Problematic YA Tropes: Stereotypes

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Author’s Note: I started writing a post about YA Tropes that I found problematic, but the list grew so long I decided to dedicate a short post to each topic. Also, I am a YA author and I love reading and writing this age group. But because I love it so much, I think we writers can do better by our readers. Hence why I’m calling out a few of these problematic tropes. Here goes:

Tropes in YA novels are commonplace, and calling them a trope doesn’t necessarily mean they are inherently bad. Sometimes they serve a purpose and are accompanied by nuanced and in-depth writing that nullifies potential harm. But when you read as many YA books as I do (120+ last year) you really begin to see those repeated tropes as an endless parade of boring. Even worse, there are many that do actual harm to readers.

Stereotypes

You might recognize a stereotype when it looks like this:

  • Mean cheerleader/jock/rich person who has it all
  • Sassy Black or Latina friend
  • Flamboyant & effeminate gay male
  • Butch & masculine lesbian
  • All females besides MC or LI are catty, slutty, & bitchy
  • All males except MC or LI are jerks, sexual predators, or Neanderthals
  • “Not like other girls”
  • Dark-skinned aggressor
  • White savior
  • Greedy Jewish person
  • Muslim terrorist
  • The long suffering but always sweet and thankful person with a disability (i.e. Inspiration Porn)

I could go on and on about stereotypes. This list is just a taster. There’s everything from blonde stereotypes to redheads, Jewish to Muslim, jock to geek, city to country, and on and on. My personal pet peeve is the mean cheerleader. This is probably because I was a cheerleader, and I was neither bitchy, catty, nor slutty. Yes, I know people like this do exist, but I see it so often in Contemporary YA the minute that bitchy blonde rears her oh-so-perfect head I roll my eyes and let out an audible sigh.

I think what annoys me most is that it’s lazy writing. The author wants to convey a character in as few words as possible with pre-built connotations (i.e. stereotypes). Because we all understand stereotypes. An author doesn’t have to show us a character if they can select from a predetermined set of options that we’re all programmed to get. Voila! One or two words and we know everything we ever need to know about this villain or side character. They aren’t important enough for the author to develop them beyond the stereotype, so they aren’t important enough for the reader to care. They can be humiliated, rejected, hurt, abandoned and they’re just a stereotype, so who cares?

Maybe when this is just the “mean cheerleader” trope it does little harm (besides irritating me) but when we’re talking about people with marginalized identities, then things get a little nastier. I was judged by complete strangers because I was a cheerleader, so these written stereotypes only reinforce those opinions before they know me. No problem, I only had to deal with that while in uniform (we’re talking 25 years ago btw). But what about a marginalized person who can’t take off their identity? How does that affect them now?

I’d like to think that as writers we already understand that racial, gender, religious, disability, and sexual orientation stereotypes (among others) are offensive and problematic. I’m not going to go over all of that in this post. Partly because as a white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied person it’s not my place to discuss. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, I suggest you do more research. I’ll leave some links at the bottom. And don’t write characters unlike yourself until you’ve done so.

I think we can do better, though. I’m kind of over the cookie-cutter, two dimensional villains and side characters I see in some novels. Dig deeper. Not because cheerleaders will feel hurt that you’re giving them a bad name (I think we can take it), but because as writers it’s our job to work as hard as we can to do no harm and to give all our characters nuance and depth.

9 Ways YA Authors Can Stand Up to Stereotypes About Young Women by Meredith Turits on Bustle

Why Stereotypes are Bad Even When They’re ‘Good’ by Oliver Burkeman on The Guardian

Stereotypes & Tropes Navigation on Writing with Color: This is a veritable treasure trove of information on writing (or trying not to write) stereotypes relating to ethnicity and other factors

Other posts in this series:

Problematic YA Tropes: ‘Not Like Other Girls’ and Perfect LI’s

Problematic YA Tropes: Lazy Foils

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10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known As A Newbie Writer; But I Learned The Hard Way

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since the 4th grade. I think that would have been 1986, or there about. But I didn’t actually do anything besides jot down stories and ideas once in a while until 2006. That was the year I quit my job, became a stay-at-home mom, and moved two hours away from friends and family. Even then, I entered the pursuit of literary endeavors blindly. And I must say, pretty naively. There are a few things I would love to have known in 2006 that took me years to learn, so maybe this list will help any newbie writers, or not-so-newbie writers, who happen upon this post.

1 – Make Writing a Priority

I’ve talked about this several times, but most recently in a blog post here. You have to make writing a part of your life, your schedule, just like your family, your job, school, whatever it is that makes up life for you. If you want to be a writer you have to find room to write. And I’m not one of those “write every day” people either. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t do something related to my writing career, but I don’t write every day. Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting with other authors on Twitter, reading a blog post on writing advice, promoting someone else’s book, or reading a YA novel.

You have to decide this dream is worth something to you, and that’s not measured in books sold, dollar signs, or accolades. I haven’t made a penny or sold a single book yet. But the keyword there is “yet”. The dream doesn’t come true without the hard, hard, exhausting and never ending work. The idea that you have to pay your dues first is very, very true. And even once that dream is “real” the money and fame might not be. It’s going to have to be an important part of you to keep going.

2 – Own It

Do you write? If the answer is YES, then you’re a writer. Own it. You’re not an aspiring writer: you’re a writer! It doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published, an Amazon ebook writer, fan fic or WattPad writer, or just a writer who puts words on the page but hasn’t found your avenue of publication yet. You write = you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re terrible or fabulous, fresh and new or cliched, traditional or groundbreaking. You’re a writer. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

And never be ashamed to declare it proudly. I spent years too embarrassed to tell people I was a writer. Mainly because I had mentally tied the idea of success and legitimacy to the idea of being an actual writer. It took me a while to accept that if my fingers flew across the keyboard placing black words on a white page, I was in fact a writer. And a hard working one at that. There was no need to be embarrassed because I had no outward signs of achievement yet. I write; therefore I am a writer.

3 – Accept That What You Write is Crap

Not very confidence inducing, am I? But you need to accept this. Especially in the beginning. Even the best writers produce some pretty awful first drafts. And second, and third . . . That’s why writing is a process. You may write a beautiful first draft, or maybe it’s simply word vomit with a little structure. Either way, it’s on the page, and that’s a start.

Most people aren’t born amazing writers. Even those that go through creative writing programs in college don’t always pop out a best seller on their first go. It takes practice. Critique. Swallowing your pride and working harder. Then more writing. More critique. Repeat. Repeat. Writing that first draft is often the fun part. Fingers flying, words flowing, ideas bursting from your head faster than you can tap letters on the page. But writing is also in the nitty-gritty hard work of revision and reading the same words again and again and again.

But don’t be embarrassed by that word vomit either. We all have it. Whether it’s an entire first draft or just a few chapters that stubbornly stick between the slats of our imagination and won’t slide through into words. DO revise your first draft before you seek out betas. DO continue to learn how to be a better writer and apply that to your work. But DON’T give up because that first go isn’t a shiny golden baby, but rather a wrinkly, pale, yet somehow lovable one. Ugly babies often grow into wonderous humans.

4 – Never Stop Learning

I don’t care if you have an MFA, you can always learn more about writing. And if you’re like me and have an associate’s degree in a field unrelated to writing, there’s a lot to learn. I always did well in my English and writing classes, so it’s not like that aspect was a challenge for me, but there were definitely things about grammar, punctuation, and writing that I never knew or had forgotten. (And probably still don’t know.)

But brushing up on the basics isn’t enough. There are as many different writing styles and approaches to craft as there are writers. Read the novels of writers you admire, check out blog posts and articles about how to write better, and read books on craft. There’s always something more to learn, and sometimes you just need a reminder of something you’ve heard a hundred times but can’t quite seem to apply to your own writing.

And yet, that’s still not enough. One of the most important parts of writing—and a part I feel is too often neglected—is learning as much as you can about the identity of the character you are writing. If you’re an Own Voices author, then you have a lifetime of experience to fall back on when writing a character that represents your identity. But if you’re not, you’ve got a steep learning curve to catch up and be moderately effective. If you’re not Own Voices, you will never be the best person to write that story, so it’s going to take you a lot of extra work to still be an acceptable person to write that story.

5 – Don’t Let Your Mom Read Your Work

Okay, I’m being a little facetious here, but seriously, don’t. In fact, don’t give it to your husband, brother, sister, dad, aunt, cousin, best friend or the post man either. I know how exciting it is to have that finished manuscript in hand and want to share it with someone, but people who know you are not the best ones to share it with. Like I said, I’m kidding—a little.

It is okay to let family and friends read if you just need a meaningless ego boost so you can brave the idea of actually letting another writer take a look at it. But if you think you’re going to get useful feedback from anyone who actually knows you in the flesh, it’s unlikely. Maybe, just maybe, you know another writer, or your sister has a writing degree, or Uncle Buck published a novel, but even then, they may not objectively be the best people to look at your work. They love you. They’re going to see you every holiday, birthdays, and lots of places in between. They have a vested interest in your happiness. You don’t want that in a critiquer.

True feedback comes from people who don’t care if they hurt your feelings. True critique comes from people who write. We know (hopefully) what goes into a good novel. We have read many great books, and written our own (quality subject to opinion) and can see where you’re telling vs showing, or using too many -ly adjectives, or know a Mary Sue when she skips across the page. We know craft. Your mom doesn’t. And even if she does, she may love you too much to crush your dreams. Get yourself a dream crusher CP. They will only make your writing better.

 6 – Find Yourself a Writing Crew

Writing is by nature a somewhat solitary endeavor. From my experience, a good majority of writers consider themselves introverts and reclusive. We’d much rather hold the company of our next manuscript or a favorite novel than hobnob with anyone anywhere anytime. But that can be detrimental to your development as a writer. And the good news for introverts? Most of the interaction you have with fellow writers is online! Yay for the internet!

I didn’t start using Absolute Write forums until 2010, almost 4 years after I started writing! Sometimes I look at that join date in my profile and think it must be wrong. It feels like some of those writers have been with me since the beginning. But that just shows the value of good writing friends: because I can’t actually imagine doing what I do without them, even though I did it for 4 years.

Twitter blipped on my radar in 2014, mainly because of a pitch contest. I came for the chance to pitch my book; stayed because it became one of the best ways to network with other writers. Even though AW made me feel less alone and I love my AW friends (they’re with me on Twitter, too), Twitter made me feel like I belonged! Sometimes it can feel like high school with cliques and drama and arguing, but I was in this big pool of thousands of writers who had opinions and ideas and talked about process and marketing and just everything! My knowledge grew by leaps and bounds just from exposure to people just like me (and many not at all like me) and the industry itself.

Your writing crew can teach you to be a better writer, teach you about the industry ins-and-outs, provide support for all those moments of what-the-hell-am-I-doing-anyway?! You need beta readers and critique partners, advice and moments of solidarity over just how hard this all is, and sometimes just someone to laugh with and relate to. Some people might think this is sad, but I barely talk to IRL friends anymore. Yet I talk to my online writing friends every day. It’s not sad to me, because I’ve found my crew.

7 – Be a Cheerleader

Being a writer is hard. I think many of us are prone to anxiety in the first place, but putting out something so personal into the world is double anxiety inducing. That novel, short story,  or poem is a piece of your heart, your soul. It’s your imagination and dreams come to life in black and white—and sometimes color if you’re a picture book or graphic novelist. It’s months and months of late nights, neglected housework, and missed social engagements. It’s not just words on paper.

And that’s why we need cheerleaders. This kind of goes along with the above about finding your writing crew, but it’s more about what you can do. Maybe you don’t need cheerleaders, which is fine, but I think many people would give up if they didn’t have others cheering them on. And seeing the success of others can spur us to believe that yes, this too can happen for me.

There are many ways to be someone’s cheerleader. As a beta reader or critique partner, think about what the MS has done right as well as where it has gone wrong. Once again, not everyone needs this. I can get along just fine with a critique that shows me all my flaws but doesn’t point out my triumphs. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the compliments, but I don’t need them. Yet, in the beginning I think I did. Now I’m confident enough, but you might not always know the temperament of your fellow writer, so try offering positive feedback as well as negative.

Social media is another great way to offer encouragement. Like and/or share a blog post, leave a positive comment on a Tweet or Facebook post, and offer congratulations at agent signings, book deals, and signing events. Share in the excitement and happiness for your fellow authors, because they deserve the celebration now, and it makes you feel happy and excited too. Besides, they’ll be there for you when you have something to celebrate!

8 – Take Criticism (and rejection) Like a Champ

If you want to succeed in writing, you will have to learn to take criticism. And yes, no matter how experienced you become, criticism can still hurt. I’ve been writing with the idea of achieving publication for more than ten years now, and hearing that an editor “didn’t connect with my character” or that a beta felt a line in my book was sexist or that my critique partner thought a sub-plot was too unbelievable still stings pretty bad. You labor and love over every character, every plot, every paragraph, hell, every word! Criticism can feel downright personal.

But it’s not. So stop. Step back from the critique in whatever form it comes: beta or CP critique, agent or editor feedback, book reviews, or online comments. STEP. BACK. When you’re too close to your work, it is hard to think objectively. When you’re upset about a comment, it’s almost impossible to think objectively. STEP. BACK.

I’ve seen it many times. (I’ve done it a few times myself.) A critique hurts and you seek to defend yourself, or maybe strike back at the critiquer, or even find other voices that support yours so you can feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. But you’re not helping yourself. In fact, you’re actively harming yourself. I’m not saying that every critique and comment is valid, but I will tell you that every critique and comment is valid for the person who has given it. They’re not out to get you. Try to look through the lens that they are viewing your work; listen to what they have to say and weigh it as objectively as you can; do seek other opinions, but make sure they aren’t just people who will agree with you, but rather people who have a similar lens as the original critiquer.

Obviously I’m talking about a lot more than comma placement or “tell vs show” here. Sometimes critique can be as simple as that. And sometimes it can be about harmful representation for which you are not the best person to decide if it is or isn’t. But you have to learn to be objective, put aside your hurt, and evaluate the critique for what is best for your novel—and most importantly—best for your readers.

9 – Don’t Query Recklessly

Querying itself is as much an art form as writing. And jumping into it head first without learning the art can damage your chances. That doesn’t mean if you make a mistake or a query faux pas that you should pack up your lap top and throw in the towel. I’ve had some pretty egregious mishaps myself (like the time I used the wrong name for an agent) but I still managed to find an agent who loved my book.

Good news: there’s a plethora of querying advice on the internet. Google, as always, is your best friend, but to get you started, below you will find a few posts I wrote about querying that link to my favorite posts and articles about querying. Yes, it’s a lot of reading. Did you think this would be easy? It’s not. Not only do you need to read all that I wrote, and all that other writers and agents have written, but then you have to decipher what is best for you. Because everyone has different advice. And then figure out what’s best for the particular agent you’re querying. Because they each have their own likes and dislikes. Which means more research. Oh, and you’ll need to research which agents would be a best fit for you and your book. That’s more research.

You owe it to yourself and to that book you spent months, sometimes years, writing and polishing. Querying can take as much time as the actual writing. But you want to do it right, not quickly.

Queries! Queries! Queries! – Part One: Researching Agents

Agent Research: I forgot to tell you something!

Queries! Queries! Queries?? – Part Two: How to write a query letter

The Query Process: It’s Own Brand of Crazy

Newbie Post #12: 5 Silver Linings in Those Rejection Letters

10 – Give a Hand Up

As we move through our journey as writers—whether our goal is publication or just the joy of writing—be willing to give a hand up. That’s how our writing community grows and progresses. Chances are you’re going to be given beta reads and query critiques from other writers, especially in the early years, so you have to be willing to do the same in return. In the beginning, it’s a trade of scratching each others’ backs, and you get the added benefit of learning a lot about what will work for your own writing by reading and critiquing others. But as you become more experienced, you can offer a valuable helping hand to beginners.

And this goes for book promotion and book reviews as well. An author’s bread and butter can very well depend on how many reviews they have on Amazon or how their sales did that first week after release. We have to be willing to support our writing community in anyway we realistically can. It’s instinct to keep your eye on the prize ahead, but I also like to keep an eye and a hand out for those climbing behind.

So that’s about it. Truth is, you may have to learn these things firsthand for yourself. But at least if you read this, you know to be looking for those learning opportunities. And maybe you’ll catch on just a little faster than I did. Good luck!

 

Be a Selfish Writer

Snoopy

Being a writer has many different challenges: grammar, word usage, plot, picking just one story to write. Then there are queries, selling your book, marketing, trying to sell the next book, maintaining a career, and on and on. Many of the latter I haven’t experienced yet, though I’m really hopeful I will, but the challenge I find most daunting is time management.

And I don’t think it matters if you’re a new writer squeezing it in between work and social life, or an established writer who is juggling signings, writing the next book, and marketing the one that’s out there. We all have demands on our time and the trick is finding the right balance for what works for our life and our careers.

I remember when I first started writing I was a new stay-at-home mom. Those were a couple of easy years. I was used to working 40-60 hours a week, taking my kids to daycare, and still keeping the house clean, spending time with family, and getting everywhere we needed to be on time. Suddenly I had entire days open to me. My house had never been so clean, I made cupcakes for every classroom holiday, I volunteered for every gymnastic meet and school field trip. Writing was Cinderella going to the ball if all her chores were done. The stepmother found infinite problems for Cinderella to overcome, and I did the same thing to myself.

There was a lot of guilt in those early years. I wasn’t staying home to become a writer; I was staying home because our move made it difficult to find a job in my previous career and because we expected to have more children. It was the logical choice. And writing was just the frosting on the cupcake.

So I prioritized everything over writing. But it slowly began to gain on me. Even though I felt guilty for letting that laundry pile up, I just wanted to finish that chapter. And the dishes needed to be done, but I had some more research to do. I was torn between accepting that writing was a job I wasn’t getting paid for, and being the wonder-mom I expected myself to be. After all, my husband was working full-time, I owed it to him to have dinner on the table, the house clean, and laundry done, right?

Yeah, maybe. But that wasn’t really working in my situation. My husband wasn’t placing those expectations on me, I was doing it to myself. As my writing became more and more important to me, and it became clear that I was actually good at it, my priorities slowly shifted. Until one day I decided this was going to be a career, not just a hobby I fit in between babies and housework.

I became selfish. I had to. My older kids were in school full time already, but I needed to put the younger ones in daycare. Yup, I was paying out money so I could write. The guilt compounded, even though I needed this for my career as well as my sanity. (Turns out I’m not the most maternal-stay-at-home mom kind of person.) I needed a career—and I’d found one I absolutely loved—for my own mental health.

And don’t think I wasn’t judged on this. Family and acquaintances alike made comments like, “You’re kids go to daycare? But you stay home?”

Adding their judgment to my own self-generated guilt was a wonderful mix of anxiety and incrimination. But you know what? I stuck with it. My husband supported me. That was really important. I’d never have been able to do what I did without him and his unquestioning support. I get that not everyone has that luxury. Of the supporting husband or the means to pay for daycare when you aren’t actually bringing in any dollar signs yourself. And to be clear, this wasn’t full time. It was two to three days a week.

See, even now I can’t get away from the guilt.

But back to the point. You have to be selfish with your writing. And this can apply in many different ways. Of course you have to set priorities, and children, significant others, work and many other things often need to take a front row seat. But that doesn’t mean that every second of your time needs to be devoted to them. It’s okay to bring store-bought cupcakes to your child’s recital, no matter if those Pinterest Moms look down their noses at you. And yup, I used to be one of those Pinterest Moms. But I like the view off my self-imposed pedestal a lot better.

Sometimes your significant other needs to help with the kids, or the chores. Maybe your mom can baby sit. Or maybe your friends will have to understand that you can only go out once a month instead of every weekend. Sacrifices need to be made, on your part and sometimes on other people’s part too. But that’s where your priorities need to come in. Make a list of all the things you have to do and the things you want to do. Try to determine how much time you can allot to each one, or if some need to come off the list for the time being. It’s all about what works for you.

Yes, there will be guilt. You’ll create some, and those you love will create some. There will be sacrifices. Sometimes your own sacrifices, and sometimes from others. But as long as it’s all in moderation, it’s okay.

For my own case, I had to make writing a part of my life, not a hobby or just something I enjoyed. I still give up writing days now and then for classroom parties and to nurse a sick toddler, but everyone in my family knows it’s my job. Even if I’m not getting paid yet. They see me writing at my desk, and they know that they can interrupt me if they need to, but that Mommy is working. They know they can’t stay home from daycare-day just because they don’t feel like going. They know our house isn’t the cleanest or most orderly in town. Okay, they may have accepted it’s the literal worst, but they also get another benefit.

They see me being dedicated to something: a dream.

They see that they are the most important parts of my life, but there is value in me and my achievements as well as their own. They see me never giving up, working hard, and believing in myself.

So be selfish with your writing. Within reason, of course. Because whether that book ever gets published, whether you ever make any money, whether another person beyond your CPs ever read your words: there is value in pursing a dream and investing in yourself.

How I Got My Agent! (Or the art of never giving up)

never-give-up

I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, but I wasn’t sure on the timing. Should I do it right after I signed? But that seemed a little soon. What about after you get a book deal? Well, I’m still waiting on that. And submission can be a long process, so I decided to go ahead. No need to wait. Besides, maybe it’ll get my mind off the fact that actual editors at actual publishing houses are reading my manuscript.

I won’t bore you with the long, drawn-out story of how I became a writer. Maybe that’s for another day. Let’s enter at the scene where I have a publishable YA Post-Apocalyptic manuscript just waiting for the right agent to snap it up. I researched agents and how to write a query. Wrote. Revised. Wrote. Revised. Etc., etc. Created a list of agents I felt most strongly about, which of course starts out sort of scientific with pluses and minuses and trying to order them based on who you think you would work well with and give your book the best shot. But it always ends up being more of a “feeling” because cold, hard facts mean nothing if you can’t work with the person. And since you don’t really know the agents personally, you have to go by their interviews, websites and blog posts.

So anyway, I had my query, my manuscript, and my list of agents to query. I got started: right about the time YA Post-Apocalyptic had reached its zenith. And nobody wanted my story. I received plenty of full requests, and a lot of “Wow! Love the writing. But YA PA is a hard sell. See me with something else when you have it.” Which is super encouraging. And a let down, but mostly encouraging. I’d been around long enough to know how the industry worked. And personalized rejections were a lot better than form. (I got plenty of those too!)

But then a certain rejection showed up, and I was disappointed, but also elated. I remember thinking while researching this agent, “This is someone I can see myself being friends with even if publishing weren’t involved.” I’m not sure what it was, but I could just tell she was my kind of people. And though it was a rejection, it was sweet and sincere, and I felt an instant connection. So I did something I’d never done before. Ever. I tweeted a thank you to this agent for her a rejection that almost felt as good as a full-request. Almost.

Now, I don’t recommend you do this. I mean, you could, but it depends on the situation. I had other personalized rejections and I didn’t make any other contact. Because agents are busy people, and you can come across needy, or unprofessional, or just plan annoying. But like I said, I could just tell there was something else there. (At least, I hope so. Otherwise maybe I was needy and annoying, but apparently it didn’t hurt me in the long run.)

The agent responded with a heartfelt thank you. And that was that. She moved to the top of my agent list for future manuscripts and I went back to work. But in my mind she had joined  a small group of agents that I really, really wanted to work with in the future.

When I was ready to query again, she was one of the very first agents I contacted. But sometimes, the agents you contact first aren’t always the first to get back with you. As I said before, agents are busy people. They might not get to your query until months after you’ve written it. Time went on, rejections and requests filtered in, and my query spreadsheet filled in with dates and notes, red for rejection and green for requests.

Then I got her full request. I was more than happy to send it her way. She gave me a timeline for when she would read, and I let her know how many other fulls I had out. And then the unthinkable happened. I had an epiphany about a major change to the book. I thought about it for a few days, decided it had to be done, then gathered my courage and asked if she would wait a few weeks to read a revised version. Once again, this is not always the best thing to do. It’s usually better if you have feedback from say another agent and decide to make changes, or a good excuse as to why you just made yourself look totally unprofessional, but all I had was a new set of beta notes and an AhHa! moment. Agents, to my understanding, would much rather wait on reading and see your best work, but I have to believe this makes you look a little flaky. Still, she was happy to wait and I revised and got her the MS as quickly as I could.

I’ve kind of forgotten the timeline after this. I don’t remember how long she had my MS, or how many other fulls I had out at the time. In fact, I tried not to think about any of it too much, because once the MS is in their hands, there’s nothing you can do but write another book or send more queries. Needlessly worrying is not helpful. (We do it anyways.) But it’s not helpful.

The day I found that little email in my inbox that said, “I love your book. Let’s schedule a call.” I was shaking for the rest of the day. We set-up a day and time to talk, and I spent almost a full week alternating between excited squealing to my husband and my sister, and convincing myself this was not, in fact, THE CALL, but only a courtesy to let me know she couldn’t represent me. Which made very little sense, but hey, I have heard of it happening before.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a nervous wreck by the time we actually talked. I have social anxiety as well as a phone phobia, so yeah, that part wasn’t the most fun, but my intuitions were correct. This agent was the sort of person I would get along well with. She listened to me gush about my book, what I hoped for it, what I wanted to achieve and most importantly, she understood how I felt about not only bringing more diversity to children’s  literature, but also my ardent need to do it correctly and cause no harm. Despite my nervousness, it went well. And at the end of the conversation, she offered me representation.

It was like watching a huge part of your dream come true. Surreal and amazing and terrifying all at once. Of course, I felt like there should have been fireworks over my house, but city ordinances and all, so no explosions. I asked for the customary two weeks to think it over and to notify any agents with outstanding fulls or queries about the offer. We agreed to another day and time for a call and I went about the business of contacting the handful of agents with outstanding material.

Those two weeks were unreal to me. When there’s a deadline for decisions, publishing can move fast. I had double digit fulls out at one time and that has never happened to me before. But it was anxiety-inducing too. Because all the while I was excited to see my book being read by many fabulous agents, there was a part of me that wanted them all to reject ASAP so I could call the offering agent and accept. I told myself that wasn’t good business, that I needed to be open to other offers and think about my career and what was best for that. But really I just wanted to accept the person I’d already connected with, the one I was feeling comfortable and excited about. It was a long two weeks.

In the end, I called Valerie Noble and told her she was the one I wanted representing me, my books, and my future endeavors. Sometimes your first instincts really are correct and I’m so glad I found her as my agent. She has to listen to me ramble on about my books, diversity in literature, and of course my kids on occasion. It can’t all be business! But I’m lucky to have found her and so excited to be partners in the publishing journey.

And just a little side-note to end this post. I know this has been said before, but I’ll say it again. NEVER GIVE UP! My connection with Val didn’t start with the first book of mine she wanted to represent, it started with the one she didn’t want to represent. Writing a book, even one that doesn’t get published, is part of the journey. It’s practice, and querying that book makes connections. So don’t give up after one or two or even three. I think Beth Revis had eight trunked manuscripts before she was published. So keep it up. Your goals can come true too! Good luck!

I Have an Agent!!!!!

Kimmy

No, this is not that “How I Got my Agent” post (though you can expect one in the future, because, come on, I’ve got an agent!) This is more of the “I announced it on Twitter and Facebook and Absolute Write on June 3rd and forgot about my blog” post. (Which might explain the spike in my usually dismal viewership on June 3rd despite not posting since April 9th.)

Suffice it to stay the weeks leading up to the announcement were like this:

Liz Lemon

 

And a little bit of this:

Squealing

And a whole lot of this:

 

New Girl

And in the end I got to post this, on Twitter:

Agent Announcement

(It looked more exciting with the giph twirling and glitter everywhere, but you get the point!)

So now I’m represented by Valerie Noble of Donaghy Literary group and my excitement level is pretty near this:

Shire party

Except the hard work is never done, so I’m going to go back to doing this:

Jim Carrey Typing

And maybe think about that “How I Got My Agent” post for the future!

My Poor Little Blog . . .

You have been severely neglected my poor little blog. But there was a good reason, I swear. Don’t look at me like that. It’s not that I love novel writing better than you, it’s just . . . well, I do love novel writing more, but- No, wait, don’t cry. I’m sorry. We can still be friends!

So I’m not officially breaking up with my blog, but I’ll probably use it like a drunk dial on a lonely night. I enjoyed it while it lasted, but when it got to be a chore, well, I don’t do chores. Just ask my poor neglected house. But here’s a quick update on life.

I have finished my YA Science Fiction retelling of The Last of the Mohicans to the point it is ready for betas. It’s been sent off to a few, though I’m still looking. The title, in case I haven’t mentioned it on the blog yet, is They Chose the Stars. I love it! I mean I really love it! So much so I’ll be heartbroken if I have to change it if I ever get it published. (Not that heartbroken though. Published is still published!)

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, but I felt the same way about previous novels and betas have a way of bursting that euphoric bubble. Which is a good thing. I can’t wait to get those comments back and make it better than it was. Unless of course they tell me it is utter rubbish, my writing is pretentious, the characters useless, and I should just start all over. Oh, crap, now I’m getting nervous.

Though to be honest, I’d rather have someone tell me all that, rather than say it was good, but not really mean it. So slash away betas! Make that MS bleed! I’ll just be hiding here in the corner hugging me knees to my chest.