Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snow Days and Being Snowed Under
I'm a modern woman. I bring home the bacon (at least the part my husband doesn't bring home), fry it up in the pan…and all that jazz. Mostly this means I feel like I'm holding back an avalanche all the time, constantly on triage to deal with whatever just exploded. Day job, writing life, children, dog, house: it all takes more "me" to manage than there is, so on any given day I'm only managing it some it well. Choose your metaphor: treading water, running through soft sand, juggling. It all comes down to more to do than there is time for.

Then come snow days. And I'm stuck at home. I can't go to school and teach other people's children. I tell you, snow days can really be a blessing. Sure, they add a level of chaos to our lives, but while I'm snowed under outside, I can push a plow through some of the messes in here!

Teaching is rough in that taking a sick day doesn't let you out of the work--you still have to prepare the lesson for your substitute, fever or not! But on a snow day, no one is teaching. So unlike my husband who can and therefore had to work from home, I was free to work on other things. I can't work from home (except on a few of the myriad tasks). My classes aren't here.

This year's snow days were beautifully timed for me. I had just received two sets of edits on two different projects, both due at almost the same time. (They weren't supposed to come at the same time, but, you know: life and delays). Even though snow days mean that my own children require more attention and that neighborhood children will become part of the fray, it still meant that I could spare several more hours for writing projects than is normal on a workday.

Heck I even had time to watch a couple of movies with my children.

Am I caught up? Heck no! But I think I've uncovered the top third of my head, including my nose. I can almost breathe! Hurray for snow days!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Son of a Pitch

Ah, the dreaded pitch. It's the bane of the as yet unpublished writer's existence. How to boil your masterpiece down into its essence and feed it to a potential buyer (agent, publisher, etc.). Looking for advice and chance to have your words heard?

I'm proud to say Katie Hamstead Teller has asked me to be a part of her pitch contest. I'll be participating in round 2, giving feedback and posting queries here on my blog.

Here is all the information you need to prepare for SON OF A PITCH!

Here are the basics:
Title: (Name of Manuscript)
Age and Genre: (YA/NA/Adult then Genre)
Word Count: (to the nearest thousand)
Insert query here. No bio please.
First 250 Words:
I don't care if this is from a prologue or chapter one. That's up to you.

Week 1 starts Feb 15, 2016:

A chance to refine your query and first 250 words. Post this on your blog then post a link in the comments of a post I will put up on my blog the week of Feb 15. Please leave feedback on a minimum of three other queries and first 250.

Week 2 starts Feb 22, 2016:

This week, published authors will give you feedback. The Son of a Pitch team, who are all published, will post your emailed in queries and 250 words on their blogs. Please use the formatting above and email to:

Incorrectly formatted emails will be kicked off the island. The team will vote for their favorites to go onto the final round. They will cast five votes each, anywhere they want, and the top 20 will go onto the next round. Feel free to coax judges your direction however you want! But please, only you and the judges can comment on your entry, or the comments can get confusing for tallying votes at the end. Votes will close on Thursday 11:59 p.m. MST. To stalk the hosts/voting authors, click Here.

The first fifty entries will go into this round. So get your clickers ready to email at precisely 10 a.m. MST on Friday Feb 19th.

But don't be discouraged! You will get good feedback to help you even if you don't make the top twenty. So please go and query elsewhere afterward, and let us know your success story so it can be shared on the blog.

Week 3 starts Feb 29, 2016:

We have a fantastic line up of editors, publishers, and agents. They'll swing by the final contestants to try to bribe you into subbing to them. The final Twenty will post on Katie's blog, where agents/editors will come and make requests for you. If you make the top twenty, you will be emailed on Friday 26th, and all updated entries sent to the email address by Saturday 27th 11:59 p.m. MST. If you don't make the deadline, the next highest voted entry will be emailed, and will have 24 hrs to get the entry into the inbox.

Feel free to email any requests made whenever you feel like it, but note that the agents/editors are allowed to give feedback on your entry. Also, make sure to include that your query to them is from the comp by putting Son of a Pitch Request in the title.

Twitter Pitch: Mar 7, 2016:

And finally, we'll have a free-for-all twitter pitching opp under the hashtag #sonofapitch

Rules: Makes sure to include #sonofapitch and your genre/age category with the tweet. You can tweet any number of manuscripts, but only once every hour each.

It will be open all day.

Here's the list of Publishers participating in SON OF A PITCH:
Follow the links to learn more about each.

Here is a list of Agents participating in SON OF A PITCH:

For the second round, published authors will be swinging around to critique queries and first 250 words posted on three blogs, as well as casting votes on who will make the final round.
Follow these links to read about those authors!


This is a great opportunity. I hope you'll take it, and if you're not ready please pass the information on to other writers.

Tweet One of These

@KatieTeller1 Son of a Pitch is the opportunity to get your manuscript noticed by agents and publishers.

@KatieTeller1 Have your query read and critiqued by other writers and win a chance at publication.

@KatieTeller1 Feedback on your query and a chance for publication, get the details here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Being a Teacher Helps Me Be a Writer

I've been a teacher for twenty years. That's a wonderful and horrifying statistic in itself. In fact, I've not done much of anything else in the way of paid work. I had a brief run as librarian and a secretary in small town Alaska. Otherwise, I've spent my entire working life in the classroom.
There are occupational hazards in being a teacher. You tend to take over in group settings, trying to organize everyone (which is not always appreciated by your adult family and friends). You tend to over-explain, assuming that the listener will need to hear it multiple ways to get it. You correct people's errors, even when it would be more polite not to do so. You're chronically busy, stressed, and under-slept, which can make you a cranky-pants.

But as I've moved to being a teacher and an author, I've found out that there's a lot I've learned from my teaching life that serves me well in my writing life.

Comfort with public speaking. A roomful of people who voluntarily walked into your panel or book talk or reading is a far easier audience than a roomful of middle school children who are required to be there. But that doesn't mean they aren't intimidating. I'm grateful that stage fright is not an issue for me.

A lack of dignity. Sometimes you really have to be a clown to engage children. I've worn crazy hats, let people put pies in my face or dunk me in a booth, and done some pretty amazing role plays as a teacher. So far, I haven't been asked to go to those extremes as an author, but it does make it easier to put myself out there as part of an event. I'm difficult to embarrass.

Diplomacy. I deal with a lot of stupidity as a teacher, and I've learned to do so with kindness. It won't help most situations to make someone (a student, another teacher, a parent, an administrator) feel bad about whatever way they've just put their foot in it. As a writer, I have had to deflect weird responses and questions from interviewers or readers, too, and defend my artistic choices to beta readers and editors who seemed to just not get it. Not to mention participating in a critique group, where I need to kindly point out the flaws in someone's heart's work. Good thing I've got a lot of practice.

Ability to Work Alone, Unsupervised. As a teacher, I have a supervisor in the
form of a school principal. But she or he sees very little of what I actually do. In some cases, I could probably have read a book or shown movies for weeks at a time without my supervisor finding out. Luckily for my students, I have high standards for myself and a strong personal work ethic. As a writer, I am even less well-supervised. In fact, I often don't even have a clear deadline to finish by or any directions at all about what I'm supposed to be creating. Without that self-starter attitude, I could easily just play solitaire and watch Firefly all day and only dream about being a writer.

Able to Think on My Feet: No plan survives contact with the enemy. That includes lesson plans. No matter how well I think I've planned, I always have to adjust on the fly. And I'm good at that after all these years. Turns out, that happens on the page, too. No matter how well I've planned out my story, change will come. Characters will surprise me. A plot twist will blindside me. And I can roll with it, follow it where it goes and trust to revision to smooth it out for the end product. In the classroom and on the page, I've built more than one silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Listening: Any teacher will tell you how important it is to listen to your students. As much as state legislators and pundits want to make education into a nice, clean, easily measured objective process, it really isn't. It's a very messy, human process, as much about relationships as it is about expertise and technique. And you build relationships by listening. You also get a lot of writing material that way.

So, who knew I'd been in training all these years. Too bad teaching didn't make me insightful about marketing. Then I could afford to give up teaching!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Support Circles and the Writing Life

Some of the "Southern Broads" of Broad Universe after a shared reading
Susan Griffith, Gail Z Martin, Margaret McGraw, Nicole Givens Kurtz,
Tera Fullbright, Ada Milenkovich Brown, and me: Samantha Bryant

I spent last weekend at Illogicon, a wonderful local con just up the road from me in Cary, NC. I'm new to the con circuit. This is only my second appearance at a con as an author guest (the first was Atomacon, in November). I had a wonderful time!

It's kind of funny because while cons are fun,  cons are also stressful. There's a lot of things about "working a con" that make me want to break out in hives.

  • There are lots of people there that I don't know. STRANGER DANGER!
  • I'm presenting myself in an expert role. IMPOSTER SYNDROME!
  • Meals are irregular. GETTING HANGRY!
  • I have to self-promote, live, in front of people AWKWARD!

So, all that could have me hiding in my living room and hoping people will just somehow hear about my books without my having to tell them. If not for support circles. 

I'm one lucky girl in that regard. I've got my husband, daughter, sister, parents, mother-in-law, and extended family all pulling hard for me, talking about my book, and helping anyway they can. When I had my book launch party last year, it was like having an entourage: taking pictures, throwing me a bone with soft-serve questions, serving cookies, and making sure I got a sandwich when I needed one. 

I've got my critique group, who essentially taught me how to write a book and who show up to cheerlead me when they can and kick my butt when that's needed, too. 

I've got author-friends, writers who live near me or don't (yay Internet!) who've been great mentors and fonts of information and advice. These author-friends were the ones who made my experience so wonderful as I set out to start doing the "con thing." They invited me to be part of panels that they organized, listened as I hashed out what I might even have to say when I participated, attended my events even when they had better things to do. They told me their stories, and helped me avoid making too big a fool of myself in public. 

So, I guess this is sort of a thank you letter to all those folks. It's really amazing to think that so many people are in my corner in this endeavor. If I ever get rich and famous, you'll all be in for one heck of a treat!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

#IWSG: Being a "Real" Writer

In the immortal words of John Lennon, "Another year over…and what have you done?" (Well, close enough anyway).

In 2015, I did quite a lot actually. It was a year of firsts for me, which is pretty exciting since I'm now 44, and well past most of the firsts in my life. 
Though I've played at writing more and less seriously off and on my whole life, it all felt much more real this year. I'd say 2015 was my first year as a "real" writer. For me, the moment I first felt like a real writer was was when I realized I could introduce myself as a writer and then point to a publication out there in the world, rather than talking about the unpublished stuff I've written. 

So, now I've got to keep this up. It hasn't been easy. Getting a book contract didn't instantly mean I was able to give up my day job and concentrate solely on writing, so I definitely struggled this year to balance promotion and writing with my day job and my family life. As I move into 2016, I want to keep on becoming more and more real. 

Because even though I'm realer than I've ever been, it still doesn't feel totally legit. I still get a little of that fear. You know the one? Where the Scooby gang shows up and unmasks you as an imposter? 

So how do I become more real? 

I think I write more! I've got a contract for the sequel, Change of Life, and a planned release date of April 20, 2016. But I can't stop there. I'm 2/3 of the way done writing the three-quel.  And now, I'd like to get back to some of the other writing projects I've begun, and others that have just stayed in my heart and brain as ideas.  Real writers write, after all. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. 

This posting is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To check out other posts by writers in a variety of places in their careers, check out the participant list. This group is one of the most open and supportive groups of people I have ever been associated with. If you write, you should check them out!

Friday, January 1, 2016

An Interview with Damian Trasler

It's my pleasure to introduce you to Damian Trasler today. Damian and I know each other online and I'm becoming a fan of his witty and self deprecating manner. A new year is a great time to seek out new things, so check out this "interview" with the author and see if there's something for you. -SB

Looking back over my e-book sales for the past year, one thing has suddenly become clear : I have made more money from taking my beer bottles for recycling than I have from selling e-books. This caused two further realisations.

One: I’m not very good at self-promotion.

Two: I drink a lot of beer. A lot.

Still, yay for recycling, right?

Shouldn’t you be telling us how great your e-books are?

Oh, yeah. They really are. Almost everyone who reads them really likes them.

Do they leave reviews saying that?

Well, yeah, some do. That’s how I know. A couple of people have said they didn’t like them, but their reasons were totally justified and I’m good with that.

Will I like your e-books?

That’s the question, isn’t it? And the honest answer is, I don’t know. I have three non-fiction books, for example. If you want to know some useful tips for writing for Community Theatre, then yes, I have the book for you – I’ve been a published playwright for nearly seventeen years. If you’re interested in how my family and I fared emigrating to Canada, then you’ll like “The Great Canadian Adventure”. It has pictures, and funny stories and real life examples of stuff you need to know when you emigrate to British Columbia. And we’re still here, so we didn’t get too much badly wrong, right? And hey, I’ve written the definitive step-by-step manual to building really bad Star Wars costume helmets…

I don’t think I need any of those. And I’ve just remembered I have to be somewhere else….

I have fiction too.

What genre?

Well… Some is science fiction. Some is horror/thriller. Some is just short, dark fiction, and there are a couple of collections of coffee-break stories. There’s a small book of poetry. Oh, and I’ve written a YA novella too.

Who hasn’t?

Quite.The quickest way to check out the books I’ve written is to visit my Amazon Author page, where they’re all neatly lined up for you to see:

Damian Trasler is a playwright who dabbles in e-books. His plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts
and are regularly performed across the world. He currently lives in British Columbia with his family and is very proud of the fact he once appeared on TV in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries (although it was in the last five minutes of the show and he was only on screen for ten seconds) He has not been asked to write a screenplay for any of the upcoming Star Wars movies.