The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘tenacity

Molly Jaffa, agent for Folio Literary Management

Molly Jaffa, agent for Folio Literary Management

Agent Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management sent me a proof for TABULA RASA, a debut novel by Tabula RasaKristen Lippert-Martin to be released September 23. I read Lippert Martin’s book and totally loved it, so I logged onto Goodreads to write a review and could not believe what I found. Some reviewers wrote glowing recommendations  – like mine. Others, however, who missed the point of several scenes, in my opinion, wrote things about TABULA RASA that were ridiculous. One went as far as to say the author was racist.

 

Seriously? Come on!

 

The story is a nail-biting page-turner with lots of surprising twists about a sixteen-year-old Latina named Angel who has been undergoing experimental surgeries on her brain to erase her memories in a hospital located in the mountains somewhere. She’s been told by the doctors and nurses she should be grateful for the opportunity to be rid of the torment of her delinquent past, so she can start a new life. As she gets set for the final operation to become a true blank slate, or tabula rasa, the lights go out. Someone whispers a cryptic message and puts a handful of pills in Angel’s hand, moments before a bunch of commando guys rush into the secluded hospital spraying bullets, killing staff and other patients.

The premise is what nightmares are made of: memory loss and disorientation in the midst of gunfire and the discovery that

Author Kirsten Lippert-Martin

Author Kirsten Lippert-Martin

you’re the target. Angel is a kick ass heroine who takes the pills she’s been given and begins to remember bits and pieces of her life as she survives against incredible odds.

Kristin Lippert-Martin wrote draft after draft to create an excellent story, went through the arduous task of finding an awesome agent from a reputable literary firm to get behind her, and with the help of that agent, found an editor at Egmont USA to believe in her and her story.

 

Then before TABULA RASA even comes out, a reviewer publishes smack about how the computer-hacker-geek that Angel runs into, the love interest who helps her to survive this insane situation, says something silly about her being Mexican. The thing Thomas says isn’t mean, just clueless. The dialogue is congruent with his socially-challenged character, not at all racist. The reviewer grouses that of course the hero/sidekick who helps Angel with his amazing hacking skills is a white guy, however, she fails to mention that the evil character who has done her best to ruin Angel’s life, and ultimately tries to end it, is also white. Further, Angel’s memories of her deceased Latina mother are the sweetest, most endearing scenes. Her mother was probably my favorite secondary character. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that the reviewer didn’t discuss Angel’s mother.

 

Race is a hot button for some people, though, even me sometimes. Late last year, I attended a seminar educating young Latinas about the political process and how they should get involved in their communities. The keynote speaker quipped that Barbara Boxer, our California senator, was “okay for a white woman,” which was insulting. I’ll never forget the experience of being one of the two white people in that audience. Maybe that grumpy book reviewer had a similar experience as a Latina, so she was particularly sensitive to the lame comment the character makes in TABULA RASA. His comment doesn’t bother Angel, and it’s surprising that it bothered the reviewer. The truth is, Kirsten Lippert-Martin’s book is an incredibly intense, fun read.

 

I hope people pay more attention to the positive reviews and treat themselves to the breathtaking ride that is TABULA RASA. Once the book comes out in September, I’ll post the link, so you can grab a copy and judge for yourself.

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My husband just lost his job. The company he worked for sold to a competitor, and unless the vice president of the larger company 20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5526_chuck_trish_8x12gets hit by a bus, there won’t be a position available under the new ownership. One of the former bosses, who shares in the purchase price of a few hundred-million dollars, called to say a check for a couple months’ salary would arrive in the mail. Somehow management viewed this appropriate compensation for my husband’s ten years of service generating millions in assets as well as adding value to the purchase price. Oh. And as of May 1, COBRA will require $1400 in monthly payments to maintain our Kaiser Health coverage for our family of four.

My initial reaction was to panic. I looked up teaching positions in as many school districts as possible within commuting range, because owning a writing/coaching/editing operation doesn’t include healthcare benefits. Though the idea of reentering the classroom excited me, my stomach knotted, and anxiety dreams woke me up all night long. Don’t get me wrong, I can get behind the National Core Curriculum Standards, but I find it almost impossible to write novels and articles while teaching full time. By the end of a day of working with kids, collaborating with other teachers, assessing student work, and on and on and on, my creativity gets used up. There’s no time to coach other writers or edit their work during the school year either.

Then I remembered one of my favorite writing buddies, a fellow Page-a-Day writer and award-winning columnist, Claire Fadden’s sing-song voice in my head. “Obstacle or opportunity,” she likes to say with a shrug as she looks for ways to use life’s little setbacks to propel her toward her goals.

time-managementSo how can our lack of regular income and health benefits transform into a catalyst toward my goal of becoming a traditionally published YA novelist? My husband and I decided that I would hold off jumping back into the classroom. I’ve got one more school year, this small window, to pour on the energy and get my manuscript published. It’s amazing how a narrow timeframe can make the world seem like an entirely different place.

I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out. In the meantime, tell us about your obstacles that have become opportunities. Believe me, a story like that would be really helpful right now.

ImageMy nineteen-year-old daughter, Paige, came home to San Diego from Williams College in Massachusetts for spring break. We enjoyed wonderful long talks, dog walks, and ate scrumptious authentic Mexican and Vietnamese meals together. Sadly for me, but bad ass for her, she didn’t get to stay in San Diego for the whole break.

Paige is double-majoring in economics and art history at Williams. She spent last summer doing an internship for the Grameen Foundation in microfinance in the Philippines, and she wanted to find out more about the art world to weigh her career options after she graduates in 2016. Sifting through contacts in the Williams directory of alumni students, Paige came upon and emailed Radina Angelova, director of the brand new Red Royal Gallery on the lower east side of Manhattan. Happy to hear from a fellow Williams student, Radina responded to Paige’s inquiry with helpful information regarding careers in art. The two of them hit it off via e-communication, and Radina eventually invited Paige to attend the black-tie opening of the gallery, last Friday.

Paige didn’t hesitate. She booked a flight with frequent flyer miles (my husband travels a lot for work), hopped a plane to New York on Thursday, and had little idea where she was going when she arrived at the JFK airport. Still, she decided to save the cab fare and figure out how to get to a friend’s parents’ house taking the subway. Once she reached her destination, $45 richer, she discovered her friend’s family had a previous engagement and would be out for the evening. This would have rattled some people, but Paige smiled, thanked her hosts for allowing her to stay on short notice, and decided to catch a bus to check out some sites in the city – by herself (Okay. As her mom, I admit her solo jaunts around New York City make me a bit nervous).

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On Friday, Paige dressed in an elegant gown, took a cab across town, and attended the Red Royal Gallery opening as a party of one. She appears in several photos at the event listening, talking, and laughing with strangers who she tells me have became friends. Paige loves Radina, who is full of enthusiasm as well as art and sales smarts. Best of all, Radina invited Paige to do a six-week internship at the gallery during the summer to get hands-on experience in the art business. Living accommodations in New York will be Paige’s next hurdle, but knowing her, she’ll figure it out.

The point is: if a nineteen-year-old can do all that, I should be able to persevere until I find an agent to represent my YA series, right? Uncertainty in writing is no different than all kinds of other goals and dreams that require guts and determination. It’s not that Paige never has doubts. She’s learned to have fear and dive in anyway.

Sometimes I’d like to borrow some of Paige’s courage, although I must have some of my own, because I’m still working on realizing my writing dreams.

If you’ve done something that took some guts, or you’re thinking about jumping into a project/event/whatever and you want to run it by your fellow bad asses, or you just have something to say, we’d love to hear from you!

Last Saturday, March 1, one of my favorite YA writing buddies and I met at the University of San Diego (USD) for the Society of Never Give UpChildren’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Inside Children’s Books conference. After lunch, a fabulous panel of agents and editors chose the first page of my YA novel, TWO FEET, NO SHOES, among those worthy to read to the entire group of more than a hundred authors and illustrators!

Whoo-hoo! Sounds great, right?

At the end of the conference, full of anticipation, we picked up our written critiques from the agents and editors on the first fifteen pages of our novels. We read my friend’s feedback first, as I’d coached her on improving her pages and line edited them. Both agents liked her writing enough to invite her to submit her manuscript when she felt it was ready for them to read it. I was thrilled for her – and still am.

Then we read my critiques. The feedback an editor from a mid-size publishing company in Boston gave me was unclear and unhelpful, other than the fact that she didn’t connect with my story. Comments I’d received from an agent based in San Diego, although explicit and helpful were fairly scathing. The only positive thing the editor and agent could agree on was that they liked my voice – which is something.

My friend looked at me and said, “I don’t understand. Your writing is so incredible.”

I could barely respond – or breathe. I considered quitting, since I seem to be so much better at improving other authors’ work.

To be fair, In October, an agent in San Francisco told me I had drawn compelling characters, she loved my premise and voice, but she thought I spent too much time setting up for fifteen-year-old Maya’s stealth trip from Los Angeles to Jalisco, Mexico to confront her deadbeat dad. This agent requested the full manuscript after reading the first hundred pages, but I have yet to hear from her.

It appears from these latest critiques that my effort to get Maya on the road in fewer pages has been a disaster. So it’s time to be a Badass and suck it up. Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP got sixty rejections while she revised like crazy before someone took a chance on her. On Monday, I’ll look at the feedback again and get to work recreating the beginning of TWO FEET, NO SHOES.

Hopefully, this draft will be the Momma Bear version, not too long or too short, too much detail or too little, but the one that’s just right.

I can come up with lots of reasons to not work on my fiction. There are deadlines for articles, baskets of laundry waiting, roasts that need defrosting. The hardest thing is to keep my butt in the chair, putting words on the page, delving into my characters and showing—not telling.

I realize this is part of being a writer. We’ve all stared at a blank computer screen, trying not to be distracted, or feeling depleted of ideas. “You can fix anything but a blank page,” popular writer Nora Roberts says.

She discards the idea that writers must wait for inspiration to come to them mystically, as if from a muse. “Inspiration is crap,” she said during an interview at a Romance Writers of America conference. She told writing hopefuls to not waste their time waiting for a muse to help them move their fingers across the keyboard. Frankly, she said the muse is “a fickle bitch. Don’t depend on her.”

Well, I’m not necessarily waiting for a muse to pour compelling prose through my fingertips, but I am looking for suggestions on how to keep writing, especially when it seems like the last thing I’m able to do.

How do you keep at it? What tricks can you share with your fellow writers to keep us writing when we feel like we’re “carving in granite with a toothpick,” as Roberts suggests.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Oh. My. Gosh. I had to look up how to spell commitment. Did it have two m’s or two t’s? Scary that. Anyway, recently a writer friend of mine told me she just wanted to see if she had what it takes to write a publishable novel. Here’s the thing: what it takes it c-o-m-m-i-t-m-e-n-t. How much are we willing to put into our craft? How many hours? Can we put our egos on hold long enough to hear feedback that includes necessary changes we need to make in our writing? Can we stick it out long enough to get competent, even clever in communicating stories to our readers?

I recently interviewed Robyn Benincasa, extreme racer and founder of the Athena Foundation, an organization that offers athletic training to women recovering from chronic or serious illnesses.  The group also finances participants’ first athletic goal event, such as a 15K or a marathon.

Robyn says, “Commitment is what happens after the fun is gone.”

She was talking about athletic training and what happens to people in the midst of an Iron Man or even a 10K run. Who can push past what is comfortable? Which ones can have fear, be sore, feel like they have hit the wall and finish the race anyway? Who can keep going when the fun takes a hike?

But this applies to writing, too. In the beginning, the idea for a new story courts, then scoops me up and enthralls me. I can’t wait to get my butt in the chair. My 6 mile morning runs, my waking fantasies, and particularly my sleeping dreams when I get to play one of my characters, keep me absorbed and excited through the entire rough draft.

It’s quite a different feeling in the middle of that umpteenth revision needed to get a tricky scene to really work, the next query or queries that must go out in spite of the sting from the latest rejection, or the annoying doubt poking at my chest that a novel or a parenting book I’ve invested a gazillion hours into will never see anything but the inside of a file drawer.

Somewhere I know that if Robyn can compete in these grueling extreme races with resurfaced hip bones and osteoarthritis, and the “goddesses” that work with the Athena Project can coach cancer survivors to finishing a marathon, I can go the distance in my writer’s world and get my work published.

And that’s that.

Happy (and sometimes not so happy, but so what?) writing!

Trish Wilkinson

This morning, my Wednesday walking buddy mentioned she would love to be a painter. Too bad her genes didn’t include talent with a paint brush.  I told her most so-called innate talent isn’t. If she wants to pick up a paint brush, she should go for it. Why not?

What is talent, anyway? Where does it come from? I say, talent comes from personal interest and a willingness to have fun in the beginning without having to be an expert. Zig Zigler says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a pretty convincing case that to become a “gifted expert” at something, it takes about 10,000 hours of concerted effort. So if my walking buddy truly wants to paint master pieces, it may take 10,000 hours of practice, but she could enjoy creating rich, rewarding pieces along the way. I, for one, would definitely hang one of her paintings in my home, no matter what it looked like, even if it ends up on the wall in the walk-in closet.

Child prodigies in any skill are rare at best. Many young, successful artists, musicians, or writers just started practicing their passions earlier than the rest of us. They get through their 10,000 hours sooner than most of us begin. Christopher Paolini, young author of the Inheritance  series (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr), wrote the first book at age 15. He wrote and rewrote Eragon, self-published it, and promoted the book by doing readings and presentations wherever possible. Eventually a publishing house picked it up, and his editor made him rework and rewrite the book again. Eragon came out after Paolini turned 19. Is Paolini a child prodigy or a kid with a keen interest, a burning desire, a willingness to learn, and an early 10,000 hours of practice?

Does it matter?

Writers’ experiences and interests prepare us to put words together for others to read, but there is no substitute for those 10,000 hours of hard work and the willingness to strive to develop our skills. Becoming an expert at any craft also requires the ability to hear feedback, to collect opinions from others and process how those viewpoints may offer kernels of wisdom to help us progress.

And patience. Writing well takes lots of patience.

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed watching my own writing improve. I’m looking forward to spending less time reworking paragraphs to communicate exactly what I want to say, but I’m enjoying the road with my Page a Day writing buddies.

No matter where or at what point in life any of us start as writers, it is most important to make note of improvements along the way and …

Enjoy the journey.

Happy Writing!
 


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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