A Personal Pitch Wars Update

I’ve been putting off this post because I’m honestly not sure what to say and was, at first, slightly afraid it was a mistake. During the Pitch Wars application process, I got to meet so many cool and talented authors whose books are AMAZING. When close to 1250 authors applied with only 75 getting a main slot, I knew my chances were slim.

And when three of the four mentors I applied to requested full versions of my manuscript, I started getting extra nervous. I really didn’t want to get my hopes up. I had my eye on this contest since I learned about it last year, so naturally, like all 1250 authors who applied, I REALLY wanted to make it. But I kept convincing myself I wouldn’t make it and that all my other cool author friends would so I’d be ready to cheer them on instead of crying in a corner while eating Ben & Jerry’s with my mouth open.

It’s a terrible visual, I know. But I own the fact that I’m an ugly cryer

But Tuesday night at midnight (I guess technically Wednesday morning), I found out live on the unofficial Pitch Wars show that I had made the list. Originally I was going on the show to co-host with the show creators, the talented authors Natasha Raulerson and Tiffany Rosenthal, to discuss editing vs. critique partnering vs. beta reading/critiques (kinda like when I presented at the International Writing Center Conference in 2011 on direct vs. indirect mentoring strategies). But when we found out that the mentee selections were being announced at midnight, we switched gears to make it a countdown show with fun games and superlatives. I had a blast. Mentors and even the contest creator, the lovely author Brenda Drake, came on the show– and we had a hat contest. Don’t judge me for wearing panda ears, y’all. And I was like wickedly nervous.

But while we were waiting for the results, Brenda’s site crashed from all 1250 authors scrambling to find out.

Somehow, the hubs was able to check the site downstairs while watching the show live with the neighbors and ran up to our house, tapped on the window and said, “YOU GOT RACHEL!”

I told him to go away and stop lying to me.

Then I realized I had the results emailed to me because I subscribe to Brenda’s blog, and there it was—-my name was on the list. And Rachel Lynn Solomon was my mentor. I was so excited, I may have smacked my head on the coffee table by accident. I tend to be a flailer.

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I’m caught between two very strong emotions that can be summed up in this Broadway show tune:


And of course, a Jennifer Lawrence gif:

For those of you who are still a little confused on what Pitch Wars is, my new mentor Rachel will help me get my book to where it needs to be so that it’ll be super duper extra awesome and publishable (God willing!). I’m already beyond inspired by her notes and am ready to rip my book apart, gut it, and make it super polished and shiny.

One big revision— for those Beta readers out there who have read THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES– will be combining two characters, Julie and Francis Grace. I already rewrote one scene with the new improved Francis Grace and I’m all like…why didn’t I do this before?

Oh and the best part? Rachel is from Seattle. When writing a book set in a certain region (mine is in Mississippi), its easy to fall victim to thinking “well everyone in the South knows this.” It’s so refreshing to be pushed to explain things in new ways that make something come across more effectively to those who aren’t familiar with certain things.

It’s going to be an awesome two months filled with blood, sweat, and tears. And I’m so grateful for the experience to meet all these awesome authors and get to work with Rachel. And I’m so flabbergastedly (yes, I made up a new word) humbled beyond belief.

So, I know I’ve neglected my blog a bit lately (especially the healthy aspect…I tend to eat like a fat kid when I’m in creative author mode), but I promise I’ll keep updates on my revision process. I’ve been contemplating sharing my other mood boards for characters, like I did for Mack.

But thanks everyone for the support and for those who read my first couple of drafts THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES. I hope I can do you all proud.

So far in #PitchWars…

So the entries are in and the waiting begins. For those of you who are just now hearing about this, you can read my earlier post about how I entered the TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES into Pitch Wars this year. 

And a couple days ago, it was announced that nearly 1250 authors submitted their books. And from a lot of mentor tweets, there are a TON of good ones. Competition is fierce, y’all.

And of course, leading up the contest I re-read my novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES 9 bazillion times over and over. There was a lot of this…

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But what I want to touch on today is how Pitch Wars is so much more than just a contest. It’s a community. Since even the mentor list was announced months ago and even now after submission deadline has passed, Twitter is abuzz with awesome writers all connecting and working together on their current project, future projects, and more. We’re even playing daily games where we tweet #bestlines, #lastlines, #characterfears, etc.

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And yes, you have to be a writer nerd to see the value in any of this, but I swear– it’s fantastic. You should check it out if you want to learn more about future books before they’re published.

There’s even two lovely ladies who have been live streaming a show talking about writing in general and interviewing the mentors. The hubs even hooked up our TV so I didn’t have to stare at my tiny phone while folding laundry. It’s pretty fantastic.

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I’ve met a lot of great people and awesome writers who I would have never otherwise connected with. And it’s so encouraging to find other people who I can talk to this about other than my cubicle neighbor who graciously puts up with my excited yammering about my books she’s never read.

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Disclaimer: We totally posed this shot. I promise I don’t usually have crazy eyes, and I really don’t bug her THHAAAAT MUCH. In fact, we had many outtakes…

Haha. This was her original "mean/annoyed face." She's so sweet.

Haha. This was her original “mean/annoyed face.” She’s so sweet.

But I also did enter this contest with a very dear friend of mine, Emily from The Newfangled Housewife (who entered her book, MISSING)  We were college friends turned long-distance buddies. Originally we met working for the student newspaper and realized we were both taking playwriting together. She was a creative writing major and I was in journalism, so that was our only class together since it was my elective. She even played a part in my play, “Cement Shoes”…though her only line was “surprise!” before I had her shot and killed. It’s a comedy, I swear.

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But man I wish we were closer because she is the best at procrasti-baking. Seriously, check out her blog. This week to distract ourselves from the wait of #pitchwars, we long-distance baked the same thing in our own unique ways– healthy banana brownies. Obviously her’s were most likely better.

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The best procrasti-baker I know.

 

But alas, in all the waiting/ stress of Pitch Wars, as long distance buddies, most of our convos now end up like this:

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This is an old photo (no my hair is no longer that awful color). But the look of terror is very similar to how we discuss waiting, editing and revisions for each other since we CP.

But old friends and new friends alike, I’m so glad to really connect with writers in this way. I can’t wait to see success take shape as all these awesome books get their chance to make it out in the world. I wish I could read every single one. Thanks so much everyone for the experience. I hope we can be neurotic author friends forever.

I’m Featured on Shape.com!

You have no idea how thrilled I was when Shape.com contacted me about a blog I wrote almost a year ago called, “5 Ways to Get Your Husband to Eat Healthy.” Turns out, they wanted to feature my tips in an article they were doing. GAH! So excited and grateful for the opportunity. Check it out below by clicking the image!

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A Writer’s Life Told Through Gifs

With all the Gifs people are using for #PitchWars on their blogs and tweets, I got a little inspired. So here’s my personal life as a writer with a day job writing while also making time to freelance and write novel after novel…in Gif form.

I start my day much like this.

Often times,  I’ll feel really strong.

Other times, there’s a lot of this:

Which getting all weepy isn’t a bad thing…unless you wrote a really sad scene or article but for some reason, you realize it’s not nearly as emotion-packed as it should be. #Fail.

But despite the ups and downs of writing and revising and editing and critiquing and working, I trudge through because I’m  a writer and no matter what, I can’t NOT write. I just may need more coffee…

Sometimes I can get in over my head when deadlines overlap or I’m suddenly inspired by one project that shouldn’t be as important as some other one, but I just have to remind myself that I got this, and this is who I am.

 

Sometimes I lose track of time, and things like the real world slip by in a blink of an eye.
Hubs: “You coming to bed?”
Me: “What? This early? I’m still on a roll!”
Hubs: “It’s 2 a.m.”
…..oops.

The sleep deprivation doesn’t get any better when I’m woken up in the middle of the night with epic ideas I need to write down right away. Sometimes I wish I could tell my characters to make an appointment only during waking hours, but alas, apparently that’s not how one authors.


(oh how I wish!)

And despite my mad determination and creative spells, I am constantly impressed that my husband doesn’t mind me being addicted to words or talking about my fictional characters all the time.

(Yes. That means he makes me feel like a Disney princess. Sorta. As long as I get to occasionally hit him in the head with a frying pan.)

But then as I approach the finish line of a draft…something happens. It’s like the first 60,000 words were a cake walk and all of the sudden there is SO MUCH PRESSURE to get it right. Sometimes I allow a select group to read up to a certain part of an in-progress draft just to gauge what they want in an ending. Then I’ll make a balance between giving them closure and still surprising them.

And when I’m done with a draft, there’s a lot of this…

Until someone says, “Glad your book is finished! Half the battle, right?”

Don’t get me started on the revision journey or the research-publishing-industry-so-you-know-what-you’re-doing journey. Those are entirely different blog posts.

What’s your writer life like– or if you’re not a writer, how about life in general? Link me. The more Gifs the better! ;-)

Revision and Bringing Characters to Life

Sometimes my husband teases me about how I forget my characters aren’t real. Then I remind him how upset he was when a certain character died in my last book, THE CURED, and how he didn’t talk to me for three days.

But it’s true. My characters are so real to me, and that’s why during both the drafting and revision process, I work so hard to make sure I do them justice. I won’t go through the entire process, but I thought one particular part of my revision for THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES was rather funny recently.

You see… I have this super, cool character named Mack. In fact, he’s even the first real dialogue in THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES. And he’s so layered like an onion, that I actually didn’t realize half his backstory until writing chapter 12— which I then went back immediately  and started adding the missing pieces to make him, well, him.

And without fail, betas who read partials or even the first draft were always like, “Mack! Mack! We want to know about Mack!”

He’s not even the main character, mind you. But I digress.

It wasn’t until my older brother, a high school English teacher who actually used to be the lead singer in a punk rock band, stopped and asked me, “You know, I’m not really picturing what this guy looks like.”

And I stared at him like 0_0 and pointed out all the parts that described his physical appearance and twitches and quirks. But he stopped me. “No. Clothes.” He wanted more details on what he was wearing.

Interesting, I thought. So I sought out to be a creeper via Google searches and created a mood board, if you will, dedicated to what I personally thought my characters looked like. I made one for all the important ones, starting with Mack. And when my readers would finish and talk to me about what they loved about each character, I’d show them the board.

“Oh yes! I totally see Leslie!”

“Yup, that’s how I picture Ellie.”

“Sure, that could be Freeble.”

And then I’d get to Mack.

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*Silence*….I’d hold up the phone…I’d look at them…they’d stare at the picture and then stare at me before….BOOM!

 

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Wowza. Apparently people are really passionate about Mack and how wrong I was. (Um…okay. I thought I created him, but whatever). However, the more I talked to my Betas, the more I realized I WAS wrong. I started asking readers to send me pictures of who they thought Mack looked like or describe it themselves. And a funny thing happened.

My readers who were both young and old, religious and non-religious, male and female ALL came up with a similar version of MY character. I was thoroughly impressed.

So, after much soul searching, my third revision of Mack is apparently more accurate thanks to the help of my insightful readers. And not just in the clothing department. Once I started working on this new image, more parts of him came out, fitting together in a way I never realized he could. His dialogue was tighter and more him. His actions had more depth. Mack was more Mack. THANK YOU READERS.

But for the record, I am very well aware that Mack, like my current draft of THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES, will still go under even more revisions. But I LOVE the revision process and am very grateful to those who took the time to care so deeply about a character that they literally yelled at me until I fixed him. But it was necessary.

After all…how else would this Mack:

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Emerge as this one….

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I was once told that the revision process isn’t about editing. It’s about visualizing your project in an entirely new way. I am a firm believer in this truth and love approaching my manuscript in different ways each time I sit down to polish.

Here’s hoping it only gets better!

 

 

My Officially Unofficial #PitchWar Mentee Bio

Hello, my normal bloggy audience and welcome visitors from #PitchWars. For those who don’t know what #PitchWars is, please read about it here. It’s basically the greatest agent-searching contest out there where you pitch your book to a mentor who will work with you to get your manuscript and pitch ready to be perused by fantastic agents.

I’ve been interested in this contest since last year, but this is my first time entering, and I’ve been told in an effort to help mentors make their very hard decisions (hundreds are applying, but only 75 mentors available! EEK!), it’s unofficially customary to write a mentee bio.

So… here’s me!

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Uh…whoa. Wait. Maybe this is more appropriate.

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But, basically I clean up well, and I’m banking that my manuscript, a YA contemporary called THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES, will as well. Here’s what you, oh awesome future mentor, might want to know:

1) I’m actually a professional writer/editor

My living is made writing, and I obtained the journalism degree to do it. Not only do I freelance on the regular for various magazines and websites, my day job is writing for an international relief non profit. The kind of copy I write varies from marketing to feature articles, but my predominant beat is U.S. Disaster Relief. However, just because I travel to write about really sad situations, that doesn’t mean I’m not fun!

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In the above picture, I’m the one in the long sleeves dancing with a homeowner after a tornado rampaged through Mississippi. I was interviewing this lovely homeowner that my organization’s volunteers tarped a roof for (see the notebook still in hand?) when we all decided to have a dance break. And honestly, that’s how I try to make my books– smiling and laughing amid hard, often sad, situations. I guess, to me, that’s just how life is. And so, that’s what and why I write.

But more often than not, I’m basically like this:

My experience also spans more than 12 years journalism-wise (official portfolio here) with some highlights being…

  • working at a newswire in DC
    • totally got punched by a photographer while covering Michelle Obama at a children’s event
    • had same article published front page of three Texas newspapers
    • convinced an infamous homeless protestor to let me do a documentary on her by watching her protest hut outside of the White House while she peed (got 2nd place in mini film festival. So worth it)
  • working a summer in NYC at Parents magazine
    • falling even further in love with health reporting (hence the overall theme of this blog when I’m not authoring it up)
  • writing for the FLORIDA TODAY newspaper for five years
    • as their youngest writer on staff
    • won two national awards
  • starting and running my own online magazine, REALITY Check Girl
    • and somehow convincing a volunteer staff of more than 60 writers, editors and photographers to join me
  •  working as a writing consultant at a University Writing Center for three years
    • where I presented at the 2011 International Writing Center Conference on direct vs. indirect methods of mentoring writers (I actually developed a board game to illustrate how both methods are vital in communicating with mentees).

I especially loved being a writing consultant because it not only taught me to be a meticulous editor and mentor for other writers. It taught me how to accept constructive criticism and personal mentoring writing relationships as well. So basically, I’m not only pumped and ready for this #PitchWars experience, but I have studied the mentor-mentee relationship on an academic level and have a huge respect for it.

2) I’m an award-winning playwright

While I’ve taken a hiatus from playwriting for the past couple of years to focus on my journalism career, at one point that was seriously all I did and I’ve had my plays performed from coast to coast. By the time I was 18, I had four short theatrical pieces performed at the Kennedy Center in D.C., and in college, one monologue performed off-Broadway in NY (which the monologue served as a basis of inspiration for the novel I’m entering).

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I’d like to think that because of this background, my novels tend to be stronger in the dialogue and action department. But I guess only you will be the judge of that.

But now I’m enjoying novel writing as a way to basically have full on productions (in my readers’ heads, that is) without the headache of hiring a cast, painting sets, etc etc….

3) And here are some other random facts

  • I LOVE Superman/ Lois Lane, especially the Teri Hatcher rendition

  • My high school senior superlative was “Most Optimistic” (hence, why I’m excited for this great new relationship with my mentor!)
  • Weird things happen to me, but I like to think it’s just great writing fodder for later (for example: one time, I picked up a hitch hiker from Ghana in a tornado zone who put on latex gloves and invited me inside of her house…)
  • I won my engagement ring in an online contest that resulted in 17,000 votes with the help of my mad social media skills and the Firefly loving browncoat community. Like…even Nathan Fillion tweeted about us because we promised to name a future baby after a Firefly character. My first job post-grad was as a social media specialist as a result.

  • I won homecoming princess in 10th grade because I convinced a group of non-voters/goth kids to vote for me
  • My second love to writing is cooking (and I’ll totally make you cheesecake)
  • My favorite movie is The Princess Bride (and so is my favorite book)
  • I have always wanted to tap dance and when I was in high school, I taped quarters to my sandals and convinced a group of middle schoolers that I knew what I was doing. I also got to dance in a number that went to the state level of competition, but I had to agree to take the taps off my shoes.
  • I LOVE the Renaissance Fair and go every year in NC. Was almost hired by them too when my best friend and I came up with an act where I was an ugly, ocarina-playing hag who had a beautiful fairy chained to her that I’d make dance for money.

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  • And my husband has short-term memory issues so I can read my manuscript to him over and over and he still laughs every time. Oh and because I love him, I totally was a TARDIS once.

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So yeah…that’s me in a nutshell. Regardless of who you pick, it’s been great mingling with the Mentors online and connecting even deeper with the writing community. Thanks for your consideration. I hope you like me at least half as much as I hope you’ll like my novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES.

 Click here to check out more of the blog hop!