The Next Step

I sat on this swing in Summertown, Georgia, in July of 2012 and first heard the whispers of two teenagers (I promise I'm not crazy--I'm a writer). These whispers planted a seed, and I knew in that moment that following their voices would take me on a journey to discover their story. Over the last two and half years, those voices have lived inside my head and heart, alternating between whispers, silence, and screams, as they told me their story. That seed has sprouted into a 390 page book--the story of Sadie and Tru.

If you've followed my blog, you know that this has not been an easy process. I have documented this difficult journey for many reasons. First, I wanted to be transparent because I don't think we do that enough in our world. We focus so much on the destination and not enough on the journey because it's more glamorous to talk about success rather than to admit the hard road that it took to get there. I also posted about my struggles for the sake of accountability. I made my dream public so that people would ask me about it, and that would spur me on in pursuit (Thank you for asking! Thank you for cheering me on!). I am the Queen of Self-Doubt, and I've talked myself out of chasing after so many dreams over the course of my life. I knew that speaking my dream of writing a book--claiming it with words--was a way to fight off the Self-Doubt that often strangles my dreams before they even have a chance to take flight.



And now that I've done the thing that I never thought I could do--I've written a manuscript--I realize that I have only just begun this writer life. When I started, it was all about writing the book, but now I want to get it published. I want my story to be in the hands of readers; I want these characters to live on in the hearts of others--not just in mine. As cheesy as it sounds, I want to give my story to the world.

So now I begin a new journey--one to publication. There are many paths to this goal, but right now I'm headed down the traditional route. I  admit that self-publishing is tempting, but my dream is to see my book in libraries, and most libraries have a selection policy that excludes self-published books.

Many of you have asked about the next step, so here is my plan:
1. I've joined SCBWI--Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators at the urging of several authors that I've met (stalked!) on social media and at author signings. Laurie Halse Anderson (my hero!) was the first person who told me to join this organization, and Courtney C. Stevens (author of Faking Normal--I love this book--read it! She's coming to my school in May!) was the second. Membership in this organization gives me access to "THE BOOK" (seriously, that's what they call it), which is a step-by-step guide to publication. It gives tips on every part of the process--from writing a query letter to how to find a critique group and also contains an up-to-date listing of agents and publishing houses with complete contact information. Worth the $95 yearly membership fee--I hope!

2. I will write a query letter in hopes of getting a literary agent. Most people think that after you finish the book you just Fed-Ex that baby off to New York so that it can wow an editor. Um, No. I have to take my 390 pages and condense it into a one-page letter--a pitch--to get the attention of a literary agent. If the agent is interested, he/she will request a certain number of pages of my book (usually the first 30 pages or so). If he/she likes that, then he/she will request the entire manuscript (I think that's how it goes). Most of the writers that I have talked to have recommended going the agent route. Since I am writing YA (Young Adult) Contemporary and that's what I read, I've started a list of "dream agents"--people who represent the authors of books that resemble mine (this was the advice of Courtney). Agents are not always open to queries, so I have to research when certain agents are accepting queries (social media-TWITTER!-and "THE BOOK" come in very handy for this part of the process).

3. My manuscript is in the hands of some trusted "beta readers," and I will take their feedback and continue to tweak/edit/revise. (My manuscript has already been through two rounds of intense editing and revision. That's a crucial part of this process--EDITING! But I know it can get better--tighter.) I am also looking for a critique partner through SCBWI because I need feedback from someone who doesn't know me.

That's a summary of what I'm focusing on now. (I'm sure I will look back on this one day and laugh at my cluelessness, but I am eager to learn.) And I thought writing the book was hard--HA! The hardest part is just beginning. I will face rejection, criticism, and failure in this part of the process, but I'm ready for it--I think. I have a feeling that I will read this Buzzfeed over and over again to find some comfort. (FYI: The first Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, and J.K. Rowling was told "not to quit her day job." I don't know if I find that very comforting...) The hope is that I will get an agent (THAT will be HUGE and could take a long time), and then the agent will work to get the book sold to a publishing house. That's when an editor comes into the picture.

And that's the World of Publishing According to Aim...

To all of you who would like a copy of my book, it might take a while. But I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for wanting a copy. Thank you for believing in me. You are helping me find my brave. And I need it. I am still terrified. But I've made it this far, so I'm not going to stop now.

So what's this book about, you might be asking? So many of you have asked, and I've been pretty secretive about it, but I will give you a synopsis of WHEN THE WORDS FALL OUT (working title)--one that I'm trying to hone for my query letter. It's rough and needs work, but here you go:

After bouncing around from town to town with his flighty mom, Tru Carson settles in Blissville, Texas, the summer before his junior year of high school to live with his grandmother Bama. He finally has everything he’s ever wanted in his life--the stability that comes with friends, family--a community. Tru becomes the star running back of the Blissville Bandits and is poised to lead them to a long-awaited state championship.


Sadie Hawkins is the beloved cheerleader of Blissville--the girl everyone wants to be. She seems to have it all--a home ripped from the pages of Southern Living, two parents who are high school sweethearts, popularity, beauty, and brains. She is also the head football coach’s daughter, which in small-town Texas makes her kind of like royalty.


But nothing is as it seems. Through journal entries assigned by their English teacher, Sadie and Tru take off the masks to reveal their vulnerability. Sadie struggles with family demons and is worn thin from pretending that her life is perfect. But does she have the courage to take control of her own life when she doesn't even know what she wants? Tru is not the typical football player. He’s a kind of renaissance man--a musician, a reader, and a poet, but he’s gotten used to not fitting the "jock" mold. 

A deep friendship forms when Sadie and Tru realize how much they have in common, and Sadie can't help but hope that it will lead to something more. But Tru has a scar on his cheek, nightmares that haunt his sleep, and a secret--one that could change everything.

One summer night forces Tru and Sadie to face the truth of who they are and who they want to be. Will they continue to live in silence, or will they let the words fall out?


There you have it--Texas, high school, football, cheerleading, an English teacher, words...they say to write about what you know, so that's what I did.

At some point, I will start working on the next book. Yes, there will be another one because all agents and publishing houses want to know what you're working on for the next book, so I can't stop now. That's what scares me the most--that I have to do this all again. Honestly, I don't know if I have another book in me, but writers WRITE. And I'm a writer, so I will keep writing and waiting for those whispers of new characters to speak to me, for that seed of a new story to be planted in my heart.

Here's to the next step on the road to becoming a published writer...







Comments

  1. It is the roads that are less traveled that people tend to avoid but you continue to persevere. Have faith that the doors will open at just the right time. You are an inspiration to so many around you. I can't wait to read your book.

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  2. I must admit, I am officially hooked by your intro and cannot wait to read your book! I too am a school librarian (and fellow Aggie) and an avid reader of YA. I have often thought about writing my own YA novel, but the task seemed too daunting. I can't wait to see your book in print. Maybe that will be the inspiration I need to start my owning writing journey. Good luck!

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