Monday, February 8, 2016

WHY REJECTION LETTERS ARE NOT A BAD THING



 (by Lisa Hall-Wilson/WANNA Commons)


Some of you might think I'm crazy. Others might wonder what I put in my drink. There might even be a wild thought it might be time for me to hang up my writing pen.

But just hear me out...

While I've been writing for more than 40 years, I only became a professional writer six years ago. I try to find time for my writing every day. I've sent my "babies" out into the world and dealt with almost every kind of rejection letter out there.

The "no response at all" rejection letter .

The generic email rejection letter letting me know my story isn't the right fit.

Occasionally the personalize rejection letter with kind words of encouragement.

It doesn't matter how we receive it, getting a rejection letter can still hurt our writers' pride. And sometimes it makes us doubt our own skills as a storyteller.

But it shouldn't any more.

While we're never going to do the happy dance over being rejected by yet another agent or publisher, there ARE three treasures hidden inside each one:

THE PERSEVERANCE TEST

Becoming a published author is a long, slow process. Dues have to be paid, sincere industry connections made, and in a way, writers have to prove themselves worthy of their future audience. Writing isn't for the faint of heart or those in it for the quick buck (cuz there aren't any quick bucks to be made I'm afraid!)

THE CHANCE TO EVOLVE

Every rejection allows us to work on our presentation. Maybe our query letters need tweaking. Maybe our agent or publisher list needs updating. Even the stories themselves might benefit from a little more polishing. When we incorporate the lesson found within each rejection letter, we become stronger writers who are one step closer to that coveted book contract.

THE RIGHT TO CELEBRATE

Rejection letters make any successes we receive along the way, no matter how big or how small, all the more sweeter. They help remind us we are stronger than our temporary setbacks. They allow us to show compassion for our fellow writers when they feel their own sting from being turned down in their pursuit of publication.There is also a camaraderie which allows us to do that happy dance even for the birth of a book not of our own making.

So I say bring on the rejection letters. I KNOW in my own heart I'm a good writer. Just because one of my "babies" haven't found a home yet doesn't mean it isn't loved. And when the time is right, someone else will learn to love them as well!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

BOOK NOOK REVIEW: Kevin Henkes

 



Title: Waiting
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Publisherr: Green Willow Books
Ages: 4-8

Synopsis:

Look at the owl
and the pig
and the bear
and the puppy
and the rabbit
What do you think they're waiting for?
A visitor?
A surprise?

Why you should read it:

I'm drawn to picture books with simply drawn illustrations showcasing a deeply thought out story line. This masterfully written story by author/illustrator Kevin Henkes reminds me of THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein; one of my favorite picture books of all time.

I can't help but be drawn to the facial expressions of everyone waiting on the window sill for different things. I was even touched by the artwork when I read, "Once a visitor arrived from far away. He stayed for awhile, then he left and never returned."

This beautiful book helps teach patience to those of us destined to have to wait. And for young and old alike, THIS lovely book was definitely worth the wait!


Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 5 out of 5...grab it!


**Rating scale**


 5 out of 5...grab it!

 4 out of 5...think about it.

 3 out of 5...take it or leave it.
 2 out of 5...maybe not for you.

 1 out of 5...forget about it!
 
 
 







Blurb: Addie comes from a long line of readers or "story catchers" as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own the wiggly words play tricks on her. She tries different ways to make those words sit still but it will take a little faith for Addie to become the next STORY CATCHER.



Buy Links:Amazon Kindle ¦ Paperback ¦ B&N ¦ Smashwords



JOIN THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB!Membership includes:
 
Membership Certificate
Bi-montly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news, and other goodies
Reading Log for earning STORY CATCHER AWARD
 

Monday, February 1, 2016

MY 7 STEP TWITTER PITCH PARTY PLAN!






A lot people make New Year's resolutions and by the end of January the majority of those resolutions fall by the wayside. I joined the bandwagon of resolutioners this year and made a list of writerly goals I wanted to accomplish in 2016.

One of those goals was to go in search of an agent and one of the best ways to find one is to participate in a Twitter Pitch Party. I know this because it was how I found Anaiah Press and my wonderful editor, Jessica Schmeidler. Jessica helped put me on the right path to the publication of my picture book, THE STORY CATCHER and, fingers crossed, I can repeat my luck with the new year.

But, in order to increase my chances of enticing an agent to look my way, I had to have a plan and maybe MY plan can help YOU capture the interest of YOUR dream agent as well:


1. WRITE IT DOWN
      
I made a long list of EXACTLY what I wanted to accomplish this year. I even bought a cool calendar to pencil in all the different Twitter Pitch Parties being held all around the blogosphere all year long.  I've studied each party and narrowed down which ones were right for the genres I write in and which ones I need to pass on.

2. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE

Now was the time to take those manuscripts back out and re-read them to make sure they are as polished and sparkly as I can make them. I have 7 completed picture book manuscripts with about 5 more in the final stages of revisions, 2 completed early reader narrative nonfiction chapter books with the third one in the process of being written, and 1 revised draft of a young adult fantasy novel. This shows me I have some choices on which Twitter pitch parties I can participate in.

3. MAKE A LIST

Next I've made a list of potential agents and will group each into some sort of sequential order so I can slowly check any off the list should they...or I...decide they are no longer the potential right agent for my work. Some Pitch Parties will let you know who some of the participating agents will be and you can cross match them against your master list to see who might benefit the most from your targeted pitches.

4. DO YOUR RESEARCH
 
Learn the likes/dislikes of the agents on your list. Check out their websites. Google their name and read their interviews. See what they saying on Twitter. In other words, take a little time to find out all you can about the people you plan to share your manuscripts with. For myself, it wouldn't do me much good to add an agent to my list who mainly represents women's fiction and memoirs. I write for children of all ages and want an agent whose writerly passions match my own.

5. PERFECT YOUR TWITTER PITCH

Take the time to decide the best 140 characters to describe your book. Realize certain hashtags MUST be included like #PitMad, #MSWL, or #PB which all count toward those precious 140 character limit. Ask the advice of those around you to see if the tone and hook of your pitch is right. Read the rules of the Twitter Pitch Party you plan on participating in and find out how often you can tweet your pitches. You would hate to be banned from participating because you failed to realize you can only tweet twice a day when you were planning on blowing up Twitter with your pitches every single hour!

6. POLISH YOUR QUERY LETTER

It's okay to go into these Twitter pitch parties for the fun experience of it all. You might even take time to read other pitches to see if YOU would want to read those books...to determine what might work and what falls flat. But in the back of your mind you should realize that the main reason you are going to a pitch party is to hopefully get a request for a partial or a full manuscript from one of them. When that chance comes you don't want to blow it by not having a sharp, attention-getting gem of a query letter just waiting to be shared with Ms. Potential Dream Agent.

7. PLAN YOUR SUCCESS

Finally, I do a quick check of all my social media outlets to make sure the information presented there has current contact information, make sure my blog has interesting content that my readers enjoy, and track my interactions with others through different channels to find out what works to help promote the STORY CATCHER entity as well as my own writing. I treat my writing career as a business and I measure the successes...both large and small...I make along the way so I can look back at the end of each year to see just how far I've come in following my dream of become an author.

To all my writerly friends who plan on participating in a Twitter pitch party over the coming months...GOOD LUCK! And right now, for myself, all I can say is...SO FAR SO GOOD!








Blurb: Addie comes from a long line of readers or "story catchers" as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own the wiggly words play tricks on her. She tries different ways to make those words sit still but it will take a little faith for Addie to become the next STORY CATCHER.



Buy Links:Amazon Kindle ¦ Paperback ¦ B&N ¦ Smashwords



JOIN THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB!Membership includes:

Membership Certificate
Bi-montly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news, and other goodies
Reading Log for earning STORY CATCHER AWARD
 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Peter Carnavas





Title: Jessica's Box
Author/Illustrator: Peter Carnavas
Publisher: Kane Miller
Ages: 4-8


Synopsis:

The first day of school can be scary. New teachers. New routines. Jessica wonders if she will meet any new friends and brings a mysterious box to school just to make sure she does. Everyone begins to wonder just what's inside?

Why you should read it:

This delightful picture book comes from down under, but every child around the world can deal with the same first-day jitters. 

I like how Jessica is encouraged by her family to solve her problem on her own. Author/Illustrator Peter Carnavas' wonderful drawings take the reader on a journey through Jessica's school adventure as she tries and tries to make some new friends. It's only when she believes she's destined to be alone that a special friendship comes along.

The fact Jessica has a disability will help children realize everyone needs a friend, no matter their situation. This author hides a valuable lesson inside an adorable story. A good addition to any home library.


Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 5 out of 5...grab it!


**Rating scale**


 5 out of 5...grab it!

 4 out of 5...think about it.

 3 out of 5...take it or leave it.
 2 out of 5...maybe not for you.

 1 out of 5...forget about it!
 
 
 







Blurb: Addie comes from a long line of readers or "story catchers" as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own the wiggly words play tricks on her. She tries different ways to make those words sit still but it will take a little faith for Addie to become the next STORY CATCHER.



Buy Links:Amazon Kindle ¦ Paperback ¦ B&N ¦ Smashwords



JOIN THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB!Membership includes:
 
Membership Certificate
Bi-montly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news, and other goodies
Reading Log for earning STORY CATCHER AWARD
 

Monday, January 25, 2016

AUTHOR KRISTEN LAMB: Seven Tips For True Grit








I decided this week to turn my blog over to an author I have a lot of respect and admiration for. I am honored to be able to call her my friend and she has given me permission to share one of her blog posts. Here is writerly wisdom from Kristen Lamb. Enjoy!


Posted by Author Kristen Lamb in Success on December 9, 2015

In my tenure in this profession it is sad how many truly talented writers I’ve seen who never made it. The reason? Talent is useless without mental toughness. It takes true grit to make it in this business.

Too many writers are simply not going to make it because they don’t have the sticking power. And while this is an easy observation to make, I am here to do more than point out the obvious. I’m here to give some practical ways to improve psychological toughness, get better at being disciplined, and eat goals and deadlines for breakfast (they have ZERO calories, btw).

Relax and enjoy the holidays. Refueling is vital. Bookmark this. Let it soak in and then be ready to act come January 1st. These tips work for anything you want to accomplish, btw.

So…

Seven Tips for True Grit

One…Set Goals

No really and don’t roll your eyes at me :P . Set them. I know you hear this all the time but it’s true. Write them down and make them real. How can you map a course if you don’t know were you are going?

When I was in sales we had a saying, Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

If you have a goal to eventually replace that day job with being a full-time writer? Write it down and then plan your escape. Studies have shown that we’re far more likely to reach goals once we have written them down and that isn’t shocking.

To write them down we have to name them, claim them and define them. We take them out of the “nebulous gray.” It is far easier to reach for concrete benchmarks than existentialism.

Two…Forget Realistic—Realistic is For Wimps

Most of us underestimate what we can accomplish. When you write your goal, rewrite it just a little bigger. What’s the worse that can happen? You accomplish more than you thought you could?

Years ago I did this. I wrote down, In 2011 I am going to get an agent. Then I crossed it out and wrote In 2011 I am going to sign with one of the best agents in NYC.

See, we never know what is going to happen or what chain of events might open what door. In early 2011, I wrote a little book called Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. I was still an unknown and this was also during the days that most people were unconvinced social media was fundamental shift in global civilization we all NOW know it to be.

When I wrote the book, I needed blurbs, so I made up a Hail Mary List. These were authors who I loved, who were SO BIG I doubted my e-mail would ever even get through.

On that Hail Mary List was NYTBSA James Rollins. Not only did I get through, he’d actually read  my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and was MY FAN *falls over dead*. He asked if it would be okay of he sent my book to HIS agent…who later that year signed me (who happened to be one of THE biggest agents in NYC). I not only got a blurb and a friend, I got an agent.
What if I’d limited my goal?

Three…Visualize Process NOT Fantasy

A critical mistake I made when I first decided to become a writer was I spent far too much time “visualizing” the success. In my head I dreamed of sales, wealth, book tours and being able to travel the world to research and people lined out the door to meet me and seeing stacks of displays of my books.
Nothing per se wrong with that but just that is fantasy and can be unhealthy.

To reach any big dream, we must fall in love with the process. 

I am up almost every morning at 4:15 a.m. That seriously sucked in the beginning. I had to learn to fall in love with it. Blogging? SUCKED for the first 2 years. It was so hard week after week, month after month writing thousands of words to entertain CheapXanaxANDYoungCoeds.com.

But I knew I was honing my skills. I was learning to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I was training myself to eat deadlines for breakfast. I was training out my perfectionism that held onto things instead of shipping. I was opening myself to public criticism, gaining fans, feedback and thicker skin.

Through a lot of really humbling lessons, I had to fall in love with all of it, not just the fantasy of what “one day” might be. Writers’ groups are all filled with people who never have pages to read, who never finish what they start. They don’t blog, don’t build a platform, but all have dreams that HBO will be replacing Game of Thrones with their series.

Nothing wrong with that goal, btw. Just don’t leave it at that. Do the WORK.

Four…To the Pain—Set Accountability 

In the New Year we all have goals. Maybe you want to finish the novel by a certain day or query by a certain day or publish by a certain day. I love pleasure but pain is good for the soul. Put some stakes on it. Go purchase something you really want. Preferably something a close friend (ideally a mean friend) also wants.
Maybe it is a $50 gift card. Maybe a new gaming system, spa package, or 90 minute massage. Whatever.
Put it in the pot and then, if you make your goal by the date it’s yours, if not? It goes to your accountability partner. Yes, rewards and treats are all fabulous but they are a tad too easy.

Often we are far more motivated when it will cost us something. The more it costs us, the more motivated we are to accomplish said goal.

So if a loved one gives you a fat gift card for Christmas, maybe throw that in the Goal Pot and take a gamble for a greater ROI. Use that $100 Amazon card for cool stuff you want to reward yourself with, but also as fuel to finish all revisions by February 15th ;) .

Five…Ditch Negative People, Whiners & Complainers

Seriously. You wouldn’t let someone bring their dog in your house and let it crap on your floor, would you? Yes, if someone brings a pet over and once in a while there is an oops? OKAY. But that is very different than someone bringing over their dog and using your living room as a kennel floor.

So why let people crap non-stop in your head? Sorry for the gross image but that’s what that is. Whining and complaining do nothing but increase stress levels which shrinks the size of the hippocampus leading to us being progressively more stupid.

Yes, science has proven that hanging out with whiners makes us stupid.

Everyone has a bad day and that isn’t what I’m talking about. Give them 60 seconds and then enough. Start talking about solutions. People who are chronically negative or addicted to whining? Bye.

I’ve learned to determine the ASKHOLES in my life and get rid of them. You know what an askhole is? That is a person who is always in a crisis, who always needs advice and after they have derailed your life and gotten your advice? Does whatever the hell stupid thing they are going to do anyway…often leading to the next crisis that you WARNED them would happen.

Turn them loose.

Six…Surround Yourself With Accountability & Excellence

We are who we hang around. Character is contagious. When I was new as a writer I didn’t understand how important this was. I thought I could fight the inertia of mediocrity with sheer willpower. I also thought that if I was part of a group of people who said they wanted to be writers, well then they wanted to be writers. Right?

No.

Actions speak louder than words.

Writers write. Not all critique groups and writing groups are good for you. If you want to join a writing group, look to how many people in the group are published, multi-published, awarded, writing full-time, blogging, etc. If it’s just a bunch of people who meet and have coffee and talk about writing? Your time is better spent at home writing. Hanging out with that garbage is like hanging around radioactive material and thinking you are fine.

NO.

Negativity and mediocrity are invisible particles that punch your will and your dreams full of tiny holes until they collapse and die. Yes, you can try to ward it off and buffer from it but the best course of action? Stop growing strawberries writing dreams at Chernobyl crappy writing groups.

One of the things I’ve worked hard to do is to make myself available on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Back in November during Nanowrimo I introduced writing sprints in the Main Room IM field.

I rallied everyone at 8:45 a.m. CST and we did as many as 5 sprints. 30 minutes per sprint. Write as much as you could. Report back the numbers. Then we took a break and came back at 3:30 p.m. CST and did more sprints.

Everyone who participated finished Nano. I finished in 16 days WITH the flu while blogging.
Once Nano ended, I changed the plan. We now still meet every morning at 8:45 a.m. CST and we do what I call Blackouts. 40 minutes to do as much work as you can then report back to the group what you accomplished.

Writers now get to see MY operational tempo, since I’m almost always leading the team. We do as many as five Blackouts before lunchtime. Then, we rally back at 3:30 after I get Spawn for more Blackouts. I generally do about 3 more.

Writers get to see what I accomplish in that 40 minute block. What is my word count? How much did I get edited? How many Blackout sessions did it take to get my blog written and posted?

This doesn’t mean people need to copy me, but I tell you, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY when social media peeled back the curtain and I started seeing how authors I admired worked and got so much accomplished.

Also, this current system offers accountability and makes all of us push harder. There is a level of healthy competition and since we are a TEAM, it is far harder for me to say, “Eh, I think I will take today off.”

Seven…Up Your Operational Tempo

Believe it or not, I am not the strongest member of my team, merely the best looking #ITSACURSE. There are writers on our Blackout Team who blow ME away. Always look to surround yourself with people stronger than yourself and don’t buy your own excuses.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

You may not be able to do this on your own. You may lack the discipline so come over to W.A.N.A.Tribe and join out Blackouts. Sometimes, you need guidance from a pro. Take one of the classes listed below. Or, feel free to e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com. I do consulting for social media, blogging and branding, but I also can help with your books. Instead of wasting another year revising or rewriting, a small investment in time with me might save you months or years of work.

This job is never easy, but it is always AWESOME.

What are your thoughts? Do you see some suggestions here that might improve your odds of reaching your goals? Do you try to go it alone too much? Do you give negative people too much permission to crap in your life? Do you think you might go a tad too easy on yourself? I hope to see y’all over at W.A.N.A. Tribe! No excuses this year that you have no system of support :P .

 


About Kristen Lamb:

Kristen Lamb is the #1best selling author of "Rise of the Machines--Human Authors in a Digital World", "We Are Not Alone--The Writer's Guide to Social Media" & "Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer." She's the founder of W.A.N.A. International, a company dedicated to training authors of the Digital Age. She's a contributing blogger for Huffington Post and was named among Writer's Digest's Top 100 Best Websites for Writers.