Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving! Hope your holiday is filled with loved ones and relaxation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Post #4: Writing Websites

I am so thankful for the writing community. Anyone who says agents and editors are trying to keep people from getting published aren't listening to the right people. There are so many awesome industry professionals who work hard to educate and help new writers. If you want to get published, you must do your research. There is an abundance of information on the Internet, and honestly, I have no idea how people learned what they needed to before we had this amazing place to share and gather information. So here are just a few places where I learned more than I ever knew I needed to.

There are so many wonderful agents out there, all offering advice and willing to help new authors, even though they are already busy enough with helping their clients and finding new ones. So thanks to all those agents who are willing to share their advice. Here are three I've found helpful.

Mary Kole

The following sites have great information, from finding agents to polishing your query to honing your craft.

Query Tracker


I know there are so many I’m leaving out. These are just a few that I’ve been following for a while that I want to thank for helping me to learn and grow and improve. List your favorite writing websites in the comments.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Post #3: Thankful Thursday

I’m thankful for the simple things in life, like food, fun, and freedom. I'm often happiest when I'm sitting outside watching the sun set over the cane field or reading a good book. Today, I'm just grateful it’s Thursday. Here are my top three reasons:

Reason #1: Today is Thanksgiving Dinner in the school cafeteria, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week. Maybe that seems silly to you, but this is Louisiana, and our school cafeteria makes the best Thanksgiving dinner, complete with rice dressing and sweet potatoes, which are some of my favorite things.

Reason #2: Thursday means Vampire Diaries. I don’t watch much tv, and I never would have fallen in love with this show if not for my friend Leslie. She practically bullied me into watching it a couple of summers ago by inviting me over and cooking me yummy food, which guarantees I will stay a while. She had DVR’d them, and we watched all the episodes. I was hooked. So I’m grateful for Leslie too, for introducing me to Damon. (And aren't you grateful I posted that pic?)

Reason #3: Thursday means I only have one more day until I'm off for an entire week for Thanksgiving vacation. And I need a vacation. I love my job, not only because I get to teach great kids, but because it ensures I will truly appreciate holidays and days off.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Post #2: My Support System

In my last post, I wrote about those people in my life who push me and make me better. Today I'd like to say thank you for those who see me at my worst and love me anyway. I'm so thankful for the amazing support system I have - family, friends, students, and Twitter pals. Writing was such a solitary effort for so long, and to now have so many people cheering for me and helping me is something that I hope for each and every one of you.

Aren't my parents adorable?
My parents have always been extremely supportive of me. I talked about Reclaimed with my parents while I was writing it, and when my dad had a dream about it, he called to tell me all about it in case I wanted to use his ideas. And they were pretty good. So I'm grateful for my parents, who always believed I could do absolutely anything.

I'm the one in the dance costume.
My sister is the cool one.
My sister is a pretty amazing person. We are only twenty-two months apart, so we have always been close. She has been one of my greatest cheerleaders. I bounce story ideas off her and she always reads my manuscripts first. I don't know if I could have kept writing if it weren't for her encouragement and honest belief that I would one day be published. We are both teachers as well (as are our mother and grandmother), and I can also call her to vent. We send each other hilarious text messages and giggle like children often. She's my best friend.

Seriously adorable, isn't he?
I met my husband on the beach when I was seventeen years old, and as corny and cheesy as it sounds, I fell in love with him almost immediately. We are very different, but that works for us. He has always been so supportive of me. When he built the bookshelves for my office, and I commented that they made me feel like a real writer, he told me I'd always been a real writer. And he believed it. He never doubted for a minute that I would be published. When I signed my contract with Spencer Hill Press, he told everyone, including his clients. (He's a builder.) He really does believe I will do whatever I say I will, and he does whatever he can so that I will have the opportunity. I am so grateful for him.

Me with my crew at their senior prom
I teach high school English, and I have the best students in the world. Everytime I talked about writing, they asked if any of my books had been published. When I said no, they told me I should get on that. I don't know if it ever crossed their minds that my writing might not be ready for that yet. When I told them the synopsis of my book, they got so excited! So I just want to thank my students, past and present, for begging to read my books and believing they would one day be in a bookstore. And a special shout-out to former student and current friend Emily Tucker, who reads my manuscripts in their early stages and gives great feedback, and Cameron Sarradet, who read the first book I ever wrote and didn't tell me it was horrible. You guys are one of the reasons I kept at it.

And there are so many others out there - my Mama Gayle, my friend Leslie, countless Twitter pals. Thanks, y'all!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thankful: A blog hop post

Today I’m thankful for people who make me better. I hope all of you have someone, or several someones, in your life who push you to be the very best at whatever you do. I am many things (teacher, runner, daughter, sister, wife, friend), but today I want to thank those people who push me to be a better writer.

1.  My critique partners: I met my two awesome critique partners through the love connection on Maggie Steifvater’s blog. I cannot stress enough how much writers need critique partners. I was very nervous exchanging my work with strangers, but I couldn’t be luckier to have met Kate and Abigail, who took my manuscript and improved it. They told me where it was slow, where it was weak, where I could do better. Yes, they told me the parts that worked as well, but they didn’t only tell me how much they loved the story because that wouldn’t have helped at all. They said things that I knew were true but had been afraid to admit. They helped mold my story into the one I was trying to tell, and they kept me from giving up when things got hard. There was a point when I was pretty sure I was going to have to trunk this novel, but with their encouragement and help, I sold it instead. I am so thankful I listened to them.

2. My editor: I know I lucked out when I landed Danielle Ellison as my editor. She answers my emails almost immediately, Skypes with me whenever I need, and pushes me to make my manuscript what she knows it can be. She loves my stories and characters almost as much as I do, which is such a relief, but she doesn’t allow me to be lazy or sloppy, which is an even bigger relief. But she isn’t just making this book better. She’s making me better, so that the next book and the next and the next will reflect her influence and her drive to make me the artist she knows I can be. It means so much that she believes in me enough to ask me to do hard things. She believes I can do them, so I can. I'm so grateful for that.

So stick around this month to see all the things I'm thankful for, and participate in the Thanksgiving Blog Hop at Brenda Drake's blog.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Are You a Writer?

I always find it interesting when two of my worlds collide, which often happens with my running and writing life. I have seen the need for names or labels divide both runners and writers, and I wanted to address this. In the running world, there is a debate about the right to be called a runner verses a jogger. Some runners feel that you only earn the right to call yourself a runner if you run a certain mile split. Others feel it has to do with the amount of races you do. Me? I believe you earn the title of runner, and likewise writer, through consistency and commitment.
I am a runner.  Six days a week, I lace up my running shoes and hit the road.  Sometimes I run twenty-two miles; sometimes I run only four.  I run in the humidity, in the dark, in the rain.  Sometimes I can’t wait to get out there and fly over the ground, and sometimes I slog through the run, looking forward to the shower at the end.  There are even some days when I sleep in and miss the run completely, though that doesn’t happen that often.  I’ve never won a race.  I've placed in my age-group.  I’ve seen my marathon times get better and better, I’ve seen my mile splits get smaller, and I’ve set goals and crashed through them.  But I’ve never won a race, and I probably never will.  I’m okay with that.  I’m a solid mid-packer.  I am close to Boston qualifying, which I am quite proud of, but I've never broken through that tape.  But I am still a runner.

I don’t know why that lesson was so hard for me to learn when it came to writing.  At first, I never told anyone that I wrote.  It was a hobby that was just mine, an indulgence that was too sacred to share.  Then, when I finally got the courage, I told people that I liked to write.  I wrote almost every day, most often meeting and exceeding my goal of 1,000 words, but I could not call myself a writer.  I liked to write.  Because in my mind, until I was published, and published more than once, I was not a writer.

How silly.  I run every day, therefore I am a runner.  I write every day, therefore I’m a writer.  It should be that simple, but it’s not.  It took me a while to see it that way, mainly because I let other people’s perceptions color my own.  But then where is that line?  Are you only a writer if you are published?  Or are you only a writer if you can make your living that way?  Or are you only a writer if you have been validated by someone you deem worthy?

I am not a person who believes everyone deserves a trophy for participating. But I do think there are many ways to be a writer, and only some of them involve being published.  If you love words enough to craft them into sentence and story, then you are a writer. If you write consistently and hone your craft, you are a writer. To me the line between someone who writes and a writer is passion and drive. A writer works at her art and pushes herself to be better. But you don’t have to cross that finish line first to cross that finish line – you just have to meet whatever goal you set for yourself and find joy in the act of doing.  That is running. And that is writing.