Monday, August 11, 2014

It's been One Month, Three Weeks and Three Days and ...


For those of you who have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I have fallen off the face of the Earth. Long story short, my debut year has not turned out the way I thought it would.
In case you haven’t heard, my former publisher, Strange Chemistry, closed their doors, effective immediately, on June 20th. (You can read more about my initial reaction here.) There’s no other way to put it other than to say the event sucked. Really sucked.
So now, seven weeks and three days later, with a new book deal in the works, I’ve had a little time to reflect on it. Not on the closing. That happened and really, there was nothing I could have done to change that. Writing is business, no matter how tightly we hold that “artiste” hat to our head. No, what I had time to reflect on was community.

While a million plus books are published every year, the actual writing community is pretty small. And the longer you’re in it, the smaller it seems to become. And like any other community, when bad stuff happens, this amazing rally begins, spiraling out, pulling people in until you truly feel like it’s sheer will of the universe propelling you get out of bed, put on clean clothes and do important stuff like feed your kids.

It’s that powerful.

So back to my reflections (because I really just put that in so I could use the scene from Twister). I have learned a lot in the last 51 days. Here are a few of those lessons.

1. Use the DELETE KEY often.

Button Cute animated GIF

Think about the last time you've been disappointed by something. In this day and age of instantaneous everything, spouting off and hitting send has become an Olympic sport. I can't tell you, as a grown woman, how many friendships I know of that ended or were at least seriously damaged by NOT using the delete key. There's an old saying that goes something like, "what someone says about you says more about them than it does about you." GREAT ADVICE!

2. Don't Trash Talk.

That's what I said! Remember the last thing I mentioned about what someone says reflecting on them? Ignoring the multiple use of the same verbiage in one sentence issue, truer words have never been spoken. Too many times I see writers slamming an agent because they were turned down and I want to shake them and tell them that this is NOT OKAY. And I'm not just talking about Facebook and Twitter. I'm talking about email as well. Never put anything in writing that your mother would be embarrassed to know you wrote. And don't say bad things. EVER. That intern you just eviscerated in an email. There's a chance she's going to be a Senior Editor someday and I promise, SHE WILL REMEMBER YOU!

3. We're all in this together.
Oh no she didn't just pull out High School Musical. YES I DID. And not just for the catchy tunes that you know are now stuck in your head for the next three days (you're welcome or MUWAHAHAHA, depending on your level of secret like for this movie), but because I had spoken to a hand full of SC authors prior to the big announcement, but not many. I was "marching band geek" who had yet to prove myself and they were the "Troy and Gabriella" of the imprint. I had no reason to strike up a conversation. But shortly after the announcement, an email thread began and I realized that when a tornado (yes, I want to add the cow GIF again) hits your school, it doesn't matter if you're the superstar or the loner. You pull together and support each other. And that's what has happened. Everyone is waiting to see what's going to happen and I hope that we manage to stay in touch and continue to support each other long after the sting has faded.

4. Wine is your friend.
Yes, Maya Rudolph. Yes you can. First, let me assure you, I did not become an alcoholic over all of this. I thought about it, but I like my liver and buying books too much, so it wasn't a long term affair, just a casual fling. Did you know you can put an entire bottle of wine in a Starbuck's Trenta cup? True story.

5. When it's the worst, go back the barre.

No, not bar. Barre... like ballet barre. I shared this story with Amalie Howard, my agency sis and fellow orphan (and publishing sib again) and I don't think she'll mind if I share it with you.

My all-time favorite movie is Center Stage. It's all about being at a ballet academy. Now, I never danced, which is OH SO OBVIOUS, but I love the movie. I have it on DVD and VHS, just in case technology implodes and we have to live old school with the VHS player I have squirreled away for the end days. Don't judge. ANYWAY, there's a scene where the ballet instructor is talking to the hot-headed-but-uber-talented dancer who's been cast in the corp. The dancer is mad, angry, feeling like it doesn't matter if she's talented, she's getting the raw deal. The instructor gives some sage advice: there are always going to be things that happen... bumps along the way, but a dancer knows where to turn when things get rough. Back to the barre. Back to the beginning. Back to the basics. And back to the heart of dance.

So it's time to go back to work. Flex my creative muscles and remember why I started writing in the first place.

Yep. That looks about right.

6. Finally, no matter what happens in life, you can always go home. For me, my literary home is at the Midwest Writer's Workshop in Muncie, Indiana. I know what you're thinking: Who doesn't want to go to Muncie, Indiana in July? Isn't that the town that made Erik Estrada, LaToya Jackson and  Jack Osborn law enforcement officers? (Once again.) Why yes, yes it was.

But there's more than just bad reality television resulting in a lawsuit in Indiana. At the end of the July, every year, amazing authors, fantastic agents and a whole bunch of my friends gather for what has to be, hands down, the best small conference in the world! Great talent has been discovered there, including a little known author named Veronica Roth. Yes, we name drop her ALL the time because she met her agent at our conference, but that is a whole other post. 

The point is, when the publishing machine grinds to a halt or stalls for a while, make sure you have people in place who get you and what you do. Whether it's drunk tweeting Twilight with someone you follow on Twitter (check) or helping a new friend work on their pitch to their dream agent (check), know that, in this world we have entered into voluntarily, someone will always have your back. 

To wrap this rather long winded post up, sometimes sucky things happen to you. But that's okay. They don't matter. Not in the long run. What matters is how you face them. BE FEARLESS when that time comes. And remember, unless you are in a Monty Python sketch, nothing can keep you from going back to the barre. And sometimes, not even that will stop you!

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