Deadwood, my middle-grade mystery fantasy debut, is out from Spencer Hill Press at long last
This is the second go-round for me, and believe me, I know how fragile the dream of writing is. My kids’ contemporary fantasy was first released by a small press which went out of business, and now it’s out in a beautiful new edition from Spencer Hill Press. There have been a lot of twists, bumps, and flat tires on this road.
I’ve been telling my story here on the Operation Awesome blog for four years now, and I’m so grateful for the support this community has shown me. I might not still be writing if I hadn’t been forced to have something to say by the bloggers, friends, and readers of OA. In my first blog post in 2010, I wrote, “It’s hard to put myself out to the world as a writer, to suggest to others in the literary community that I have something worth saying. As an unpublished writer, the hardest part is to expose my dreams to family, friends, and not-so-friends before those dreams have been fulfilled.”
On Saturday, May 31, I went to Book Expo America 2014 for the first time. The Javits Center is a huge place, and the experience is a bit overwhelming. Thus the only picture on my phone is this one:
Spencer Hill founder Kate Kaynak took this of me with Laura Diamond, author of The Zodiac Collector, before our joint signing.
But through the magic of social media, it is not the only photo of me. I show up, Where’s Waldo-like, in the background of other photos.
Many writers have a number they track. For most of us, it’s the number of rejections we’ve received. Somewhere around rejection 100, I began to take a perverse pride in the growing tally. Rejection is the author’s badge of honor, right?
Then picture book writer Carol Gordon Ekster posted this on Twitter the other day:
My 1000th submission just entered the folder on desktop. Writing 12 yrs now. Not bad.If u don’t submit, u don’t get published!
— Carol Gordon Ekster (@cekster) May 23, 2014
It occurred to me that I’ve been counting all wrong. The number I should be tracking is not my rejections, but my submissions. As Carol wrote, you can’t get published if you don’t submit. And you can’t control your rejections — only your submissions.
I’m not advocating for leafleting the publishing world with books that aren’t ready, blanketing editors who aren’t right. But if you’re counting submissions, there’s no number that’s too high.
Middle-grade and children’s writer Dionna L. Mann tagged me in the Writing Process Blog Hop, a colossal chain letter of writing insight. Thanks, Dionna!
First a little about Dionna L. Mann. I first got to know her vivid, poetic writing through her middle-grade novel, Freedom Pen, about two rural Virginian children determined to rescue a pitbull puppy. Dionna is a freelance journalist for Charlottesville Family and writes children’s nonfiction, with her work appearing children have appeared in Wee Ones, Stories for Children, and Highlights for Children and LADYBUG. Dionna has an amazing grasp of voice, both for her characters and as an author, and has published articles regarding the craft of writing for children in Kid Magazine Writer, the Institute of Children’s Literature & in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ newsletters.
Find Dionna L. Mann at her website, www.dionnalmann.com
Now here are my writing process answers.
1. What am I working on?
I’ve been spending a lot of time on my picture books lately, and I’m working on adding some nonfiction backmatter to one and revise a few others to get them submission-ready. I’m also at the beginning of a sequel to Deadwood, my middle-grade fantasy that will be released by Spencer Hill middle-grade June 24.
2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?
I write “small magic” – in Deadwood Hannah and Martin are trying to save a tree, not the world. There is magic, but it’s limited and it’s supposed to be almost scientific so that it seems plausible. There aren’t big superpowers – just small ones, with contemporary situations and relationships that anchor the story to real life.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I don’t know why some stories grab me – I’m looking for a twist on what could actually happen — real life amplified a bit. I search for interesting situations and then try to make them a bit bigger. I’m surprised sometimes when certain themes emerge — middle grade and picture books! — like individualism, science, environmentalism.
4. How does my writing process work?
I usually take a long time between having an idea and a draft. I’m a slow writer – I aim for 500 words a day, not 1000. Sometimes I’m happy with 300. When I write middle-grade, I like to have a fairly complete outline, synopsis, and research in place before I start. But can really procrastinate endlessly in planning, so at some point, I just begin, and then work a little ahead at a time. The holes usually fill themselves in in unexpected ways.
For picture books, I usually hold onto an idea for a long time while I work out how to write it. Then when I do, the draft usually comes pretty quickly and cleanly – although also too long. I am more likely to have a 1000-word day when writing the first draft of a picture book, and that is not a good thing!
Thanks for tagging me, Dionna. Now I pay it forward by tagging some of my writing friends.
I tagged Amparo because I just beta read her YA traditional fantasy, and I want the world to know about it too. I got to know Amparo as the co-founder of the Operation Awesome blog, home of the Mystery Agent contest. She’s a self-professed super fan — a proud Potterhead, Whedonite, Marshmallow, Sherlockian, Supernaturalist, and a Whovian-in-progress. A resident of beautiful Puerto Rico, Amparo speaks two and a half languages (Spanish, English, and sort of Italian) and is finishing up her Master’s degree in Literature.
I tagged Jenna because she always has an Intriguing new project in the works. Jenna will debut with Virgin, her upcoming YA paranormal from World Weaver Press, and she’s a versatile YA and MG fantasy and scifi author. Jenna grew up in Shoreview, MN, and moved to California to find refuge in a land of film, her favorite pastime.
Soon Jenna noticed that the TV needed turning up, spoken words seemed muted, and everyone sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents. Diagnosed with a significant hearing loss, Jenna turned from movies to books, where every word was savored and none were missed.
I tagged R.M. because I want to know how he gets in the head of his 12-year-old characters. He’s the author of The Secret of Haney Field, his latest middle-grade mystery, due out September 2 from MB Publishing. By day, R. M. is a computer scientist and adult and childrens’ book writer who lives in a small New England town with his wife, two sons, one dog and one cat. At night, he’s a mystery writer and photo research ninja.
Thanks to Dionna for tagging me. Don’t break the chain, friends!
When I wrote Deadwood, it was a standalone. The story was resolved at the end, and I didn’t see how it could continue. Some readers asked if there would be a sequel, and the answer was no.
Then I found another story for Martin and Hannah. I had other projects before it came to the surface, and it simmered for a long time (nearly burning dry and setting off the fire alarm along the way). But now, with the Spencer Hill Middle Grade release of my debut approaching June 24, my thoughts have turned back to the world of Deadwood and my 12-year-old characters. I want to be in their heads again, and at last my Deadwood sequel moving off my story-ideas list and into a work in progress. and not just another item on my story-ideas list.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve joined the wise and wild minds of Project Middle-Grade Mayhem, a blog of kids’ writers in a community for readers, teachers, and librarians. I’ve been a long time reader of the site, founded by Hilary Wagner (Nightshade City) books, and I was honored to be invited by exiting member, Dee Garretson (Wildfire Run). I’m sharing my welcome with fellow Mayhemmers Jim Hill (Cape Cod Writers Center) and Joanne Roddy (Jules and the Djinn Master) — good company!
My first post on Project Mayhem will be May 13 — looking forward to sharing some thoughts (once I come up with them).