Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Writers: Don’t Go It Alone March 29, 2013

I recently read a post on a writing forum where a person was rejoicing after getting a full request.  It was awesome! The author got so many comments of congratulations and I loved it. But then as I read further down in the thread my stomach started to knot. The person had written the entire MS and queried it without any beta readers or critique partners.


Now don’t get me wrong, this author could be the next Hemingway for all I know, but in my personal opinion not having another person look at your manuscript is NOT the best idea.  Even if the story is pristine, it could always use another set of eyes to locate a misspelled word or a missing comma.  Or on a grander scale, where the dialogue is awkward or the pacing slow.


My point?  It always helps to have other people look at your work.  Sure your sister and Grandma can give you great feedback, but what really helps is having another writer take a look at your manuscript.  Someone who understands the ferocity of the publishing world and can help you make your work a hundred, maybe even a thousand times better!


So where do you find a beta reader or critique partner?


1) You can start on the writing forums like AgentQueryConnect or AbsoluteWrite and a new one I recently found, CP Seek.


2) YA writer Maggie Stiefvater has a critique partner hook-up on her website as does literary agent, Mary Kole.


3) Local writing associations like Romance Writers of America (RWA) and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) also have local websites which allow you to connect with other writers in your community.


4) Twitter is an amazing place to find like minds! Just type in #amwriting or #writingtip and you’ll see how many talented authors tweet every day. Some may even offer up tweets looking for critique help.


The best thing about finding a really good beta reader or a critique partner? They get you.  They understand the daunting process of getting published and can be a great source of not only inspiration, but support as you write the next amazing novel.


Fellow writers, do you know of other sources where a writer can find a beta reader or critique partner? If so, let me know in the comments!


Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Megan Whitmer March 27, 2013




So I must admit something.  I started this W.O.W. series for purely selfish reasons.  I wanted to interview other authors in hopes of getting perspective on the world of publishing.  I needed to read other people’s stories of struggle and triumph to be reassured I was wasn’t on this crazy path alone.


Along the way I’ve made connections with some pretty cool people and have been buoyed by their tales of querying and rejection before eventual success. I thought I’d heard it all until I came across Meg Whitmer.


I’d followed Meg for a while on Twitter and knew she was a beloved figure among aspiring writers.  She created these amazing vlogs and was so open about her feelings regarding the writing and publishing process.  Then one day she posted this….




And I was truly inspired.  With one post she taught me (and I’m sure so many other writers) the meaning of perseverance.  Her writing odyssey is one I go back to time and time again when I am struggling with the process.  I hope you will find her path to publication as inspiring as I do!


Here is her story…


Amy: What drew you to write YA Fiction?


Meg: I’ve always preferred to read YA. I love the voices and the huge variation in characters and plots you find in the genre. I can do so many different things under the umbrella of YA. I love the age group…the way the characters are so unapologetically self-absorbed sometimes, and how nothing in the world matters more than what’s happening to them at that very moment. It’s a fun age to write, and there are so many different stories to tell. I can’t imagine writing anything else.



Amy: Was BETWEEN your first completed manuscript?


Meg: It’s my second completed manuscript, but the first that I tried to get published.



Amy: How long did it take to complete?


Meg: This is a tricky question, because I wrote the whole thing from beginning to end three times. I wrote the very first scene in March 2011, and that scene is still in the book. From that scene until the book deal, it took a year and a half. I’m revising again now, based on my editor’s notes, so I’m still not comfortable saying it’s complete!



Amy: Did you use critique partners for BETWEEN? If so, how did that affect your writing process?


Meg: Yes! I have a lot of critique partners (mostly the other authors who blog at plus a few more. I would send a few of them the completed manuscript, then revise based on their feedback, and send the next draft to a new group of critique partners. They helped me to see problems with the plot and characters that I couldn’t see because I was too close to the story, particularly after the third rewrite. By that time, I knew the story so well I couldn’t look at it objectively.



Amy: When you first wrote your query for BETWEEN did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Meg: I’m the worst at queries. My critique partners Marieke Njikamp and Cait Peterson pretty much wrote mine for me. I seriously think I have something like 20 drafts of my query before I finally just threw myself to the floor and begged someone to help me. This was another time when knowing my story too well was a problem. I wanted to put every single thing in the query, and that’s impossible. Since Marieke and Cait had read it, they could pull out the most important parts for me.



Amy: Can you tell us about how you came to submit BETWEEN to Spencer Hill Press? What was that process like?


Meg: I posted BETWEEN’s query and first five pages in the forums at WriteOnCon, and the editors at Spencer Hill saw it there and requested the full manuscript. They actually ended up rejecting that one, but they included a list of reasons why. I emailed back to thank them for the specific feedback because I was working on revisions, and they told me to resubmit when I finished revising. (See what being polite can do for you? Writers who get hateful over rejections have no idea what kind of bridges they’re burning.) I resubmitted the revised manuscript to them at the beginning of December, and Danielle Ellison emailed me a few weeks later to set up a call to discuss it. She made the offer during that call.



Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream?  If so, what helped you push through that moment?


Meg: I used to feel like I had to write the Next Great American Novel, and if I didn’t, then there was just no point to it. I thought I needed to be this hugely impressive master of the written word, and that my book should be absolutely life-changing and thought-provoking for the reader. I would sit at my computer and stare at the screen, and none of my ideas were good enough. This lasted FOR YEARS. The voice I tried to write with wasn’t even my voice. It was ridiculous, and I gave up because I’d never be that kind of writer.


I can’t even explain what changed, other than one day I realized I just wanted to write something that people would want to read. When I took the pressure off and told myself that sometimes being entertaining was just as important as anything else–BETWEEN poured out.



Amy: You have a large presence in social media (on both Twitter and via your vlogs). How has that affected your writing and connected you to others in the publishing community?


Meg: Twitter changed everything for me as a writer. I met all of my critique partners there, and became much more familiar with agents, editors, and publishers. The writing community on Twitter is so amazingly supportive. There’s always someone willing to do writing sprints with you, take a look at a query, or beta read your manuscript. It’s incredible. I think social media is so important because it helps you, obviously, connect with other writers, but it also helps you put more of yourself as a person out there. I think its important to let people get to know who I am personally–not just as a writer–so I tweet about all kinds of stuff, including my kids or just random ridiculous thoughts I have throughout the day. My vlogs help with that too…putting a face and personality behind my tweets.



Amy: If you met a fellow writer on the street, and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on their publishing dream, what advice would you give them?


Meg: Giving up is easy. Sometimes it seems like there are more reasons to quit than to keep going…but the reward is so much greater than the risk. When it all pays off, whenever you reach the particular goal you’re working toward, whether it’s to see your book in a bookstore or just to get through the first draft, it is SO WORTH IT. And remember none of us have to do this alone. There are all kinds of places to find other writers going through this whole process with you. Obviously, I’d start with Twitter, but the forums on and are always full too.



Megan Whitmer lives in Kentucky with her husband and two daughters. She loves all things Southern, and has a soft spot for football, kissing scenes, and things that sparkle. Aside from her personal blog, she’s also a contributing blogger for and When she’s not writing, Megan spends her time drinking absurd amounts of Cherry Coke Zero and wishing someone would pay her to tweet. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy called BETWEEN, will be published by Spencer Hill Press in September 2014.


Change How You Create To Please The Market? March 25, 2013

Filed under: Blog,creative writing,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 3:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

There has been a ton of controversy over the last several days regarding the release of Beyoncé’s latest single, “Bow Down.” Many feel the song makes it seem like women should be subservient to men, while others complain about the lyrics.  Record industry insiders say this is Beyoncé trying to change her image, wanting to look tougher and stronger after having a baby.


Here’s the thing, I wonder if this was a conscious decision on her part to do something controversial to stir up the market (and sell more records) or if it was her creative muse urging her to do something new.


It’s the age-old question that has lived on the threads of all the writing boards for years.  Should you stop creating for yourself and start writing to the market so you can sell something?


Those who are die-hard creative-types say you are “selling out” when you try to write to the market, while others claim if they could “just get something published” they would have more leeway to publish the stories they really love.


Personally, I stand firmly in the camp of write what you love and not to the market for several reasons:


1) My work won’t be as strong because I am not fully committed to the characters and plot


2) If I actually sold the work, I’m not sure I’d be motivated enough to do a bang-up job of promoting it


3) Chances are, even if I sold the work, agents and/or publishers still would not consider my previous manuscripts


I suppose the question then becomes are you willing to put in all the time and hard work, knowing what you create may never see the light of day?  For me, I can honestly say I will keep writing what makes me happy.  I’ve got a YA dystopian book that I’m 25K into. Will I put it away because the market is over saturated and agents are no longer looking at this type of story?  Maybe – but I’ll come back to it eventually and query it – because I love it.


The thing is none of us can predict what will be the next hot thing. Perhaps it will be this latest crazy thing I’ve heard called “Vampire Steampunk.” No matter the focus, the best work comes from those who are truly committed to what they are writing – trend or not.


What about you fellow writers?  Have you ever written anything because it was “hot” in the publishing marketplace? Or do you stick to your favorite genres because that is what your muse is telling you to write?


I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


First Five Frenzy with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd. March 22, 2013

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping  your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Sarah LaPolla’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.


Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Sarah: I won’t lie; first lines are pretty important to me. I won’t throw a book across a room and shun it forever if the first line – or even paragraph – doesn’t grab my attention. But, I will definitely be impressed by an engaging opening. Not only does it draw a reader in right away, but it also makes me want to spend more time with a book, even if the pacing slows down or I’m not 100% sold on the main character. A good first line means I’m going to keep reading because I expect you to impress me again.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Sarah: Characters who wake up at the start of the novel make most agents and editors roll their eyes. Not the best first impression. It’s not bad; it’s just cliché. I’d also avoid talking about the weather unless the plot of your book involves a storm that kills everybody or something. Using it to “set the scene” is just boring. Start with your character. I’m also not the biggest fan of starting a book with dialogue, but I won’t presume to speak for all agents on that one.

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Within the first five pages, I’m looking for a character I want to get to know better and a writing style that engages me. If the novel is more high concept, then I also want to know the plot of the novel makes itself known. I need to know what type of story I’m in for. That said, my taste is on the more literary side, so if it takes more than five pages for the story to kick in, I’ll forgive it.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Sarah: Presenting too much backstory in the first five pages is the quickest way to lose me. Pay attention to what details are absolutely necessary to give in any given moment of your novel. Do we need to know the history of a relationship just because that character enters a scene? Probably not. Let details come out organically as needed.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Sarah: If I request a manuscript, chances are I’m already taken with the concept. So, what I’m looking for is how they present that concept. Voice is probably the most important thing to me. I need to be engaged by the narrator. If I’m not, then whatever else is great about the book probably won’t matter much to me. Pacing is also important. I don’t like feeling rushed into caring about something, but I also don’t want to wait 50 pages before I care either. It’s a tough balance.



Sarah LaPolla is an associate agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. She studied creative writing at Ithaca College, and has an MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. She joined Curtis Brown, Ltd. in 2008 as the assistant to the foreign rights department, and became an associate agent in 2010. Sarah represents both adult and YA fiction, and is looking for literary fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, literary horror, and upmarket commercial fiction with strong characters. Sarah runs a literary blog called Glass Cases ( and can be found on Twitter at @sarahlapolla.


If you’re interested in submitting to Sarah, please make sure to check the Curtis Brown, Ltd.  website for their guidelines


W.O.W. Wind Back – Mindee Arnett & Elsie Chapman March 20, 2013

While there have been several big name authors who have had book releases in the past few weeks, there have also been some notable debuts.


I recently read Mindee Arnett’s THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR and Elsie Chapman’s DUALED and can honestly say I was blown away by both these books.  Not only are the characters well-drawn and compelling, but the plot and pacing are perfection.


These two authors were kind enough in the past to share their writing journeys with me and I wanted to share them again to highlight their road to successful publication. And if you enjoy intense, thrilling Young Adult reads be sure to check out both these books.






When I first started researching queries, I looked all over the internet for a great example of how to formulate the perfect pitch.  I went to many sites: Writer’s Digest, Agent Query Connect, etc… looking for one that really stood out and spoke to me on many levels.  Basically, I just wanted to be inspired to write something brilliant.  I searched endlessly and then I came upon the following:






16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal. She is a Nightmare, a magical being who must feed on the dreams of others, and in doing so experience those dreams, too. But when her latest dreamer, Eli Booker, the hot guy from her old high school, turns out to be dreaming about a murder which shortly comes true, she goes from non-criminal to reluctant crime fighter.


Dusty learns that together she and Eli posses the rare ability to predict the future through dreams. They are soon enlisted by the magickind government to help identify the person killing students at Dusty’s high school, Arkwell Academy, a secret school for magickind. Now Dusty and Eli must follow the clues both within Eli’s dreams and out of them to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what they’re up to and marks them as the next target.



This was Mindee Arnett’s pitch for The NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, which garnered her attention from super agent, Suzie Townsend.  Now back then, I didn’t know who Mindee was, I just knew I admired her writing style.  I dug back through my archives and found her name and tracked her down, because I knew I wanted to hear about her writing journey.  Her story taught me that you can have many amazing ideas and manuscripts and the writing to back them up but sometimes they don’t take.  Eventually though, you hit upon a stellar idea and it all just clicks.  Again, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, – it’s all about perseverance and the drive to make your dream a reality.



I learned a lot from reading Mindee’s odyssey and I hope you will too!


Amy: When did you first begin writing?


Mindee: I wrote my very first short story in the sixth grade. My teacher presented the class with a writing prompt, and we had one week to write a story from it. I had always been an avid reader, but I’d never before realized I could write my own stories. It was as if she had opened a door for me to this secret, magical world. And once I stepped through, I never turned back. I’ve been writing ever since.



Amy: Have you always written YA fiction?


Mindee: No, not consciously, although many of my stories and early novels could easily be considered YA. The Nightmare Affair is definitely the first time I knew when I started that I was going to be writing a young adult novel. But this wasn’t a calculated decision on my part by any means. For me, the story is always boss, and Nightmare wanted to be set in a magical high school. The rest just fell into place.



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?


Mindee: Before signing with my agent, I completed four novels. And by complete I mean they had a beginning, middle, and end, but weren’t necessarily polished and ready to be out in the world. Like most writers just getting started, I submitted material way too soon.


The first book was a high fantasy. I submitted it to a single publisher that accepted unsolicited and unagented manuscripts. It was rejected, of course, but by the time I received it, I was already halfway through the next book, an adult horror. This one I submitted to around twenty agents. I received a couple of partials and one full request, all of which were rejected. Again, by the time these came in, I had already moved on to the next book, an adult sci-fi. The sci-fi never went on submission. I took the book to my first and only writing conference where I received feedback from an editor. It was an incredibly disheartening experience, one awful enough that I abandoned the book completely. The next novel was an adult paranormal. This one I queried to approximately 50 agents with some partial and full manuscript request, all ultimately rejected.



Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move onto a new project?


Mindee: For me, the answer was to always start the next project as soon as the old was finished. This was the only way for me to deal with the stress of being on submission to agents (and later to editors). And of course with five novels under my belt, writing has become a daily habit and something I do compulsively. As far as determining when to stop querying, I just went with my gut feeling. With the book prior to Nightmare, the adult paranormal, I stopped querying once the heartbreak grew to be too much and when my desire and motivation to continue to revise/rewrite had fizzled out. Sometimes you just know when the tale has gone sour.



Amy: Did your query for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Mindee: Writing a query letter is never easy. And personally, I would be suspicious of any query that I was able to write without days and days of agonizing and restarts and general flailing. A query letter and a synopsis are by far the hardest piece of writing an author will ever do. The query for Nightmare, which you can read here [], went through multiple variations. By the time I finished writing it, I had fifteen pages of rejected content. Fifteen! That’s a lot of writing.



Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?


Mindee: Yes, I most definitely have critique partners and they were/are absolutely critical to the writing process. Prior to Nightmare, the majority of my feedback had come from family members and friends. They were all readers, but most were not writers. This is the key difference. Readers tend to be far less critical and forgiving than reader-writers. It took me a long time to learn this (ahem, 4 books). But with Nightmare, I actively started searching for critique partners online, and I was fortunate enough to find them. One in particular—Lori M. Lee [ ] —has been invaluable to my success. She is both encouraging but critical and as sharp as they come. If you’re writing a book, you need a Lori. Trust me. You do. And once your find yours, your world will change.



Amy: How many agents did you query for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Mindee: I queried less than ten agents before signing with Suzie, and it happened very quickly. Within seven days of submitting my query, she offered representation. But honestly, quickness of response is not really an indicator of success. So much of it depends on luck. For me, Suzie had an assistant working for her at the time, and so the query received notice very quickly. But this is not always the case. A lot of the time an agent won’t see your query at all for days and even weeks.



Amy: What can you tell me about “the call” with your agent, Suzie Townsend?


Mindee: It was amazing. I was incredibly nervous about it, and I talked way too fast, but really, it was probably the best phone call of my life. Fortunately, Suzie did most of the talking. She was very professional. She had prepared a list of why she loved the book as well as a couple of questions she had about it and minor areas where she would like to see it revised. I took notes and did a lot of pacing.



Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Mindee: No. There were times when I despaired about no longer submitting my work to agents, but I knew in my heart I could never give up writing. Writing, and more specifically story-telling, is an integral part of who I am. I could no sooner turn away from writing stories then I could make myself stop reading books or watching movies and TV shows.



Many thanks to Mindee for taking the time to share her story.


Mindee Arnett is the author of two young adult series. The first book in her contemporary fantasy series, The Nightmare Affair is out now from Tor Teen (Macmillan) while her YA sci-fi thriller, Avalon debuts Winter 2014 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins). She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. For more information on Mindee check out her website or follow her on Twitter.






When I came up with the idea for this series I had no idea how many incredible authors I would get to interview.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure the authors I emailed would even write back.  So far I’ve been very lucky to talk with and interview many amazing authors who truly do inspire me to be a better writer.  One of those inspiring people is today’s featured author – Elsie Chapman.


What I enjoyed most about my discussion with Elsie was her candor about her writing.  She wasn’t afraid to talk about the rejection she encountered on the way to getting her debut novel, DUALED, published.  I must also mention that I am a bit jealous of Elsie because she lives in one of my most favorite cities in the world, Vancouver. One day I am determined to write a book with Vancouver as the setting just so I can go back and visit research the city.


Many thanks to Elsie for allowing me to share her journey.


Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write young adult fiction?


Elsie: I didn’t make the active decision to write young adult, it’s just the voice that came most naturally. I’d love to try middle grade one day, but I don’t know if that’s possible.  Readers can easily tell what doesn’t sound right.



Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to DUALED?


Elsie: Just one. It was a paranormal, and it will forever remain trunked unless I ever decide to go mine it for parts. But I don’t regret the time it took me to write it. It taught me how to complete a full manuscript, as well as taking me through the querying process for the first time.



Amy: What was your first query process like?


Elsie: I burned through many, many agents before I realized that it was time to pull the manuscript. While it was hard, it also made me take a closer look at what I could work on for the next ms.



Amy: Did you have crit partners or beta readers that helped you polish DUALED?  How critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?


Elsie: Actually, I didn’t. My agent was the first to read it, and then my editor. Only after it sold and I met some fantastic YA authors online who I now call friends did anyone else see it.  It’s definitely not the typical way of going about it! And I still have a very up and down relationship with DUALED. I’m very excited when people tell me they want to read it; at the same time, I feel very exposed.



Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that feedback and continue to write?


Elsie: I kept in mind that it only takes one agent, and one editor, to fall in love with your work to make it all happen. Writing is such a subjective thing, as well—not everyone’s going to love the same book. Someone once said each rejection is like a scar you earn in battle, and it’s a great way to look at it.



Amy: How many agents did you query for DUALED?


Elsie: Too many, as I didn’t do it systematically but instead just sent out query letters to those agents I thought might be interested. It probably wasn’t the smartest way to go—if there are problems with your query letter or sample pages, most agents won’t take a second look. But I was incredibly fortunate that it worked out for me, as I ended up having multiple agents to pick from.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


Elsie: It was all over the board, from minutes to weeks. My latest rejection for representation came just a couple of months ago—about a year after DUALED sold.



Amy: What was your call like with The Chudney Agency?  How did you know they were the right fit for you?


Elsie: Steven sent me an email saying he loved DUALED, wanted to offer rep, and for me to give him a call. It was one of the craziest weeks of my life, getting in touch with other agents who had fulls and speaking with each of them on the phone. While they were all fantastic and I couldn’t have gone wrong with any of them, in the end I went with Steven. He was the first to contact me, which meant a lot, and his enthusiasm was contagious.



Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into.  What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention and sell your book?


Elsie: I don’t know if I did any one thing, except to just keep trying. I just wrote the best query letter I could, wrote the best book I could, and hoped someone would help me take the next step.



Amy: If you met an aspiring author on the street, and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on writing, what kind of advice would you give them to encourage them to press on?


Elsie: I think I’d ask why they felt like giving up. How long had they been writing for, how far into the process had they gone? Because publishing doesn’t always work out for everyone. It’s perfectly okay to just write for yourself and not feel like you didn’t accomplish something if you don’t get published. I think every writer is brave just for making the choice to write, even if we all end up taking different paths and end up in different places.



You can learn more about Elsie on her website, her blog, or follow her on twitter.


The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.


Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.





WriteOnCon Pitch-Fest – Pushing Past My Contest Fear March 19, 2013

As the youngest of five I learned how to hold my own early on.  At the dinner table I knew just where to reach so I could grab the last of the mashed potatoes (which always went quickly).  When I got home from school, I formed my own type of stealth to hide from the relentless nuggies and pink bellies that always awaited me.  But being the youngest in a sea of siblings also taught me how to deal with a crowd.


I’ve never had trouble speaking in front of others.  In fact, when I worked at Ingram Book Group, I had to speak to 200 skeptical suits at Book Expo America about a new order-on-demand program while I was six months pregnant.  Talk about intimidating.


So what does all of this have to do with a pitch contest?  Well, it’s simple.  I can talk to a crowd without even breaking a sweat, but ask me to enter my pitch in a contest and I get all kinds of queasy.


For me it’s all about the unknown.  Putting my work out there for everyone to see and critique.  And of course, it’s a thousand times worse when it’s an agent looking at my pitch.


Will they like it?


Will they hate it?


Will they say I can’t write and I should just pack up my computer and go home?


These are all the thoughts that spin through my head as I wonder if I should enter a contest.


This time, I pushed all my worries aside and jumped into the WriteOnCon Pitch-Fest with my latest manuscript, FIGHTING CHANCE –


I have no grand ideas about where this contest will take me.  I can’t imagine I will be like one of those authors I’ve often interviewed who were magically selected by an agent and then went on to sign a three-book deal.  Entering this contest is more about the feedback for me.


And I like the fact that not only agents, but bloggers and avid readers can join in on the fun and even vote for their favorites.


So if you have some time today, stop by the WOC Pitch-Fest and check out some of the amazing 350 pitches, and if you feel inclined vote for a few.  Many writers like myself would welcome the feedback as we try to make our publishing dreams come true.


How Movie Studio Tours Inspire Dreams March 18, 2013


(“New York” street torn apart for a Carl’s Jr. commercial)



After I graduated from college I spent a year working in California.  First as an NBC page in Burbank and then as a production assistant for a now defunct talk show.  While I liked the work, I honestly couldn’t stand living in Los Angeles.  The traffic made it impossible to get anywhere, and even on the most sunny day, the smog threatened to choke the life out of me.


This past week, I returned to LALA land and passed by some of my old haunts.  I must admit that being back in that world did rekindle some of the old passions in me. It’s not like I want to go back and live and/or work there, but it reminded me of how awe-inspiring Hollywood can be.  You can’t drive down the street without seeing some twelve-story billboard for a new movie.  Or drive by a bus without witnessing a promotion for a new fall pilot.  The thrill of creativity is in the air and it quickly seeps into your bones.


What inspired me most was a backlot tour I did at Warner Brothers.  I’d forgotten how cool it was to see sets and props being dragged between sound stages.  How amazing it was to witness costumes carted between Winnebago-type dressing rooms, and of course, the excitement of seeing some pretty famous writer/producer names spray painted along various parking spots (K. Williamson & D.Kelly) to name a few.


When I was caught up in that world some time ago, Hollywood was all about the magical thrill of production for me.  Watching as cameras moved in some wild synchronized dance to get the right shot. But now that I’m older, and writing, it’s more about the creation and evolution of the story.


As I marveled at the Big Bang Theory set, I thought about how that show blossomed from a single idea into a major powerhouse series.  When I walked through the two-story WB museum, and stood inches away from Harry Potter costumes which were worn by the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes, I realized how none of those bits of cloth would mean anything without the beautiful saga J.K. Rowling created.


Without the writer, Hollywood would just be another pinprick on a map. Its real power comes from those who sit behind a computer and allow their imaginations to flow and create something out of nothing.  So the next time I come up with a new story idea, I’m going to think about that power and hope the next tale I spin will inspire another writer to create.  You never know, that person might just write the next Star Wars or Harry Potter.  To me that is much more magical than anything Hollywood can bring to life.




(Sound Stage 24 on the WB lot now known as “The Friends” stage)


%d bloggers like this: