Monday, July 27, 2015

Mind Over Matter: Believe In Yourself

About ten years ago, while working full-time and getting a post-graduate degree in the evenings, I developed pain in both arms and shoulders. Since my day job required typing literally the entire time I sat at my desk, and I took course notes via laptop, I was soon diagnosed with a repetitive stress injury. Cue the rounds of treatment, time off work, pills, pain, and frustration.

This went on for almost a year. We tried everything. The pain stuck. Nothing made it better. The only medication that helped at all was the stuff that knocked me out completely, but you can't sleep 24 hours a day. Life was horrible—I wasn't even living. I'd sit for days, staring at the television, arms by my sides, because I couldn't move them. This was before Netflix streaming. One day, I watched Canadian women's college hockey for three hours. It hurt too much to use the remote to change the channel. When my roommates talked me into leaving the house, I'd sit and stare at my plate, in too much pain to make conversation (or to lift food to my mouth). I lost most of my friends during that period, because they didn't know what to do with someone who sat in silence or cried all the time.

Finally, the doctors said, "We don't know why the pain's not getting better." One doctor told me that there was nothing physically wrong, and I must be faking it. When I left his office, I sat in the car and cried for half an hour because it hurt too much to drive home. The pain continued. Eventually, I was left with two choices.
1. Spend my life taking medication that left me too doped up to function (yet didn't really do much for the pain), or
2. Figure out how to deal with it.

I quit the job that had me typing nonstop and upped my student loans (Not sure I advocate this one, but in my situation, it helped dramatically.) I withdrew funds from my 401(k) to help pay tuition. When I noticed that the pain tended to be worse in summer (which is basically March through November in my hometown), I started looking for post-graduate jobs in cooler climates.

Then, I rested. Took some time off to heal. Avoided typing nineteen hours a day. I started working out, to rebuild damaged muscles and be strong. I wanted a better life than the one the doctors insisted I would have. Look at me now.

Two years ago, my husband and I climbed to the top of Mt. Tremblant on our honeymoon.

The reason you can't see anything is that we're really high up.
Shortly after we got married, I started taking pole fitness classes regularly. Six months later, I performed in a showcase put on by the studio. Now, I fill in when the regular instructor isn't available. I'm stronger and healthier than I've ever been. Three weeks ago, I rode a mechanical bull for 90 seconds—longer than most of the friends at the bar with us. Last weekend, I did an Extreme Tree Climbing Adventure with ropes, climbing, swinging logs, and zip-lining. The things I can do now consistently astound me. If I went back ten years, that injured, sobbing girl on the couch wouldn't even recognize me.

All because I made a decision to learn to overcome the pain. I refused to accept a diagnosis of "The pain will never go away and you will never live a normal life."

I'd like a second opinion.
Whatever. Why would I want to live a normal life when I can live one that's completely awesome?

I'm still in pain most days. In the summers, it's excruciating. My signature scent is Icy Hot. But I refuse to let the pain hold me back. Life's too short. Believe in yourself, and it's amazing what you can accomplish.

Monday, July 20, 2015

NEW AGENT Contest Winners Revealed!

This contest was brutal, because we only got four picks for each team. I easily could've chosen ten. A lot of it came down to personal taste. Luckily, some of my favorites also made it into the group picks, but this was by no means easy.

Congratulations to the four members of Team Women's Fiction/Romance!

And here are the two group picks I'll be helping to mentor:

I'll be reaching out to each of you with some basic quick tips for revision between now and the agent round.

To see the other picks, check out the other blogs:
Team Contemporary - Natasha Raulerson
Team SF/F - Dan Koboldt
Team Mystery/Thriller - Max Wirestone
Team MG - Wade White


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Being Awesome, Week 23

This may be my last one of these posts for a while. Things are going well, and while I definitely think it's important to remember the good things in life, I'm also really busy and it's getting harder and harder to make time to stop and write them all down. I definitely encourage you to take 5 minutes every day, whether things are going well or not, to be grateful for the good things that happen in life. And when you're down, take a minute to remind yourself that there is good out there, if you look for it.

My week in review.

  1. Someone bid on my first chapter critique over at Brenda Drake's auction to help a PitchWars mentor save her home, so I feel good about that. If you can contribute, please consider it. There's some amazing stuff to bid on over there.
  2. My husband and I went rock climbing for the first time last weekend. It was harder than I thought, but I'm pretty sure I didn't humiliate myself much. And it was a lot of fun. We'll probably go again. 
  3. Saturday was a full day with awesome friends: Brunch, rock climbing, games. Wonderful.
  4. Even better, Sunday was a lovely day with DOING NOTHING. I need those days sometimes.
  5. I got an internship with a super cool literary agent! Yay me! (No, I'm not telling who. But I'm excited.)
  6. I taught two fitness classes! Look at me! I'm (apparently) fit! (Or at least, I know what I'm doing a little bit.)
  7. Edits on my current manuscript are moving right along, and I'm happy with the way things are shaping up. It looks like I should be able to finish by the end of the summer.
What awesome things happened to you last week?

Monday, July 13, 2015

What Not To Do During a Writing Contest

Now that Query Kombat is over (and with New Agent coming up on Wednesday), I want to explain some of things that impacted some of my votes. Hopefully, it'll be useful for future contests and people thinking about submitting to me in Pitch Wars. Yes, I frequently picked the entry with the voice that spoke to me more, or the plot that seemed more my style. But there are also entries where I cast a vote against the losing entry rather than for the winning entry. And it's important because many of those votes weren't based on the writing or the concept at all.

Here are some things NOT to do during a writing contest:*
  1. Tweeting that only the judges who voted for you understood your manuscript or imply that those who voted for the other entry weren't smart enough for your book. Here's an interesting tidbit: The judges know how to read. So when you insinuate that people who didn't vote for you are stupid, you've flat-out lost me. And there's a good chance I'll remember your name in future contests.
  2. Not seizing the opportunities to revise. One of the greatest things about QueryKombat is that it gives authors the opportunity to receive feedback and revise your entries. As a judge, it's extremely disappointing to see that some people barely touched their entries. Why did you enter a contest that provides feedback you didn't want? It's not our job to pat you on the back and tell you how awesome you are. That's your mom's job. Yes, I'm aware that all feedback is subjective and it's ultimately up to the author to decide what to implement—I've also rejected feedback in the past (everyone has). But when multiple people have the same comment over and over... you need to seriously stop what you're doing and consider why we're telling you to fix that issue. We spent a lot of time writing our comments, so it's frustrating when they appear to be flat-out ignored.
  3. Tweeting that feedback given is wrong. If you disagree, do so privately. Always put your most professional face forward on social media. Always. Agents are watching, editors are watching, and the people who do contests are watching, too.
  4. Gloating on Twitter about votes in your favor, agent requests, or comments. It's poor form. We can figure out which entry belongs to whom (it's really easy, especially since I was also a slush reader). If you're obnoxious when tweeting about the contest, it makes me really hesitant to throw votes your way.
We all love to write and that's why we do it, but publishing is a business. Whatever you put out the public needs to be professional. Just like an agent or editor may choose not to work with someone who's unprofessional, I want to work with professional writers. And when I'm reading slush, I'd passed over entries because of the writer's public behavior. Yes, it's a frustrating process, but the best place to complain is in a private forum or even better, offline.

* Some of these are things were observed in prior contests. All are things I've seen more than once from different people over the past year. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Being Awesome, Week 22

I just spent a week on vacation with most of my closest friends, so this week's overview of life's awesome things is pretty easy.
  1. Kentucky joins my list of states I've visited (too tired to count, but I think I'm over 30 by now).
  2. There's a gift shop in the Detroit airport that sells Tim Horton's coffee. That's extremely exciting for me and my husband.
  3. Riding a mechanical bull - and staying on more than a minute. And I didn't have to use both hands or lie down on the bull to stay on. Yay me! This bull operator was significantly nicer than at the first place I tried it (where I lasted maybe 8 seconds), but still, I did well. 
  4. A friend brought me Canadian candy bars!! I have the best friends in the world.
  5. Five days of playing board games. Five days. Hundreds of games. Throw in a few books and some Timbits, and I'm in heaven.
  6. We went to a bourbon tasting, where I discovered that, although I don't really like bourbon, I can drink it. (Turns out, I like it much better neat than on the rocks.) I also learned horrifying facts about rotgut that I'm determined to work into a manuscript someday. 
  7. Another excellent friend took very good care of the kitties while we were gone. I'm not sure they missed us at all. They seemed a bit disappointed that they're stuck with us now.
What awesome things do you do last week?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Guest Post: Four Ways to Get a Good Critique Partner

To celebrate her amazing debut YA Contemporary novel, SONG OF SUMMER, Laura Lee Anderson is doing a blog tour. She's graciously agreed to stop by my little blog and share her thoughts about critique partners. Personally, I had trouble finding a good fit. I swapped with a few critique partners before finding someone I really clicked with. Since then, I've slowly added to my CP circle. Every day, I am grateful for my luck in finding them. I can honestly say I would be nowhere near the writer I am without my critique partners. So, I present to you:

Four Ways to Get a Good Critique Partner

Before I was getting published, I was trying to get published. When I first started writing, I read all of these blogs that referred to CPs and Betas and had no idea what they were talking about, so I’ll do a little de-coding in case you're in the boat:
  1. CP (Critique Partner): A critique partner is a writer with whom you swap books and/or chapters- they read yours and you read theirs. Their feedback is usually pretty in-depth and the relationship is often a lasting one.
  2. Beta (Beta Reader): A beta reader is someone who gives feedback after reading through your whole book. They don’t necessarily have to be writers, either- someone in your target market is a great beta reader. They give feedback as an everyday person who is reading your book, and often on the larger themes rather than sentence-level things.
So what exactly do my CPs do for me? They show me what’s working and what’s not working in my story. They look for plot holes and fixes. They give me their impressions of my characters. They tear my book apart at a sentence level to get it submission-ready. A good CP is worth her (or his) weight in gold. Here are some ways to find one:
  1. Go to conferences: Seriously. So many people go to conferences to find an agent and/or promote their book, but you really should go to connect with other writers! I was a writing island until I went to the (now online-only) Backspace Conference and met some YA writing buddies. If you want to know who they are, check the Acknowledgments of SONG OF SUMMER. I owe all of my editing skill to those ladies.
  2. Do the #CPMatch on Twitter: Everyone mark your calendars NOW for the #CPMatch hosted by @MeganGrimit on July 11th! Go here to learn all the details. Basically, all day on that day, you tweet a super-short pitch about your book and include some nifty shorthand to tell what kind of CP you’re looking for and what kind of CP you are. If you don’t know what kind of CP you are/are looking for, do it anyway!
  3. Do Maggie Stiefvater’s CP Match on her blog here: It’s kind of the long-form version of the Twitter match-up: You post information about you and your book, and you look for someone else who looks interesting!
  4. Join (OR CREATE!) a local writing group. These are a bit out of most introverted writers’ comfort zones, but are so worth it. Local critique partners can meet with you for coffee to discuss your book, instead of spending hours composing the perfect email that doesn’t offend you. To find other writers in your area, search Twitter for profiles, go to a NaNoWriMo get-together, join a localized writing group (like Pennwriters or an SCBWI writing chapter), or even check!

song of summer coverAnd now that you've found a CP, here's how to keep her (or him) around: CP Blog Hop 2: Five Ways to Be a Good Critique Partner. This Literary Life, Nicole Tone CP Blog Hop 3: How to Give Good Feedback. Laura Lee Anderson 

About the author: Laura Lee Anderson’s debut YA Contemporary novel, SONG OF SUMMER is being released by Bloomsbury Spark on July 7th, 2015 (That’s TOMORROW!). 

Today is the last day to pre-order and get your first page critiqued by her! 
Click here to pre-order on Kindle 
Click here to pre-order on Nook 
Click here to pre-order on Kobo 
Click here to pre-order on ibook

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Being Awesome, Week 20

Oh, hey! I've spent the last twenty weeks appreciating the better things in life. My attitude has improved dramatically. And that's pretty cool. Here are just a few of the awesome things that have been going on.

  1. On Sunday, I spent the day with friends who live two hours away. We don't see them nearly often enough. But they're good people, and we had a great time playing games and hanging out.
  2. Spending half the way in the car meant that we got to finish listening to Redshirts. Man, that is one fantastic audiobook. Wil Wheaton is pretty much the perfect narrator for it.
  3. One of my critique partners finished reviewing some pretty major revisions on a manuscript and gave me the green light on it. I feel good about what I've come up with.
  4. Waffles for dinner. Need I say more? (Hint: No)
  5. I am extremely grateful, this week and every week, for an agent who supports me and my work.
  6. There's another contest coming up! Keep an eye on #NewAgent for details. I'm really excited about this one.
  7. We made the decision last week to leave a ballgame halfway after the first inning because of horrible rain (and not being able to see anything but umbrellas between us and the field). Later, they announced that we can turn in our tickets to see another game free! Woo-hoo!
In the comments, tell me what awesome things happened in your life this week.