I have one more day left of editing on this screenplay. There’s a fine line between editing something to be as good as you can possibly make it and editing the life and energy out it. I’m treading that line carefully, determined to stay on the right side of it.
This week I had an interesting turn of events: a publisher contacted me about the possibility of writing a new book. It’s a book I’ve been thinking about writing for a while so I already had a lot of thoughts about the topic and the book. It was one item on my very long to-do list of writing that shot to the top of the list because of this inquiry. The publisher asked me to pitch my idea for the book so I did and we’ll see what happens. Could be something. Could be nothing. It taught me a lot.
Many times, this is where the story ends and it may just seem like a wonderful stroke of luck to get an email like this from a publisher. It is and it isn’t. The serendipity springs from a lot of hard work over a very long time, much of it a labor of love. First, the book idea is based on my long career in product development that had had very high highs and very low lows. It’s also a result of my work as a writer (also with its peaks and valleys), and most recently in going back to graduate school (for the second time). The publisher’s note to me happened after they saw that I shared a post on LinkedIn with a relevant hashtag about some of my recent writing of a TV pilot script that was entirely unpaid and that I don’t even know will ever get off the ground.
This recent interaction taught me that we have to make our own luck, that we have to talk about the work we’re doing to find people who share our interests and passions. Many times, we talk into the void. Sometimes, that void ends and we find an audience. Working in secret and staying quiet about our work is a completely fine and personal decision. If we want our work to have impact, to inspire and reach other people, to build a better world, then sharing it (when we’re ready) is key. The creative world is weird. The publishing world is weird. Life and career is a wild ride, and I think it’s absolutely worth the price of admission.
Do you have a story about how sharing your work led to an unexpected opportunity? I’d love to hear it.
I got some excellent feedback on a query for my second novel. It was a rejection but a very useful one. In my reading, I like set-up. I like to see the stage, and then dive into the action. This is not enticing agents. Though I cut way down on the exposition at the start of my novel, it seems like it’s still too much. They love the imagery and the world-building, but they want action first. As in, right from the first word. So I need to re-write the beginning. Again. There are just two ways to take this kind of news—we either get bitter or we get better. So I’m getting better. And re-writing.
With a little distance and time, I realize that the rejections I got that stung in the moment were the very best things that could have happened because they were the beginning of something new, something meant just for me. I remind myself of this every single time I get a rejection. Hang in there, writers. You’ll find your pack. ❤️
“When you put a book in a child’s hands…you are an awakener.” ~Paula Fox
Books bring us into communion with authors, the characters they create and follow, and other readers. The greatest thing we can do to teach our children, the guardians of our future, about the world and their place in it is to wake them up to the joy of being a voracious reader. As an author, it’s a role I take very seriously. I want the words I write to be sparks that ignite a reader’s curiosity. It’s a privilege to write young adult literature, and it carries an enormous responsibility. My job is to wake up readers to their potential, to encourage them to rise up and build the world they wish to live in. And intend to do everything I can to empower them and help them do just that.
Take a ride through the underworld with me! I wrote a piece about Prohibition & organized crime in New York City for Inside History magazine’s latest issue called Crime and the Underworld. The piece is titled If Organized Crime Could Make It In New York…It Could Make It Anywhere! If you’d like to read just my article, click here.
The entire magazine is filled with juicy true crime stories throughout history so if you’d like to get a copy, here are the order links:
“Genius gives birth. Talent delivers.” ~Jack Kerouac
There’s a lot of talk about genius out there in the world, especially among writers. Very often we have the idea that the most gifted writers just rattle off lines like silk off a spool. There might be people out there like that. I don’t know any. I’ve never heard of a writer saying that this is what their writing life is like. It’s hard work. They all sit there day after day, butts in their chairs, and hammer it out a little at a time. And then they go back to refine again and again through many rounds of edits, often over years of time. That dedication to craft the very best of our imaginations and put it out into the world is real talent. It’s not easy. It’s difficult work, and it’s worth it. Keep writing.
Social media is a wild ride. Stories abound about connections made, connections lost, and connections we wish would get lost. Once the conversation about social media starts, it doesn’t take long for the topics of cyberbullying, loneliness, detachment, and trolling to rear their heads. In his debut young adult novel, Don’t Read the Comments, author Eric Smith serves up all these issues—the good, the bad, and the ugly—on a silver platter for us to consider.
Divya Sharma (screen name D1V) reigns supreme in the virtual world of this year’s hottest online game, Reclaim the Sun, until a group of online trolls attempt to unseat her from her star status. The stakes of the story climb higher as we learn that her celebrity isn’t a personal ego trip; it’s the engine that drives sponsorship dollars to help her single mother pay their bills. For online gamers, this book hits close to home, and presents their greatest dream and worst nightmare wrapped into one story arc along with an intense look at the devastating personal impact of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity. For people who aren’t familiar with online gaming, Divya’s story is a heart-wrenching scenario of a daughter willing to risk everything to help her mother who is her everything.
Much of the story focuses on Divya’s online travels with another online gamer, Aaron Jericho, as the trolling skyrockets out-of-control threatening everything, online and off, that Divya and her producer and best friend, Rebekah, have built. Aaron’s online admiration of Divya translates into a friendship and romance IRL. It’s these bittersweet moments, the silver linings that can only be realized through painful growth that precipitates drastic change, that keep readers turning the pages of Smith’s book, wanting to know how, when, and to what end Divya’s online and offline lives will collide. After the last page, we’re left wondering if there truly is or ever could be any separation at all between the world (or in Divya’s case, worlds) on screen and the material world. Or, is that separation a facade in and of itself.
I read Smith’s book in November 2019, and now in January 2020 I’m still thinking of Divya. I’m hoping that her life is working out exactly as she wanted. I’m wondering how things have evolved with Aaron and how her mom is doing with her new lease on life that Divya helped to create. I’m curious if she’s gaming, in the worlds of Reclaim the Sun or otherwise. Without me even realizing it, Divya became as real to me in the pages of Smith’s book as anyone I know. That’s the lesson of Divya’s journey for all of us—we don’t have an online life and real life. It’s all real. It’s all one life, no matter where we live it. And it all matters.
Don’t Read the Comments is published by Inkyard Press. It’s available on Amazon and Indiebound. You can follow Smith’s journey as an author and literary agent through his delightful Twitter feed @ericsmithrocks.
This is the Schitts Creek wisdom every writer needs. I just got the kindest literary agent rejection I’ve ever read and it actually motivated me to keep sending queries. My book’s not right for that agent but it is right for some agent. My quest continues to find them.
The only way your book finds its readers is if you keep believing in your story and keep striving to find the path for it. Literary history is full of rejection stories and authors who refused to give up on their work as the rejections piled up. Be one of them. Keep putting your best work out into the world.
In my last post, I told you I was nervous about raising my client fees and my firm belief that it’s absolutely necessary to know and charge what we’re worth. Despite my trepidation about raising my fees for one of my favorite clients, I submitted that proposal along with justification for the increase.
I’m happy to tell you that my client agreed to the increased rate, calling it thoughtful and more than reasonable given the value I provide to them with my work. Know your worth, have the data to support it, and speak with thoughtful conviction. It’s worth it, and so are you.