Time to Write a Query Letter?

Hey folks! A very exciting update – I FINISHED MY (hopefully?) FINAL READ THROUGH OF MY BOOK!!!! Which means…it’s time to find an agent? Or submit to publishers?

I’ve been obsessively googling how to get a book published, and everywhere tells me it’s hard. But I’m going to take it step-by-step and begin with drafting a query letter to send to agents. Since I don’t have much of a platform nor have I ever published a book, this is going to be hard work. WordPress followers, readers, & friends, if you are able, I would love to hear any advice you have! And, of course, if anyone knows somebody who could be a fit, please do contact me. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated. Being honest about this process has been holding me accountable, which is important!

So, there’s where I’m at now. Wish me luck…

On Recieving Feedback

Throughout this whole process of getting my book published (I firmly believe that if I keep saying it’s going to happen, it will!), the scariest thing for me has been opening myself up and letting people read it. Before this process, I was terrified of feedback. I receive feedback on my academic writing constantly, but my creative writing? Never. It usually stays hidden in files on my computer or tucked in between the pages of my journal. Although my creative writing is often about fictional characters and not me personally, so much more of myself shows up in my creative writing. I was afraid to share that with the world, and I am still am.

Part of my fear stems from my general introversion and trust issues (hey, we’ve got all them), but another part comes from the sense of elitism that is so pervasive within the writing community. I don’t have an English degree, nor was I drawn to it – to be honest, I’ve never liked the way English is taught in academic settings. It may be my best subject, but that’s only because I’ve learned to write the way that professors and teachers want me to. Perhaps I’ve just had poor professors, but all the English professors I’ve had in college have stifled my creativity, which is what drew me away from an English or Creative Writing major and pushed me towards Social Work, where I’m working on fulfilling my dream of doing some good in this world. By sharing my writing, I’ve learned something incredibly important: You don’t need an English degree to be a writer.

I’ve been blown away by the heart-warming and positive responses I’ve received. People are really connecting with the characters and invested in the story, which makes me so so so happy! I’ve been told by multiple people that I write like John Green, which is one of the best compliments a person could give me. But, of course, I opened myself to constructive criticism as well, something I don’t generally take well – I’m a highly sensitive person who thinks she knows best. I can be rather difficult.

HOWEVER, I’ve seen that the suggestions people have given me are helping me figure out the parts of the story that I struggled with and they have made the story so much better. I am so excited for everyone to be able to read the final version – I am almost done with the last read-through and am actually proud of it! Which means a lot, coming from a perfectionist.

Overall lesson from this experience: People aren’t as mean as you think they’ll be. If you put your heart and soul into your writing, it’s important and worthy of readers. People want to help. And besides, if you don’t agree with their criticism, you know the story best!

Until next time! 

SHORT STORY: Steel

Hello all! Please enjoy my first short story that I am posting to this blog – a departure from my regular, and often heated, personal accounts and opinion pieces. Please leave comments!

My walls are bursting with people. A little girl leans against me, tracing shapes with her fingers. Her name is Ana. Her sister, whom I have not heard the name of, is asleep on Ana’s shoulder. Ana is careful not to wake her sister as she draws shapes upon my walls. I know that I am cold to touch, but she barely flinches when presses her little fingers against my steel. Their father stands beside them because there is no room for him to sit down. His eyes are closed but I do not think that he is asleep. I have heard that it is impossible to sleep while standing up, but I am not sure. I wouldn’t know.

They told me that I was built for a purpose. My walls are red and painted, and my wheels are brand new and turn smoothly against the tracks. I have yet to rust or grow old, but I am already tired of the tracks. I thought I would see the world, but I have seen the same thing over and over again; the same green fields, similar towns, and similar faces. The same brick walls and metal gates and men in uniform. My wheels are tired of the tracks that always lead back to the same place. I try to find something new in the people, because maybe I was not built to see the world, but to see the people of the world.

The first people I held were very loud. I opened my doors widely, ready for my first journey. There were a lot of them, and I was afraid that my walls were not strong enough. Yet they were – I was built for this. The first people were all talking, introductions and greetings. I remember a man, whose name I never caught, talked the entire time. He kept telling everybody that things were changing; that he was heading somewhere great. Nobody else seemed to share his enthusiasm.

None of them talk very much anymore. Sometimes, they fight it, but they always end up within my walls. By my fortieth trip, only the children sounded hopeful, while their parents wept. I wanted to hold them and comfort them. But my walls are made of steel, and it is far too cold outside.

The night is cold and dark. Their eyes are closed, but I do not believe that they are all asleep. My walls are far from comfortable. The children breathe steadily and the old snore loudly. The adults close their eyes but I know that they are not asleep. They are trying to stay awake. I wish they would sleep, but I suppose I cannot expect them to.

This lot came on with bread in their hands; one slice of bread per person. This happens on days when the uniformed men are feeling particularly charitable. They never leave anything on my floors; not even a crumb. Little Ana’s father pulled an onion from his pocket when they stepped into me, something he had brought from home. He split the bread and gave it to his little girls so that they would have extra. When he bit into the onion, tears began to pour down his face. Ana and her sister laughed; Ana grabbed the onion from his hands and shoved it towards her sisters’ face, threatening her eyes with the sting of the onion. Their father smiled at them and took it back, shaking his head. But when he finished eating, the tears didn’t go away. Ana laughed, thinking it was still the onion, but her sister took his hand in hers and understood something that the little one, Ana, didn’t. She has been silent since. I think she is asleep, but I am not sure. Perhaps her little mind is wide awake. I know where they are going and I wish that she would get some sleep.

Ana is tracing the shape of a dog, I think, against me. That’s what it feels like; the outline of a little puppy, repeatedly, against my cold steel. Snow falls on my roof. I worry because none of them have thick coats. The sister stirs, and Ana whispers to her: “Do you think they’ll have dogs?” Her voice carries in the silent compartment. The sister does not say anything back, but their father leans down and tells Ana: “We’ll see Rudy again.” She nods her head up and down very quickly, her lip quivering just slightly.

I don’t like to watch what happens when we arrive. I stopped watching that part many trips ago. I saw a dog bite off a man’s arm. That’s when I stopped watching. I feel the familiar tracks against my wheels and I want to stop; I want to pull myself off the tracks. I’ve tried so many times and it never seems to work.

I hear men talking about not having enough space. I hope that they will keep the people on here, with me. I like the feeling of Ana’s hands on my walls, and her father leaning against me, and the little boy in the corner who picks the bread crumbs off my floor, and the old man against my wall, who breathes so slowly I am afraid he will stop.

We stop anyways when we reach the brick walls and the metal gates. There is so much snow on the ground and in the air that nobody can see further than a few feet in front of them, not even me with my big, fancy headlights. I prepare to stop watching; I prepare to shut down. But this time, it is different.

They open my doors and stand in front of them, stopping the people from exiting. The men hold sticks in their hands and raise them to stop the people who try to jump down. I cannot hear everything because of the yelling and the screaming, but I hear one thing being said over and over again: “Men and women: come. Children: stay.”

Ana and her sister grab their fathers’ legs, but he tells them they must stay. “You will be safe,” he says. He grabs both by the shoulders. There is hope in his eyes. “Stay, stay, please.” The sister does what she is told. She grabs Ana around the waist to stop her from following. Ana punches her sister and screams, but once they close the doors, she is stuck inside of me. I hope that I will take her somewhere safe.

This happens everywhere, in each cabin; screams of children and pleading parents. A few children are beaten because they try to follow. I want to stop watching, but I can’t. The men and women are separated, as usual. I do not see more than that because, with my walls much less full, holding only the small bodies of the children, I am moving again. I am going somewhere I have never been before, and I think about Ana and his sister and hope that I am taking them somewhere where they will be much warmer. My steel can only do so much.

The children are very loud, and many are screaming. The older children hold the babies, not sure of what to do with them. “We are safe! We are safe!” A little boy cries, a boy who had arrived without parents. He does not have anyone to miss; nobody to be scared for. I’m sure he did, before, but they are gone now.

The chatter does not stop for a long time. They talk amongst themselves, they spread out, they take turns trying to calm down the screaming babies. Ana’s sister holds one in her arms, wrapping it in her shall. Ana has returned to tracing shapes. This time, I feel her draw a bunch of stars, up and down my walls. An entire galaxy upon my steel, full of planets that I will never see.

The chatter does not stop until my walls fill with gas and silence fills them all.

Soon my walls will be bursting with people again. I keep going because I cannot stop. The silence speaks louder than all the voices I have ever heard, and Ana’s hand is still against me. My walls get colder and colder as the night passes. As does her hand. I wish I could make them warm again, but there is only so much that I can do. I am only made of steel.

 

 

I’m Writing a Book!

Hello WordPress universe, and anybody else who comes accross this post! I have been talking a lot about my writing with peers, on Facebook, and on my Instagram, but have yet to properly enter the world of branding and marketing (because, quite frankly, it confuses & terrifies me — I don’t want to sell myself!). This post is my first step into marketing and putting myself out there into the writing world — that’s right, I’m writing a book!

I suppose I should begin by introducing my book, but it’s nearly impossible to do that without spoiling things! It’s a wild ride to read, and it’s been even wilder to write. As an overview, it’s a story about loss, mental health, friendship, and change. It follows the life of a girl named Jamie Madison, who picks up from her small town home in North Carolina to move to a boarding school, leaving behind her father and her little sister. I obviously won’t give anything away, but that’s the premise, and I can tell you that the story ends in a very different place than it begins, as with most stories. Oh, and I suppose I should give you the title: Chasing Lightning.

So, where am I at? Well, awesome news – I’ve just finished my THIRD round of re-writing and editing! I have to go through another time for typos, but for the most part, the content part is DONE (awaiting commentary from a few more readers, that is). I am so excited to begin this scary process of attempting to find an angent/publisher (side note: if anyone reading this has connections to a young adult genre publisher or agent, help a girl out).

The writing process has been hard. People have asked me if it’s harder to write the first draft or edit the third, and honestly, it’s equally hard. The first draft is hard because you have to get the ideas from your mind to paper, but the third draft is just as hard because you KEEP FINDING TYPOS and it takes so long to get the story to feel perfect…!!!

I’m planning to start posting more updates, and possibly a video, about all of this soon. Yay for marketing!? Anyways, if you’re interested in learning more about this and staying updated on my process, please please please follow me and sign up for my mailing listIf you are a personal friend of mine, I fully expect you to do this, okay?!

Thank you for reading this!! Although the publishing process is terrifying because 1. Beaucracy, 2. Literally putting my SOUL out there to be judged, and 3. Marketing said literal SOUL, I am doing it!! My amazing room mate (shoutout to Mary, if you’re reading this) not only read draft two in five hours, but afterwards sat down with me for five more hours and went over everything she loved & her suggestions, said something that made me hopeful for the process just the other day — the conversation went something like this:

Her: So what are you planning to do with this?

Me: I mean, ideally, publishing would be amazing. But it’s so hard.

Her: Well, my gut is always right, and I have this gut feeling that your book is going to be on the shelves one day. Next to John Green and Perks of Being a Wallflower and all of those young adult books.

Here’s to making her gut feeling come true.

(Below are some pics of my process, for those of you visual folks)

My view while editing outside

An old draft, editing in a coffee shop. I guess this is a sneak peak…