Monday, December 16, 2013

Finding Peace and Joy with Writing

By Deb Dudley
I realized last week that I haven’t written a blog post in months.  Sometimes, when our lives take an unexpected turn, it’s difficult to balance everything.  This past year has been very challenging for me.  My dad is very sick, and as much as I hoped and prayed he’d get better, he hasn’t.  In the midst of my struggle to cope with what is happening, I accidentally stopped writing.  At first I just skipped a day or two.  But as the year progressed, and my dad’s condition worsened, a few skipped days eventually turned into a few skipped weeks. 

It took several months for me to realize I was gradually moving further and further away from writing.  Thankfully, the month of October would be my turning point.  I attended the James River Writing Conference with my good friend Lisa (Elle) Blair.  A few times leading up to the event I thought about skipping it.  I wasn’t sure my heart was in it, but something told me I needed to be there.  And if I could share one piece of wisdom with you, it would be this – when something deep inside tells you to do something, DO IT.  Because by following my instinct and going to the JRW conference, I had a front row seat to glory.  I watched my dear friend Lisa pitch to an agent, submit her manuscript and eventually receive the CALL.  For any new writer who may not be familiar with the CALL, there are two earth-rocking types.  The CALL is either (1) An agent – wanting to discuss representation OR (2) An editor – wanting to discuss the option of publishing your book.  At this point in my career, I have not had the pleasure of receiving either type of CALL yet, but thanks to my writing buddy Lisa, I experienced the next best thing: the joy and bliss of watching her receive her CALL.  I’m delighted to report that Lisa (Elle) Blair is now represented by Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency.  

Coming out of October, my excitement for Lisa lifted my spirits and helped me dive back into writing.  And as luck would have it, November is THE MONTH for picture book creativity.  One of my favorite picture book writers on Twitter, Tara Lazar, dubbed November PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).  So I dropped by Tara’s website and joined over a thousand other writers in a fabulous month filled with inspiring blog posts and fun giveaways.  By November 30th, I had over sixty new picture book ideas and a few new complete manuscripts ready to submit to my critique partners at Richmond Children’s Writers. 
Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I am swamped with additional responsibilities and commitments, but I am happy to say I am still committed to making writing a top priority.  In the chaos of everything, I know writing brings me peace and joy.

For more information on the two talented ladies I mentioned above, you can visit their websites:
Lisa Blair (pen name Elle Blair):

Tara Lazar:
Have a wonderful holiday season filled with peace, joy, love and writing!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rejection as a Growing Experience

By Chris Sorensen

About two months ago I did something that I have never done before as a writer – I sent out query letters to literary agents (yikes!). I have taken advantage of several opportunities to meet with and pitch my project to agents at writing conferences, but never before have I had to hit ‘send’ on the keyboard with my query attached. It has been a learning experience.

 Having other writer friends who have been through the process, I knew enough to be optimistic, without being unrealistic. Following the advice of some agents who are active bloggers online, I came up with a list of 20 agents to start with. From there, I divided them into groups of 5, starting with the 5 I wanted to work with the most. Of those first 5 agents, these are results I have from my queries:

-          3 flat out rejections – 2 were form rejections and 1 gave honest, encouraging feedback of why that agent wasn’t the one for me, but gave me hope by saying that I was “doing everything right.”

-          1 request for first 50 pages – from the initial query, the agent was interested in reading part of the manuscript; still don’t have final word yet

-          1 still waiting to respond

It would be easy to get down and discouraged…”if nobody has picked it up yet, nobody will”, “why does it have to take so long”, etc. And those feelings are certainly present, especially after you have put all your blood, sweat, and tears into your story, your baby. But there is silver lining in all the rejection, if, as a writer, you are open to looking for it. For myself, I learned that my query was good enough for a couple of requests, but something must be missing. The 1 agent who told me I was “doing everything right” was very sincere and really helped me keep a positive attitude. So before my next round of submissions, I am going to get some critiques on my query, synopsis, and first 10 pages (usually what agents request). Then after I send the next round with my submissions tweaked, hopefully, I’ll get a more positive response.  If not, well then it’s back to the drawing board.

When it’s all said and done, be thankful for rejection, because it means two things: 1) you are willing to submit your work and as long as you keep doing that it means you are not giving up and 2) even with rejection, you are still getting feedback on what directions to take next.

Happy writing!