I just got “Litt up”

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The title of this post directly relates to the TV show Suits that I have been obsessively watching on Netflix and I am ashamed to admit that I have been neglecting my duty as a writer. I should be actively pounding the virtual pavement to find an agent but I have shelved my book for the last couple of weeks because my spare time is waning and my creativity is in hibernation. Watching Suits gives me the chance to escape into some brilliant writing, but it’s not my writing. I still have a few queries out there and certainly still have some chapters to go through with a fine-tooth comb but the spark of my enthusiasm had almost been extinguished.

The other day, however, I had the chance to speak to one of the people who read my book and my fire was fueled once again. Her rhetoric about my story made me giddy and the child-like excitement I had when I finished writing the book bubbled up inside me and lit a fire within me. She said the story was fantastic and she could definitely see it being made into a movie.

So once again, I am cutting out blocks of time throughout my day to edit what needs to be edited and query like there is no tomorrow. Somewhere out there, an agent is looking for MY book and somehow, when the timing is just right, our paths will cross. I may have been slightly discouraged with the lengthy nature of this process but I also know I am willing to continue the journey and follow it to its happy ending.

 

It’s happened before and it will happen again

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They are gone. The words from my beloved muse have disappeared from the recesses of my brain and left behind a stagnant pool of mush. I want desperately to write and, ironically, the only thing I can come up with is a post about not being able to write.

I have been in this situation before. After sulking for a few days, my muse returned ready to fight the good fight again and we wrote. Sometimes the writing was light and other times it was a frenzy of words fighting for their space on the page but, regardless, we wrote.

Now my fingers dangle over the keyboard waiting for inspiration, that divine breath, to whisper those words into my ears but the silence is deafening. I want to smash this writer’s block into a million tiny shards of concrete and hope that each piece holds a story that will get me back on track.

I put my faith in the phrase, “this, too, shall pass” and await the return of those nagging voices that make me rise at 5:00 am to do their bidding.

I’m starting to question my intelligence

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I have always been proud of the fact that I have a great deal of common sense.  Sometimes I have moments of cleverness that make me happy that I have the ability to formulate logical and reasonable assessments of a situation. Lately, all of that has changed.

Tired of hearing the Squirrel Grand Prix up and down my walls at 6:00 am, I decided to take action.  I bought a live trap with the thought that it would be easy to trick a few red squirrels into it so I could re-home them.  I was wrong.

I was lucky on the first round.  I came home to find a large black squirrel in the trap and we went for a nice drive to a golf course about 10 km from my house.  It was surprisingly calm during the ride but once the cage was out of the car, it was quite anxious to begin its life in its new home. One point for me.

I put some nice, plump cashews on the spring trap and set it out before I went to bed. I peeked out the window the next morning to see the trap had been sprung but there was nothing inside. I used peanut butter to attach the cashews to the spring trap with the same results. I knew the trap worked since I had imprisoned a few chickadees in the process. The status of the hunt was moved up to Defcon 3. I took a small mason jar and placed it inside on one side of the trap with the nuts inside the jar. I made sure the trap would close with the jar inside. I put the trap close enough to a beam on my deck so the little buggers would have no choice but to enter from one side, climb over the plate springing the trap in the process and making me the victor. That did not happen.

When I went out the next morning the trap had been sprung, the nuts were gone and the little shit squirrel had defecated in the jar as a way of saying, “screw you, lady”. Defcon 2 – I was at the point where I was going to borrow my brother’s wildlife night-vision camera so I could see how this was happening.  That squirrel had to be the rodent version of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to get in and out of there without getting caught. It probably was licking its fingers after its meal and reached through the side of the trap and set it off – just to spite me.

Defcon 1 – Someone made a suggestion that made complete sense. Why had I not thought of this? I went to the local Home Hardware and purchased some Krazy Glue. If I was knowingly going to feed these furry creatures again, they were going to work for it! But the dynamic changed. They were on to me. Those nuts sat glued to that tray for two weeks and were buried in our mid-April snowstorm. Once the snow had melted and the elements had broken down the glue, the little bastards came back, took the nuts and left.

The only stage left after Defcon 1 is war. Wish me luck, I’m going in.

The waiting is the hardest part

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If I had a crystal ball to look back at all the times in my life I had to wait for things, I would probably be astonished at how many hours I have spent in a holding pattern.  In those moments of uncertainty, time takes on a mystical quality and one day feels like a week, a week feels like a year and anything longer than that feels like an eternity.

Trying to connect with, and build a relationship with, a literary agent has taken waiting to a whole new level.  I have crafted something I am extremely proud of and want so much to find someone as passionate about sharing my story as I am.  But that takes time – a lot of time.  Agents are very busy people and I understand that.  My manuscript is one in a pile of hundreds that they have to sort through to find a collection of phrases and characters that speak to them and that they think they can sell to a publishing company.  I get it.  But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a literary agent in New York.  Her email, although encouraging, did say it would be a few weeks before I heard back from her.  That email was sent 9 days ago but, in my estimation, it feels like 9 months have gone by since we had any communication.  In that 9 days, my emotion has gone from elation to worry, from feeling confident to being self-deprecating.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion but it is a train I have been hanging on to because that ride up and down those tracks and through those loops is part of the thrill of the journey to being published.  I can only hope that the ride ends well and I don’t veer off the tracks into a wall.

 

Listen to those who have been there

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Knowledge is power, this is a universal truth, and over the last few days this truth has made itself extremely evident.

I have been immersing myself into a world that is new to me and there is a huge learning curve as well as many veins of information that branch out from that curve.  To gain as much knowledge as I can, I have been spending a great deal of time travelling down those arteries of wisdom and storing as many nuggets of information as I can into the recesses of my brain.

Every author I have spoken to about getting published has said the same thing – it’s really all about luck and timing.  I have no reason not to believe them because they’ve been there.  They have pounded the same pavement on which I now find myself so they know this route much better than I could ever claim to know.  I have been spending a great deal of time learning about different literary agents, what they like and what they don’t like, and only adding those agents who may be a good fit for my book.  I have been spending much more time on Twitter as that seems to be a more popular social media site for those in the writing world and last week I was introduced to the hashtag #PitMad.

PitMad is a pitch party where authors have 280 characters to describe their unpublished manuscript.  If an agent likes your tweet, you have the green light to send them a query based on their submission guidelines.  I tweeted my first pitch and sat back, hoping for the best.  But then I wanted to know all I could know about PitMad.  It turns out, you can send a maximum of three pitches for the same book, so I carefully constructed a second tweet and sent it out into cyberspace.  When I checked back a while later, my second tweet had a beloved heart below it.  An agent liked my tweet!  I had the go-ahead to send a query and I did that as quickly as I could so my story was still fresh in her mind.

Luck and timing magically combined and, when I got home from work that day, there was an email from the same agent requesting to read my full manuscript.  I’m not under any illusion that her interest in my book is going to mean that she is going to take me on as a client.  I am quite grounded in reality.  I am, however, under the illusion that her requesting my full manuscript means that my writing has enough merit to make her want to see where I take the story and THAT is a huge step for a new author.

I follow “LitRejections” on Twitter and they post very encouraging tweets to help authors keep writing and survive rejection.  This tweet is the one that got under my skin and keeps me going ~ “Rejection of your writing will not break your spirits. You are going to do this. You will not quit. You WILL be successful.

In like a Lion

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“It will take time, but the strength that comes after will be beautiful,  I promise you.” ~ J.E. Rivera

In my emotional register, March always comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb.  Although my parents passed away eight years apart, March 7th and March 9th are very difficult days since they mark the days that I lost the two most important people in my life.  My dad died on March 9th in 2006 and my mom died on March 7th in 2014.  When I look at those dates, I am shocked that to see that so much time has marched on since they were with us.  It seems like yesterday we were all together and I can still hear their laughter as our family shared some wonderful times.

But time has a way of taking moments and turning them into memories in the blink of an eye.  The pain of loss never goes away but, with time, there is a beautiful strength that comes with the perpetual grief.

Through the years that my parents  have been gone, I have come to understand that pain can be turned into power.  I have taken that gigantic sense of loss and molded it into my ability to overcome an immeasurable atrocity.  I have survived the worst and I spend each day being stronger than the last and I can now see the beauty in that strength.

Looking for a job

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Do you remember when you were fresh out of college or university and wanting to find that perfect job in the field you just spent four years studying?  You got money from your parents to buy the perfect “power outfit”, perhaps an attaché case to look more professional, and then you set off in search of gainful employment.  You arrived on time for each interview and got told the same thing from each prospective employer – come back when you’ve got some experience.  As you left the interviews, the thought in the back of your mind got stuck on a crazy loop in your head and played incessantly – if nobody will give me a job, how can I gain the experience I need?

Looking for a literary agent is much the same for a debut author.  It took more than four years, from conception to finished product, for me to write my first novel.  I put more focus and emotion into creating the story than I ever expended in college and I am truly proud of the finished product.  The people who have taken the time to read it have loved it.

But convincing an agent to give the whole story a chance is like applying for a job with no real world experience.  Those first five or ten pages you submit are like your first two minutes in a job interview, they are introductory and don’t really give the person reading you enough time to see what you are really about.  They can only judge you based on a succinct appraisal that doesn’t give your story time to prove itself and, in the end, they prefer an author who has been previously published.  In other words, they don’t want to give the job to people who don’t have experience.

This post is not an attack on literary agents, by any means.  I get it.  They receive a plethora of emails from thousands of people who think they could be the next Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks or J.K. Rowling.  Their email inboxes must feel like a revolving door, having multiple queries thrown at them every time the door makes a new revolution.

My intent with this post is not to blame literary agents for being so busy.  My intent with this post is to merely put a wish into the universe that, one day, that revolving door will find a giant foot wedged into it allowing my query to fall into the right inbox at the right time.  Just maybe, I can impress someone enough to have them read the whole manuscript and to get the job without having previous experience.