Monday, February 28, 2011

On Celebrating and Braggery

I finally got my act together and joined my local chapter of the RWA (What up, WisRWA Milwaukee Chapter?!)  And to my complete luck, our first meeting featured a talk by the delightful Isabel Sharpe, and she shared a piece of advice that has stuck with me for over a week.  (To be fair, she heard it from someone else, but I am not a notetaker, so this is as close as you're going to get to an honest attribution).

"Always allow people to be happier for you than you are for yourself."

It took me a minute to digest, and I'll be happy to wait if you need to take a moment yourself.  No, really...go ahead.  I'll be here.

Back?  Okay.  So what does it mean?  Well, there are two interpretations.  The first is simple:  be humble.

The second is more complex, but I think more applicable when the average person is suffering from the all-too-human urge to be less-than-humble.  And here it is:

Do not be so happy for yourself that you become a bore.

As writers, we suffer from an overabundance of rejection.  So those moments of approval can be precious. Hell, they can be balm to a ravaged soul depending on how long you've been at this.  How can you not want to celebrate, right?  Don't worry, you should.  You absolutely should.  Got an agent?  Congratulations!  Tell me the story!  I love agent stories!  Sold your manuscript?  Amazing!  Where?  When is it coming out?  I'm doing virtual cartwheels for you!  Won the cover lottery?  Color me jealous and give me the damn link already so I can drool appropriately!

But then, you need to calm yourself a bit.  Don't crow.  Don't tell us about every full manuscript request. Don't have a party for yourself every week on your blog after your book sells.

Let others do it for you.  Because they will.

Now of course, this doesn't mean you should only mention it once and never speak of it again like it's some shameful part of your past.  You need to promote yourself, of course.  But that's a matter of timing, frequency and tone, at least in my humble opinion.

And there are some really delightful writers out there who are pulling off this perfect balance of self-promotion and humility.  In fact, I'll give you a list of some of my favorite examples.  You can check out their blogs and see what I mean:

  • Kiersten White - the humblest, most lovable New York Times Bestseller.  Ever.

  • Stephanie Perkins - Steph works gobsmacked like nobody else.  She got the love from John Green for God's sake.  And you still want to squeeze her and bask in her glory.

  • Hannah Moskowitz - Hannah is the most earth-bound wunderkind you'll ever encounter.  And she rocks her good news with charming swagger.

So if you can't be guided by my misattributed quote above, ask yourself:  What would Kiersten/Stephanie/Hannah do?

Who are some of your on-line humility heroes?

- Liz

Friday, February 11, 2011

Regarding Valentine's Day and BlogFests

A happy Friday to you all!  Today, for the first time, I'm participating in a BlogFest.  This one comes to us courtesy of the lovely ladies at Oasis for YA.  And it's just the right thing to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Every participant is putting a delicious 250-word morsel of swoony goodness from their YA Works-in-Progress.

Please go check out all the other participants' contributions.  It's like a box of chocolates, only calorie-free and even more of an aphrodisiac.

I have to confess to a slight cheat here:  this excerpt is from a completed work, but I haven't gotten to any swoon-worthy parts in any of my WIPs.  Still--enjoy!

He rested his hand on my leg, tracing a circle around my kneecap with one finger.  My skin was so cold from the walk home I could barely feel him touching me.  The beer may have contributed to the numbness, for that matter.  I concentrated on his hand until I could feel every cell that connected us.  Nearly hypnotized, I raised my head and looked at him.

He leaned in and kissed me.

Matt was the third person I’d kissed since my sophomore year of high school.  It felt so strange, and so exciting.  A shiver ran through my back, and a giggle escaped my throat.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“I’m sorry.  I’ll stop.”

He kissed me again, and my mouth twitched toward a smile again.

“What?” he pulled back.

“I don’t know.  I’m sorry.”  I tried to sober my face, but the giggles bubbled up again.

“You’re crazy,” Matt said with a smile.  I clapped a hand over my mouth, snickering.  “You wanna stop?” he offered.

“No,” I said immediately.

“Then shut up,” he teased in a low voice, making the insult sound sexy.

I let myself smile through the next kiss, but I managed to keep the nervous laughter at bay.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah.  Good.”

“Good.”  He flashed a smile of his own at me, but it was brief.  He had better things to do with his mouth.

We kissed for a long time, easing closer and closer.  When Matt put his arms around me, he bumped into the wings of my costume.  I pulled back and slid my arms out of the straps.  Swinging the wings off, I smacked Matt in the head with one.

He flinched. “This must be why angels and devils don’t mix.”

I laughed.  “It’s totally the wings,” I agreed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

On Getting MY AGENT

**Many apologies to any of you who already came to this half-finished meme which posted automatically without my knowledge! I would never be such a jerk, I swear it!

Writers love How I Got My Agent stories as much as 20-somethings love proposal stories.  And far be it from me to keep you all in suspense, so here is my story.

I started querying my latest project back on November 1, 2010 (I was hoping to slip into a lighter querying period while NaNoWriMo was going on).  I started small, with 5 or so queries, and tried ever so hard to be patient.  The responses were good!  Of course, I got the expected rejections, but I was also getting requests.  I was sending out partial and fulls with every appendage crossed and checking my email like I was getting paid by the 'Refresh.'

Finally, on a Friday in January, I got The E-mail.  It was from a lovely agent who wanted to schedule a phone call with me for the following Tuesday.  I read it, closed it, went back to what I was doing for a few minutes, came back, read it again and went on like that until I'd read the message about 4 times.  Then, I was finally able to respond (with minimum exclamation points, I might add) and we set up a call for the following week.

I spent the weekend tied in knots trying to tell myself it could be a revise & resubmit call, but knowing in my heart it wasn't.  We talked, and it went well.  Very well, in fact.  I was excited and dizzy when I got off the phone.

Like a good little writer who spends all her time reading blogs and Twitter, I knew my next move was to notify everyone who still had a manuscript.  There were nine notifications in all, and they all promised to get back to me by my one week deadline (I couldn't stomach waiting for two. I would have imploded).  A couple of them made me promise not to accept an offer before they could respond.  And one, it turned out, had already read my partial just days before and was waiting for her second reader to finish it before asking for the full.  She wanted the full ASAP.

On Friday of that week, I got my second call (from the agent who had read the partial and asked for the full).  She'd stayed up to an ungodly hour finishing my manuscript and her second reader did the same the next day.  Although my heart was slightly lower than my throat this time, I was still as nervous as they come as we talked.  It was another great call, and that meant I had a very tough decision to make.  I also had a few days to go until my deadline.

The day of my deadline was actually one of the best days I've had as a writer.  Because although most of the remaining agents decided to step aside, they sent me some of the most complimentary and encouraging rejections I've ever received.

Ultimately, I had to base my decision on gut instinct.  Who "got" my work better?  Who had a more compelling vision of my future career as a writer?  Who had more confidence she could sell my project?

It wasn't easy.  Both agents who offered representation were great.  The decision was a matter of degrees, and a certainly "feeling" I got during out phone call.  Sending a message to the other agent declining her offer was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

So, it pleases me something fierce to announce that I have signed with Laura Bradford of The Bradford Literary Agency.  Laura is amazing! (And you should totally follow her on Twitter if you don't already).  She's funny, excited about my work and ready to dig into the submission process as soon as we can get everything ready.  I am so happy to be working with her I could just burst!

Please wish me luck as I head into the next phase of my writing life!

- Liz

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Regarding Inspiration and Sara Zarr

Although I wasn't at the conference, I fell in love with Candy Gourlay's notes from Sara Zarr's keynote speech at SCBWI NYC last week.

Read it, be inspired.

Notes from the Slushpile: NYC 2011: Sara Zarr gives the speech that she wanted to hear: "Bits and Pieces"

- Liz

P.S. Who wants to hear about how I got my agent? Next post, maybe?