Thank You, Mom

As many of you know, my mom is very important to me. Not only has she provided me with a lifetime of love, guidance, and laughter, but she’s also been my biggest cheerleader as I pursue my writing dreams.

10675569_10101945416237253_5209288535149780450_nIf it wasn’t for my mom, I might still be writing behind a locked door, quiet as a mouse, cautiously saving my stories under names like “Comparative Politics Study Guide 2” (no joke) to make sure nobody ever read them. I was terrified I’d be judged–teased–mocked.

Thankfully, my mom put a kibosh on those fears a couple of years after I graduated college. As I complained to her about my job and explained how unhappy it made me, she asked, “Well, what do you want to do? What will make you happy?”

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I confessed, “I want to be a writer.”

“Then do it!”

Her enthusiastic response gave me the strength I needed to tiptoe out of the “writer’s closet” and embark upon a career I love.

So thank you, Mom, for helping me overcome my fears. And for convincing me my dreams weren’t stupid and I should go after them with all of my might.

10245309_10101552065949383_449044523913113086_nMy mom has done more than kickstart my writing journey. She’s also stuck by my side throughout it, holding on tight as I’ve hopped, skipped, and crashed down the industry’s rocky path.

In 2008, she celebrated my first completed manuscript…And then comforted me as I received rejection letter after rejection letter for it.

In 2009, she supported my decision to set aside my first novel and begin writing a new one…And then freaked out with me a year later when a Hollywood producer optioned it.

In 2011 and 2012, she helped me rewrite, revise, and edit my optioned work (again and again and again)…And then picked me up and dusted me off in 2013 when my contract expired and I was sent back to square one.

In 2014, she urged me to be brave and take on new challenges, learn and grow, and become a better writer…And then cheered for me when my hard work paid off.

Now, in 2015, she has convinced me it’s okay to let go of the past, embrace new ideas, and begin working on a new project.

So thank you, Mom, for sticking with me through the good, the bad, and the ugly. And for helping me realize nothing is ever over until I give up and quit.

10629715_10101749910292733_7705700716641345905_nSeriously, my mom is amazing! More than amazing. Special. It takes someone like her–calm, firm, and understanding–to deal with a writer like me–perfectionist, borderline manic, and neurotic.

I mean it. Most people would run out the door if they ever encountered me on a writing day. They wouldn’t know how to deal with my roller coaster temperament, detached demeanor, or crazy hair.

10982080_369275416598346_3868432891056136335_nAHHHHHH! Run for your lives!

But my mom has never run away. She has always been willing to brave the Writing Beast I become when I hit the zone, and deal with my wacky behavior: the short fuse, the lack of focus during real-life conversations, the self-deprecation, the fatigue, the obsession…

So thank you, Mom, for remaining patient, compassionate, and calm whenever I go into my crazy writing mode. And for also grounding me when I need it most.

1012127_10101036544767963_470107348_nEvery writer needs someone who can push them without breaking them. Someone who can read their work and give them 100% honest feedback. Someone who makes them a better writer.

For me, that’s my mom. I can rely on her to read my stories and tell me exactly what she thinks.

“You have a good start, but I think it needs (blank).”

“I like the premise, but I didn’t feel enough (blank).”  

“I loved (blank), but I didn’t love (blank).”

As you can see, my mom’s a master at the sandwich technique (good-bad-good). But what makes her advice so valuable is that I trust it. If she thinks a plot is dull, then I won’t use it. If she believes a character is cliche, then I’ll add depth or spin them in a different direction. If she wants more suspense–more drama–more horror–more more, then I’ll give more.

So thank you, Mom, for pushing me to be a better writer. And for always demanding I take my stories to the next level.

10653421_10101749910377563_8640838046765233212_nI might have a lot of people in my life who support me and my writing ambitions, but it’s my mom who’s there for me the most.

She’s the one who’s always willing to sit and listen to me brainstorm for hours about plots and characters. She’s the one who will read draft one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…She’s the one who will shake sense into me, dust me off, and push me to keep going. She’s the one who believes in me–completely.

And because of that–because of her–I know I’ll reach my dreams someday.

So thank you, Mom. For everything.

Love you!

10173680_10101505439873413_6929469929429599948_nHappy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

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Are You a Positive or Negative Writer

A little while back, my friend Hugh, from the blog Hugh’s Views and News, asked me if I’d like to write a guest post for his new “Ladies & Gentlemen, meet…” feature. I was honored by his request and happily accepted his invitation.

Below, you’ll find my guest post. Hugh encouraged me to write about whatever I wanted (my blog, my writing, my life). I decided to delve into a topic that has been bothering me for months. Hopefully you’ll be able to take something away from it!

Thank you, Hugh, for including me in your new feature and spurring me to share my thoughts on this matter. I encourage everyone to visit his blog. It’s one of my favorites!

Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I like to say, “I work in the Industry of Rejection.”

Let’s face it. Being a writer–especially one with lofty aspirations of making the New York Times Bestseller list–is tough. Not only do you willingly open yourself up to a world of cynics, naysayers, and Debbie Downers, but you get so used to hearing the word “No”, you forget the meaning of “Yes”.

But, that’s what we all dream of hearing, isn’t it? “Yes”? Yes from an agent. Yes from a publisher. Yes from readers! That’s why we put up with “the Industry of Rejection”. We all hope to one day achieve our goals. To receive “the call” from a literary agent. To walk past a stranger reading our book. To host a book signing. To receive another call about our next book being published…

The “dream list” goes on and on. And, some days, that’s all that gets me through the business’s negative muck and mire.

But, there’s something else–something more tangible than hopes and dreams–that pulls me through the “No, no, no!” sludge:

Other writers.

Up until the fall of 2013, I only interacted with two other writers…Yep, that’s it. Two! Then I created my blog, hopped on Twitter, and entered an NYC Midnight writing challenge–and boom! My writing world blew up. Suddenly, I had dozens of writing pals from around the world, all of them positive, supportive, and helpful. I went from working alone and feeling alone, to being embraced by those swimming through the same Negative Ocean as me.

Honestly, I don’t know how I survived so long without those lifesavers to keep me afloat.

Yet, throughout the past two years, I’ve encountered other types of writers, ones who haven’t been so positive, supportive, or helpful. In fact, they’ve been the complete opposite.

The Basher

“I don’t know why so many people like your story. It sucks.”

Just because you don’t like a story doesn’t mean you have to bash it to pieces. Find ways to tactfully explain why a story doesn’t work for you. Is it the plot? The characters? Perhaps the writing itself needs work? Whatever the problem, be specific and help writers improve their work. Don’t demean it. That doesn’t help anyone. Plus, it makes you look like a jerk (or worse).

The One Upper

“Who cares if you optioned your story to a Hollywood production company? I’ve self-published five novels and I just got an agent to help me publish my sixth!”

Well, bully for you! And thank you for congratulating me on my hard-earned success…Sheesh! As competitive as we can be, there’s no need to try and outshine each other. When another writer tells you their success story, stifle your “Oh, yeah?” impulse and celebrate with them.

And, trust me, you’ll get a chance to talk about yourself in the future. For now, rejoice with the other writer and remember: “Yes!” is a rare word in this industry. Let a writer revel in it when it happens.  

The Righter

“You have to outline before you start writing. It’s the right way–the only way!”

News alert: There’s no right way to write. Sure, there’s basic grammar and whatnot, but the rest of it? All up to the individual writer. So don’t judge others for their methods of madness. If something works, then it works…And if something doesn’t, well, the writer will likely ask you for advice.

The Eye for an Eye-r

“You didn’t like my story? Oh, well. Whatever. I didn’t like yours either. In fact, I connected with it so little, I gave up after the first page.”

There are hundreds of ways to handle criticism: Venting in private. Crying in your car. Stuffing your face with Peanut M&M’s…But there’s one definite way you should not handle it: Rejecting the feedback and attacking the writer who wrote it.

Not only does retaliation make you look classless and immature, but it also alienates you from other writers. I mean, who wants to work with a writer who’ll blow up every time they receive constructive criticism? No, thanks.

My advice? If you can’t stomach responding with a polite, “Thank you for your honest opinion”, then don’t respond at all.

Every time I encounter one of the writers listed above, I’m torn between sadness and fury. I just don’t get it. We already have to put up with so much negativity from the rest of the industry. Why should we add to the burden by being negative with each other? By stomping and pushing and crushing each other? This isn’t The Hunger Games!

This is our hopes and dreams. Although we might be going to war on the same battlefield, our fight isn’t with each other. It’s with fulfilling our personal goals.

So, the next time you interact with another writer, I encourage you to be positive, supportive, and helpful. If they pen a great story, applaud them.If they announce they’ve received a book deal, celebrate with them. If they explain their unique writing process, listen and keep an open mind–maybe even try one of their methods to see if it works for you? And if they give you constructive criticism, accept it with grace.

Whatever you do, don’t be a writer who knocks other writers down. It will only make you look bad…And it will, obviously, make others feel bad.

If anything, remember this: Nobody can understand you like another writer can. The highs and lows. The hours–weeks–years of hard work. The fears and doubts. The hopes and dreams. So, don’t alienate yourself by being “The Basher”, “The One Upper”, “The Righter”, or “The Eye for an Eye-r”. Be positive, supportive, and helpful! If you do that, then you’ll have a much better chance of surviving the Industry of Rejection.

We all will.

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Confession: I’m a Book Lover Advocate

Last night, I took my 3-year old nephew to the Scholastic Book Fair at his pre-school. And it. Was. Awesome! Witnessing his vivid enthusiasm, listening to his incessant chatter, crouching on the ground next to him while he “read”…It was so, so, so cool. I was so proud and giddy and relieved to see him genuinely excited about books. And I was filled with newfound determination to keep him excited about them as he grows up. To be a constant book lover advocate around him and my other nephew.

1000249_10101282759371923_1382787765_nI’ve always been a book lover advocate (shocker, I know). It’s a task I joyfully take on everyday with everyone around me…Unfortunately most people aren’t interested in what I have to say. When I talk about books, people either politely smile and nod, blatantly ignore me, or point blank admit, “I don’t read. Reading is boring.” Reading is boring? I gasp inwardly. How…Just how? Don’t people understand reading is more than reading–more than black words on a white page? Reading is adventurous. Reading is life altering.

Reading is magic!

a788bc012941816bc7643c91e8a93f07I want my nephew to grow up believing in that. I want all children to grow up believing in that. I want my friends and family members and co-workers and acquaintances to believe in that. I want the stranger I’ve never met to believe in that. But the only way to achieve such a thing is to be a book lover advocate. To share my passion for reading via this blog, Twitter and Facebook. To suggest books to those I know. To suggest books to those I don’t know, like the woman in line behind me at the grocery store staring at the rack of newly released novels. To take my nephews and nieces to book fairs. To give books as gifts.

To do whatever it takes to silence the naysayers and eliminate the evil phrase “I don’t read. Reading is boring.” Those words shouldn’t exist!

So, who’s with me? Who’s ready to be a book lover advocate? It’s never too late to join the cause!