Thoughts on Waiting and Contentment

(I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Then today, my dear, wise friend Courtney posted on her blog about conditional happiness — nearly the exact topic I’ve been mulling over for weeks — and I took it as a kick in the pants to go ahead and write my post. So thanks, Court, for being my shoulder angel, yet again.)

So. I suck at waiting. But I find myself forced to do it a lot — in life in general, not just in writing — and it occurs to me, perhaps some of you are waiting too, and would like to know if your crazy is Crazy crazy or normal crazy.

Well, I can speak with zero authority on normal. But I can tell you what waiting is like for me, and what I’ve learned from it about contentment.

As I sit here smack dab in the middle of my search for an agent (no news on that front yet, so you can let out that breath you’ve been holding), I’ve read lots of “How I Got My Agent” posts from other writers. It sometimes makes the waiting easier to read stories of writers who went through this process and survived. Of course, it also sometimes makes the waiting harder, especially when I read a post about how the author got an email five minutes after querying and ten full requests and eight offers of representation, all in the course of two days.

That is not the norm. And it has most definitely not been my experience.

I’m not going to get into details of my agent search, because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not over, but I will tell you I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had form rejections and enthusiastic requests. My work has been met with both wonderfully encouraging feedback and thunderous silence. I’ve had critique partners praise an aspect of my writing, only to then have an agent pass because of that very thing.

It’s enough to drive a person batty.

I’ve done all the things I swore, months ago when I first dipped my toe into the query waters, I would not do. I’ve compulsively refreshed my email every 30 seconds. I’ve Twitter-stalked the agents who had my query/pages/partial/full. I’ve prayed for immediate good news, and given God ridiculous deadlines, because I was tired of waiting (He said to chill). I’ve texted friends lamenting how badly I suck as a writer, asking them to please drop everything to give me a pep talk because otherwise I’m going to set fire to my computer.

(Sorry, friends. I hope to never do that to you again. Especially not in the middle of your hair appointment.)

Waiting is hard, folks. Especially when you don’t know if the light at the end of the tunnel even exists. I don’t know if I’m waiting right now on acceptance or rejection. Waiting for something good — like a birthday or Christmas — can be hard enough. Same goes for waiting for something bad, like a root canal. But when you’re not sure if the thing you’re waiting for is Christmas or a root canal — well, that’s the hardest of all. Do I wait with excitement or dread? Fear or giddiness?

I started querying five months ago, and at first, my heart would sink with every rejection and soar with every request. I would bounce with nervous anticipation for days after shooting off an email. A surge of adrenaline would course through me with every ding of my inbox. I quickly learned to hate promotional emails with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. (Darn you, Chili’s!)

In case you’re unaware, for most authors, every stage of the publishing process is long. It takes a long time to write a book. It takes a long time to revise a book. It takes a long time to query, a long time to hear back from agents, a long time to revise again, a long time to submit to editors, and a long time from sale to publication. Yes, there are those happy few who find some of their steps abbreviated, but they probably experienced other steps that seemed to stretch out interminably. Such is the nature of the beast.

Now that I’m a few months into this process (and my journey thus far has been a tad different from many other querying writers, which I may explain to you someday…or I may not. It depends on how my story plays out. Suffice it to say, right now, I’m doing a lot more waiting and a lot less active querying), I’ve learned to calm down a bit. I don’t think so much about the things I have no control over. I can’t control whether an agent likes my book, or whether they think there is a market for it. All I can do is send my best work into the world, and hope someone loves my story as much as I do.

And meanwhile — and here’s where I get philosophical — be content. Because if I let the waiting and the agent (and later, the book deal and the book release and the sequel and the movie and on and on to infinity) become The Thing That Matters, that’s going to be a problem. Not only because I don’t know if I will achieve any of those things, but because none of that gives me any enjoyment or fulfillment right now. And now is the time I have to live in. (Unless someone wants to drop by in a TARDIS.)

Here’s the thing. None of my future goals are guaranteed. Heck, the future itself is not guaranteed. I could be hit by a bus later today, or struck by lightning tomorrow, or abducted by aliens next week. That doesn’t mean I need to hunker down and await my inevitable demise. That’s the Crazy talking. I still need to live my life with a purpose and work toward my goals.

But I also need to be able to be content with where I am, now. At peace. I need to live my days as if they have value in and of themselves, and not merely as a piece of a greater, as-of-yet unrealized Future Goal.

Because I hear — tell me if I’m wrong — that the waiting never stops. Never. So we’d best learn how to deal with it.

Taking a page from Court, I’m going to list a few things I’m thankful for, right now, today, that writing has given me, even if I never get an agent or sell a book. These are the reasons I’m grateful to be doing what I’m doing. These are the reasons that, regardless of what happens with my publishing career (or lack thereof), writing has been, and will continue to be, worth it. And these are the things that I can enjoy, no matter how long the waiting takes.

  • I have sitting on my bookshelf, right now at this very moment, four ARCs of friends’ books coming out in the next few months. FOUR. And even more book launches for friends on my calendar. I can’t begin to express how happy I am for them.
  • Speaking of book launches, I live in a city that has fabulous book events all the time. Friends’ events aside, there are a bunch of book and author events coming up locally in the next few months that I am ridiculously excited to attend. In my experience, book people rock.
  • There’s a book coming out next week with my name in the acknowledgements. It’ll be the first time that’s happened for me. You have no idea how happy this makes me. A friend once told me that having your name on a spine is great, but what matters most to her is how many acknowledgements she appears in. I think she’s right. Life is more joyful when you can sincerely celebrate the achievements of others with as much enthusiasm as your own.
  • I’ve spent the majority of the past four days with various people I met through writing, but who are now some of my dearest friends. Books and words were discussed, but we also went to restaurants, drank margaritas, watched action movies, stood in line for ice cream in the rain, went shoe shopping, and talked about everything from So You Think You Can Dance to German U-boats (okay, those two conversations might have happened simultaneously). These are my people. I have no idea how I functioned before I knew them.
  • In the past couple weeks, two of my friends have signed with wonderful agents. I can’t wait to see their hard work turned into books on shelves.
  • I’ve written an entire book. A book I love. Whether or not it ever sees the light of day, I can be proud of that.
  • I’m working on two others, and have ideas for many more. In the past year, I’ve discovered a love of writing I never knew I possessed. I’m so thankful to have learned that about myself.
  • I’m running a half marathon in twelve weeks (?!?!) for the first time in my life, because a writer friend talked me into it. I’m not entirely convinced that I won’t live to regret this, but I can say that I can now run further than I ever have in my life. It’s not 13.1 miles (yet), but just training is an accomplishment.
  • I’m attending the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference in September, and I will know tons of people. Last year I just attended the mixer, and I only knew a couple people. What a difference a year makes.
  • I’m traveling to Charleston, SC in November with four writer friends to attend YALLFest. Again, these are all people I either hadn’t met or barely knew a year ago, and now we’re going to cram five of us in a hotel room for three nights so we can attend a weekend full of YA book goodness.

So there you go. My thoughts on waiting and contentment, and how contentment makes the waiting easier.

Do I still compulsively check email or Twitter stalk? Very possibly. Would I be over the moon thrilled if my dream agent were to call me tomorrow and offer representation? You betcha. Do I still dream of one day walking into a bookstore and finding my name on a spine (or several)? Absolutely. And I will keep working toward that goal, for as long as writing brings me joy (which I imagine being the foreseeable future).

But in the meantime, I can take happiness in the journey. Not just in the writing itself — which is a gift — but also the people, the opportunities, and the experiences it’s given to me. And if you’re waiting, and struggling (as one does), I hope that you too can find contentment in the present. To be excited for what’s to come, but also to take joy in the now.

Thus endeth my philosophical musings for today.

EDIT: A few (wonderful) friends in the comments and via various other methods of communication have felt the need to encourage me after reading this post with some version of “And don’t worry, I know it feels like it’s taking a long time, but I’m sure you will get there!” To you, friends, I first say, thank you. Your confidence in me is bolstering and inspiring, and I am in constant awe of the utter fabulousness of your friendship and this community I’m so blessed to be a part of. I appreciate you.

But also, I just wanted to clear up, in case it is somehow unclear: this post is not intended as a lament that I have not yet achieved my goals. I’m not in despair, or even moderate discouragement. I’m actually really, really good with the whole waiting thing (obviously I have my days of WHY WAITING WHYYYYY, but fortunately, those are few and far between. And not today). I just  thought it may help some people — or maybe just me — to have a post about what waiting feels like, written by someone who is still in the midst of waiting and has no promise to ever emerge victorious on the other side. Most posts (that I’ve read) that talk about waiting are written from the finish line. I wanted to write one from heart of the race.

It doesn’t mean I think I won’t, someday, reach the finish line (of course, then there’s another finish line after that, and one after that, and one after that…). Just that I know it’s not guaranteed. And that I can still be okay with the waiting, no matter what happens, because there are still things to be grateful for in the now.

Sitting at the Cool Kids Table, and other musings on the writing community

If you follow many authors on Twitter or Facebook, read their blogs, attend their events, or read the Acknowledgements pages in their books, you’ve probably noticed what I have. Authors tend to hang out with other authors. They critique each others’ work. They go on retreats together. They cheerlead and support each other, and attend one another’s events. They have inside jokes and speak in code.

For a while, to me, it seemed a little like an exclusive club. Sure, I met some authors at various events, but without the secret password, I would never be permitted to cross the velvet rope and transition from “fan” into “friend.” I was an aspiring author, but they were authors. I could no sooner propose we meet for coffee than I could call up Jennifer Lawrence and invite her to my birthday party. (Sidebar: Jennifer, if you want to come to my birthday party, you are totally welcome to do that.)

They were the cool kids, and I was the friendless nerdling, longing to cross into their ranks but knowing, not-so-deep in my gut, that I was unworthy.

Then something interesting happened. I started seeing the same authors over and over at different events. Because here’s the thing about writers: they are readers. They love books just as much as you and I do. And that awesome book event I was so excited about? They were just as excited. Maybe even more so, because the featured authors were their friends.

After rubbing elbows with people a few times, eventually you have to stop gushing about only their books. Seriously, no matter how awesome the book is, it can only sustain a conversation for so long. So without quite realizing it, I found myself discussing other topics with these authors I so admired. Our kids, and if all of them are so weird, or just mine. Doctor Who, and whether or not it is permissible to skip the Ninth Doctor (in my opinion, no). Harry Potter, whether Snape redeemed himself by the end, and which death was the worst. The love triangle in The Hunger Games, and whether or not it even exists.

Movies. Pets. Books. Chocolate. The kind of topics you talk about with normal people.

Here is the secret: writers are people. And not in a creepy, Soylent Green sense. They are readers and critics and fans and dreamers and doubters. Just like the rest of us. And as with any group of people, there will be some that are just your people. It won’t be everyone, but trust me. They’re out there.

When I found my people (and for me, it was kind of a magical all-at-once experience, a combination of putting myself out there and Twitter and joining SCBWI and divine providence), it opened up doors in my writing journey I didn’t realize were possible. This new community — that I never learned the secret password to, by the way — has enriched my life and my writing more than I can explain.

The beauty of having writer friends is that we are all creators and thinkers and analyzers. Writers understand the relentless gnaw of a new story idea, the satisfaction of seeing an empty page fill with words, the strange gleeful terror that comes with deleting a huge section of your book because you figured out a better way to do it. Writers understand the voices of doubt in your head that whisper “this sucks and no one will ever want to read it.” They don’t think you’re crazy when you’ve carefully plotted out a story, and then your characters insist on taking it in a totally different direction. They are excellent at hearing a broad synopsis for your broken story, hearing where you’re stuck, and coming up with absolutely brilliant ways to fix your problem. They are adept at talking you off the ledge when the query rejections start rolling in, one after the other, and then again when an agent does want to see your story, but then doesn’t get back to you in less than 24 hours salivating over your manuscript like that-magical-How-I-Got-My-Agent-blogpost-I-read-last-week (there is nothing like a freakishly rapid How I Got My Agent success story to make you come down with a debilitating case of Iprobablysuckandtheyhatemeitis).

So I guess I have a few points here.

1) The writing community can seem daunting to break into. I thought it was utterly intimidating. Until it wasn’t. A big part of that was realizing that other writers are like me. We share passions and interests and fears. The relationships don’t have to be forced. If you are a writer (and if you understood the entire above paragraph about writer brain, you are a writer), it will come naturally. And when it does, it is a beautiful, amazing, soul-enriching thing.

2) Writers are writers are writers. If you’d have told me a year ago that some of my favorite names from the book spines on my shelf would become the top contacts in my phone, I wouldn’t have believed you. But if you live in a city that’s not crawling with published authors, that’s okay too. Some of my best friends in the writing community aren’t published yet. Some aren’t even agented, or don’t have a completed manuscript. And that’s okay. The important thing is we’re all writers, our brains work similarly, and we are there to support each other, no matter how fledgling or established our writing careers

3) Joining a community requires putting yourself out there. And trust me, I know this can be hard. I am shy and introverted and awkward (which are not synonymous, by the way), and at first, going to events where I didn’t know anyone had me sweating like an Eskimo in the Sahara. But something I’ve learned is that the reading and writing community is built on shy, awkward introverts. I’ve found I work best when I interact with people online first (generally via Twitter), then meet them in person. Joining SCBWI and getting involved with my local chapter was also huge for me (RWA is another fabulous organization). But it’s different for everyone. (And if you live in the middle of nowhere with no other writers – BEHOLD the beauty of the Internet! Online friends are just as real as local friends.) The only universal truth here is that you won’t join a community if you never, ever reach out to other humans.

4) Writers make you a better writerI don’t have a single writer friend whose writing has not benefited from friendships with other writers. Books are often group efforts. That’s why acknowledgement pages read the way they do. It’s not a club, and it’s not a Who’s Who. It’s like-minded people collaborating on stories, because that is what they love to do. Personally, one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to if (“when,” my writer friends would correct me, “always when”) my book ever becomes A Real Book is writing my acknowledgements. Not to name drop, but to publicly thank those people who have helped me grow so much from where I used to be, both as a writer and as a person. (Also, the other funny thing about all those Big Names in acknowledgement pages? They weren’t Big Names when they started. They were friends and critique partners all starting out together as newbie writers. Everyone has to start somewhere.)

5) A writing community and a critique group are not necessarily the same thing. I have a lot more writing friends than I do critiquers. Just because you know other writers or are friends with writers does not mean you have to always critique each other’s work. You may have totally differing tastes or writing styles, or you may write for different audiences. Or they may already have their own established critique groups and partners, and no time to work your writing into their schedule. Even if someone isn’t a great match for you as a critiquer, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a great friend and part of your writing support system.

6) You can be a writer even if you haven’t written anything yet. I think some of us unpublished, uncontracted, unagented, unfinished writers can tell ourselves that we are not “real” writers. We can’t attempt to join the club yet, because our credentials aren’t good enough. And that’s simply not true. The more time I spend with writers, the more I believe that being a writer isn’t about how many books you’ve sold or words you’ve written, but about about how you think, who you are, and what you aspire to. If you have stories in your heart and characters in your head and passion in your soul, but only a couple chapters actually written? No problem. You’re still a writer.

Anyway. This has gotten kind of long and rambly. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about the writing community and how the people I’ve met have, quite literally, changed my life. And I’ve said on more than one occasion that if I had to choose between the people I’ve met and ever seeing my books on shelves, I’d choose the people, hands down. Obviously, I hope to have both, someday. But in the meantime, I will simply enjoy how very blessed I am to have such amazing friends (you know who you are) who get me, understand the weird way my brain works, and encourage me as I plunge ever further down the rabbit hole of storytelling.

(And if you’re not a writer, never fear. I’ve got reviews coming up. Just as soon as I can wrap my brain around the books I’ve read recently. Them’s thinkin’ books.)

Writerly TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You may or may not be aware that we just passed the 10th anniversary of the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that, despite its silly name, is often considered by both fans and critics to be one of the greatest shows of all time. I admit, I held out on this show for a while. I saw the original movie, and it was terrible. So although the show premiered while I was still in high school, and although I had friends who watched and loved it, I didn’t think it would be for me. I wasn’t really into teen shows, and I wasn’t into vampires.

Years later, after graduating college, I got a job working the graveyard shift at a hotel. It. Sucked. But one day, as I ate “lunch” at 4:00 p.m. while preparing for work, I turned on the TV. My options were limited. But eventually, my channel surfing paused on a show that looked interesting. The dialogue was snappy and smart. The characters seemed interesting. And holy whoa, suddenly there was kung-fu. While snarking.

After a few minutes, I was hooked. Buffy became my daily get-ready-for-work show, and even though I started watching mid-season 5 (A WEIRD TIME TO START THE SHOW, LEMME TELL YA), I eventually figured out most of the back story and mythology. Using powers of mind control I have still never been able to replicate, I convinced my fiance (now husband) that this show was not too girly for him, and he joined me in my addiction. We watched through the end of season 6, then started from the beginning as the reruns cycled back around. We caught up just in time to catch the final season as it aired. I remember watching the series finale in his parents’ basement, a month before our wedding. We had gone out for the evening on some sort of wedding-related activity, but demanded that we return in time for Buffy. IT WAS QUITE IMPORTANT. (BTW: DVRs are a good invention. I appreciate them quite a lot.)

So what’s the deal with Buffy? Maybe you heard it was awesome, and watched a few episodes of the first season, then gave up. I wouldn’t blame you. (Okay, I would, but not a lot.) The first season was working with a low budget and a big concept. The effects are awful. The season-long Big Bad is campy. And it followed a monster-of-the-week format featuring creatures that were often just plan weird.

I am fully aware that this is not from Season 1. And of who the monster is. But you have to admit, this gif still sums up the problems of Season 1 pretty well.

It. Gets. Better.

Buffy really starts to come into its own in Season 2, when it started to embrace serialization and season arcs a bit more. It also dared to go a bit darker, which helped immensely. And as the show matured, it grew bolder, took bigger risks, told broader stories. Not all the seasons are perfect — every one has a few stinker eps — but even Buffy at its weakest is better TV than many shows at their strongest.

The strength of Buffy is not in its kick-butt action sequences (although the karatepires are indeed awesome). It’s the characters, and how they evolve over whatever length of time we get to spend with them. Characters we meet as villains become heroes, and heroes become villains. Characters with superpowers fail, and characters with no powers triumph. They are constantly growing and changing, making mistakes and learning from them. More than anything, they feel real. While Buffy Summers is indisputably the main character, her friends, family, allies and nemeses all get fully fleshed out. They each have their own struggles and arcs and amazing development. If you want to know how to make an audience invest in side characters, or how to make each and every character the hero of their own story, this is the show to watch.

Additionally, Buffy remains one of the best shows for witty banter, ever. The writing is sharp and tight, somehow managing to perfectly blend humor and darkness, tragedy and levity. It’s a serious show that deals with serious issues, but it’s also hilarious and silly. Its emotions are real and raw, but it balances them with moments of unexpected lightness.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not just a show about a girl slaying vampires, or kids developing superpowers. It’s a show about growing up, finding yourself, making mistakes, facing challenges, and developing the relationships that help define who you are. Yes, there’s monsters and action and magic, but if that’s all it was, it would be no different than the dozens of other shows with that M.O. There’s a reason Buffy is the bar all the others aspire to. There’s a reason it’s considered great, and not just lumped in with all the other “vampire shows” or “teen shows.” It uses a supernatural setting and fantastic conflicts to tell stories we can all relate to. It takes character archetypes we think we know — the cheerleader, the homecoming queen, the book nerd, the bad boy, the comic relief — and turns them on their heads, exploring how these people are the archetypes, but are also so much more.

For writers, I think it’s a fabulous study not only in character development and banter and story arcs, but also in the unexpected. Buffy never shies away from going to the places we don’t anticipate. It takes the tropes and forms we’ve come to expect, acknowledges them, and then takes them in a new direction. It also is an excellent example of not letting setting take over story. Lots of times, especially in paranormal stories, it’s easy to make the main conflict “THERE ARE VAMPIRES/ZOMBIES/WEREWOLVES/ETC AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED.” And that’s it. But with Buffy, while there is often a Big Bad that must be dealt with, much of the conflict is internal, as the characters struggle to overcome personal obstacles and relationship struggles and existential crises.

I could go on forever about Buffy and all the reasons it’s amazing, and about why it’s an excellent tool for writers — especially if you’re writing paranormal, but really, it can apply to anything. But I think I’ve made my point. If you’re still over there thinking, “I just don’t like vampire shows,” then you’re about where I was back in 1997. Maybe you need to wait six years, then stumble onto a rerun and watch them out of order. Maybe you need to be bored and in the mood for something action-y on Netflix. Maybe you just need to be told one more time that it’s awesome anyway.

Or maybe you’ll never watch it, and will never really understand what you’re missing, and will always kind of wonder why it keeps showing up on “Best of” lists. And you’ll always think those of us who feel so very passionately about it are a tad wrong in the head. Perhaps we are.

But if you come over to the dark side, we have cookies.

Also, if you have watched the series already — or if you are on the fence, and don’t mind a few spoilers — this tribute to the series is fantastic.

In which I return, I think.

*blows dust and cobwebs off blog*

Hello readers! Sorry I vanished for a while there. I was deep in my revision cave, which is not — I think — nearly so dank and dark as other writers’ revision caves, but was still a marathon event where my computer chair molded to my body (or possibly the other way around) and I subsisted on frozen food and coffee and Cheetos. Dark times indeed. In case you’re wondering what it feels like to be in a revision cave, it’s basically this, but with more junk food:

The good news is I do have a loving (and exceedingly patient and understanding) husband, as well as amazing writer friends who totally get me. So they never really let me get to Oblio levels of isolation. (By the way, we have all seen The Point, yes? Because that movie is truly fabulous, and utterly unique and creative. I’ve loved it since forever.)

This will probably only get worse if/when I ever actually…you know…have a real deadline and not just one I made up (there was a Legit!Reason! for making it up, but even so, I made it up). But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

But for now I can say I’m done! I’ve revised my fantasy for the bajillionth time, and I think this one’s going to stick. And by “stick,” I mean I am not voluntarily going to do anything else to it unless someone in authority tells me to. I will no longer go in and tweak and finesse because I got an epiphany on the way to preschool and IT’S EXACTLY PERFECT. No. I am done. Even though immediately after sending it out to the aforementioned People In Authority, I also sent it to my husband, and he noticed an error on page one.


I told him not to tell me if he finds more, for the good of my sanity and our marriage.

Meanwhile, I have a New Shiny Idea I’m excited to jump on, and hey, maybe I’ll actually READ something that is a real book on real shelves in real stores that real people buy. That is a novel [*PUNALERT*] idea. And then I can blog about it! For YOU!

Speaking of blogging, I’m going to upgrade my posting timeline from “Seriously, did you die?” to “Is there any rhyme or reason to the frequency of your posts? Because it feels like no.”

Which means I will post about things, but I want to set the bar reaaaaal low in terms of how often you will read them. Because I love blogging, and I love reading, and I love blogging about reading. But the writing bug has attacked and will not let me go, like a Time Beetle only without all the destructive parallel world complications. But rest assured, when I do post, it will be a more exciting read than this one. I hope.

Updates and contests and waiting, oh my!

In case you were wondering about my querying/writing journey so far, it looks a lot like this:

No, I’m not going to get specific on what all is happening with querying right now. Let’s just say I’ve gotten form rejections, and I’ve gotten requests, and I can now say for certain that when you hear that much of querying is sitting and waiting, it’s true.

This week (and maybe next), in an attempt to be proactive and give myself something to obsess over other than refreshing my email every 30 seconds, I’ve entered two contests.

The first is Pitch-Fest at WriteOnCon. My 200-word pitch will be critiqued by at least one agent, along with (hopefully) book bloggers, librarians, and authors. They’ll offer helpful feedback, and can request more material if they’re interested. I’m not allowed to comment on my thread while the Pitch-Fest is going on; I just have to sit back and watch the magic.

Which of course means that after I revised and polished my pitch, and even had other people look it over to be sure it was ready…I realized I deleted some rather important information. Originally, I introduced a character in the first paragraph whose actions are then developed in the last paragraph. But then I cut out his intro. So now he just pops up at the end, seemingly out of nowhere.


Anyway, if you want to check out my pitch, glaring omission and all, you can view it here. And I can at least clarify here, for you lovely and confused folks, that Thomas is her neighbor and best friend. There. I feel better.

The second is Pitch Madness, where I email in a 35-word logline plus the first 250 words of my novel, to compete with a few hundred other people doing the exact same thing. I got word this morning that I made it into the second round, along with 126 other hopeful authors. Of these 127 entries, 60 will be picked by the judges to advance next week to Round 3, where agents will compete for a chance to take a closer look at these manuscripts.

Now, 60 out of 127 seems like pretty decent odds, but I don’t want to count my chickens. 67 fabulous pitches won’t make it through, and I could easily be one of them. However, it was nice validation that at the very least, my pitch was good enough to grab someone’s attention.

Many Pitch Madness participants are posting their entries on their blogs. Whether or not I make it to that final round, it’s been fun to hop around the Internet and see what kinds of books are being pitched. Lots of amazing ideas.

So I figured I might as well play along. Even if I don’t make it through, opening myself up to feedback is one of the best ways to get better, right? Right.

So here’s my Pitch Madness entry, for those of you who are interested! I hope you like it (and if not…be gentle. Honest. But gentle).


Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 100,000

Pitch: In a kingdom where magic has been illegal for centuries, sixteen-year-old Maribeth must master the dangerous powers inside her to prevent a devastating war. But first, she’ll have to escape her abductors.


Maribeth stared at the paper, her legs dangling from the waist-high stone wall that wound most of the way around her family’s farm. Beside her, Thomas Whitfield surreptitiously gauged her reaction, demolishing the remnants of an apple between glances. The leaves of the orchard rustled softly, a sound she normally found soothing. But not today.

She couldn’t stop rereading the lines of carefully printed text, searching for any indication that she had misunderstood. No matter how ardently she studied them, the words remained unchanged:

Able-bodied Men of No Fewer than 18 years
For a Most Imperative Service to
His Royal Highness,
King Arvid of Ellymr
To Protect against a Serious and Grievous Threat to our Beloved Kingdom
Interested Men should Report Immediately to
Commander Reifsnyder, Ellymria
For Testing and Training
Generous Compensation shall be awarded to the Fortunate Selected 

Someone had been busy last night tacking dozens of identical notices all over town. This one came from the door of Gavin’s carpentry shop, where Thomas was apprenticed. Maribeth wished he had left it there. Or better yet, that he had never seen it in the first place.

“Thomas,”she said, appalled at the shrillness in her voice, “This doesn’t even say what the service is. For all you know, you could be signing up to fight a war!”

He gave her a dubious look as he polished off the last bit of core and dropped the stem in the grass. “Who would I be fighting?” He grinned teasingly.


There you have it, world! An update on my writing journey. In the meantime, I’m writing another novel that I love just as much as the fantasy, but is toooootally different. Maybe I’ll let you know more about it someday after it’s finished. It’s a fun time.