I’ve been waiting to make an announcement like this for a long time, so I’ll get right to it!
But big news like this deserves the whole story. This is going to be a long post, so settle in and get comfortable, friends. I’ve EARNED this post.
As many of you know, I’ve been writing fiction for children and young adults for years. What many of my writing colleagues may not know is that after getting 2 degrees in engineering, I’ve built a successful career in the sciences and information technology. Yes, folks, I work as an engineering geek for my day job.
I still wonder why it took me so long to realize the obvious: Why not combine my love of writing for children with my professional experience in the sciences? Duh. What a natural transition for my writing goals!
I conceived of an idea for a science book series targeted at young readers ages 8-12. The first book in the series is titled IS IT OKAY TO PEE IN THE OCEAN? and is about…well, peeing. Before you start freaking out, no, it’s not a gross out book. Yes, there is much talk about peeing (I have three boys. Welcome to my hell) but the book also explores the impact humans have on the environment, marine biology, and the effects humans have on the oceans.
The thing is, I’d written 4 full length fiction books, but I’d never attempted to write nonfiction. So I stressed for a while, trying to figure out how to make this project happen. I quickly realized writing nonfiction, for children, is pretty much exactly the same as writing fiction. Children’s books need a unique voice to grab a reader’s attention and keep it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction. I could do this!
So off I went. I drafted a few sample chapters and put together a proposal for my book series.
And I didn’t’ tell anyone.
None of my family, friends, or members of my writing circle knew what I was working on. My husband didn’t even know what I was working on. You see, I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long time and I was tired of people asking, “so when are you going to get one of your books published?” I know this question was not meant to hurt my feelings, but the question always stung. I’d get the same well-meaning questions from my (non writing) friends and family “You wrote a book? So why isn’t it a New York Times Bestseller yet?” or “Maybe you should self-publish? I hear lots of people are doing that?”
That’s nice. But that’s not what I wanted.
I wanted to be traditionally published.
So off to the query trenches I went with IS IT OKAY TO PEE IN THE OCEAN? But this time I didn’t tell anyone. I decided this was going to be my little secret until I had some news to share.
I queried the project and the first agent requests started coming in.
I didn’t get too excited because I’d been here before.
But then more requests started coming in.
And I still didn’t get too excited. I’d been here before.
It was still my secret.
Then an amazing agent sent me an email asking if we could “talk”.
This made me excited. It was time to tell my husband. He was over the moon happy for me.
I talked to the agent the next day by phone and had my first official offer. You guys, this was a big deal. I’d queried my other projects before but I FINALLY had my first legitimate offer from an amazing agent. I’d done it! I made plans to meet this agent for lunch a few days later and we were going to talk all about how to make the peeing book a smashing success.
I informed all the other agents who were still considering my work that I had an offer of representation. What happened next blew me away.
I received 2 additional offers the following day.
Multiple offers! WHAT??
But I still believed I was destined to work with the first offering agent. His credentials and experience were stellar. He was a rock star, practically a legend. But I agreed to have a follow up phone conversation with one of the other offering agents. The phone conversation was scheduled immediately before my lunch appointment with Rock Star agent. I parked myself in a Starbucks and waited for her call while trying not to be too nervous about my lunch meeting with Rock Star agent.
Clelia called, but she was in the vestibule of a moving Amtrak and I could barely make out what she was saying. Combined with the background noise in the Starbucks the conversation wasn’t happening. No big deal, because I was about to have lunch with Rock Star Agent.
And the lunch was fabulous. We had a great meeting and I was convinced I’d found the right partner to represent my work.
Except another few offers came in (holy moley!) and then I exchanged emails again with Clelia who offered to meet in person over coffee to continue our talk. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I should bother. I was convinced that Rock Star Agent was THE ONE, but my husband insisted I keep an open mind. Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s usually right.
It was a rainy, miserable day when I made the trek into Manhattan to meet Clelia.
When I sat down with Clelia I knew she was the real deal. We instantly clicked. I felt my goals and her vision for not only the IS IT OKAY SERIES, but for me as an author were completely in synch.
In the end the choice was simple. I know Clelia will be my champion and together we’re going to rock this publishing world.
And because I’m a math geek and it’s popular to post these statistics, here they are:
Agents queried – 33
Number of proposal requests– 11
Number of offers– 5
I was tagged by the fabulous Dana Edwards for this My Writing Process Blog Hop. If you don’t know Dana, why not? Dana writes books for kids and is one of my fellow writers at the Kidliterati blog. You can follow Dana on Twitter @DanaLEdwards.
So, Dana thought you might be interested in how I write. Read on….
What am I working on?
I recently completed a Young Adult story (working title MEANT TO BE) about an American who goes to Israel to join the Israeli army and finds himself on the brink of war during Operation Pillar of Defense. The book weaves separate story lines together – the story of the soldier (and a pretty girl he meets) and the story of the family he left back home – to paint a picture of what military service means for a family. I hope to have revisions completed on the book before the end of the summer.
I’m also working on a middle grade fantasy book titled ANOMALY which is like a kid’s version of the television show Fringe. I have a completed first draft, but my revisions are on hold until I finish revisions on the soldier book.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write in two genres, Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA). In both genres I try to draw from personal experiences that are close to my heart and hope the emotions pour onto the page. My soldier story is loosely (very loosely) based on the experiences of my brother who joined the IDF and became a paratrooper. Yes, he jumped out of airplanes! It still boggles my mind that he did that! I’m quite sure my brother got sick of me asking questions about every tiny little detail about his experiences, but I found those tiny little details so fascinating. How loud was it when the air rushed into the plane’s cabin right before you jumped out of the plane? Was it hot? How heavy was the parachute? I couldn’t help my curiosity, but the more questions I asked, the more questions I had. Pretty soon, a story started forming. So I started asking more questions. Then I found more soldiers to interview and I asked them a whole bunch of questions and they had even more fascinating experiences to share. I realized this was an important story to tell.
Why do I write what I do?
Because the voices that are so loud in my head won’t stop talking until I tell their stories.
How does your writing process work?
I know most of my fellow authors outline a story before they write their first word. I wish I could do that. I’ve tried outlining, but I’ve never been successful. My stories float around in my brain for a while until there is a critical mass and the words have no choice but to pour out. I think it’s because of NanoWriMo, but I’m used to writing in one big gush. I sit down and vomit the words. My characters are usually fully formed when I start writing. I know what the beginning of the story is, and I have a good idea of the ending. I let the characters guide the story arc as I type. Sometimes my characters surprise me. Surprise I want to throttle them because they’re not cooperating.
So that’s a little glimpse into my writing universe.
Now please join me in welcoming two amazing writers who will share their writing process with you on Monday 5/26.
Shevi is a writer and illustrator of outrageously funny books for kids. You can find Shevi on Twitter @shevistories. If you’re looking for a good laugh you must check out her books available here
Melinda is a writer of MG and YA books. She was one of my very first CPs and was nice enough not to tell me my writing sucked (because the stuff I shared with Melinda back then really sucked). Melinda can be found on Twitter @ rosefiend. She also has a bunch of chickens.
For those of you on Twitter, I’ve been dropping little hints about a TOP SEKRIT project for a few weeks, but I’m finally ready to spill the beans.
But first some backstory… a while back I was lucky enough to meet the most amazing, supportive, and brilliant group of writers. We all came together off a call for critique partners on Krista Van Dolzer’s Mother, Write, Repeat blog. We started calling ourselves the #MGBetaReaders – I know the name is terribly uncreative, especially for a group of writers that are supposed to be creative, but the name sort of stuck.
This group is magic.
Since coming together, I’ve gotten to know the guys and gals and have learned so much from each and every one of them. We’ve become partners in this writing journey, and I am honored to call them all my friends. I’ve watched many of the members find agents, and some of them even sell their books. I am so proud of this group and humbled to be a part of it.
With all of this diverse talent, It was time to take the MGBetaReaders to the next level.
I am super excited to introduce:
The blog is dedicated to all things Kidlit, focusing on MG and YA books and writing craft. There is a little something for everyone, whether you’re a reader or a writer! I hope you will check it out. The blog officially launches on July 10th, but feel free to visit now. We are having some epic giveaways, so spread the word and please enter!
Everyone knows that writing a book is more than just telling a story.
You know that, right?
The author must also build a world to set the story in. That world may be crystal clear in the author’s mind, but the author must figure out a way to get that world on paper. Now, if an author is setting a story in, say, New York City, that location conjures an image in the reader’s mind. Worldbuilding…not too bad. But, if the setting is a fictional universe, that is a little trickier. An author must unfold that world on paper to help the reader EXPERIENCE the story.
When I set out to write my fantasy novel, TEMPLE FALLS, my first draft focused on the plot and characters. I had a general idea of the world, but, I will admit now, it was severely flawed (it was actually majorly sucktastic). My story takes place in a a pseudo-medieval/biblical setting. And yet, I had one scene where my characters were driving around in a limousine, to which my first beta reader, my oh so patient and much too kind cousin, said, “uh…see…that doesn’t really work for me.” Yep. Duh. So now they ride in a rickshaw. A little better.
I fixed the problem with the limousine, but other betas kept pointing me to other problems. What is the technology of my world? Do they have electricity? If not, then how could they have light poles? Do they have phones? How are they communicating?Do they really eat cottage cheese? My betas urged me to think about these points.
This is my world, I can build it however I damn well please.
But so many people kept saying the same thing. I realized my resistance was just me being lazy. If I wanted to tell my story, I needed to think about these things and more. And to my surprise, worldbuilding has been really fun!
One of my characters is a foreman at a build site. My draft had him wearing a whistle around his neck. So I got to researching about medieval whistles. Would my world really have a whistle? Turns out, the whistle is an ancient instrument, apparently originating in ancient China 5000 years ago, making its way to Europe in the 11th Century. These whistles were made out of bird bone or wood.
There were various styles and manners of whistles in the ancient world, but the whistle I decided to build into my story was based on something like this:
My characters now carry torches instead of relying on electricity. They drink mead instead of coffee, and eat porridge instead of finger sandwiches (I know…cringe…what was I thinking???) And mayonnaise is gone too (welcome curdled butter…mmmmmm).
Worldbuilding is crazy scary. It really is. But so important! When worldbuilding is done well, it seeps into the characters and makes the story come alive. Think about a book like HARRY POTTER and the wizarding universe JK Rowling created. Hogwarts was imaginary, and yet, we as readers lived it.
I’m so glad I finally admitted I had a problem in my book. Once I started playing with my world, it was so much fun and made me fall in love with my book all over again.
It’s November. This is where I was supposed to be rocking my word count as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I spent the month of October obsessing over a new novel idea, learning my characters, itching to blitz through my first draft as part of a month of writing frenzy.
And then Hurricane Sandy hit.
I never could have imagined that my home on the South Shore of Long Island would have been hit so hard. But on the night of the storm, when the surge came in, there was nothing I can do other than watch in horror as a tidal wave of sea water ripped down my street. The water level continued to rise during high tide, eventually rising high enough to reach my front door, back door, garage…..
I consider myself very lucky. So many friends and family fared a lot worse than us. At least we still have a home (without power). At least my children slept safely on the top floor of my house during the surge, never experiencing the scary moments first hand.
This is a picture of the front of our house after some of the cleanup. Sanitation had already picked up several other loads of rubbish. Very depressing to come home to.
But the power never came back. Today is November 9th and I still have no power. I will save my LIPA rant for another blog post, but let me just say LIPA should be ashamed of themselves.
I tried to write for Nano. I really did. My kids and I left for a few days to PA to escape our cold, powerless house and I had images of me sitting by the fireplace clacking away on my new book. But the words just didn’t come. All I could think about was my husband stuck at home in a cold, wet house cleaning up the mess. My neighbors in the Rockaways and my hometown of Staten Island trying to pick up the pieces. The gas shortages. All this killed my muse.
So…Nano… I have failed. After successfully completing 2 years of Nano, this year will not be a win for me. I blame that bitch Sandy. I blame LIPA. But I do not blame myself. Not this time. There are just too many other priorities at the moment. Like keeping my house warm. Like trying to entertain my 3 children when it gets dark and they get scared. Like trying to figure out if I have enough gas to get my children to school.
NanoWriMo next year.
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- National Novel Writing Month National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.