The Sort Of Rejection I Can Get Behind….

And no, this has nothing to do with yours truly…

Casey Anthony consumed my summer.  I watched very moment of the trial, and I followed the case for much longer than that.  Adorably sweet Caylee Anthony went missing on the coattails of Stacey Peterson–who lived the next town over from where I reside.  Naturally, I followed the coverage of one case into the next.  Praying the little girl would be found and harboring such disgust for the ‘mother’ who couldn’t be bothered to report her daughter missing for 30 days because her supposed La Bella Vita was just too precious.  I was touched and bothered on all levels.

Casey Anthony, while found not-guilty in a court of law, will always be guilty in the eyes and minds of the public opinion.  She’s a monster, a cold hearted, manipulative monster–the stuff nightmares are made of.  And man, how I wished things had worked out differently…

Casey Anthony, aside from being a real life villain, also is in critical debt.  She needs money and with no formal eduction to fall back on, she has decided to write a book.  Only, here’s the catch, like so many authors, she can’t seem to place it with a publisher.

Sucks to be her.

Here’s the story:

Casey has interest from NBC for an interview, which I’m sure would give her access to copious amounts of cash (shame on you, NBC).  Only, her demands aren’t Twizzlers or only blue M&M’s in the greenroom and a particular brand of bottle water served at room temp.  She wants something a bit more substantial … Casey wants the producer to find a home for her book.

Normally, that sort of clout (I can only imagine) would have serious weight when it comes to closing deals.  But, Casey is persona non grata…and the big 6 won’t touch her or her book with a 10 foot pole.

Hurray big 6, you’ve all earned my gold-star-sticker of the day!

The quotes only add to the simple pleasure of knowing she won’t be able to profit from the death of her child:

Simon and Schuster:  “We are 100% not interested.  We are NOT NOT NOT  interested. Simon & Schuster is not publishing, and has never intended to publish, any book by Casey Anthony, her family, or any member of her team.

Harper Collins: “We are planning on publishing the Prosecutor’s book who was involved in the Casey Anthony case, so we have no plans in releasing a Casey Anthony book.  We’re sticking with the prosecutor.”

Penguin Group:  “We have no plans on doing a book deal with Casey Anthony.”

Another publisher went so far as to say, “Hell no … it’s blood money.”

My thoughts:

Normally, rejections cause me moments of sadness…not this time!  I have to say…if anyone was ever deserving of being turned away from the gates based on the morality and vitriol of the book they’re peddling…it’s all Casey Anthony, for sure.

So, Authors…any thoughts on the matter?

 

 

 

 

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Then There’s The Matter Of a Broken Heart

Life is full of rejection.  Big ones and little ones a like.  The type that stay, linger forever in the back of your mind.  The sort that are fleeting, in and out so quickly it hardly resonates.  I never thought a book could break my heart.  But, like with everything about this trek through the publishing web, I should really stop being surprised when it goes to a whole new level.

One of my readers, Deshipley, gave me sound advice a few days ago.  She said, when the rejection comes–based on your book, after a professional has read it–it hurts.  She was right, totally correct…it does hurt.  It’s pounds of hurt and disappointment and self doubt and fear and so many other emotions I can’t pinpoint them.

I’ve taken a lot of no’s with this story.  I’m so tired of that word.  I can sit here and say it’s a matter of taste, I can reason that it’s not my fault or the book’s fault per say.  I can say all of that and sometimes I can even believe it, but other times, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy it.  Today…I’m having a pity party for one.

I submitted my book to a small publishing house.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know.  The sample contract was extremely limiting–no print books, little control over my edited manuscript, 50% profit after the royalties of eBook sales–which we know is already a lowly sum to begin with. The gains were little, all things considered and weighed evenly. But still, I queried.  And with that single try, I managed to get a full read.

The publishing house I went after was tiny, a start up only a few months old.  Maybe I did it simply because there is an innate desire in me to have the backing of a real publisher, no matter the size of their muscle. Maybe that desire is something I cannot quash, no matter how promising Indieland is, and maybe that’s what it’s always been about.   You always want most what you can’t have.

The editor got back to me so quickly initially, and she had such nice things to say out of the gate after reading the first 30 pages.  I actually had the gull to be hopeful despite logically knowing better.  I apologize for not posting about this full read on the blog–but I wasn’t sure what to say…

This morning I received the following rejection:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your submission to <name removed>.  Unfortunately, this story does not meet our publication needs at this time. The beginning of the story felt a little awkward, and as I moved further into the manuscript, the story didn’t really catch and keep my interest.  
That’s a really sad way to start the day.  It broke my heart just a little bit, just like Deshiply promised it would.  All with all rejections, rebound is inevitable, I’m certain, but still…it stings.
I think the hurt mostly pours from the very personal message in the body of the e-mail. And this is why…
I tried, of that I’m positive, to write a book that was gripping.  But, it never to be your stock women’s fiction novel– not in the way commercial fiction grips you, not in your expectations of speed.  It’s unconventional, I know that, but to tell the Chamberland’s story, there was simply no other way.  It had to have the pace of real life, it was why I didn’t write “chapters” but rather “months”.  I designed the book to feel that way…a slow build to a moment of utter grief, and the length and effort it takes to heal from that–it all happens by inches, across measures of time and life, not chapters.  It was never supposed to be a fast burn.  I wanted the readers to meet Jenna, to love her and understand her so completely that come what may, they’d have a richer, more profound, understanding of who she was.
If that doesn’t resonate from the pages of the story…then I’m simply lost. I thank God that I have an editor on board who will help me refine what I’ve written.  But, I understand today that I’m at a huge crossroads with everything….and I’m not really sure what happens next…

So…My Balls Dropped

Okay, that is a fairly graphic title–but yes, I guess my balls have dropped–and there is simply no other way to say it.  I’m getting ballsy.

This morning I received a rejection letter.  The agent said…and I quote…”I hope you plan to write another novel, because I do think you have talent. However, both your query and your opening pages need some editing, and the story could use some revision.”

Normally, I’m a “no means no” sorta gal.  My mother raised me that way.  I don’t back talk, and I’d never ever go against an adult.  But hey…this is a grown up world, I’m an adult too and I’m trying (really hard) to find my place.

The fact is, I like this agent.  I like that not only did she take the time to tell me–point-blank–my manuscript needs work, but that she saw something in my work that could be a launch pad for bigger things–things that I want long-term.  It’s not the standard “I’m not right” or “thank you, but we’re not interested”…she communicated with me.  She told me where my problems lie and gave me some real solutions…she just didn’t know I already knew that, that I was already working towards coming correct.

So…back to my balls…

I read, reread and reread again the e-mail.  I thought it over, and in my mind I reasoned–nothing ventured, nothing gained.  My book is going to an editor in 8 days.  It will be revamped and polished and sorted out.  My clumsy first-timer mistakes will be corrected and what remains will be a better, rounder story.

I figured–let’s see how serious that “talent” comment was…I e-mailed back.  This is where I’m dropping the “no means no” pretense of my entire life.  I asked her for a second chance.  I said that yes, I know this MS needs work–but I’ll do it, and I’ll put everything I have into making it right.

Make no mistake about that, I’m as serious as a heart attack when it comes to this in general–this book means everything to me, and it will be perfect, whether I’m an Indie or Traditional, it makes no difference to me…my accountability will be to my readers and they deserve nothing less.

So, I took the gamble.  I rolled the second chance for that first impression dice.  She may say “no way, girl”…but she may not.  Had I not tried…done at least that much…I’d never know.  And that right there, that’s exactly what I can’t live with.  I can take rejection, I can take silence and unanswered queries because I know what they mean…but not trying, that’s not my personal style.  I’ll try and try and try until I run out of road.

I understand what I did was unconventional–I told her as much.  I understand what I’m trying for may be a total literary faux pas. And this is nothing I’d recommend someone doing–because it might be a really, really bad thing. But–what do I really, really have to lose?  She already rejected me once…twice can’t be much worse, right?

***I’ll be updating this post if or when I receive a reply…good, bad or ugly***

Edited For THE UPDATE

I heard back…she said the particular story didn’t interest her, but she’d be willing to entertain other books in the future.  I quickly added her to my address book–Dear Agent Lady, you’ll be hearing from me again someday, unless I get a believer from jump street.

So…I guess I stay true to the course–we’re off to the editor in 8 days (so thrilled) and then, if nothing else, self publishing (super thrilled)…and of course, book two which is already in the worlds (extremely thrilled about that one).

The lesson here is simple and one that, I suppose, we all have to learn by trial and error…

Rejections aren’t always as simple as they may seem.  I’ve, personally, been told so many different things on my journey with THE MILESTONE TAPES–but the base line is this…different agents really do want different things.  That’s not stock font, people.  That’s really, really true–it’s the grass-roots of reading at large.

I’ve always believed–even before I wrote, just when I was an average, everyday reader: One persons beautiful book is another’s wasted space.  And now that I’m on the other side of the coin, I’m realizing, this whole author/agent/query thing…it’s not that much different from being a reader–you turn a book over, you read the back and decide if this novel is right for you.  If it’s not–that doesn’t mean in five minutes another reader won’t come along, swoop it up and devour it in a solitary afternoon because it’s so them and it’s exactly what they needed.  You can be a great author with great talent, and if the book isn’t an agent’s cup of tea or personal flavor, they’ll pass…same thing with any reader, really.  But that’s not a reflection on you as the writer–it’s on them, as the reader.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.  We’ve all done it, we’ll all do it for the rest of our lives in a million different ways.  It boils down to choice.

I love what I do…I want others to love it as well.  If you don’t, I’d rather skip the melodrama of trying too hard.  I’ve hated the query process and all its baggage.  But, what I can appreciate is the lessons I’ve learned…the growing I’ve done because I put myself through querying.  I’m not going to say querying is something everyone should do, many won’t for personal reasons, and that I can respect.  But for me, as someone green, new and fumbling I needed too–not because it’s fun, but because it’s simply educational.  It prepared me for everything else that will come my way in bucketful doses; rejection, adoration, the highs and lows.

My balls and I are happy we e-mailed back.

AMP, over and out!

Today Changes Everything or Nothing At All

I am hesitant to project this outwardly on you all…deeply nervous…but excited; so excited I could scream and dance and cry.

I received my first request, from an agent, for a full MS read.  It took the agent an entire 5 minutes to e-mail me back.  5 minutes and a full…pick me up off the floor, please.

But, this post isn’t about that pre say, because–I as I titled this–it could change nothing at all and I don’t want to get ahead of myself with ambition.  But the emotions…whoa…they deserve a post all of their own.

The first time an agent told me “thanks, but no thanks” that was hard–not bone crushing–but hard.  Hard to read, hard to understand, hard to figure out what I said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do wrong–I’d obviously done something, but what?  And instead of wallowing in the despair of rejection, I learned from it.  I tightened up my query–did my homework, read blog postings and articles and practiced, practiced, practiced.  So, to read now that I’ve somehow managed to be enough for a full MS read…it’s hopeful, and surprisingly, just has a hard.

When I queried, I sent out a lot.  I felt like the door to door sales woman peddling my wears to busy housewives–some ignored me, some slammed the door, others were kind enough to say “thank you, but I’ll pass”.  I was never discouraging.  I’d simply highlight their name of my ever-growing list and move forward.  Now…now I’ve been invited inside.  I have the chance, a real honest-to-God chance, to sell this book.  And there is so much fear and doubt and anxiety that hangs on this small, significant chance.

If this agent says no– she very well may say just that–it’s only about my book.  It won’t be about my lack luster sum-it-up skills.  It won’t be because I didn’t query the right agent.  All of those excuses will be dashed, tired and worn thing–the only thing that remains hinged together and halting the flow will be…my book.

Scary right?  Damn, scary.

Want to know what I did?  I sent out the full MS.  I did so with shaky fingers and so much doubt.  I let go and let God–cliché right?  But what choice did I have?  None.  She wanted it and this is what I do…I write, and I battle self uncertainty–one keystroke at a time.  But really…it was really, really hard.  As I turned the book into a Word.doc, I wished I’d done a hundred things differently.  Wished I’d had an earlier date with an editor.  Wished I had the time go over the book one last time.  Wish, wish, wish, send….

…Then…

I turned my mind off.  Totally and completely.  I grabbed my little white Chihuahua, turned on a rerun of Ghost Whisperer and took a nap.  A short nap, but it was luxury.  I rested and tuned out my inner monologue for a solid hour.

I don’t know if anything will come from this–maybe everything changes, or maybe nothing at all (I kept convincing myself of the latter, so if or when it comes to that I won’t be ruined for days).  Either way, it’s another place this journey was meant to go, and that…is definitely worth celebrating.

What We’re Up Against

Lately I’ve been reading about these amazing flukes of luck in Indie Author Land–multi-book deals, movie options, agents querying the author.  It’s all very motivational and it feels so hopeful.  These stories are a portal to the realization that, without doing anything other than being the best author you can be, beautiful things can happen to you all the time, at any given moment.

But there is a darker side to being an Indie Author.  Some may call them haters…others may associate the hate speech with the guillotine that hangs above every Indie Published book and the reputation that proceeds each new title…I would say it’s a pinch of both…but still…it’s darn good to know what we’re up against so we can arm ourselves accordingly

Amazon offers “Kindle Forums”…where real Kindle readers cluster to discuss.  I don’t frequent it often, but in passing I noticed a thread entitled—How To Avoid Indie Authors (ouch, that hurts!).  Yet, I decided not just run from the topic–but to consider their “take” as a master class on the isolated opinions that would polarize me from my dream.  Frankly, I’m always eager to learn from the ignorance or experience of others…to design what I do to prove them wrong–so wrong it hurts.

Here are a few sample quotes…

When Amazon opened up self-publishing for the kindle, everyone and their dog has suddenly become an “author,” and every rejected manuscript resurrected as a kindle “book.” I have no problem with amateurs posting their stuff to share online in a writer’s forum, but must their writings be intermingled with real books in the kindle store? Is there some way to hide them or weed them out when browsing and searching. It’s annoying to have to wade through all that garbage which has multiplied like a rat infestation in the Kindle store. courtesy of : Greg

Dear Greg,

I wrote a “book”.  It’s 100k words, and I wrote it in 4 months.  It was long process and it required every inch of self-control, dedication and deep love that a traditionally published book requires.  It’s real, and despite what you may believe to be a universal truth–it is, very much, a book, no quotations required.  You are under no obligation to purchase it–and I’d probably prefer if you didn’t.  No sense in subjecting you to my literary “garbage”.  I believe my feelings are probably shared by the others you harbor so much contempt for as well.

Greg, we do what we love.  We share what we love.  We pour over the words and characters and world we create with enthusiasm and joy–sometimes with heartbreak and frustration.  We intend the book to be enjoyed…so if you can’t or won’t simply because we’re not “traditional”…then it’s genuinely your loss–and for that, you have my sincere condolences.

Kindle and Nook ought to flag books that are self-published. At least then we think to check the book out a bit more closely. For me its the copy editing that makes me gnash my teeth and use words my mother would not approve of! courtesy of : KesterGayle

Dear KesterGayle,

It’s good to always check a book out–you might find something you’d enjoy.

I agree that the covers are a major clue. Indie book artwork and graphics are usually abysmal. But an even better clue is the absence of professional reviews. If all you see is a product description and/or quotes from anonymous sources you know it’s an indie. courtesy of : Danica

Dear Danica,

Since artwork and graphics tend to be one in the same…can you really take issue with both?  Or, did you mean font but simply fell victim to your own bad, confusing writing?  Maybe? If so, welcome to the party–writing what you mean to say can be a tricky skill to master. But, all of that aside, yes, I’ll agree with your point, covers are important.  Did you realize most covers–Indie or Traditional–are purchased from similar places?

I suggest we petition the federal government of the United States to create an Independent Author Advisory Board to decide for us what books can be published. This will weed out all the “undesirable” content from being sold. We need to censor all this garbage. Think of it like exterminators for infestation of freedom of press. courtesy of : New Girl!!

Dear New Girl!!

Your ideals fascinate me for the simple ignorance of them.  Amazon is an American owned and operated company…and in America, dear New Girl, we have this wonderful thing called Freedom Of Press–which, thankyouverymuch, doesn’t practice extermination.  Obviously you’re new…but look it up, girlfriend 🙂

Even calling them ‘authors’ is pushing it. Yes, wipe them out. 🙂 courtesy of : Greg (again)

Oh Greg,

It saddens me to see that–despite how simple it seems–you’re unfamiliar with the definition of an author…here, let me help you Greg.  An Author is defined by someone who has written a book, article or report.  Indie is simply a catch term given and used…but, it’s all the same…an author is an author is an author.  Cheers to all the wordsmiths out there!

Psst: You may want to buff up on the proper use of quotations–you use them in all the wrong places.

**names removed for privacy of the innocent** … Stop the self promotion please. That is the problem with indie . They just cannot help but promote their more often than not unreadable/boring work. Either use their friends or gang up together to self-promote covertly passing as unbiased readers. courtesy of : athenadsb

Dearest athenadsb,

Per chance you don’t understand that promotion–in many forms–is part of the job?  Even traditionally published authors promote their work, day in and out.  Your favorite author?  I’m sure has trudged the path of self promotion.  And, on a side note, I didn’t realize our friends weren’t allowed to enjoy our books?  News to me…but I’ll make sure to promote that in the future.

Indie writers: stop being so pathetic, even that Norwegian neo-Nazi killer had the decency of not publishing his 1500 + mein-kampf-ish jibber jabber to Amazon Kindle, learn to be as decent as him, that’s not too much to ask, or you’re just tooo needy and want to poison us with your venom. courtesy of : Brandenberg

Dearest Brandenberg,

Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” (the title should be capitalized, by the way) in 1925 with a second edition published in 1926.  Amazon.com was founded in 1994 and went live in 1995.  Obviously, as you can see, there was no cross over.  However–I believe had Hitler been given the chance…he’d pushed that hate speech out at every turn–he was nothing if not self indulgent.

And…since I can’t let this slide without saying something…

To liken an Indie Author to Hilter is disgusting, it’s wrong, it’s vile and you should be embarrassed.  Nothing you say; before, during or after, will ever be relevant again–it was a nonsensical baseless comparison.  What Hilter did was exactly the opposite of what we, as authors, do.  We sell stories–not hate.  We believe in freedom to say what you want and be who you are–clearly a different agenda then the above mentioned.

I’ll be waiting for that apology, Bradenberg.

***

I think we’ll close the quote portion of this entry with Brandenberg ranking us below Hilter on the decency scale–seems like a good place to me…you?

What I walk away with (after seventeen plus pages of that full on bashing) is that in every dismal compliant there is a spark of truth (save for Bradenberg–but he’s his own man).  And that spark of truth is how we crawl from under the stigma of “just Indie” to be taken seriously as contenders, as good writers and good people.  It’s what we learn from the bad comments that earn us the good comments–the one’s the are listed below the title of our books.  People don’t hand out gold stars and stickers on effort when you’re a grown up doing grown up things–you have to work for it, and if you put in the energy and the money and the balls-to-walls effort…then–and only then– do the accolades come in droves.

Let’s put their objections to good use…they are just readers after all…

-Book covers.  Apparently they matter–a lot.  The age-old saying of “don’t judge” needs to be trashed.  Our covers are judged, probably to higher standard.  Effort needs to be outgoing and the product needs to be outstanding.

-Editing.  Just do it.  Hire an editor, find a beta-buddy…pause yourself, cool your heels…take the time to make it right from jump street.  If you publish a error-ridden work, it’s just that–error ridden.  Stop expecting anyone to read through your clumsy phrasing, and mistakes…they won’t and you lose.  It’s of paramount importance.  Raise the bar–and then rise up to meet it.

-Promotion.  Do it where it should be done.  Put your energies towards the places where you’ll be rewarded.  Every author promotes–interviews, press releases…but bite your tongue at the times where you’d appear to be selling snake oil.  The best promotion is the one that allows your reap the benefits of it…everything else is just clutter.

-Quotes.  If you’re going use them, let them stand for something.  Find reviewers and capture the best phrase of praise and use it!  Be proud of what’s being said–give credit where credit is due.

It can all be done.  Like I said before–prove them wrong.

I’m going to hand off the blog clincher  to Doobie Doobie who will say it better than I ever could….

All of the following were self-published…recognize any of the names?

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
John Grisham, A Time to Kill
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics
Irma Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Richard Paul Evans, The Christmas Box
Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen,Chicken Soup for the Soul
James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy
Beatrix Potter, creator of the Peter Rabbit Classic Series

Also, here are some more self-published authors:
Thomas Paine – Edgar Allan Poe – T.S. Elliot – Carl Sandberg – Gertrude Stein – Deepak Chopra – Upton Sinclair – D.H. Lawrence – George Bernard Shaw – e.e. cummings – Henry David Thoreau – Virginia Woolf – Margaret Atwood – Tom Clancy – Stephen Crane

A Small Truth

I’m going to make a confession to you all…right here and right now.  It’s something I’ve battled with, but I don’t believe I’m alone in it, so I’ll share.

Okay–willful deep breath–

My small truth is this: I can count on one hand (plus one finger) how many real life people know I wrote a book.

That’s right, six people.  My parents, my husband, my husband’s parents and my sister.  That’s it.  Those people are the small klatch that make up my literary debut.  And believe me, I’ve sworn them all to secrecy…threatened them, truthfully, begged them to keep my secret–warned them that this book is top shelf secret stuff until it’s published.

Why?  Why blog about something and put it out to virtual strangers and not tell the people who swarm my life with good wishes and love in the realm of real?

It’s simple.  It boils down to accountability of a dream.  And the way it sounds to say, I’m an author to someone who has known me as everything but that–all seven shades of silliness.

THE MILESTONE TAPES started so small–I mean really, really teeny tiny.  Only my husband knew.  Of course he knew, I’d disappear for hours upon hours and end up with hyper-sensetive finger tips.  But that was it.   I knew I could give it up at any time and no one would ever be the wiser.  I wouldn’t be bombard with questions like why and no one would be forced think things like I knew it.  I wouldn’t have to skirt their inquires with watered down excuses like a 50 hour work week and running a home.

The fact of the matter is this, I’m not a college graduate.  I’m probably the last person anyone would ever expect to write a book.  I’m not a grammar wizard or a punctuation savant.  I write like I talk.  I don’t have a background in beautiful phrasing–and shit, I hardly know what the purpose of semi-colon is.  I feel like, sometimes, I’m the literary equivalent of the girl that calls in on the infomerical and orders the “at-home-art-class-kit” –you know, the one where you have to trace the clown or rabbit and send it back, and then they tell you if you’ve got the chops for the big time.

So for anyone but my husband to know, it felt like I’d have to admit: I’m chasing a crazy dream and I’m super under prepared for it.

When the book grew, and I hit 20k words, I told my parents.  They were thrilled–tossing around words like “gift” and “destiny“…and that felt a lot like accountability.  My mom gushed to my sister, who raised her eyebrows–and that was a serious reality check.  The thing I’d been outrunning, the do you really think you can do this look.  It’s a loaded moment, to see what you fear in someone else’s eyes.  It hurts and it’s riddled with spikes of self doubt.  Because really, can I?  What makes me think I can write a 400 page novel and ask someone to buy it?  Who do I think I am?

So I made the decision–until it’s done, sign, sealed and delivered…I will tell no one, and everyone who knows will tell no one under penalty of death (okay, not a literal death, but a good bout of the silent treatment–which can be, might I add, can be lethal).  I made the choice to play all of this close to chest, keep it as a guarded secret, near and dear.

It seems like a reasonable question to wonder why, if I kept so mum, I’d be so open here.  Well, this is what I wanted–what I always wanted.  The connection, the freedom and liberation of joy and fear.  Blogging with you all, it’s given me the chance to just talk…to say the craziest things and be heard.  Because the way it is, you’ve all been my allies.  You’ve all entertained my wildest dream and indulged it by not only visiting, but reading and signing up for subscriptions.  It’s been the best of best, the biggest cherry on top of this sundae, and I squeal with joy over every comment.  You all are the light in the dark places of this adventure.  You all are the courage I need to take myself seriously–and that’s pretty serious.

And that’s been wonderful.  It’s given me wings to fly around and explore what it means to be a writer.  I’ve started this blog, I’ve joined a forum, I’ve been able to embrace my moniker and figure out my path and make my way.  But, we’re getting close to truth-telling-time.  Eventually, within the coming months, I’ll have to start owning the fact that–yes, I wrote a book and yes, it’s published, so yes, I’m an author.

So, how do you do that?  How do you cast aside self doubt and just make the bold statements that let everyone in?  It seems so simple and feels so impossible–all in the exact same moment.

It appears to be a delicate balance…so I have question for all of you…how did you do it?  How did you drop the curtain and come out with?

I Write Like…

A few days ago I joined a critique circle.  I did it simply to test the waters before sending my MS off to my editor.  I was curious how my story would sink in with the masses at large and of course I had the normal questions.

I received a very sweet, thoughtful crit from a member who likened my writing to “the classics“…something in my passage reminded her of the flowery, poetic prose of old world literature.  The reviewer asked me if I read a lot of classics–and no, I don’t.  Actually, I’ve never read even one–and can’t remember reading any in school either, though I’m sure at some point I did.  I write in my voice, which is all I genuinely know how to do.  I guess I don’t sound like other authors…

It got me wondering–is being classical a bad thing?  The reviewer made it out to seem like that wasn’t good–an a-typical thing.  Modern books have a certain flow that mine doesn’t.  I don’t jump right into the story…I inch it along.  Of course, what she saying was based on the first 4,000 words of a 94,000 word manuscript.  But, what she took fault in was my goal all along…

I wanted to weave a tapestry.  Several multi-hued threads stitched together to create the story of a family.

I begin with a prologue.  It’s not a dream, it didn’t happen far before, it’s a white hot flash of the future. I felt, when I was writing, that that was the natural beginning…the shift of life…to go there, then back and work towards it again…felt…it felt natural. From that place, the prologue, you join Jenna on the worst day of her life.  But we don’t jump right into the thick of it.  I wrote it so that getting to know Jenna was a full circle experience–where she’s been and where she’s going.  She becomes a round person…hopefully, when it counts, a reader will identify with her, will know her and understand her.

Then, I read I was classical.  What if classical is an synonym for bad.  What if everything this book is just doesn’t jive with the exceptions of a modern day reader?  What if I was born a century to late to be relevant?

I could have started the book differently–I could jumped right in with both feet and spelled it out, plain and simple to the point…but that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell–that’s not who I am, that’s not how I write.

I can’t change that.  It’s my voice–you can’t just change something that’s so natural.  Can you?  I really don’t know.

I guess the lesson is this:

Write for yourself.  Tell the story your way.  It’s not going to be everyone’s favorite–and that’s just plain a-ok.  As long as the effort is genuine and honest, you can’t harbor regrets in what you could have done differently.

I know there will be changes to my MS coming.  I’m going into the editing process with my eyes wide open, and every critique I manage to accumulate will go to good use as well.  But I have to stay grass roots.  I have to keep on keeping on–because this is the book I wrote, this was story that needed to be told.

Here’s to being classical me…or whatever it is I am…

 

Lowering The Bar

This, I am not a fan of.

As I’ve said…I’m an accidental Nanny–and it’s perhaps the most rewarding job in the world.  I simply, in a word, adore the boys I look after.  I care about them and who they will become as they grow older, I push them to be better, learn more, and be the best versions of themselves possible.  I champion their successes and try to teach them to learn from their failures.  It’s not an easy job, but it’s an amazing job.

The other day I was discussing the importance of time management and follow through when it comes to the dreaded H-word…homework.  I’ll be the first to admit, after seven long hours of learning, it’s easy to understand why they aren’t chomping at the bit to pull out a sheet of complex math and work on it.  I get it.  Sincerely, I do.  I was a kid once as well.  Homework sucks.  But, it’s part of schooling.  It’s a teachers way of figuring out what a student is learning independent of the classroom.  It’s serious business.

As I was laying out the several sheets of work for the middle boy, he turned to me as he was prioritizing his work, holding up a piece of math homework he said “This isn’t important, it’s just for effort”…I asked him what he meant by that, and he broke into a monologue about how homework–at the elementary level–isn’t for a grade.  He’s in fifth.

I had an entirely speechless moment.

Not for a grade?  For effort?  And if they don’t want to do it–then they just don’t excel at effort?  What is the message in that?  And why are the teachers even telling them these thing?

I called a friend of mine shortly thereafter, a teacher in the same district.  I asked her, horrorstruck, if that was true, and she admitted, it was.  She explained that most teachers don’t even bother with homework anymore, because really…what’s the point?  It doesn’t count anymore.  Homework, apparently, has been a thorn in the grading-side of school.  Many kids didn’t do it, ergo sucking their overall grades down into the C-D-F pit.  The high brow school district (once rated the best place for public schooling in Illinois and the best place in the country to raise your children) was losing funding, dipping below the prime spot it held for so, so very long.  This was solution.  C’s…aren’t acceptable.  Teacher’s allow do-overs on tests, in class work and the like to give second, third, fourth chances…and heck, if a student still can’t pull it together–they’ll fudge the scores a bit.  No more being held back, if they don’t learn it now–they’ll catch up later.  My friend, whom shall remain nameless, said that most of her students (fourth graders) are reading at a first grade level.

I had to bite my tongue with her…but not with you all… 🙂

This is nothing more than lowering the bar.  This is preparing an entire generation to learn nothing about failure, and that only stands to hurt, because in the real world, there is this thing called accountability.

I’m sickend by this.  Honestly, I am.  That’s the only word for it.

When I was a student, I worked so hard for my grades–good, bad or indifferent–they were mine and I owned them.  Looking back now at school, it’s more of an abstract thing rather than being so literal.  It taught me to show up and be counted.  I was educated in deadlines, project planning, time management, social skills, what it takes to succeed at something, and what it means to fail–and how that failure felt.  If kids aren’t learning those things now what does that mean for later in life?  Even if it starts in sixth grade–the precedent is already set, habits of studying are solid as stone.  School is about more than reading, writing and arithmetic–it’s about life–and sadly, all of that is being given up in the pursuit of gold stars and stickers.

I felt the first blush of worry about the future.  I look at the three boys I watch and feel a greater responsibility to them than every before.  I need to outrun the new methodology of school and explain that everything matters, that if they take the effort guidelines verbatim, they’ll only hurt themselves.  I know their potential–they are smart, smart kids…they should be growing with that, not shying away from it because “it doesn’t matter.”

As an author, failure was something I encountered.  However, it didn’t define me, I didn’t allow it to slow me down or hold me back or scare me.  Maybe that ethic comes to me because failure was something I’d worked with and past all my life.  It wasn’t a new concept by any means, it was simply part of life.  If kids don’t learn that–my real fear–is that failure, that first time when it really matters, will define them.  Scare them into a place where they stop trying–and what will the world suffer because of that?  Less authors, less doctors, less professors, less change-the-world mentality.  They won’t be equipped with the skills to put it aside and carry on and be better for it.  Even in sports, most teams believe everyone should make the roster, everyone gets a trophy.

I’m not saying grades are everything.  No way.  But the ability to earn a grade…that IS important.  It’s about work ethic, drive, motivation–which both successes and failures teach you in tandem.

I hate the lower the bar mentality simply so that one appear to be doing better than they really are.  My advice: Raise the bar, and be better for it.

(vent, over :))

An Exclusive Invitiation

Since I’m pretty open on this blog–especially when it comes to my bygone attempts to be a “traditionally published author” I’m going to discuss an e-mail received this evening…

In the past few month, since I finished my book and started this blog, I’ve embraced my moniker of “Indie Author”…it’s sort of my thing…a thing I never really intended, but adore nonetheless.  I went into writing, when I decided to publish, wanting to be traditional, thinking that if I managed to push open to gates to the literary world, I’d feel legit.  Give me an advance, an agent, an editor, a thick hardcover, an e-file, a trade paper back and a contract that encouraged me to keep writing.  It would be success, I would be a success.  Let’s be frank, that’s the carrot I was chasing.

Those were my grass root wants.

The reality was something very, very different.  But, I like to believe I embraced it.  My new wants and needs are something different–maybe even more exciting.

So that brings us here….

This evening while I was checking my e-mail, I noticed an “exclusive invitation” from one of the agent’s I queried before.  She had said no to me and my book, and I moved that reply to the trash along with all the other rejections.  But today…that agent reached out again.  Only this time, it wasn’t about my book–but about my query.

What she is offering me is this…

For $50.00, she’ll edit my query, read the first 20 pages of my book, help me use my author-voice to make a salable agent-friendly finished, polished, mainstream product.  No, she’s not going to represent me…no, she doesn’t want too. It’s unethical according to the AAR. But, she does want to help.  She wants to give me industry relevant feedback.  That’s all.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Self published authors are saying…NO, NO, NO…RUN AWAY.

But I wonder…can it really be that bad?  What are the risks?  Do they outweigh the gain?  Can learning to be better–even at cost–be that bad?

The thing is, all of this (every little bit, in every little corner, in every little room) is new.  I’m not a seasoned professional, I’m hardly a paraprofessional, I’m hacking away at this whole “author” thing every single day.  And the truth of the matter is this: it’s not easy.  Every little bit of advice, kindness, help…it matters, it makes a whole world of difference.  It’s where I build confidence to keep going when doors and windows are closing.

I’m getting better at what I do because I’ve sought the people who are already good at those things.  I’m learning.  I’m growing.  I’m figuring out what my potential is by taking the chances required to discover that.

It’s true..what they say…nothing is free.  I pay for a book cover, an editor, press releases…why wouldn’t I pay for a working professional to look at my query with the eyes of an editor?  It’s just not an opportunity every author has…I just happened to query one agent who, although not willing to take me on as a client, is still willing to work with me to make me a better author.  $50.00 won’t break me…but missing the chance to learn…well, that might just be my undoing.

I’m curious.  I wrote this book, I think it’s good–this is my chance to find out why she didn’t agree.  What did I miss?  Where was I lacking?  If she can show me those things, then–although I don’t believe I’ll continue querying– I can jog the lesson to blurb crafting moving forward.

I’m going into this applying the motto that I’ve lived by since the start…nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Stay tuned as this trip takes a whole new turn…I’ll post a follow-up blog where I’ll share my before meets after.  Hopefully we can all learn from this.

The Kindness of “No”

I want to share a query response I received a few days ago…the one I touched briefly on in “My First Ben Franklin”…the query that kind of changed things for me…

Dear Ms. Mackler-Paternostro

Thank you for your e-mail query.  I appreciate the opportunity to consider THE MILESTONE TAPES for possible representation, but I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for it.  The concept just didn’t grab me, and you deserve an enthusiastic agent who can champion your work.  Of course this only one response, and tastes vary widely among agents.  I wish you the best of luck finding the right home for your work.

Sincerely

XX

When I started writing The Milestone Tapes, I thought “damn, this book is butter, who wouldn’t want to read this?”  Of course I felt this way, it was my story and I believed in it so hard it hurt.  I gave up a huge chunk of my every day life to tell the story of Jenna and Mia; I worried it and felt guilty over it, and I cried when I typed “The Beginning” which is my code word for “The End”– but not the end–you know what I mean?  Okay, maybe that wasn’t clear…read the book one day and you’ll understand better … promise :).

Anyway….The Milestone Tapes became so much a part of me and my life, that naturally I assumed it would inspire the same in others…similar to the way a mother views her child as the end all-be all-best thing to even happen-best child alive.  The way I felt was unshakable, I was certain.  I knew going in, there would rejection and that would either be what made me or what broke me.   

While that response was an affirmative “no”…it was also a cornerstone for me.  That place where I could say “the worst they can say no–and some are saying that…and the best I can do is keep going–so I will.”  She explained that to me, one “no” isn’t the end of life as I know it nor is it the close of my dream.  Tastes vary.  You don’t just give up or quit because that will get you nowhere.  So, with that in my back pocket, I’ll keep working.  Onward and up.

**I want to take a moment and thank the agent who, not only took the time to pull my query from the slush pile and read it, but took that moment to send me an e-mail and explain why it wasn’t for her.  I sincerely appreciate the kindness–and I do consider it kindness of the best sort.  Whatever the reasons she didn’t want to take the book on, she still took me seriously–and as a newcomer, that’s pretty freaking amazing.**