it's too hexy for its jacket (so hexy it hurts)

Something very exciting is scheduled to happen this week, which I will blog about when the time is right..
But for now, I wanted to blog about the amazing, hilarious, fantastic, don't-read-it-until-you-have-time-to-read-the-whole-thing-in-one-sitting-because-trust-me-you-are-going-to-want-to HEX HALL by the incomparable Rachel Hawkins.

If you read one book this year, you should strongly consider making it HEX HALL. You will not regret it!

Meet Sophie. She's starting her first year at Hex Hall and you should too!

sometimes you just need a break

I know I've been a terrible blogger this summer. I'm sorry for that and unfortunately, I don't see things changing dramatically anytime soon. I do want to try and post something every now and then, but as long as I'm in the middle of this enormous confusing question mark that is the query process, things are going to be slow. I'm finding it hard to share the ups, when a down is just around the corner. That said, I'm going to try and get back into the swing of things in the fall, and who knows, maybe I'll eventually have some really good news to share, and I do want to try and post more about my WIP, which I am actually pretty excited about.
For now, this blog's sporadic nature can be attributed to "summer vacation" (the quotes are due to the fact that I'm not really taking much of a summer vacation this year, with the exception of the trip boyfriend and I are taking to Halifax over the Labour Day weekend).

Speaking of taking a break, have you ever wondered what a hummingbird looks like when it's sleeping? Ok, you probably haven't, but if you have, wonder no longer! It looks like this:

For some reason, I was thinking about hummingbirds on the way to work this morning. It's nice to know the little guys aren't moving 100 miles an hour 24/7. Everybody needs a break sometimes.

Quick QQ09 update:
I currently have 3 partials and 2 fulls out there (I somehow managed to go from no full requests to quite a few, with 2 more that have since been very encouragingly rejected--that is, the rejection letters were encouraging. The rejection itself was not.)
I also have 11 unanswered query letters.
I'm hoping to hear back from any of these 16 agents soon.
One truly amazing agent regretfully passed on a partial recently, citing the many things she loved about the manuscript. It was a little heartbreaking that she had to pass, but she made me feel pretty good about the story I'm telling and my chances for one day seeing Chameleon published. She also referred to it as "Spiderman for girls", which I love, and can't thank her enough for drawing the comparison. I'm going to have to keep that one in mind for future marketing of the book (you know, should I be lucky enough to be in such a position one day...)

I pretty much feel anxious all the time these days, waiting, and waiting. I'm still waiting to hear back on a partial from that very first agent I queried back in April. The wait may kill me, but from what I've heard, the agent is worth that kind of damage so I continue to wait.

I think that's all the news that's fit to print. Oh man, now my tea is cold :(

happy belated b-day TLNTHC!

Many milestones to blog about this week.

First of all, I must wish my dear Chameleon (aka The Little Novel That Hopefully Can), a happy belated 1st birthday. It was on May 28th, 2008, as I lounged poolside at a resort in Cuba that the idea for Chameleon first came thundering into my brain. I couldn't write fast enough that day, not wanting to miss a single character detail or line of dialogue as certain scenes fell into place. We've come a long way my dear and I hope we continue on quite a ways more.

Secondly, I'm VERY excited to say that I've received my third partial request! Since I'm still waiting to hear back from dream agent #1 about my previous partial request, I now officially have two partials out in the world, trying their hardest to shine for two amazing agents. You go little partials! You can do it!

So here are the current QQ09 rankings:
Rejections: 12
Partial Requests: 3!!!
Partial Rejections: 1

I'm quite happy with these stats and I have to say, I've also moved into sort of a zen place when it comes to rejections, which is why today, I want to talk about a bit about my take on them and how it's changed with every one I've received.

I knew going into this process that I would be rejected. And no, I don't mean I knew in the way the dorkiest kid in school knows he'll be rejected by the most popular girl, but secretly hopes that movies don't lie and she'll fall for him anyway. I mean I knew because I work in publishing and I know how it goes and I know that every single one of my favourite authors have experienced rejection. I knew. I was ready. To an extent.

You see, though I was ready for the rejection itself, I wasn't really ready for the ensuing uncertainty. I thought that knowing meant I'd endure unscathed, but knowing you'll be rejected doesn't mean you can convince yourself to not take it personally. Even if you know you shouldn't, you do. At least at first. And, like I said, for me, it wasn't a matter of "I can't believe they rejected me" as much as it was a matter of, "Oh man, was I crazy to think anyone else would like this? What if I'm delusional? What if no agent is going to feel the same way about Brynn and co. as I do?"

But then the first request for a partial came and it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the partial was (kindly and encouragingly) rejected the very next day and I felt like I was back at square one. It felt good that somebody took notice (and to know my query letter, on some level, worked), but it wasn't enough to stop me from questioning the worth of my writing.

And then more rejections came. Many were positive and kind, which made them easier to read, but nothing was calming my fears that the story I'd written just wasn't enough.

Then, when the second partial request came, things changed. Not only was the second partial request from one of the agents at the top of my list, it also served as a form of assurance that calmed me into a new way of thinking about rejection. That second partial request was like a second kiss. The first might have been impulsive, maybe even a fluke, but the second, oh, the second means something is right.

Since part of my job is to reject slush unfit for our imprints, I have a pretty good base knowledge of the varied reasons a manuscript might be rejected. Almost everything rejected at my level is either horrendously written or completely wrong for our programs. I think somewhere in my brain, I began to equate rejection with something that was completely off-target, a conclusion which couldn't have helped my uncertainty, but what I had to remember was that in my job, I send rejections on behalf of a major publisher to people who didn't bother to read submission guidelines and the stuff I reject is only a small fraction of what we receive so the reasons I reject projects don't really translate into the reasons why an agent rejects them.

If something in my slush pile looks decent, I can pass it along to an editor for a second opinion, and they can send it out to a freelancer for a reader's report, if it's positive, other editors will look at it, and eventually, it might work its way up the totem pole. If it's acquired, recognition doesn't really go to the person who found it in a slush pile. At that point, it sort of belongs to the publisher, a good find by the team, and if it fails, the publisher will endure.

While a publisher as large as the one I work for has a wide variety of editorial making its way through many editors and imprints, an agent is one person, who can and should only take on projects that really speak to them. At the end of the day, they have to put their personal reputation on the line for you and that's a huge favour to ask of anyone, let alone an essential stranger. Unlike the slush decisions I make, their rejections aren't based on "this doesn't work" or "this might work". Those two thoughts only mean rejection for an agent. "This might work" isn't enough. It has to be "This is brilliant. It speaks to me and I can't put it down!", which, let's face it, is really subjective. It's hard to feel bitter about a rejection when you start to understand that it's really not necessarily you, or your writing, it's the agent and his/her tastes, and availability/time, and whether or not they personally can go out on a limb for you, again, an essential stranger. Even if your book is amazing, they don't owe you anything. It's either there or it isn't and that has no influence over whether or not it will catch the eye of someone else.

So yeah, long story short, twelve query rejections (so far) don't have me down. If anything, they've brought me to this twelve rejection calm, where I'm over the initial uncertainties and I've settled in for the long haul. I have no plans to give up on something I've been working toward and dreaming of almost all my life. Sure, it's very likely that the rejection blues will drop by for a visit whenever a new rejection shows up in my inbox, but they won't be staying long. I won't let them. Feeling down is fine, but feeling bitter about rejection isn't fair to the book I've written, the agents I've queried, or me, and I have three partial requests to re-read if I need a reminder that my writing has worth.

Nobody said this would be easy and I've accepted that. I'm ready for whatever comes next.

Speaking of what comes next, I've been working on my WIP a lot lately and I'm pleased with the way things are going. Unlike Chameleon, my WIP is intended to stand alone (I don't want to start on Chameleon II until I know what's happening with it). I realize it's a bit odd to post an excerpt from my WIP when I haven't posted boo from Chameleon, but here's a little something from the openining (tentatively titled All That Comes After):

Lying in the freshly cut grass, he doesn't look like himself. His eyes are all wrong. The usual dark brown is clouded like a stream of milk trying to find its way through unstirred black coffee.
And they're so still, so peaceful; unmoving, unseeing, but somehow staring at the brilliant sun in a way the eyes of the living never could.
If we left him here, would the grass grow tall around him, covering his pale blue skin in brambles as it drinks up the water trailing from the corner of his mouth? Would he become one with the lawn, enabling him to stay forever near? I can't bear the thought of someone moving him. Can't fathom a world where we'd ever allow tall men in respectful suits to carry him away, while we return to a life without him. He isn't theirs to take.
I reach out a hand to trace two lines down his pallid face, my trembling fingers drawing across his eyelids, closing them, and he's transformed. Only sleeping. But no, he isn't sleeping. This isn't even him.
Here lies my brother's body, yet, he's nowhere to be seen.

quick query update

Received my second rejection last night, but this one was less form-like and more "you're a strong writer and I enjoyed your pages, but...". This is a positive thing I think. Rejection is natural, all part of the process, but positive rejection is, well, encouraging. Despite the fact that I couldn't get to sleep last night because I was thinking about how I was going to compile a list of the hundreds of agents I'm beginning to fear I'll have to go through before anyone hops on board, I do feel that I'm on the right track and am keeping my fingers crossed that the right agent for me is just around the corner.

I'm still waiting to hear back from a few of my top top picks, but in the meantime, four more query letters are on their way out into the world today. Got to keep moving forward.

Positive vibes, thoughts and prayers are ALWAYS welcome :)

don't fret lil novey, your mom thinks you're cool

So I just received my first official rejection letter. I have to admit, I feel kind of proud. It's like a badge of honour. Ok, it's more like a participation ribbon, but it's a participation ribbon that says "I put myself out there and I'm part of this crazy system now!" or something like that... In all honesty, the first rejection, while disappointing, wasn't at all unexpected (I'm not dellusional) and the agent who penned it is an agent for whom I have such immense respect that the whole thing hasn't got me down. It's just left me hungry for more replies! I'm getting close to the point where I can enter phase two of my querying (the phase where I begin to query more widely), but I'm still anxiously awaiting for more replies from phase one (my fantasy league agent picks).

In honour of Lil Novey's first official rejection, I want to share a little more about her with you. For starters, her working title, which is Chameleon. (*gasp!* Does this revelation mean I can no longer call her Lil Novey?). As I said in a previous post, the idea for Chameleon struck me like a bolt from the blue while I was on vacation and the title struck me pretty immediately as well.

Here's the gist:

The overwhelming pressures of high school are enough to leave anybody feeling lost, but sixteen-year-old Brynn Davis knows what it feels like to actually disappear. When a chameleon bite leaves Brynn with the uncanny ability to camouflage herself at will (rendering her completely invisible), she finds herself fumbling to grasp at the responsibility demanded by her unfamiliar and temptingly powerful new gift, a struggle that is only heightened as she unwittingly becomes aware of its dark origins.

Ok, so that was just a little taste, clipped and pruned from my query. As you can imagine, sixteen-year-old-girl + invisibility = wacky hijinks ensue. Throw in a hot guy or two, some hilariously colourful BFFs and you've got yourself 102,000 words of YA fun. At least, I think it's fun and I really hope some lucky agent out there thinks so too :) More than fun, I think the story has a lot of heart. Having grown up in a small town (well, small city), I wanted all of the quirks and charms that go along with that existance to shine through in Brynn's world and I feel the story is that much richer for it.

I think I'll leave it at that for now. I really hope there comes a day when Brynn and my other darling characters (who, let's face it, are practically real people to me now) will get to have their day in the sun, but for now, it's back to the query-grindstone as I remind myself, it'll only take one "yes" to make my publishing dreams come true. *sigh*

TLNTHC part 2

So here we go! Part 2 of my riveting tale of The Little Novel That Hopefully Can aka Lil Novey.

Upon our return from Cuba, I was a little worried that Lil Novey, so precious and precarious in its infantile stages, would not survive my return to work schedule, but Lil Novey proved to be strong (she was, as it turned out, the story I'd been waiting for) and I not only found time to work on her every day during my lunch break, but absolutely relished in the opportunity to see her so often, even on those days when I started to wonder where she was headed (though I did have a very trusty outline, which I'll probably talk about in a future post on my writing process). Then the biggest help of all came along: Summer hours.

Summer hours in the publishing biz undoubtedly vary from company to company, but here at HQN Ent, it means working a little later from Monday-Thursday and getting every Friday afternoon off. Friday afternoon swiftly became a time for me to polish up that week's worth of lunch-break writing. Things were moving and the excitment inside me was building as I came to realize that Lil Novey had a lot of potential to be Lil Book One in a Lil Trilogy. I sat back and crafted rough outlines for Lil Book Two and Lil Book Three and that helped me to better shape my character development in Lil Novey.

Anyway, 2008 passed as years tend to do and before I knew it, it was December and Lil Novey's first draft was nearing completion. I cannot explain to you the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from realizing that you've written a complete manuscript. As you're writing it, you start to lose track of how many words/pages it is, how much work has gone into it, but when you write that last sentence and finally step back to look at it as a whole, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Many authors refer to their manuscripts as their babies and though I'm yet to birth a human baby (I don't mean for this to sound as though I've birthed a non-human baby...I consider my cats to be my babies. I just didn't birth them), I think I understand where that reference comes from. Here lies this thing that couldn't exist with you. It's such an extension of who you are.

At the end of 2008 and into the new year, I started my first and second round of revisions, working feverishly to correct this and tighten that. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually laughing at some of my own dialogue (this probably makes me sounds like a bit of a loser, but I tend to see it as my characters who are being funny, not me, so it doesn't feel like I'm some lame-o laughing at my own jokes. Ok it kind of feels like that). Anyway, much anguish was put into these first few rounds of editing as I found myself suspended between the joy of having finished it and the impatience of knowing it still had a long way to go before I could send it out for agent consideration. There was nothing I could do, but keep working on it.

After my own editing was finished, I promptly sent it out to my family (I'm very lucky to have a family of teachers with a keen eye for typos, grammar and continuity errors) and that's sort of where Lil Novey currently sits. Though Lil Novey is a YA novel, typically aimed at 14-18 year old girls, my Dad was the first to finish it and provide me with three typed pages of edits and feedback, all of which I was extremely greatful for and have dutifully applied to Lil Novey.

With Easter weekend only a few days away, we plan to gather as a family and discuss Lil Novey. My parents have refered to it as a book club discussion and I have to say, I'm very excited to be able to talk about all these characters I've grown to love with the most important people in my life (who I also love). I'm hoping to take the feedback from that session and make my final (are they ever truly final?) revisions to Lil Novey before sending her out into the world to be seen by important agenty-type people and the like. It sort of feels like I'm preparing her for her first day of school. I really hope she shines.

TLNTHC part 1

So in my first post (hi little post down there!) I said I wanted this blog to be more of a record of my writing ambitions so I might as well write a little introduction to explain where my writing has been and where it's hopefully headed. I've decided to call this post "part 1" because it's getting latish and I'm quite sleepy, which I know is going to mean either a condensed version or a two-parter and since I really suck at condensed versions...

Like most who enjoy writing, I've been writing since I was very young. I can still remember these little stories I'd write in elementary school (fully illustrated in 16-colour pencil crayon glory... side note: boyfriend's mom tried to convince boyfriend and I that "pencil crayon" isn't a real thing. They're apparently called "coloured pencils". I remain unconvinced.) Anyway, my teacher would bind the stories we wrote in these flaps of cardboard covered in old wallpaper scraps to give them nice sturdy covers and they were THE COOLEST THINGS EVER! I'm not certain about this next part, but I think it was a bit of a "If you keep writing em, I'll keep binding em" deal and I somehow ended up with like ten of these puppies by the end of the year even though the original assignment was probably for us to write one.

While stories were clearly a big part of my life at school, they were an even bigger part of my life at home with my sisters and I always coming up with extremely in-depth plots surrounding our many stuffed animals, our Barbies, or ourselves playing the parts of characters from Jem, Saved by the Bell, Ghostwriter, you name it. Some of the Barbie-related storylines got pretty intense with the children (the skipper dolls) always throwing wild parties, getting involved in games of chicken (the pink Barbie jeep managed to withstand a lot, including many trips down the stairs) and a completely hilarious plot line wherein the Ken doll father of my family (each sister had a family of dolls and they were all neighbours) would go batshit crazy every time he ate this certain type of chili pepper and would enter some trance where he would kidnap the Barbie wife of my older sister's family and then take off with her (in the pink Barbie Jeep, which almost always ended up rolling off a "cliff" otherwise known as another trip down the stairs). This plot line got so involved that my Barbie wife eventually hung a poster of "chili peppers to avoid" in my dollhouse kitchen so that she'd remember to never cook with them again. Thinking back about this both makes me laugh uncontrollably and wonder if nine-year-old me was just a little bit certifiable. I'm going to stick with the excuse that I was just extremely creative :) We had a lot of fun.

As I got older, I continued to write in school and won both of the only writing contests I ever entered (one was a poetry contest for the Royal Canadian Legion and the other a Ghostwriter short story contest for TVO). Writing was in my blood. So much so that after finding myself extremely bored after the very first session of OAC (what used to be senior year in Ontario high schools) Physics, I marched right into the guidance counselor's office and dropped it. "How can you be sure you won't need this for university?" he'd asked me. "I don't see how Physics is going to help me study English, you foolish man of guidance!" I said, then laughed maniacally. Ok, I made that part up, but the point is I knew I wanted to study writing and that's exactly what I went on to do, graduating five years later from the University of Waterloo with an honors degree in Rhetoric and Professional Writing.

I have about fifteen or so ideas for novels floating around inside my head. The hardest thing to do over the years has been to focus on any given one for more than a month or two at a time. At one point, I was getting pretty far with this one story idea, but then the third person narrative started to feel all wrong. I realized I needed to rewrite it in first person, but it suddenly felt like such a pain and I couldn't bring myself to do it so I shelved that story, convinced I'd go back to it after a few weeks apart. What I didn't realize at the time was that it just wasn't that story's time yet. I had another story in me that needed to be told first.

A year later, the story that needed to be told still hadn't reared its head, but I was working on another story idea all together. This one was for a children's chapter book, a mystery about a kid detective (which I'm still excited about and still plan to write one day). Everything for that felt like it was coming together, but again, the excitement to pound it out just wasn't there.

Fast-forward to May 2008. Boyfriend and I are on vacation in Cuba and while floating around in the resort's pool, I'm struck by this idea that pierces my brain so sharply that I have to fling myself from the pool's warm embrace and feverishly search my bag for the notebook I take everywhere. I start writing, the words flowing from me as though they're being dictated from some part of my brain I didn't know was there. Those lines of dialogue were the beginning of what would turn out to be the first novel I ever passionately finished writing, TLNTHC (The Little Novel That Hopefully Can), which I'm going to call Lil Novey for short (actual title along with description surely to come in a future post when I feel more confident about putting it all out there...)

I think that's all for now because I really do need to go to bed, but stay tuned for TLNTHC part 2: Lil Novey's journey from Cuba to 102,000 words.