Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: A Deep Breath January 5, 2015

For my first post of the new year I’m going to go against the grain. Recommend something many writers may disagree with me about.


Here it is…you don’t have to write every day.


Yes, you heard right. I don’t believe that in order to be committed to your craft you have to sit down at your computer, or write in a notebook (if you prefer), and put down words every single day. Now, I’m not saying this as a blanket statement. In certain circumstances, like if you’re on deadline or have revisions due for a publication, well then of course you must write and get it done. But in all other cases, I believe it is certainly fine to take a break.


Here’s the thing though, a year ago I would have never believed this. I would’ve shouted from the rooftops, “Have a routine! Write every day even if it’s just a 100 words.”


Why did I change my mind? One simple word: burnout.


Since I started writing seriously about four years ago, a day has not gone by where I haven’t been plotting, writing, revising, or editing. Even when I wasn’t near a computer, I was thinking about writing. After a while, and almost two straight years of querying, that took a toll on both my physical and mental health.


In the previous year (2013) I said I was going to take a blogging break at Christmas and I did. But that didn’t stop me from writing or going on social media way too much. By the time January came around, I was still just as exhausted as if I’d been blogging and working the entire time.


After a stressful November and December this year, I found I had a hard time committing to my craft. Sure I dragged myself to the computer every day to finish the manuscript I swore I’d have done before Christmas, but by the time I wrote “The End” I had no gas left in the tank. My mind was blank and almost every single bone in my body hurt.


Once I was done, I made a resolution. No more writing, blogging, or social media for two weeks. The new manuscript was going to have to sit. The ideas for blog posts needed to wait. Twitter and Tumblr had to be words that were no longer part of my vocabulary. I knew it was going to be hard, but I had to do it.


With a single Tweet, I said goodbye to Twitter. I wrote my final blog post and said, “Happy Holidays.” With one last review, I backed up my manuscript, closed my laptop, and put it away in the closet. Were those first days hard? You bet they were, but after a while I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. A short time later, I took a walk and found I could finally take a deep breath.


Did I still think about writing? Well, of course, it’s in my blood. But the plotting, planning, it would all have to wait. Slowly but surely as the time passed, I felt myself come back to life. I took pleasure in small things like going to a movie with my phone turned off. Playing a game with my family was wonderful because I wasn’t constantly worrying about whether or not someone had sent me an email. It was pure bliss.


When January 1 came around I felt rejuvenated, but I’ll admit I was terrified. It had been fourteen days since I’d written. I worried maybe taking so much time off would make it impossible for me to be inspired again. The thought of opening my new manuscript gave me cold sweats. In fact, I had to repeat to myself, “You got this!” several times before I pushed my laptop’s on button.


Here is what I discovered: the words were still there. Creativity was still coursing through my veins. In reality “my break” did not break me. With time off, and resting my mind, I found I was excited to read my new work. That what was a first draft wasn’t so sucky after all. Serious work still needed to be done, but I was pumped to take on the challenge.


So yes, in my opinion it’s okay to stop writing if you need a break. To put the laptop away and close your mind to those plot bunnies racing around. Everything in this world needs time to rest and that includes you. Don’t be afraid to take time off if you need it. You, and your work, will both be better for it I promise!


What about you? Have you taken a break? Did it help you find your writing mojo again? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!





Choosing An Editor: A Guest Post By Dahlia Adler October 28, 2013


I think one of the most difficult things about navigating the world of publishing is trying to decide whether or not you need to hire an editor. More and more these days agents are looking for a highly polished manuscript, and there is nothing worse that getting a full request and wondering if your manuscript is ready to go.


The issue of hiring an editor is complicated. Do you hire someone to look at your query so you can gain agent interest? Should you pay for a submission package so you can get critical feedback on your query and first pages? Is it worth it to pay for a comprehensive overview of your entire manuscript?


My own personal experiences with editors have varied. Some have been very professional and spot on with their advice. Others have come highly recommended and then seriously disappointed me.


It’s impossible to tell you the right thing to do. Each writer has their own instincts about where they need help. What is possible is to give you some key points to consider before you hand over your money to an editor.


I honestly could not think of anyone else better to handle this topic than Dahlia Adler. A copy editor herself, Dahlia has great insight into this subject and helps provide solid information on what a writer should consider before hiring an editor.









I’ve been working in publishing in one capacity or another since 2002, and obviously, a lot about the industry has changed since then. The rise of digital publishing – and self-publishing – has changed massive amounts about the landscape of publishing, and both authors and professionals have been forced to change with it. As a result, small independent presses have been popping up all over the place, and it seems everyone and her mother is now a freelance editor as well.


So how do you know who’s legitimately a good freelance editor and who’s just taking your money? Here are some ways to help you figure it out:


Experience: Everyone needs to start somewhere, but as with an agent, you have no responsibility to be anyone’s guinea pig. You have a right to know that someone has a proven track record before you hire him or her; otherwise, why assume (s)he knows what he or she is doing for you? Additionally, if an editor has no prior clients, that means (s)he likely has no references, which brings us to…



References: It’s a fact – there are some things you can’t know about how someone operates until you deal with him or her yourself… or talk to someone who has. Someone may have excellent credentials and experience, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about things like turnaround time, responsiveness to emails, or the depth with which he or she edits. These are the kinds of things other clients can tell you better than anyone else.


And, of course, if you’re considering hiring an editor, read a book or two the editor has worked on. Do so with a grain of salt – remember that authors don’t always follow suggestions, or have a second round of editing (or proofreading) done after they’ve made numerous changes – but the overall impression of a book should definitely help you figure out what you need to know. (A good sign one of these exceptions is the case – a generally clean book with brief sections that are outstandingly typo-riddled.)



Success: Success isn’t always an easy thing to measure; if an author doesn’t self-promote well, or isn’t a skilled writer to begin with, there’s only so much editing can do. Additionally, success as an author doesn’t necessarily mean that said author is skilled as an editor. That said, there are a lot of people advertising services with which they themselves have not found success – authors who have not successfully landed agents but charge for query critiques, for example. Now, this doesn’t mean these people are automatically bad at critiquing queries – of course not. But given the choice between someone who’s proven this skill and someone who hasn’t, why go with the person who hasn’t when you’re trying to navigate through this minefield?



Test: This is the number one most important thing to do when hiring an editor, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that not only is it something you can ask for, but it’s something you should. Any editor who refuses to take a test before being hired is not an editor you should hire. I’ve had three longterm copyediting contracts as well as a Production internship at a Big Five, and you know what all of them had in common? Making me take a test first.


So what’s an appropriate test, and what are you looking for? Ideally, a sample chapter should do it, and what you’re keeping an eye out for is a combination of skill and style – Do the editor’s ideas for revisions mesh with yours, and fix the sorts of things you’re looking for? Do they maintain your voice? (This one is huge, and a big thing to keep an eye out for when selecting a Copy Editorno one should be rewriting your voice, and anything that skirts the line should be done as a suggestion, not an edit.)



(For a Copy Editor) Style Guide: All Copy Editors should be able to tell you which style guide they use (Chicago Manual of Style is standard for traditionally published books in the US) and, of course, they should have access. A CMoS subscription is relatively inexpensive, but it’s not free. No one who is not in possession of access to your preferred style guide should be your Copy Editor, period. Similarly, a CE should be willing to make adjustments according to your stated preferences.



And, of course, The basics: Is the price right? (These are the rates established by the Editorial Freelancers Association. There are certainly cheaper editors, but no one who’s not an extremely established professional should be pricier.) Is the offered turnaround time what you’re looking for? Are e-mails responded to promptly? Are you comfortable with the payment plan? How will the edits be done – are both you and the editor comfortable with the method (hard copy, tracked changes in Word, etc.)?



One more huge caveat I would give – do not take an editor’s connections to an agent or publisher as any guarantee of an offer to said agent or publisher. This would be a huge conflict of interest, and is not an implicit part of any freelance editor’s contract. If you’re considering hiring an editor because of his or her connections, just…don’t.



So where do you find a good editor? Well, you can’t go wrong by simply checking acknowledgments of books you think were well done and starting from there. In talking to the author, you may find out the editor has little to do with why the book was so solid, but in my experience, it’s a far safer starting point than simply putting a call out for recommendations.


Good luck to all authors going through the process, and happy hunting!






Dahlia Adler is an  Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor at Ellora’s Cave and Spencer Hill Press by night, and a writer of YA and  blogger at The Daily Dahlia and YA Misfits at every spare moment in between. Her debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24, 2014. You can find her on Twitter at @MissDahlELama.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Anne Blankman May 29, 2013




I think one of the most important things to learn from Anne Blankman’s writing odyssey today is the need to step back from your manuscript for a while.  This may sound contrary to the writing process, but as Anne points out, sometimes it teaches you how much you love writing.  For many of us, writing is a passion that we can’t live without.  But sometimes, we get so caught up in our stories, we forget what needs to be done to make them better (serious edits and revisions).  Anne’s story proves that if you take a break from your work, even if it’s just for a short time, it can refuel your passion and help you create something extraordinary.


Here is Anne’s journey…


Amy: What drew you to write a Young Adult manuscript?


Anne: After getting a master’s in information science, I began working as a youth services librarian, so YA literature feels like a natural fit for me. There’s so much to love about YA books — they’re usually high stakes and their characters are grappling with big issues and figuring out who they are.



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


Anne: I wrote a terrible picture book a few years ago that, thankfully, was rejected. PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is my first YA manuscript, and I was incredibly lucky that it received so much interest right away.



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


Anne: I was fortunate enough to land an agent and book deal with my first ms (Sorry! Ducking furious glares right now!). What happened to me is atypical. I think if my ms had gotten tons of rejections, with criticisms that I couldn’t fix, I would know I had to set it aside.



Amy: Did your query for PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Anne: Ugh. Many, many drafts. This wasn’t easy for me at all. I’d never written a query, and I started off composing a business letter of sorts. Yup, it was as boring as it sounds. Once I researched what a query letter is, and read examples of good, agent-garnering ones, I had to learn how to trim all the unnecessary details and boil the essence of my ms into a tight paragraph, all while maintaining a “voice.” This isn’t a painless process, but a well-crafted query can pull your ms out of the slush pile, so the hard work is worth it.



Amy: Did you have critique partners for PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?


Anne: I worked with a critique group while writing PRISONER. My mom, who’s an MG author, is my alpha reader, and her comments were incredibly helpful. Since PRISONER takes place in 1930s Munich, I sometimes let myself get carried away with historical details — stuff I found fascinating but would bore most of my readers. My mom helped me trim the fat, so I only included information that readers absolutely had to know.



Amy: How many agents did you query for PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Anne: My experience was very unusual. I had signed up for a fifteen-minute critique session at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Conference. I could hardly believe my luck when I was matched with my top-choice agent. At that point, I had finished PRISONER about two weeks earlier, and I hadn’t sent it out because I wanted to meet with Tracey Adams first. If she didn’t offer me representation (and I knew the odds were, she probably wouldn’t–I mean, how many authors get offers of rep on their first time out?), I would get some great editorial comments.


Meeting Tracey felt like meeting a new friend. Not only did we click immediately, but she loved my ms and wanted me to send her an exclusive full! About a week later, she called to offer representation.



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


Anne: Amazing! It was a Friday afternoon, and I was playing with my three-year-old when my phone beeped. Tracey had sent me an email, saying she would love to talk to me as soon as possible and when was a convenient time? Once I picked myself off the floor, I replied, “Now is great!” (yup, I know how to play hard to get, right?), plunked my daughter in front of the TV, and raced to answer the phone.


I have no idea how long we talked. The whole conversation is a happy blur. What I remember best is Tracey going on about how much she loved my book before she interrupted herself, saying “What I want to say is I one hundred percent want to offer you representation.” I didn’t need to consider it. I’d done plenty of research, and she was my dream choice. I signed with her that night, and it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.



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


Anne: Of course. I was about halfway through PRISONER’S second draft when I put it down for a few months, not sure if I could pick it up again. A very dear relative had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I wanted to be available to help out. I had a very active toddler; I loved my job at the library branch ten minutes from my house. I wasn’t sure if I could handle more, and PRISONER was an ambitious book to write. The amount of research alone was enormous.


But I wasn’t happy. Sure, I had more free time and I was getting more sleep, but I felt unfulfilled. I decided I was letting myself down by not giving my writing career a decent shot. Three months later, I met Tracey, and three weeks after signing with her, we had a three-book deal at auction. So I would say to all aspiring writers: Keep trying! Your first break could be right around the corner!





Anne Blankman grew up in a small town in upstate New York, where she spent all of her time reading, writing, and doing sports. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and daughter. She’s lucky enough to be an author and a librarian. You can visit her online at or follow her on Twitter.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Francesca Zappia May 8, 2013





Quick confession here – I’ve always wanted to have the talent to draw.  My oldest brother can pick up a pen and doodle something that is absolutely stunning.  Me? I pick up a pen, and I’m lucky if what I draw even looks like a stick figure.  Today’s featured writer, Francesca (Chessie) Zappia is not only a writer but an artist.  I find this fascinating for many reasons, but probably the most dominant being that I think it would be cool to illustrate your characters on a blank piece of paper.  This to me would be the ultimate way to really “see” what my characters look like, and have them become not just words on the page, but colorful beings.  During the interview, as you will read below, I asked Chessie about her drawings, and while she admits they help her visualize the characters, she also feels bad about what she does to them later.


Many thanks to Chessie for sharing her writing journey.  Be sure to check out her artwork here:



When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?


I think I was around seven or eight–it was when I read my first Harry Potter book. After I finished it, I realized that an actual person had written it. For some reason I had the strange idea that all books had always existed since the beginning of time. I’d always liked thinking up stories and drawing them, but that was the first time I realized that I could make stories with words, too, and make people fall in love with them the way I’d fallen in love with Harry Potter.



I love your artwork.  When you draw your characters, and see them come alive on the page, does it help you connect to them better as a writer?


Thank you! I never really thought about it, but I guess it does! When you’re drawing a character, you have to know what pose to put them in, what their expression will be like, what sort of clothes they wear, how they do their hair–little things like that, that you may not necessarily describe all the time in the story, but they help you get a better grasp on the character’s personality and motivation. (It also makes me feel bad for what I do to them later.) I know a lot of people who wish they could translate their ideas into drawings and get frustrated when they can’t, so I feel incredibly lucky to have that skill.



How many manuscripts had you completed prior to ASK AGAIN LATER?


Wellll, that’s a bit of a hard question to answer. When you first start writing, most of what you write is for practice. I think a lot of writers write multiple manuscripts before they find the one that finally gets them an agent/book deal/etc. I mainly wrote two books–one was ASK AGAIN LATER and the other was the beginning of a YA sci-fi trilogy. I rewrote them from the ground up multiple times. To me it feels like dozens of manuscripts, but in reality, I guess it was only two.



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


I’ve been querying since I was fourteen or fifteen, so I’ve had my share of rejections. It’s hard to get rejections, no matter what form they come in, but for me I guess the writing itself was the way I dealt with it. If agents didn’t like my current book, I would write them another book they would like. But it always had to be the book I wanted to write–not what I thought they wanted to read.



Did you have critique partners that helped you polish ASK AGAIN LATER? If so, how did that affect your writing process?


I did! It was one of the first manuscripts I ever handed over to my critique partners, and the help they gave me in shaping it was unbelievable. They’re amazing because they each look at a different part of the story. With all the manuscripts I’ve churned out since then, I feel like I’m more open to trying new things and writing the way I want, because I know if it doesn’t work, my critique partners will slap me over the head and tell me to get my act together.



How long did it take you to write the query for ASK AGAIN LATER? Did it go through many drafts?


The original query took me probably a few days, but I was constantly revising it while I queried. It went through so many drafts it makes me kind of sick to think about it. Needless to say, I am not the best at query writing.



How many agents did you query for ASK AGAIN LATER?


72. But that’s not including those I sent submissions to after contest requests.



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


All the times I’ve queried, it’s been pretty much a wait for requests/rejections. Sometimes I only had to wait a few days. Some of the queries I waited months on. Most were rejections; the requests were just as spread out. I got one request a week after I queried an agent, and I got another two months after I sent the initial query. It definitely wasn’t one of those “I sent out queries and everyone loved it!” situations, haha.



Can you tell us what your “call” was like with your agent, Louise Fury? How did you know she was a good fit for you?


Our call actually got delayed one or two times before it finally happened, thanks to a plane ride and a very unfortunately-timed illness. Which just meant I got to teeter on the edge of a heart attack for an extra two days. But as soon as I got on the phone with Louise, I knew she was perfect. She’d gotten just about everyone at L. Perkins Agency to read my book, and the overwhelming support they had for it blew me away. We talked about my vision for the book and her ideas for revision, and by the end of the call–which lasted about forty minutes to an hour, if I remember right–I knew she was right for me. She’s so professional and so dedicated to her job, but also so passionate about the books she takes on.



If you met a struggling writer at a book signing and they told you they were about to give up on their dream of publication, what would you say to encourage them to keep writing?


I’d tell them to keep at it, no matter how bad they think they are or how many rejections they get. All writers think their work is horrible at some point. All writers get rejections. But the more you write, the better you get. And the better you get, the more likely you are to attract the perfect agent or publisher. The only way you will for sure never reach that dream of publication is if you quit.



Francesca is 20, majors in Computer Science the University of Indianapolis, and prefers the name Chessie. She writes books about pirates, aliens, crazy people, ghosts, skysurfing, nightmare hunters, underwater prisons, and any other thing that catches her attention. Her debut novel, ASK AGAIN LATER, is a YA contemporary coming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in Fall 2014. She’s represented by Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency. You can find her on Twitter and on her blog.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Maggie Hall April 24, 2013





One thing I always ask in the W.O.W. is how critique partners affect a writer‘s work.  I can only count on one hand the number of writers who have told me they do not use CPs.  How they do it, I don’t know.  CPs and beta readers, I believe, are critical to the writing process and today’s featured writer, Maggie Hall agrees.


Maggie is part of a group blog called the YA Misfits.  This group supports one another through the writing, revising, querying and eventual submission process.  They are proof that with a great support network, any writer can reach their potential.


Many thanks to Maggie for sharing her writing journey…



Amy: You don’t see a lot of YA International Thrillers in the current marketplace. What inspired you to write The ELITE?


Maggie: Mostly that there weren’t a lot of YA International Thrillers in the marketplace! 🙂 I read a lot of adult International Thrillers and love the genre, and always wished there was more like it in YA, so when the idea for this one came to me, I knew I had to write it. Plus, I love traveling and it was really fun to get to use some of my experience in writing this book.



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before THE ELITE?


Maggie: This is my very first manuscript, so none!



Amy: I know you are part of the blog group, YA Misfits.  How did you connect with them, and how has knowing them affected your writing?


Maggie: Twitter, contests, forums…we met all over the place online, essentially. I met the first Misfits I knew through seeing each others’ entries on WriteOnCon then connecting through Twitter, and then met their friends, and they met mine, and soon we had this wonderful group of writers, and thought hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we started a group blog? And so YA Misfits was born.


Most of my critique partners are Misfits, and CPs in general changed my writing life. There’s only so much you can do to your writing on your own, and they have been incredibly helpful. And besides help on my actual MS, I would never have made it through the publishing process without them to lean on and vent to and freak out with…everyone needs a few good CPs!



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


Maggie: It went through quite a few drafts. I started messing with the query well before the MS was done, so I had time to let it evolve naturally, and to get lots of advice! I had friends read it, posted it on forums…I have a tendency to ramble on, and the first couple drafts definitely showed that!



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


Maggie: I queried 14 agents. Most of them were actually very quick–I got lucky!



Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Claudia Ballard? How did you know she was the right agent for you? 


Maggie: I knew Claudia was the right agent when she told me what was wrong with the book. 🙂 Some agents aren’t very editorial (which is fine!) but I love having an agent who made me confident that she wouldn’t send my book out on sub until she thought it was really ready. And besides the edits, she was incredibly supportive, too. I came out of our first call knowing she loved the book and could see good things happening for it.


The rest of the call with her was pretty standard, I suppose–we talked about what she was looking for out of me, what I wanted out of my future as a writer, etc!



Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?


Maggie: I think the fact that my MS was different from what agents usually see in the slush pile was the most important factor in hooking them initially. Agents see so many queries, anything that makes your story stand out in a good, exciting way is really going to help you.



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


Maggie: All the time. I thought I’d never get my draft finished, then I thought I’d never think it was good enough to query, then when I was revising with my agent, I definitely doubted my ability to make it good enough to go on sub. Doubt, doubt, and more doubt. I was ready to throw in the towel a million times.


And what motivated me to go on? First of all, see my answer about CPs, above…my amazing CPs have encouraged me, been a shoulder to cry on, and kicked my butt into gear more times than I can count. If it weren’t for them being there for me through thick and thin, I very well might have quit at some point. And also, the love of writing. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Every time I tried to ignore my writing, or thought of giving up, it would be there, nagging at me, and I know there’s no way I could really quit. Maybe writers really are a little crazy!



More on THE ELITE:



Sixteen-year-old Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Elite, and they think Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Now some of the Elite want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead. 


To unravel the mystery putting her in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the crypts of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And even more complicated are the two boys she’s with—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack—who might be part of the solution, or who might be her undoing…because the conspiracy goes deeper than anyone could have guessed. 


Maggie Hall is a former bookstore events coordinator and world traveler, who has petted tigers in Thailand, eaten her way through Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains across India. When she’s not on the other side of the world, she likes to watch USC football and blog about young adult literature for YA Misfits. She recently relocated from Albuquerque to New Orleans with her husband and three cats.



Maggie is represented by Claudia Ballard at William Morris Endeavor and the first book in her YA International Thriller trilogy, currently called THE ELITE, will be published by Putnam/Penguin in fall 2014. You can add it to Goodreads here. For more on Maggie, check out her website, blog or follow her on Twitter @MaggieEHall


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.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Jessika Fleck February 27, 2013




I’m always curious to see what a writer‘s responses are going to be when I send them interview questions.  Most of the time, I learn each and every author has a VERY different experience when it comes to getting an agent and being published.  Some toiled in the query trenches for years before hitting agent gold.  Others got lucky and reached an agent at just the right time, as today’s featured writer, Jessika Fleck did.


No matter the journey, one element remains the same among all writers –  their belief in their work and constant commitment to following their dream. Each week I’m inspired by their journeys enough to slog deep down into query hell again because I KNOW if I keep trying, maybe, just maybe, it will happen for me one day too!


Many thanks to Jessika for sharing her personal journey today…



Amy:  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?


For me it was an exact moment. Sounds cliche’, but really it was. I’ve always been artistic, but after we had our two daughters less than two years apart, the art supplies were tucked away in a closet for safe keeping and I slowly lost my creative person. A couple years passed and that artist inside of me started clawing to escape. I found myself desperate for something more…so full of passion and desire to create yet without an outlet to dump it all into. That’s when a story hit me. I was brushing my teeth (romantic, I know) and —BAM— a memory along with an entire storyline came bounding at me. I began writing, not knowing anything about what I was doing. Writing always seemed an academic practice to me, less creative, less inspiring than, say, slapping paint on a canvas. But I was doing it. I couldn’t NOT do it, the story and characters wouldn’t leave me be. Later I realized I’d been telling stories all along, only my medium had changed.



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


Jessika: One. My first manuscript (the BAM! moment story) was a complete and necessary learning experience for me. It was during that year (yes, an entire year) I evolved into a writer.



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


Jessika:Well, it took me several rejections (more than it should have) to realize that 180K words (part of why it took me a year to write) is way too long to garner any interest, not the positive kind anyway. Once I researched proper word count, I began cutting it down, but was then hit with the idea for FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL. With that, I knew I had to shelve my first manuscript and commit to the next.



Amy: Did your query for FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Jessika: Query and easily aren’t two words I will ever put in the same sentence! It is one of the most daunting things to attempt smashing the compelling points of a manuscript into three short paragraphs, while maintaining an authentic voice and making good selling points. In many ways I find writing a query letter more difficult than writing a full manuscript.


My conservative guess is that the query for FAMILIARITY went through roughly thirty drafts (towards the end many of the file names including impressive use of expletives). 🙂



Amy: Did you have critique partners for FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?


Jessika: I was still new to the writing world when drafting FAMILIARITY. I had friends beta read for me before I queried. However, once I realized I was getting more rejections that anything I hired an independent editor to look it over. After doing an intense round of edits, I started entering contests, connecting with other writers and eventually found a couple of wonderful critique partners. So, while I didn’t utilize their insight and support as I wish I could have with FAMILIARITY, I now know how invaluable CP’s are to the process and wouldn’t consider a project complete without running it by them first.



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


Jessika: The real number? Really, really? I’ve never said (but no one’s ever asked) and truly I haven’t gone back and counted – until now – and I do believe it deserves a drum roll! I received 49 rejections and 26 non-replies that were to be considered rejections, so 75. Out of those I got five full requests and 10-12 partial requests.


Response times varied between agents and agencies. Some would get back to me in minutes, others six weeks. The BEST was when I actually got feedback. Whether it was negative or positive it was always constructive and so very helpful. I really appreciated those responses.



Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Jamie Bodnar Drowley?


Jessika: Ah…the call. Jamie had the full of FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL out and read it at superhero pace (a day and a half at most). She emailed me after completing it and asked if I could chat over the phone about a question she had regarding the word count. Of course I said yes and, trying to keep a steady head about me, assumed she liked it, but was going to ask me to cut it down and resubmit.


When I got the call the next day, it wasn’t just Jamie on the phone, but also Marisa Corvisiero – a simple question about word count had somehow landed me on the receiving end of a conference call! At that point I knew there was more than “word count” to discuss. Marisa and Jamie explained how much they loved my project and they wanted to offer me representation…me representation! I believe I mumbled something completely incoherent like, “Um…wow, oh my gosh…thanks!” After we talked some specifics and hung up I literally walked circles around my living room staring at my phone in my hand, trying to remember how to use it so I could call someone, anyone, and share my news. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.



Amy: Publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to attract agent interest?


Jessika: Honestly, I’d say it was part pure luck, part hard work, and part catching the right agent at the right time. There are so many factors that go into why agents reject projects. I like to think for me it was querying the right agency/agent for my genre/style, that my writing was compelling, and draft #30 of my query somehow caught her attention. Jamie’s enthusiasm for FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL rivals my own passion for it and THAT is what you want in an agent – someone who believes in you as a writer, in the work you produce, who wants more than anything for you to reach your goals, and who will push you to do your best so you’ll get there.


I’ve come to realize that finding an agent is like finding a life-partner, but for your manuscript. There’s a perfect match out there…somewhere. Odds are if you don’t give up, eventually your paths will cross. I couldn’t be happier about crossing paths with Jamie!



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


Jessika: No. I mean, there were times I had fleeting thoughts wondering if all of the hours upon hours of writing was a waste of time, but they were few and far between. Not to say I didn’t experience moments of frustration and dismay. Getting rejected isn’t easy and often times it feels very personal. Even with the sting of rejection and if nothing ever panned out as far as finding an agent and getting published, writing is my passion. It’s enlivening and lovely and all of the things that take my breath away. So, agent or not, book deal or not, I am living my writing dream simply by writing.



Always a lover of art and books, it wasn’t until she put the two together that Jessika discovered the magic of storytelling. Growing up with an overactive imagination lent to many a day exploring new worlds and characters. She still has the overactive imagination, but now puts her stories to paper. Jessika lives in Colorado with her sweet family, growing collection of vintage typewriters, and bevy of characters who often keep her up at night. She is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley with Inklings Literary Agency and both her NA Paranormal, FAMILIARITY WITH THE DEVIL, and YA Dystopian/Dark Fantasy, THE OFFERING, are currently on submission. To learn more about Jessika, check out her blog,  Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @jessikafleck.


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