Thoughts on Creativity (from smarter people than me)

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Last week I was able to attend the Circles Conference. It’s a creative conference with a bent towards graphic artists, photographers, and those in video production. Although I am none of those, it’s still an amazing creative conference (I mean, look at these speakers) and I walked away completely inspired!

Here are a few nuggets:

Shawn Blanc, writer and designer

“It’s a fight to stay creative. You fight fear, shame, doubt, anxiety, and isolation. Fear can keep you from doing your best work. But fear can also be used as a mile marker. The fact that you’re afraid is proof that you’re on the right track.”

Ways to make sure you won’t quit:

  • Show up every day (establish a routine)
  • Rest well (this goes beyond sleep)
  • Have clear goals and celebrate your progress
  • Have fun (create without inhibition. Spew out a draft and then edit)
  • Find community.

“Don’t complain about what you permit.”

Helena Price, photographer

  • Lay the prep work (pick a thing and commit. Figure out what to do with your time and then spend it getting better at that one thing)
  • Check your motivation (why do you want to do this? Motivation can’t be about insecurities or outside affirmation).
  • Look for paths others aren’t taking (aka don’t do what everyone else is doing).
  • Make the work. (no excuses, start writing! Read Ella Luna’s “The Crossroad of Should and Must.”
  • Stay focused.
  • Take care of yourself. (burn out kills creativity).

“Success can get you off course. Don’t worry about what others around you are doing. Stay focused on your passions and your craft. Always treat success as temporary as it will keep you from getting lazy and also helps you stay thinking long term.”

James White, visual artist and designer

(side bar: I think I have a crush on James White. His work is out of this world and right up my nerd alley! If you love Marvel, pop culture, Star Wars, and the 1980s… CHECK HIS WORK OUT!)

“Always have fun! The Best ideas are usually the ones that start off… ‘You know what would be funny?”

  • Get paid for your work.
  • Don’t bite off too much.
  • Strike while the iron’s hot.
  • Take a shot – do something.

Jeremy Cowart, photographer

Y’all, his talk was a narrated video and I can’t even begin to describe how visually creative and inspiring it was. His life message is: “I can.” I also cried.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a Ted Talk in February, so I’ll post the link then!

Larry Hubatka, creative director

“The people who can take dreams and turn them into reality are really rare. If you find one, hold on to them.”

“If you are not intentional about creating the dynamic you want in your projects, then you will end up living in something you never wanted.”

Tad Carpenter, designer, illustrator, and author

His work is absolutely out of this world and he writes children books and illustrates them! He’s also hilarious and I laughed so much during his session I forgot to take good notes.

“You have to pay your dues before you can pay your rent.”

“Don’t ever let your work get unfun.”

It spoke to the creative in me and also was great timing since I just got another round of revision notes from my agent. I’m now hopped up full of inspiration and feel like I can conquer the world! #conferencehigh

Next year they are having the first ever Lines Conference, focused on writers, bloggers and SM managers (aka ME), but unfortunately, the dates overlap with a conference I have to work. Blah. Maybe 2017!

Dear #Pitchwars 2015 Mentees

Hey you… yup, I’m talking to you.

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I know, weird that  you’re now a mentee (which btw is a weird word and always autocorrects to menthe when you’re typing. So annoying). If you were anything like me last year, I was specifically choosing NOT to look on Brenda’s blog because I didn’t want yet another disappointment.

Then my Twitter feed started blowing up and just like that, I found out I was chosen by the amazing Trisha Leigh!

My writing life has never been the same.

In an effort to pay it forward, here are three things I would like to pass on to you as an alumni (that sounds WAY fancier than it really is).

I ended up signing with an agent who requested from #PitchWars, but SO many of my amazing fellow PitchWarriors signed with agents who didn’t request from #PitchWars. So I guess that’s the first thing you need to know. Don’t let yourself be consumed with getting requests. The amazing thing about this contest is that it focuses on craft rather than reward… The entire point of #PitchWars is actually not to get you an agent. The entire point of #PitchWars is to give your manuscript the best shot it has in order to eventually get an agent. If you have a kick butt manuscript, then by default, you have a WAY better chance of finding an agent with it! FOCUS ON THE CRAFT, NOT THE REWARD.

Second thing… LEAN IN.

This process can be tough. If this is the first time you’ve ever revised with an edit letter, it can be REALLY overwhelming (I wrote about how I tackled it here). But the revising process doesn’t stop with your mentor. You may be asked to revise and resubmit by an agent or you may choose to revise based on similar reasons for rejections… then once you get an agent, you may go through several rounds of revision (*raises hand in solidarity*), and then when your book sells you’re going to have to revise some more! Lean in to all of it. Throw yourself into it (I always think of this scene from Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken when I say that).

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Fear of failure is going to try to weave it’s shriveled, gnarled fingers into your confidence. Drop kick that fear in the face and — Like my grandma always says — fake it till you make it. Because here’s a secret, NONE of us ever feel like we know what we’re doing. Every book scares us just as much as the last one.

Lastly… say no to competitiveness.

When a big chunk of the 2014 PitchWarriors got a private FB group, something magical happened. We all left our egos at the door and purposefully chose not to be competitive with each other. This meant that we shared stats, we shared when we got rejected and by who (so that others with materials out with that agent could know where they were on the reading list). We shared the dates of requests so we could let others know where the agents were at in the query inbox. None of us played things close to the chest because we were ALL getting rejections and victories and we ALL needed to celebrate or cry with THE ONLY OTHER PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND! We shared it all. We asked for query critiques, first pages critiques, even full manuscript reads when we made changes. We helped eachother with email wording, we bounced twitter pitches off each other, we talked each other off the ledge when we felt like we were NEVER going to get an agent or no one would EVER fall in love with our manuscripts. Then we would scream and squeal when we started getting agents and book deals. oh and laughed. We laugh a lot. It’s been almost a year, and none of us have any intention of ever leaving 🙂

None of that could have happened if we went into it thinking that the other mentees were competition. They aren’t. Even if they write in the same genre, they aren’t competition. Quite the opposite actually, they’ll be your lifeline to the reason you started writing in the first place if you’ll let them.

So welcome to the #PitchWars club! You’re going to have a blast!

Oh and one last thing, remember that finding an agent is just like making base camp on your climb up Everest. You need to make it to base camp, but you can’t stay at base camp. Celebrate when you get there, but keep your eye on the prize (aka total world domination… er I mean a lifetime of published books!)

Bonne Chance et Bisous!

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(Oh and on the day of the agent round, just take the day off work if you can because let’s be real… you’ll be checking your entry ALL DAY! #refresh #refresh #refresh)

For the other AMAZING PW2014 thoughts for the PW2015’ers, visit: 

Amanda Rawson Hill: On Doubt and Hope

Tracie L. Martin: What no one tells the PitchWarriors

Jennifer Hawkins: Last year at this time, I was you…

K. Kazul Wolf: Congrats on getting further into the insanity…

A.B. Sevan: Swimming with the Big Fishies

Tracie Martin: What No One Tells the PitchWarrior

RuthAnne Snow: 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer…

Rosalyn Collings Eves: Most of you are probably sick with dread…

Peggy J. Sheridan: Welcome to the club…

Janet Walden-West: The Long Game

Destiny Cole: Yup, I’m talking to you…

Kelly DeVos: Confessions of a PitchWars Alternate

Mary Ann Marlowe: First things first…

Mara Rae: I’m going to keep it short and sweet…

Jen Vincent: Last year, on a complete whim…

Kip Wilson: Congratulations, lucky mentees…

A. Alys Vera: PitchWars is great, don’t get me wrong…

Nikki Roberti: 3 Things You Need to Know

Erin Foster Hartley: I’ve been putting this off…

Writing post revisions…

You know what’s hard to do? Write a new book when things with your other book are not all wrapped up. I’m not sure how much more revisions ALLIANCE is going to need, and so it’s hard to fully commit to a new story while waiting. This is something I’m going to HAVE to get used to in order to be a legit professional writer, but it’s something that I’ve really been struggling with lately. This post is a sort of, kick-myself-in-the-pants reminder that I need to get over it.

GET OVER IT DESTINY!

My MS is currently being read by my fabulous agent Kirsten, and while I wait to hear back from her, I just keep fiddling with the first few chapters of my WIP instead of pushing on to spit out a first draft of a new book.

I know part of it is that I wrote a VERY messy first draft of ALLIANCE and I don’t want to do that again, but the other part of it is I can’t get my head firmly planted in this small Texas town, because it’s still stuck in an alternate version of New York City!

One of my fabulous CPs, Ashley, has written like 87 new manuscripts in the time it’s taken me to write/revise ALLIANCE and I stare at her amazing, growing library of books and I’m like, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?”

Then I remember that I suck we’re all on different journeys and need to get on the ball it’s okay.

So today, instead of tinkering with the first few chapters, I’m going to press on!

I’m really excited about my story and it’s time to commit!

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How I got my literary agent!

This post is something I’ve been dreaming about writing for over a year, so you know what that means?

I’m going to be LONG WINDED!

I learned a LOT along the way, so pull up a seat and settle in, because Aunt Dee’s gonna tell you all about it…

So I revised my manuscript last May and then began querying for about a month until I realized that my manuscript was just not strong enough yet.

You see, I subscribed to the rule of send out more queries every time you get a request because that means it’s working. It’s not always a bad theory, that is until you start getting form rejection after form rejection on your fulls, which is agent speak for “I stopped reading because it didn’t keep my interest.” Yeah.

Do you know what a form on a full feels like? Like this:

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Then something exciting occurred, I got an R&R (or in layman’s terms: an agent who says this is what I didn’t like about it, why don’t you try to fix it and then I’ll read it again). I totally agreed with her thoughts and so I immediately pulled my manuscript from consideration from the remaining agents who hadn’t gotten back to me and started working on it, but I was having a lot of trouble trying to fix certain areas of the book.

It wasn’t until I decided to enter #pitchwars and was selected and then mentored by the amazingly talented Trisha Leigh, who gave me such a comprehensive edit letter, that I kicked back into full gear. This book became an entirely different beast than the one before. I added almost 20k words, combined characters, changed up plot points, etc. It was a total overhaul!

I ended up getting several requests out of that contest and then additional requests in #pitmad a few weeks later. Then I began querying (not as widely this time) and got a really encouraging response on that as well.

I had silence for most of January. Just nothing but crickets in my inbox. I had basically stopped querying in December, so I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting on responses to requested materials.

Then, one afternoon an email from an agent I was really thinking would be a good fit pops up. Negative nancy over here immediately assumed that it was a rejection. I was already mentally preparing myself for the epic pity party I was about to throw myself because I had really thought that my manuscript would be right up her alley.

I took a deep breath and clicked on the email.

It was only 2 paragraphs… totally a rejection.

BUT THEN I READ IT! In those two paragraphs she gushed about my book and my characters and then told me she wanted to set up a call.

So what did I do?

I started balling my eyes out.

I called my husband and not being one to normally resort to tears, he immediately thought someone had died. It took him a few minutes to calm down from the scare and then he started crying too 🙂 I then called my mom and my sister (who cried), texted my CP’s and just jumped around all night long and consumed some champagne.

We had our call the next morning and we absolutely clicked. We laughed a lot and she GOT my book and my characters. It was like oxygen to my soul to hear her discuss Aniq and Willow like they were real people. Her vision for the book really echoed my own and it just felt right.

Ahhh! I probably talked way too much and interrupted too much (I do that when I’m nervous), but in the end, I didn’t scare her off because she offered representation.

I wanted to accept right there, but I still had requests out and so I needed time to be able to nudge.

Then came the longest ten days of my life.

I had several step asides throughout the week ranging in reasons from didn’t have time to read or didn’t feel passionately about the project to throw their hat into the ring. I then had one agent who read it and loved it and said she wanted to offer, but didn’t think she was the best agent to take it to market. She very graciously told me to go with the offering agent as this agent was just getting into YA and wanted to give me the best shot. It wasn’t until the very last day of my deadline that I got a call from a very amazing agent who has been in the industry a long time. Our call was almost an hour and I was beyond impressed with him and his vision for the book and my career. Both agent #2 and agent #1 had very similar revision ideas and it was absolutely not an easy decision, but in the end, I had to go with what my gut was telling me all along. So on Valentine’s Day (aww!) I accepted representation from Kirsten Carleton at Waxman Leavell.

I’m so incredibly excited to start this new phase of my career and roll up my sleeves and start revising my manuscript again!

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Right after I signed the contract!

And now for the thank you part of this speech (cue Oscar music):

I have so much to be thankful for, but want to give special shout outs to Ashley, Rachel and Alexa who let me show my crazy during this intense period in the query trenches and for somehow making me feel normal 🙂 To my amazing husband who saw my crazy, got scared, but still loved me. To the insanely supportive community of PW writers that I’ve been able to share this journey with! Our “secret” FB group has been a God send! And obviously thank you to  Trisha Leigh for taking on my MS and helping it get shiny enough to catch Kirsten’s eye! And finally, thank you Kirsten for taking a chance on me and believing in my writing! I think we are going to make a wonderful team and a force to be reckoned with!

And for the stats for those of you who love stats:

Queries sent: 25
Contests: 2
Requests: 26 — 11 cold query requests (7 fulls and 4 partials – 2 of which upgraded); 15 contest requests (all 15 were partials and 8 upgraded)
R&R: 1
Offers: 2

Total time in the Query Trenches: 4 1/2 months (2 months for the first round and then 2 1/2 months in round two)