#10Queries and #DVPit

Life has been chaos. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot the last year and a half – and I feel like it’s often met with nods of exhausted agreement.

Within that chaos, I’ve not really had the time or the bandwidth to write much of anything new, or even to spend a whole lot of time on editing. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not still taking any opportunity that comes around.

Thanks to a friend in my online writing group (shout out to Rebekah Simmers!) bringing to my attention that the #10Queries was coming up, I was able to submit – and was chosen! #10Queries is a part of Revise and Resub, which I’ve talked about on here previously. Revise and Resub is a group of editors who are offering the writing world some really incredible opportunities to learn (and in the case of #RevPit, to possibly win a full edit of a completed manuscript). And they do it all with no charge to the writers. Even just following their social media can offer quite an education to a writer.

#10Queries is a randomized contest – you get a number of entries, and then if chosen, you will receive an email with a request for your query letter and the first five pages of your novel. Your work is assigned to one of the editors, who will then, on the day of #10Queries (this round is Oct 29, 2021), tweet about each of the ten queries they received. Even if you haven’t submitted, reading through the feedback and advice given to these other writers can help in writing your own query. Follow the editors and the event’s official twitter for more. I will be anxiously waiting to see who my assigned editor turns out to be and what they have to give as feedback on my query.

In addition to this, I’m also looking to participate in #DVpit again this year. This is the contest where I was initially contacted by my publisher that landed me a contract for my first book. This year’s #DVpit is coming up next week:

October 25, 2021 will be for Children’s & YA Fiction/Nonfiction (picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult).

October 26, 2021 will be for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (all genres, commercial and literary) using #DVpit; and for Artists & Illustrators using #DVart.

I can’t wait to see what everyone is pitching!

What Do You Call Those Insects That Glow?

I recently presented at a conference for an online global writing group of which I’m a member. We spent the entire day with presentations and sharing knowledge. One of the presentations I gave was about building characters – a discussion I’ve had… who even knows how many times at this point? It was an abbreviated version as I only had about twenty minutes to talk since I was sharing time.

One of the things I love when having this discussion in class, though, is asking – what do you call xyz? Because I’ve got a classroom of folks from Northern IL and Chicago (with an occasional student who moved from elsewhere), the answers are all usually expected. Lightning bug or firefly as it pertains to the video above.

But this group is global – which is just so freakin’ cool to me. We had members in attendance from places like Greece and Italy and Austria and Germany and Australia… So when I asked this question, the answers were a lot more fun. 🙂

I Swear I’m a Writer!

Me: [sitting at a table and editing; needs a moment to sit back]

Person one at nearby table: Murder also works.

Person two at same table: I mean, it can solve a lot of things.

Me: [quickly averts eyes and goes back to editing]

Clearly, these two were joking joking, but still – this was odd moment to start overhearing such a conversation. It’s also odd to have such conversations. Or make such inquiries via [enter search engine of choice].

There is a meme that makes the social media rounds from time to time – a search history is red flagged because of inquiries into blood splatters and how best to hide a body – but after seeing “coffee shops near me” and “what’s the word for that whatchamacallit?”, they realize they are looking at a writer’s search history and take them off the watch list.

It may seem silly, but I’ve had these thoughts – like when I was looking up how much damage (square mileage) a pipe bomb could cause. Or how to build a ray gun. Of it’s possible to freeze someone from the inside out. I’ve definitely landed myself onto some watch lists for sure. But I also search for nearby coffee houses in every town or city I land in. I find myself in rabbit holes of words trying to find that specific one that provides the exact feeling I’m searching for. I also repeatedly search for word count ranges for various genres because no matter how many times I search and review them, I never retain them.

So… maybe I’m safe? [strained smile]

Indigenous Peoples Day

I live on land that was at various times occupied by the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Hoocąk, Menominee, and the Niúachi (all names provided are their own – they are not anglicized here). There are records of the Menominee from 1831, a ratified treaty, granting the land noted in Cession 159 to the Menominee. In this document, it is noted that the Menominee had not “sold” any of their land to the U.S. gov’t, though there is passive aggressive language within the treaty noting that the Potawatomi and Winnebago (part of Hoocąk) tribes had done so and received “large annuities” for what they had sold. It should be noted that the land Cession was necessary because the Menominee land was being encroached on by those surrounding tribes because they had “sold” their own land. The Menominee land was shrunk down to a reservation 234,000 acres in Keshena, WI (from the former 9.5 million acres that is now central/mid-eastern WI and a part of the UP). They are known for their sustained yield forest management.

The only federally recognized reservation currently in Brown County (in which GB is located) is the Oneida nation. They arrived in WI in the 1820s and 1830s after being forced to cede land in New York.

The Theater

My family first encountered Bob Thompson when we were camping (at what was then our family run Camp-Tel Family Campground). Part of the grounds includes five acres of apple trees, and we were wandering around amongst them when we stumbled upon a man… talking to the trees. What we didn’t know at the time was that Bob was an actor at the nearby Peninsula Players – an outdoor theater located just south of Fish Creek, WI – and he was practicing his lines.

Bob took a liking to my sister and I, and he hooked us up with opportunities to usher and help park cars (guide – not drive 😝) – and then we’d get to see the plays for free. (He also held up his fellow actors after the show until they had signed our playbills.) Every single time I set foot on the Players’ ground, I’d get butterflies in my stomach. This was, and is, a place of magic to me – and I fell hard for the theatre.

When I left home for college, I was beyond thrilled to learn that the city’s performing arts center was located right on the university grounds (I didn’t have a car) – and better yet, they offered student rush tickets. If a student arrived an hour before the show, and they still had seats open, they would sell the tickets at extreme discounts. I saw everything I could.

Theater has, of course, gotten much more expensive in adulthood – but it’s still so very worth it to me. Last night, I got to sit in a theater for the first time since before the pandemic – surely the longest I’ve gone without seeing a show since that first Player’s show so many years ago. I’m super thankful to Bonnie and PA club for letting me crash their Kinky Boots party! (And to Paramount in Aurora for being strict on safety measures – for checking vax cards at the door and requiring masks – and to all the ushers who spent the duration of the show reminding patrons to keep their masks on.)

It’s been almost thirty years since my very first show – and last night, I still got those same butterflies as the lights dimmed and the music began.

What Even is Time?

I find myself once again going – where did the time go? Surely it hasn’t been two months since I last posted here. But alas – it almost has been.

Some days are just more dramatic than others.

The last time I wrote, though, I wasn’t expecting everything that was to follow: oven fire (everything is fine, though I went a month without the ability to cook anything that couldn’t be made on the stove top), losing my cat Ellis (everything is not fine – her death was unexpected, and I still miss her every single day), getting sick (cold not COVID), my editor choosing this time to send my manuscript back for edits. [strained smile] The things I did expect – the end of summer session grading and then the chaos of fall semester starting.

I just had major plans to use that week and a half to relax

But here I am, in the fourth week of the semester. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster without the safety harness – time is flying, and I’m just holding on for dear life.

Writing Buddy

I’m part of an online global writing group (which is actually attached to my workout program, My Peak Challenge, that I’ve been a part of for a year and a half now), and I love it. Having a community that is supportive and encouraging is such a necessary thing for a writer for so many reasons (at least for me). We share memes and resources and motivational posts. We talk about the challenges we are facing and the successes we have. We swap writing and give feedback. (It’s still amazes me that someone in Germany read my work and liked it.)

One of the things I talk about a lot on our group page is how important having a writing buddy has turned out to be for me. While the group is such a safe haven for me, my writing buddy is even more so.

My writing buddy is Jack Lelko, author of the soon-to-be published book Christmas Bitch. It’s a story full of sass and snark and complicated plot lines – just like Jack. (Kidding, friend. Sort of…) He’s read my stories and provided feedback. He’s hopped onto FaceTime with me when I’ve needed help talking through a troubled plot point. He’s even provided encouragement when I’ve found seeds of story ideas and helped them to grow. He talks about my characters like I do – as though they are living and breathing people walking about in reality.

Now, I’m a firm believer that a writing buddy doesn’t need to be another writer to be effective. Just needs to be someone who loves stories and can be honest with you (a writing buddy who is just going to fluff your ego isn’t going to do your story any good).

That being said, it’s FAR more rewarding when they are a writer because you can return the favor.

I’ve just finished up my third reading of Jack’s book, and it’s such a fun experience to see the way it has evolved since the first time. I feel quite honored to be trusted with his manuscript – to be trusted with giving my feedback. I enjoy getting to have chats about his characters, to see him work through a particularly tricky plotline. And I really can’t wait to hold the finished printed product in my hands (for which my multi-talented friend has also designed the cover). There’s a special spot reserved on my shelf, just waiting for this book.

If you are a writer (especially one who is feeling particularly isolated in your writing), I recommend checking out writing groups (whether in-person as it’s safe to do so or online). They can be game changers for so many reasons. But also – find a writing buddy that talks about your characters as though they are real people and who wants to see your story succeed just as much as you do.

If you are interested in holiday stories with sassy MCs, check out Jack’s social media:

Jack on Twitter

Jack on Instagram

Jack’s personal website and his Christmas Bitch website

I’m Still Here

I know it’s not news to say that life has been strange these last 492 days. (I used a date calculator to figure that number out – I’m honestly lucky I know today is Saturday…) It’s difficult for me to believe that I haven’t stepped foot inside of a classroom in over a year – and likely won’t in the Fall, either.

The last few months have been a struggle, and that’s saying something after this last year and a half. End of semester grading is always rough, made even more so with some “fun” health subplots (I’m fine thankfully). Then after what felt like a too-quick breath, summer session started, and it’s been nonstop ever since. I swear, I blinked, and we’re five weeks in.

Time really has no rules anymore, does it? (This is all to say sorry I’ve been MIA.)

In the midst of all of this, I did manage to get some words on the page for a couple new WIPs. I also buried myself in reading when I could fit it in. (If you have any interest at all in what I’ve been reading, you can follow me on Instagram.)

And I’ve been knee-deep in research Scottish fairy lore – which is helping with the writing just as much as it is making me pine to return to the country. (I was supposed to last summer, but, well… you know.)

Just know I’m still here, whoever you are that is reading this.

Writing Slump

On the morning of Friday, March 5, I received All Falling Things back from my editor. I asked for a timeline since they didn’t offer a deadline, and the response was by the end of April if possible. I returned the manuscript March 18. [strained smile] Any moment I wasn’t working or sleeping, I was editing. It felt really good to get back into Alice’s story after not visiting for over six months. Once the overwhelming feelings faded, I was just excited to see the story fill out.

After I sent the manuscript back, I decided to take what I had learned from the process and apply it to Lucy’s story (now titled Wherever Would I Be), which took about eight days. And then on to the YA WIP, which took about four. (They move quicker when they’re shorter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) Between the three manuscripts, I added 11K words. And it felt GOOD.

I spent a solid twenty-one days editing. And I’ve been trying ever since to shift back into writing mode. But nada. I’ve gotten a couple hundred words down for the newest WIP, but it was a struggle, feeling like I was wrestling the words onto the page. To be fair, there’s been a lot of grading, and after spending an entire day staring at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do…is stare at a computer screen.

Writing is such a roller coaster.

Editing Alice

I will say this – the process of turning a manuscript into a book can be a humbling experience. I mean, here we are – finally ready to query. Because we’re done. The book is done.

[enter sad laughter here]

When I received my manuscript back from my editor, I felt like someone had doused me with a bucket of ice water. HOW ON EARTH did I feel like I was done writing Alice (All Falling Things)? It’s so strange to think there is this woman in New York (who I have never met) who is reading over and steering the fate of my book – but it’s also a really helpful process (at least it has been so far *fingers crossed*). My editor had done a detailed edit with tracked changes for the first fifty pages, which I was then to carry out through the remainder. Her comments, as well as coming back to the manuscript after not touching it for a good six months, let me see the story with fresh eyes.

I just email the manuscript back – and I already know Alice is better for this. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the next step in the conversation – because this book is not yet done.