New Author Website! And a sneak peek…

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog and there are a few things to report.

  1. This space is now a part of erinpetti.com – my author website! I’m so excited and thrilled with the work that the FABULOUS web developer Mike Robinson has done to get erinpetti.com up and running!
  2. THE PECULIAR HAUNTING OF THELMA BEE has a cover. It’s here!
  3. The generosity of my fellow authors, friends, and even one of my TV icons (!!) has been staggering. We’ve collected some really tremendous testimonials. Fun fact: I cry every time I read a new one.
  4. I visited my mom’s class of 6th graders to talk about writing and had the most fun ever. I’m really looking forward to school visits as we move forward. I have some super fun workshop ideas!!
  5. I’m THISCLOSE to finishing my first draft of book 2. In fact, I’m hoping to be done today. It may contain the following: meatball subs, red witches, and a student run radio station. I’m having fun.

BONUS TRACK! Here’s a little sneak peak of some of one of my characters as illustrated by Kris Aro McLeodizzy button

Advertisements

My Agent Love Story: True Grit

In the beginning of 2012 I finished writing my first manuscript, a middle grade story called THELMA BEE. I sent it to some writerly friends and they gave great support and a few suggestions. I put it away for a while and later revised. “Now, I’m ready!” I thought. Wrongly. It was a wrongly thought thought.

I got a few requests. Supportive rejections trickled in. But then a contest called The Writer’s Voice happened.

Brenda Drake is the Khaleesi of writing contests. Once I started following her on Twitter, everything got a lot more exciting (and clear). During The Writers Voice I was chosen for Krista Van Dolzer’s team. Krista was an incredible mentor and helped me whip my query into shape. The contest did two things:

1. Plugged me into an informative, supportive, amazing group of writers/agents/editors on Twitter

2. Got my manuscript some VERY exciting requests.

Now we’ve got some momentum. Go go go go go gooooooPREGNANCY.

So I threw up for months and months and months. And I didn’t write. I didn’t query. I just looked out the window and then I threw up more.

Cut to my baby being old enough for me to think relatively clearly again — this past summer. I connected with some of my old Team Krisa pals and one of them, Michelle, gave THELMA BEE a read. She provided me with some excellent, detailed edits that helped me look at the book in a new light.

Then, one day on Twitter I saw #MSWL. That stands for Manuscript Wishlist. Agent Laura Zats asked for a quest that wasn’t a treasure hunt and if I remember correctly, a creepy swamp. Well, friends, this I can deliver. I queried her. She asked for a partial. Then the full. Then, right before Thanksgiving – she asked for a call.

I screamed. Whatever, it was exciting.

We scheduled the call for A WEEK AND A HALF in the future because of the holiday week. So, I hosted Thanksgiving for 12 people and that was a good distraction.

During the call, I put a slide show of calming forest scenes on my laptop. We chatted and she was awesome and very in tune with the characters and the story. At one point I made mention of Thelma’s town being a little bit Star’s Hollow and she immediately got that and excitedly compared one of my book’s locations to Luke’s Diner. In my mind I thought “YEP, NAILED IT. LET’S DO THIS THING”.

The week that followed “the call” brought two other phone conversations with great agents, each with different situations, each of whom would offer different paths for the manuscript in the next few months. I hounded my Team Krista friends (including Krista herself) with constant emails, and bugged fancy pants Twitter friend Summer Heacock for her expertise. At the end of it, I had to go with my gut and my gut was telling me to go with Laura.

I signed the contract on Christmas Eve. That was very cool.

As writers I think we sometimes try to force life events into a narrative arc to make it neat. This wasn’t a hero’s quest – it was messier. I loved my story, and thought it was good when I finished my first draft. But I learned the true meaning of revision over the months (and months) I worked on THELMA BEE. It was about letting go of my ego and really getting my hands dirty. It was also about not giving up even though it got hard and I saw other people sail past me, getting agents book deals while I was diving back in for the 35th revision.

If you love your story, don’t give up. Make it better and then make it best. I have come to a point in my life when I realize that for a writer (or a mom, for that matter) grit is one of the most important things. This process involved not a lot of luck, but a lot of persistence and willingness to reconsider and rework. It had much more to do with examining my use of gerunds than fairy dust. It actually had a lot to do with gerunds.

true_grit_clips

I’ve got a ton more work to do, but I’m very excited to be embarking on this next stage of my career with Laura.

FIN

The 50% Querier

So, I wrote a little book, polished it up, and sent it out into the world. First tentatively, and then with mounting confidence. I received rejections, but also full requests from wonderful agents. When some of them eventually declined they said things that made my chest puff up with pride. My writing was maybe not terrible. Maybe -kind of- good.

I entered a contest called The Writer’s Voice and was able to workshop my query letter with extraordinary writers. My manuscript ended up with some more requests. Exciting ones! And then after the contest, some more requests – just from submissions into the slush pile! My little book is now out with a bunch of agents. Really cool ones.

Why then have I felt, for the last few months, this sensation of full stop? The gears grinding to a halt. The wind-up monkey toy running out of juice just as his cymbals are about to crash together one final time. I, friends, have felt very much like the college kid on the side of the road who thought he could totally make it home with the gas gauge hovering below E. College kid, you need to get more than 5 dollars worth of gas at a time. I’m sorry, it’s just true.

As many of you know, I’ve been experiencing a biological phenomenon that is at once truly magical and utterly exhausting. Turns out it isn’t easy making people from scratch! The first four months, anyway, have been…interesting. We’re so psyched. I’m so psyched, just also pretty sick and sleepy. But I’m rounding a corner now. Feeling a little bit more juice than I have been feeling in the past few months, and getting a little revved up once again.

The other day we went out to Thai food with my sister and her boyfriend, and there was this girl waiting for take out – she was writing in a journal. I got JEALOUS with a capital all those letters. That emotion made me so excited.

Note: Thai food excursion was doubly successful because as an added bonus I actually ate a full dinner. The baby loves Pineapple Fried Rice. I think we’re really going to get along.

The query process for my for THELMA is only about halfway done. I’ve been reading about how many agents a writer usually submits to before calling it a day and I’m not anywhere near that number. It just felt like so much work to do all the research on individual agents and craft their submissions just right. I mean, I could do a big cut and paste job, but no one appreciates that. Basically, I’d been feeling DONE but now I’m not so sure.

I feel like maybe I should put on a helmet or something, because I’m diving back down into the querier’s trenches. This time with baby-power.

PitchMadness

A quick update. I mentioned that my work had been accepted into the Pitch Madness contest a few days ago but didn’t have much more info. It turns out that there were 60 entries chosen spanning three writers’ blogs and a number of literary agents made bids on the submissions they wanted to read.

I’m very happy that a wonderful agent from a wonderful agency has requested that I send her my full manuscript. Best case scenario!

Some really hard working and innovative writers put on these contests once and a while for the benefit of poor unagented folk like myself, and I’m so grateful for all their patience and labor.

If you want to take a look at the bidding wars that occurred (in the style of a poker game), check out Brenda Drake’s Website. Lots of really wonderful submissions and, in this contest, lots of winners.

So, I haven’t heard back from any of the folks who have THELMA yet, but this is just a little more good news. It’s a long road!

 

Writing away from the Berlin Wall

One of the really wonderful things I experienced while working on THELMA was just a quiet granting of permission to have fun.

Most of you know that I’ve performed comedy for a long time, so fun is something that I’m accustomed to in theater. In fact, for improvisation my personal contention is that it should be all fun, 100% of the time. I think that even when a group is maybe a little off, or their inexperience shines through a little too much, all can be forgiven if they’re having fun. I love watching performers enjoy themselves and love each other. I hate when you’re watching a show and you can see improvisers stressing out and getting pissed at each other for not listening, missing the mark, etc. It’s one of my least favorite things.

It’s make-believe, for goodness sake. If you hate a scene, make believe that there’s a time machine there to blast you seven minutes into the future and BAM, the bad scene is over. Sky’s the limit. No, sky’s not the limit. The imaginary galaxy way past the sky is the limit.

But anyway, I’m getting off track. The point is that I’m good at allowing myself to have fun, and be ridiculous on stage – but I was never good at expressing myself that way in my writing.

This is a true story – the first creative writing project I can remember was in third grade. My lovely teacher who happens to be named Mrs. Pettee asked us to go back to any time in history and pretend to be an observer there. Write about the things you see, hear, smell, etc.

Lots of my friends wrote about castles and princes, some wrote about being a teen in the 1950’s and hanging out at a soda shoppe. I had just learned about slavery, so off to the antebellum south I went! I vividly remember sitting at my desk, imagining and writing about smelling blood and cotton in the air. Heavy for a kid, but I felt transported and excited by exploring really hideous things. It was a really enveloping experience, and kind of changing for me.

Mrs. Pettee was really impressed/concerned.

I followed that piece up with an epic poem inspired by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall brilliantly titled “When the Wall Comes Down” I think that one ended happily with Reagan and¬†Gorbachev embracing each other like they were brothers. And yeah, that might actually have been the utilized rhyme. Don’t try to steal it. I’ll find you.

In high school I wrote two plays – one about homelessness, one about the Holocaust. I think you’re starting to get my point. For whatever reason I’ve equated deadly seriousness with meaningful writing for years, decades actually.

Turns out, that kind of gravity has almost nothing to do with my personality or writing strengths. Yes, I have a respect for great wordsmiths of human suffering (tons of respect). But more than twenty years after my abolitionist paragraphs, I’m comfortable admitting that it’s probably not me.

I’m starting to write another piece now with an older protagonist and I have to check myself constantly. Realistic doesn’t have to mean depressing. I remind myself to have fun, be unafraid of comedy, because that’s what feels natural and quite frankly it’s what I’m good at. Go forth and have fun.

*A wee note! THELMA was accepted into a pitch contest here. There are going to be some agents involved and there’s a poker motif…but I’m not sure I truly understand the process yet. I’ll let you know if something good happens!

Hoo-de-Hoo

This week I conducted a training during a birds of prey show. Owls, specifically.

The earthy, long haired presenter held a library full of second graders in rapt attention as she hooted loudly and educationally into the microphone. Different kinds of owls have different kinds of hoots. I learned that. Even I was bored by me, compared to the awesome birds.

I found myself wondering about the owl lady. She was a total professional and very comfortable as the birds perched on her arm. Some looked like fuzzy baby owls, and one was gigantic and only had one eye. For some reason I have a huge soft spot for one eyed animals. They make me want to cry and hug — although I think this guy could have clawed up my face if he wanted to.

I loved the Q & A session the best:

Kid: Can you buy them for pets?

Owl Lady: Oh, no. Next question.

Kid #2: Why can’t you have them for pets?

Owl Lady: Because they’re wild animals! You can’t have wild animals for pets. Next question.

Kid #3: Why can’t you have wild animals for pets?

Owl Lady: Because they belong in nature! They are wild! Next question.

Kid #4: I have a big yard…

The children were so into it. I was there for another purpose entirely and even I was so into it. I’ve had to do many, many school shows before in my comedy life, and there’s always the terrifying element of – what if these little people hate us and call us out on being adult fools? Because sometimes improv is profoundly stupid, even for second graders.

Owl lady had nothing to worry about. Seeing those animals out of context, in a regular old library, was magical. Even more magical than adults in black pants and lav mics.

Solution: ImprovBoston Zoo-on-Wheels division. You’re welcome.

In writing news, all I’ve really completed in the past week is a short story, totally unrelated to Thelma. I’m waiting to hear from a number of people for that girl! The new story is YA – from the perspective of a 17 year old, which is a total change of pace for me, but it was fun. Thinking about maybe expanding it…we’ll see!