Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ripple Effect

Last week I was in Charleston, SC, for Goodwill’s annual meeting. To make a long story short, I hate to travel for work. The flying, the food, the hotel stays. BUT…the bright spot is visiting with Goodwill colleagues I don’t see but twice a year or so.

Two conversations touched me deeply and stay top of mind even a week later.

A Goodwill CEO from Michigan (who used to be a colleague of mine and is still a dear friend) mentioned over dinner that she reads my blog. No one ever comments on the blog so I assumed very few people even read it! She said she was so inspired by my passion for writing that she has begun to capture on paper her memories of her mother (who is 95 years old).

The next day, another staff member at Goodwill’s national headquarters engaged me in a conversation about how much he wants to begin writing and that he feels stuck. He, too, mentioned my blog. I shared my struggles and some resources that help me. Later he emailed and asked if we could chat monthly to keep him on track. I am so honored that he asked.

Rarely do we have evidence of how our actions affect others. It reminds me of what the keynote speaker at the conference said: Our actions and words always leave a wake. I feel blessed that these friends shared where the ripples of my writing ended up.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday, Friends and Rollercoasters

I hate rollercoasters. Yet, I’ve chosen a profession that makes me feel like I’m trapped on one.
  • Whhhheeeeee! Manuscript finished and ready to send to beta-readers.
  • Whoooaaaaaah! Revisions, twists, turns, can I actually make it up that incline?
  • Yeeeeeeee! Literary agent is interested.
  • Owwwwwww! Rejection – and I'm upside down with my heart in my throat and my lunch about to come up.
  • Wheeeeeeee! Great idea for a new book. Can't wait to get started!

You get the picture. It’s a constant back-and-forth-up-and-down-full-speed-ahead-full-stop type of existence. It’s making me kind of crazy. (Husband would dispute "kind of.")

Some days, it's a monumental task to stay focused and positive in the face of rejection. Good thing I have friends, family and fellow writers who support me no matter what.

I recently entered blurbs from Hannah’s Half in contests held on writer and agent blogs. Other writers who commented were thoughtful and encouraging, even when making critiques. My sister-in-law, Camm, tweeted me with enthusiastic comments while she read Hannah’s Half – in one day. My husband, Andy, exclaimed "Goose poop!" at the agent who emailed with a 'pass' this morning.

So, today I want to say thanks to Andy, Tessa, TracytheWriter, TracytheFriend, Camm, Christi, Wendi, Arlene, Jenni, Hunter, Micki, Kathryn, Alison, Tim, Joanie, my bookclub and the dozens of others who always ask how the current book is coming along, who always give a “like” on Facebook when I post good news, who always suggest ways to pamper myself when I get bad news, who always read a blog about writing just because the care about me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Would St. Valentine Say?!

In honor of Valentine's Day, Oasis for YA, an online community for writers of young adult fiction, has asked writers to post a romantic and/or sexy excerpt from their books. The following is from my novel, Hannah's Half. A bit of info to set the scene: Hannah's love interest, Adam, is a ghost who's unable to move on to the afterlife. He and Hannah are twin flames (or halves of the same soul) who've spent several past lives together ... each time with disastrous results.


“I need you, too, Hannah.”

He kissed me roughly and I kissed him back. When he pushed me onto the bed, I didn’t stop him. He pulled off his tee shirt, which left his hair disheveled and wild. He straddled me while we both pulled at my tee shirt.

“What if this doesn’t work?”

He stopped my question with another kiss — long and deep and perfect. I unzipped his pants and he pushed my hands away, removing his own jeans while I tore at mine. Our knees bumped clumsily as we kicked to free our legs.

Touching Adam felt like being under water. Our movements became softer and slower as if I was buoyed by the pressure of his body. His kissing slowed and his hands became less desperate and more deliberate. I shuddered when he pulled my leg around him.

Every movement I made was accompanied by a flash of memory; all our past lives in one tornado of emotion. I moved my hand over his smooth chest and down over his belly, hooking my thumb in his boxers – it was the present and past all in the same instant. I’d never felt so complete.

“I want you,” he whispered.

“You’ve always had me,” I said.

“Then I want you even more.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

May the Force Be With Us

All I can think about today is the VW commercial where the little boy in the Darth Vader outfit runs around trying to manipulate things with his awesome power. I found many of the Superbowl commercials to be so-so. The VW one, though, is getting universal accolades. (It’s my personal favorite.)

There are those stand-out ads that we will always remember (E*TRADE baby, the Budweiser streaking goat). It’s hard to quantify what makes these work and others not so much. Yet, we instinctively “know it when we see it.”

I think this must be what literary agents are up against: they must wade through the so-so slush until that brilliant piece leaps out. I’m guessing some manuscripts try too hard and just come across as icky: like the Doritos commercial where the guy licks the orange, Dorito dust off a co-worker’s fingers.

Writers (published and unpublished) often want agents to quantity the unquantifiable. They want a secret formula that will make their stories stand out. The problem is that there is no secret formula.

Dear fellow writers…if we’re honest with ourselves, we know when we hit that sweet spot and we know when we’re just trying to be clever. To finally get that agent’s attention, our writing must be creative, stand out above the slush, and be able to evoke a response in our readers.

May the force be with us.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Paying It Forward in the Tweeterverse and Blogosphere

Recently I sat down to make out my ‘wish list’ of agents to query for “Hannah’s Half,” the YA paranormal novel I finished (and am revising!). I was hopping around Twitter, trying to find a particular agent to follow when I happened upon a writer’s blog.

Shelli (srjohannes) shared a story about an agented writer and blogger who stumbled upon her book synopsis and liked it so much, she referred it to her own agent. Yes, you can guess the rest of the story. Shelli is now represented by the same agent.

Shelli’s now hosting a contest on her web site as a way to ‘pay forward’ the generosity shown to her. She’s agreed to select a pitch that intrigues her and share it with her agent.

It got me thinking of the serendipitous connections I’ve made in my writing life.

Some time ago, I wanted to form a writers’ critique group. I sent out a Facebook notice without noting that the group needed to be local – as in Durango, CO. A former work colleague sent the message to a friend in Maryland who contacted me. We began to exchange emails and war stories. Then, she offered to critique my YA novel. I’d only written women’s fiction to that point and needed a YA author’s insight. And boy has Tracy given me that and more.

My manuscript is SO MUCH BETTER because of her generosity. And the girl keeps on giving! Writers usually have to be their own cheerleaders, especially in the face of rejection. I now have Tracy as a cheerleader whenever I'm down (and I hope I am to her as well). Plus, the girl loves cupcakes. We were meant to be friends.

Has anyone done anything special for YOU that you feel you should pay forward?