I closed out the week on a huge high. My book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, advanced to the Quarterfinals for the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition. Over 1200 books were submitted for consideration so I’m thrilled to have made it to this stage. This year’s jury is comprised of a literary agent from Abrams Artists Agency, a publishing coordinator from The Gersh Agency, the editor of Red Hen Press, a manager at MXN Entertainment, and a New York Times best-selling author. I’m so excited about this news and couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Thank you to everyone who’s been so insanely supportive of me and of Emerson. It means more to me than I know how to say.
I have heard back from Wind Dancer Films about the possible film production of my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. They chose not to option it at this time but with solid feedback that they love the story and have logged it in their system for future consideration.
While I of course was hoping for more, I’m also extremely encouraged that they would even read the book, enjoy it, and log it in their system for future consideration all without me having an agent. I’m extremely grateful to Readers’ Favorite and the Miami Book Fair for making this possible, and of course to my publisher, Possibilities Publishing and their imprint, Thumbkin Prints. This is my first novel and is part of a series, so as the other two books are finished and published “some day” could become “one day” for me and Wind Dancer. In the words of Hamilton, maybe it’s only a matter of time.
Also, I will continue to submit to other production companies because maybe this is the right book at the right time for someone else. As always, my focus remains on the readers who need Emerson’s story of resilience and courage to face our deepest fears, just like I did many years ago. She changed my life the day she entered my imagination and I’m honored to be the person sharing her story.
As an artist of any kind, you have to keep at it. Your drive has to be stronger than the sting of any rejections. It’s part of the work. Speaking of which…I better get back to writing Emerson’s second book.
If you want to really know me, listen to this interview. The big question for me in this lifetime is, “Does everything matter or does nothing matter?” A few months ago, I gave the most personal interview I’ve ever done. My friend, mentor, and storytelling hero, John Bucher, introduced me to Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton, hosts and producer of the podcast, How Humans Change. My interview is now live. our wide-ranging conversation includes career, science, sustainability, the health of the planet, biomimicry, dinosaurs, product development, therapy, curiosity, change, the economy and capitalism, time, technology, work, culture, implicit bias, life-changing moments, storytelling, writing, poverty, trauma, writing, my book, mental health, strength, resilience, therapy, fear, courage, my apartment building fire, how my plane got struck by lightning, and so much more. Despite these dark topics, there is a lot of light, fun, laughter, and healing in this interview. It’s the most personal interview I’ve ever given, and some of the details I reveal about my personal path and past I have never discussed publicly before now. I hope you enjoy the podcast episode and that it inspires you to live the best life you can imagine.
Hi, friends. 2 of my adventurous friends and I are trying to find a way to climb to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. One of them is writing a book about the Brooklyn Bridge and getting to the top would be the highlight (see what I did there?) of her research. We’ve heard that with permission and accompaniment by Homeland Security, you can go. Anyone know anything / anyone who could help us fulfill this dream?
“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.
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~Terry Pratchett
As I begin to add more layers to the skeleton of my second novel, I keep coming back to this quote by the iconic novelist, Terry Pratchett. Every time I get stuck and I don’t know what happens next, I close my eyes and I say these words out loud. It works for every part of the writing, editing, and revising process. I’m just telling myself the story, the richest, most inspiring, and truest story that I can create.
“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.
I want to talk to you about shitty first drafts, in particular my shitty first drafts. Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, my book that launched this week and that I first drafted during NaNoWriMo 2014, is not the draft I started to write three years ago. It’s not even close. The book that was published has been polished and spit-shined to the hilt. My first draft wasn’t even a diamond in the rough. It was just rough. Period. End of sentence.
I’m writing Emerson’s second book during NaNoWriMo this month. In two days, I’ve got about 4,000 words. And they’re awful. Messy plot lines and self-indulgent dialogue abound despite my intense outlining. And you know what? It doesn’t matter at all. I’m just writing like no one’s watching because no one is. No one is ever going to see this draft. Actually, I take that back. If I ever win a prestigious writing award for my novels, I’ll release this shitty first draft and auction it off for charity. You have my word on that.
If you have a book inside you, a story begging to be told, I want you sit down and get it all out there on the screen or paper. Don’t pay any mind to what it looks like. Just write it down. It’s not doing anyone any good inside your mind. And if you don’t write that story, no one ever will. It dies with you. That’s just about the saddest thing I can think of. You don’t know what your words and ideas are going to do for someone else someday. They could be what literally saves someone. And wouldn’t it be nice to save someone?
I’ll make you a deal—you write your story, I’ll write mine, and then we’ll toast each other’s efforts. Okay? 50,000 words by November 30th. Go!
I’ve got a treat for you this Halloween. I’m reading a chapter of my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, to you from Central Park. The park plays a key role in the book with many of the scenes taking place in and around it.
Davina and Samantha Dixon, the sisters who operate Books on the Run, interviewed me a few weeks ago and they asked me to record myself reading a chapter of the book so that they could share it with their readers. I loved doing that recording so much that I decided to record a few additional chapters to share with all of you.
I’ll be releasing one recording a week for the next few weeks from different locations. This week, I’ve got a chapter reading from the hill above the boat pond near 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
Pub Day is tomorrow so there will be lots of fun goodies in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.