Writing Tips

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — S.A. Larsen


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S.A. Larsen aka Sheri, welcome to the blog! First things first, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes and…step inside the Baby Author Me Time Machine.

Ooh . . . it’s more spacious in here than I would have thought, and this chair is so comfy.

We’re heading all the way back to the day after you sold your first book. Remember the joy, the celebrations with friends, the cake? Oh, so much cake. If only you had known the trials and tribulations to come.

Yes! I remember all the joy (and, honestly shock) after I found out I’d sold a book. But I’ll skip the cake. Just the frosting, please.

Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You and offer her some sage advice. What do you wish you would have known? What would you have absolutely avoided? What did you spend weeks worrying about that ended up being no big deal?

The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom. So let’s dive in!

Over to you, Sheri…

Sheri_2yrs_oldOkay, look young scribe, this writing gig is going to be tough. Not that you thought it was going to be easy; you didn’t. But it will take lots of honing the craft through repeated writing sessions and classes, blogging to meet like-minded writers, and tons of reading. All that will eat up loads of time. And when you decide to do all this, you’ll be raising four kids spanning a range of ten years, helping to care for ailing parents (one with multiple sclerosis), and joining your husband in running a family business. Oh yeah, and you’ll need to breath, too.

Plus, writing stories is not just about writing. It’s about bookmarks and book covers, line edits and royalties. Let’s not even talk about all the conferences and signings you’ll need to keep up with. Unfortunately, you’ll miss most of those – partly because of life responsibilities, partly because of where you live. This will become a great concern for you, not being able to physically mingle with those like you. Don’t sweat what you can’t control. Move on and write.

Trust me, the bustle and pressure of writing every day (and all that comes with it) will get to you. Remember you want this because you love it. Find you can’t remember why you loved it? Look at all you’ve accomplished to that point and be grateful. All will be restored.

The first three valuable lessons you’ll quickly learn about writing:

  1. Writing is a solitary endeavor; you’ll get lonely.
  2. You CAN’T do it alone if you want to grow in the craft and in the publishing world, which sounds like it contradicts #1, but it doesn’t.
  3. Most family members and friends won’t understand what you do.

Thus, one of your favorite areas of writing will be Critique Groups. You will have many; some will fade as career paths change or grow, while others you’ll remain forever friends with. Writing buds rock! They get you and are always there with encouragement to keep you writing. Be confident enough to nurture these relationships. No price tag could label their value. And the cool thing is that you get to help them in return.

Motley Education - Full Cover with Text-1

Speaking about help, Agents and Editors are hard-working people who can help you, too. When you begin writing, other than having your story out in the wild, you’ll want nothing more than to sign with an agent. You’ll feel you need the guidance, which will be true. But guess what? After two years of submitting to agents, you toss that idea, submit to publishers on your own, and receive multiple offers on your first manuscript. This is what gets you an agent. And it will be totally cool . . . while it lasts. Sadly, eighteen months after you sign with your agent you will make the choice to end that relationship. Too much to go into here, but just know that you did nothing wrong. It just wasn’t a good fit. Don’t wallow and let your mojo for writing fade. *Spoiler Alert* – Because that’s exactly what you’ll do. Trust me. It’s super hard to climb back up the mountain of exuberant passion for writing. You will start climbing. R-e-a-l-l-y slowly, but you will.

A Side Note: when family and friends ask how your writing is going, be honest. Tell them about how raising four kids takes ALL your time, that writing until 2:00 AM is tough and you often fall asleep and end up with keyboard markings all over your face. Share the business side of selling books, what you really make on one book sold. After you begin to let them see your writing world through reality, they will become much kinder with their questions and support. They simply are unaware of the facts of writing and publishing professionally, as were you before you dove into the industry. So, chin up!

And you do lift that chin, especially during School Author Visits. Seeing how you live up in the sticks (North-NORTHeast LOL), in-person school visits will be hard for you. Way too much travel with your family responsibilities. BUT you will find your niche in cyber school visits. You’ll begin doing them alone and you’ll visit with young readers in India, England, and the States. Your favorite will be students from Scotland because they couldn’t contain their excitement on meeting you. Yes, you. These visits will feed you the writing fuel you’ll need. Soon, you’ll team up with an incredibly talented group of middle grade authors who love writing spooky stories like you. Your cyber school visits together will be so much fun! You will learn lots about them, yourself, and that all the sacrifices you make to write your stories matters. Young readers do read your books. They are encouraged and excited by your stories. A few even tell you that you’ve inspired them to write. You will need to rely on these sweet truths often.

My biggest advice to you would be to remember that you matter, too. You began telling stories to your children when they were babies, up at all hours rocking or feeding them. And in the SUV, while driving to this youth hockey game or that one. Writing is your comfort, your inspiration, your therapy to bask in life’s joys and work through its angst. Life will happen. You will experience happiness, but also a lot of loss and pain. Don’t shut out these emotions. Embrace and use them to strengthen your stories, to take your characters to emotional depths that readers can’t resist. Be brave and trust that you are good enough to do this. You are not perfect. You never will be. But you are worth it.

S.A. Larsen Author image 1-1S.A. Larsen is the award-winning author of MOTLEY EDUCATION, a fantasy adventure for middle grade readers, and MARKED BEAUTY, her young adult fantasy-romance. She loves to explore imaginary passageways to hidden worlds with all sorts of creepy creatures. When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children, Sadie the German Shepherd, and a trio of kittens. Visit her cyber home at www.salarsenbooks.com.

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Robin Kirk


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Today I’m thrilled to welcome Robin Kirk to the ‘Baby Author Me’ hot seat. Robin is the author of numerous books, including The Bond, first in the Pentaklon trilogy (Blue Crow Books 2018), More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (PublicAffairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She coedits the The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and is an editor of Duke University Press’s World Readers series.

Welcome, Robin! As regular readers will know, the BABY AUTHOR ME series gives authors the chance to look back in time and give some much-needed advice to their ‘Baby Author’ selves. Today Robin will be focusing on the dreaded…launch party! Take it away, Robin:

ROBIN: I was the kind of kid—say between 6 and a gazillion years old—who would immediately hide when the doorbell rang. I vividly remember a group of lovely carolers arriving at my childhood house and me cowering in the basement, as if they’d specifically come to render me as their Christmas goose.

Parties were and are excruciating. I can speak in public, but only after several apprentice-ship years and never when the topic is me. If the topic is some injustice or a fascinating piece of research I want to share, I am all in.

Just not when I am the center of attention.

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Can you guess which one is Robin?

I would loathe a surprise birthday party (not that anyone has ever dared schedule one) because I know exactly what would happen. My face would set in a rictus of appreciation and hilarity, and I would wonder if all of those people gathered for fun realized what an un-fun person I am. Would my closely guarded un-fun-ness be put on excruciating display? Had they come to this place by mistake, for another, more worthy person?

I bring all of these feelings to book launches. For days, I experience a low, thrumming dread. Most recently, when The Bond launch had to be cancelled because of weather, I was secretly elated. I know this is the author’s job or duty or responsibility. I’m all for all the rest of marketing—interviews, social media, whatever—but me as the center of attention?

I’d rather be launched out of a cannon.

But a dear friend, who noticed the pallor and the sweats as I prepared for the rescheduled release of The Bond, helped me think about the book signing in another way. Writing a book is hard. Really hard. Exceptionally, devastatingly, wrenchingly hard. And that’s not even including publication. If you publish a book, an honest-to-Betsy book, you have kind of won a personal Powerball.

Not that this pays, but you know what I mean.

Allow your friends to celebrate. Not you, mind you. This astonishing achievement. You’ve written that glorious thing, A BOOK. The book is the centerpiece, not you.

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The Bond launch was winding down when two teens approached to ask me about one of the characters. I was taken aback. A voice in my head whispered, “How on earth do they know about 12?” 12 is my mutant battledog, a combination of Iorek from The Golden Compass, The Incredible Journey animals, and every bad pet I’ve ever cared for (not a few). Then I realized: they’d read my story. They’d liked my story. In some way, I’d managed to conjure 12 from computer clicks and countless cups of coffee. 12 was real now. She’s escaped my hard drive and was pacing around in the heads of these teens, scaring the bejeesus out of them.

It was lovely. It was the best. Not because of me, mind you. But because I’d made something, a character and a story, that is now a part of other people’s lives.

I’m still trepidatious about launches. But I’m also a little eager. I’m craving that sparkle in the eyes of a young reader. I’m craving the little scare I hope they get, and a little of the adventure, and a lot of hope. That’s what’s the center of attention at a book launch: hope, the hope that’s in books and the hope that’s in the readers, especially the young ones, who love them.

KIM: Thanks so much for stopping by, Robin! I’m feeling better about my next book launch already 🙂 Phew!

To find out more about Robin Kirk, visit her online at robinkirk.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Cynthia Reeg


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Cynthia Reeg, welcome to the blog! Cynthia is the author of the spooky middle grade novels FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS.

First things first, Cynthia, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes and…step inside the Baby Author Me Time Machine.

We’re heading all the way back to the day after you sold your first book. Remember the joy, the celebrations with friends, the cake? Oh, so much cake. If only you had known the trials and tribulations to come.

Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You and offer her some sage advice. What do you wish you would have known? What would you have absolutely avoided? What did you spend weeks worrying about that ended up being no big deal?

The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom. So let’s dive in!

What would you tell Baby Author You about…

Book promotion: It’s pretty much non-stop from the moment you become a serious writer. Yep, even before there is a book! You need to create a website and start connecting with authors, teachers, librarians, editors, and agents on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You need to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to meet all of the people mentioned above—as well as learn how to both write and promote your book. Once you do have a contract, be sure to join an authors’ group—I was in the Sweet Sixteens debut group and am now part of the Spooky Middle Grade authors. In these groups, you’ll share marketing info and join together for promotional ventures like Skype visits, conference panels, book giveaways, and so much more. Be creative with your promotions. Look for local tie-ins. Make yourself known to local bookstores and libraries. Get the word out about school visits. Do your best but don’t wear yourself out because you need to keep writing!

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Book blurbs: As I mentioned above, I joined numerous groups along the way, so when it was time to ask for book blurbs, I was fortunate to be in good company. Many of my Sweet Sixteen friends offered lovely blurbs and reviews. Remember though, be generous with your time and reviews/blurbs of others books as well. It’s true that in giving we receive. I did also reach out to a couple of celebrity authors who I met for blurbs, but those didn’t pan out. Your publisher may also solicit blurbs for you, but I’d advise you to be an advocate for yourself on garnering book blurbs. I don’t know that the blurbs are instrumental in bumping up sales, but they are lovely on (and perhaps) inside your book for browsing readers. I also used one or two on bookmarks.

Writing first drafts: First drafts are like climbing a mountain. At first your idea is like the glorious peak you see in what seems the not-too-far distance and you set out with light feet (and speedy fingers.) But the more you hike, the steeper the mountain becomes. You get lost along the way numerous times and have to backtrack. You run out of water and energy and enthusiasm and you stumble across the skeletal remains of an earlier hiker (okay, so it was only a sickly cow. But you get the idea.) Somehow though—usually with the unending help/support/advice of your amazing critique group—you continue on, until the wind-blown summit is underfoot and you type “THE END.”

Whew!!! Your story is awesome! It’s unbelievable! It’s breathtaking … and then it’s time to start revising.

Words of advice: Be persistent. Believe in yourself but keep asking for help. Celebrate each milestone along the way.

Friends and family: I am probably one of the luckiest children’s authors I know in that I’ve had nothing but strong support and encouragement from so many family and friends. If your family isn’t supportive, look elsewhere for support. Carve out time for your writing. Find other children’s authors or close friends who realize how important this venture is to you. For me, writing is pretty much like breathing. I don’t know how I’d survive for long without it. Find a support group who understands that and it will make all the difference in helping you achieve your writing goals. Most of all—enjoy the journey!

Cynthia Reeg, an intrepid librarian, ventured from behind the book stacks to contend with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas in her very own picture books and middle grade novels. While she has had her share of worldly adventures—fishing for piranhas in the Amazon, climbing the Great Wall of China, and white water rafting in New Zealand—she grew up in the Midwest and now splits her time between Missouri and Florida. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit www.cynthiareeg.com.

Twitter: @cynthiareeg

Facebook: @cynthiareegauthor