Monday, October 31, 2011

The Lisa's Confidence Needs a Boost Project

I'm about 35,000 words into a first draft. It's a YA novel with four points of view. Yes. Four. I'm pretty sure I am certifiably insane.

I woke up one morning last week at 4 am, freaking out that I needed to scrap the book and start over on something new. Thank goodness my friend Lindsey talked me off that ledge. She said, "35k is always panic stage. Everything sucks at 35k. Middles are ridiculously hard, it's amazing we ever get past them."

So did I dive back in, telling myself, the only way out is through? Well, yes. But it was so painful and slow. And I was miserable. I walked out of my office, which is near the living room, and said, I hate this room. I want to redo it.

A lot of times, I'll hear writers say cleaning is a great procrastination tool. I actually think what happens is that we need to see that we CAN tackle a project and have it turn out well. So by cleaning out the refrigerator or a closet, or redecorating a room, it gives us the confidence we need to do the work necessary in the WIP.

So back to the living room, otherwise known as The Lisa's Confidence Needs a Boost Project. At first, I was convinced I needed new furniture. My 17 YO son set me straight on that. He's so wise. And practical. He convinced me that there's really nothing wrong with the stuff we have now. I'm just tired of it. But there are plenty more important things to spend money on, and so, I decided the challenge was to fix up the room using the sofa and loveseat we have.

 I should have taken a before picture! Here is one from Christmas last year, I think, with a mess on the floor so you can't see the rug, which I was really tired of. But you can see the pathetic picture we hung on the wall behind the dining room table because we had nothing else, and oh fine, it's good enough. And the ugly table lamp that sat in the corner.

I went to one of my favorite stores in our town called Consignment Northwest. It's a huge showroom with items people want to sell. If the store sells an item, the person who owned that item gets a percentage of the sale, of course. It's a nice way to buy "gently used" without having to sort through junk and deal with weird people on Craig's List. The coffee table and the art behind the table came from Consignment Northwest. The end table and lamp I found at Ikea. And the new accent pillows came from Ross Dress for Less (only $6.99 each).

The boys do their homework at the dining table, so books and papers and things are around the dining table, but that's okay. It looks ten times better than it did.

Now I have to get back to my mess of a first draft. But when I was in Ikea, I started dreaming of a new office for myself.

I think that will be my next project. But not until I finish this %&$^ book! :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Switched at birth stories

Do you find switched at birth stories fascinating?

Me too!

A new story was released yesterday - you can read about it HERE.

When I wrote The Day Before, I used a real-life switched at birth story that happened in another country (England, I believe) as inspiration. I've since tried to find that story, and haven't been able to. Basically, two parents realized something was wrong when their daughter needed a blood transfusion and neither of them were a match for her blood type.

The mystery surrounding Amber in my book isn't revealed right away. Her history, and why she wants to get away to the beach to spend the day, unravels slowly. So the flap copy doesn't talk about the switched at birth thing. But today, I'm sharing that plot element because maybe you are like me, and find switched at birth stories fascinating. And if you do, you might like to read The Day Before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Motivation - On disappointment

"If I could only sell a book to a publisher, then..."

"If I could only get a large advance and a big marketing push, then..."

"If I could only get some starred reviews, then..."

"If I could only make some lists, then..."

Then, I wouldn't feel so disappointed.

Sometimes it feels like disappointment is a writer's best friend.

I will not lie. When B&N decided to skip The Day Before, I was pretty disappointed. I knew that meant sales would be affected in a big way. And they have been.

Readers, for the most part, have enjoyed the book. It's also on some YALSA nomination lists, though I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I've had other books on these nomination lists in years past, and they didn't make the final cut.  My YA novels thus far are this strange breed of verse, which not everyone likes in the first place, paired with a more commercial story. I think some people like their verse, if they like it at all, much more literary. Sometimes, I don't think reviewers or other professionals "get" what I'm trying to do with these books. And at some point, when that happens, you just have to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well. My reader e-mails tell me there are lots of teens who DO get them, and that's what I try to focus on.

Anyway, there are a hundred ways to be disappointed and discouraged in this business. At least. I could easily be discouraged right now because sales haven't been what I'd hoped they'd be for The Day Before.

But do I feel washed up? Like my career is over? No way. And here's why.

Each book is separate and distinct from the one before it. Each book is a new opportunity. I write each book with hope that good things will happen! Because why not?

Do you think Kate DiCamillo knew which of  her books would become movies and which ones wouldn't? Do you think she could predict which ones would become Newbery winners and which ones wouldn't? No. She had no idea. She just wrote the best book she could each time, and then released it out into the world, and waited, like any other author, to see what would happen.

My next YA novel, not out until 2013, will be completely different. I'm trying something new, and with that, I have a new sense of hope that good things might happen. Onward and upward, I say!

My strategy for keeping disappointment at bay is pretty simple:

1) Keep writing. With each book, try to improve. Play to my strengths while at the same time, be open to trying new and different things. Sometimes changing it up a little bit is the best thing a person can do.

2) Do not compare myself to others. Some days, this is SO hard. But really, there is no way that will end well. I have to focus on me and my books and let everyone else do what they do well. I read a lot partly because it's a way to love authors I might otherwise be envious of. :)

3) Remember there are many ways to define success, and numbers are only one way. If you haven't, I encourage you to read this great post by Erin Murphy on the Shrinking Violet's blog.

We can't let disappointment get the best of us. I battle it by writing a new book and keeping hope alive.

I'm curious. How do you battle it?

Friday, October 21, 2011

I love this ad

There is something about old photos, and how time goes by, that just... gets me. Pair that with America the Beautiful sung by the great Ray Charles, and WOW.

This ad is genius. I love it.

My great grandparents had an old Chevy truck, and I can remember riding to church in it with my great grandma.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to combat the fear of rejection

Last night, I went to see Matt de la Pena at the 2011 Teen Author Lecture here in Portland, made possible by the Library Foundation.

First of all, if you ever get a chance to hear Matt speak, GO. He is personable, relatable and funny! I told him afterwards I want to steal all his stories, because they are that good. The audience was filled with teens, which was so awesome to see. It was an amazing event, and I'm really glad I went.

Plus, I've been meaning to read one of Matt's books for a long time, so I'm happy that I now have a personalized copy of WE WERE HERE to dive into soon.

One of the questions an audience member asked him got me thinking, and I wanted to talk about that a little bit today.

A man said he'd been writing for a long time, but he was afraid of rejection, and did Matt have any advice for him?

Matt said something like, even when you're a published author, there is still rejection. Basically, it comes with the territory. Because, after all, not everyone who reads our books likes our books. Sometimes we get bad reviews, and all that fun stuff. Matt said when he was submitting stories to magazines, he made a game out of the rejections. When he got one, he celebrated. It made the rejections easier to take.

I love that idea!

And he's right - in order to be an author, you have to develop a thick skin. But how do you DO that? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

1. Separate yourself from the story. Just because they reject a story, it does not mean they are rejecting YOU. Pretend the story is a fruit cake. You are sending the fruit cake out to people to see if they like it. You KNOW some people don't like fruit cake. But obviously, some do, or fruit cakes wouldn't even exist. You are trying to find the person who likes fruit cake. When you get the fruit cake back in the mail, saying, "No thanks," it's not about YOU. The person simply does not like fruit cake. No big deal.

Years ago, I submitted stories over and over to one editor in particular. They were an open house at the time, and I really wanted to work with her, as I'd heard amazing things about her. Each time, she sent me a nice little rejection letter, and I'd file it away. I'm guessing I have close to ten rejection letters from this ONE editor. Yikes. Fast forward six or seven years, and my agent suggests sending my middle grade fantasy to this same editor. Oh no, I thought, what if she remembers all those awful stories I sent her in the beginning of my writing career, and doesn't want anything to do with me?

I don't know if she remembered or not, but she loved the story we sent her, and she bought it. This batch of fruit cake, she loved, and the other batches didn't matter to her.

2. Don't be afraid to fail. Markus Zusak gave this advice at a book signing I went to a few years back. Although, with his adorable accent, it sounded like, Don't be afraid to file, haha. He went on to explain that he felt like he had failed thousands of times writing THE BOOK THIEF. Can you imagine? The award-winning, NYT best-selling book?

Yes, because when we are writing, it is hard and it is painful and we ask ourselves over and over, why are you doing this, no one is going to want this failure of a book. But write anyway. Revise anyway. Make it the best it can be and maybe, in the end, it won't be a failure after all. But if it is, at least you tried!

3. Which leads me to the next point. You will never know unless you try. Are you going to be on your death bed regretting that you tried and got 100 rejections? No. Are you going to be on your death bed wondering what might have happened to that novel you spent years on and never sent out? Yes. Live so you have no regrets.

4. Rejection is part of the job. It's that simple. If you want to be an author, rejection is part of the job description. Every job has an aspect that isn't very fun. Teachers have to deal with angry parents. Maintenance techs have to unclog toilets. It *never* goes away for an author. But the good parts of the job, like getting letters from readers who felt a connection to your book, make the sucky part totally worth it.

5. Life can't be all pleasure and no pain. Working out is hard. Painful some days. But the results - a healthy and fit body, make it worth it. And so it is with rejection. It's going to be painful some days, there's no way around it. But you have to go through the pain to get to the pleasure of seeing a book YOU wrote on the shelves. You *have* to go through it. Just like every traditionally published author before you.

Is the fear of rejection holding you back? Well, go on, submit something. And if you get a rejection letter, I hope you'll pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate. You're in the same league as Markus Zusak now - just like him, you're not afraid to fail!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Little Book That Could

Once upon a time a girl wrote a novel.

A strange novel.

A short novel. Maybe it wasn't even a novel. One agent replied, after receiving a query, "this isn't a novel. It's too short. What you have here is most likely a novella."


It started out like this:

A Day of Black

I've never been
to a funeral
until today.

I see
dazzling arrangements of
red, yellow, and purple flowers
with long, green stems.

And so it went.

Page after page like that.

Only one agent was curious enough to read it. Lucky for the girl, that agent loved it and said she wanted to try and sell it.

It went out on submission to about ten editors.

Before long, the rejections started rolling in.

Editor after editor said, "not for me."
"Not for me."
"Not for me."

And so it went. For three long, excruciating months.

But one of the editors sent it to a different division of the publishing house. It landed in a pile. An editorial assistant picked it up out of that pile and took it home to read on the train. The next day, he passed it around. He didn't have the ability to acquire it, but he worked to garner enthusiasm for that strange, little book.

And eventually, many months after it had been submitted to editors, when almost all hope had disappeared from the girl's heart, the book sold. The editorial assistant was given his very first book to edit. The girl was pretty sure expectations for that book weren't very high, but it didn't matter. She'd finally achieved her dream of having a novel published.

The book came out in January, 2008. A month later, the editor called the girl, back from vacation, and said, "All I've heard since I've come back is how well I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is selling."

Over and over, agents and editors said no.

But readers, oh those dear, dear readers, they said yes. They said, I don't care if it's a little different or a little short or a little this or a little that. (Well, you know, maybe a few care, but we won't talk about those).

Today, almost four years later, the book is in its tenth printing. It's still selling. AND a few months ago, Scholastic picked it up to sell in their book fairs and clubs.

Too strange? Too short? Apparently not:

When I wrote this book, my heart told me I had something special. And so today, I just want to say, if you are writing something or submitting something that you think is special, and you keep getting no's, remember:

It only takes one yes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordstock - part 2

Friday night we went to the author reception for a little while, and then six of us ventured out for dinner. Before we found a restaurant, we took our out-of-town guests to Powell's, and bought each other's books, of course. I really, really love this picture!!

Lindsey Leavitt, Me, Suzanne Young, Corey Whaley

Saturday was a middle grade panel I moderated, and after that, a bunch of us went out to dinner. Yes, apparently Wordstock means eating well.

Sunday I arrived a little early, and sat in on Suzanne Young's panel, with Maggie Stiefvater and Isaac Marion. They were very entertaining.

I got to share the stage not once, but twice with Lindsey Leavitt. The first panel was called Smells Like Teen Spirit, and it was Corey Whaley, whose book, WHERE THINGS COME BACK, is EXCELLENT, me and Lindsey Leavitt, whose book SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD is also AMAZING, moderated by the fabulous Sara Ryan. Here are a couple of photos Vania took of us. Yeah. We had fun.

After that, Lindsey and I did our cupcake/princess chat on the children's stage and it went really well. Here we are, hanging out before the big event. Lindsey dressed up. I wore a t-shirt with a cupcake on it that says, "Chance of Sprinkles." I think I should have dressed up. But it was the third day and jeans and a t-shirt sounded so good.

So now, it's back to writing, and some various library visits this month, which is always good. And then in November... the Las Vegas Book Festival! I have a cute dress all picked out for that one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wordstock - Part 1

Wordstock was pretty awesome. Mostly because I got to hang out with Lindsey Leavitt a little bit AND  share the stage with her, which was great fun. She is funny, smart, and when I say, I think it's time to break out in song, she goes with it.

The iconic Wordstock red chair, which cannot be passed by w/out taking a picture. Or ten.
I want to tell you about fun adventures, new friends, and awesome panels, but I need to collect some pictures first. And catch up on sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

The best photo I took was this one. I moderated a panel with three middle grade authors on Saturday, and at one point, I looked out into the audience, and this is what I saw. Talk about making an author's day. And yes, because I was the moderator, I had to give them a shout-out.

"The two girls in the back who I see reading my book? I just want you to know I like you very, very much."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wordstock Book Festival, Portland, OR

Wordstock is THIS coming weekend, October 8th and 9th. What a great line-up of middle grade and young adult authors they have!

Admission for adults is $7.00 for one day, $10.00 for both days, kids 13 and under are FREE!!

Here are the times I will be there. I'd love to see you! Each session lasts forty to forty-five minutes, followed by fifteen to twenty minutes of book signing. Copies of Sprinkles and Secrets will be there for sure, and I'm hoping they'll have The Day Before as well, although it's not guaranteed.

Saturday, 4:00, moderating the panel: The Murky Middle Ground of Middle Grade Books (Kid's Stage)

Sunday, 2:00, participating on the panel: Smells Like Teen Spirit (Oregon Cultural Trust Stage)

Sunday, 4:00, a royal cupcake chat with me and Lindsey Leavitt, author of the Princess For Hire series (Kid's Stage)

Hope to see you there!! (Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sprinkles and Secrets release party! SO FUN!!!

I celebrated the release of Sprinkles and Secrets on Sunday at Powell's Bookstore in Beaverton. We had a nice turnout, and I'm really thankful to the people who came out to celebrate with me. Thank you!

Here are some pictures the amazing Sara of Novel Novice took.

I talked about how the book came to be, then read a couple of pages.

Sometimes when I'm writing I have to say, Stop! No more cupcakes!

Can you see the cookies? All the kids in attendance got one!

Lots of beautiful books! Thank you Powell's!

All of my little cupcakes, lining up to have their books signed.

Please take some bookmarks!

And pick which color pen you'd like

"May you always love cupcakes and reading!"

Look really adorable and make sure you show the book to everyone you know!

Thank you, Sara, for all of the great pictures and for being awesome!

Oh boy, I sure do love my young cupcakes, I mean, readers!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Come see me at Powells!

I'll be celebrating the release of SPRINKLES AND SECRETS at Powell's (Beaverton location) on Sunday, October 2nd, 2:00. I'll talk a little bit about the book and how it came to be, read a tiny bit, answer questions and of course, sign books.

Sweet treats WILL be served!

If you're in the area, would love to see you!!