Keeping a Deadline Despite a Busy Life

How does anyone manage to write regularly when they have a family and a full-time job?

No, seriously. How?

Hopefully you didn’t come here to find out, because if I knew I wouldn’t be writing this apology post three months after my most recent one.

At the beginning of this year I set myself the goal of posting at least once per month. I was working on call, so the only thing hindering my ability to post was the fact that I was living with depression while parenting a two-year-old. I posted in January and February but, like most New Year’s resolutions, progress stalled after that. I got a full-time job in March, and I haven’t posted since.

Well, that’s about to change. Unlike most New Year’s resolutions, I’m jumping back on the horse!

There’s a writing tip, if that’s what you came here for: Don’t give up. Even when you feel like you’ve fallen short. Even when you’ve taken an unintentional break and your brain is rusty. When you fall off the horse, you get back on.

I said I was going to write a feminist blog series on Disney Princesses, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Coming soon: a feminist take on Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I can’t wait!

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Why

In his first published book, Nicholas Sparks wrote that it’s not the whats and hows and wheres that matter in life, it’s the whys.

While Nicholas Sparks’ writing certainly has its faults (which I won’t go on and on and on and on… and on… about right now), this quote has always stuck with me. Focus on the whys in life, and life will be simpler, happier, and less stressful.

While reading through some old blog posts, I was reminded of why I write, and why I’m trying to get published:

 

There’s one story… on one of the special features of The Little Mermaid DVD that I borrowed from my parents. One of the creators of the movie tells the camera about the various fan mail they received after the movie was released. In one letter, a man told the studio that immediately after seeing The Little Mermaid in theaters, he called his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years. I get teary even rewriting this story that happened to people I will never meet. Possibly because remembering it instantly brings to mind the image of Ariel hugging King Triton and whispering, “I love you, Daddy.”

I love you, Daddy

This is what I want to give to my readers. This is what I think about when I’m discouraged about my lack of being “discovered.”

Among other things, Finding ‘Ohana is also about a young woman wanting to reconnect with her parents, even though they cut her out of their lives years ago. If I could reach someone who’s in a similar situation, I would consider my book a success.

Just Keep Swimming

Something I’m trying to work on this week is to just keep going. It’s a mantra that’s applicable in various areas of my life right now, writing and trying to get published included. It’s been pretty rough, and I’ve been getting a little discouraged…

So I looked back over a couple of posts I made over a year ago. The first one was exactly what I needed, so I want to reblog it now as a reminder to myself:

 

[To] “Keep Going” is all about perseverance. It reminded me of a Bible scripture, believe it or not. James 1:2&3 “Consider it pure joy, my [sisters], whenever you face trials of any kind, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” I’m not very religious (anymore), but this scripture has always had a nice ring to it for me. Maybe it’s my annoying tendency to be optimistic. It’s like the scripture that says that God works for the good of those who love God. Bad things can’t always be bad. There’s always something good that comes from them. If nothing else, perseverance.

So maybe I’ve gotten some responses from agents saying that my novel isn’t what they’re looking for. But that’s only testing my faith that my novel is worth representation, and as long as I hold firm to that faith with perseverance, it’ll pay off.

I know, ever the optimist. Annoying, right?   : P

Just Keep Swimming

Back in the Game!

I sent out my first 2013 query letter today!

I’ve heard that I’ll need to send out 500 query letters before I get an agent who wants to represent me. And then 500 more before I get an agent who sells my book. But that all starts with one, right?    🙂

So here goes nothing! Wish me luck!

New & Improved Query Letter!

Without a truly phenomenal query letter, agents won’t even care to read my novel, which is why I am sooo thankful to J.R. Johansson for her Forging Fridays, and especially the one on February 1st, in which she critiqued my query letter for Finding ‘Ohana.

One of the main things she says is that I need more emotion, which I think is a fantastic point, since emotion is what most people complement when they read my writing (as well as what I pride myself most on).

She also suggests that I drop my attempt to keep the end of chapter one a surprise. It is chapter one, after all. So as much as I despise spoilers, I’ll oblige, trusting that others who have been in the publishing business longer know far more than I.

So, without further ado, here is my new and improved query letter:

 

[Open with specific reason why I am querying this particular agent, such as, “When we met at such-and-such writer’s conference, you mentioned that you love novels with the setting as its own character. My novel, Finding ‘Ohana takes place in Hawai’i, and cultural values have a significant role in the characters’ lives.”]

Just last week, Cinnamin Makaiau was painting a nursery sunny yellow, picking out Hawaiian names that mean “Heaven,” and watching her wife, Naali, lovingly hold her round belly as Cinnamin expected to see her hold their baby soon. But after an emergency C-section, Cinnamin instead watches as Naali goes into shock, and dies without ever holding her baby boy, leaving Cinnamin unsure of how to put back the pieces of her shattered life. She is left with in-laws who want to help her through her grief, but whose Hawaiian customs of mourning seem to mock her pain, and so Cinnamin feels no comfort from the people who want to be her family, her ‘ohana.

Meanwhile, Cinnamin cannot help but think of her own parents, who turned their backs on her when they found out the truth about her sexuality, but who had been able to console her back when life was simpler and her greatest pain was a scraped knee or a child’s cruel remark at school. Cinnamin is alone, craving comfort from those who cannot give it. So when she runs into her brother, and he suggests she marry her best (male) friend to earn her parents’ love and acceptance, Cinnamin considers it. And as she is swept away in plans for a wedding to a man she can never love, Cinnamin finds herself being forced to choose between regaining her family or remaining true to her identity, as Naali once taught her to do. 

 

Finding ‘Ohana is a completed, 48,900-word women’s fiction novel that explores the locals’ Hawai’i and the ways in which native Hawaiians adapt their ancestors’ culture. It deals with many complex themes, including parenthood, family estrangement, grief, religion and sexuality, as well as family and individual identity as they are defined by differing cultures.

In order to write this novel, I researched Hawaiian culture and interviewed native and local Hawaiians, as well as used my own personal experience in growing up with religious values conflicting with sexuality. I’ve been working as a professional editor for LazyDay Publishing, so I know the level of perfection required before a novel is ready for publication. I’ve had short stories and academic papers published both in local and national literary journals between 2010 and the present under my given name as well as my pen name, Sierra Dawn. 

Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you so much for your time and consideration.

 

I think this is a huge improvement! The bulk of the query is focused on the novel, rather than other things I’ve written, it’s concise and to-the-point, and, best of all, it’s more emotional than my previous attempts at a query letter. So thanks, again, to J.R. Johansson for the wonderful critique!

If the world ends today…

…at least I’m goin’ out as a published author!

I got the final confirmation email today, and I am proud to announce that I am now an author with The Write Place at the Write Time! My original short story, Pyramid, will be published in the literary journal’s winter edition, to come out on January 22nd. So mark your calendars!

The bad news is, excerpts from Pyramid will not be available here while the story is live. The good news is, once the winter edition is archived, I will be able to post excerpts again. Enjoy your antici…

…pation now. Come January 22nd, I will post the link so that you can read Pyramid in its entirety!

Here’s the original post (with a synopsis instead of an excerpt) from when I first blogged about Pyramid:

Reading through Laura Pauling’s guest post on My Memories of a Future Life, I was reminded of how often music has inspired my own writing.

Unlike Laura Pauling, I find that the right lyrics with the right notes are the most inspirational. Being a writer, it’s hard not to listen to the words. But, being a singer, I will admit that music can emote more profoundly than any words. So when you combine emotional writing with emotional music, you have something that moves people in a way that neither would be able to alone.

Also unlike Pauling, I will sometimes include the inspirational song so that it inspires my characters. (This was part of the reason why I loved Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home – it has a soundtrack!)

There is one short story in particular in which I included a song, because the song was what inspired me to write the story in the first place. Feel free to listen while reading the synopsis:

Pyramid is a fiction short story about a woman struggling through an abusive relationship. After waking up in the hospital, without so much as flowers from the boyfriend who put her there, she finally sees that she deserves more. With the help of a friend, a therapist, memories of what it means to truly live, and a song whose lyrics reach her at the very moment she is ready to listen, she begins her life again on her own.
In order to recognize the thousands of women in this situation, none of the characters in this story have names, and only the main character and her boyfriend have genders. What individualizes the main character is who she was before the abuse, and who she becomes afterward.

Time for a Break?

I made it through the rewrite.

Somehow, I made it through.

Didn’t know how much it’d take,

How much work I’d dooo…

 

It’s December. I spent the last month poring over Finding ‘Ohana, trying to get my newest draft edited and posted. There were many times when I did not think I would get through my book before the end of National Novel-Writing Month. But I did it. Somehow, I made it through the rewrite. And I am pooped.

I’m going to spend a little time focusing my writing on something else, work on my other novels I want to write, or maybe some short stories. But I’m also going to get Finding ‘Ohana in a final draft state before the end of this month, which won’t be nearly as stressful as the bulk of work I had last month. Then I’ll have a new New Year’s resolution: getting Finding ‘Ohana published.

My die-hard fans out there know that this is similar to my resolution from last year. Or, rather, it’s the same as the one last year. For my soon-to-be-die-hard fans, here’s a little background:

 

New Year’s resolution, January 2011 – to write more. Simple, yes, but also doable. This was my first real New Year’s resolution. Before, I’d never had something that I was truly dedicated to accomplishing.

I started out my working on my short stories. But that’s not all. 2011 was the year that I wrote an entire novel in twelve weeks. That summer was the bane of my existence for  a while. But it also proved that beautiful accomplishments are worth the pain.

 

New Year’s resolution, January 2012 – to get Finding ‘Ohana published. Some things just don’t change. About this time last year, I was struggling to finish my latest round of edits before the end of December, so that I could dedicate 2012 to becoming a published author.

No, I’m not a published author yet, but I’m also not discouraged. As far as I’m concerned, my resolution for 2012 was a success.

I went to a writer’s conference in April and got some great advice. I met agents and marketing experts who inspired me to start this blog, which I have greatly enjoyed keeping.

I sent query letters to over fifty literary agents, and a few of them even requested more of my novel, if not the complete manuscript. Those few eventually decided against representing me, but they gave me some amazing critiques, which has led me to rewriting Finding ‘Ohana into a much stronger and more substantial novel.

 

That brings me to now. I am more confident than ever that Finding ‘Ohana will make its way to bookshelves everywhere. So I am going to make my final adjustments and ring in the new year with new hope. You will see my name in print yet.