Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finding Ruts

In between checking e-mails, I stumbled across an MSN article about exercising ruts. Okay, I admit, I read the whole thing.

And I was surprised to see that I was stuck in a rut or two myself. After thinking about it, I realized how simple it would be to make a couple of adjustments and *ding* my rut would be gone.

For you exercise enthusiasts out there- I decided I needed more resistance training. I kind of let that one go out the window at least six years ago. I know- kind of bad of me. But I can change. It would be easy. I just needed to think about it and realize that I should do it.

What about writing ruts?

1- Just like in exercising, sometimes you need to switch things up. If you go on the same walk for 30 minutes every single day, your muscles get used to it and you plateau.

Instead of doing exactly the same thing everyday, be aware of when you need to be diverse. When you're writing there are many things that take time- planning your plot, developing your characters, creating scenes, finding weak spots in your plans, editing, writing, etc.

The list can really keep going for a long time. In fact, if you're simply writing and never planning or thinking into your story, it won't be as strong of a book.

2- Is the story itself stuck in a rut? This is where stepping back and doing resistance training will help. Get your weights out and find new ways to strengthen your plot and characters. Figure out what's missing. Maybe the stakes aren't high enough, we need more time in the character's head, more action, less info dump, more dialogue, less dialogue... you get the picture.

Sometimes the only way we can see the problem is to step back and think about it from a different angle.

3- And lastly, we're setting our workout machine on "fat burning" so that we stay in a zone that is easier, but ultimately burns fewer calories and ends up being a less effective workout.

There's a chance you could push yourself a little more when it comes to the writing industry. Maybe you need more social media, writers conferences, a writers group, etc. Or perhaps you could handle writing more hours in the day than you do. If you could be doing more than you are, try to.

And in the end, we'll have a better story- uhm, and a better body too I guess if you apply all the same exercise principles. So get your tennis shoes out, or your computer, and have fun!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Brutally Honest Truth

I can't believe how impossible it's been to tell the whole world, but I think it's about time. Maybe just for my own sake. Or maybe it's just so you know- in case you're still convinced I'm some kind of superstar... ha ha ha... so kidding.

First, let me tell you that I acknowledge how teeny tiny and not universally important the following is. Whew. Glad I got that out of the way.

In April my little bubble of my writing career popped. My agent, who I had signed with nearly a year previous, decided she was no longer interested in representing YA. (As a small consolation, I have reason to believe she gave the same news to her other clients. I received collective e-mails addressing her former YA writers.)

So there I was, standing with finished manuscripts in my hands and no one to represent them. I thought I had been patiently waiting for the process to work. I know how busy agents can be and for that reason I tend to leave people alone to do their job unless something important comes up.

I have to admit that I felt like a complete idiot when she said she thought she dumped me six months previously. SIX MONTHS. Uhm, she didn't. The beauty of e-mails. I read every single one she sent me, and nothing remotely referred to this. But I had left her alone for six whole months, busily writing the book she had given her enthusiastic blessing on, the whole time thinking that any day, a contract would magically pop out of the ground like a tulip.

Do I take any of the blame? Yes.

I learned that if I don't hear anything from my agent at all, I should check in at least once a month via e-mail just to be sure we're still on the same page.

Other than that, I think the hardest part has been getting over my own reaction to the hit. All I could think was that my writing wasn't good enough. Which of course equates to- I'm not good enough. And if my writing and me aren't good enough, what the heck do I think I'm doing in the book industry?

And then, after nearly two months, I've finally come to a new conclusion. People are willing to give me more chances. I have to be willing to take them.

The light went on. I was trying to convince myself that I didn't need writing, that it wasn't worth the pain I felt because I couldn't be happy unless I aspired to the career I knew I wanted. That I still want.

But in the process of trying to leave it, story ideas have tracked me down and followed me around like Marley's chains. The only way I can ever feel free is if I write.

And now- I am in love with it all over again. I still don't have an agent. I don't know how long it will take to get one. I may end up having to write a whole new story and start over with the queries.

But now I know that I will.

Not so much that I can, but that I will.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To write or not to write, that is the question

Okay, so, I don't know if y'all noticed, but all of the entries but one were from Boise for the new books. Hmm, I guess that means I'll have to see if I have a book that you guys might want.

emfawcett - gets to pick YA or Middle Grade

Everyone else on the list- you guys live around here, so come to my house and choose which book you want. Seriously. I have some new books you can take a look at.

As for the rest of you- are you ready for summer? I am. So ready.

We've been getting these half committed days that act like a combination of winter and spring. Choose one already! Of course, by that I mean choose summer.

Considering the weather nationally though, I'm not going to complain.

But this does bring me to the topic of commitment.

What does it mean to be committed to writing?

For me it means a few things.
First, to write in spite of everything. This one is the hardest. To write in spite of everything means that no matter how many times I get a rejection letter or watch my books NOT sell, I keep writing. In the face of failure, I write. When I'm sure I'm probably a washed up wanna be, I write. When I've convinced myself that I never really had a gift with words, just a lucky moment here and there, I write. When I don't believe a single encouraging word I've said to someone else, or that someone has said to me, I write. When I've finally decided I should just give the whole thing up... I'm still shaking my head... I write.
In spite of the fact that there is not one shred of proof that all the hours I spend on this craft will ever end in success, I write.

Second, to write because of everything. I know this sounds like a close cousin to the first reason, but it feels different to me. Given all the discouragement listed above, I can not keep the stories from following me around. I can't help but notice the rare perfect moments when the world feels right. It's impossible to ignore the fact that maybe all I need is to keep writing because one of these days I might get it right. Life creates moments that beg to be used in a story.

And what if I didn't write? Would the stories in my head slowly sink into the ground and leave me alone? Would I feel as though my life was profoundly more fulfilling having escaped the flood of rejections that writing necessarily causes?
I ask myself these questions all the time. The problem is I am pretty sure giving up wouldn't end in happiness.

It seems the only way to be happy is to be miserable. Or maybe one has to go through the misery to get to the moments of sheer joy.

Whatever it is, I haven't successfully talked myself into quitting, and I've been trying really hard to lately. I want to be happy. There has to be a way to strike a balance between the heartbreaks of never reaching goals and the satisfaction of knowing that persistence will win in the end.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Randomness in no particular order

First, I must tell you how excited I am about my fourteen-year-old son taking first place in Districts yesterday for the high jump. YAY! Today he runs- and for the life of me I still can't keep straight which distances they are. I can remember the relay- I know, lame mom of me. But he's a great runner and I'm hoping he can get out there and do something he feels happy about at the end of the day.

And, yesterday we had a fabulous Spring Show with the Boise Cloggers. Honestly, I don't know how I ended up getting so many fantastic families to come to my studio. I feel so blessed. My dancers are more than talented athletes, they are true friends and bright individuals.

Speaking of gratitude. I had a surprise e-mail to made my day this morning...

I found and read Alvor one day at the BYU bookstore and loved it. Several months later I found myself interning at Cedar Fort. That was last summer and fall. Last week I read your book, Wings of Light and loved it. I'm a fan.

How awesome is that? It was very cool for me to hear from someone who found my book and fell in love. Oh, and please go to Amazon.com and buy a copy. Read it. Post a review for me.

You'll love it. You know you will. ;)

I found out last week that Wings of Light may or may not make it onto very many Brick and Mortar bookstore shelves. Complicated explanation, but it's usually cheaper online anyway. They say that online sales are higher than in-store sales now too. I never thought the day would come.

Okay- so I realized that I still have a couple of books sitting around that need a new home. I'll pick two winners- and the winners get to pick if they want a Middle Grade or Young Adult book as their prize.

What do you have to do?

*Leave a comment and tell me something random of your own.
*Make me feel better by promising you will read my book soon- or that you already have. Seriously people, Wings of Light is good. And summer is coming. You're going to need something fun to read.
*Your e-mail so I can tell you if you won.

Winners will be posted May 25.

Let the randomness begin!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To TCRG or not to TC, that is the question

(My oldest son in the middle and me on the left- St. Patrick's Day 2011)

The first week of February I sent in my ominous application to take the TCRG exams in October. About a month later, a packet came from Ireland with lots of study material in it. How exciting.

Then April and May hit me like a waterfall and I haven't been able to keep my head above water long enough to study anything. Zip.

So when I got an e-mail this morning with a confirmation letter to take the exams in October, I decided it was time to recommit to my original plan.

What would happen if I decided not to take the exams in October?

I would likely be barred from ever taking the TCRG exam. In my life. That's a pretty long time, and what if I regretted giving up because it was hard? Would I ever regret it?

Most likely. Darn it. When has hard ever stopped me before?

Oh yeah. Never.

It doesn't mean I'll pass my tests with flying colors, although that is the goal. But to get this close and give up because it will be a ton of work would be...depressing, pathetic, defeating or, yes, in the back corner of my mind I can admit that it would also be a tiny sigh of relief.

But then, giving up on anything hard would give an instant sense of relief, followed by a lifetime of what-ifs. It's the what-ifs that can kill you in the end.

Mmm, and for those of you who have no clue what in the world I'm talking about- I know you're out there- yeap, you- TCRG is a world-recognized certification to teach Irish Dance. It also allows your students to compete Irish dance at feis (pronounced fesh).

Yes, technically you can teach Irish dance without any certification at all, but only TCRG teachers are universally recognized as having credentials, which is why only TCRG students can compete in feis. There's also ADCRG- and that's one step above TCRG. Those are the adjudicators for feiseana.

So- yes, I'm gonna do it. Yes, I'm a little terrified. I really don't want to fail. I guess life is about taking risks, and lately I've been doing a lot of that. Gambling that one of these days, I'm going to get it right.

But if I never try, I never will.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Next on the List

It's been a crazy couple of months. I mean busy-no-time-to-sit-down-and-write crazy.

I"m home again and very much looking forward to what used to be known as a regular schedule. We still have the Spring Show coming up on Thursday... but soon, very soon, I will reclaim my normal life.

Which will include a brand new book to write. Aaah. Yes. I've settled on an idea that I'm excited to work on.

And, unlike anything I've tried so far, it will have no fantasy or science fiction in it at all. It's not a dark depressing story either, so I think I'm gonna have some serious fun with this.

That's the beauty of YA. I can write whatever I want and it's still considered the same category.

What is it? Think romance tripping over a suspense in a glamorously awkward way. This is going to be such a great ride to write.

Had to share that with you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


My four-year-old just now, "Mom! It's spring! I saw two butterflies."

Maybe it's because I've just had the most amazing week, but everything seems to have more color in it today. The wind is blowing and we lack flowers or even leaves on some of our normally gorgeous bushes. Outside spring is having a debate, but inside of me, it's here.

New life. New color. My heart is full.

I always come away from writers conferences feeling inspired and ready to take on my career with more enthusiasm, but this time that feeling has been multiplied in ways that I never thought possible.

To say I loved the LDStorymakers Conference does not seem to come close to expressing the depth of how this last week affected me in so many positive ways. Yesterday when I thought about it, it brought tears to my eyes. I don't know if people are allowed to have as many perfect experiences as I had in just four days.

I will never be the same person again.

That's not to say that I won't experience more and more failures as I reach towards my writing dreams, but at least my bucket is full now and whether I deserve it or not, I feel so much hope.

How can I say thank you enough to all the talented friendly people that made this last week so unforgettable? It takes a small army to accomplish what they did and they have my deepest gratitude.

For those of you who took the time to talk to me... and you know who you are... I can't say thank you enough. Thank you for filling my heart so full that it might just burst. And would that be such a bad thing? I will never be the same again. I am a different person than the girl who left for Utah last week. And I have you to thank for that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writers Confernce thoughts

If you're a writer, make writer's conferences a planned part of your life. Period.

That said, now you have to figure out which ones to go to. There are so many wonderful choices, it really is hard to go wrong.

For me, it comes down to a few criteria.
*How much does it cost?
*How many days do I have to be away from home?
*Do the dates conflict with other things in my life that I cannot (or should not) get out of?
*Are there nationally recognized presenters in attendance?

If I had a limitless supply of money, I would absolutely attend more conferences. I love them.

At the SCBWI conference I attended a few weeks ago, someone asked me if I had gotten anything out of it. I have to admit I was taken back from the question because it's the last thing I would have expected to hear. But the answer is always the same- yes. I always get something out of writers conferences, no matter how big or small they are.

Sometimes I'll hear the same exact things, but I think about it in a new way or apply it to my WIP. Because where I am in life changes everyday, what I hear and learn when I go to classes changes too.

The LDStorymakers Conference is coming up this weekend. I've been working with some talented people to help organize some of the aspects of this conference- but that aside- I can honestly say that this is my favorite writers conference hands down.

Do you have to be LDS to attend? No way. We have nationally recognized agents, this year a St. Martin's Press editor and national authors both LDS and not presenting. If you've never considered this Utah conference, look into it.

And the price is extremely reasonable. How can that be? I still don't know, but I'm not complaining.

Agents attending this year...
Sara Crowe with Harvey Klinger, Inc.
Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary Agency
Becca Stumpf with Prospect Agency

And we have Marcia Markland, Senior Editor with Thomas Dunne Books, which is a part of St. Martin's Press.
Other editors are...
Lisa Mangum with Deseret Book
Kirk Shaw, Senior Editor for Covenant Communications

And the list of presenters is incredible as well. There are so many subjects covered in presentations that you have up to eight choices of classes to attend every hour for two days.

Don't forget the pitch sessions. Each agent is taking 25 pitches and the editors nearly as many. Since attendees can only sign up for one pitch, it means we have well over 100 people pitching to an editor or agent this weekend.

Just under 500 people are registered for the LDStorymakers Conference this year. There's a good reason for that. This is simply one of the most organized, well put together, professional and helpful conferences in the Northwest. People fly from all over the country to attend.

It makes me feel lucky that it's only a six hour drive for me.

So, if it seems I've disappeared off the face of the earth this weekend, it's only because I'm busy loving the writers conference, catching up with old writing friends and having the time of my life.