I had the great privilege to attend the Boise SCBWI conference last weekend. It was my fourth conference and there were only about 50-60 people there, so it was by far the smallest one I've been to, but it was awesome.
Usually conferences are filled with craft workshops, social media classes, self publishing how-tos, and agents and editors speaking about query letters and acquisitions. They're helpful. I usually pick up some new thing to try and I feel a little bit refreshed by the end of the weekend.
This was different. Though every speaker had a different topic I gleaned one cohesive message from the weekend, and it was truly inspiring.
Basically it was this:
Writing is an art. Learn from others, but remember that in the end it's deeply personal and the only one who knows how to do your art is you. Publishing is a business. People find success in a variety of ways. Learn from others, know your options and then make informed decisions. Every publishing career is different and the only one who knows how you should do it is you.
These messages felt very liberating. The online writing world is full of advice about how to write and how to publish and it's overwhelming sometimes. We have to remember that each of us is different. We all write for our own reasons and we have different jobs and responsibilities outside of writing. There is no one size fits all writing strategy. And there isn't a publishing option that works for everyone. We are unique and our writing journeys will be unique too.
My journey has been feeling very different from the norm lately, and I've worried that means I'm doing it wrong. I'm realizing that's not the case. I'm doing it my way, and my way is what works for me.
I'm grateful for good friends and an amazingly supportive agent (who just laughed when I spilled eggs all over her last weekend!) who remind me why I'm writing and encourage me every step of the way.
Do you get overwhelmed by all the voices in the writing and publishing world? Do you ever need to step back and remember that both your writing and your publishing path are unique?
I haven't been around much lately. There's really only one reason for this.
My two year old has decided to give up naps and is set on using those extra hours to make my life more interesting. He is succeeding.
We call him The Destroyer. He did this (dumping half a box of baking soda and an entire bag of chocolate chips) while I was bringing in groceries.
And this he managed while I was trying to put away the laundry (the rest is just behind him). It is a lovely combination of pancake mix and powdered sugar.
At least he's cute, right?
Well, I have been up to a something, despite my lack of free hours.
Today a sampler of middle grade books called Love Middle Grade Actually comes out on Amazon. It features the first few chapters of a bunch of fun middle grade books, including The Secret Underground.
And it is FREE.
Plus, if you download a copy and find a secret phrase hidden in its pages you can enter to win a Kindle Fire, an Amazon gift card, or some great middle grade eBooks. All the details are inside the book.
Did I mention it's FREE?
To celebrate it's release The Secret Underground will be just $0.99 at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Applefor the next 5 days (ending February 11).
The drawing for the Kindle Fire will happen on Valentine's Day, so go download a copy of Love Middle Grade Actually and enter now.
"Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make you subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." ~Martin Luther King
A few weeks ago some friends were chatting on Twitter about writing goals for the new year. One of them asked what my goals were and I replied, "I'm going to try to write something sometime."
The past few years I've set big word count goals for myself and then I've been super frustrated when I realize I can't make them happen. I'm not going to do that anymore.
In the five years I've been writing, I've realized something about myself and the way I write:
I'm not an everyday writer.
I think just about every book about writing I've ever read has said something like, "You must write every day. If you don't you suck and you will never amount to anything."
I've tried MANY times to become an everyday writer. It doesn't work for me.
Writing does not happen when my kids are home on breaks, when anyone is sick, or when I'm prepping for anything big (holidays, vacation, parties, etc). I write when I have time to write, and that's okay. My books get done eventually.
This year I'm going to embrace the "write something sometime" approach. I'm not setting any lofty goals. I'm going to write when I have time and energy to write and I'm not going to feel guilty when I'm snuggling on the couch, watching Muppets for the millionth time with my two-year-old instead of cranking out a few more pages.
This is the thing: There is darkness in the world. At times it is oppressive and frightening, but we can't give into it.
Love is the only antidote to hate. We can change laws (and I for one believe we should), but I'm convinced that in the end the thing that will make a difference is love. When we realize that we are all in this together, that each of us is responsible to care for our neighbors and lighten their burdens, things will get better.
I'm so grateful for all the support and love you've shown me, and I'm especially grateful for everything you've done for Jayden and his family. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Sara's critique giveaway was a huge success! More than 300 people entered and we sold a lot of books. Thank you all so much.
We got word a few days ago that The Secret Underground is now available to order from your local bookstores. This is awesome because now you can support a local business, help a baby in need, AND get a fun book for a child in your life in one easy place!
And now, what you came here for...
This morning I plugged the numbers into Random.org and it gave me a number for the winner. The lucky person who will get a 50 page manuscript critique from my very lovely agent, Sara Megibow, is ANDREA PRING!
Congratulations Andrea! If you would email me at nataliebahm (at) yahoo (dot) com, I'll get you Sara's contact information.
Thank you so much to all who entered and especially to all who purchased a book for Baby Jayden. Every sale makes a big difference to him and his family. I got the very first royalty check yesterday and I'll be sending it to them just in time for Christmas. :)
If you read The Secret Underground, whether you love it or hate it or just feel "meh" about it, I'd be so grateful if you'd leave a review somewhere (Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Reviews (good and bad) are crucial to future sales and I'm grateful for every single one.
Thanks again for all the support. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Okay guys, get ready for this...
You know how every few months there's an auction for a good cause and agents donate critiques that go for $1000 each? How would you like to win an agent critique without the crazy price tag? My agent, Sara Megibow, has decided to offer a 50 page critique on a finished OR unfinished manuscript, to help promote THE SECRET UNDERGROUND. While we encourage all entrants to buy a copy of the book, (with all the profits going to help a sick baby boy named Jayden), purchase is not required. All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post.
Easy peasy, right?
Here's Sara with the details:
submission can be from finished or unfinished work
sample pages (up to 50 pages) must be to me by Feb 28, 2013
Submissions must be in a genre I represent: middle grade, young adult, romance, science fiction or fantasy (no mystery, horror, picture books, memoirs, or nonfiction)
You do NOT have to buy a copy of THE SECRET UNDERGROUND to win, however I've auctioned off critiques this year for $1200, so please consider that $8 (or $4 for the eBook), which goes to charity, is a REALLY GOOD DEAL. I've bought copies as holidays gifts, birthday gifts, party favors, house warming gifts, for my own bookshelf. Come on, help baby Jayden! Regardless of format (ebook, print book, audio book) - all sales help! If you'd like to buy a copy, there are links to booksellers on the sidebar.
submissions can be your book OR someone else's (which means - yes, you can give this critique as a gift to someone for the holidays as long as that person's book fits my above mentioned criteria)
to enter, simply post a comment on Natalie's blog. Any comment.
This giveaway will close Wednesday, December 12 at midnight PST, when Natalie will chose ONE winner using Random.org. Natalie will announce that winner on Thursday, December 13.
This is an amazing opportunity. I speak from experience when I say Sara's critiques are always spot on and extremely helpful.
Good luck to everyone!
Sara Megibow is an agent at Nelson Literary Agency.
Sara is on Twitter @SaraMegibow
Sara is on Publishers Marketplace (with client info and general opinions and tastes): http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/
I'm a mother of four who loves gardening, trips to the beach, and books that aren't boring. I write novels for children and young adults. My writing is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.