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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: My Early Christmas Present

I'm posting my recap early because I have news I can't wait to share.

I have an agent!

Let me clarify that.

I am now represented by top-notch agent Rachelle Gardner!

Oh. My. Gosh!

Those are the three words I shouted repeatedly last Saturday night when I checked my email. Gwynly and I celebrated our anniversary on the 19th, and he'd taken me out for dinner at Olive Garden, a place we reserve for special occasions. I'd admitted to my critique partner that I would also be celebrating the fact that I'd hit "send" the night before, submitting my story after months of revision.

When I saw the name Rachelle Gardner in my in-box Saturday night, I couldn't believe it. I didn't get too excited, though, since I'd expected her to tell me thanks for getting the full to her but that she couldn't get to it until after the holidays. I opened the message, beheld the first few words and started shouting.

"I'd like to discuss the possibility of representation . . ."

I didn't even read the rest of the message at first. I was stunned and started shouting. Gwynly and the Fashion Queen figured out what was happening and assured our two cats that it was good news. The fuzzy fellows didn't buy it and hid.

Me? I was told I rushed from room to room repeating those three words, "Oh, my gosh!" at the top of my lungs. I vaguely recall clutching the walls, doorjambs and backs of chairs while my hubby and daughter raced to my computer to read the message. They promptly joined me, gathered me in a group hug, and jumped up and down with me in what has become our version of the Happy Dance.


I don't know how long I carried on, but I know it must have been a while because I was hoarse the next day and croaked out the carols in church.

Because it's Christmas time and because I know Rachelle was trying to catch up on her agency work, I didn't expect to hear from her until after the holidays. However, dedicated agent that she is, she called me tonight. Since I'd had four days to absorb the amazing news, I did a passable job of sounding in control. At least I hope I did. :-)

Rachelle likes my story, but it needs some work before it will be ready for submission. Since I'm a new writer, I wasn't surprised to hear that. Having spent months taking
Violets & Violins apart and putting it back together again, I'm up for the challenge. I did my research and know one of Rachelle's many strengths is editing, so I look forward to learning from her and watching my story get better under her tutelage.

I remarked to my family that this was the best Christmas present I could imagine. While it is wonderful, it wouldn't have been possible without the support of my husband, daughter, critique partner, extended family, church family, friends, writing buddies, contest judges and many others too numerous to name. I treasure each one of you and thank you very much for believing in me.

I wish you a blessed celebration of Christ's birth.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Relief

This past Friday evening, I heaved a huge sigh.

Why?

After months of hard work involving a complete rewrite of the Violets & Violins, more editing passes than I want to think about,
judicious use of the delete key and incorporation of my critique partners' excellent suggestions, I sent my story into the world.

My last submission took place over two years ago. At that point, after the inevitable rejections, I realized I'd been hasty in sending my work out. My writing wasn't at a publishable level, and, hard as it was, I accepted that fact.

I spent the next year doing two things. I focused less on writing and more on learning my craft. I also established a web presence and met many wonderful writers, authors and blogging buddies.

When I returned to my writing this past spring, I sensed a change. After a short-lived foray into contemporary romance the prior year, I returned to my first love, historicals, and set to work rewriting one of the five stories I'd completed in my first two years.

I entered contests to get feedback and see if my work fared better. It did! Violets & Violins has soared through the contest circuit, taking first place six times. (I received notification of my first in the Southern Heat inspirational category this afternoon.)

Upon completing my final editing pass of V&V, I prepared my manuscript and synopsis files, drafted a query letter and, with a trembling finger, hit "send." And my literary baby winged its way through cyberspace.

What's next?

First, I cleaned house. The laundry is underway now. I'm preparing to excavate in my office so I can get to my computer without having to burrow my way through the small room. Then I'll enjoy Christmas with my family.

And after that?

My dear sweet heroine, Rebecca, who waited patiently while I worked on Elenora's story, will get my attention. I've already begun the rewrite of Becky's story, which was one of my 2008 Golden Heart finalist entries. Once the Fashion Queen is back at college and Gwynly has returned to teaching teens the value of chemistry, I'll hang with Rebecca and James on a regular basis.

• • • • •

If you're a writer, how do you know when to stop tweaking a manuscript and submit it?

Have you ever started a project and headed in one direction, shifted part way through and learned later you had been on the right track to begin with?

Does your house look like a disaster area when you finish a major project, or are you able to keep things in order all along? If the latter, please share your secrets.

• • • • •

I wish you a blessed celebration of Christmas.

I'm eager to spend the time with Gwynly and the Fashion Queen here at home. We have the privilege of lighting the Christ candle at our church's Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. We'll see what's in our stockings when we get home and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol. The next day, we'll open our gifts, wrapped in colorful drawstring bags, while carols play.

What are your plans?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My awesome critique partner and dear friend Anne Barton completed the read of my manuscript. I'm so very grateful to you, Anne. As I read the story straight through after implementing your wonderful suggestions and saw your fingerprints throughout, I was moved to tears. Your contributions added so much to the story. Thanks heaps.
  • Jenness Walker drove over a downed power line, was forced to say in her truck until the power company could cut the juice to the wire she was in contact with, and lived to tell the tale in a memorable blog post. Jenness, I am so thankful you were safe, thanks to some real life heroes. What an ordeal that must have been. You'll have to use this in a story.
  • Katie Ganshert is very close to finishing the rough draft of her work-in-progress. Way to go, Katie! Have fun getting your characters to their HEA.
  • Laura Frantz received the galleys for her second book, Courting Morrow Little. What fun, Laura! I'm glad you got to spend time with your characters again.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Gratitude

I'm filled with gratitude after a full and interesting week.

Writing-related Reasons I'm Grateful
  1. I got the rest of the chapters of Violets & Violins off to my critique partner today. All that remains for me to do is to correct the typos Anne found and implement many of her great suggestions.
  2. Thanks to agent's Jessica Faust's recent blog post for which Anne sent me the link, I know just what I need to include in the query that accompanies a manuscript requested by a final round contest judge, and I feel prepared to write it.
  3. Anne edited a whopping 20 chapters for me this week. Is she amazing or what?

Other Reasons I'm Grateful
  1. Gwynly and I experienced a record snowstorm here in the Sierra Foothills, which shut down our town of Placerville, California on Monday when much of the area lost power. Since all the schools in the county but one closed, I got to have my teacher hubby home for two extra days this week. We were only without power for 24 hours, while others went without for three days or more. Although we were without heat, the inside temperature only got down to 47 degrees. We had phone service, hot and cold water and use of our propane stove top throughout the outage.
  2. On Wednesday, Gwynly and I picked up our college daughter and will enjoy the Fashion Queen's company for three and a half weeks.

• • • • •

What are you grateful for?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My awesome critique partner and dear friend Anne Barton took the top award in the Golden Rose contest for the highest overall score beating out a whopping 172 entrants. I'm sooo proud of you, Anne, and can't wait to see a picture of you holding that beautiful gold-dipped rose.
  • Diane Estrella sent her manuscript out into the publishing world for the first time. Way to go, Diane! That's a huge step. Here's hoping for positive feedback.
  • Jenness Walker learned that her debut novel, Double Take, was nominated for both best Love Inspired Suspense and Best First Series Romance in the annual Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards. Woohoo, Jenness! What exciting news! I'm glad your writing is being so well received.
  • Katie Ganshert is making great progress on her work-in-progress. Kudos, Katie! What fun to spend time with your characters and get more of their story on the page.
  • Sarah Tormey is expecting her first child. Congratulations, Sarah! I wish you a pleasant pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • Terri Tiffany learned that her mother has cancer. My heart goes out to you and your mom, Terri. May you feel the love and support of family and friends during this difficult time, and may the Lord grant you the strength you need to make it through each day.
  • Eileen Astels Watson was unable to add any pages to her work-in-progress this week due to commitments and an under-the-weather washing machine. I hope life settles down and you're able to get back to your story soon, Eileen.
  • Sherrinda Ketchersid was unable to do any editing of her manuscript this week due to a full schedule and holiday-related activities. I love your positive attitude about this temporary situation, Sherrinda, and feel certain you'll make great progress when your vacation begins.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Dreams

I've heard of writers who dream of the day they get published. Literal while-they-sleep dreams about getting a request, an offer of representation or even The Call.

Me? I dream about my characters, scenes I'm working on or, on occasion, upcoming conferences. But until recently, I'd never had a dream that involved a publishing professional.

That changed last week. I had my first ever dream about talking with an agent who was interested in representing me, an agent who was gracious, kind and helpful. One who exhibited professionalism, was personable and put me at ease, all at the same time. One I'd be thrilled to have represent me.

I awoke wondering if one day that dream will become reality.
It could happen, right? Sometimes dreams do come true.

I have a ray of hope.


This weekend I received two calls telling me about additional requests for my full manuscript, taking the number up to four. I was so excited after the second call, I got carried away in my happy dancing and bit my lip. My minor injury didn't stop me from beaming though.

When I entered Violets & Violins in contests this fall, I had hoped for a final or two and even dared to dream of a top placement. But to get requests? I'd hardly dared hope for that. And yet it's happened to me. I'm still pinching myself and smiling broadly despite my fat lip.

I've been hesitant to share the news of my requests, but I have permission from the contest coordinators to go public. Since many of you reading my blog are writers, too, I offer my news as encouragement. I've invested four years in my writing, and I'm seeing my hard work pay off. It can happen, and it's my hope that each of you see the rewards of your diligence and devotion to your writing. I love sharing in your happy dances, although in the future I think I'll keep my mouth closed when I do them. :-)

I've attempted to enjoy every step on my journey. However, I'm the first to admit that I've encountered my share of potholes, battled more self-doubt than I care to think about and worn Gwynly's ears out with my need for affirmation.

This weekend has been a great boost to my confidence. Not only did I receive news of the requests, but I also learned that V&V took first place in the inspirational category of the Golden Pen.

In spite of all of the good news I've experienced recently, I still wrestle with two of my biggest foes: fear and perfectionism. I fear my stories aren't good enough. I fear I'll get my hopes up only to have them dashed. I fear I'll never conquer my fears.

Please, tell me I'm not alone.
• • • • •

Do you dare to dream?

What are some of your dreams?

Do you ever suffer a confidence crisis?

Is fear one of your foes? How do you deal with it?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • Several of my writer friends won NaNoWriMo. Some I know about are Cindy R. Wilson, Eileen Astels Watson and Susan Hollaway. Congratulations! That's quite an accomplishment.
  • My writer friend Sherrinda Ketchersid is making good progress on her edits and her weight loss goals. Way to go!
  • My writer friend and Pixie pal (2008 GH finalists) Sue Mason got her Golden Heart entry on its way as did my critique partner Anne Barton. Three cheers for you. I wish you all the best.
  • My writer friend Katie Ganshert's book is being reviewed by an editorial team. Yay, Katie, on getting so far so fast. May this lead to a contract offer.
  • My new writer friend Terra has a book out, one she co-authored with five friends: Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holidays.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.