In two weeks, I’m going to Dublin to do research for my second Emerson Page novel. As a gift to Ireland, I’m leaving silver charms with the quote, “She believed she could so she did”, and rose gold keys in all the different places I visit for people to find. I’ll tuck them away in museums, gardens, historic sites, bookstores, libraries, and pubs I visit in Dublin and on excursions I’m taking in Northern Ireland to Newgrange, Hill of Tara, Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges, the ruins of Dunluce Castle, and on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. I can’t wait to see who finds them. They are a perfect token of Emerson’s spirit. And after all she’s given me, I wanted to return the favor to the world. Happy hunting, Ireland!
The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast has been improving my life from the moment I set ears on it. There are so many life lessons and conversations starters about our society throughout the Harry Potter books and this podcast explores ALL of them with two fantastically intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and hilarious hosts. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Vanessa, Casper, Adriana, and Julia for the wonder and gift that is this podcast. I’m so grateful and can’t wait for them to do another live show from New York City!
Writers, when we think about the depth of our stories and the work it takes to create this depth, a podcast like this shows just why that work is so worthwhile. Books are a lens through which to look at our lives, the world, and our place in it. It’s a hefty responsibility and an honor to be able to impact people in a positive way through our art. It’s the very best part of being a writer.
Getting into libraries can be a conundrum for authors. That’s why I’m so grateful to my friend and reader, Shakti, for going to bat for me at the Arlington Public Library in Virginia. Shakti sent an email to them before my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was even published (isn’t she wonderful?!)
To their credit, they wrote her a note and said that in order to be considered, the book needed to be available through one of their vendors and had to have favorable reviews in one of the professional review journals that their selectors use to make decisions about what to purchase.
Yesterday, they wrote Shakti again and said, “The book is now available from our book vendor and has a positive review from a review journal (Kirkus, 4/1/18) so we will add it to our next order.”
I’m absolutely thrilled to hear this news and immensely grateful to Shakti and the Arlington Public Library. Now I need to get to work contacting every library in the country. Be right back…
“That’s the magic of revisions—every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” ~Kelly Barnhill, author
I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot as I prep for Virginia Festival of the Book. When I think of my favorite books, plays, songs, and pieces of art, they are the ones without any fat, the ones where every word, every note, every brush stroke is carefully and purposely chosen. That concern, that love is what strikes me right in the heart. Rewriting and editing is the lifeblood of art that lasts. It’s the cuts that matter most because that’s where we find the seeds that need to be planted and nurtured.
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~C.S. Lewis
I never outgrew reading fairy tales. I became a writer and an author because of them. They’ve helped me to make sense of life, to have hope in times that seemed so bleak. I don’t believe in happily ever after; I believe in stronger and braver ever after. And that has made all the difference.
“I think I’m going to take a class,” someone said to me. “That will help me finally write my book. That will inspire me, and then I can get the book written and published.”
Inspiration can give you the spark of a book. Discipline, especially when uninspired, is what gets it written. Not classes or books or even encouragement from others. Don’t write for recognition, ever, because that’s a road to nowhere. I have never written for the purpose of being published. Ever. Certainly I had and have dreams. I wanted and want people to read my work, and I want my work to help people. But mostly I write to exercise the thoughts and emotions and events of my life. I write the books I need and want to read.
Talking about writing doesn’t getting writing done.You have to always be writing. You have to write if you’re tired, calm, restless, happy, sad, angry, disappointed. You have to write your way out, up, over, and through. That’s the only way to get the thoughts out of your head and onto the page. There are no shortcuts.
I’m so honored to be featured on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) blog. With their support and encouragement, I took an outline and turned it into a published novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. You can check out the full post at http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/170689401897/what-nanowrimo-gave-me-as-an-authorand-a-person. Here is the text as well:
The road from plotless to polished to published can be long and filled with potholes (and plot holes). But, as NaNo participants continue to prove, it can be traversed. Today, author Christa Avampato shares her story of how she turned an outline into a published book:
In the five years after I survived an apartment building fire on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I sketched the outline of my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. That fire was a turning point for me, as a person and as a writer. It also plays a prominent role in Emerson’s story.
On November 1, 2014, I set a goal to transform my outline into a 50,000-word first draft in thirty days as part of NaNoWriMo. It seemed impossible, but I was constantly encouraged by the supports that NaNoWriMo offers: webinars, blog posts by authors I admired, writing prompts, social messages, and special offers for books and tools.
My first draft was terrible, but I’ve never been prouder of something so awful.
Over the next two years, I completed a dozen more drafts of Emerson’s story. New characters, plot lines, and settings emerged. Save for Emerson, the story was almost unrecognizable two years later. I got feedback from several close and brutally honest friends. I agonized over every word. It is the toughest job I ever loved.
Still, Emerson continued her incessant tap, tap, tapping on my shoulder because it was time to get her story published. I queried agents, and received fourteen rejections—and those were just the ones who bothered to respond at all! One of them, my dream agent, responded with the loveliest rejection. Twelve were form letters. One particularly prickly agent responded in less than five minutes with a one word email: No.
I’m not kidding. That actually happened.
I finally found a happy medium when I began to explore independent publishers. Six months after querying my first independent publisher, one of them accepted the book.
When you launch a book, you launch a brand and a business. I completed several full edits in 2017 with the assistance of two editors. Then I hired the artists and art directed the cover art myself. With my MBA and business experience, I put together a marketing plan, and began to work that plan every day.
On November 1, 2017, I became a published author. Emerson left the safety of my care and ventured out into the world wrapped in paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in independent bookstores across the globe. It’s no coincidence that Emerson’s birthday was exactly three years after I started writing the draft of her story during NaNoWriMo 2014.
And on her birthday, I began writing the draft of her second book as part of NaNoWriMo 2017. That supportive tribe of fearless writers with impossible goals was there for me again, just as they were in 2014.
Emerson and I stand before you as an unfailing reminder that if you are willing to do the hard work of recognizing your wounds, if you write your truth through programs like NaNoWriMo, even if your voice shakes and sputters, if you will honor the cracks in you rather than trying to spackle them shut, there is so much light that awaits you.
That’s the greatest lesson that NaNoWriMo and Emerson taught me: that light will flood your mind, heart, and hands in a way that you never imagined possible. That light, however small, lives in you now. Your only job is to fan it into a flame that the whole world can see through the masterpiece that is your life and your writing. You matter. Your story matters. It matters so damn much.
I can’t wait to read your book.
Earlier this week a new author told me that he was afraid to let his characters be harmed. And I told him that he has to let them breathe and live, and that means that difficult things can, will, and must happen to them. It’s the overcoming of obstacles that makes for powerful storytelling.
What I didn’t realize is that giving this advice would give me new Emerson material. I have had the ending scene of the second book in my mind for some time and it puts a beautiful bow on this arc of Emerson’s journey. And then, after this conversation with this author, it came undone. Another very small scene came into my mind when I got home and it wouldn’t let me go. Though it’s only four lines, it’s jarring, even to me. And it’s absolutely what must happen. It hurt my heart to write, and so I had to get it down in ink. No matter how long we’ve lived with our characters, their stories will still surprise us.
While I’m busy working away on book 2, you can download the Kindle version of Emerson’s first book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, for free for one more day today. Visit Amazon to get one for yourself and for all the readers on your list!
Your words are going to live on long after you. They are the surest path we have to legacy and immortality. Two nights ago, I walked home with a co-worker who lives in my neighborhood. His husband, a writer just a few years older than me, is dying and in hospice care from a neurological disease similar to Parkinson’s.
“Even though he can’t talk anymore and will never talk again, I’ll always have his words because he was a writer,” he said. “And that’s pretty cool.”
I don’t think it was an accident that we walked home on the night of my novel’s Pub Day. I have long believed that the Universe works through us to reach others when they most need it. And I think me coincidentally running into him and us walking home together was not a coincidence at all. He had a message for me from the Universe: Be strong and tell your story so that it will live on long after you’re gone. And you must do it now. You never know how much time you’ll have. When I got home, I immediately started writing Emerson’s second book as part of NaNoWriMo.
My co-worker is remarkably strong. How he could tell me so much for their story for 45 minutes and not have his voice crack once is just astonishing to me. I was tearing up. I’m in awe of him. And so grateful for the message he delivered. I will not waste it.
My Pub Day is fast approaching. People have been asking how I’m feeling. Honesty, I’m curious and hopeful. I’m curious to know how her story helps others. My great hope is that she inspires people to live the lives they imagine. She’s brave, powerful, and kind. I hope she makes a difference in the lives of others who get to know her. She’s certainly made a difference in mine.
I’ve lived with Emerson in my heart and mind for 8 years now. She’s a part of my every day living. I’ve protected her, nurtured her, and prepared her as best I can. Next Wednesday, she’ll belong to the world, and she’s ready for that.
On the day the book launches, I’ll begin NaNoWriMo 2017 and write the first draft of Emerson’s second book by the end of November. No rest for the weary, and that’s fine by me. Emerson and I have a lot of ground to cover so we better get moving. We have to make the most of the time we have.