Posts Tagged ‘Elevensies’

Reflections on my debut year

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Exactly one year ago today, my debut YA novel, FLYAWAY, released from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

HelenwFlyaway

I’d had books published by small presses before, but this was the biggie: my first novel with a major publishing house. Like most debut authors, I went into my launch with a naive sense of optimism, and in typical Aries fashion, I had fantasies of taking the YA world by storm. I envisioned stellar reviews, awards, perhaps even a movie deal! (A little over-the-top, I know, but we Aries folk are nothing if not ambitious.) At the very least, I was sure that this was the start of a distinguished career, and that in no time I’d be signing contracts for more books. One way or another, the release of FLYAWAY was going to change my life.

None of that has happened. FLYAWAY has garnered mixed reviews – some glowing, some not so much. It hasn’t received any awards, and I haven’t heard a hint of a movie deal. So far, I have yet to sell a second novel. And I’m still working the same jobs, still struggling to pay the bills, still squeezing writing into the cracks in my overstuffed schedule.

To say that I’ve been disillusioned would be a little strong; disappointed, perhaps. The truth is that I’ve had to take a big bite of a reality sandwich of my own making.

Not to say that there haven’t been wonderful things about having my first YA novel out in the world. I’ll never forget the walking-on-air giddiness of having my lifelong dream come true or the show of support at my book launch. I’ve loved getting to know other YA authors, both online through communities like The Elevensies and in person. I’ve had a blast at book events and discovered a passion for talking to teens about books. My debut year has been an experience I’ll always treasure.

And now that I think about it, my life has changed profoundly, though not in the ways I imagined it would. This year has taught me to manage my expectations – not to give up hope, but to set my sights on achievable goals, goals that are within my control. I can’t control how reviewers and award committees will react or whether an editor will make an offer for my next book. But I can control the quality of my work, which is where I’m now putting my focus.

This year, I’ve had to recommit to my writing. Like someone who’s been hurt in a relationship, I’ve had to open myself up to  falling in love with the process of creating a novel all over again. And this time, because I now understand that there are no guarantees that my work will be published, my sense of commitment is stronger and deeper than before.

I’ve also had to recommit to my “real life.” Now that the dream of a star-studded literary career is fading into the distance, at least for now, I feel a new gratitude for the work that allows me to make a living, and for my family and friends who are so deserving of my time.

Don’t get me wrong: more than anything in the world, I’d love to publish another novel – or two or three. I’m still gunning for some awards and – who knows? – maybe even a movie deal. The difference is that now I have hopes instead of expectations. And I think I can live with that.

Rubbing shoulders with a giant

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve done a lot of book events in the past year. There are a number of different reasons I choose to do an event. Sometimes it’s because the event gives me an opportunity to spend time in a wonderful place, as was the case when I did a signing with Amber Kizer last February at Moonraker Books on beautiful Whidbey Island.

with author Amber Kizer at Moonraker Books in Langley

Sometimes a particular event gives me a chance to hang out with fellow writers, like the readings and signings I’ve done with Elevensies pals Megan Bostic, Carole Estby Dagg, Kiki Hamilton, and Kendare Blake, among others.

with Kendare Blake, Kiki Hamilton, Megan Bostic, and Kathy McCullough at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park

Sometimes I’ll do an event just to support a bookstore that I love, like Secret Garden Books in Ballard, where I held my launch party.

Me checking out books in the YA section of Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard

But this Saturday, I’ll be participating in an event for all those reasons, and more. Young Adult Book Day at Finally Found Books in Black Diamond will not only give me a chance to support an indie bookstore but also to explore a cool little town I haven’t spent much time in. On top of that, I’ll get to hang out with fellow authors Kendare Blake, Joni Sensel, and Jennifer Shaw Wolfe. But the icing on the proverbial cake is that I’ll get to meet bestselling children’s author Peg Kehret!

I’ve long admired Peg Kehret from afar. I love it that she’s a supporter of animal rescue – which I am, as well – and often includes animals in her books. While I admire her Middle Grade mystery/adventure stories, I was blown away by her autobiographical book “Small Steps,” about her childhood experience with polio. In some way, I’ve always felt a kinship with her because of my early experience with cancer.

And this Saturday, I’ll get to meet her! If you’re in Western Washington, you can meet her, too. She, along with a number of other YA authors, myself included, will be at Finally Found Books in Black Diamond from 11-2. If you have a chance, I hope you’ll consider coming. It’s not often that you get to rub shoulders with a giant of children’s literature.

Girls’ Nightmare Out Tour

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my friends and fellow Elevensies Kendare Blake (ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES) and Lisa Desrochers (PERSONAL DEMONS TRILOGY), along with Marta Acosta (DARK COMPANION) and Amanda Hocking (WAKE) at their stop at Third Place Books as part of the Girl’s Nightmare Out Tour.

 


Left to right: Kendare Blake, Lisa Desrochers, Bill Kenower (moderator), Amanda Hocking, Marta Acosta

The panel got off to a bit of a rocky start. The moderator was late, so for the first 10 minutes, the authors chatted informally with the audience. Then the store’s event staff-person took the helm and asked questions until the real moderator arrived.

These women are amazing, and their work habits put me to shame. Neither Lisa Desrochers nor Kendare Blake plot or outline – they just get to know their characters and let the story unfold. How I wish I could do that! Lisa writes while holding down three jobs and being a wife and mother. She says that “sleep is overrated.” As for Amanda Hocking, she sits at her computer for 12-14 hours a day and can churn out a book in 2-4 weeks!

Much as I enjoyed the panel, I’ll admit that I walked away with a sinking I-could-never-do-that feeling. But, as I have to keep constantly reminding myself, everyone’s process is different. I’ve tried writing novels without a plan, and they end up unholy messes. I’ve never tried writing a book in two weeks, but even if I could, I doubt it would be a good one.

I woke up this morning thinking that maybe there’s a middle ground. Yes, I like to plot in advance – but maybe I could take a page from Lisa Desrocher’s book (not literally, of course!) and give my characters a little more freedom to set the agenda. I can’t write a book in two weeks, but maybe I could challenge myself to get through my drafts a little more quickly, with a little less perfectionism and over-thinking.

Every time I go to a panel or hear an author speak, I find something that I can apply to my own writing process. What about you? What have you learned from another author recently?

 

Teen Author Panel at Everett Public Library – photos!

Friday, August 17th, 2012

I’m going to entertain you today with some photos of the Teen Author Panel I participated in on Monday evening at the downtown library in Everett.

Here I am with fellow authors (left to right – that’s me on the far left) Megan Bostic (NEVER EIGHTEEN), J. Anderson Coats (THE WICKED AND THE JUST), and Carole Estby Dagg (THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS).

 

 

From this photo, it looks like we didn’t have much of an audience – but that’s because they were all sitting on the other side of the room.

 

 

We even got to sign some books!

 

 

I get a little break from author events for the rest of August. But I’ll be at it again in September, with a Contemporary YA Panel at Northwest Bookfest in September and an event at University Bookstore in Seattle in October to celebrate the release of FLYAWAY’s paperback edition. Stay tuned for details!

In the meantime, I’m excited to see my friends Lisa Desrochers (the PERSONAL DEMONS  trilogy) and Kendare Blake (ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and GIRL OF NIGHTMARES), along with Marta Acosta (DARK COMPANION) at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park on Thursday, August 23rd as part of their Girls’ Nightmare Out tour. Maybe I’ll see you there!

LUMINOUS (and FLYAWAY) giveaway!

Friday, June 29th, 2012

I’m sure at this point you need a break from me yammering on about my writing process, and believe me, I need a break from it, too. So today I’m going to spotlight my fellow Elevensie Dawn Metcalf and tell you about the giveaway she’s doing to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the release of her debut novel, LUMINOUS, and kick off the countdown to the release of her next novel, INDELIBLE INK.

You won’t believe the gorgeous prizes Dawn is giving away. Her Grand Prize Gift Box sounds incredible! I won’t recite the whole list of stuff that’s in it, but suffice it to say that the box contains not only a signed and dedicated hardcover of LUMINOUS, but also goodies like iridescent sparkle dust and green glitter glow-in-the-dark nail polish. The two runners-up prizes sound juicy, as well. Read more about her giveaway and enter on Dawn’s blog or her Livejournal page.

And to sweeten the deal, I’m going to enter anyone who tweets, Facebooks, or blogs about Dawn’s giveaway and tells me about it in comments to this post in a drawing for a signed ARC of FLYAWAY.


I’ll run my drawing from now till midnight on Friday, July 7th. So go check out Dawn’s giveaway, enter, share about it, and come on back. I’d love to send you a signed ARC of FLYAWAY!