Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Isn’t My Life, Or My Muse, Or My Magical Unicorn. It’s My Job.

My writing spirit animal

Over at Operation Awesome today, there’s a great post called “Writing Is Not My Life.” In it, R.R. Russell talks about how she started getting a little turned off when she’d see people on forums talk about how all-consuming writing was to them and joyfully declare “Writing is my life!” Her point was that a good writer requires a strong outside life—friends and family for support and perspective, activities to broaden skills and relieve stress.

I completely agree, and I’d also add that I’m not a fan of treating writing like some kind of magical gift from the muses or like an unquenchable obsession.

Because the truth is, although I (obviously) really enjoy writing, it’s my job. It’s not magic. It’s what I am doing to (hopefully, someday) make money and to build a career. And there’s a big difference.

The problem with treating writing like magic is that, very often, the job is not magical. Very often it’s frustrating and disappointing, challenging and patience-testing. The wonderful days—days when you’re writing awesome, amazing stuff or days when you finally get that offer letter—are very few and far between, and if you spend your time focused on that, you won’t get anywhere.

I once heard someone say they only wrote when they felt inspired. My first thought was that they must not write very often. I love waking up every morning and getting to my desk, but I’ll be the first to admit that when you’re staring down a blank page with an empty brain, it’s not inspiration that fuels you to write—it’s the sheer realization that writing is your job and you don’t have to luxury to wait around for inspiration. You have to put something down.

There’s a great line from Tina Fey’s Bossypants, a quote from Lorne Michaels about Saturday Night Live: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.” That is exactly how I feel about writing. I don’t write because all the stars have aligned and the muse has floated down from the heavens to sprinkle me with fairy dust. I write because it’s 9:30 and I need to get my revisions done.

Writing isn’t my life. It’s my job. A fun, amazing, dream job, sure—but still a job with all its ups and downs. And like all jobs, it requires patience, tenacity, skill, and dedication in order to succeed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Offices Gone to the Dogs

Meet Abby! After lots of debate and one (mostly) successful week of dog-sitting, the husband and I finally decided to get a pup! She is all kinds of sweetness, tiny and cuddly and already has us wrapped around her little paw.

A big reason why we decided to go the way of dog ownership is because I work at home, alone, and it can get a little lonely around here. I'm looking forward to having a new addition to my at-home office, and that got me thinking about other dog-friendly offices, like the offices of The Daily Show, featured on an episode of 30 Rock last fall:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Do you have an office dog? Leave a note in the comments with a link to a picture and I'll update throughout the day!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wrap Up: Underwhelming Snow Edition

It's snowy in Chicago today, but, as usual, the MASSIVE, CRIPPLING BLIZZARD warned about in the news has turned into a 2-inch snowfall. What gives? Where are all the drifts and thunder snows I was warned about? Between this winter and last winter, my boots are barely getting a workout. Before you know it, the crocuses on the corner will be in bloom, the tree outside will start sprouting leaves, and my winter coats will go in storage for another year. Not that I'm complaining about a short winter, but if it's going to be cold (negative degrees over here!), there should at least be some snow (grumblegrumblesnowmangrumble).

All right, enough winter-griping; here are this week's posts!

I am a devoted Kristin Cashore fan, and I read this post--about paying attention to the world--was totally spot-on 

The excellent blog Literary Rambles reached 3000 followers and is celebrating with a massive giveaway!

From Rachelle Gardner: Never again hate self-promotion

Two shortlists were announced this week and Galleycat has links to free samples of both: the Nebula Awards (which includes the Andre Norton Award for best YA SFF) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (which has a YA category) 

Loved, loved, loved: from Happy Cog CEO Greg Hoy, why good work isn't enough and the qualities of successful people

Nathan Bransford talks e-books and the possibility of a market where people could buy and sell used e-books

My fab agent Sara Crowe put together some excellent tips on how to refine your pitch and query letter

Made me laugh: Sh*t First Drafts of famous novels

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wrap Up: Gettin Cozy Edition

I want to take a nap right now

After the last few crazy weeks of agent-signing and dog-watching and super-snowstorm-having and mural-drawing, I'm ready for a quiet couple of days to get back on schedule. The husband is gone for the weekend, but my lovely, wonderful friends, knowing the kind of hermit-like homebody I am, are scheduling a weekend's worth of fun activities to keep me occupied/socialized (which may or may not involve some bottles of Champagne and a marathon of my favorite 90s teen movies).

But before I crash for the week, here are some of my favorite posts!

Nathan Bransford's annual first paragraph contest has its winner! Nathan also put together a collection (to be continually updated) of some of his favorite writing advice tweets

From Publishing Crawl, some sweet Valentine's Day reading recommendations. And Galleycat put together their own list of free e-book favorites

Mary Kole is setting up critique partners! If you're interested in finding a crit partner, you can check out her site for more information

Loved this: via Mashable, if classic video games were children's books

One more thing.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Exciting News!

Phew! I know I’ve been cagey lately, talking about oooohhh my life is soooo busy! but not actually, y’know, explaining stuff. So, let me explain:

Last November, I sent my latest YA manuscript into the great wide querying world. This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo, so I had a few people who knew me and I had my query letter (mostly) down. And I got requests for fulls! Hooray!

So I plugged along, sending out my manuscript in small batches. And more requests! Double hooray! And I got a few rejections (you will always get rejections), but I was happy that, unlike other manuscripts I’d sent out, these rejections didn’t all say the same thing. It made me hopeful that it really was a matter of finding the right person.

Late at night, I’d lay in bed with the husband, talking about my manuscript. “I really think this is the one,” I’d say. “The other two, I wasn’t as certain, but this one I really think will be the one.” I am a terribly superstitious person, the kind of person who never said “When we get married” the whole time we were engaged, just because I was worried I’d say it and the then-fiancé would get hit by a bus.

And I knew there was the possibility that nothing would happen with this one, that it would end up in the drawer like the others. So to say something out loud, even if it was just to the husband in the dark, was a scary thing. But I did really believe, and my husband agreed and held my hand and said what I knew he’d say: “You just have to be a little patient right now.”

So I was patient, I sent out more queries, I responded back to agents asking for fulls, I started working on the next thing (because you always need a next thing). Right before I left Chicago for Christmas vacation, I got a request for a revise & resubmit. I’ve gotten these before, and sometimes the suggestions are just totally off from what I had in mind for the book, but I was thrilled that these revisions were smart, sharp, and absolutely good directions for the manuscript to go in. Excitement renewed!

I spent the whole two weeks on the East Coast thinking about the revisions, not writing anything (because I promised this wasn’t going to be a working vacation), and by the time I got back to Chicago, I was like a fiend. I know you aren’t supposed to rush revisions, but I couldn’t stop myself—I wrote way past my usual “close the laptop” time of 5pm and found myself working late at night, late on Saturday nights, early on Sunday mornings. It was awesome, I was thrilled.

The revisions finally went out, after getting a quick thumbs-up from one of my awesome critique partners, and I played the waiting game, again. It was while waiting that I got an email from another agent late on a Saturday night, saying she loved the book and could we talk Monday? Commence 36-hour freak-out, during which I panic-sweated through every t-shirt I owned and had my very first stress dream about writing.*

She called, I tried to not to squeak over the phone, and somewhere during the conversation she offered representation. I think I was so stunned that I didn’t even hear her properly. If she hadn’t sent me an email a few seconds later, repeating her offer, I probably would have called her up again to say “Is this real life?”

Next step was letting other agents know what was going on. I fully expected most of them to say thanks but no thanks, so color me surprised when the majority stayed in the game. Pretty soon, I had another offer, and then another. Six offers in all, which is just pretty much the definition of crazy.

And then, ugh, the waiting. And the debating. Anyone within in ten-foot-radius of me during the past week had to sit and listen to me go on (and on and on) about this agent versus that one. I sent pages-long emails to my infinitely patient crit partners and family. The husband became very good at nodding along to whatever I said.

Because really, the choosing got really tough. I always thought people who had a bunch of offers were sort of #humblebrag-ging to complain, but when you meet a bunch of people who love your writing and believe in you, it’s really hard to compare and contrast. I pretty much stopped sleeping and started getting stress hives.** I was a wreck during the day, exhausted and headachey and in a state of suspended animation. I’d watch The Bachelor and think *sniff* “I totally get you, bro.”***

But in the end, there was always someone in the back of my mind, and although it was really tough to let go of the amazing agents who loved my stuff, I kept thinking of the advice a writer friend gave me, to focus instead on how amazing/happy/exciting it would be to go from “querying writer” to “represented writer.”

So, this whole long story does finally have an end, which is that I am beyond thrilled to announce that I’m now represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc!

Sara was always a dream agent of mine, she was the first to offer representation, and it didn’t hurt that she’s also the agent of one of my best writing friends, Elizabeth Fama, who had reams of positive things to say about her. I am so, so excited to start working with her and start this next crazy, wonderful chapter of my writing life!****

*Somehow, my manuscript had gotten submitted to a SCBWI-type conference, where it was named “The Worst Thing I’ve Read This Year” by a panel made up of agents and editors. I had to stand up and listen to them calmly tell me everything that was wrong about my manuscript. Later, when I told the husband, he said “Why would they even have that award?”
**Hey! Haven’t seen those guys since I was wedding planning!
***At some point during this whole thing I started fever-dreaming of a Bachelor: Writers Edition. Wouldn’t this be so much more fun if everyone had to wear trashy dresses, pouf up their hair, and throw chardonnay at their rivals? I could hand out roses and then Chris Harrison would emerge, all dapper and witty, and say “Agents, this is the final rose of the evening. Kendall, anytime you’re ready.”
****True story! My night went: call Sara and accept offer-->write happy emails to friends/family-->sit down with husband with glass of wine to watch State of the Union-->faceplant on couch-->pass out-->wake up 11 hours later. I guess I was exhausted?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Are You There, Judy Blume? It's Me. And I'm In Your Office.

Today's Writing Spaces features everyone's favorite superfudge writer, Judy Blume, a day ahead of her 75th (!!!) birthday.

When I searched for pictures of her office, I thought I'd find stuff like this:

 Cute! Books everywhere! Big smile! That's not her office, though, that's her at a book signing in a library. Because what do you do when you're one of the most beloved children's book writers of all time? You get yourself a ballser house.

This is Judy Blume's actual office, in her gorgeous home in Key West, which was photographed for Architectural Digest (this makes her the first writer so far featured in AD. Get on it, ghost of Mark Twain). It is so lovely and so perfectly Key West--clean white lines, minimalist table, gigantic monitor (complete with Jack Russel terrier desktop).

 Although if I were here, I would probably do most of my "writing" while lounging poolside with my waterproof pen and notebook (that room in the background is her bedroom, and ooooh man am I jealous)

 Happy Birthday Judy Blume!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wrap Up: I'm a Good Egg Edition

It's almost Valentine's Day, and I'm celebrating with another series of chalkboard drawings, this time focusing on sweet and silly vintage Valentines (you can check out the rest here).

It's a short Wrap Up today, mostly because the aforementioned craziness has pretty much eaten my life this week. To fill things out a little more, I also included a few fun and interesting links I found from outside the world of YA. Enjoy, and for those on the East Coast, stay safe and warm and get some reading done!

Always so fascinated by this stuff: Penguin art director Giuseppe Castellano discusses how he works with editorial to design book covers

The Someday My Printz Will Come blog has a wrap-up of last week's Printz Award winner and honors

Cupid's Literary Connection, one of my favorite writing blogs and a must for writers looking for something more than the traditional querying process, is holding a kissing scene competition for Valentines!

E-Reading site NetGalley is offering excepts from some of the most-buzzed books of 2013, including a few great YA picks

Have a great weekend, everyone!