Tag Archives: Authors

Where to find me!

I may not be the most prolific blogger during this season of my life, but I’m still writing. For now, my priority as a writer has shifted to freelance work. However, I hope to be able to write more personal pieces in the coming years. If you’re curious about my current projects, check out my freelance tab, and don’t be shy about getting in touch!

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Middle-grade fiction? I’ve got that!

Excited to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person's first birthday!

Nice to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person’s first birthday!

Excited to share the completion of my first middle-grade fiction manuscript, Little Bird & the Graveyard (23,000 words). While everything is a work-in-progress, from the title to the pitch below, it is exciting to be on the road to publication, (traditional or otherwise). I get a lot of questions about what my story is about– below is a peek:

Eleven-year-old Indie has a lot of questions. Not only is she on a mission to find a ghost in the graveyard across the street from her house so she can ask what happens after we die, but she also wants to know why her mom left her and her brother with their dad a few months earlier. She figures if she understands why her mom is gone, then maybe she can stop feeling so upset.

To find answers, Indie will have to be brave. She needs to befriend the family of caretakers who live at the graveyard, which means coming face-to-face with the old man who hates her dog and dealing with a boy who is a year older and clearly does not want her around. Her quest will also push her to snoop through the creepy apartment downstairs and visit the graveyard with her brother at night. While none of these adventures will keep Indie out of trouble, they will lead to life-changing revelations, including the realization a ghost has something to do with her mom’s absence.

***

I was inspired to write middle-grade fiction while working as a classroom teacher with fourth and fifth grade students. During our read alouds, I noticed certain themes resonated more than others, like growing up in dysfunctional families and chasing ghosts. While on maternity leave, I began writing Little Bird and finished in time to dedicate the book to my daughter for her first birthday. Indie embodies the independent spirit I hope to instill in my children and students alike. And, of course, I am also hopeful she will reappear in many more books to come!

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Living my Bohemian Writer Fantasy (a Couple Months at a Time)

A cross-over post from my other blog as I embrace life as a mom and writer. The scariest part of this decision? I have zero excuse not to write!

Leap of Mama

The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real! The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real!

Our house is in escrow. Half-packed boxes are scattered in every room. By all appearances, we are moving. Five years in one house is the longest I have lived anywhere. Ever.

It feels good to go through everything and make piles. Keep and give away. We own so much we never use. Going through it all is a good reflection on what matters.

I like stuff. Dresses, jackets, shoes, woven wraps. But I have more stuff than I use. More stuff than I stop to appreciate. More stuff than matters.

My favorite part of moving is finding the person who could use what we don’t. Baby swings, strollers, clothes. The list goes on. For most everything, there is a person in our life or sphere who will put the item to better use. It is like a puzzle.

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Finding Your Place as a Writer: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

Like most people, the majority of what I read is non-fiction. Conservatively, I would estimate I read half a dozen novels per year and twice as many non-fiction books. This does not include blogs and online articles, slanting the balance even further away from fiction.

So, I cannot help but ask myself, which would I rather write? Shouldn’t I write what I spend my time reading?

True life is tricky. Non-fiction has its own rhythm, requires research, veracity. Moreover, it comes in all shapes and sizes, from blogs, to online magazines, to full-length books. It is hard to know where to start. Then there is the issue of telling other people’s stories. I have thought about writing the stories of my first students, but somehow their histories do not feel like they belong to me, even in those moments where I was present.

Then again, fiction feels increasingly artificial to me these days. I admire those of you who consistently enjoy it, losing yourself in a world you have created. I have been there, but I am having a hard time finding my way back. Every story I begin is a dead end. Expecting Happiness still floats in the recesses of my hard drive, but it too feels stale, like the cap and gown that hang in my closet but I will never wear again. I do not identify with it in the same way I did two and a half years ago.

I know part of my disruption in focus is the transformation my life is undergoing in becoming a mother, but I find myself wondering where I will begin again. I know I will not stop, but I want to put my energy where it matters most, where I am most likely to finish what I start, to write something worthwhile.

So, seasoned writers, I want to know– how have you discovered your niche? Did you dabble in everything? Have you gone through seasons of different genres? Or, has it been a simple love for the same type of stories from the beginning?

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Writing While Pregnant

One of my biggest fears about motherhood was I would lose my writing identity. Sure, I follow plenty of women writers who find ways to make it work, but I also heard story after story of how motherhood changes you. No time, little rest, more important priorities.

While true motherhood is at least a few months away, I already feel these shifts I dreaded, as writing has taken a backseat to other activities, such as napping, cleaning, preparing, resting some more. What I did not expect, however, is a calm to come with these changes. Instead of lamenting my lost writing time, I feel more present, still, and content. Time has already gained a sort of elastic quality, where less occurs in more time, as though the minutes are stretched, the actions slowed, hours somehow disappearing with little done.

Other things have fallen by the wayside, too. Yoga now means a few minutes of stretching and breathing at various points in the day, instead of my before-treasured blocks of hours. Again, there is a peace in this. Instead of panicking over a loss in identity, I feel a reassurance that these pieces of myself will return in time, or perhaps just exist in more fragmented but highly-treasured moments.

I realized recently, I write to escape and create a space of contentment. With pregnancy, my urge to escape has diminished, my ability to be content in simple moments has improved. Likewise, my thoughts I used to share so freely suddenly feel much more private, more difficult to share. Even so, I love that feeling of progress, as pages of writing become clean and stronger, blog posts emerge out of thin air, and connections are made across this electronic universe. Today I write to say I am still here, just a little quieter than before.

For those of you haven't hear already, we're excited to welcome a little (human) girl to our family this March.

For those of you haven’t heard, we’re excited to welcome a little (human) girl to our family this March.

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Finding Words Again

Almost every blog I follow disappears for a period. Days, weeks, months. Usually, the disappearance is followed by an apology. I don’t have one to offer. My disappearance has been one of introspection, hibernation. Oddly, there aren’t words for it, and I’m not sure I’m back in any regular sort of way, but I do miss writing.

So, tonight I type to type. I type to find words again, to reestablish a flow, to commit myself to a life of writing, not just a few years here and there, as it has always been in the past. My disappearance has been more than just going back to my world as a teacher. It has been about life and balance and a space of quiet. Words aren’t quiet.

My truth is changing. What I wrote before was true, but I’m not sure it is my truth anymore, or somehow it feels stale, repetitive. It is hard to write something that no longer resonates, fiction or otherwise. I’m finding a new space, which might mean new words, I’m not sure. A new book, a new perspective on teaching, on life.

Beginning again with a fresh group of students is oddly comforting and stifling simultaneously. When I envisioned myself as a teacher, I always questioned when the repetition would catch up to me. I’m restless by nature. As I write the date on our message each morning, I feel time slipping into a strange blur, is it 2011? 2013? 2015?

This is the first time I am repeating fourth grade on my own. Last year’s batch was fourth and then fifth, two years together. I like the feeling of knowing what I’m doing now. There is a confidence and ease that was not there before, but there is also the eery feeling of the same kids, just different faces, different names, learning the same things again, hitting the same stumbling blocks, celebrating the same successes.

I admire teachers who teach for the long haul. Maybe it will be me, this year is just off to a strange start. I miss the old faces who drop by each morning, eager to hug me, brag about their accomplishments. Maybe that’s the problem. As easy as it is to fall in love with children, it is hard to let them go. Maybe my heart is protecting me as I open up to thirty new souls. It’s easier to find reasons to resist than surrender.

So, there you have it. My first real words in weeks. A few tears, too.  Life is change and the same, all at once. I am learning.

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Why Beta Readers Rock

I met with one of my beta readers yesterday to discuss my book. He helped me see a couple holes I could fill. I knew he was right because he addressed spaces I had seen myself but not known how to fix. By having someone else see them, I could then push myself to do the hard work of figuring it out.

Last night I sat down and tied together these loose ends. Maybe it is not 100% fixed, but it’s better, and that’s the point. I am so grateful to my readers for their honesty. So far, they have spotted typos, cheered me on, and even explained why they could not keep reading.

While the majority finished with a smile, it helps to know exactly why it’s not a story for everyone, something that sounds difficult to bear but was actually quite reassuring. We all know every book has an audience. Getting to ask a reader why they did not finish is a real gift.

And, last but not least, sharing my writing with more people, including acquaintances instead of just close friends/family, is building my confidence. It is no longer such a scary feeling to imagine unfamiliar eyes on my work. Some will like it and some won’t, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s really liberating!

So, thank you, thank you, thank you to my beta readers. If you’re still reading, take your time, I’m still working. And, if you’ve written a book without a beta audience, I suggest giving it a shot. By no means do you have to listen to everyone, but you may be surprised by what you learn and how it changes your confidence in your work. I definitely feel a lot stronger and braver for it.

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Launching your book: Could you benefit from a beta audience?

In the past I have talked about beta readers as a way to test my book. Today I came across an article about an author who is publishing his book to a beta audience of 1,000 people before he even makes his work available to the public. While this size sample audience is likely too large for most self-published authors, it does raise an interesting idea.

By releasing a book to a smaller audience, there is an opportunity to build a buzz and a collection of ready-reviews before your book is available for purchase. Admittedly, I am more likely to buy a book with at least some reviews (even mediocre) than one with none at all. Likewise, it provides more opportunity for refinement as readers provide input before the book hits Amazon.

Now, I know many authors question the validity of seeking so many different opinions, but perhaps this method of a larger beta audience (be it 1,000 or 100 or 10) provides the opportunity for a consensus to form. While the opinion of one may not be extremely useful, the overlapped opinions of many start to hold more value, particularly if the audience is picked intentionally. In the article, the author seeks readers in his academic community, not just any old volunteer.

I am curious of your thoughts– do you see advantages to a larger beta audience? Is there some secret to successful marketing in this approach?

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Playing the Part: Fake it ’til you make it!

Fake it ’til you make it is a common piece of advice for anything you want to achieve in life. While on the surface, it might sound a bit disingenuous, there is a lot of truth to this statement. As a teacher, I had to fake it until I knew what I doing. Had I not, the kids (and their parents) would have eaten me alive. Likewise, when it comes to writing, platform creation is the current buzz.

However, for all of us yet-to-be-published authors out there, we know platform creation comes with a little faking. After all, we have to create the image of the author (and an audience) before our books even have real spines. I knew I had achieved some success in this endeavor when a friend introduced me at a party as a “real writer” again and again. While I protested a bit at first, she was adamant I had earned this title. At that moment I realized I had successfully played the part.

So, now it’s time to take this adage to the next level as I prepare to query (last round) and possibly self-publish Expecting Happiness. Some of the most common advice in platform creation is to make sure you present a professional and unified picture of yourself across all of your pages, (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Gravatar etc.). It’s important to make sure you pick just one or two photos as many readers will not know you well enough to identify you in different settings without these cues.

As such, I enlisted the help of a local blog friend and talented photographer to take some head shots to help me polish my presentation. While I’m going to hold off on picking which photo (or two) to use until after I get back from my trip, I wanted to give her a shout out for her photographic talent. If you live in the Sacramento area and need photos for any occasion, head over to Urke Photography’s blog. Likewise, Ashley also runs her own blog empire over at Domestic Fashionista (and has been my delightful inspiration for Thankfulness Thursdays). Stop by, say hi, tell her I sent you!

And, most importantly– keep on playing the part until it becomes a part of you! Any secrets you want to share on how you’ve faked it to make it?

Photo credit: Urke Photography

Photo credit: Urke Photography

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A call for beta readers… Want to read my book?

I have to decide what to do with my novel… I’m leaning toward one last round of queries and then self-publishing, but there is always the option to shelve it as well. I haven’t lost faith, I’ve just hit the point where I’m done working on it and need some fresh perspectives.

That’s where you come in…

If you’re interested in reading, I would ask the following:

1. Be available to begin reading mid-July when I get back from my trip.

2. Read like you downloaded off Amazon for a maximum of $5, (if I self-publish, it will likely be priced lower). When you finish, I want to know if you would feel satisfied if you had paid to read.

3. Note any typos.

4. If you get stuck and lose the momentum to finish, tell me where. If it feels like a chore, I need to know. No obligation to read the whole thing.

5. Be honest, but kind. Everyone has different tastes, (many of the books I read fall in the three star category on Goodreads even though others love them). I won’t be offended if it’s not your favorite book ever, I just need to know if it’s readable.

What you can expect:

1. Think Revolutionary Road meets One Day meets Shopgirl. If you have read any of those titles, might help gauge your interest. Think simple story about a young couple who feels frustrated and leaves everything behind to travel and find themselves, separately. I am looking for readers who read regularly and have an interest in mainstream fiction that crosses over to chick lit.

2. Gratitude. While I can’t pay you, I can thank you a thousand times.

If you’re interested, please either comment below with the title of the last book(s) you read or email me privately. Only volunteer if the premise interests you. I need a few more readers and will resort to names in a hat if necessary. I will contact you privately to let you know and appreciate the support given, even if it’s just a high-five for reaching this point!

Manuscript

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In other news, I see why it’s easy to reject manuscripts.

I just stopped by the pitch party over at Brenda Drake’s site and scrolled through dozens of pitches only to realize my attention span is quick– authors either had me or didn’t in the first couple lines and only a few got me to read their whole entry. Likewise, I realized I have distinct taste in what I will read and won’t, as some genres were an instant skip.

This is not to say the entries I did not read were bad, but rather I now empathize a bit more with agents. They know what they like/are looking for and if you send a query to an agent who doesn’t rep your genre, you’re wasting your time. If you write, I challenge you to go read through some of the entries, really puts everything into perspective to imagine an inbox full of pitches. It also takes a little of the burn out of rejections to recognize your own narrow interests.

The good news, there are a lot of different tastes out there…

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I Always Love a Contest to Pitch my Book…

As I wrap up my final re-read and contemplate how to move forward with self-publishing and a last round of queries, I can’t help but enter a pitch contest. You know, if it could really all be so easy as to submit a 35 word pitch and the first 150 words of my book and then kaboom– agent/published/hurray. I guess the little kid part of me knows it happens for someone, so it might as well be me.

Information on this latest pitch contest can be found here. Per usual, I’m not over-thinking my entry because I question whether it is worth much of an effort, however, I will share in hopes you will consider entering as well!

My 35-word pitch: 

After a jarring miscarriage, Jake and Kristen embark on separate journeys. Kristen departs for Europe in search of independence, while Jake sets off on a cross-country adventure. Torn between old and new, they must choose.

The first 150 words of my manuscript:

It began as a drop. One smooth drop of blood running down her pale thigh. She touched the moisture with her fingers and looked to see the crimson stain on the back edge of her beige, linen skirt. Aware of her coworkers in the neighboring cubes, she fought the urge to fall to her knees and cry in the small break room. She clutched her glass water bottle tighter, careful not to let it crash to the ground. Her heart ached. Dizzyness followed. She needed to sit.

The cessation of pregnancy symptoms left her in denial, the nausea gone, the sore breasts once again pliable. She read on the internet it could be a sign of miscarriage but did not know what to believe. She refused to call the doctor, unwilling to shatter the illusion. It made her happy to imagine a child growing inside her. A dull ache echoed…

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