grains of sand
the sparrow’s song
echoes in stone
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Photo: Turkey Run State Park, Indiana, c.b.w. 2018
Words: haiku, c.b.w. 2018
Over the last five years, I’ve written a novel, several poetry collections, and have multiple WIPs scattered across my hard drive. My muse is inspired and very active and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
However, the pile of rejections and changes in my day job have caused me to re-think my goals when it comes to writing. Do I want to be published in the traditional way? Sure, but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me.
I don’t say this because I have doubts in my ability to write. Nor do I question how much I love writing. My doubt lies more in playing the publishing game. It’s a tough industry and I find myself caught between hating to fail and knowing when I’ve hit my limit.
Over the last six months, I’ve been rejected more than I care to mention. It’s demoralizing to say the least, especially when I love the novel I’m pitching, (This has been the trend for not just the last six months, but the last 5 years). On the poetry front, it’s been a little more positive with good stats for my haiku blog and a strong showing in nation wide competition, but I’m still left wanting what every writer wants … readers.
During the same six months, my day job has taken off in ways I never expected. Achieving National Board Certification turned out to be a much bigger deal than I thought and it’s opened doors I didn’t even know existed. In the next school year, I’ll be taking on a new administrative role that comes with new responsibilities. I’m excited and passionate about doing more for my school and students.
When I sat down and put all these pieces together, I realized when I’m finding more success at the day job, the dream job has to change shape! I’ve looked into self publishing on various platforms, but the more research I did, the more I realized it just isn’t for me. The amount of time needed for things other than actually writing the book is far more than I have available!
Then, I discovered Wattpad. It’s a mix of social media and online publishing that allows writers and readers to interact. However, the appeal for me is the ability to publish a book that is accessible on any device with the Wattpad app. It reads like an eBook and allows readers to comment as they read. There are pros and cons like any other platform, but I like the wide audience (65 million members), the support features for writers, and the connections it has with the publishing industry.
I’ve decided to give Wattpad a try by starting with some small poetry collections. If I like the results, I may choose to go a little further. The endgame for me is to release my work out in the open and to have a wider readership. The social media aspect is also a selling point – I want more interaction with readers and the chance to interact with other writers beyond the blogosphere, (I love you all here, but it’s not as social!).
I’m pleased to announce my first collection is now available on Wattpad. Threads is a collection of contemporary haiku that explores subtle moments of nature and human existence. It’s a collection I originally created for the 2015 November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge, but have since edited and refined. It is currently published as an ongoing work, which means I will be adding new poems until the collection is complete.
All you need to read Threads is a Wattpad account. It’s free to join and works on just about every device (laptop, phone, tablet, etc). Click on the cover below and it will take you straight to Threads.
I’m so excited for this new venture, but I will also still be blogging! Stay tuned for poetry, photographs, and musings of a writer.
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Can you see me over the enormous pile of rejections I’ve collected? Maybe if I jump you’ll catch a quick look at the top of my head. It’s rough out there and I’ve got the battle scars to prove it! That being said, this round of queries was actually more successful than all previous rounds. Success is all in how to you choose to define it, right?
I call this round successful because it has the highest rate of actual responses. This means I got personalized emails, rather than the usual deafening, soul crushing silence that makes me think my query package ended up in a black hole somewhere.
In total, I sent out 13 query packages that included a revamped query letter (which I created after taking a great workshop at Phoenix Comicon). Considering this was a test run for the new query letter and freshly drafted synopsis, I decided to keep the total number packages sent out on the low end.
Within 9 weeks, I received 6 personalized responses from agents. The last one came just a couple of weeks ago. All were very positive and encouraging, citing that my project just wasn’t right for them. While its never fun to be rejected, I do take some pride in the fact that I wasn’t chastised for terrible writing or told I should give up (I’ve heard horror stories from writers who have received rejections of this nature).
With 7 total responses, that means 53% took the time to answer me and they did so with something other than a form letter. You know what? I’ll take that with a smile. In previous rounds of queries, I was lucky to see a 30% response rate. This is progress.
On the other hand, there were six black holes. I’m in the process now of learning how to check in with agents who have not responded. I’ve never been brave enough to do it, but at this point, I don’t think I really have anything to lose!
In addition, I’m diving right back into the battlefield. I’ll be participating in #PitMad on Twitter today! Search the hashtag and you just might see my pitches for my novel. If an agent favorites the tweet, that means they are requesting a submission. It’s my first time, so I have no idea what to expect. Nothing may come of it, but I figure it’s worth a try. And it’ll be fun to see what other authors are pitching!
The rejection pile is high and mighty, but I keep telling myself one thing: All it takes is one “yes.”
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I am really starting to understand why the word “persistence” comes up so often when writers talk about what it takes to be successful. While decluttering my writing space and organizing files on my hard drive, I faced the eye-opening reality that I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years, (at least in the quasi-professional sense). Ten years. And I don’t have a lot to show for it other than a few teeny tiny publishing credits.
My journals and files say otherwise. I’ve written two novels, more poems than I can count (there are about 1,000 haikus alone), and more than 1,000 blog posts (this one blows my mind the most!). Writing is the easy part. Finding an audience is a little tougher. Getting published feels almost impossible.
My rejection folder is enormous. I have an interesting relationship with this stack of rejection. On one hand, it’s hard not to take it personally. It is after all one agent after another telling me they aren’t interested in what I poured my heart into. On the other, it’s nothing personal. We all have opinions about what we like to read. My only saving grace is that I’ve never had an literary agent tell me my writing sucks and that I should just give up. I know writers get this sometimes and so far I’ve been lucky. It’s just frustrating on so many levels that I can’t seem to break through the barriers.
The soul crushing truth is writing means failing a lot. Not only in the ridiculous number of failed drafts, but in the process as a whole.
Yet, I persist. I’m too stubborn to let the failure win.
I took a little break from the query process to regroup after the last batch of rejections, (30 rejections hit pretty hard). Then, last month I took a writing workshop on query letters and the synopsis. While much of the information wasn’t anything new to me, I still walked away with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s amazing what being among writers in the same situation can do!
This week I sent off a brand new volley of query packages. I must be a glutton for punishment. Most writers seem to be, so I’m in good company. As a matter of fact, I already got my first rejection from this batch. It was pretty swift and painful, but not unexpected.
I’m bracing myself for more to come, but I keep reminding myself I only need one yes. All the no’s don’t matter, it’s the yes I’m after.
Persistence is key.
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Summer’s reprieve from the day job leaves me with a lot of time to relax (which I desperately need no matter how much I try to deny it) and dig into the To Do List I created instead of New Year’s Resolutions. As with all lists, some items are easier than others!
Item #1 Declutter
It’s a work in progress, but I have made some headway. Two out of three closets at home are cleared and so is most of the junk I was hoarding in my classroom. I’m pretty sure my colleagues thought I was losing my mind – I tossed out an entire three-drawer file cabinet of handouts and folders, (all for classes I no longer teach). Then, I got rid of a ton of stuff from my supply cabinets, bookshelves, and office storage area.
However, what I’m most proud of is thinning out my Barbie collection. I’ve been collecting for most of my life, which lead to amassing more than 120 dolls and accessories. To say I’m attached to them is an understatement. Yet, I realized that my preferences as a collector have changed, so I sold or gave away 24 dolls and there are more I’m looking to clear out. It was surprisingly easy to do once I made the choice to let them go.
I still haven’t touched the DVD or CD shelf. Yikes – they are pretty daunting.
My writing area is better, but not organized. Everything is in a box until I decide what to do with all the shelving units in the guest room.
Item #2: Publish Something
I’ve made some good headway on this front, too. The summer actually started with a piece of fan mail from an avid reader of my poetry blog, Haiku Tree. She wanted to know if I had any books out and that gave me quite the boost to work on my chapbook! So far, I have 75 haikus selected from my journals. The goal is to get to 100, so I’m getting close. I’m writing all new pieces for the last 25.
Last month, I attended a query package workshop at Phoenix Comicon. It ended up being the kick in the pants I needed. I rewrote my query letter, cranked out a synopsis, and compiled a new list of agents. This week, I started putting together query packages with all my new materials for each agent on my list. While the sting of rejection is imminent, I’m jumping in head first. Let’s do this!
Item #3: Read 35 Books
I’m right on track according to Goodreads! At the moment, I am reading Book #17.
Item #4: Survive National Board Certification
Done. I’m still alive. I finished the final component last month, but I won’t know until November or December if I scored high enough to be certified. Fingers crossed!
Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself
Working on it. Being away from the day job is helping, but finding my mojo after such a stressful year has been challenging. I’m using some of my summer time to rediscover all the things I gave up during the school year.
One thing is certain, when the school year starts up again, I am determined to protect myself and my time.
Item #6: Go Somewhere
This is delayed. The furbaby needs a lot of special care. If that means staying home, then I’m staying home for the time being. Meanwhile, I will be planning a future adventure! I finally sent my application to renew my passport.
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How are your
goals To Do List items going?
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