Monday, August 24, 2015

My Birthday!!!

Typically, I post about my writing goals on Monday as part of the Ready Set Write intensive, but NOT TODAY, PEEPS.


And while the vast majority of my birthdays have always been awesome, I was thinking about possibly the most traumatic birthday of all time.

That's right, Terry* and Bryan (my parents), brace yourself for the story I am about to tell the world.


Growing up really close to Baltimore, of course my family had a boat and most weekends we were out on it fishing and swimming. Since my birthday is at the end of August (and basically isn't August like the Sundays of summer?), we went out for one last outing before school started the next week.

After we came back into the marina and docked, my mom realized half-way up the floating dock that she'd left my two-year-old brother's diaper bag in the boat. Being the birthday girl, she of course trusted me to run back and get it.

With each bounce of the dock under my feet, I'd been so proud. First, I was eleven which felt very grown up (which would wear off as soon as my doomed period would come that fall and I'd whither into an emotional mess of WHY ME. GOD, WHY ME). Plus, I'd been trusted to go back to the boat all by myself. I leaped back into the boat and grabbed the diaper bag. Now the tricky part...navigating between the considerable gap between the boat and the dock (made even wider from my awesome leap).

I tossed the diaper bag onto the dock, and wobbily balanced on the side of the boat. Even though I spied the puddle of water on the dock, I still leapt for it anyway (hey! I was eleven. No one said I had a fully formed brain).

I slipped. I fell. I splashed down in the two foot gap between the dock and the boat. When I came up, gasping for air, I reached up, but because of the low tide, my fingers couldn't grasp the edge of the dock. Barnacles covered the poles holding the dock up, and I sure as hell wasn't touching them...EVEN IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT. Because barnacles...yeeeeeew! >_<

Treading water, I tried to think of a plan. Here I was in dirty bay water wedged in a hole where no one could see me and then I remembered....THERE WERE ALSO JELLYFISH IN THIS WATER.

You guys--jellyfish. *shiver*

My sister and I always leaned off the deck and tried to poke them with sticks. I was sure they would come for me. They would seek their revenge. I was going to die.

There was only one thing to do. Humiliated, I called for help.

I tried a polite, "Help?" And when I realized no one was going to hear that, I went for the helpless scream. "HELLLLLLLP!!"

Moments later, a man ran down the dock with a pole and fished me out of the water. My mother, completely traumatized (and continues to be so whenever I tell this story--SORRY MOM, I NEEDED BLOG CONTENT!), came running with my Dad. Meanwhile, all I could do was say "THERE WERE JELLYFISH. I KNEW THERE WOULD BE JELLYFISH!" Ugh. Jellyfish.

We never went back to that marina. Not until this summer when my Dad got a new boat. In May, I stood on the dock close to where I once fell and Dad asked me if I was going to have PTSD flashbacks of that day. The funny thing is that when I was a teenager, I'd break into a cold sweat about it. It was possibly the most traumatic incident of my childhood and maybe my entire life.

I suppose the moral of the story is...sometimes you forget to let go of things and they let go for you. Or something like that.


*Mom, I swear. I'm fine. It wasn't your fault and I really only like telling this story for the entertainment factor. You did nothing wrong. I'm okay. Go back to playing Words with Friends.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pro tip for when your car goes CHUNKA-CHUNK

So it's a funny story, blog readers...

It's not everyday that you find yourself sitting on the hot concrete outside of a hillbilly mountain garage. In fact, since I'd left Jodi Meadows' house three hours before, I should've been halfway to Philadelphia.

I suppose it all started when I saw signs for CAVES! from the highway.

I mean, how do you see CAVES! and not stop? Even if those CAVES! are 20 miles up a mountain. So as I'm racing up this mountain, enjoying the crisp mountain air and scenery right out of a Maggie Stiefvater book, when I hear CHUNKA-CHUNK.

I'm no car expert, but I'm pretty sure cars shouldn't make sounds like CHUNKA-CHUNK.

But, I had arrived at the CAVES! and thought, "maybe the car will stop making that sound if I go into the CAVES!" (seriously, this sounded pretty sound at the time because CAVES!).






All the while, my car was sitting in the parking lot, giving me evil glares and thinking, "Just you wait. This problem isn't going anywhere."

And it didn't. I get back in my car and now the CHUNKA-CHUNK is louder and...bumpier. So I pull off at the first gas station I can find. And by "gas station" I mean shack that has two gas pumps and sells beer. Beggars can't be choosers, guys.

Inside the "gas station," a local tells me I need to see Randy at the garage across from BO'S BELLY BARN. He tries giving me directions, but I'm all, "it's okay. I have Google is Bo spelled B-O or B-O-E?"

For real. BO'S BELLY BARN, which is another gas station identical to the one I was standing in, except they also have chips and soda.

I turn into the garage and find this Randy guy in his no-name garage. Although, there was a sign on the door that read KEEP DOOR CLOSED SO CAT DON'T GET OUT.

Guys! Garage cat!! Eeee!

Okay so after a little explaining and hand motions and translating from my "city slicker" fast talking, Randy understands that my car is making CHUNKA-CHUNK noises. I hand over my keys and he proceeds to get in my car, turn on the engine, back out into the road, AND COMPLETELY LEAVE ME IN FRONT OF THIS NO NAME GARAGE ACROSS FROM BO'S BELLY BARN.

I panicked. Just a little.

But then realized it was my oversensitive city instincts because he came right back and pulled the car into one of the garage bays. I sat on the concrete and waited for him to tell me my car was ruined and I was going to have to stay in the mountains forever and carve a new home for myself out of a log or something.

Turns out, my wheel wasn't screwed on tightly. As could have COME OFF. It was in that moment that Randy with his Duck Dynasty beard and greasy baseball cap became my hillbilly mountain savior.

"You were lucky, ma'am," he said to me.

I was, Randy. I was.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ready Set Write - Week 11

Ready Set Write is a summer writing intensive that provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, or revising. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Jaime MorrowJoin us by posting your updated goals on your blog, and linking up with the widget on any of the hosts' blogs posted every Monday morning.

It's GO TIME! I'm writing this post in a rush because I have to be on the road in 50 minutes. I'm driving 5 hours to Virginia to stay with Jodi Meadows for three days of writing, cupcake eating, and nonsense. I have an outline and some character development and now I need a serious kick in the butt to start this manuscript. 

1. Last week's goals:
  • Talk to CP Dana and nail this outline down. I'm reving my engine to start this MS, but don't want to skid off the track because I started to write too soon. √ Dana Elmendorf is amazing, btw. I have five pages of notes from our convo and she helped me make all the hard decisions and kept me from wandering down weird, rambley paths.
  • Hit the gym 2X. Only once (sigh). 
  • Go to 2 yoga classes. Only one (sigh).
  • Head down to Maryland for some much-needed family time. √ And it was SO, so needed. My nan turned 86 and we always do a huge party for her. This year it was in her assisted living home and while it was a bit strange at first, everyone really came together
  • Also, I think PitchWars submissions start soon so that means I'll be digging through slush at some point. √ YAAAAS! The submission window opened early and Stephanie Scott and I received some exciting entries. There are so many writers that we're falling in serious love with.  

2. My goal(s) for this week:
  • It's all about writing this week. I want to get a serious first draft going. I hesitate to put any numerical goals around it. 
  • I need to get to yoga this week (2X). My body is starting to feel it when I go without a class for a few days. 
  • This weekend is my birthday party! cake? Can that be a goal?

I'll be around to comment later on the bloghop this afternoon. See ya next week! Eat cake, guys!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ready Set Write - Week 10

Ready Set Write is a summer writing intensive that provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, or revising. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Jaime MorrowJoin us by posting your updated goals on your blog, and linking up with the widget on any of the hosts' blogs posted every Monday morning.

First, can I just ask--how has it been ten weeks already?? What I love most about this writing intensive is how it keeps me on track of my time, even if I fail horribly (, this week). Down to brass tacks (and by brass tacks, I mean, let me tell you how horribly I failed all my goals this week).

1. Last week's goals:
  • Dive head first into this new manuscript. I have it plotted out pretty well so hopefully I won't hit many snags. I'll have to see if my agent has any major adjustments/comments. √ Except, my agent found a lot of things she wanted me to think about. I'm still muddling around and trying to nail down my outline.
  • Go to the gym 3x. That elliptical is going to be my BFF this week. XX *shame*
  • Go to 3 yoga classes. My typical class schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Sunday. XXX Ugh. I'm going to fix this this week.
  • Get up with the alarm at 7AM. Due to night writing, I've been sleeping in too long and want to shake the habit. I'm still not where I want to be with this goal, but I have a lot going on this week so hopefully that will help.
  • Check out the #PitchWars hashtag and convince everyone to submit to me and Stephanie Scott (wink, wink; nudge, nudge). √ √ √ ;)

2. My goal(s) for this week:
  • Talk to CP Dana and nail this outline down. I'm reving my engine to start this MS, but don't want to skid off the track because I started to write too soon.
  • Hit the gym 2X.
  • Go to 2 yoga classes.
  • Head down to Maryland for some much-needed family time.
  • Also, I think PitchWars submissions start soon so that means I'll be digging through slush at some point.

3. The biggest challenge I faced this week: I felt like I was spinning my wheels all week. My agent asked me to think about some bigger issues with my WIP and I spent most of my week staring at the wall just...thinking. The easiest part of writing to skip over is that daydreamy-thinking stage. But it's so, so important even if it feels like we're "slacking" or "not doing anything."

4. Something I love about my WiP: that once I push through these holes, it's so, so solid. The most solid idea I've ever had.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writers Like Us - Mónica B. Wagner

I could not be more thrilled to welcome Mónica B. Wagner to the Writers Like Us series. Not only is Mónica my agency sister, but she was my mentor for The Writers Voice back in 2012. Mónica has been a great friend, a wonderful mentor, and overall amazing human being. Her new adult series, FROSH, debuts from Paper Lantern Lit on October 20, 2015--and I get to help reveal the cover today.

You can add it on GoodReads and follow Mónica on Twitter and Facebook.

Mónica on Writing

  • I've written ten books, and so far only one has seen the light of day (actually, will see it on Oct. 20th 2015).
  • My favorite type of scene to write is any romantic scene with lots of tension! 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with the first paragraph. First paragraphs drive me crazy. I need to write them like twenty times from scratch, since I get super nervous starting a book. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is  “:)” or “??” or “I like this! But how about [this other thing] instead?”
  • The book I wished I wrote is hmm, okay, I’d say something really emotional and literary, but then, I kind of love how my kids are crazy about Harry Potter. So I’ll go with that.
Mónica on Getting Published
  • If my agent really knew how crazy I was, she would find out that sometimes I dream about my characters as if they were real people.
  • When I was querying, I felt like… Aaaah!!! Seriously. I kind of wanted to scream all the time. I was obsessed revising my email, feeling hopeless and hopeful at the same time.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was calling former agent Nathan Bransford “Ms. Bransford.” Bwhahaha! I felt so embarrassed when I realized my mistake that I’ll never forget it. 
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while writing is I could totally write two books at the same time. Yeah, right. 
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was actually, my call wasn’t like that. Since I live in Chile, it was an email to schedule a Skype call. But I think I cried with that email. And now, I’m happy it was an email only—otherwise, I would’ve cried during The Call.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I think I cried, too. Yeah, I cry a lot when I’m happy.
Mónica on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a businesswoman. Something to do with economics maybe? I know, it might sound a bit boring, but I love economics.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of tunnels. And underground parking lots.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is they change. They’re usually main characters of the book I’m reading. All look a little like Channing Tatum in my mind, though. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I put Latin music loud and dance and sing along.

Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pitch Wars YA Mentors Bio: Stephanie Scott and Valerie Cole team up

Meet Young Adult Mentors Stephanie Scott and Valerie Cole

Pitch Wars is back! The epic contest that pairs agent-seeking writers with a mentor prior to an agent pitch round will soon be open to entries. Read on to see if we might be a good match. All the contest details are here on Brenda Drake’s blog.

This year, we’re co-mentoring! We live and breathe the contemporary YA world. We were signed to agents from contest entries (after receiving multiple offers), and know how to polish an entry so it shines like a diamond among the slush. For the last 3+ years, we've had our eye on the YA publishing market to know what types of manuscripts agents are looking for and what is selling to publishers. We will work hard to make your entry stand out in the agent round!

About us:

Stephanie Scott Bio: I’m a Young Adult writer represented by Sarah LaPolla at Bradford Literary. My debut contemporary ALTERATIONS is set for release in 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark. I’m a returning Pitch Wars mentor, and a new addition to the monthly 1st 5 Pages Workshop on the Adventures in YA Publishing blog.  As an active member of Romance Writers of America, I regularly judge partial manuscripts through chapter contests and yearly judge for the Golden Heart. I serve on the board for the online YA chapter YARWA. Beyond writing, I enjoy dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving me broke. I have half a dozen cosplay ideas (mostly Star Wars) and I’m a Ren Faire regular. You can find me chatting about TV and all things books on twitter and Instagram at @StephScottYA.

Valerie Cole Bio: Valerie Cole lives in Philadelphia with her guitar builder husband and lovable cocker spaniel. A graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and Drexel University, her love of storytelling began as an intern in MTV’s animation department. She signed with literary agent Lauren MacLeod in 2012 after her entry in The Writers Voice caught Lauren's attention. She hosts the highly successful agent interview blog series Agents Like Us. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @ValerieColeYA.

What we are looking for: a writer who is ready to take the next step in their career. Someone who has passion and drive, who isn't afraid to kill their darlings, and is ready to revise (maybe even heavily) to nab the agent of their dreams. Young Adult fiction only.

Basically, we want to find a manuscript that makes us…

Seeing how we're contemporary YA girls, we'll definitely be looking for lots of realistic YA fiction, but we’re looking for GREAT STORIES across all genres. What makes many books incredibly successful is the author’s ability to root common emotions and relatable characters in wildly unique situations. For instance, take a look at Maggie Steifvater’s The Scorpio Races. Sure, there are crazy demon horses that rise out of the sea TO EAT YOU ALIVE, but Steifvater also tells the story about rich vs. poor, girl vs. boy, girl horse meets boy horse, and builds relationships so you are rooting for someone to win at the end. We want to find great stories. Period. The end. So surprise us!

We’ll be working collaboratively, but here are some of our personal interests and favorites:

Stephanie's Interests:
-High concept premises*
-Strong friendships or family relationships
-Diverse characters and diverse authors (see We Need Diverse Books site)
-Unique settings or time periods
-Upending tropes (make a common premise fresh)
-Characters who are skilled at or passionate -- sports, arts, sciences, etc. Teens who have their own interests and goals, even if the goals are thwarted (and they should be = conflict!)

Books I’m a fan of:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han - the sweeter side of YA that’s fresh, funny, and heartwarming
Just One Day by Gayle Forman - beautiful writing, self discovery, rich locale, deep family issues
Past Perfect by Leila Sales - forbidden romance set at waring historical re-enactment camps!
Deception So Deadly: Run to You by Clara Kensie - fast paced YA suspense
Tiny Pretty Things by Sonia Charaipotya and Dhonielle Clayton - multi-POV ballet academy with a diverse character cast
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma - complicated sister relationship, gorgeous writing, magical realism
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - world travel, art meets fantasy, escapist adventure
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - survivalist to the core. Gripping pacing.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee - on-the-run girls disguised as cowboys on the historic Oregon trail!
Every Day by David Levithan - inventive and inspiring
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - This book has everything: deserted pageant contestants, wicked satire, on-fire feminism. Volcano lairs, Lady Bird Hope, taxidermied sidekicks.

Valerie’s interests:
- Heart-wrenching contemporaries with high stakes
- Real teens dealing with real issues
- Unconventional families (especially blue collar)
- Diverse characters
- Twisty turny psycho thrillers

Books I’m a fan of:
Anything by Sara Zarr, especially How to Save a Life and Story of a Girl
A.S. King’s Reality Boy and Please Ignore Vera Dietz
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
On the paranormal side, vampires and witches aren’t quite my thing, but I’m a huge fan of Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Cycle series.
Anything that blends folklore, mythology, faerie tales with modern themes.

* High concept means you can easily pitch your idea in a few words. For example, last year in Pitch Wars, there was a YA entry about a teen fashion blogger exiled to Amish country. Paired with a funny title, and right there, you get an idea what the story might be like. If your manuscript has that mass appeal, we will fight all the other mentors off with a samurai sword for you.

Our editing style: the focus will be developmental. This means big picture edits--plot, character development, pacing. While we may comment on word choice, grammar, or specific details, this isn't meant to be a line edit. Most of all, we want to help a writer craft their best story using their voice. It's not about us imposing our writer voice on someone else. We want to help your entry stand out in not only the contest and agent round, but among published stories.

Not seeing what you've written in this blog post? Try us! We're open to finding something really awesome and it just might be you! Make sure to follow us on Twitter @StephScottYA and @ValerieColeYA and watch for us in the #PitchWars hashtag. We can’t wait to read your pitches! The submission window opens August 17 on Brenda Drake's blog.

The bloghop widget doesn't like me much--try this link to see all the mentors.
1. Kes Trester (co-mentoring with Jennifer Hawkins)
2. Mindy McGinnis (co-mentoring with Kate Karyus Quinn)
3. N.K. Traver
4. Kristin B. Wright
5. Laura Heffernan
6. Mary Ann Marlowe
7. Joy McCullough-Carranza
8. Lisa Lewis-Tyre
9. Jenni L. Walsh (co-mentoring with Trisha Leaver)
10. Sarah Glenn Marsh
11. Julie C. Dao
12. Kellye Garrett
13. K.T. Hanna
14. Jessie Devine
15. Rosalyn Eves
16. Jami Nord
17. Samantha Joyce
18. Helene Dunbar
19. Jenna Lehne
20. Linsey Miller
21. Jessica Vitalis
22. Stacey Graham
23. Dan Koboldt
24. Brighton Walsh
25. Kate Brauning
26. Lisa Maxwell
27. Wendy Spinale
28. Sarah Cannon
29. L.L. McKinney
30. Juliana Brandt
31. Scarlett Cole
32. Hayley Stone
33. Jennifer Blackwood
34. Kendra Young
35. S.P. McConnell
36. Nikki Roberti
37. Emmie Mears
38. Lori Goldstein (co-mentoring with Chelsea Bobulski)
39. Jennifer Hawkins (co-mentoring with Kes Trester)
40. Elizabeth Briggs
41. Ron Walters (co-mentoring with Meredith McCardle)
42. Fiona McLaren (co-mentoring with Dionne McCulloch)
43. S.M. Johnston (co-mentoring with Stacey Nash)
44. Max Wirestone
45. Jaye Robin Brown
46. Molly Lee
47. Rachel Lynn Solomon
48. J.C. Nelson
49. Holly Faur
50. Sonia Hartl
51. Natasha Raulerson
52. Marty Mayberry
53. J.C. Davis
54. Rebecca Wells
55. Michelle Hauck
56. Tabitha Martin
57. Rebecca Petruck
58. Sarah Henning
59. Alex White
60. Jeanmarie Anaya
61. Laura Salter
62. Wade Albert White
63. Brooks Benjamin
64. Margarita Montimore
65. Megan Grimit
66. Charlie Holmberg
67. Diana Gallager
68. Stefanie Wass
69. Tamara Mataya
70. Rebecca Sky
71. Kara Seal
72. Lee Gjertsen Malone
73. Katie Bucklein
74. Kevin A Springer
75. Brianna Shrum
76. Kate Karyus Quinn (co-mentoring with Mindy McGinnis)
77. Kim Graff
78. Emily Martin
79. Trisha Leaver (co-mentoring with Jenni Walsh)
80. Kim Long
81. Catherine Scully
82. Stacey Trombley
83. Stephanie Scott (co-mentoring with Valerie Cole)
84. Valerie Cole (co-mentoring with Stephanie Scott)
85. Lizzy Charles
86. Dannie Morin (co-mentoring with Alexandra Alessandri)
87. Kate Foster
88. Elly Blake
89. Julie Sondra Decker
90. Lady Lioness
91. Susan Gray Foster (co-mentoring with Monica Bustamante Wagner_
92. Kelly Calabrese
93. Sarah Nicolas
94. Kelly Siskind
95. Roselle Kaes
96. Monica Bustamante Wagner (co-mentoring with Susan Gray Foster)
97. Renee Ahdieh (co-mentoring with Traci Chee)
98. Traci Chee (co-mentoring with Renee Ahdieh)
99. Janet B. Taylor
100. Jessie Humphries (co-mentoring with Mara Rae)
101. Lynnette Labelle
102. Erica M. Chapman
103. Summer Spence
104. Marieke Nijkamp
105. Meredith McCardle (co-mentoring with Ron Walters)
106. Thomas Torre
107. Phil Stamper
108. J.A. Souders

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Ready Set Write - Week 9

Ready Set Write is a summer writing intensive that provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, or revising. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Jaime MorrowJoin us by posting your updated goals on your blog, and linking up with the widget on any of the hosts' blogs posted every Monday morning.

1. How I did on last week’s goals: 
  • I want to keep the words a-flowing, so I'll aim for another 5-7K. √ >5K--I sent a 15 page outline to my agent.
  • Hit the gym 3x (that seems to be my sweet spot). √ 
  • Read 1 book--The Poisonwood Bible is on deck. I started it (it's a long book, guys).

2. My goal(s) for this week:
  • Dive head first into this new manuscript. I have it plotted out pretty well so hopefully I won't hit many snags. I'll have to see if my agent has any major adjustments/comments.
  • Go to the gym 3x. That elliptical is going to be my BFF this week.
  • Go to 3 yoga classes. My typical class schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Sunday.
  • Get up with the alarm at 7AM. Due to night writing, I've been sleeping in too long and want to shake the habit.
  • Check out the #PitchWars hashtag and convince everyone to submit to me and Stephanie Scott (wink, wink; nudge, nudge).

3. The biggest challenge I faced this week: The sleeping in thing is becoming my number one problem. I'm going to combat it with earlier bedtimes and hitting the gym in the mornings.

4. Something I love about my WiP: that it makes me feel...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August Check In 2015

It's August, it's August! And there is so much going on.

Pitch Wars submissions open Aug 17
First, I'm super excited to be co-mentoring with Stephanie Scott in Pitch Wars. Our wish list goes live tomorrow (Monday) and we're on the prowl for a really great writer who wants TWO mentors. You can find it right here on my website (or Stephanie's).

I can give one little hint--that we're pretty much open to all genres. We really want a great STORY, regardless of if it's a contemporary, fantasy, horror, etc. I absolutely love Stephanie Scott. She's so smart and insightful and a gorgeous writer. If you're interested, keep your eyes on Brenda Drake's website for details.

It's also the Month of Birthdays in my family. My youngest brother is the first birthday, followed by our Nan, who is turning 86 mid-month. Then, end of month, I'm celebrating my own with steamed crabs with my family in Baltimore.
The ever-evolving plotting board for MS #6.

I got so much work done in July. I finished writing THE BOOK--the one that's been clinging to my ankles for the last year and three months. Honestly, I never thought I'd finish this book, and it was the hardest one I've ever had to write. The book is about 60K words, but when I went through my "cuts" folder, I had over 100K words. I went through five major revisions and it's my sixth book. I'm so proud of it, not just as a finished story but what it has to say about growing up and determining your path in life. I hope one day I'm able to share it with you.

I just turned in a 15 page outline to my agent for my next book. I love having new ideas and starting fresh. Once I get the green light, I'm excited to dive into this one and swim around in a new world.

I'm also really committed to focusing on my personal life. About a month ago, I left my day job in advertising to focus on my writing career. It was weird and scary, but ultimately I just didn't feel healthy sitting behind a desk all day and staying inside. I've been interviewing for other jobs that will get me out and moving and active again. I'm also hitting the gym a few times a week. I do cardio and take yoga classes and am starting to feel my muscles harden and my breath deepen. I feel like I'm starting to find me again after a long time of being hidden.

Nelly vs. the azalea bush.
To be honest, I had a really difficult time leaving my job. It was really hard to say, "this isn't for me. This isn't right for me." Because, honestly, it was a great job and I made great money. I worked with smart people and had worked for seven years in this industry. Why wasn't I happy?

Plus, I was worried about my dog all the time. Shannon and I got Nelly fourteen years ago. We'd only been dating for two weeks and living together for six days and we got a puppy. We were insane, but also really in love. It's hard to watch her battle coughs and aches and pains as she ages; mostly because it marks an end to our beginning. I'm really glad I get to spend more time at home with her even if I'm just doling out medicine and spotting her hips as she goes up and down stairs.

I think we have these moments where we see a fork in the road and need to decide which way to veer. For me, I wanted simplicity again. I wanted time to work on my writing, space to focus on my health, and the luxury to look around the world a little bit more. For me to be myself again.

So I'm starting this August with a clear head and ready to continue this path I started down. I hope to bring you along with me, especially as I help mentor another writer and write more stories and read more books. Have a great month!
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