On Writing & Rejection

Everyday

In 2016, I wrote a children’s book. Yes, it took me a year to write two Microsoft Word pages of rhyming children’s literature. What can I say? Writing is HARD.

Recently, I was encouraged to try to get it published. While I’ve published several industry articles and some poetry, I have never completed a manuscript and shopped it around. This was new territory for me. I painstakingly researched tips for writing query letters, made a color-coded Excel spreadsheet of literary agents who were most likely to consider my book, obsessed over the first draft of my query letter, and, finally, sent my baby out into the great unknown, possibly never to be heard from again. In fact, very probably.

You see, literary agents no longer send rejection letters. The ease of online submission means more people can send just about anything and literary agents end up with thousands of entries they have to dig through looking for something worthy enough to represent. There is simply no time for rejection emails. Instead, they post a time frame on their website and if you don’t hear back within that window, they aren’t interested.

Harsh? I don’t think so. There simply isn’t enough time to write every desperate author a rejection letter. And there could be so many reasons for rejecting a manuscript. Perhaps it sucks. Or it doesn’t have a market. Or it’s been done before. Or that agent already is representing three other young adult fantasy authors. (Note: I am not writing young adult fantasy.) At the end of the day, the agent just might not like it…

All that being said, this week marked the end of the time window for three of the literary agents I submitted to. It’s official. I’ve been rejected. Or rather, my work has been. Part of me thinks this is a great experience to have. Every writer should experience rejection. It’s part of the whole struggling-writer persona, right? I wouldn’t want this to be too easy – it could mess up my street cred.

But part of me is sad. And a bigger part of me wants to know why. Why was I rejected? Is the subject matter too niché? Is rhyming passé? Was the writing bad? Did they read the manuscript or did they stop at my query letter and move on?

The bad news is that I will never know. The good news is that I will never know and I can move on. And keep on trying.

Reading Challenge 2016

Everyday

While I may not have quite achieved my other 2016 goals, I was pretty dedicated to advancing my reading list. In 2016, I read 11 complete books as well as half of two books. In Haley math, that means I achieved my 12 books in a year goal… So here is my celebratory recap:

1. 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

In the past couple years, I’ve read three of Mr. Metaxas’ books and I have enjoyed them all. I had been eagerly awaiting this one as I feel his books have been pretty male-heavy. The book gives brief (10-20 pages) summaries of the lives of seven inspiring women including Joan of Arc, Hannah More, Rosa Parks and Corrie Ten Boom. I was particularly taken by the recounting of Sister Maria of Paris, a drinking, smoking, divorcée who became a nun and eventually a saint. Overall, it was a great follow-up to Seven Men (which I read last year) and I enjoyed getting a peek into the lives of several women the world doesn’t talk much of anymore.

2. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories by the famed Bradbury. It gave both a fun and a harrowing look into the effects humans could have on an inhabited Mars. If you like science fiction (and even if you don’t) it’s a good book to keep on hand if you ever have time to kill.

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My sister got me this novel for my birthday and I was frankly surprised how good it was. I’d heard lots of good things, but the author usually writes sappy love stories with thin plots, which is typically not my style. The Nightingale is anything but. Showing a side of World War II I haven’t really explored, it follows two sisters who choose different paths during the war. One tries to avoid the war while raising her family without her soldier husband, the other thrust herself into it by becoming a spy. Though the stories aren’t real, it was a thrilling and captivating tale.

4. Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

I threw in a book on strategy this year (which might become a tradition for me in the future) in order to refine my approach to ideas and business. As a professional in a creative industry, these books aren’t super applicable, but I believe are necessary in order to understand how business works (or should work) on a basic level. The book could do with a writer’s touch, but overall delivered a great approach to strategy development that really works.

5. On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae-Lee

I’ve been wanting to read this book for about a year and tried to get my 2015 book club to read it without any luck. It was well worth the wait. Set in a not-so-distant future where labor colonies have been set up in a declining America, the story follows a teenage girl who, after her boyfriend mysterious disappears from her colony, sets out to find him on her own. It is poetic and harrowing and fascinating. It also mentioned bubble tea a lot (who can argue with bubble tea?).

6. Shades of Grey by James Fforde

Not to be confused with 50 Shades of Gray, this book details a society set up in a caste system determined by the colors you can see. These color abilities determine everything, from who you can marry to what job you can hold. With Purples leading the system, the lowest people on the totem pole are Greys. A little confusing at times, this is an interesting take on a totally different way to set up a culture.

Note: my sister-in-law gave this to me for my birthday. Thanks, Laura!

7. John Adams by David McCullough (1/2)

Ever since I was little I have loved John Adams. 1776 was one of my favorite musicals. I own the HBO mini-series. He is my favorite Founding Father and President. Abigail is my favorite famous female. So I figured this year I’d actually confirm that I like ALL of what Mr. Adams stood for. I’ve made it about halfway through the 600+ page book. To be honest, I stopped right when he becomes Vice President because even John thought that time of his life was pointless. However, everything I read leading up to it reminded me of how much I love the Adamses. I hope to finish the book in 2017 and confirm once and for all that Mr. A rocks.

Note: I hate that Hamilton: An American Musical is so mean to John Adams. Give him a break, guys!

8. The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I wouldn’t have read this, but Amazon gave it to me for free and I am so grateful. Told from the perspective of four neighbors, this book details the changes in a community after a terrible accident occurs at the neighborhood pool. It is sweet and chilling and inspiring. I read it in less than a week.

9. Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst

This past summer, I met weekly with two lovely women in a season dedicated to discussing our struggles with disordered eating, reconciling it with our relationships with God, and supporting each other on the journey to a better relationship with food and our bodies. Our meetings were great. The book, however, I found lacking. I chose this devotional because I thought it could be used for any kind of disordered eating and was disappointed to learn it was geared toward weight loss (which was not exactly what we were going for). That being said, I’ve heard that the book version is better suited for what I was wanting. Anyway, it shared some good biblical truths that led to some great discussions.

10. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

If you know me, you know I love Ender’s Game, but I was always hesitant to read the sequel because everyone told me it was “different.” Well, different or not I love this book. It was great to be thrown back into the Enderverse for the first time in years (I do NOT count seeing the film version) and getting to experience a grown-up Ender. Card gets very head-y in this book, but overall is an interesting look at human/human and human/alien interactions.

11. Devotions For a Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas

Neil wanted us to do a devotional for our first year of marriage and it was really neat to be able to read and discuss each chapter together every week. Gary Thomas does a great job in providing encouragement as well as challenges to help make your marriage meaningful and prosperous while rooting it all in biblical truth. Whether you’re a newlywed or going on Golden, it’s a great reminder of God’s plan for marriage and how we can help keep our marriages intact and our spouses thriving.

Note: I’m cheating a bit here, because Neil and I started reading this in September 2015, but I’m counting it for 2016 because this is my blog and I can do what I want.

12. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Yeah, I know. I went back to the Enderverse. Speaker for the Dead reinvigorated my love for Ender and his new crew. Xenocide continues Ender’s story but this time the stakes are much higher. This book really got me thinking about how we’re naturally afraid of people/things “other” than us and what “other” really means. I think it also goes way harder on the science fiction spectrum than the other two books, so if you’ve gotten this far hang on and stick with it. Looking forward to finishing the quartet this year!

13. The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (1/2)

As my Booksgiving book this year, I’m technically supposed to have finished it already, but I made it halfway and that’s going to have to be okay. Neil picked it out for me because TIME listed it as of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923 (according to Wikipedia and another source Neil found). I’ll admit I was hesitant. It’s not my typical fare and it’s been harder to get through than most books I read this year. However, I am glad to be reading it. Not only is it stretching me in regards to genre, but it’s giving me an interesting look at American life in the early millennium. About a complicated and broken family set right before the most recent economic slump, its social commentary reminds me a lot of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (one of my favorite plays). We shall see. If anything, I’ll be able to say I’ve read one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923…

What did you read in 2016? Have you ever read any of these? Let me know!

Storytelling is a piece of work.

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Another day, another item checked off my bucket list. Recently I got the chance to write a children’s book for one of our clients at MMI Agency: Dentistry for Children. To help educate children about oral hygiene, MMI developed a books series for Dentistry For Children featuring a lovable character, Luna the Tooth Fairy. For the third book in the series, I got to throw my hat in by developing a new storyline incorporating Luna and her friends, Lionel and Libby.

The story focuses on a major tooth crisis: the moon, which gets its glow from the shiny teeth collected by Tooth Fairies, is losing it’s brightness. Luna needs to tell kids about dental hygiene, and asks Lionel and Libby to help her.

The following are excerpts from the 15-page fully illustrated book (feel free to read the whole thing):

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My Book Collection

Everyday, Poetry

Image

To read is to open up your mind,

You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

A book is more than words and glue,

It’s takes a hold and sticks on you.

And if you take the time to dwell,

Your book will come to know you well.

So grab a novel, play, or poem,

And let the story take you home.