Friday, July 6, 2012

Editor Hunt

I was so busy organizing the Anniversary Blast and working on my website creating new pages for events calendar, presentations and school visit  pages that I didn't get to blog here. I have no idea how many days left until it all kicks off. 

Oh, the countdown gadget says 9 days left. Did you get your own countdown gadget? Talk about fun. I should make one for all my deadlines!

Naiche at the BookGirlReads had a blog post up about the Anniversary Blast before the ink on my email was dry. I was so touched by her kind words. She made me want to stay up all night, every night writing an amazing new book that will sell immediately so my loyal readers can have a new book from me this year. Or, blog another book. I loved blogging here with all of you chiming in every day. 

But, I do have two amazing new YA novels that you will love already written. My agent will find the perfect editor for one or the other or both soon. It's worth the wait. I promise. You will adore them. 

I'm hearing from more and more of our old friends who want to be part of the party. Thanks so much. It's not too late to arrange an interview or blog post for your readers. Let me know if you didn't get my promo email about the celebration, and I'll send it to you.

Here on the blog, I'll be running special features all week:

July 16th  - Contest Kick-off. Kindle promotion starts (free Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer, and Storm's new Kindle ebook for only $ 0.99)!

July 17 - Q&A with Michael! Drop by and ask your questions. He'll answer them all. (Taking questions now! Leave them in the comments section, and I'll make sure he gets them.) 

July 18 - Cut Scenes Revealed. 

July 19 - Q&A with Leesie! (Taking questions now!) 

July 20 - Happy Birthday, Michael! Drop in for ice cream and cake and receive a .jpg of Michael's first words. Contest and Kindle Promotion end at midnight.

Phew! Add in all the stops I'll be making on YA blogs and a big 50 blog blitz through Reading Addiction Blog Tours on Wednesday, and it's going to be a week to remember. 

Speaking of remembering. Here's the post I wrote about my editor hunt. It's just missing one picture:

I give you, my rejection letters. 

Three and a half years worth. This doesn't include the emailed ones. Or the one I received in the mail the day of Taken by Storm's release. Editors don't even send emailed rejections any more. If you don't hear back in a specified amount of time, usually six months, it's a no--which makes an agent even more vital today. Unless you're crazy and write books on blogs! Or you go the indy route--which isn't as easy as it sounds. 

Enough dithering. Here's the post I promised you yesterday. I make no promises for tomorrow!
Editor Hunt
from "Storm's Story," Friday, May 23, 2008, from my archived website

Lexa and I just negotiated the final line edit changes and TAKEN BY STORM has gone off to the copy editors. Ah, the joy of having my own brilliant editor, at last. [Oh, how I miss her!]

Editors are almost as elusive as that other mythical creature in the literary world, agents. My editor search was long, trying, and wearing. Our move to Switzerland just before I graduated from Vermont College, didn’t make it any easier. I sent out lots of queries, got back some requests. I got close several times only to be disappointed. I have a long list of editors who would love to see other projects from me, but passed on this one.

One editor asked me to rewrite my he said/she said dual first person novel, entirely in Michael’s point of view. A sliver of hope. Hooray. Of course, I did it. She didn’t quite like that and suggested another revision. She missed elements from the earlier version I sent her--especially the “dive log” journal entries I’d used for Michael’s voice. She suggested I try using a mix of the dive logs entries and third person. I was skeptical, but went ahead. Unagented, unpublished. What else could I do? 

Her response was, “the third person is a little stiff.” Well, duh. Especially when paired with the intimate dive logs I’d created for Michael’s story. She’d expressed interest in another project, so I played nice. (You have to always play nice, no matter how grumpy you feel.) [Me? Grumpy? Never?]

I tried to set TAKEN BY STORM aside and finish the requested project, but I couldn’t leave it broken like that. I went to a conference in Munich that featured Markus Zusak (THE BOOK THIEF). He spoke about gleaning the gems from our failures and trying again and again until it works--revising hundreds of times if need be. I took his advice to heart. [I adore him!]

I knew Michael’s dive logs were my gems. I also loved Leesie and Michael’s instant message chats. I decided to try to transform my manuscript into a collage novel, also known as documentary novel. I had Michael’s entries figured out. I pulled the instant message dialogue out of the text and wrote more and put them back in as “ChatSpot” transcripts. Leesie is a poet, so it was a natural step to turn her prose narration into poems. And “Leesie’s Most Private Chapbook,” was born. 

I had a collage draft done when I went to Paris SCBWI’s Sequester at the Abbaye Royaumont last (2007) November searching for revisionary inspiration. 

The Abbey where I met my editor, Lexa Hillyer then of Razorbill
I filled up on the writerly wisdom the gathered editors and lecturers had to share. I had a twenty minute conference with Lexa Hillyer of Razorbill, and she gave me some great, practical direction. Lexa is brilliant with romance structure. Her enthusiasm and excitement for my story energized me.

I went home and got to work. Again.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Enter Leesie

Twelve days until the ten year anniversary celebration kicks off. Taken by Storm's Kindle version is now live. Everything's falling into place. I'm announcing the contest Monday, July 16th. I've enlisted bloggers across the globe to spread the word. I'd love to visit as many blogs as I can that week. And I've got a 50 blog promo blitz running on Wednesday. Twelve days until the party starts. I hope you'll all be there.

I wrote the following post in 2008 just after I finished my second revision for my editor at Penguin. Oh, my. I've got some stories to tell you about that, too. All in good time.

from "Storm's Story," Tues., May 13th, 2008, my original website

Now, where was I? Leesie. Full name--Aleesa Hunt. Poor Leesie. She had a rough time coming in to her own. She started out getting saddled with way too much me.

Every character I create has a part of me in them--my emotions, experiences, understanding, and imagination. That’s all I’ve got to work with.  But a character that is too much the author can’t become a unique individual and grow with the other characters. Autobiography isn’t fiction.

When Ron Koertge (STONER AND SPAZ), my first advisor at Vermont College, commented that, “a sharp young editor in her black DKNY dress isn’t going to warm to this,” unless I gave Leesie more backbone and spunk, I got busy and changed her up. I gave her a retro leather jacket that the most styling girl in my Seminary class wore to church. Then I gave Leesie long, gorgeous hair--like my sisters had. And most of all, I stopped trying to force all my most hideous high school experiences on her in the first thirty pages.

She stayed a Mormon, though. Ron encouraged that from the very beginning, and I’m grateful. If I know anything, I know Mormon teenagers.

As I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve come to believe that writers do much more than write what they know. They write what intrigues them, what they love, what they believe, what they are passionate about. For me, that’s my faith.  I don’t write about my faith. That doesn’t work in fiction. I write from my faith. Mormonism forms my artistic core--the well I draw from. With an LDS character, I can go really deep. Give my readers an intimate journey of the challenges she faces when she falls in love with a boy outside her faith.

And I’d set myself a much harder task than I realized with Michael. Sure, I know lots of scuba talk and can stuff his mouth with that. I have the voices of my teen sons in my ear. But how could I even begin to fathom the intimate workings of an elite breathe-hold diver who survives a hurricane that kills his parents? A sexually experienced guy who believes in the ocean instead of God?

The more I wrote and revised, listened to mentors, critique pals, and editors, the closer I got to Michael. My editor helped a lot, too. I think I’m finally there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grandma Poem Confession

I just heard from Amazon that Taken by Storm's Kindle conversion is done!! Hooray, hoooooray!! It's THIRTEEN days and counting until my big Tenth Anniversary Celebration, and it would be a huge flop without that new Storm ebook. Panic. Prayers. More panic. More prayers. It seems those panicked petitions for divine intervention worked. The new, READABLE, Kindle ebook will be live on Amazon in 12 hours or less. Cue "Celebrate good times, come on!" from KC and the Sunshine Band. (Best dance song everrrrrr!)

But now I can relax and countdown the days with more reminiscences from "Storm's Story" from my old website that sadly passed away on Saturday.

Before I go on to the next post from my website, I have a confession. A story I've kept to myself. I left Vermont College in July 2002 with another piece of the mosaic that became Taken by Storm. I had a rough draft of a poem tucked in my files that recorded a sacred experience I had late one night in my tiny VC dorm room.

The heart of the Vermont College residency experience is workshop. The students are placed in groups of about 15-20 and are required to submit around 20 pages for critique. Two faculty members are assigned to each workshop group. Each workshop session, groups critique two writers. It's not a hostile time for people to show off how brilliantly they can tear apart someone's work. It's an intense, creative session when all these wonderful writers use their brilliant minds to help you make your piece the best it can be. Writing is all about revising, revising, revising. This kind of feedback and is rare and invaluable.

For my first workshop, I submitted the opening chapters for Time Assassins (now titled, Slipped, and on submission at several publishers). It's a YA romantic adventure now, but back then it was written for middle grade boys. I didn't even know what YA was. 

I'd given the main character panic disorder, and the group agreed it didn't fit. The main character was traveling in Switzerland with his outrageous Aunt Wiggy (who, by the way, now stars in the middle grade boy book I just finished--The Order of the Flick). Louise Hawes--amazing author and teacher who co-led the workshop with Sharon Darrow--wanted to know why I'd thrown something so serious into the mix. 

I told them about my grandmother on my mom's side who suffered from panic attacks and rarely left her bedroom, let alone the house. She was Valedictorian of her class at Ricks Academy and a vivacious, fun mom until her third child was born. 
Mary Hunt Raybould, my grandmother. Isn't she beautiful?

Then she, as my mother always used to say, "got sick." She went to the state mental hospital, an expensive sanitarium in California, and then back home to her bedroom where she ruled from her bed. Her mother, my mom's grandmother, moved in to look after the children. Louise Hawes challenged me to write about that.  

That night my brain wouldn't turn off. As I went over and over comments and suggestions people had made and prayed and pondered about the direction I should go, I felt closer to my grandmother than ever before.

When I was a child, Grandma Mary was a sick old lady in a nursing home or a mental hospital or another nursing home. We lived far away, so I didn't visit her often. But I inherited the family histories she'd gathered (maybe wrote) and loved her for passing all those pioneer stories down to me. I lived far away when she pass away and didn't get to attend her funeral.

As I thought about her and the talents I'd inherited from her, a vision of Grandma opened in my mind. Perfect. Glowing. Beautiful. She blessed my efforts and then left. Overwhelmed. I reached for paper and scribbled.

I no longer have the rough draft, but the poem survived and became Leesie's heart and soul. I built scenes and conversations and more scenes around that poem. For years it was the only poem in Taken by Storm. It was pivotal in Michael and Leesie's relationship. I decided Leesie had to be a poet, so I could incorporate my grandma poem into the story's mosaic--which, eventually, led me to collaging the entire manuscript and writing all of Leesie's narration in free verse poems.

Two years later I graduated from Vermont College just weeks after we'd moved from Canada to Switzerland. My family wasn't able to attend the ceremony. I walked across the stage to receive my degree while a VC faculty member read Leesie's words, "Happiness flowed out of her, filled me up. Tangible--like you could pour it from a pitcher." Tears filled my eyes. My Grandma Mary was with me again.

In honor of my Grandma Mary and the continuing inspiration she is to me, here is Leesie's grandma poem, "She Comes to Me," from Taken by Storm, Chapter 10, "Unfuddled."

She Comes to Me

I lie in darkness
spent of tears,
tired of sleep,
close to soft memories
alive in her fuzzy sweater
draped on my chair.
I wrap my heart
in pastel patchwork
pieced by her hand,
my tired mind, empty,

The night erupts into flowing
white glory:

She comes to me,
a pure and shining presence,
knocking on my soul,
defogged, unfuddled,
reveling in perfection,
spilling joy that
embraced my sorrow,
she smiles
and waves

This summer I'm turning to my mother's story. After years of researching, I finally have the key to it. I'm excited and know my grandmother, from the other side, will be there when I need her again.