Monday, May 8, 2017

And the Winner Is ...

There's nothing quite like celebrating life's milestones to make you feel grateful. My husband marked a big birthday this weekend. The family gathered. We shared a couple of good meals. Some stories. Some laughs. Getting together is always nice, but something about birthdays, maybe it's putting a number on things, always makes me feel grateful for all the years we've had together. Oh, and there was cake: my husband's favorite black forest cake. By the time I thought about taking a picture to include in this post, we had already enjoyed it. But believe me, it was a thing of beauty. (I'm not bragging. I didn't make it. I happily gave that up several years ago when we found a bakery version that we loved just as much.)

When I was part of  a local writing group, we became quite good at celebrating. It was a great group of people who genuinely encouraged one another through the lows and cheered each other on through the highs. After that group broke up, a friend and I would mark triumphs on our writing journey with a version of Julia Cameron's Artist Dates, by visiting local galleries, doing something to enrich our creative souls.

I'm so thankful to be part of such a wonderful online group. I treasure each of my critique partners. And so I was thrilled that so many stopped by the blog here to help celebrate the release of Patricia Bailey's middle-grade debut, The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. Many thanks to all who commented. And the winner of a signed ARC is ... Mirka Breen!

Congratulations, Mirka! I know you'll love it.

What have you celebrated lately? Do you do something to mark the steps in your writing journey?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Celebrating with a Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to have my friend and critique partner, Trish Bailey, here to celebrate the release of her middle grade debut, The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. Trish is a talented writer who writes with a captivating voice and lots of heart. I'm so excited that readers are going to have the chance to get to know Kit, a character full of spunk and personality, and have the chance to be swept up in her adventures.

Thirteen-year-old Kit Donovan made a lot of promises to her dying mother, and the most difficult one to keep – the one about being a proper lady – seems downright impossible in a place like Goldfield, Nevada. The corrupt owner the gold mine seems to hold sway over the whole town. When Kit convinces Papa to speak out against the dangers in the mine, trouble finds her family.
Now she must find a way to expose the misdeeds before it’s too late. With help from an unlikely friend, a Shoshone boy, and a newspaperman, she puts her big mouth and all the life skills she’s learned from reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to work. But is she really brave enough to stand up for what’s right?

What factors influenced your choice to write for a MG audience?
I love middle-grade kids. They’re the best. Wild and funny, heartfelt and serious. They’re always about growth – physical, emotional, social. The middle-grade years are all about stepping up to new challenges – challenges that take you just beyond what you know to be safe and secure and sure. New schools, new friendships, new insights on parents and the world – it’s all there in middle-grade stories. The voices are always clear and rich; the struggles are real and meaningful; and in the end there is always a glimmer of hope. Plus, there’s usually not much kissing, because…yuck.

Your main character, Kit, has so much spunk and such a strong personality. Did The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan come to you originally as a story idea or did you hear Kit’s voice first?
I heard Kit’s voice first. She showed up the minute I wondered what it would be like to have lived in Goldfield, Nevada during the boom years. She was sad and mad and ready to tell me all about it. Her voice and her emotional truth were there in the beginning and didn’t change even as the structure and the plot evolved.

I always enjoy hearing revision stories. I know The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan went through multiple iterations and started out formatted as diary entries. Can you tell us what factors influenced your decision to change the story to its current format and how you feel it improved in the process?
It was so hard. I kept getting conflicting feedback about the format. Some people loved it. Others didn’t – but no one could really articulate why. I didn’t want to lose Kit’s voice – but the deeper I got in the story the more I knew that something was off. Eventually I made my way to a writing retreat where one of the instructors said that she loved the voice  and the story – she just wanted it all to feel more immediate. She suggested I ditch the journal and make it all happen in real time. And that did it. Make it more immediate. So simple. But it took me so long to get there. Once I rewrote the first chapter, I knew I was on the right track. The story just came together. The plot tightened, and I was able to ditch some scenes that were historically accurate but not necessary. And, best of all, I think it made Kit’s voice even stronger.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase/quote?
I think my go-to phrase is one Kit shares:  How hard can it be?
It never fails to get me started.

It’s apparent from your blog that you are a dog lover. Middle grade is a great audience for dog stories. (My personal favorite is A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean.) What’s your favorite dog story? 
I’m a dog lover – and since I’m not yet a dog owner, I’m a fan of dog books – as long as the dog stays alive. As a child, Jack in the Little House books was my favorite – and I shed a fair amount of tears over that pooch. My current favorite dog book is Kristin Gray’s Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge.  It’s not a dog story exactly – but it’s a girl wants dog story – and I can totally relate to that. After that I’d go with Barbara O’Connor’s Wish. The cover says it all.

Is there a dog story in your future?
I think so. I'm working on two books right now – and both have dogs that play key roles in the story.

Patricia Bailey grew up in a small town in Oregon. She now lives in a slightly larger town in Oregon with her husband and three cats. She spends her time hiking mountain trails, scribbling story ideas on sticky notes, and longing for a dog. The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan is her first novel.

Learn more about Patricia by visiting her here:

Look for The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan here:


Trish is giving away a signed ARC to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment for her below to be entered. For an extra entry, head over to Patricia's blog, check out her book trailer, and leave a comment there as well. I'll announce the winner here next week. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


 This morning as I gave up my writing time to finally get the laundry situation under control, I thought about trade-offs. We all make them on a daily basis based on mood, preference, necessity. I regularly let my laundry pile up like Mt. Everest so I can steal away to my computer. Whether it's working on my WIP, reading for one of my critique partners, or sending out another query, the time must come from somewhere.

Life is full of trade-offs. After months and months in the query trenches, I started to think about all the things I've forgone. How much I've really invested. From the years of writing and revising to the months of querying, to all the things I have given up in the pursuit of this dream. Of course there have also been times I've put the dream on hold: when my children were younger and my desire to homeschool them won out. When my parents' health declined and my writing, in comparison, fell back into the category of a selfish pursuit. The trade-offs we make basically come down to perspective.

Last week I came closer than I ever have to thinking maybe all I've invested will come to nothing. Querying for long periods of time will do that to you, no matter how resilient you think you are. And yet, even on the days I give myself permission to give up this dream, I can't do it. The writing -- it feels essential. So I continue to make the trade-offs that allow me to do the work. I skipped grocery shopping today to get out a requested full and another handful of queries. And as long as dinner was in the crock pot, I pushed off the vacuuming for another few hours to ensure I got the next scene of my WIP written.

We devote ourselves to a writing project for years, all the while knowing that it may not succeed. So, yes, it feels good to complete household tasks: Laundry folded and put away? Check. Dinner simmering? Check. Especially when progress in the publishing world is so achingly slow. But maybe that's also why I'm okay with letting the dust gather a bit, or letting the waste baskets fill to the rim before emptying. It doesn’t all have to get done today. Tonight, I put aside my WIP to write this blog post, and tomorrow I'll start letting another mountain of laundry accumulate, because I’m still chasing that dream, one query at a time.

What do you most readily trade-off in pursuit of writing time?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Unexpected Paths

Image by Free Artistic Photos
 I love it when a book sets off a chain reaction; one book leading to another, which leads to another. Often when I discover an author I like, I want to read everything they’ve written. I’m sure we all do that. But I love when a book leads us in unexpected directions. (After reading The Fault in Our Stars, how many of us would have read An Imperial Affliction if it had been a real book?)

I just finished Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I’ve never been particularly interested in the subject of hypnosis, but while reading, I was intrigued by the way the MC spoke vivid images into her clients’ consciousness.I ended up at the library yesterday searching visualization techniques and guided imagery.

Image by Free Artistic Photos
I often experience anxiety in social situations, and in unfamiliar surroundings. When I traveled to New York City several years ago for Book Expo America, I Xeroxed pages from my daily spiritual reading and pulled them from my purse whenever I began to feel panicky. But I’m a visual learner. While I homeschooled my children, I was always drawing diagrams and making charts to help reinforce a concept (if not for them, for myself.) I love the idea of self healing with imagined images. So with that thought, I’ll leave you with some gorgeous photos (not mine) that help me feel relaxed and grounded.

Image by Free Artistic Photos
Image by Free Artistic Photos

What unexpected paths has reading led you down?

Monday, February 13, 2017

In Search of Balance

This week I thought a lot about balance: in work, in writing, in life. Probably because it’s February, everything is covered in snow and my four-year-old great niece asked me to take her to the playground. There’s an awesome seesaw that was installed last year at one of the neighborhood parks, made out of strong wood, with rubber tires underneath to prevent that terrible thumping that can happen when your riding partner unexpectedly disembarks. I thought about balance because she and I can’t ride that seesaw together. She needs someone else on her end to balance things out. Usually, she and my daughter would be on one side, while I'm on the other, but this week, it was just the two of us. It didn’t matter; with a blizzard that dumped a foot of snow days earlier and temperatures in the low 20s, there would be no playground visit.

Still the picture of the seesaw stayed with me all week. So many of life’s struggles can be boiled down to finding the right balance: Between eating healthy and eating what we want. Between taking care of your family, but also making time to stay in touch with friends. Between becoming so focused on the road to publication that we lose sight of the fact that we would write for the love of it, no matter what.

The more the image of that seesaw lingered, the more I thought about what happens once we climb on. Once we achieve that initial balance. Then it’s all about the ups and downs. Not only our own, but also our partner’s. Just as satisfying as being the one in the air is watching the smiling face across from you as they reach those heights. That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes going to the playground worth it (when the temperature is above freezing and you are properly attired.)

It’s the joy of receiving a heart-shaped box full of chocolates and then the devastation of staring back at the empty box a week later and realizing you should be doing Zumba, or Pilates, or at least getting up from your desk to do a few deep-knee bends between reading emails.

It’s the high we get when we finish a manuscript, get the full request, have that agent call, countered by the disappointment of hanging up the phone with revision suggestions instead of an offer of representation.

When I look back at this blog, it’s been about the highs and lows. Those are the realities of life far more often than balance. I’d like this to be a place where we can both celebrate and commiserate those realities together. My heart was touched by all of you who came and commented on my last post. It reminded me of how wonderfully supportive the writing community is, and I’m so grateful for each one of you.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share with you a high point in my reading life. My daughter introduced me to the novels of Kasie West and I am completely hooked. She writes feel-good contemporary romances with great characterization and a lot of heart. Her latest, By Your Side, released last week and will soon be moving from my daughter's nightstand to my own. But really I recommend any of her titles. 

Do you have a high or low from this week to share? 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Keep on Dreaming Even if it Breaks Your Heart

I used to own at least a dozen houseplants.They dotted the windowsills and hung from the ceiling in fancy baskets. I have zero left. They didn't all die. I gave some of them away for their own good. The problem was a lack of consistency. I'd neglect them until they were near death and then pamper them back to good health, only to let them languish again. It's an all-or-nothing mentality, and as much as I want to do better, this is how I continue to operate.

Look at this blog. I didn't mean to let it die. I only meant to take a short break. Then the reasons for staying away piled up and, well, here we are two-and-a-half years later.

On the up side, during that time, I finished another manuscript - YA suspense, which is new for me, and I've had a great time writing it. On the down side, I've lost touch with a lot of my fellow bloggers.

When I started Shy Writer six years ago, I admitted in my first ever blog post that I tend to isolate myself. This is another behavior I have to consciously work at overcoming. Because even though my default is to go it alone, life is just better when we have people to share the journey with. And that's what has finally brought me back here: you, my fellow writers. Because you are the only ones who truly get it. This crazy journey. The feeling of elation when you've worked for three years on a manuscript and you're finally sure it's done. The feeling of possibility when you send those first queries out into the world. And then the feelings of disappointment that turn to despair as the dreaded possibility surfaces:  maybe this one is going to end up in the drawer alongside all the others. That's a hard truth to swallow.

Photo Courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

Today, I'm not only trying to bring this blog back to life, I'm hoping to revive my broken spirit by reaching out, reconnecting with old friends and maybe even making some new ones.

I don't know about you, but it's often music that gets me through the toughest spots. So I'm sharing a song that fits this journey and always helps me to take heart.

How about you? Do you have a song that keeps you going when you feel like giving up?