THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION
Becoming a mother changed me. I transformed from a perfectly rational human being to a hormonal, overprotective, and scary creature. These overpowering feelings caused me to reflect on the strength of the mother-child bond. And even though I hadn’t written much since high school and college, I began to pen a fairy tale. I’m not sure I recommend taking up such a time-consuming hobby at the exact moment children take over your life, but that was my starting point.
When my masterpiece was finished, I hired an editor, who suggested I join a writing group. She said I needed alpha and beta readers to look my story over, line by line.
I asked: “What the heck are alpha and beta readers? And how do I join a writing group?”
That’s right. I’d been writing in a vacuum. I’m sure all the more experienced writers realize what a silly girl I was to think I was ready to publish when I was actually just getting started.
Unfortunately, it took me another year to join the Rochester Minnesota Writing Group. The fear of what others might say about what I’d written held me back. If you’re looking for life advice, it comes down to this: don’t give in to your fears. It’s so much better to just forge ahead, and take what comes, than to cower in the dark.
By the time I finally joined the writing group, I’d written what is now known as HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS. I remember one of the first group meetings I attended, when another writer (who shall remain nameless, because I never saw him again after this) told me, “There’s more to this story than what you’ve written, and if you’re brave enough to write it as it should be, I really think it could be something.” This is paraphrased, of course, but the words still ring true.
It takes bravery to write books. Honesty requires inner strength. I had to ask myself if I was ready to expose my own feelings to strangers. It isn’t easy to handle rejection and keep going, but that’s what it takes to be a writer.
I spent the next few years editing HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS, along with pursuing publication opportunities in newspapers, magazines, and veterinary journals. I’ve got a long list of people on my acknowledgment page to thank for helping me become a better writer. After my novel was ready to query, that ulcer-inducing process made me sick to my stomach pretty much every single day.
I won’t debate whether or not an aspiring writer should query agents and publishers at the same time, but it happened to work well for me.
In June, 2013, I entered Pitcharama, sponsored by Aussie Owned and Read. The wonderful K.A. Last picked me for her team and helped revise my query. Within the same week, I was lucky enough to receive team support, several publisher requests, and a very encouraging revise-and-resubmit request from a literary agent. The positive experience of Pitcharama improved my query and (perhaps even more importantly) boosted my flagging self-esteem.
Then I came in contact with my publisher, Curiosity Quills, via #pitmad. I’ve really enjoyed working with Curiosity Quills. They don’t laugh at my newbie questions and they’re super supportive. I can’t wait for July 15th, when HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will be launched into the real world.
Best of luck to all of this year’s Pitcharama contestants and a big thank-you to Aussie Owned and Read for all their hard work and encouragement of the writing community.
Original blog entry for Pitcharama June 2013:
My to-do list dictates that I try to cram 48 hours of living into a day instead of the usual 24. I’ve chosen a life filled with animals. I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed. But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day. Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination.
Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task. I work out plot holes during runs. Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches. I find inspiration in everyday things: a beautiful smile, a heartbreaking song, or a newspaper article on a political theory. For example, a long drive in the dark listening to an NPR program on the SMILEY FACE MURDERS theory made me ask so many questions that I wrote HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS to answer them to my satisfaction.
I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head. Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.
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