Sunday, June 28, 2009

Patience is a...

Last night someone in my writers group said something that has plunged me into thought. I won't get it word for word, and the meaning could be taken in more than one way, but it was something like "You haven't done this long enough to have the patience to stick a manuscript in a drawer for five years, twelve years or twenty years. Everything happened so fast for you."

Like I said, this could be read in more than one way. First I'm thinking- Holy cow. 20 years. I'll be like an old lady or something by then. I probably wouldn't even care about the story after that long.

And then I thought- I know it does help to set writing aside before revision. Not necessarily for years, if you happen to be me, but I get the value of leaving something alone for a while to let your brain process.

But finally it came down to this. I am incredibly impatient. Always have been. You could say it nicer so it sounded noble, such as... I'm driven, persistent, stubborn, determined and passionate. It does sound a lot better than impatient, but in the end, they probably are kind of the same.

In my head, I have some goals. Some are goals that I have complete control over, like finishing a manuscript or revising one. And others are at the subjective hands of others, like finding an agent or somehow breaking into a big New York publishing house, or, my personal favorite, selling tons and tons and tons of books.

Even the goals that depend on others have a side that I can be involved in. I can't get an agent if I'm not looking for one. So I sent 40 queries out just to prove that you really can be rejected 37 times. (Actually, I haven't even tried to keep track of how many rejections I've gotten. I don't really care.)

If I want to get to NY, I need to either write the perfect story for the perfect editor in enough time that the stars line up and everything works, or get an agent. See above paragraph.

Sell tons and tons of books. Book signings, hopefully school visits will work out once school starts- hard to tell in the middle of summer.

Have patience. I know. The evil villain of no power.

On a different note- cool stuff at the last book signing. A girl who works as a library aid in her high school was practically beaming when her mom bought her my book. She couldn't stop smiling. She told me about her bookshelf of hundreds of books. All of her money goes to books. When her friends go shopping, she doesn't spend her money with them, she waits to go to a bookstore. If all the world could be a little more like her.

A fifteen year old boy stopped at my table and asked me to tell him about the book. I start with the standard one sentence answer. Vague, but general idea. "Can you tell me any more?" He looked at me. I start telling the story through the first chapter and ask if he wants to know more.

His eyes nearly pop out of his head as a light dawns. "Oh my gosh, you're the author, aren't you?"

He thought I was just someone sitting there trying to sell the book. Probably hadn't even read it myself.

Happy to say that the boy went home with his own copy, and that I was the first author he had met where he thought he might actually like the story.

Sell tons and tons of books. I don't know how, but I do know that Owen's eyes and Alajandra's happiness was more than I could ask for. I didn't know writing a story could take me into people's hearts. Into their lives. That through a book, I can become part of who they are. Sure, I'd love to sell a million. I still hope I do. But who can put a price on moments when you know you will never be the same again? That's why I write.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More than words...

Every single day can't be amazing- right?

I find it interesting that when I'm thrown a few curve balls, there's a back door that opens. Did you know...

Alvor is going to be at Walmart, Deseret Book, Seagull Book and Barnes and Noble by late July or August. Whew.
I set up a book signing with Hastings in Boise and they were telling me that the distributer was sold out. Sold OUT.
Bad good thing.
Good thing- the books are on their way to the distributers and then the stores.
Bad thing- you can't sell a book that isn't there to sell.

So, you're job is to make sure they keep selling out. Seriously. Tell everyone they have to read this book. You loved it. They'll love it. Everyone wins.

And, if you live in Kuna...
Thursday, June 25- 7:00 Kuna Library 457 Locust Avenue Kuna, Idaho 83634

And for all you Boiseans
Friday, June 26- 7:00-8:30 Rediscovered Bookshop7079 Overland Rd. Boise, Idaho 83709

And for anyone anywhere- go into bookstores and ask for my book. Even if you already have one. Even if you're not going to buy one. Ask anyway. The more people ask for my book, the more the bookstores will think they need to carry it.

And- if you do happen to run across Alvor at the store, make sure that it is facing cover out instead of spine out. You know, so EVERYONE can see it. And pretend you're looking at the book so the bookstores don't know that you're conspiring to get more face time for my book.

Okay, confession of the day. I just finished reading Hunger Games. It's kind of sick and twisted. Or maybe I am a serious wimp. It makes my skin crawl, but I guess people like that kind of thing. I'm the kind of girl who hides her face during the fighting scenes- violence makes me ill.

But, I like the love story part. Sweet and fresh- and even innocent. Totally appreciated that side of it.

And it is a page-turner. But I don't know if I could read it again, but then, I never could watch Titanic more than once either. There's only so many times you can watch people die. Or read about it.

So, if you're looking for some violence mixed with a little love- this is the book for you.

Could I write that book- not unless some flesh-eating zombie took over my body and brain and sat down at the computer. Would it know my secret password?

No. I guess I'm not the next Suzanne Collins.

Yes- I'm going to keep writing anyway. There has to be people out there that like books regardless of the fatality rate.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Still laughing after all these years.

My sister Tonia in the middle with my grandma and grandpa.

A sense of humor can go a long way. Yesterday I talked to my grandpa on the phone. He lives in Pennsylvania. I wish I could remember exactly how old he is. He told me that he hasn't had time to read my book yet because there are so many things to do outside. Last week he picked a bunch of quarts of strawberries.
"You know, Laura, if I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." My grandpa has had a lot of health trials and it's no small miracle he's still around. "I'm not like you, Laura. I ran out of things to talk about at the strawberries."
Me laughing my head off. "Grandpa, you had me at the strawberries."
"You should have Glenn Beck interview you for your book."
I say, "Okay, Grandpa, you set it up and I'll be there."
"You know, he's a mormon."
"Yeah, but he's also really rich and famous."
"Well, I thought maybe it would help you out."
I tell him that Glenn Beck received a copy of my book a few weeks ago, but the most I can hope for is a cover quote. Silence. I don't think my grandpa knew what the heck I was talking about.
So the conversation moves on to weather. Safe subject and less confusing.
"I'm not kidding you, it's not summer. I looked at the seven day forecast and five of the days said rain."
"And the other two days said thunderstorms."
I haven't seen my grandpa in about two years. The last time I was there, I soaked in the vision of the misty Pennsylvania hills, the smell of home that I have always associated with grandma's house and my grandpa's sense of humor that I get, or maybe that I got mine from.
I leave a note on the fridge saying, "Went for a walk. Be back around 10:00." When I get back the white board has a new message. "Went for a nap at 9:00, 1:00 and 3:00."
This is my only grandpa I have still on earth. I'm so lucky to still have him, but someday the two of us are going to be laughing on the other side. At least I don't have to wait til then.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When you hear the word Feis.

What do you think of? It's been a few years since I competed Irish Step dancing, and for those of you who don't speak the lingo, Feis (pronounced fesh) is the name for an Irish Step Dance competition.

But when I think of feis, I don't think of the perfect leap or the colorful dress. I think of the time I spend practicing. It's all the work that I do before the final day that has the biggest impact. I've always been lucky enough to have my own space to practice in, so when I think of feis, I think of lacing up my ghillies with my hair thrown into a reckless ponytail and turning the music on. I think of dancing over and over until I get the rhythm perfect and each piece totally right.

And every time, no matter how in shape I think I am, I always dance until I feel like I'm going to throw up. It's necessary in the process. I know I haven't pushed myself to the limit until then. I know there's more I can do and farther I can go and I don't stop until I've reached that point.

And after a few days of nearly losing my lunch, I get past it and can push just as hard the next week without feeling nauseous. Then a week later, my muscles have it memorized, and don't fight the intricate patterns. A month of training like this and I know I'm ready for feis. This was the only way I knew of perfecting my steps. But then, I didn't start Irish dancing until I was in my twenties.

But there is a lesson in the whole thing. A lesson that has driven me past the competition curcuit and into the world of writing. Fortunately, writing doesn't require the same kind of physical excertion that Irish dancing does. But in terms of determination, perserverance and creativity, I think it could be a match.

Writing a book is like training for feis. When I get to the point I doubt myself, I push through it. When I think my story idea might not be so brilliant that it will blow the mind of every reader in the world- I don't worry. I keep writing. I keep trying. I let my story flow and let it lead me into paths I didn't see coming. And there is a rhythm. One that it begs to set into, I just have to listen.

And just like dancing becomes a beautiful liberating flight, so can a story, but it takes all the work. All the back-breaking revising, editing and writing. All of it. Because in the end, anything worth looking at, worth feeling or living takes that.

Writing is a dance. It isn't easy, but it changes you. As you create it, mold it and form it, it comes to life and you will never be the same again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My first time at BYU

BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop.... and Beyond

In a nutshell, here is a peek at my week:

Day 1- Was amazed at how nice and human everyone was. It turns out that even big New York people are fun to be around.

Writing Tip for the day: go online and look up make-up for new color words.

Day 2- Learned my rights as a writer. Didn't realize I had any. Still wondering if any of it is really true.

Writing Tip for the day: conflict is 2 dogs and 1 bone.

UNEXPECTED COOLEST thing that happened to me.... I walked out of one of the sessions and there was James Dashner. I couldn't believe it. He was doing a presentation on Friday, so somehow I equated that to him not being at the conference until then.
So I tried to breathe normally while I introduced myself. He said, "You're Laura?" I nodded and then he opened his arms and gave me a big hug. Like I had been a close friend for years. Like I was someone he knew. Like seeing me meant something to him. James is now officially on my list as one of the nicest people on the planet.

Day 3- Book signing at Confettie Books in Spanish Fork. Very fun. They had a big banner hanging outside announcing my arrival. Inside was a table display for me. I had fun talking to total strangers and then, doing my first television interview. Um, I didn't even look in the mirror first. Aren't you suppose to make sure you look perfect before going on air? I didn't think about that until after. They're going to send me a copy of the interview, so maybe I'll get that posted on U-tube so you all can see what a totally unprepared TV interview with a new author looks like. Be sure to get your popcorn.

Day 4- Spent a lot of time listening to Krista Marino. I really like her. I find it fascinating the way she thinks and how she interprets writing.
Talked to James Dashner for a couple minutes, wish there was more time. I have so many questions.
Ate mashed potatoes and roast beef at a banquet and talked to an author who had published at several small presses. Very informational, and encouraging. I think she taught me subconsciously to act like you're successful, and then you will be.

Writing tip for the day: The reader brings your book to life.

Day 5- Felt overwhelmed at the odds of getting an agent. Went to Ann Dee Ellis's class about dialogue. Finished out with James Dashner's presentation. Lapsed into "What am I doing?" when he said that his first books were irrelevant to his career. Tried not to start crying in the hall after his presentation. He talked about going to book signings where he only sold 1 or 2 books and people would walk a 40 foot radius to avoid him. I was going to a book signing that night; it was my turn to be avoided like the plague.

So I waited in the hall and debated whether I had the courage to talk to him. But I did. I went back into the room and waited for the crowd to part. Eventually he and Krista left the room, and I followed him like a stupid stalker. I couldn't help it.

But I was glad I did. I learned the most valuable lesson of the entire week. And, I'll share this message with you, just in case you ever find yourself wanting to know.

Writing tip for the day: Go to Book Signings, do school visits, keep a blog, do facebook, because it DOES matter.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On the Road

I know, you missed me, didn't you? It's been a great week. On our way down to Utah last Saturday we counted a record high in road kill. The tally came to 1 mink, 1 fox, 2 racoons, 3 deer and a moose. A whole moose. It's legs were sticking up off the ground and everything. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen.
But it got much better after that. We started seeing live wildlife. You know, wildlife instead of wilddeath. Hmm. I like deer better when their grazing, even if it is in someone's front yard.
The BYU writer's conference has held surprises and so much information. I think I'm going to try to capture more of that when I get home and it's not so late.
But, I got to meet some great people, be on TV and even sign a book for the infamous James Dashner.
Details to come. It'll be worth the wait, I promise.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Let's Get It Started...

There's about six other people in this world besides me who think of black and pink costumes when they hear those words..." Let's Get It Started". Clogging routine choreographed by my ever talented neice.
For the rest of the world, I'm ready to get it started. I'm going to Utah this Saturday, taking a semi-vacation with my family and attending the BYU Writer's conference sprinkled with some book signings here and there. Never tried that before. Family vacation/writer's conference. Should be interesting.
I have a feeling my husband is going to miss me by the end of the day. If I weren't so brain dead and ready to spark the synapses, I might feel bad. But, alas, bringing the whole family to Utah was his idea, so I'm thinking he'll find a way to have fun with five children for five hours a day for five of the days. What's with the fives?
But the get-away will be good for all of us. A little swimming, sunshine and time away from home. For me, time to write in a kid-free environment. What more could I ever want? Well, come to think about it...
I am really excited to meet some incredible people in Utah- at the writers conference and at book signings. The way I see it, anyone who goes to my book signing is awesome beyond words. See the post below for details about when and where the book signings are. But Borders. I feel like a real author or something. Very cool.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where did May go?

It seems impossible that it could be June already. I mean, it's warm outside, I'm ready for school to be out, but I still can't believe it's here.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to two different talent shows. My sixth grader is Irish dancing at the Middle school, and my second grader is clogging at his elementary school. It's going to be a fun morning.
We're headed for Utah soon, too. I'm going to the BYU writers conference next week and doing some book signings while I'm there.
If you live anywhere near the signings, I'm begging you to stop by. Even if you have a book. If you still need a copy- bingo- you'll be in the right place.

Here's where it's all happening...
June 10- Confetti Antiques and Gifts 1-3 PM 273 N. Main St., Spanish Fork, UT
June 10- Pioneer Book 4-6 PM 135 West Center, Provo, UT
June 12- Borders 5-7 PM 4801 N. University Ave., Provo, UT

And if you live in Boise, I have another signing coming up...
June 26- Rediscovered Bookshop 7-8:30 PM 7079 Overland Rd., Boise

Did I mention that I really would love to see you?

In other news. Next stop: finding an agent. I'm still wondering if it's even possible, but if by some miracle I end up with one, I'll be sure to tell you every detail I can think of just in case you're looking for one too. So far, I'm thinking it's toss in as many lines as you can and wait to see if you get any bites. Ever notice that you do a lot of sitting around when you're fishing?