and what are your revision ideas for it? What are your submission plans for my manuscript as far as editors/houses, comp titles, timelines, and communicating feedback? How long have you been an agent and do you see yourself agenting into the foreseeable future? How many clients do you have now and what sales have you made for them?

7. When everything was said and done, what made you choose Vickie? 

I chose to work with Vickie based on our phone conversation, her enthusiasm for my project, and her revision thoughts, which turned out to be ideas that made me consistently ask Why didn’t I think of that?! Though the other agent who offered was lovely and we got along great, I could picture myself second-guessing my decision to work with her. That wasn’t the case with Vickie. It’s hard to explain, but I just had a gut feeling that she was the right agent for me.

8. Looking back now, what sort of advice do you have for writers who find themselves with an offer representation? What should they do? What shouldn't they do? 

Definitely take your time; do not rush into a decision. Contact anyone reading your work, consider all the angles, and talk to people in the know. I was lucky enough to be able to turn to my already-agented critique partners and writing friends who gave me advice that turned out to be invaluable. I also discussed pros and cons with my husband, who has an excellent business sense and was able to offer lots of non-emotional guidance. In the end though, I went on instinct and haven’t looked back. :)

Thanks so much for doing this interview, Katy! I'll keep my fingers crossed for a quick sale!

June 10, 2011

After The Call: You Should Really Read This Link

Thanks to a suggestion by Tracey Neithercott, I recently read a fantastic blog post by YA author Kirsten Hubbard. In the post, Kirsten talks about being a mid-list author and how excruciatingly hard it can be. It's so honest. And beautifully written. Go read it now if you have the time!

(If you haven't heard of Kirsten, she's the founder of the YA Highway blog and the author of the YA contemporary novel, Like Mandarin, which was published in March.)

So...did you read Kirsten's post yet? No? Why not?! Go ahead. I'll wait. :)

*Tries to wait patiently* *Gets a little twitchy* *I haz short attention span*

Okay. Wasn't that such a good post? I love when authors open up---I feel that it gives me a peek into what published life is like---and I very much appreciate Kirsten's candor concerning her fears. This paragraph was especially eye-opening for me:
A couple months ago, I wrote a really honest blog post about how hard (excruciating) (devastating) it's been to debut as a midlist author -- not by choice, it's never by choice, but because it's where the Big Guys decided the book should be placed. Never mind how big my deal was, my solid early reviews, my blurb from a Printz-winner -- or what matters most, how good the book is. It's a numbers game, and miles outside my limited reach, in that faraway place where the power lies, it was decided my beloved book would not be given much of a push, and would not be stocked at Barnes & Noble bookstores. Among other things.
Wow. It's scary to realize how much of our career is out of our control. We hear so often that we must write a good book, revise it until it shines like aluminum foil, and then find a great agent and editor...but we rarely hear how this might not be enough to achieve the sort of success we dream about.

'Cause let's face it. We all want our books to get a fighting chance. We all want our publishers to promote and market our work. We all want to earn out our advance, not necessarily because we want to make more money (although that's great!) but so we can sell another manuscript more readily.

We all want to get published but, even more, we want to get published well.

But the sad truth is...not every book will get the chance that it deserves. I realize that this is "all part of the business" and that "this is a very competitive industry," but it still sucks, you know?

And yet, we can't let this get us down. No, we shan't! We have to keep forging ahead, even if publishing seems kinda scary and even if so many factors hover out of our control. Here are a few thoughts I have about this matter:

1. Sometimes it takes time. 
Some books seem to skyrocket right out of the gate, climbing up the bestsellers' lists in a matter of weeks upon their debut. But other books need time to build a readership. For instance, Agent Kristin Nelson once blogged about how certain novels are a "slow build." In other words, some books require months or perhaps years to garner a following. Which I find very heartening. The audience for your book is out there...but it may take a little while to find them.

2. Surround yourself with love and support. 
This writing gig is pretty damn tough, ain't it? I used to think that the hardest part was querying. Then I decided that the hardest part was being on submission. And now, I realize that there is no hardest part. It's all hard! Querying, subbing, editing, promoting. There will always be bumps--and sometimes giant pot holes--on this road called publishing. Which is why it's so important to reach out to other writers, whether it's in-person or online or via pony express.

In the past year, I've been incredibly lucky to have connected with some fabulous writers both online and in the DC area. They have been my lifeline when the going has gotten tough. They've listened to my gripes. They've comforted me with cupcakes. They've given me a swift kick in the pants whenever I entered my I-will-sulk-forever phase. And I know they'll be there for me if/when I get a book deal and I won't be able to share as much on my blog.

Writing is hard enough on its own--don't let it be lonely too! Honestly, if you haven't found anyone to commiserate with yet, commiserate with me! (Email me! Tweet me! Send me a letter!) You bring the tissues and I'll bring the dessert. Deal?

3. Try to forget about what you can't control.
Oh man. The more time I spend in the writing world, the more I realize just how much lies out of my autonomy. Editorial boards. Publishing trends. Editors' tastes. Deal amounts. Book covers. Release dates. Print runs. Distribution. Lead titles versus mid-list.

Yipes. It's quite overwhelming.

But you know what? This stuff isn't going to change. You'll never be able to set your release date or increase your first print run or negotiate yourself a million-dollar advance. These issues lie in your publishers' hands. They don't lie in yours. (Wouldn't it be great though to negotiate a million-dollar deal? Ah, I could finally pursue my dream of opening a sloth orphanage!)

On one hand, it can be a bit terrifying to think about all of the things we don't have any control over. But on the other hand, this realization can make us focus on the things that we can change. Which leads to...

4. What can you control? 
For one thing, self-promotion. You can visit local schools or organize a blog tour or give out bookmarks to market your work. Self-promotion may not launch you onto a bestsellers' list or win you an award, but it can help you widen your audience and reach out to a greater readership.

More importantly though, you control your writing. You control your craft. At the end of the day, we are writers. Not publishers. Not agents. We write. We create worlds. That's our job.

And so, whether you become a bestselling author or a mid-list one, whether you sell your book or you have to shelve it, it's always important to focus on the next project. Out of all the numerous things out of our control, this is the one thing that only we can do.

In closing, I just wanted to thank Kirsten for her incredibly insightful post. Seriously. THANK YOU! Kirsten probably has no idea who I am, but I've truly enjoyed getting to know her through her blog and through YA Highway for the past year or so. She has always been so helpful and so honest. And after reading the first few pages of Like Mandarin online, I've come to see that she's so talented as well. I can't wait to read your book, Kirsten!

June 7, 2011

After The Call: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

"After the Call" is a  regular feature on my blog! It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, how to communicate with your new agent, what the revision process is like, etc. For previous posts in this series, please see the "After The Call" sidebar to the right.

Like most writers, I have some hefty aspirations floating around in my head when it comes to my career.

Book tours!
Bestsellers lists!
Movie deals!
Living on a yacht in the Caribbean!

What can I say? When I dream, I like to dream big, damn it!

Okay, okay. I'm totally kidding. I don't really believe that I'll get a movie deal or a fancy book tour or a big pimpin' yacht that comes with a British butler named Mr. Belvedere. Realistically, my career goals take on a much simpler trajectory:

1.) Write and revise a book. (Check!)
2.) Get a respected agent. (Check!)
3.) Sell book to a respected publisher.
5.) Sell more books to a respected publisher.
5.) Rinse and repeat until I die from old age on my 100-foot yacht.

I'm not asking for million-dollar advances or worldwide book tours. (Although I'll gladly take am awesome yacht.) I merely want to make a career out of writing books. And once I get that first Elusive Book Deal, everything will get easier, right? It'll be easier to sell another book. It'll be easier to land a bigger advance. It'll be easier to get royalties. Indeed, my writing life will get a whole lot better.

Right?

But a few weeks ago, I came across a thread on the Blueboards that sobered me completely. It was like a bucket of cold water had been doused over my melon-like head. (It's true. I have a gigantic head. My husband can attest to this. But I'm getting off track...)

Basically, the thread was kicked off by a writer who wondered if her career was over. I've paraphrased her post below:
When my first book came out, it was widely anticipated and received a lot of promotion. But every book I've published since then has garnered less and less attention. My advances have gone down, as well as traffic to my website. Even my agent and editor have gone silent. So...is my writing career over? I don't know if I should get a pseudonym or apply for a job at my local Starbuck's. Or is this simply something that most authors go through?
Yipes, this is terrifying! I mean, publishing should get easier after we land our first book deal! Right? Right?!

As the thread continued, I felt like another bucket of water was thrown over my giant noggin. Numerous authors came out of the woodwork to say that they were in the very same boat as the original poster. Many of them had published multiple books, but they had all found it harder and harder to get a new book deal. One writer even said that she had been publishing books for over twenty-five years and had won several awards, but now she has found it more and more difficult to get her foot in the door.

Twenty-five years! Holy moly!

I stared at my computer screen for a good five minutes with my head spinning. Egads, publishing gets harder after your first book deal! It doesn't matter if you've written novels for three decades! Your sales numbers have to be good...or else!

Yes, this thread was quite sobering for my naive eyes to read.

But you know what? It was also very encouraging. Because it was honest. Because it was eye-opening. Because it was so real. Over a dozen writers chimed in on this post, offering their empathy and their sympathy and their advice. And man, there was some fantastic advice! Below, I've written a quick list of what I took away from this thread.

1.) Perseverance is key, even after you've published multiple books. 
Success stories like J.K. Rowling's and Stephenie Meyers' are one in a billion, despite what your extended family tells you. ("You're gonna write the next Harry Potter!") Most writers will continue to face rejections--perhaps many rejections--after they get published. In the aforementioned thread, a picture book writer explained how she had hit a ten-year dry spell after selling her first two books. Wow. Ten years. But she didn't give up. She continued writing and querying until she sold another book, even if it took her over a decade. Now that's perseverance!

2.) Every writer has a different path. 
Whenever I interview a newly agented writer for my "After The Call" series, it amazes me to see how their journeys differ. For instance, Writer A may snag an agent in only a couple weeks but Writer B takes over a year to find representation. The same thing goes for the rest of their careers. Writer A's first book might not sell while Writer B's novel sells at auction. Five years down the road, Writer A finally gets her first book contract while Writer B frets about low sales figures.

See? Mileage varies. And it can vary wildly. Which leads us to lesson three...

3.) Writing is a lot like life. There are a lot of ups and downs and in-betweens. 
When I first started writing seriously in 2007, I often read the blog of an MG author who had recently published her first novel. Now, this author had a lot going for her. She wrote her very first book, she landed a great agent in a few weeks, and then she sold her novel for a handsome sum of money. Every writer's dream, right?

But then the author hit a brick wall. Although her novel had garnered some success, her publishing house turned down the option to buy more books in her series. The author was crushed but she refused to stop writing. She worked on a new book...but it didn't sell. She worked on another book...but it didn't sell either. But finally--finally!--she wrote a new manuscript that sold to a fantastic publisher. Huzzah!

And so, the moral of the story is this: writing is full of highs and lows and curve-balls. Some writers may start off with a bang but they hit a few snags down the road. Some writers may take a few years until they publish their "break out" novel. And some writers may spend their entire careers in the mid-list realm. There are so many things that we can't control in this crazy world of publishing. Just like in our personal lives. Thus, the question we have to ask ourselves is...what do you make out of the success that you do receive?

4.) Your career doesn't have to be over. 
In the original post on the Blueboards, the author wondered if her career was over. After all, her books weren't selling well and she feared she wouldn't be able to get another publishing deal. A lot of writers offered their advice on this matter. Some encouraged her to use a pen name. Others told her to switch genres. And others said she should take a break to rejuvenate. This is all good and sound advice but I think my friend Ellen Oh said it best in the thread:
I don't believe that a career is ever over - you might switch gears, switch paths, change your name, etc,  but it isn't over til YOU say it's over.
Can I get an "Amen"? Because Ellen's words are simply spot on. Publishing is a business that writers have little control over. We can't control publishing boards. We can't control trends. We can't control what a reader wants to buy.

But you can control when you decide to call it quits.

You're the only one who can do that. Not your readers. Or your editor. Or your agent. Only you.

Sure, you may decide to use a pen name or pursue self-publishing but these channels are merely different paths in your writing career. At the end of the day, only YOU decide when your career is over. And that may be scary, but it's pretty empowering too.

Whew! What a long post. It has been simmering in my head for a few weeks, which is probably why I got so long-winded. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter! Would you be willing to use a pen name? Or pursue self-publishing? If you are published, what sort of lessons can you teach those of us in the querying or submission trenches?

June 1, 2011

Apologies for being MIA!

Hey guys!

I'm so sorry that I've been MIA this past week! Forgive? Please? But I have a good excuse! My husband is leaving for Afghanistan on Monday so I've kind of unplugged myself from the internet. It has been nice to spend some quality time with J before he heads off to Very Dangerous Country and, to be honest, it has been nice to not check my email every five minutes! Sometimes it's really easy to become engrossed with all things internet, you know? Especially with Twitter! SO ADDICTING.

But I do have some fun "After The Call" posts planned in the next week or so! So be sure to check in. (And Lindsay and Katy---I need to interview you gals!)

Until then, look at this beautiful strawberry cake that I plan on making before Justin departs. Mmm! My friend Ellen served me a slice last week and it was ridiculously delicious. I can't stop thinking about it!

courtesy of smittenkitchen.com