One of my goals for 2013 was to do something at least once a month that is outside of my comfort zone. For months, Ive been receiving emails from the Michigan chapter of the SCBWI encouraging me to participate in the Your Areas Got Talent event. Remembering my goal, I eventually talked myself into accepting the invitation.
It wasnt an easy decision. In case you dont believe me, here is a little bit of my internal dialogue: Im going to be the only non-illustrator there. What if I am out of place? What if they make me draw something? What if they all know each other and dont talk to me? What if they laugh at my manuscript? What if they dont like the snack that I bring? But, wait a second . . . what if I make some important contacts? What if I get some helpful advice that improves my writing? What if I have a great time? If I dont go, Ill never know. And on and on and on.
So this weekend, I am going WAY OUTSIDE my comfort zone and meeting with a group of writer/illustrators in my area who I have never met before. Im used to sharing my writing with my online critique group, but sharing my writing in person is whole different ballgame. Although that pesky little voice in my head keeps trying second-guess my decision, Im willing to take the risk. The reward just might be worth it.
Stay tuned for an update . . .
Receiving rejections is inevitable when you share your writing with publishers and agents. As my dad always likes to say, 10% of life is what happens to you. The other 90% is how you choose to respond to it. This little piece of wisdom is especially applicable when choosing how to respond to rejection.
I recently shared one of my picture book manuscripts with an agent. A couple of days later, he emailed me back with a rejection. While I appreciated him taking the time to email me, it was apparent from his suggestion that he did not bother to read the end of my story. If he HAD read it to the end, he would have realized that I had, in fact, already incorporated his suggestion into my story.
My first instinct was to email him back and say try reading the end of my story! But we all know that nothing productive would come from that. My second instinct was to give up, throw in the towel, and claim back all my unpaid free time. Ultimately, I decided to choose a more productive route. I channeled my annoyance and frustration into productivity. I spent hours researching independent publishers of picture books and ended up finding three (previously overlooked) publishers to send my manuscript to. Sometimes we need someone to light a fire under us in order to take the steps necessary to succeed. So, to that previously mentioned agent who rejected my manuscript without reading it, I say, Thank you!
Have you received a rejection lately? How did you respond to it?
This year, I am participating in Julie Hedlunds 1212 challenge. In case you are not familiar with 1212, it is an online forum that challenges writers to write one picture book manuscript every month for twelve months. I have further narrowed the 1212 challenge criteria for myself. My goal is to write twelve picture books in 2013 that involve . . . you guessed it . . . HORSES! I love the concrete timelines and goals of the 1212 challenge. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: A year from now, youll wish you started today.
So far, I am on track. I have revised my January manuscript approximately 8,000 times and it is ready to be submitted to the 1212 agent of the month (GULP!). My February manuscript is coming along and will, hopefully, be ready to be submitted to next months agent. I am excited to think that in one year I will have (at a minimum) twelve horsey picture book manuscripts in final form. At best, I will have a published picture book and/or the representation of an agent. What are your monthly goals? A year from now, what will you wish you started today?
When I was in first grade my teacher, Ms. Mills, gave each student in our class a blank book and asked us fill in the story. This assignment resulted in me writing about 5 books a week (I was a much more prolific writer back then!) Never mind that 90% of the words in my books were misspelled and that my stories usually did not have a clear beginning, middle and end (or any inherent conflict for that matter). Did I mention, I also did my own illustrations? Because of these books, I was entered in a contest and won the Young Author Award for my age group. The fact that someone outside of my immediate family told me that I was really good at something gave me a sense of pride and sparked my lifelong passion for reading and writing.
As I got older, I followed my passion to some extent. I earned a B.A. in English and then used my writing skills as an attorney and legal editor. But somewhere along the way, the spark had been lost. It wasnt until I had children of my own that the creative side of my brain started working again. As I read picture book after picture book to my kids, I grew to love the creative stories, efficient use of language, rhyming schemes, and humorous, imperfect characters. I can do this! I thought, somewhat naively. I quickly realized that writing a picture book is much harder than it looks. For the last two years I have been absorbing every bit of writing knowledge I can. I am constantly reading, writing, revising, critiquing, submitting and waiting . . . My I can do this! has turned to I HAVE TO DO THIS! because I love writing. I guess I have known that since the first grade.