Because I Cannot Be Disuaded

At the end of each year, it has become my tradition to review the goals I set and see how I did, and then to create new goals for the new year. I’ve been doing this for 8 years now, and I find it helpful for keeping my focus throughout the year – usually. Life happens when you’re making plans for something else, right? So, let’s see how I did:

1. I will get an agent this year. Period.

Well, I tried. I did begin to submit to agents again, and while I had favorable comments, I haven’t landed one just yet. So, we’ll be seeing this one again, I’m certain.

2. I will finish at least three novels this year, including rewriting The Afterward, finishing Namesake, and a third novel (yet to be determined).

That was very ambitious of me! And I did pretty well. The Afterward has been revised, I finished a novel called “The Year I Went Invisible” (though it needs a great deal of work still). I wrote (and sold!) two new short stories, and I’ve started a new novel that is moving along nicely (it doesn’t have a name yet, though). While I didn’t actually write three two new novels, I still feel pretty good about my accomplishments.

3. I will continue to look for opportunities to promote my work and to participate in at least one writing-related event each month. 

I came so close on this! I did find new places to market my work! And I took full advantage of every opportunity! I managed to be involved in 10 events this year! And for some of them, I was even paid! This one might be tougher with only one new book coming out this year, but hopefully, I’ll find some new resources as well.

4. I will attend two writing conferences or workshops to benefit my own writing.

I have to cheat a bit on this one, but to me, it still counts. In April, I was one of the presenters at the Writing for Charity event in Provo, Utah. However, I took full advantage of the times I wasn’t presenting and attended as many workshops as I could fit in during the day. Then in September, I joined the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization and attended their three-day conference in Denver. It was amazing, uplifting, and something I very much needed to do for myself and my heart.

5. I will offer four writing workshops  during the year.

And here, I exceeded my goal significantly. I began teaching for the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning program again after not having taught for them in over 12 years. It is a wonderful, rewarding experience, and I look forward to the classes and my students each week. This coming spring, I will be teaching a class on Flash Fiction, and I have gained so much insight by reading in this area, so I’m very excited to share this with my students.

And so for next year? Well, I’m continuing to try to stretch a bit, but I’m also trying not to set myself up for failure or disappoint. Let’s be realistic: I have a full-time job; I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, and the giant furless mommy cat in my family. I have responsibilities and demands – but I also have a need to write, so I’m trying to find that balance between the real world and my writing ambitions. My family is supportive and willing to compromise (which is easier now that my baby is 19 and only lives here on school breaks), but I need time with them, too. In that realm of balance and ambition, here are the 2015 edition of my goals:

1. I will submit to no less than 5 agents each month.

2. I will write a minimum of 7,500 words each week.

3. I will participate in a minimum of 10 events which allow me to promote my books.

4. I will attend at least one writing event where I am NOT speaking or presenting.

5. I will continue teaching creative writing courses through Lifelong Learning.

Now, I’m adding a new twist: I have printed off my goals and stuck them to the wall next to my desk so that I can see them each day. I am inviting you to ask me at any time to provide a public update on these goals, which I will do. I’m inviting any encouragement, support, chastising, or harassment that you may feel is appropriate throughout the year. And I will thank you now, in advance, for doing so.

Here’s to the new year: may we all follow our dreams and continue to flourish and grow!

dream

The Surprising Results of Going Public

People are funny critters. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ll turn around and do something to show you that you really had no idea about them.

Back in July of 2012, I made a public statement about my mission and my purpose: Within 5 years, I’m going to make a living off my writing. Now, when I say this, let me be clear that I realize my books alone will not be enough necessarily. Then again, I could get really lucky, but that’s not entirely up to me. My plan includes things like: doing some work-for-hire that pays me to write, being very aggressive about marketing my books, teaching workshops and classes, and offering critique and mentoring services. All of this involves or is directly related to writing, and it was always part of the plan.

Recently, I put a post on Facebook about this public declaration, and I mentioned it again to certain family and friends. I brought it up for several reasons. First, in the past 8 months since I made my declaration, many good things have happened that have made me feel more secure than ever that this is not only a good call, but it’s the right one. I’ve had two books come out (one new, one rereleased), I’m finishing the final touches on a third book to come out this fall (The Deepest Blue), I’ve started doing work-for-hire that is sharpening my skills and helping me earn a little more money, and I’ve had some very positive feedback from another publisher on a fourth book. In February I taught a workshop that went very well, I’ve been invited to do several presentations in the coming months, and I’m being asked to start teaching writing classes again through LifeLong Learning at the University of Utah. The second reason I brought up my declaration was that I believe if you don’t restate your goals, it’s easy to forget you have them. It’s sort of the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.

So yes, I went public on Facebook about my objective – and I was totally blown away at the responses I got and who gave them to me.

What caught me off guard the most were two writing friends – one of whom I truly consider a mentor – who pretty much said, “Are you crazy? You can’t make a living at this, obviously. We don’t, so how can you?” I’m sort of paraphrasing there, and to give proper credit, my mentor did come back later and say “If anyone can do it, I know you can.” But the initial response was sort of . . . well, shocking. One of the writers tolde me how many books over how many years he/she had written (I don’t want to give anything away), and how he/she had never been able to make a living off his/her writing by itself. One very sarcastic comment said “You’re much braver than I am.” My thought was, “Then why are you saying your a writer. Writers have to be brave just to do what we do in the first place.”

My initial reaction was – and still is to an extent – “Well, I will show you!” I am not only committed to doing this, but the more people tell me “You can’t” the more dedicated I am to proving them wrong! After a while, though, I began to understand their responses for what they were: their own fears on my behalf. In a way, I’m touched that they care enough about me to worry like that, but I am also just a tiny bit offended that I don’t get just a little more credit for having researched this and knowing what I’m getting into. It’s not like I just decided last July to become a writer. I’ve been doing this (for better or for worse) for 17 years. I’ve made many, many mistakes, and I’ve learned a great deal about this whole insane industry along the way.

It would be easy to think that I’ll never be able to succeed solely on my writing, but that was never what I committed to in the first place.I know that I will have to do more than rely on just my books. My mission is to have my “work” be writing-related. I will write, and I will still pray to the great gods of publishing to give me J.K. Rowling’s status. But I will also teach others, because I enjoy doing it and because I’m good at it. Mentoring has always been a huge aspect of my writing life, it’s just that now I will not do it for free because I’m tired of being taken advantage of. This is my career, my profession, and my LIVELIHOOD. What I do has a value, so I’m committing to be paid what I’m worth.

I have to say that I was equally surprised by the positive comments I received. Friends from around the world, some of whom I know only through Facebook, offered words of support and encouragement. They expressed their faith in me and told me I was doing the right thing by following my heart. Cousins and aunts and uncles all chimed in their support as well. One of the messages I received actually came by phone. The daughter of a friend of mine who had read Kiss Kiss Bark told me that because of me, she wants to be a writer when she grows up. Um – yeah. Tugged my heart strings. My family has long been supportive (for the most part, but that’s another blog for another time), and so my restatement of my objective was pretty much met with “Yeah, yeah. We know already,” but I guess that’s what I expected.

The point, I guess, is this: I make my goals public because I want the support. The surprise to me was that I needed to be challenged, too. Have someone say “You can’t,” only makes me yell, “Oh yeah? Watch me!” And as the good news continues to roll in, I will look forward to sharing it with everyone, whether or not they believe in me or support me. Like I said, aggressive marketing!

How Much is Enough?

How much are you willing to endure in order to have something you want? I don’t just mean a basic something, like you want steak for dinner or a new pair of shoes. I mean something big – a dream.

The truth is that most of us say we would go through anything to have a dream. How often have you heard someone you know say “I’d do anything to have . . . .” fill in the blank? Here is the truth of it – most of those statements are hyperbole. Most of the time, we are dedicated to something only so long as it doesn’t really inconvenience us or cause us any discomfort.

But sometimes, on some limited, rare occasions, we get tested for our dreams. I know a number of people (writers and otherwise), for whom this concept of “how much do you want it?” is being applied as a real-life exercise in discomfort. I’m going through this myself as I struggle to balance a fragile marriage, a disappointing job, a fading friendship, and my need to write. I’ve asked myself repeatedly if all of what I’m going through is really worth what I want. Am I really willing to stay up until 2:00 in the morning because I need to get another chapter written? Am I willing to be subjected to the inevitable criticism – the slices and dices – of those who will read my work and then make it their business to publicly flog my efforts? Will I hold firm when faced with a choice between meeting a deadline and listening to my family members complain that I never spend time with them and why can’t I go to the movies just this once?

It’s easy to say, “Oh sure, I can do it. My resolve is cast iron.” But the truth is, I find myself asking if it’s truly worthwhile to continue to pursue this dream. On more than one occasion, as I’ve struggled to find a reasonable ending to a novel I’ve worked on for close to a year now, I ask myself why I can’t just be happy with a mediocre job and a mediocre paycheck and call it good.  There are times when my spouse and I argue solely over the role that writing has in my life and the impact that this has on him. It is tempting to say, “F*** this dream,” throw my laptop against the wall, and deny I ever wanted to see my name on the cover of another book.

How much is enough? I already have a five books published, with a sixth one coming out in mere weeks, and a seventh within the next year. Isn’t that enough? Haven’t I given it my best shot? Shouldn’t I be happy with the mediocre results I’ve achieved?

I tried giving up writing once. In fact, I practically gave it up completely for almost 5 years. The end result of that endeavor was that I was miserable. I hated not writing, I resented my family (especially my husband) because I felt that I had sacrificed my dream for them and they appreciated it about as much as they appreciated stepping in dog poop.

 I felt that I couldn’t even talk about my writing because it would raise too many  issues with them and too many emotions with me. But that nagging, gnawing sensation to put words on paper never left me. I suppressed it as best I could, but it never really went away. And then I met someone who wanted my help, who wanted to learn about writing from someone who had done it. Suddenly, I had an excuse to “talk” about writing. I wasn’t actually doing it, but I was helping someone else to learn about it. That dream, that need to capture words and tame them, and to have my name on book covers, came rushing back with a vengeance. I wrote for hours and hours on end. I let loose some of the pent-up stories and poems that I had denied for so long, and it was cathartic. It was as if an ache that had plagued me for years was suddenly  and completely healed, and I felt renewed in a way I didn’t know I could experience. I felt like I had purpose, like I had something of value to offer.

I began to flex muscles that had atrophied, and I found that they still worked. The got stronger, and better, and now I am writing more effectively and more powerfully than I ever have before. I dove into stories that had lain unfinished in lost folders on my computer. I began submitting and collecting rejections, and feeling every bit the authentic writer that I dream of being. But dreams come with a price tag, and sometimes that price is high. But I have a stronger resolve today than I have ever felt before. I am more committed to my writing goals and to achieving the success that I believe I can have than I have ever been in the past. It exacts a toll to have this dream, but I am willing to pay no matter the cost. I am possessed by this vision, I am obsessed with achieving what I know is meant to be mine.

How much is enough to sacrifice for this dream? I don’t know. I haven’t found that limit. But I know the other side of it. How much will it cost me to give it up? The answer is: far too much. If I sound like some religious zealot, singing the praises of belief and faith, all I can say is – deal with it. I know that I’ll be challenged – I’ll face it. I know I will have to sacrifice – that’s my choice. I know that I will encounter people and situations that are stumbling blocks – I’ll get over them. Those who want to nay-say and throw road blocks up had best get out of my way. Those who see my passion, who want to share in it – keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times and hang on!

Oddly Enough

I’ve had a fair share of – unusual? – occurrences in my life. By way of example, I came down with e-Coli after a family barbecue – I was the only one of seven people to get it – and as it turns out, it may have saved my life. Without going into gruesome detail, as a result of the e-Coli infection, doctors discovered several polyps in my colon, two of which were just a few weeks shy of turning from benign to malignant. I’d had tummy troubles for several months, but it took a very serious bacteria for this to be discovered. Last fall, I had a recurring dream about my young adult novel “The Deepest Blue” and within a week of dreaming about how to fix the story, my publisher called with an offer to buy the story – a year and a half after she initially rejected it.

Well, it’s happening again.

About a week ago, I made a public declaration that I had a new goal: I wanted to be able to rely on my writing for the majority of my income within the next five years. I posted it on Facebook, I told my friends and family, and I asked for support. Most of the responses were very supportive and very positive. A few were hesitant, but attempting to be supportive. A few were, essentially, “Are you nuts?” My response to that is “Possibly, but I’m committing to this anyway.” One afternoon someone quite close to me said, “I think it’s great to have a dream, but I also think saying you will make a living at something that is this unpredictable is sketchy.” To this I replied, “I believe that God/the Universe (insert deity of your choice here) wants me to be successful.”

And an amazing thing happened.

About a month ago I contacted The King’s English, a local independent bookstore, about maybe doing a book signing when my middle grade novel “Kiss Kiss Bark” comes out. I explained this was a re-release, and I expected nothing more.  This is what I got in my email a few days ago:

“Can we take pre-orders for signed copies of the new “Kiss Kiss Bark” and also feature it on our website? 

 And then we’d love to keep in touch and plan a launch party for your new YA book next fall. 
 
Your new adult book sounds “thrilling” 🙂 I’ll make sure the marketing team is aware of it since I only handle the children’s books. But I think we should do something for it as well.”
 
I called immediately and discovered that they would like to do a feature display of my book as well as putting it in their newsletter and on the website. They would also be happy to host a “re-launch” party for me in October. They are looking at “Beautiful Monster” for the same treatment, and they are already making plans for the release of my YA novel “The Deepest Blue” next year. To me this says that I’m going in the right direction, and that the nay-sayers and doubters will have to find another place to direct their negativity.
 
I have to say, though, that the nay-sayers are very motivating to me. The more they tell me “no” the more determined I am to succeed. I refuse to let them be right!
 
This blog is not religious in nature. In fact, I’m not religious in nature, but I believe in a higher power and I’ve seen it work (for me an others) too many times to call it coincidence. I think that when you make a commitment to yourself, that higher power becomes very interested in seeing you succeed. My commitment level to this goal, to my dream, is higher than just about any other commitment I’ve ever made, and I am already experiencing the rewards of my own belief. I don’t expect everyone to see things my way – I’m just not pushy like that – so if this is a bunch of hooey to you, okay. I’m good with that. But as things continue to progress and I get closer to my goal, I will keep posting these little oddities. For one thing, I hope they’ll inspire, and for another, I know they annoy the ju-ju-bees out of The Local Writer Who Hates My Guts (TLWWHMG).
 
Now, it’s time for my favorite four words – “It’s time to write!”
 

Resolution Time

It’s that time of year again – time to make my New Year’s resolutions. The only resolutions I make anymore relate to writing, and for the last 5 years, I’ve shared them here.

Before I go into this year’s commitments, here is a review of last year’s and how I did.

1) I will secure an agent.  Well, sadly, I’ve been rejected by several (dozen) agents, but I haven’t found one yet. But I’m optimistic that I will find one soon.  The market is still a screwy place, but I have a sense things are changing; slowly, but surely.

2) I will finish “Project Evil Heart” This one I can check off the list! Jared and I finished this project, now named “Gallery of Dolls” in the nick of time. We are working on revisions and will have this one ready to submit very soon. We had such a good time doing this that we’ve decided to collaborate on another project in the future. We are working on individual projects right now, but by this summer, we hope to be ruthlessly killing more characters off.

3) I will finish my YA novel entitled “The Complete Guide to What I Should Have Known” I turned my attention to another book which was started quite a while ago. “The Afterward” is a speculative fiction for YA readers that takes place at the beginning of the second Civil War in America.  I finished it, revised it, and it is currently collecting rejection letters.

4) I will sell at least one book. Oddly enough, despite having absolutely no control over this, it happened! “The Deepest Blue” was initially rejected by my publisher, but a year and a half later, the story stuck with her and she bought it on December 1! At the same time, she announced plans to reissue my first novel, “My Brother the Dog”, with a new title (Kiss, Kiss, Bark), a new cover, and in hardback instead of paperback!

So what are this year’s goals?

1) I will finish the YA novel currently entitled “Death Kiss” and start submitting it by this summer.

2) I will start working on the collaborative projet with Jared (assuming he finishes his other one!) and have it completed by the end of the year.

3) I will continue trying to get an agent. Of course, having sold all my books without an agent, I sometimes wonder if I really need this. Then I read about an overseas deal or movie rights negotiated by an agent and I realize that this is the right course for me.

4) Continue learning and polishing my craft. I plan to attend a variety of workshops and conferences this year, learning more about the industry and about my chosen career.

These are my objectives, publicly posted so that I will be accountable for them. So much depends on outside forces – like whether or not the world is going to end (tee-hee), but I believe that dedication, perseverance, concentrated energy, and prayer will help me to achieve the results I want. I have the support of family and amazing friends, so realistically, everything is in my favor. I look forward to letting you know how things unfold this coming year.

Happy New Year, and keep writing!

 

Whoooosh!Public Declaration – 2010

It came so quickly, and even more quickly it was gone. The year 2009 flew in before I was ready for it, and before I know it, it is over. I am stunned and amazed at the speed with which this year has gone. So much has changed, so many aspects of my life are different, and my head is still spinning from the whirlwind that was this year.

So it’s time for me to look at the coming year, and to put my prognosticating skills to the test, but first a recap of this past year’s goals.

#1 – Continue to write, revise, and polish the novel I’m preparing for the agent with whom I’ve been in contact.  Ideally I’d like to have the first draft ready by March of 2009.

I did a good job with this one.  The novel is finished and in good shape. It has earned one rejection thus far, and I anticipate collecting a few more this coming year. 

#2 – Continue to work on marketing efforts to promote existing books, but also to prepare for the release of the upcoming book, The Deepest Blue, in 2009.  This includes getting my website updated, sending marketing materials to schools and book stores, and participating in more events such as signings, book festivals, and school visits.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, The Deepest Blue didn’t get released this year.  But it is circulating and is going to find a home soon. I was able to visit a few more schools and do several book signings at schools and book stores this year.  I already have a signing scheduled in February, and I hope to have  a few more lined up within the next month.

#3 – Continue participating in my critique group. This affords me the opportunity to both sharpen my literary analytical skills as well as improve my writing.

Sadly, I had to step out of my group for most of the year because of conflicts with my work schedule.  With the new job, I will be able to change this.

#4 – Review the stories I have already finished, or those which I’ve started that are waiting for work, and develop at least one into a marketable piece for submission.

Not so good with this one. I had less time to write than I had hoped, so all my efforts were spent on finishing just one book.

So now comes the time where I look to the new year and state my goals anew.  Without further adieu:

#1 – Find a permanent home for The Deepest Blue. It is currently waiting on an editor at Philomel, but Peggy at Tanglewood has said she would take it back in a heartbeat.  However, she also supports my desire to find a larger market for this book.

#2 – Get my most recent novel, Namesake, to the agent with whom I’ve been communicating. The book is done and collecting rejections.  I have a few items I want to make adjustments to before I send it, but I anticipate having it in her hands by the end of January.

#3 – Redo my website.  I love my website, and my friend Brad was so wonderful for having created it for me, but it needs an update so that I can continue to effectively focus my marketing.

And that’s it for this year.  I need to keep things simple because I don’t know how this new job is going to be just yet.  But I feel very confident about things this year.  I feel the change coming, and I am energized and excited for the new year.

Public Declaration – 2009 Edition

On January 2, 2008, I posted a blog about goals.  This tradition began many years ago with a list serve that I belong to, and now I’m carrying it over here for the second year.  Much like my writing friend Dr. B, I believe in dreams, and I believe that the only way we turn our dreams into reality is by stating them publicly and following them consciously.  That’s the intention of this annual post.  As a recap, here are my goals from 2008:

# 1 – Finish my s/f novel and have it sold before the end of the year.  This is going to require a bigger commitment to writing time, and also to marketing time.

While I didn’t finish the novel, I did finish another which was subsequently sold and will be released in 2009.  I’ve set the S/F novel aside for now, but I am working on other projects – when you see the 2009 goals, you’ll understand.

# 2 – Obtain an agent with whom I can work amicably.  Having worked with two agents previously, the second half of this goal is more important to me than the first.  Not just any agent will do.  I’d rather go on representing myself than to have a bad agent/author relationship like I experienced previously.

I didn’t sign with an agent – at least not yet.  However, I made a wonderful contact this summer, and we are exchanging email regularly.  I’m actually working on a project specifically to send to him, and I hope to have that finished within a  few months. Again, when you see the 2009 goals, you’ll understand.

# 3 Increase my marketing effort for my existing books and secure more book signings, school visits, and teaching opportunities.  While the royalty checks are great, the money making opportunities provided by these activities could be worth as much or more than the books.  More money earned this way means less time teaching basic grammar (not that I don’t like my job, but I’m a writer first, not an English teacher).

I did much better here.  I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a number of schools, be involved in several book signings, and I continue to market and promote my existing books.  One of my editors told me that the publisher was considering taking one book out of print, and then suddenly received a large order for the book because of a speaking engagement I had done.  It’s working, and I will continue to promote in the future.

# 4 – Revise my earlier novel which received some favorable feedback from editors when I first wrote it.  I’m a much stronger writer now than when I started, and I still believe in this story, but I think I can rewrite it with a better voice, a sharper plot, and a more credible ending.  I’ll have this finished by the end of the year.

This, too has been put on hold so that I can focus on the novel for the agent.  It is a good book, and one which I have high hopes for, but it will have to wait just a touch longer before it gets attention.

So now, without further commentary, here are are my 2009 writing goals:

#1 – Continue to write, revise, and polish the novel I’m preparing for the agent with whom I’ve been in contact.  Ideally I’d like to have the first draft ready by March of 2009.

#2 – Continue to work on marketing efforts to promote existing books, but also to prepare for the release of the upcoming book, The Deepest Blue, in 2009.  This includes getting my website updated, sending marketing materials to schools and book stores, and participating in more events such as signings, book festivals, and school visits.

#3 – Continue participating in my critique group. This affords me the opportunity to both sharpen my literary analytical skills as well as improve my writing.

#4 – Review the stories I have already finished, or those which I’ve started that are waiting for work, and develop at least one into a marketable piece for submission.

There they are. Nothing fancy or grandiose, but realistic and requiring effort.  Of course, they make me stretch and work to achieve them, but what’s the point of having a goal if it’s too easy to attain?

What are your goals? Share them with me, and let’s support each other in this weird and challenging journey.  I wish you each a wonderful and prosperous New Year where your goals are met and your dreams come true.