Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Hello, Friday!

Something amazing happened last night, and Mr. A gets the credit.

(Well, doesn't that sound all spicy?)

You know I'm on a self-imposed writing break.  You know--because I bleed my heart all over this blog--how deeply necessary this hiatus has been.

And yet, as my second week of non-writing dragged on, I wasn't filling my time with Good Things.  I was despairing.  Drowning in a dearth of creativity.  Crying too easily because I felt empty.

Seriously, Non-Writing Me!  What's with that?  I am not the high artiste type.  Not the woe-is-me-I-am-dying-internally-because-I'm-not-wordcrafting type.  Really, I'm not.  Writing does infuse me with life--but so does any creative pursuit.

Because I was created to create.  And that is where, for me, life and joy exist.

In the midst of my difficult week, the seeds of a story came to life in the dust of my dormant brain--a retelling, of all things.  (I have never been tempted to do a retelling before.  But this one...oh, this one!)  And last night, accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay and soft guitar music, I sat with my husband and brainstormed.

It was tremendous.

For whatever reason, Mr. A has captured the vision of this story with me.  (Oh, yes.  He was created to create, too.  It's one of our strongest bonds.)  And when I skipped ballet in order to spend creative time with him, he was happy to oblige.  In fact, he'd already offered more than once to sit down with me and play around with this story idea.

How can a gal say no to that?

So it was fairly magical, tossing around characters and plot ideas and setting and romance and all the good things with the love of my life.  And this morning, I am fresh and alive again.

Here's the thing--I'm still on hiatus.  In order for this to truly work, it needs to feel like child's play for a while.  I need to dabble...to imagine...to sift my fingers through the sand without building a castle.  Yet.

I'll know when I'm ready to write this thing.  Right now, it's refreshing and restoring me.  I'm not going to push myself to start that beat sheet.  But I am going to immerse myself in the joy of finding this story's heart.  And this is new ground for me--I'm not a lover of the planning stage.  I need productivity--word count--a completed manuscript that I can rip into and revise.

But that's not what my spirit needs right now.  And thanks to Mr. A, I've discovered exactly what I do need.

I need this story to dance in my head and take shape in its own time.  I need to allow myself to live in the seven-year-old-me realm, where stories float to the surface and I stir them with my fingertip, watching them grow.  No pressure.  No deadline.  No ROI or marketing plan.

Just pure creativity.  Pure story.

Pure bliss.

Thank you, Mr. A, for helping me find my lost self.

And thank you, dear readers, for taking this journey with me.

May your creative spirits find equal refreshment!  I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baker's Dozen: On Hard-to-Sell Genres

This question was posed yesterday:

Would it be not a very good idea to enter the contest with a YA dystopian because of market saturation? I know agents are shying away from it in general, and I imagine that would impact your and Jodi's choices, too.

I took the question directly to our auction agents, and here is the consensus:

Yes, dystopian is a (very) hard sell.  Yes, your dystopian will need to float miles above the rest to get someone to sniff in its general direction.

BUT ENTER IT ANYWAY.

Why?  Because you never know.  And this puts the onus on Jodi and me to do the culling.  (Oh, the pressure!)  So, yes, we are going to be super picky about dystopian entries.  (I told the agents that we'll only choose one if it makes us both faint...)

And oh, this is painful.  Because dystopian is my true love.  You know this.

Anyway, this applies to any genre that happens to be a hard sell right now.  ENTER IT ANYWAY.  Jodi and I will make the calls.

Capiche?

Monday, August 18, 2014

The 2014 BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION: Early Info!

This will be our FIFTH BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION (and probably our last)!  Here's everything you need to know for now:

SUBMISSION DATES:

October 28 and 30 -- Adult fiction (all genres except erotica and erotic romance)

November 4 and 6 -- Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction (all genres)

THE ACTUAL AUCTION DATE:  December 2

Now, there will be lots of other dates nestled in there as well, such as our logline critique rounds (3 of them), winner notification dates, and so on.  But the above dates are THE BIG ONES.  So mark your calendars!

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON'T KNOW WHAT THE BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION IS:

The Baker's Dozen Agent Auction is MSFV's biggest event of the year. 60 250-word entries, hand-picked by Jodi Meadows and Authoress, will be placed on the auction block for agents to bid on (with requests for pages, up to a full manuscript request). It bears the name "Baker's Dozen" because the original auction in 2010 included 13 agents--a baker's dozen.

There is a $15 entry fee.  (Note: this is an increase from the last couple of years.)  Please understand that this is the only MSFV event with an entry fee--because it is, hands down, the most time-intensive to plan, set up, and run.


Amazingly, we've got 19 AGENTS SIGNED UP for this year's auction!  This is an all-time record, and assures us of a high level of professional competitiveness and behind-the-scenes trash talking (my favorite part).  Hooray for excited agents!

Spread the word! Take a moment to share this link on your blog.  Or swipe the info and include a link back here.  The bidding is always fast and furious (I seriously have to clear my calendar that morning); too much fun to risk missing.

If you're new to the Baker's Dozen, you can learn more by perusing past contests.  Just click on the "Baker's Dozen" tag in the archives (on the side bar).

Oh, and now's your chance to ask questions and get generally chatty in the comment box.  No question is too stupid (well, unless 5 people have already asked the same thing, in which case it's a matter of YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION), so ask away.

Oh, and if you're asking about NA?  So far, at least one of our participating agents is accepting it, so all NA authors are invited to submit to the ADULT ROUND, with NA included in your genre designation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Hello, all!

It's hard to believe that the Baker's Dozen Frenzy-ness is stirring up already.  I've had a FABULOUS response from the agents this week (Seriously! Best response ever!), and I'll be posting the Very First Baker's Dozen Informational Post next week.

Really!  Next week!  Tell your friends.

So, last Friday I announced that I was taking a writing hiatus.  I'm pleased to report that I've survived my first non-writing week.

It's funny how we forget what non-writing life feels like.  When we write, it's woven through the fabric of everything our days bring.  We plot in the shower, think through dialogue while we're driving to work, snap up twenty minutes here and forty minutes there to squeeze in a few hundred extra words, fashion the rest of our day around our sacred Writing Time.  And when all of that is gone, well, there are a lot of holes.

A. Lot. Of. Holes.

(But, hey.  At least they're not plot holes.)

Here are some highlights from my week:

1. I RAMPED UP ON BALLET.

In fact, on Tuesday I took 2 classes--one in the morning and one at night, with the rest of the day sandwiched between.  During the evening class, we had several brand new students, and my teacher asked me--ME--to lead the line from the corner when it was time to do chasés across the floor, so they could watch me go first.  YOU DON'T KNOW HOW UTTERLY WEIRD THIS MOMENT WAS.  Yet it filled me with a tremendous sense of self-confidence, and I didn't balk.  What makes this all the more satisfying is that chasés have been my nemesis for months.  I've overthought them to the point where I haven't been able to do them properly.  Yet there I was, leading the class across the floor.

On Thursday evening, only 2 of us showed up for class, so our teacher decided to lean toward "intermediate" (instead of "beginner"), to get us ready to move up to the next level.  It was amazing being pushed to do all those wonderful new things, with so much attention from the teacher.  Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes.  But it didn't matter, because I WAS BEING ENCOURAGED TO PUSH BEYOND MY LIMITATIONS.  And it was exhilarating.

2.  I CELEBRATED MY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY WITH MR. A.

Wednesday is a weird day of the week to have a special date, but my sweetheart and I managed to squeak out a wonderful sushi dinner to celebrate each other.  And I'll admit it felt nice to not have to angst about not having gotten X amount of work done that day (I am so horrible about feeling like I can't let go and have fun if I didn't have a productive writing day).  And Mr. A didn't ask, "So, how was writing today?"  (Oh, blessed relief!  For both of us!)  AND the sushi was fabulous.  I could subsist on sushi and chocolate.  With Chardonnay.

3.  I TOOK THE TIME TO ACCOMPLISH OTHER THINGS THAT HAD BEEN LEFT UNDONE.

I deep-cleaned my closet.  Unclogged my clogged-for-months bathroom sink.  Mended a dress.  In short, I looked away from my laptop at the little world around me, and engaged.

It's not that I never accomplish anything else when I'm writing--I do.  But writing trumps ALMOST EVERYTHING when I'm elbow-deep in a project.  And with nothing to trump them, other tasks rose to the surface and grabbed my attention.  (Imagine that.)

Mind you, the week hasn't been all happy fairies and cupcakes.  Sometimes I cried.  Sometimes I stared out the window and felt completely empty.  Sometimes I asked God what it is, exactly, that I'm supposed to be doing with my life.

You know.  Those moments.

But overall?  I've had a tremendous week.  And I'm so thankful (if not a tad surprised).

Admittedly, one of my writerly friends is going through the same thing right now (voluntary hiatus), and having someone to walk through this with has helped a lot.  She cries sometimes, too.  She's filling her days with surprising Other Things, too.  Strangest part?  We made the decision ON THE SAME DAY to take a writing hiatus--and we weren't aware that the other had done so.  If that isn't serendipity at its finest, I don't what is.

Okay.  That's my check-in.  What about you?  How do you readjust your life when you take a writing break?  How do things feel different for you during those times?  And--most importantly, perhaps--how did you find your way back to writing?

Do share.  More than ever, I need to reach into the void and find your voices waiting there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another Success Story!

Funny how these stories tend to arrive in small clusters.  Here's another one, straight from the author's fingers:


When I originally submitted the first few lines to your site for the Are You Hooked? entry, it wasn't just the first few lines. Those were the ONLY lines I had written. (Yeah, I know, bad author.) I had just gone through a round of over a hundred rejections for my first novel, a fantasy that was doomed thanks to all my own rookie mistakes. So, as a way to lick my own wounds, I decided to try my hand at something a little younger. Something for the kiddos. And I wrote it up and sent it in. Then, thanks to the feedback I got in the comments, I decided to keep on writing.

Just a few weeks after this, you contacted me to let me know that an agent was actually interested in my book. Say what?!?? I hadn't even queried anybody, in fact, the book wasn't even ready yet. Jeepers, those must have been some very catching first few lines! (TBH, the very first line of the book is almost the only thing that has stayed intact from that day until now.) So I feverishly finished the book and sent it to my critique partners. Meanwhile, I attended an online writing conference, WriteOnCon, and decided to get even more feedback on the book, so I submitted basically the same opener I'd put up on your site over there.

And, low and behold, more agents contacted me. Now, armed with the confidence I got from my experience, I started going back and forth with a few of them, and eventually decided to sign with Marietta B. Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. After several more revisions and many months of sending it to editors, we finally got an offer from David Gale at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Now, The Troubles of Johnny Cannon will publish on October 14, just a couple of months away! And it all started because of the feedback I got on your site.

So, thank you!

Isaiah Campbell