Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zen in Writing and Querying

I think I have finally reached that moment of zen in the writing process.  When I first starting querying, I watched my email waiting for something to happen.  I stared at my computer and my phone waiting to hear news - good or bad (hoping for good).  I frantically sent off queries convinced that it would only be a matter of days until some agent would call and sweep me off my feet.  Then I got down.  I stared at the computer waiting for rejections.  I questioned my ability and begged for validation.  I got angry when rejection came in and it started all over.  I can remember when I got my first request for a full on Keridwen and literally made myself sick.  My husband took us away for the weekend attempting to snap me out of it, but I worried and waited and worried and waited wanting, hoping, praying for good news.  Then I got the rejection and felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.  I wanted to throw up, cry, scream, give up, all at the same time, but something pulled me through - my husband once again.  I thought working on another book would bring me out of it, and it did...for a while.  Then I frantically started worrying about querying Love and Texts.  Admittedly, I am taking this one slower than Keridwen, but it still had me waking up at night with pangs of need to find an agent.  Even now as I write this, I know I have a partial out for Keridwen and a full out for Love and Texts, but for whatever reason, I'm not worrying about it anymore.  I go through the motions of submitting queries, still hoping to find and agent, but the obsessive behavior is passing.  I'm either growing numb to it all or something else that I can't describe.  I'm not giving up because I'm still querying, but rather I am finding comfort in knowing if it's meant to be it's meant to be.

Last weekend, my foot was attacked by small insects in my yard (they weren't ants), and I was forced to go to the ER for a reaction.  Though my foot stopped itching and swelling thanks to the meds, I suffered from four to five headaches a day for most of the week.  Yesterday was my first day without one.  While I curled up on my bed in writhing pain, I though oh my God, I'm not going to be able to write anymore.  I can't focus long enough to think of a story let alone a story line.  The pain had taken over.  Now that I am without the pain, I am enjoying being able to play with my children, watch a movie, read a book, and I'm grateful.  I know it sounds like I had a near death experience, and I know I wasn't near death, but the idea of headaches for the rest of my life was nothing to joke about.  It was horrible, which leads me to today.  Today, I went to the movies with a friend, cleaned house, cuddled with my kids and chatted with my husband.  I've checked my email and even QT, but the obsession has passed.  I know because when I saw that my Gmail had a message, my stomach didn't turn.  I simply tapped the icon on my phone, saw that it was from Netflix and went on with my day. 

I hope that anyone reading this can relate to the complete takeover of writing and querying.  I also hope that they can relax as I have at this moment.  I do suspect that there will be some obsession again, but I do vow to never again let it take over my life.  I will keep writing.  I will keep querying agents.  I will keep hoping and praying for publication, but I will not let it destroy me and I will not let it control me.  That is my promise to myself and my family.

Have a great weekend to any of you reading and I hope it is relaxing as mine will be.
J

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baking for Relaxation

I'm making my famous Chocolate Chip Cookies tonight for the first time in a few months.  As much as I can't stand cooking, I absolutely love baking.  With the school year coming to an end in a month, I am treating one of my classes to cookies tomorrow after being asked every day for the last three months.  I kinda feel like I need to, but I truly enjoy the process.  With a partial and a full out for Love and Texts, I need a distraction, and baking is filling that quite nicely after having cleaned out my closet earlier today. 

While baking, a new idea has been marinating in my head for a new manuscript.  I already have most of it outlined from a year ago, but now I am starting to feel the creative juices bubbling up once again - it must be because summer is coming.  I look forward to working on something new while still going through a critique of Love and Texts and fielding queries for L&T and Keridwen.  It's a bit crazy right now, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to cookies.  Once I finish making the chocolate chips, I am going to make some for my family.  These little ones are have chocolate chip and half butterscotch.  Mmmmm.  Gotta love having a family recipe and not one from a book.  There's something special about keeping a family secret and reveling in watching people oooh and ahhhh over them.  Anyway, I just wanted to share that baking is really the best form of relaxation right now.  You all should try it out.

If you'd like to share recipes, please do so in the comments.  I'm always up for something new.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

I know I am not the only writer looking to be agented/published who holds a job as well, so this post will not be new for many, but I just want to share a day in my life.  Typically, I wake up at 5:30am to grade for my online class before getting ready for my real job, high school English teacher.  School here starts at 7:30am, so my day must start earlier than most teachers.  Once I get to school, regular teacher stuff goes on: planning, prepping, teaching, discipline, parenting, counseling, etc.  The benefit of starting early is we get out early.  School ends at 2:30, so I'm usually heading to my car by 3:00. :) I know, it doesn't seem like a long day, but I can assure you it doesn't end there.  Then I go grocery shopping or post office or bank or whatever errand I can get done and be home by 3:30 where I relieve my babysitter who has picked up my children from school (they get out at 1:40; don't even get me started on the cuts taking place in education and the negative affects on our children). At that point, I greet my two beauties and make snacks, check homework, check on behavior reports from teachers.  All finished with that, I move back to my computer for more online facilitation (I teach an online class for aspiring teachers).  Once caught up there, I make dinner, greet husband, bathe kids or rather beg them to take showers, clean the house as best I can, get kids to bed, and finally sit on the couch for television.  If at that point, I'm not exhausted, I pull out my laptop and write.

This weekend, I am fortunate to have a four day weekend for Easter, so I am cleaning the house today (Friday) with hopes to read a book this weekend.  Love and Texts is being critiqued currently, so as the pages come in, I break for revisions.  We'll see how that goes.  Currently, I am taking a break from cleaning because I am scared of my kitchen and don't want to face it, so I am "killing time" by posting a blog.  It's not a very interesting blog today, but I thought I'd share a little about myself with all of you.

I am sure some of you are thinking, "When does she write?"  Well, I do the bulk of my actual writing during the summer when I don't have to be at school.  The rest of the school year I spend editing and revising.  I realize that doesn't give me a chance to write more than one or two books a year, but realistically, I don't have an agent yet, so until I feel that pressure, I am taking my time.  Weekends are also a great time for me to write because my husband helps with the kids and I can bounce ideas off of him.

I really don't have it any worse than most.  I love my life and feel blessed to have a family, a job, and a passion.  Making it balance can be rough, but I truly believe that multi-tasking is my strength.  So, then question to you all, how do you balance writing into your lives?

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your responses.
J

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Great day with my betas!

Today I got up the courage to ask my betas the hard questions.  First, to give some background...because my manuscript is Young Adult, I wanted target audience betas.  These young adults come from totally different backgrounds, cliques, and socioeconomic groups.  I wanted a fair look at how my "readers" will connect with the manuscript.  One beta, I will refer to her as Beta A, has finished the book.  I gave her about a week before I asked the normal, what should I change? what did you like? what didn't you like?  Beta A's main comments were that she would want to read it again, at least once, and she "loved it."  She said that it really sounded like real high school relationships, which of course is what I was going for.

Beta B is just about done, but we chat everyday.  She told me today that she feels like she is reading her life story having gone through practically the same situation as the main.  I assured her that this was written two years before I met her, and she laughed. 

Beta C is just about done as well, so I have another day or two before I will be able to really sit down and hash it all out with her, but so far so good.  The one comment she said that stuck with me is, "Lucas is a really good liar.  He's so manipulative."  I couldn't say it better.  I can remember reworking him a while ago and getting so angry at him.  He's such a jerk, but he needs to be that way or there wouldn't be a story. 

I feel so good about this manuscript and hope an agent feels the same.  Enough said. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

All's Quiet on the Western Front

It's awefully quiet here in Arizona, but beautiful outside with windows open at 7:30pm and a breeze winding through my house.  I've started actively querying All's Fair in Love and Texts, and received a request for a full from the second person I queried.  Other than that request, I haven't heard much. So I sit and wait.  Not bad for my query. :)  My betas are still reading, and one has finished. She closed the binder and looked at me with only one thing to say, "I loved it!"  Needless to say that made me happy.  Even better, I had two girls arguing over who could read it when since I only printed one copy and they read it during their down times in class.  LOL! It was amusing to hear them squabble, and even more pleasing to hear have them look at me with disgust in their eyes, "WHO'S LISA!"  I just smiled and told them to read on.  I've had one cry a little, others laugh, and even more angry replying with, "I can't stand Sophie, she reminds me of so-and-so." So-and-so happens to be that beta's best friend.  Again, I just smile and think, good.  I seem to have written it well for the betas to relate to well with the characters.  This gives me hope.

Though I am still waiting to hear on one full and one partial for Keridwen, I've decided to put it on the back burner for now and focus on Love and Texts.  I'd absolutely love to get good news for Keridwen, but Love and Texts is my baby of over two years.  I loved it in the beginning and I love it more now that I've for all practical purposed rewritten it.  Of course, I will change what needs to be changed in the eyes of an agent or editor, but I feel like it is solid and receiving quality feedback. 

For those of you who would like to know about All's Fair in Love and Texts, I've included my query letter in this blog.  If you'd like to read more, please don't hesitate to ask by emailing me at jamie.handling at gmail dot com.  I look forward to any of your comments - good or bad.  Thanks for reading my blog, by the way.  I do appreciate the readers, even if you don't follow....ADD moment, I can't stand when people spam twitter with "read my blog," "follow my blog," "be my friend."  I'm just not that person. So, with that said, if you want to follow, please do and it will be appreciated.  If you don't want to follow and just want to stop by from time to time, please do and it will be appreciated.  We writers need to stick together. :)

~Jamie

And now for the query for All's Fair in Love and Texts...

What if your best friend had everything for the taking?  Attention, popularity, boys, success... What if you were always used to being in your friend's shadow - and suddenly, in your senior year, supposedly the best ever, it all changes?

Audrey Brown has always been content being the polar opposite of her friend Sophie Taylor.  After all, she's been able to live vicariously through Sophie who’s always had it all, and she's enjoyed being the yin to Sophie's yang.  But that changes in what seems a blink of an eye when Audrey meets Lucas, a military brat transfer from California whom she falls in love with from the start.  Soon, Audrey has everything Sophie's ever had - a boy's attention, a real romance, and a first kiss to dream about.  Sophie's jealous, both of Audrey's newfound happiness, and of the time she spends with Lucas.

To make matters worse, Sophie's parents are getting a divorce, and she's in dire need of Audrey's support.  As her family crumbles, she'll go to drastic measures to remain the most important person in Audrey's world and get her best friend back.  Meanwhile, Audrey is trying to navigate her romantic relationship, which causes her great amounts of grief as well.  Together the girls must figure out how to balance their new lives, classes, and friendship in order to make it through their final year of high school.  Audrey must figure out how to spend time with Lucas and Sophie or she too faces losing everything.

All's Fair in Love and Texts is a 62,000 word engaging, realistic modern high school YA Contemporary novel.  Appealing to YA readers, it also has crossover potential to early twenty-something women.  And it embraces teenagers' favorite form of communication, texting, as the main heartbeat to make-ups and break-ups and all that falls in between.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where I graduated from California State University, Hayward with a Bachelor's Degree in English and Creative Writing and Walden University with a Master's Degree in Education.  I have been published with short fiction in the Writer's Post Journal.  I am also a mother, military wife, and veteran high school English teacher.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Power of a Critique

I have to share because I am so excited about my new query letter.  About a month ago, I won an auction for a query critique from a successfully published author.  Well, we have been through four drafts and finally, my query for All's Fair in Love and Texts is finished and we both love it.  I sent it to four agents a few minutes ago hoping that we worked real magic on it.  This process has been invaluable and I am so grateful to have had a wonderful experience.  I was partially expecting a one time feedback situation, but she was so helpful and requested draft after draft until it was solid.  I would share who it was with, but I think keeping things anonymous is probably the most professional route being I didn't get her permission to talk about her, but I can say it was wonderful.

My advice to all is to get a critique partner and numerous betas for any work.  I realize I am still in the agent searching process and am far from an expert on this whole thing, but my query looks like a million dollars now.  As far as the manuscript goes, it is going through seven betas right now and has already been through five others.  The feedback is both insightful and instrumental in creating the best possible work.  I just hope it looks the same for an agent out there.  I am crossing my fingers, toes, and anything else I can.

The tide is changing for me and I am done with my pity party.  Once again, I look forward to moving on and getting published.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Keeping it Real

I am in desperate need of a distraction today, so I am redirecting my energy on All's Fair in Love and Texts, my YA romance about Audrey, Sophie and Lucas navigating their way through senior year of high school.  I sent out my first five queries a couple of weeks ago, but with little response from the query, I revamped the query and have sent out five more.  I am taking this one extremely slow.  I've had a love of this manuscript for two years and am more passionate about it now than I ever was before, so Keridwen is on the back burner as I wait for responses to the remaining partials and full out there for the gods to review. 

After receiving a rejection on a full today, with no feedback, my husband has become my number one cheerleader.  He brought me flowers, cards, cheesecake, and wine to bandage my open wound of a soul.  I love him dearly for it.  He is truly my inspiration to continue on this quest for puiblication, for without him, I would have quit a long time ago.  He, above anyone else, believes in me and my writing which means the world to me.

After I read the rejection during my fifth hour class, I wanted to cry and throw my phone across the room, but he called me and gave me a pep talk others would be envious of.  It led me to think about what I wanted this blog to be about, or really, my blog in general.  I want it to be real.  One that others can relate to on the journey through hell.  I don't want to bad mouth agents or complain like a whiner, but I want people to understand that some rejections hurt more than others.  There are days when I feel like it doesn't matter...there is an agent out there for me.  Other days I want to click delete and stop writing altogether.  This has to be normal.  It just has to be.  I see these kids sitting in front me working so hard on their craft and chasing the same dream I do, and it gives me hope, but I know they will have to endure heartbreak just the same. 

My heart aches and my stomach turns, but there's a voice inside me saying don't stop.  Am I masochistic or am I just a writer?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Curse of Writing

We were at a wedding last night where I only knew a handful of people, so I ended up partaking in quite a bit of small talk: "What do you do?", "Where are you from?", "Oh that's interesting!", etc.  Well, at one point me writing came up.
    "What do you write?"
    I answered, "Young adult literature."
    Their automatic response was a head nod, and "Oh," followed by a blank stare.  I think their line of questioning is over, but sure enough, the inevitable question follows, "Are you published?"
     I hate this question because my current answer is, "No, but I'm trying."  To those who don't write, this comes off as, "I'm a loser."  They try to look interested in what you're saying but the truth is, they assume that writers write a book, send it to a publisher, and then become JK Rowling.  I find myself explaining the process of finding and agent, who then helps you work the manuscript to perfection before sending it out to the next step (all of which I really don't know first hand, only what I read about). The listener looks dumbfounded and then changes the conversation.

I've been writing since I was a kid, and the conversation never changes when it comes to me at a computer.  I've stopped sharing with my family because they all think it's a "cute hobby." My husband is my number one cheerleader, but he's an optimist, so he has a hard time when I'm having a bad day.  I do love him for that, though.  I don't share with my students because I don't like them to know I'm human all the time.  They get bits and pieces of that.  I actually find more encouragement and comfort in the strangers out there, like on QT.  We're all in the same boat rowing for the same destination.  There's a peaceful comfort knowing I'm not alone with them rowing beside me.  I view my fellow writers as peers and draw so much strength from the simple things they say, like Raven1 on QT "sending up good vibes" when someone posts they've had a request for a full.  These people are what writers need to keep going.

My daughter who is 8 loves to write, and I encourage her all the time, but deep down I feel like it's a curse.  I love writing, and am a better person when I'm writing.  When I haven't written in a while, my mood changes - grumpy.  My husband has learned to recognize the signs, so he pushes me to the computer even when the juices aren't flowing.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who goes through this, but I do feel like it's a curse at times.  A blessing and a curse all at the same time.  The blessing is that one day people will read what I write and hopefully love it.  The curse is the need to write to stay sane by hammering away at the keyboard, obsessing over the QT boards, watching my email willing it to ding, dreaming about future stories and waking without clear memory of why it was so good, and the characters I fall in love with and hate all the same.  Writing is a blessed curse that brings the hated questions from those who don't understand and the patronizing from those who think it's a "cute" hobby or past time. Ultimately, it is what it is and I love it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

So, my husband is in Orlando and just visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter store where he bought me a Rita Skeeter's Quick Quill.  I know it might sound off, but I'm really excited to see it and use it.  Harry Potter books have been an inspiration to so many and JK Rowling has been an inspiration for me.  To think that she was an English teacher before and came this far made me get off my butt and write.  Now, I am more addicted than I was in college when I was writing angst filled short stories about bad relationships - we were told to write what we know.  That should give some insight to me in college. :)  Now, I've been married for 12 years and there is no angst so I gather my inspiration from my students whom I can TOTALLY relate with. 

Changing subjects, I need ideas for blog topics.  I don't want to write about school because apparently, that can get a teacher in some trouble.  So much for freedom of speech, which means that I need to branch out.  I could write all day about the hilarious things I encounter at work, but I'm not really into risking my job/career/money/family/kids/etc. :) So, I know people have viewed my blog, and I officially have a real follower (welcome by the way), so I am asking the people, what should I write about on here?  Please comment and let me know.  I promise to try to not let you all down.  I really do have a lot to say, but somehow when I am staring at the computer, I draw a blank on creating new topics.

As far as an update goes on Keridwen, I have two fulls and three partials out right now.  I'm waiting patiently and staying positive.  I feel like I'm genuinely getting closer to signing with an agent, it just takes time (I hear that a lot these days).  OK, well, I have to run to the airport and pick up my mother-in-law.  I can't wait.  I honestly think I am one of the few women who truly loves their mothers-in-law and I am blessed to have her in my life.  YAY! 

To those of you who look, but don't follow...I'd love to build my followers, so join. :)
To my follower and those who look but don't follow, please post a comment with a suggestion for topics.

Thanks to all!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back from Las Vegas

I'm home from a much needed mini vacation in Las Vegas where I spent four days with my mom, aunt, and sister, and had entirely too much fun. :)I was so excited to announce to my fellow queens that I have two fulls and two partials out for consideration currently and haven't received rejections for them which I'm hoping is a good sign. While gambling on the penny slots and dancing to great music, I was finally able to take my mind off this whole waiting games instead focusing on buffets, pastries, cheesecake, and family, and I have say I recommend this to anyone in these shoes.

Now I return to my regular schedule of teaching at two schools, taking care of my children, husband, dogs, cat, and guinea pigs, and keeping the house clean in preparation for my mother-in-law whom I love dearly to arrive on Thursday. I have quite the busy week, so once again my mind will be occupied and away from the eager anticipation of hearing from an agent. I have incredibly high hopes because any of those considering my manuscript I would be lucky to have for representation. I've researched them all and am so impressed with what they've achieved, I'd love to be a part of their growing clientele. Anyway, I need to get some sleep for work tomorrow, so I must sign off.

Maybe the next time I post, it will be with good news. Good night!