Tag Archives: LARA

Never Give Up (aka the rejection letter that made me cry tears of joy)

12 Mar

OHI0122-PitchQueryTo blog or not to blog? That isn’t the question.

Honestly, I haven’t blogged in so long because a) I didn’t feel I had anything inspiring to say and b) I made a decision to spend more time writing, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reworked and rehoned (I know not a real word but I’ve decided to employ it anyway), my first novel and am deep into writing my second.

But I digress.

I’m now about to discuss the title of this blog post (tsk tsk I’m a journalist and I just buried the lede). So back at RWA 2014 Nationals in San Antonio I pitched my book to several agents and editors. There was one in particular who was genuinely excited about my book. I felt a rapport with her. You know that feeling, right? You sit down in the 10-minute merry go round that is pitching appointments and hope your tongue doesn’t swell and you don’t break out in hives as you pitch your darling, your baby, your brilliant story you’ve slaved over to the people who can launch your career.

And this particular agent was wonderful. She not only asked for my partial manuscript she asked me what else I was working on. When I told her she said she was excited about the concept. She said she’d never seen a book about the issue I was writing about. I felt good.

When I got home I sent my partial off two weeks later. And waited… And waited… And waited… You know the drill. Four months went by. Nothing. Not a blip. I was too wimpy to send a follow up. I figured if she hadn’t responded by this point it was probably a “no” anyway. I figured the book gods were laughing at me for wishing she was the one who I most wanted to want my story. Oh well.

As the months dragged on  I was deep into my second novel and also reworking the first one after taking lots more workshops, classes, working with critique partners and continuing to learn. All hail the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and my RWA Chapter LARA, and the Women’s Fiction chapter of RWA and the Pro Org of RWA. I have learned and gleaned and honed and battled and slaved over a hot keyboard with input from amazing minds from Donald Maas, Margie Lawson and the brilliant blog Writers in the Storm and Writer Unboxed  to following the ups and downs of colleagues on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I am inspired byLiana LeFey’s work ethic, Laura Drake’s sense of humour, Barbara Claypole White’s gin-infused, Doc Martin wearing, garden tending tales, Kathryn Craft’s emotional bravery, Amy Sue Nathan’s generosity, Maggie Marr’s prolific output, Lynne Marshall’s world domination of medical romances, Robena Grant’s determination to carve her own path and her dry Aussie wit, Robin Bielman’s joie de vivre, Betty Bolte’s sumptuous descriptions, Sarah Vance Tompkins and Christine Ashworth’s can-do attitude, Pamela Dumond’s quirky tales (and even quirkier neighbours), Dee J Adams‘ take no prisoners attitude, Claire McEwen – whose success story is my daily inspiration –   and countless other writers who help me sit down and bash out (sometimes awful) words on a page every day.

So when month five rolled around I saw someone had “followed” me on Twitter and said they were working at an (undisclosed ) big agency and I could pitch my story in 140 characters to them. I tweeted. He tweeted back. He was an assistant at the agency of – you guessed it – the person I had now been waiting five months to hear from. He requested a partial. I told him my submission was in fact still with one of his agents and I hadn’t heard back yet. He said he’d look into it and get back to me. He told me he reminded the agent and she said she’d get back to me.

Another month rolled by and I heard nothing. Until today. Firstly, she apologised profusely for taking so long to get back to me. Apparently my submission landed on her desk just days before she gave birth (timing has never been my strong suit) and it’s taken her a while to get back on track.

And then she wrote this:

I jumped eagerly into [title of book], it’s a unique premise and you have a very entertaining voice. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with this story the way I had hoped I would. While there were elements I loved, i.e. the dog, the clean writing, the relatable heroine, in the end I just  didn’t love the execution. This is an entirely subjective opinion. As I’m sure you know this is a business based on personal tastes, and this is purely indicative of that fact. I wish you the best in finding a better suited match for this project.

As I mentioned I think you are quite talented and do hope you’ll keep me in mind for future projects. Please feel free to query me directly in the future should the opportunity present itself.

The first thing I did after reading this was cry. Tears of joy, because it was such a beautiful rejection letter. Weird, I know. But it was so specific and encouraging and everything that many of us wish a rejection letter would be.  And she’d said she would be happy to look at anything else I wrote. So I sent her an email back thanking her for her kind words. I told her I was halfway through my second book and it was the one she had expressed interest in at our meeting when I pitched the first one, and that I would definitely send it to her when it was ready. I also mentioned that in the six months that had passed since I had first submitted to her, I’d done some extensive rewrites on the first book and that as a result I hoped to find a home for it soon.

She emailed me back and said she was thrilled to hear I’d made progress, asked what changes I’d made and that she would be more than happy to have me resubmit it to her.

So there you have it. A wonderful rejection and  an opportunity to reread the new, improved, updated version of my manuscript.  Six months later, the connection I felt with this agent back in San Antonio was still there in these email exchanges. I have no idea whether she’ll take me on when I submit my revamped manuscript. But whatever happens, it’s all part of the journey. I feel I’m one step closer to representation. In the meantime I’ll keep working on my craft and pushing myself to be a better writer.

I know that there are paths to publication that don’t require agents; that there are publishers out there that will take you on without one; that there are a myriad of self-publishing opportunities; that there are lesser known agents at smaller agencies all of whom are hungry and eager to take on first time novelists. I love that there are so many paths and that we have so many choices. Right now, though, for whatever reasons that make me me, I’m still pursuing an agent and the traditional publishing channels.

Hold on to your publishing dreams, whatever form they may take and whatever roads they take you down. But have a solid writing community to back you up whether you’re crying tears of joy or frustration at yet another rejection letter. And keep learning, keep taking classes, keep putting your words on the page and never give up.

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25 Memorable Moments from RWA National Conference. #RWA14.

30 Jul

In what has now become an annual tradition – if I did it last year and I’m now doing it this year – that makes it a tradition? No? Well, then I’m compiling once again my top 25 memorable moments from RWA14, in San Antonio, Texas.

 

  1. Two hotels means 2000 exhausted writers trying to remember if their sessions are in the Rivercenter or the Riverwalk hotel.
  2. Two hotels divided by a crosswalk with the disembodied voice of a particularly stern man declaring, “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, ad infinitum until the walk sign turns green. I wasn’t about to try and cross without his say so. Visions of a SWAT team accosting me and throwing me to the ground if I even dipped a toe in the road kept my feet firmly planted on the pavement.
  3. Nora Roberts’ three pieces of advice for writers: Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write.BtjtMIeCUAAFRAr.png-large
  4. Two agent and two editor requests for my manuscript.
  5. An additional agent request at the San Antonio airport in the departure lounge!
  6. Great agent story: Agent in #5 requested my manuscript after we spent four days bumping into each other in the elevator. We were on the same floor and seemed to be constantly running into each other to the point that we both declared we weren’t sure we could get on the elevator if the other wasn’t around. During those four days we chatted – especially about one of her clients whom I know. We both gushed about what an amazing writer she is. And so, at the airport she asked me who I had pitched to and who had requested my work. Then she said, “Why haven’t you pitched me?” I told her I was shy and wasn’t prepared to bombard agents in an elevator even though I had my “elevator pitch” prepared. Not my style. So she said well given that I knew not one but two of her clients and that we’d spent four days sharing an elevator, I should pitch her right there, in the departure lounge. So I did!
  7. Laura Drake winning the RITA for best new book. She’s the poster child for perseverance. It took her 15 years and 400 rejections to get published. How fast can you say her award was SO well deserved!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!

  8. Laura Drake working in a session on my tagline line for pitching that helped me land the above five manuscript requests. Where can I get my I LOVE LAURA DRAKE T-shirt. Please?
  9. LARA members Robin Bielman, Samanthe Beck and Jennifer Haymore nominated for RITAS!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck - RITA nominees!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck – RITA nominees!

  10. Their awesome RITA outfits and their fantabulous shoes that went with said outfits.
  11. Meeting the incredible Claire McEwen on the plane to San Antonio. Her publication success story – having a manuscript requested after entering a contest that she neither won nor placed in – is the stuff dreams are made of. She’s an inspiration. And an absolute sweetheart, too.
  12. Making friends with LARA members I didn’t know that well at all: Tonya Plank, Chandra Years and Cami Brite. Funny you have to go all the way to Texas to meet your neighbours.
  13. Gwendolynn Thomas. WHAT an inspiration! If you didn’t meet her, well, seek her out on Twitter. Now! @GwendolynTweets

    Gwendolynn.

    Gwendolynn.

  14. Having a major celebrity meeting freak out running into Scrivener For Dummies author and fantabulous author Gwen Hernandez.
  15. LARA’s cool headed Maggie Marr talking me off a ledge after going into a panic over a weird request from an editor.
  16. Chilling with LARA-ite Robena Grant. Definition of extreme grace and generosity. Classy too. And a fellow antipodean.
  17. LARA-ite Sarah Vance-Tompkins WINNING the Imajinn writing contest and now getting work with the incomparable Brenda Chin. Sarah, remember I knew you when… And LARA-ite Christine Ashworth placing fourth in the same contest.
  18. The new RWA breakfast policy. LOVE IT. Please keep it for next year. Thank you.
  19. Catching up with the Austin gals from last year.
  20. Hanging with Liana LeFey – the hardest working author I know. 11 books and proposals ALL of which were requested at pitches this year. When do you sleep, Liana?
  21. The entire crew who all met on the roommate seeking board earlier this year and went out for dinner and took a Riverwalk cruise together. That was oodles of fun.
  22. Author Laura Florand crammed in the elevator on a luggage cart.

    Laura Forland trapped on a luggage cart.

    Laura Florand trapped on a luggage cart.

  23. Crying at all the speakers’ speeches that reminded us why we write: to touch lives. And telling us to quell our inner voices that say we’re crap and to never give up.
  24. Coping with the 99 degree heat and 99 percent humidity outdoors while rugging up in a shawl in the air conditioned hotels indoors.
  25. Counting the days and the pennies in the hopes of attending RWA National Conference in 2015 in New York City!

Hug a writer today

5 Apr

Image

I absolutely adore my RWA writer’s group. I don’t think there’s a better bunch out there than the LARA gals and guys. (Well, actually I fell in love with the Austin chapter people in Atlanta at the National convention last year… so I’m sure there are other great chapters too, but today it’s all about LARA love).

Firstly, and I know I’m a little late in announcing this, but I’m SOOO excited for LARA’s wonderful Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck  – both of whom have been nominated for RITA Awards for their debut novels. For those that don’t know, the RITA’s are the romance writing equivalent of the Oscars, so at this year’s National convention in San Antonio in July, they’ll be dressed in their posh frocks waiting nervously to see if they won. They’ll probably be slinging back more alcohol than those of us cheering them on. LARA-ITE Jennifer Haymore has also been nominated for her editing of a novella. Such exciting news. Do click on their names and check out their websites. They are all amazing women that deserve to be celebrated.

LARA-ites are such huge supporters of each other. I confess my inbox is inundated with emails from members at all hours of the day and night and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also really, really, excited that as part of the LARA mentor programme where seasoned vets share their knowledge and expertise, they take on grateful little people like me. And so, I was delighted to discover that the brilliant Maggie Marr has been designated as my mentor. I did indeed hit the “send” button today and my first 50 pages are wending their way to her where I hope she will forcefully (but kindly) rip my pages to pieces so I can build them back up and make a dent in making my novel worthy of publication. Do please check out her website too, so you can learn about all things Maggie. 

I’m also excitedly awaiting a rerouted USPS screw up, from the wonderful Barbara Claypole White, who is sending me one of her novels from North Carolina. Barbara and I touched base over at the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, where I read an excerpt of her work in progress and left a comment noting how I picked up on a major character trait of one of her characters (due to my personal experience with said trait). She was thrilled that I cottoned on to it and called me to pick my brain about my knowledge on the issue to help her flesh out her character. What a great conversation. Can’t wait for her book to arrive. 

I love that writers (at least the ones I associate with) are such a supportive, collaborative bunch – it can get lonely behind your computer screen churning out thousands of words a day (or avoiding churning them out). Cheerleaders, nurses, doctors, best friends – these are all the roles (and more) that we take on to support our fellow scribblers. And we tweet their book releases, and promote their Facebook pages. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy inside thanks to the world of writing interwebs. So do yourself a favour: hug a writer today. 

 

Eternal love and (romance writing) thanks.

12 Jun

Wow! So, um… tomorrow is my birthday (because someone has to be born on the 13th – right?) – which I THINK is galvanizing me in part to write a blog post… because I’m SOOO lax at this. Although, I once read someone said they like it when blog posts are sporadic because then the post is usually great and they don’t feel pressured to read something every day on someone’s site. All I can say to that is I think almost six months between posts goes WAY beyond sporadic,  and I don’t think there’s going to be anything “great” about this particular post – beyond touting other people’s websites and blogs, whom I happen to think are great.  So, here goes nothing.

Firstly, another HUGE thanks to everyone at LARA for keeping me on my romance writing toes. I’ve signed up for the RWA Conference in Anaheim this year, and can I state that not only am I an RWA Conference virgin I am a TOTAL writing conference virgin?  Let’s just say I spent 11 years living in Israel, where writing conferences (in English) aren’t exactly abundant. I never came across one when I lived there. So I’m REALLY excited to attend a writing conference. My first ever!  I feel like I’m going on holiday!

I’m also exceptionally grateful to the delectable Anne Kemp who will be my roomie at Conference and whom I met for coffee and had a lovely chat with. She just published her first novel – Rum Punch Regrets, which I downloaded on my kindle. You should too! Check out her site, here.

Anne also introduced me to RWA’s Women’s Fiction forum, after helping me understand that my novel  – The Periwinkle Prophecy – does indeed fall under that category. And having been introduced to THAT forum, I was introduced to Sharla Rae’s site Writers in the Storm and her fantastic blog post about her first RWA conference and how (or how not to) pitch. Check it out here. It’s going to be my bible because I too will be pitching my novel for the very first time. I’ve chosen my editor and agent and am already freaking out. Lots of great tips in this piece and of course I’ll be attending Dee J Adams’ “Itch to Pitch” talk at our next LARA meeting on July 15 – just in time for Conference. I’ve heard her speak twice, now. She’s smart, informative and best of all – funny! It’s always good to have a good laugh even when you’re working, no?

For now, though, I’m deep in rewrites and edits of my novel (when I’m not deep in my day job). I still have to wade through research on iodine poisoning, work on  my “talk to” character -yes, I’m adding a whole new character to my book, thanks to my great friend (and screenwriter) who told me my book really needed one.  I also have to decide if my garish Vegas hotel should be named or not… and so much more.

Oh, and I’m desperately seeking Beta readers so if you’re a women’s fiction fan and want to read a book about  a driven journalist on a mission to find a beloved, renowned artist who has suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth and has to do it all accompanied by a strange, blue dog that shows up unannounced in her life and a whole slew of other obstacles, please let me know? It’s not 100 percent complete yet but the July 25 looming date of conference is a great galvanizing force. Funny, that.

And apropos of nothing (well of romance writing) – can I just say how wonderful it was to read another Women’s Fiction RWA members’ blog post on turning points? Robena Grant also grew up down under so I feel a kinship. She has a great post and some wonderful responses from people, too. Check it out here.

There are so many great writers on LARA and on the Women’s Fiction forum. I can’t list them all her but hopefully future posts will also allow me to highlight some of their great books, blog posts, words of wisdom and motivational tactics.

And now.. back to the day job.

P.S. Today’s cute graphic comes from Debbie Ridpath Ohi, whom I’ve been following for years – especially during my freelance writing days. She can write AND draw. So jealous.. Check out how brilliant she is here.

All hail Romance Writers of America!

29 Nov

Well, it’s November 29 and NaNoWriMo is winding down (as is my self-imposed NaNoEdMo). I remember being here two years ago. Ha! However, I think I can safely say while I won’t have all my i’s dotted and t’s crossed by November 30 (in other words novel will NOT be ready to send out), I have made some SERIOUS headway. I totally rewrote my opening two chapters (now just one chapter) and am much, much, happier with it. I’m still losing parts of my soul as I throw out some great chapters but keeping in mind my superb critique partner’s words about “needing to get to Maine” (where most of my novel is set) faster. Bummer. That means Las Vegas and Fat Lennie need to be whittled down and I LOVE Fat Lennie. I’m also still grappling with how to make the disappearance of my reclusive artist a super-duper important news media story. Oh, and making my hero far more troubled. He clearly needs to be more screwed up than he currently is.

However, to this end, I’m excited to say I have joined the Romance Writers of America. Wow! After attending a panel session last week with various romance writers, I was convinced that this had to be my next step. Thanks to the Independent Writers of Southern California Group (IWOSC), I got to attend this panel. Until I did so, I never really thought that my book was a “romance.” I always thought of Romance Novels (note the capital letters) as those Mills and Boon (Harlequin in the U.S. I believe) style books that are very formulaic. I have no bodice ripping or heaving bosoms. I have a mystical blue dog and a missing artist that my heroine is trying to track down. Neither of these appear to fit the “romance novel” model. At least I didn’t think so. But I ALSO have a real romance and my heroine does indeed meet the man of her dreams – but it’s all very, very complicated and she has to do a whole lot of truth-hiding (note I didn’t say lying) to make sure he doesn’t discover what she’s up to. AND she will have to sell her soul and sell out her hero if she wants to get the biggest scoop of her career.

Well, thanks to that panel discussion,  I realised I do indeed have a romance novel and apparently anything goes these days. Your book doesn’t have to have a conventional path. So now I’m excited to have joined and signed up to the local Los Angeles chapter  – Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA) where everyone on the message boards is incredibly supportive and there’s fun stuff to read all the time.

I loved how everyone on that panel was so “normal.” There wasn’t a feather boa or a satin pillow in sight. They all seem like great, down to earth women and they’re all on the local chapter yahoo group. I can’t wait to attend my first LARA meeting and get to know everyone. I feel like being a member now spurs me on to put in the time every day (while juggling my day job) to get my novel up to scratch.