Should I self-publish or should I seek traditional publishing ? (esta indecisión me molesta!)

The story is entering last licks–I am now hunting for those last stray commas, periods, and misspellings in a final (final, final!) pass.

Part of the deep revision I have been involved in required dialing in on age range (that boundary between MG and YA is thin and grey, but I have found others who feel, as I do, that the age range between them is unnecessarily glossed over by publishers—which I may circle back to in a post on that very interesting topic), as well as editing down to an appropriate word count for the target audience to be sufficiently palatable to an agent (and thus a publisher). These details have been wrangled, and as I look toward composing new query letters, I suddenly find myself rethinking my options…

When I first embarked on this project, I had planned for the book to be self-published so that I could have fun with one of my favorite crafts, which is to lay out a book. But after the book grew into a full scale novel, I became interested in the pluses that come along with working with an agent and via traditional publishing. I began my quest to learn all I could about that (wonderful, enticing) avenue, through writers’ conferences, online seminars, an international writer’s society to which I belong, as well as books on the topic, and good ol’ searches on the web. It seemed right, and I changed courses with those new goals in mind.

But as I near the finish line, ready to compose new query letters and reaching out to agents, the desire to have fun with the process of creating a book (creating the marketing materials, the social media postings to connect to an interested audience, the artwork, the book cover, the book interior and putting all those pieces together) is beginning to call again like a loud and lovely siren. I suspect deep down that I don’t want to let go of all that potential fun.

And, now that we have been under shelter in place orders for a decent amount of time, I have had ample opportunity to ponder which direction I will take, which is placing me at a new crossroad.

To allow myself more time to weigh the pros and cons of each path, I have decided the most enjoyable thing to do would be to put steps in place for both. Writing that book summary, writing those queries, and yet also drawing up a Kickstarter campaign plan, dreaming up Kickstarter perk items to go along with it (I can hear my screen printing equipment calling!), planning future posts for this website since I would be much more feee to share content here (passages from the story, plot lines, themes, characters etc). So today was spent mapping out the to do lists for both options so that when I am finished with my final pass, I can make that oh-so-critical (exciting) decision and already have a plan in place.

Take that, indecision!

Revision* is not an ugly word

* And very often stretches the brain!

It’s been a while since my last post, but in that time I have been working daily, sometimes for hours, sometimes for only a moment, reworking the story. Mind in overdrive!

The feedback received from the agent I submitted to several months back proved to be a gift, and was very focused and succinct, enabling me to refine the story even further.

One of my biggest struggles, which seems to be a very common issue, at least for us greener novelists, is how to write a story that accommodates the rules of genre (YA? MG? In-betweener (INB), which, yes, I have come across and is a thing), the little detail of word count…that golden number that can help, or hinder, a new author right out the gate, while still allowing the story to flow freely from the mind’s eye.

After sitting on these parameters for awhile I decided to try flipping protagonist duties from the younger, fearless younger sister to the older, overly cautious sister grappling with anxiety and fears. Immediately the story came into sharper focus. From there, I returned to the beginning, revising what I had written to be reflected through her eyes, her feelings and experiences. At the same time I followed along my already forged trail of words, working on trimming the word count. This was all a big win for me in all regards, as it resulted in a story that now feels more immediate and much more emotional. What I hold in my hands now falls more clearly within the upper MG novel tier and most aligns with the genre of magical realism and I am very excited by this clarity of vision.

Moving forward my next steps, which I hope to have completed by early New Year, include:

  • Letting the story simmer and sit a moment (once more for freshness of eye!)
  • Re-reading from the beginning, with any eye on weeding out any lingering typos and pulling out any remaining unnecessary words
  • Revising my synopsis
  • Revising my query letters
  • Finding two more agents (in addition to two that I have already researched, and seem potentially a good fit)
  • Resubmitting the manuscript

That will keep me busy! Expect another update to follow. Until then, roll on 2020!

Milestone Celebration

I would like to announce that I have hit a major milestone and am celebrating my first rejection!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Not so! “Celebrate every single milestone, including that first rejection!” That was singularly one of the best pieces of advice that came from the Cleveland writer’s conference I attended this past summer.

And it’s true. In order to be rejected, you have to have made it to the point of being able to submit to an agent in the first place. That’s a big step. At that moment, your manuscript transforms from a private piece of writing into something for others to read, to ponder, inviting others to interact with your own creation. It puts it out into the world in a big way, taking it to a whole new level. An audience, feedback, new knowledge. Level up!

My rejection letter was a wonderful letter from an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable agent/author/authority on copyright law. I was thrilled that I even had a chance to pitch my story and was invited to share my pages with her. Her feedback was invaluable, and has made me step back a moment to reassess the way in which I want to tell my story. I was encouraged to think about a few technical issues (word count and age range of the audience in relation to the age of the protagonist, issues which cannot be stressed how important they are if one wishes to be published traditionally) as I embarked on my next revision.

After a few weeks have passed and I let these suggestions settle into my bones, I have begun to rework the story, at once tightening up the writing even further for clarity, while also reducing the word count (the intersection of craft and market focused issues, as the agent eloquently suggested).

Now, armed with some powerful information I have continued forward in my writing quest, eager to learn as I go, welcoming productive feedback (as an art major I learned long ago the process and the high value of critique and embrace it for all that it means).

Already the changes I have made feel very satisfying. Clearer writing not only has shortened the length but has also created more of a sense of urgency with action and dialogue. I am continuing on, refining the focus of the protagonist, switching from the younger, sassier, more daring sibling, to the older, more anxious and cautious sibling, and working through her own personal obstacles as the two work together to achieve what they set out to do in the course of the story. It feels more compelling and real to be addressing such matters as what holds a person back from doing all they are capable of doing.

I have also been able to fine tune the genre even further and I am moving forward with my revisions for an upper middle grade magical realism adventure (magical realism is described as a literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy). My goal is 325 pages / 85,000 words to tell this tale, the first in a series of two books.

Yesterday I set my feet into a rushing waterfall, one that is part inspiration to one of the settings of the story. It refreshed me and cleared my mind more than I had even counted on. Now it’s time to look toward another celebration, which will be the completion of this next revision!

Moving forward, pausing to refresh

Just peeking out for a second to come up for air. Today was a rather exciting day, mostly spent putting the finishing touches on my first query, getting down to the nitty gritty refining the first 30 pages, and getting it all ready to go! I had help, cheers of support, and the good advice from loved ones to step back and breathe a moment before sending the story and query into the wild world, which is currently being heeded. Once refreshed, I’ll be taking the biggest step yet. Query 1 here we go!

Things that makes my mind go round

Want a quick peek at what makes my mind tick? Pictured here are just a few of the many influences on not just my world view, but also that have helped shape and inform the 100,000-some words that I have assembled to write my story. This list is but a scratch on the surface, and only touches on a few (though very important) literary works that just happened to be close at hand and willing to pose for a group photo. Not pictured are the many other albums, musicians, poets, activists, comedians, artists, scientists, family members, life experiences, philosophers, and philosophies that infuse my thoughts and motivate my creative endeavors.

One giant step

Sometimes taking a giant step doesn’t have to be astronomical in scale. Often it’s just doing something to set yourself in the right direction.

For me, that was attending a writers workshop with my mother this past weekend. Over the years she has taken many writing classes and through them formed her own circle of writers that share and help edit each other’s works. She, too, has been working on her own manuscript, and we figured it would provide inspiration to us both as well as give us an excuse to spend a day together.

We made the short trek into downtown Cleveland, Ohio on a thundery, hot Saturday morning and took our seats at the 2019 Cleveland Writing Workshop held at the Marriott at Key Center. This was my first ever writing workshop and my first moment taking a story that has been known only to family and those in my personal orbit, and taking steps to give it a place in the real world.

For the next 8 hours I sat happily amongst fellow writers as we learned from agents and editors. I felt nothing but inspiration pour over me as I listened. All of the presenters were engaging, helpful, personable and compassionate. Not only did I feel connected to the writing community for the very first time, I was quickly shown how open and caring it is.

I entered the workshop jumping into the unknown. While there I made contact with an agent, a wonderful agent that I am thrilled to have met. I learned craft from seasoned, published writers, and I gleaned insight into how agents approach a pitched story and their thought processes as they assess. I saw brave writers as they allowed bits of their works be presented to a full audience and be critiqued publicly with grace.

I thank the organizers, presenters and fellow writers, who together as a whole, made the 2019 Cleveland Writers Workshop an enjoyable, enlightening experience. For any aspiring writers who may be reading, perhaps you feel like you are creating in a vacuum as I had, and wish to take that first big step into the great, exciting unknown to get your creation out for the rest of the world to enjoy. If so, I highly recommend one of the Writing Day Workshops to help find your community.

I have left the conference with a sense of direction and feeling that my manuscript has moved up another level in its evolution, adding another log into my fire, making it burn even brighter and stronger. I now have a clear vision of the steps I need to take to move forward to find my way to the right agent and the right publisher for my book.

The tale begins . . .

Writing and art. Art and writing. Two constants in my life.

Creating some form of newsletter, fanzine, book, or other visual creation has been part of my life since I can remember. I discovered the world of writing and publishing through my passion for music, when at age 14, I created a fanzine dedicated to my then favorite band (it’s not a secret, it was Duran Duran). Within a year’s time I gained over 200 subscribers in the US and Canada after placing an ad in the teen magazine, Bop. Later, the newsletter evolved into yet another music publication, a zine focusing on the alternative music scene of the late 80’s. This was all before computers were widely used and I relied on my typewriter, dry transfer letters, and copy machines to create each issue.

During my college years in the early 1990’s my roommates and I set up a typing table wherein we had three typewriters that took over our dining tables. Here we spent endless midnight hours creating together and with our friends pecking away into the night with our absurd stories and creative exercises. My ‘zine changed course yet again during this time and became a forum for creative writing and art using many of these creations. It was my publishing outlet while I was pursuing my degree in fine art.

Not satisfied with creating publications solely as a hobby, then spilled into my professional life when I fell into the graphic design profession. After graduation I worked in the non profit sector for a humane society in the role of Editor/Graphic Designer, and later joined the staff of a natural history museum where I was provided with many writing opportunities within the Membership and Development Departments. Using Adobe PageMaker, among my other duties within the membership department, I designed and edited a bi-monthly newsletter for the museum’s Adventure Club for Kids, and designed mugs, tote bags and other membership incentives and wrote for the newsletter as well as authored the verbiage for fundraising appeals.

In 2000 I established my own graphic design business, and one of my first clients was a college textbook publishing company based in Los Angeles, California. Initially my role was that of research and support for the company’s web designer, but through the years I eventually helped maintain the company’s website and became the lead contact for their Amazon listings eventually began assisting one of the company’s Production Managers, aiding in production editing and eventually preparing files for the typesetter. I also began working with Adobe InDesign during this period. At the encouragement of the Production Manager, I was urged to pursue more work in the production process in the role of designer.

Meanwhile, my drive to write and create ‘zines and newsletters never ceased. Enter the digital age and the rise of the blog, when I moved my hard copy paper zines into online publications and started the collaborative art project blog Mental Beans in 2009, that, among other art projects, produced a global photography project that has been running continuously for the past 9 years. I also co-created the music zine/travel blog Sisters Dissonance in 2011. My sister took on the main role of photographer and I handled writing and tech duties. Art and writing. Writing and art.

In 2015 I began to funnel some of my creative drive back to a story that began when I was all of 4 years old as a bedtime story told back and forth between my father and I. The story continued on during long car rides when I accompanied him while he was out collecting quarters and fixing machines for his coin operated laundry business. Over time it grew into a series of stories and became part of the mythological fabric in our family. When I had children of my own, these tales were retold, retooled, and reworked when they were small children. They are now both in their late teens, and with input from them as well as my father, my sister, and mother, the story has grown over the decades from a bedtime story for children, into a tale for older children, metamorphosing into a YA novel.

I continue to maintain my graphic design business with a focus on academic journal and book design while I begin the journey of taking this story to the next level. I cannot wait to hold the first copy when it is finally produced into a physical book, and I am looking forward to sharing it with the rest of the world when that happens!