Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Writer's Tool Box: Top 5 Reasons Why the Internet Belongs There

A few months ago, I discovered the fabulous playground known as Face Book. A place for friends to gather and buy each other cyber drinks, go green, and send a host of outrageous gifts back and forth. Aside from throwing the odd sheep now and then, I love to send and receive little treasures from the Writer's Toolbox—time to write, copy paper, a million fans, a book contract, an agent,... How fabulous is that?

And then I thought, there is one thing missing...the internet. Imagine the old days, those wonderfully romanticized images of Eric Blair huddled over his crappy desk in a dark hovel, alienating his wife and cutting himself off from all human contact so he can scratch out 1984 only to die completely broke and under-appreciated.  Okay, maybe not so hot.  Of course then you have Ernest Hemingway, always the life of the party, constantly trying to prove his manhood by running with the bulls and heading out to the high seas to hook a marlin...until he shoots himself in the head.    

Hmmmm...ya gotta wonder.

At least in the world of children's books, today's authors have a little more spunk and a stronger sense of life.  Maybe it's because we're closer to the font.  The source of youth and joie de vivre.  Or maybe it's the internet.

Let's start with the most practical reason why the internet should be in our Writer's Toolbox, and move toward the more metaphysical:

  • #5.  Research:  No matter what kind of book you write, whether it's historical fiction, fantasy, or the edgiest anthem to modern teen angst, you do research.  If you're old (like me), you might not be in touch with what an EMO is or get the latest fads or slang.  Hit the internet.   And even more practical, who's publishing your kind of stuff or representing it, or reading it?  The list is endless.
  • #4.  Speaking of queries:  Not only can you research the publishing industry and all its fabulous fodder, but you can submit via email or online forms.  Oooooh...and get the answers that much faster.  And even better, you can check your email 150 times a day in the privacy of your own more skulking to the mailbox, out in the open, for all your non-writer neighbors to gawk at.
  • #3.  Distraction:  Hallelujah!  When you get that 247th rejection on your teenage vampire/spy/beauty queen novel, you can get lost in a variety of online games and other mindless distractions.  Of course this cuts both ways.  Instead of working through that writer's block in the middle of your 10th revision, you can waste time visiting 100 different blogs.  You might find inspiration...then again, you might find out that everyone else is having more fun than you—or not.  Best to set up a daily routine and limit the distractions (can you tell it's working for me?)
  • #2. Community:  Voila!  There it is.  THE BIG ONE.  This is the thing that keeps us from pulling the trigger.  We have FRIENDS.  Face book friends, LJ friends, Blue Board friends, Blogger friends,...  There is a whole world of human contact out there.  Okay, maybe not exactly human contact, but it's real and active and something we come to count on.  When your non-writer friends have no clue what a hook is or what a galley looks like or what the hell a good synopsis looks like, you have cyber friends.  People at all stages of their writing careers who are willing to show you their bloody wounds and battle scars.  They'll commiserate with you in your failures and celebrate like no one else in your successes.  And when you travel two states over for a conference, they'll even welcome you into their home, feed you, and haul you around even though they've never seen your face before.  Because the know you from the internet.  I know, that could sound a little creepy, but children's writers are a different breed.  They understand compassion, empathy, and good old cathartic key-banging.  I don't know what I would do without my connections (in case you missed it, that was a pun...okay, not a very good one, but...).  
So there it is.  The top reasons why the internet should be in any writer's toolbox.  Oh, wait!  One more?  That's right.  
  • #1.  Where to find Your Book!  Yep, the internet will have the Publisher's Marketplace announcement of your deal, your ecstatic declaration on the Blue Boards and on your blog, and the cover image on Amazon (shhhh...we still support the independent book sellers!).  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ghosts of What Should Be

What a strange mix of joy and longing. The last two weeks have brought a variety of news, good and bad. The great news, of course, is that I have a wonderful agent. More good news came last week when I went to parent/teacher conferences. Yes, folks, they are a good thing. And particularly sweet this time around. My dear dyspraxic daughter is doing brilliantly, thanks to a truly gifted teacher. I'm so very proud of Ghost Daughter. She has worked hard to stay focused and get into the groove of public school. And what's more, I think I have another ravenous reader in the making. And Ghost Son is knocking it out of the park as always. He is just such a neat kid. Little miracles, both of them.

I'm not sure if this is good or bad news, but the editor who has had my manuscript for the past year finally decided to pass on it. There goes that fantasy! But my awesome agent is so positive and has such great insight into my book, that she really has me pumped to move on to the next opportunity. I'm revising, and thrilled with what's happening. I know there will still be things to do when I'm done. Editors will always find something to fix, and that's okay. My babies ain't perfect! But I'm really excited about the possibilities.

The toughest things seem to have come crashing around me over the last few days. Thursday night, the wind is howling and along about 5:30, the dark outside is already falling. I'm watching the news while dinner simmers and I'm expecting something. That insatiable anticipation of the normal. That any minute, Ghost Hunk is going to walk through the door and tell me about his day. Except that Ghost Hunk is still in Georgia. It just can't be real. I ache for him. Just to sit next to him and babble on about my great news, and not-so-great news. I won't get all maudlin, now, but something has got to happen soon. Somebody buy this damn house so we can get on with it!

To top it all off, we get a phone call from the mega corporation that was sort of courting Ghost Hunk as he debated leaving academia for the big money. They strung him along and then went silent for months. Now all of a sudden they are interested in talking to him. What the hell is that?! That job would keep us in PA...and pay twice what he's making at the university. But is it really what he wants? Is he ready to leave his career for that? Holy crap! We're just trying get used to the idea of living in GA, struggling to deal with the rapidly collapsing economy and praying for our house to sell so we can get life started again.

Somebody up there is having a good laugh. What a tease! At least I know that my book will BE. That my little ghost family will be together...eventually. That Ghost Hunk will choose the right job (if there is a choice to be made).

For now, I think I just need a margarita (salt please)...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Pinch Me...!

It's Fall—my favorite season—the grass all dappled with red and orange and green and yellow. Smoke on the breeze. My favorite meal in the oven spreading its intoxicating aroma through the house—oniony pot roast, mmmm.... I can relax now. Happy in the best news I've had in months.

I am so thrilled to announce that I have an agent. A FABULOUS agent! Elana Roth from the Caren Johnson Literary Agency is taking The Well of Spirits out into the world and helping me to build my career as a YA writer.  When I talked to her last week, I knew right away that we were in sync.  I liked the way she saw things unfolding and the way she "got" my book.  Her instincts for revision were dead on, and her professionalism right on key.  I was flying!

Now, believe it or not, I still had two other agents reviewing my manuscript.  I emailed them to let them know that I had an offer.  And (to my surprise) they both responded that they would like to have the week to finish.  One of them had been my mentor at the Rutgers One-on-One, and I really liked her.  She is sharp and savvy and interested in the actual history behind my books.  She did call and say that she would like to see some revision before she made an offer.  While we didn't get into a lot of detail, the revisions she had mentioned earlier were not exactly what I was seeing for this book and the size of her client list and agency was a little daunting.   

As I suspected, I had met the right agent already.  What a great feeling!  Woohoo!  So, my agent and I (ooohh, I love the sound of that) have a plan, and things are starting to move.  I can't wait to get my teeth into publishing and actually start writing that next book.   

For now, I'll sink my teeth into some pot roast.  And maybe wash it down with a little champagne!