NaNoWriMo Results

Im a few days late checking in with my official NaNoWriMo results.  In case you missed it,  my goal was to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  Although I fell drastically short of my goal, I am going to consider NaNoWriMo a success.  I wrote approximately 23,000 words of my first YA novel, Foxwoode, and Im still going strong.  The ill-timed holidays are throwing a wrench into my writing progress, but I will keep writing when I have the time (that probably means in January!)

Writing my novel has been a learning process, for sure.  The first day, I literally just stared at the blank computer screen.  I had no idea where to begin and was overwhelmed by the task ahead.  Eventually, I bit the bullet and just started typing.  I didnt start from the beginning.  I started from a scene that I had in my head and built the story back (and forward) from that point.  I love seeing how the personalities of the characters develop and the sub-plots emerge seemingly out of nowhere.  I think its safe to say, I am addicted!  If only I had more time . . .

As for PiBoIdMo, I met my goal of coming up with 30 ideas for picture books in 30 days.  This should give me plenty to work on in the year ahead!

And finally, Id like to share a little bit of good news.  My article, The Goal vs. The Journey, about my lifelong quest to own my own horse is going to be published in the My Life column of the February issue of Practical Horseman magazine.  I have been a life-long subscriber to Practical Horseman, so this publishing credit means a lot to me.  Practical Horseman has a paid circulation of over 60,000 subscribers and is a top authority on English riding and horsemanship.  Ill be sure to let you know when the February issue is released.

Until next time, happy writing (and riding!)

A New Horse in My Life

Im taking a break from writing about writing today to write about my other favorite topic yep, horses! Over the last few months, there have been a lot of changes at the barn where I ride. My riding instructor retired at the end of September and sold many of her horses, including the horse I was previously leasing, Edoras. Sadly, I could not purchase Edoras due to financial and time constraints. (Big sigh). But as my husband likes to lovingly remind me, No one feels sorry for you, Laura. I know hes right. And no one should feel sorry for me because, despite not being able to purchase Edoras, good things are happening.

First, theres a new horse in my life. His name is Louie. Where should I start? Hes so stinking cute, I cant stand it! Hes a 10-year-old, black, appendix Quarter Horse who Im now half-leasing. That means I get to ride him three days a week. As far as the jumping goes, hes still a little green (a.k.a. not fully trained), but he always tries hard to do the right the thing. At 15.2 hands, hes not a big horse and not as sleek and athletic as Edoras, but he can jump over 3 feet with ease. And he has the most lovable personality. Hes quick to nuzzle and happily receives hugs (and treats!) He may be a little horse, but he has a TREMENDOUS stride and a heart of gold. Wait a second. This sounds like inspiration for a picture book, doesnt it? But I digress . . .

Secondly, I have a new riding instructor who is amazing. Ive already learned a ton from the first three lessons. I was so nervous during my first lesson with her that I think I forgot to breathe for the first 15 minutes.  She has a very positive teaching style, which is refreshing in a sport where yelling at and berating riders is often the norm.  She observes things about my riding that Ive never noticed before.  It has already benefited me to receive feedback from another instructor with a new perspective.  In the end, it will help me become a better rider.

So, I guess the moral of this story is that change, although sometimes difficult and scary, can also be good.  If dealt with productively, change allows us to challenge ourselves, view things from other perspectives, seize new opportunities, and, ultimately, grow to reach our full potential.

Happy writing and riding!

Literary Agents are like Horses

Literary agents are like horses.  The horse knows.  He knows if you know.  He also knows if you dont know. Ray Hunt.  I know what youre thinking this is just another excuse for this horse-crazy writer to talk about horses. Well, youre half right. Bear with me while I describe some of my experiences with agents and horses. Then you can be the judge.

About two years ago I began to focus on writing picture book manuscripts. I had so many ideas in my head. I couldnt wait to get them down on paper and send them out to agents. Never mind that I had not yet studied the art of picture book writing. My stories were way too long, I had not taken any writing classes, I did not know the difference between showing and telling, I did not belong to any writing or critique groups, and most of my plots involved a parent swooping in at the last minute to save the day. My query letters were even worse. I asked a lot of rhetorical questions, talked about how much my kids loved my stories, and pretended like I knew what the heck I was doing. Of course, none of the agents who were unlucky enough to receive my early manuscripts were fooled. Im sure they could smell my lack of knowledge and preparation from a mile away.  Even as I improved my writing, gained more knowledge of the industry, and began to build my writers platform, I still wasnt ready to be represented by an agent.  I wanted to be ready, but deep down I knew I wasnt.  No matter how you try to fool them, agents know.

My attempts at trying to fool horses have always led to similar outcomes.  I cant count the number of times Ive cantered a horse toward a scary-looking jump thinking, were not going to make it over this jump.  Sure enough, the horse refuses.  The horse knows.  He knows if youre unsure.  He knows if youre second-guessing.  My first time riding my former lease-horse, Edoras, is another example.  I was nervous.  Really nervous.  I was used to riding a gentle and forgiving lesson horse, not a fiery Chestnut mare who gained speed after every jump.  Ill just fake it til I make it, I thought to myself.  Wrong again.  Edoras dragged me around the ring at an alarming pace for what seemed like an eternity before I could convince her to come to a halt.  Horses, like agents, dont allow you to fake it til you make it.  You need to be prepared.  You have to put in the work. You need to be confident that you know what you are doing.  Only then will you succeed as a writer or a rider.

I am now at the point in my writing where I feel genuinely prepared, knowledgeable, and confident.  Julie Hedlunds blog series, How I Got My Agent, has been extremely helpful in guiding me through this process.  Im active in several writing groups and critique groups, Ive completed picture book writing classes and attended seminars.  Ive revised, revised, and revised.  My search for an agent is officially beginning.  I have three (almost four) completely polished manuscripts ready to send out and many more in the works.  I am doing my research on agents and agencies.  I am drafting short, yet effective, query letters.  I believe I am finally ready.  But I guess the agents themselves will be the judge of that.  After all, they know.

HORSE FLOWERS is Published!

Do you know any horse-crazy kids? I just received word that my eBook, HORSE FLOWERS, has been released on the MeeGenius! App for iPhone/iPad and Android. It can be found under the Featured tab or by CLICKING HERE and is now available for $2.99.

Summary of HORSE FLOWERS: “No horsing around!” Isabel’s mother reminds her as Isabel runs out to gather wildflowers for her grandma’s birthday. Grandma’s party is starting soon and Isabel’s journey is not going smoothly. But Isabel knows exactly which of her horsey friends can use its breed’s unique talents to help her overcome obstacles along the way. Ride along with Isabel on this heartwarming and educational equine adventure with a surprise ending that celebrates the power of a child’s imagination. HORSE FLOWERS is intended for children ages 3-8 and is illustrated by the very talented Kathryn Selbert.  HORSE FLOWERS also includes a glossary of horse breeds.

Thanks for checking it out and for the support!

Horse Show Update

I promised an update after Edoras and I returned from our weekend of competition at Hunters Run. The experience was exhilarating, stressful, exciting, exhausting, fun and HOT! Im talking 90 degrees and humid kind of heat. Despite my nerves (and possible heat stroke), we performed better on Saturday than on Sunday. We placed second in one of our jumping classes and fourth in another (out of 14 entries). We also brought home some fifth and sixth place ribbons. There were a couple of classes that did not go as well but, overall, I was happy with our performance. Nothing disastrous happened while I was riding. I didnt fall off, Edoras didnt refuse any jumps and I didnt go off course, which were three of my biggest fears going in.

Edoras and I completing a course at Hunters Run, June 2013

I learned so much from the experience. First, I had no idea the amount of preparation that goes into riding in a horse show at this level. Theres trailering, setting up stalls, braiding, schooling, keeping tack and show clothes clean (not an easy task when you are basically living in a barn for 3 days!) and memorizing courses seconds before entering the ring, to name a few. I also learned that it takes a village to help a rider show successfully. There is no way I could have ever done this without the help of people from my barn who traveled to the show with us. Let me just say that BARN MOMS RULE! Of course, I will also need to mention my amazingly supportive husband who stayed with the kids all weekend so I could travel to the show.

Well, now that Ive burned through a large portion of our savings, my time with Edoras is coming to an end. I hope to be able to lease her again starting in the Fall. While I am sad to not ride her as often, I am thankful for the experience and proud of myself for pursuing my dreams, even at the ripe old age of 39. Im already looking forward to showing again next Summer. Lets face it, I might need a full year to recover!

Finally, in yet more exciting news, stay tuned to my blog for a big announcement coming soon. Hint: I will officially be a published childrens author very soon!! But that is another post for another day. Happy Writing and Happy Riding!

A Dream Deferred

Sadly, my time with Edoras (the horse that I am half-leasing) runs out at the end of June due to financial and time constraints. But before I hang my head, chain myself to her stall and cry, Edoras and I have one last Hurrah! Fifteen days from now, Im leaving my husband in charge of the kids for the weekend, loading Edoras in a trailer, traveling to Temperance, MI, and competing in my first real (B Circuit) hunter jumper horse show in about 25 years. Thats right, I was 14 years-old the last time I wore my tall boots and hunt coat and navigated a horse over a course of jumps in front of a judge. It has been a sacrifice of time and money for me to get to this point, but also a rewarding journey to fulfill a life-long dream. There have been roadblocks along the way and Im sure there will be more to come, but overcoming these hurdles makes me appreciate reaching this goal even more.

Me and Edoras in a Lesson

I am nervous and excited. I am thankful for so many things: the support of my husband and children, my riding instructor who has worked her magic on me over the last two years and who owns Edoras, and my friends at the barn who have guided me and encouraged me every step of the way despite the fact that they are all between 5 and 20 years younger than me. I certainly could not have pursued this dream alone.So for the next two weeks, I may be doing a little less writing and a little more riding in preparation for my big weekend. Then Ill write about it when its over. Hopefully, there will be some photos of blue ribbons in my follow-up post. But if not, it will still be worth it.