After two long years, I’ve completely edited my manuscript for my second novel, including a round of edits requested by agents in November. Like my first novel, this book follows the story of Emerson Page into a world built from mythology and love.
I’m so grateful to Justine and Erin at Byte the Book who introduced me to literary agents at a recent pitch event. Their comments and requests made the book stronger, and their unbiased feedback was priceless. Now it’s time to resubmit to those agents and start my queries. Here we go!
Shopping with gift cards today? Returning or buying gifts? My young adult adventure book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, is available again everywhere books are sold and on sale for $8.99 (book) and $2.99 (e-book).
At bookstores, give the store this ISBN if it’s not in stock: 1694109410.
It’s also on Amazon & Amazon Kindle in the U.S. and internationally. If you’re buying on Amazon, make sure to use this link so that you aren’t directed to any re-sellers of the old edition selling the book at a much higher price: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1694109410/
“Though my soul may set in darkness,
it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly
to be fearful of the night.”
~Sarah Williams, poet and novelist, “The Old Astronomer”
If you’re a stargazer, winter is your season. With more nighttime hours and the brightest, clearest, and most beautiful skies of the entire calendar, winter is something to celebrate. Having more time with the stars is one of the main reasons I love this season. So if cold temperatures and long nights have you down, look up. There’s so much out there to love.
On the first full day of winter, I always read the short essay Winter by Nina Zolotow. It’s my ritual to ring in this season as one of rest, creativity, and inspiration. I love winter, and this essay perfectly explains why. Nina wrote it in Ithaca, New York, where the fullness of all the seasons is present, each in its turn, in its time.
I hope you find as much comfort, peace, and joy in these words as I do.
Winter by Nina Zolotow
“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.”
“Let us love winter for it is the spring of genius.” ~Pietro Aretino
Wishing you all a restful, inspiring, and creative winter solstice.
I took this photo in Central Park. So grateful for this beautiful place that provides me views like this, great and small, every day.
I’m so excited to share that I reached one of my big writing goals for 2019: I wrote and published two pieces about biomimicry for a science publication. I’m so grateful to The Biomimicry Institute for reaching out to me and asking me to write for them. My two pieces about biomimicry’s pivotal role in the Green New Deal (a set of policies to protect the health of our planet) and the Blue New Deal (a subset of Green New Deal policies that focuses on the health of our oceans) are now live. You can read them at the links below. I’d love to know what you think!
I always tear up watching the Kennedy Center Honors because I’m so happy we have a national celebration centered around creative lives and the power of the human imagination. This year’s honorees: Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, Sesame Street, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Small stories told incredibly well can be every bit as powerful as the sweeping, complicated tales of history. To be honest, I’m naturally drawn to the latter but telling those epic tales as a writer is not a place to begin. It’s a goal.
This spring, I’m attending my first screenwriting pitch event. I had a long conversation with my writing mentor and dear friend, John Bucher. I was considering writing an against-all-odds story rooted in the untold story of New York City’s most notorious and unlikely gangster.
Because it’s a period piece, I was worried that this would cause producers to count me out before I even finished my log line. In this kind of pitch situation, I’ve got to stack the odds in my favor in every way—a great story, strong writing, short shooting period, and a small budget without any complicated production or editing tactics needed. Period films by their nature are expensive and expansive because you have to recreate that world that the characters inhabit. Is a bold period piece for this pitch competition really the risk to take? Though I love the story, I doubted whether this was the time and place to take that shot. To check this hunch, I turned to John.
John said something to me that was an absolute lightbulb moment that I’ll be retelling for years to come: producers often look for a way to say no. Your job as a writer is to make that “no” very difficult for them to deliver. As The Godfather has taught me well, “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.” A killer small story that fits squarely into a genre that sells shows that as a writer you know the market. You understand it in your bones, and that shows that not only can you write but you also know how to make something. And that last bit, the ability to make something beyond words on a page is the secret sauce. If a film can be made on a sliver of a budget, that lets a producer take a risk on a new voice. If it costs them next to nothing to make, it gives them the chance to take a chance. And as a new voice, I’m a chance that I want them to take.
So, it’s back to the drawing board for me on this project but you know what? I feel great about it. I feel lighter. I feel like I’m starting with a blank page that can be anything my imagination can conjure. I don’t know what my genre or subject will be, but I do know the story will be small, relatable, set in the present day, and center around a strong female lead who’s underestimated. She’ll likely be in New York because it’s the city where I live, and the one that I know and love. And the rest? It’s all TBD. Stay tuned…
On Thursday, I participated in my first #PitMad, a quarterly Twitter event where writers put together up to three tweets about a manuscript they’ve written, add the #PitMad, age category, and genre hashtags, and hope that agents and / or publishers like their tweets. A like means that they’re interested in receiving your query. Think of it as a writer’s foot in the virtual door. With the likes in your notifications, you then research those agents and publishers, review their query requirements, and send in your materials. And then you wait, and likely wait and wait and wait.
I didn’t expect to receive any likes on my 3 manuscripts. I figured low expectations were warranted with so much competition. I was shocked and thrilled when all 3 manuscripts got some interest. I’m working on my queries this weekend, and am excited to see what comes of it. Of course, I’ll keep you all in the loop!
Here’s what I learned during my first run at #PitMad:
1.) Take your shot
Yes, there will be thousands of tweets in competition with yours. Yes, the odds are long. And yes, it’s worth it. Your manuscript deserves every shot at being published, even the long shots. In publishing, it’s all a long shot. Take as many as you can.
2.) Relatively minimal effort on your part
It’s three well-composed tweets. You can write them ahead of time and schedule to publish on the day of #PitMad. Yes, they take time to write but think about how much time querying takes, and most of those queries fall into the void. Write the tweets, post them, and see what happens.
3.) Love shines bright in the writing community
The best part of #PitMad for me was seeing all of the love fly around the Twittersphere that day. People retweeting and commenting on posts that piqued their interest made my day. Twitter can be a bullying garbage pile sometimes with so much disrespectful criticism, and it was nice to see it as a force for good for writers during #PitMad.
I will absolutely participate again, and if you have a finished manuscript, I encourage you to participate, too. For more details and the 2020 dates for #PitMad, check out https://pitchwars.org/pitmad/.