Friday, November 3, 2017

The Real Story, Part 1

When I wrote the first post for Miss Snark’s First Victim in April, 2008, this little pumpkin was taking up the majority of my time:

She's 10 now.

I'd already been writing for a while, but the lion's share of my time went to raising--and homeschooling--my kids.  One of the beauties of writing, though, is that it blends beautifully with motherhood.  And because I've always been hardcore about things like scheduled naps and consistent bedtimes, I could always carve writing into my days.  Even before my littlest was born, I had adopted the habit of hanging the following sign on my door when I was working:


Yes, it worked.  (Boundaries are good.)

The blog, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, was a complete whim.  I had the sudden idea to start an anonymous blog for writers.  I was already 2 years into the querying process, and of course I had no idea--NO EARTHLY OR ALIEN IDEA--that my journey would go on and on...and on.  And on.

So I started the blog and jumped right in with our first ARE YOU HOOKED? CRITIQUE ROUND, followed by the inaugural SECRET AGENT CONTEST with the lovely Holly Root, who read through a whopping 114 entries without flinching--and this with wonky internet because she was somewhere in the wilderness.  After that, I knew I had to limit the number of entries (or I'd scare away any future agents).

One month after the contest, Eric -- a.k.a. Mr. A -- and I celebrated our 20th anniversary.  Which sort of felt like a big deal.

(This is actually an outtake.  I like it better than the smiling ones.)

By 2009, I was deep into my fourth novel.  It was a YA dystopian--which was interesting because I didn't even know what a dystopian was.  I just knew I had this vision for a bleak world I felt I had something to say about. 

Eric (Mr. A) and I started spending a lot of time at Arrington Vineyards, Nashville's local winery owned by Kix Brooks (yes, that Kix), on "working dates".  During this phase of my writerly development, Eric was very involved in walking me through edits.  Basically, I'd give him chapters to read, and he'd make notes.

Mostly, though, he made fun of my bad dialogue.

I credit him with singlehandedly teaching me how to stop writing B-movie grade dialogue.  By using silly voices and accentuating the overwriting/melodrama/unnatural/stupid in my characters' speech, he gently trained me to listen to the words, to make sure they sounded the way normal people sound when they talk.

It's funny, because he's not a writer.  What he is, though, is a musician (with a great ear) and an avid movie fan.  He knows what bad acting/bad scriptwriting sounds like, so he transferred that insight to my manuscripts.

Brilliant, yes?

More than anything, he made me laugh.  And laughter is a far better teacher than criticism, yes?

It wasn't all work at the vineyards, of course.  It was wine and nibbles.  And smooches.

Naturally, smooches can sometimes lead to more-than-smooches, and in early autumn we found out we were expecting our sixth child.

I know, right?

I was thrilled, though, because our littlest was so many years behind the rest of our crew (my next-youngest child was eight when she was born), and I thought it would be lovely for her to have a sibling closer to her own age.  And so began another season of writing-while-pregnant.

Earlier that year (some time between the vineyard smooches and the discovery that I was pregnant), I experienced the shock of having my anonymity dismantled by a clever and sneaky sleuth.  Jodi Meadows and I met on Twitter and forged a fast writerly friendship.  Imagine how stunned I was when she announced one day that she was fairly certain she knew who I was.

My stomach dropped right through the floor.

Turns out I'd left a trail that she (or perhaps her superpower) was able to follow.  Basically, I'd clicked on a link she'd shared on Twitter, and she found the location of my IP address.  Then, because she knew I'd queried her twice (she was then reading submissions for an agent who is no longer an agent), she searched for the city and state and, using what she knew about my novel, found me.  (That is the short version. The actual sleuthing that went on was remarkable.  And a little scary.)

Jodi kept my secret without once wavering.  I'm forever grateful.

The second half of the year was filled with rejections that came singing into my inbox for the YA dystopian.  (Yes, I still have them.  Doesn't everyone save their rejection letters?)  I pressed on, slowing down perhaps as the first trimester sleepies hit, but continuing to write nonetheless.

That December, I hosted a Writerly Christmas Lyrics Contest, which made me feel a bit left out--so I wrote my own lyrics and posted them after the contest, along with a recording that my dear husband was kind enough to put together for me.  If you're an old-timer, you'll remember this.  If you haven't heard this before, well, enjoy!


Snark! The Haggard Agents Sing 
(Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

Snark! The haggard agents sing, 
"Email die, and phone, don't ring! 
No more queries sent from hell, 
No more stories I can't sell.

Give me eggnog, rum, and cookies, 
Save me from these writing rookies, 
I've rejected forty-four 
thousand and six, and maybe more."

Snark! The haggard agents sing, 
"Email die, and phone don't ring!"

"Contracts, royalties, and tears, 
Fill the weeks and months and years. 
Weary, now, I shut my door, 
Screaming, as I go, 'NO MORE!'

Editors, I'm tired of waiting, 
On my last nerve you've been grating. 
Thanks to you, I soon will be 
Paying for clients' therapy."

Snark! The haggard agents sing, 
"Email die, and phone, don't ring!"

"Give me sand and surf and sun, 
I'm in desperate need of fun. 
Farewell partial, full, and ARC, 
I have had my fill of snark.

Lock the door and turn the light off; 
Can't remember my last night off. 
Toss the books and pass the gin! 
Let the holiday begin!"

Snark! The haggard agents sing, 
"Email die, and phone, don't ring!" 

The fun we had recording that silly little song was tempered by the fact that, at 11 weeks along, I had started spotting.  I spent untold days scouring the Internet for articles on "when spotting is normal", and crying out to God for the safety of my baby.  All while transitioning into maternity clothes and baking my final batches of Christmas cookies.

But as Christmas Eve day progressed, I worried that my worst fears would come true. be continued

(Read Part 2 HERE)


  1. What a gift Eric "Mr. A" is! We appreciate your contribution to this epic blog as well, Sir! Your story continues to inspire, Jill! (It is so neat calling you Jill!)

  2. Yay, I'd say 20 years is a big deal. I have my rejection letters--it's to help keep track of who I queried in case I mess up my excel sheet. LOL

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I have actual PAPER rejections -- in envelopes -- tied with a red ribbon and hiding inside the top drawer of my bedside table. How melodramatic is that? LOL

  3. The revelation about you is so much to read. You're a remarkable person in many ways, certainly the fact that you've been running this entire other side of your life about which I, probably most of us, knew nothing. The mark of a tenacious person. And a very talented one.

  4. I'm LOVING this! The intimate life tale and photos to connect with. (And that cliff hanger...I need to know.

    Oh, and I had this idea for a story. (Hee hee.) See there's this lovely lady who is anonymous, she wears a hat at a tilt so her face is covered, ya see? She has this anonymous blog and is a HUGE hit! Then she has a coming out party because...

    Well, you get the idea. It's you're story and a lovely one. AND you can make that ending to be whatever you want! I bet agents will gobble it down!

    But, I'm sure you've thought of this already😀

  5. BTW, I'm laughing so hard at the videos! So glad you have Eric to help rescue your dialogue. LoL

  6. So much fun!! Laughing at his dry wit and spot on critique. I hate it when the people so close to use see things we didn't...then again, sooooo grateful. PS Pumpkin is a cutie-patootie!

    1. Aw, thanks -- I sort of love her. :) And yes, Eric's wit is one of my favorite things about him. Hate it when he's right, though! ;)

  7. OK, this is awesome. I love this look back at what it was actually like for you. I'm hooked! ;-)

  8. Love the Snarky Christmas carol! The best husbands are the ones that make us laugh. Russ is really good at that, too, and we're on year 35 of marriage. I can't wait to read the next installment! I hope we learn that baby is healthy and happy today... (It's me, Katherine de Young)

  9. That Jodi is a good secret keeper :) <3

  10. Loved reading this post, Jillian. After so many years of reading, participating and sharing your ups and downs of the writing life, and your amazing advice and encouragement,it's brilliant to link the anonymous to a real woman and author. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  11. Those were such fun times. Loved all the laughter. It is going to be 30 years coming up. Where did time go. Love you sweetie.

  12. Oh noooo! I really want to see the end. 0_0 I hope your baby was okay.