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Joy today: Preparing for my first literary agent meetings

This week I have my first literary agent pitch meetings. I directly worked with a publisher for my first book so this is the first time I’m meeting agents and pitching myself and my writing to them.

I wanted some advice on this process and came across the Netflix series Shine On hosted by Reese Witherspoon. In one episode, Reese interviews Ava DuVernay and they talk about this exact kind of high-stakes personal pitch scenario in creative fields.

Ava’s advice:
“They want to hear you be the one [they’re looking for]. They don’t want to hear that you’re nervous. They want someone who’s smart, and capable, and passionate, and going to try. And those are all the things you already have.”

What does Reese Witherspoon think when she auditions? “I think in my mind, “Give me the ball.” Because people just want to know you’re going to handle it.”

Their bottom line is that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, be committed to figuring it out.

So today as I prepare my materials and refine my pitch, I’m holding this advice in my mind and heart. I’ve already got what I need. Now it’s just a matter of walking into the room like I already belong and letting myself shine.

Joy today: Heading to SciCommCamp

I tried to sleep in today to rest up for the wknd. I just couldn’t—way too excited for SciCommCamp. I’m in LA only for the weekend to go to this amazing conference that is nerdy Fall camp for people who love science and love talking about it! Sneaking in a quick trip to Griffith Park before heading up to Simi Valley. Excited for everything I’m going to learn and I promise to share when I get back.

Sometimes I think I could live off a steady diet of curiosity, joy, and enthusiasm. (I won’t test that theory because I love food but it’s a strong hunch!)

LA, I’m glad to see you again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again very soon. Happy Friday, friends.

Joy today: Writing as service

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Photo by Christa Avampato – Little Italy, New York City

This is what it’s all about, you magical, imaginative, creative being. You can create worlds out of thin air. Characters, settings, desires, motivations, losses, victories, love, joy, disappointment, and healing. The full breadth and depth of human emotion lives in you. As a writer, you’re trying to get all of that out of your mind and heart, into your hands, and out into the world so you can connect with others, so we all feel less alone. What a noble, generous, and loving thing to do. Writing is service in its highest, most selfless form.

Joy today: How writers can win NaNoWriMo

“Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” ~Ed Freeman

Hello, writers and readers! Are you diving into NaNoWriMo today? Me, too!

For those of you new to this event, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words (the length of a novel that’s on the shorter side) in the month of November. There are a lot of great resources available over the at the NaNoWriMo site including a calendar of virtual write-ins, Twitter chat times, encouraging letters from well-known novelists know as pep talks, writing tool suggestions, and a community of other writers writing this month.

This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. The first two times I wrote the first drafts of my two Emerson Page novels. The first was published in 2017 (and you can buy wherever books are sold). The second I’m shopping around now. This year, I’m trying a new genre—historical fiction romance set in an Italian bakery in New York City during the Christmas season of 1910. It’s called For Love and Other Reasons.

50,000 words in a month is a lofty goal, and winning it means you get to that goal. However, my p.o.v. is that any progress you make this month is a win. Here are some ways that have helped me the last two times I’ve done this:

1.) Break it down into small parts
Break down your writing into small parts. One scene, one part of a scene, one description. Heck, one good sentence is fine, too. My professor, mentor, and friend, Ed Freeman, is my Albus Dumbledore. He always says, “Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” I think about that every single day. One word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one book, one library. Everything in our lives is composed of smaller parts. Don’t get overwhelmed by writing a book. Just write a word and then another and another. All the greats have done it that way, and you can, too.

2.) Schedule your writing time
Put it in your calendar and hold yourself to it just like you would any other important appointment. Sometimes people ask me what’s the trick to writing  book. I wish I had a silver bullet for you and for myself! I don’t. Writing a book takes time, dedication, and effort. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

3.) Treat yourself
I don’t know about you but I like rewards so I treat myself for a job well done. When I hit my word count for the day, I have a cookie, a piece of candy, or a cup of delicious tea I bought especially for this purpose. Set up a reward system for yourself to stay motivated and to celebrate along the way.

4.) Outline
I love a good outline. This year I’m trying a new software called PlotPins. You can try any number of different tools and can go as low-tech as scenes on index cards which are my personal favorites because then I can move the order around. The New York Times ran an article this week with a list of great tools for writers, and some are completely free.

5.) Fun it up
This year, my novel includes baking so I’ll be posting pictures and recipes of my NaNo baking on social media and on my NaNoWriMo profile as my word count adds up. You’ll be able to find them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as on my Author page on Facebook.

Happy writing and reading, friends!

Joy today: Halloween writing and reading with Neil Gaiman

Happy Halloween! Anyone have a writing-inspired Halloween costume? Let’s see ’em – post a pic in the comments.

Also, if you’re looking for some fun Halloween literary entertainment, I’ve got some for you:

Neil Gaiman reading Poe’s poem, The Raven:

The origin story of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman traces its roots to the Middle Ages! This link also has some fun related Halloween content at the bottom of the page, too: https://www.history.com/news/legend-sleepy-hollow-headless-horseman

And when you’re all done with your pumpkins, don’t throw them in the trash. Instead, treat the wildlife in your gardens and local woods who can make very good use of them.

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Joy today: How Twitter gave me my new writing opportunity

As many of you know, I’ve been working on my science writing and bringing since into my career as a product developer. I’m so excited to share that over the next few months, one of my favorite biomimicry publications is going to publish a series of pieces I’ve been wanting to write. I’m over the moon excited about this, and as a source of inspiration, I wanted to share how it all came about.

Twitter magic and the glass sponge
I’m pretty active on Twitter where my feed is mashup of different topics, two main ones being my writing and my work in biomimicry. A couple of weeks ago, I learned about the glass sponge for a grad school assignment.

Very quick recap: the glass sponge lives on the ocean floor over 1000 meters below sea level and is one of the oldest species in existence today. It builds one of the the most stable structures on Earth with the minimal amount of material needed. Its glass is transparent, flexible, and created from sea minerals (such as calcium carbonate, salt, and carbon dioxide) at ocean temperatures (~4 degrees Celsius, ~39 degrees Fahrenheit). It is created and then biodegrades without any toxic waste. Human-made glass is extremely fragile, expensive, and dirty to create—glass and cement production generates 5-7% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions. It requires very hot temperatures in a kiln and therefore is also energy intensive.

Though we’ve known about the glass sponge for decades, engineers, designers, and scientists have no idea how it creates its glass and we’ve never been able to replicate its far superior product. It’s an absolute mystery. But when we learn its secrets, it has the potential to transform our construction industry into one that’s sustainable, clean, and healthy for the planet.

Power to the crowd
So…back to my writing. I wrote a tweet about the magnificent glass sponge just as part of my regular social media promotion of science and biomimicry. It got a lot of attention and became the 2nd most shared story about biomimicry on Twitter the week I posted it, second only to one my Mashable. That got the attention of this publication, and they asked me if I’d like to write something for them. And heck yes, I would!

What I’ll be writing
They asked me to pitch a topic to them. True to my brand, I gave them 10 pitches hoping there might be one in there that they’d like. To my surprise, they loved them all and asked me to write one a month. So, we’re off the races and here are the first few topics that will be coming out in the next few months:

1. Biomimicry and the Green New Deal (November)
2. Biomimicry and materials science (December)
3. Biomimicry makes the case for species conservation (January)
4. Medical applications of biomimicry (February)

I tell this story because I want it to inspire you to get out there and shout about what you love, what fascinates you, not because you hope it gets you something but just because you love it so much that you can’t keep it to yourself. I’m thrilled by this development in my writing. Shocked even. And even if no one liked the glass sponge tweet, it wouldn’t have mattered because I love it and wanted to share it.

The big publishing take-away
That’s the bit no one ever told me about publishing. In the age when people are obsessed with platform and followers and likes and retweets, too many of us have forgotten about joy. That’s the thing to focus on. That’s the secret sauce that keeps us going. Fill up your head, heart, hands, and feeds with joy, and see what happens. It’s a skeleton key that unlocks doors we didn’t even know were there.

Joy today: How to write a nonfiction book proposal

I started my first nonfiction book proposal tonight. I wasn’t sure how to craft one so I turned to Eric Smith’s website. Eric is an agent, author, and one of the most generous people in the publishing industry. I highly recommend all his Twitter and website to every writer I know!

He shares his tips for a successful nonfiction book proposal he put together with one of his clients. He also links to several excellent posts by Jane Friedman, Nathan Bransford, and Brian Klems who provide amazing advice for nonfiction book proposals on their own websites.

Happy proposing, and writing!

Joy today: How Tech Sabbath is helping my writing

Last week, I tried taking a Tech Sabbath. Started by Casper ter Kuile via Twitter with the hashtag #TechSabbath, it’s a ritual of shutting off social media, email, your computer, and your phone as much as you can after work on Friday night to Saturday night. I mostly disconnected from technology for that 24 hours and it was amazing. I finished outlining my third novel that I’ll write as part of National Novel Writing Month this November and then spent Saturday with friends in Philly. I came back to tech today with a little less attachment to it and more joy. So it’s safe to say that I’ll be making #TechSabbath a part of my self-care.

Joy today: My favorite writing moment

The writing moment I love best: I write a scene, do research for the next scene, and find an eerie, wonderful synchronicity with secret history I uncovered in my research and never knew before. These magical moments makes me feel that the story I’m writing is meant to be written by me. It’s happened to me many times, especially in the course of writing my second Emerson Page novel. Every single time it happens, I’m amazed.

Joy today: Encouraging hashtags for writers

If you’re a writer looking for some encouragement in your process, I got you. There are so many of us out here and you are not alone on your journey. If you walk your fingers over to Twitter, check out these hashtags for encouragement, resources, and inspiration:

#NaNoWriMo (stands for National Novel Writing Month):
Every year in November thousands of people around the world attempt to write 50K words in a month. It’s how I wrote the first draft of my first novel. I’ll be participating again this year to work on a completely new book – historical fiction romance set in an Italian bakery in New York City during the early 1900s.

#MSWL (stands for manuscript wishlist):
Agents and editors tell you what types of books they’re looking for. Great if you’re in the query writing stage.

#FinishUrBookFall:
Started by author Claribel Ortega, this is an encouraging stream of tweets from authors attempting to complete their current manuscripts by December 21, 2019.

#PitchWars:
Now open for submissions, this is a way for non-agented authors to get their current pitches in front of agents for their consideration.

Happy writing, friends. We’re in it together!

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