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I got another rejection for a novel yesterday. It’s nothing new, nothing unexpected, but for some reason, it really did hurt. It’s a reality in the life of a struggling writer and, like I said, not unexpected. I joked on Twitter (@BrownBallantyne, in case you’re interested) that I was going to wallpaper a room with rejection emails and in reality, I’d probably have at least a good two walls worth. J.K. Rowling, with her twelve rejections, has nothing on me!

It frustrating when kids at school, my target audience, read it and love it, but I can’t find an agent or publishing company that will take the chance. I know, it’s all a part of the deal, and usually I take it in stride, but sometimes it just really gets to me. I start wondering if I’m any good, if I should just quit putting myself out there. It makes me wonder if people really mean it when they tell me that they love it or if they’re just wanting to spare my feelings. I mean, I get it. It’s hard to tell someone that they suck, especially when you know them.

I know that the biggest part of writing should be for the sheer joy of it, and I do love writing, but the goal is to actually make it into a career, i.e., the proverbial “do what you love” path. I would, eventually, before I die, like to do what I love for a living. It’s just taking a really long time to get started, or to even get noticed in this super-competitive world.

I’ll admit, I was a little spoiled because my first book, Put Up Your Hair, was picked up almost immediately by the first company I queried, Heritage Books. I was confident, overly so, that my success with fiction would come just as easily. The past few years have taught me some hard lessons on that front. Apparently, I needed a little humility. I definitely have it now!

And then, I remember the student who ran up to me after she read Traveler, begging me to write the sequel, or the class that looped with me who wanted to hear it all again during read aloud time the following year, telling the new students that it was such a good story. I think about the students to whom I gave samples of other stories, who clamored for more. (I promise that I’ll finish the paranormal book after the Traveler sequel, N.!) That kind of thing gives me a little boost each time it happens and encourages me to keep putting my thoughts into words.

I don’t mean to sound discouraged, just letting off a little steam. I’ll shake it off and move on, hoping to write another few thousand words this weekend. I’ll keep sending out the queries, each one with a little prayer, and hope that one day, I’ll catch the right agent in the right mood and things can progress the way I’d love for them to go.

One day…

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New Novel Meme

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In order to increase my author base and to attract the attention of agents, I opened up a new Twitter account. I’ve had Twitter for a few years now, but didn’t really do much with it, as evidenced by a whopping 16 followers. (@23italiana, if you’re interested, but there isn’t a lot there except for these blog posts.) But today is a new day, and with it, a new commitment to actually tweeting not only author-y type stuff, but things that are. hopefully, somewhat entertaining.

This is my shameless plug to follow me @BrownBallantyne and meet some new blogging/tweeting folks, whether you’re a writer or not. I can promise that I will retweet a lot of British stuff, Italian stuff, Lin Manuel Miranda stuff, animal stuff… you get the idea.

So, see you there?

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I’ve been sending out queries to agents this week, lots of them. It’s a heart-wrenching time, sending something out that you have been working on for SO LONG, that you’ve poured your soul into, and bracing yourself for the rejections that will come. And they will come. Most agents are very upfront about their acceptance rates, usually less that 5% of thousands of queries every year, so even just statistically, the rejections will arrive, one after the other. These agents are busy, filtering through all of the email they get every day. There are a lot of people who want to be the next J.K.Rowling and they have to make quick decisions based on a tiny piece of work, hoping to get it right. Not an easy task, to be sure.

But there’s always that one possibility, that one chance, that that ONE agent will see your first ten pages, or five pages, of first three chapters and think, Yes, I could totally represent this person! That agent could have been looking for that very thing that you just sent them, in that very genre, with the voice that you wrote it in and it will happen. It will be a glorious, delirious, day when that email or phone call arrives. Believe me, I’ll be writing about it right away if that ever happens. You’ll be the first to know.

I was spoiled the first time I ever queried a publisher for my book, Put Up Your Hair. I got an offer from the first publisher I sent it to. It was exhilarating; I framed the contract and everything. Foolishly, I expected the same kind of thing to happen when I sent out my first novel, but I soon learned that querying a small publishing house for a specialized piece of work and querying an agency with thousands of other people trying to do just that are two very different things. With my first book, however, I heard lots of very good things about my writing, with many questions about when I would write another book, leading me to think that my writing was at least readable.

So there was that hope, and I kept writing. Writers who are trying to get published write, edit, second guess, edit again, and even again, to make their writing clean, concise, but yet descriptive enough to paint a picture in the mind of the reader. The waiting to see if someone likes all of that hard work can be unbearable; I’ve been checking my email all week waiting for a response, any kind of little answer. I did get a very nice email from an agent who rejected the project I sent due to time, but added that she hoped that I would keep her in mind in the future, so there is that. It’s amazing what a little spark of encouragement can do.

What is my point in all of this? Working off nervous energy, for one, but also to put my feelings into words. I’m better at writing them down than I am trying to say them out loud. I really, really want this. It’s worse than being a kid at Christmas, and there’s always that thought in the back of my mind that it’s not meant to be, that it’s never going to happen. Besides telling that little voice to bugger off in the rudest way possible, I’m keeping my hope alive by thinking positively and putting it out to God and into the universe.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on the next project, the next book of Traveler (no title yet), my essay for a writing contest, and trying to not obsessively check my email. If you’d like, check me out on Facebook: Julie Ballantyne Brown- Author or on Twitter: @23italiana (I only have, like, 16 followers; I really need to get better at Twitter). You could even take a look at the first Traveler, available on Amazon Kindle or in paperback, if you really wanted to.

A presto.

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“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.” E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web

It’s the end of another summer. Yes, I know that summer doesn’t technically end until September 22, but for me, as a teacher, summer is effectively over. And before anyone says anything about teachers having the whole summer off, blah, blah, blah, let me remind you that we’re working our tails off for ten months out of the year including our “own time”  during evenings, weekends, and holidays, PLUS we attend meetings , college classes, and professional development during the summer, so bugger off about that particular point. There, enough said about it.

I’m not a huge summer fan in terms of weather. I hate hot and humid and I’m an autumn girl through and through, but I enjoy the recovery time from my job.

This summer was incredibly busy, despite being the first summer that I haven’t worked a second job in several years. I think I tried to cram in everything that I’m not able to do during the school year and wore myself out in the process. Here is a sampling of Summer 2018.

  • I was able to let my natural body clock have its way again. I’m naturally a night owl and it felt SO GOOD to just sleep and wake up naturally. If only school started at 10:00.
  • I painted the living room. It really needed it, having been more than ten years since I had painted it last. While I love the finished product, I forgot how draining painting a room can be. At least I don’t have to do it for another ten years and I bought new curtains to boot.
  • Marty and I attended a lot of funeral home visitations and funerals summer, some expected, some not. Either way, it’s a reminder that we only get one shot at this life and I intend to fit in everything I can while I can. That also means staying active and being healthy in both mind and body so that I can do all of the things I want to do before it’s my turn. We said goodbye to some very special people this year. It makes you appreciate loved ones, and your time, all the more. We’re not promised tomorrow.
  • I did some spiritual insight seeking, learning to meditate and to spend time looking within, to be spiritually in tune with myself and with God. I believe we are given spiritual gifts, we just don’t use them like we should. I’d like to get better at that.
  • We went on vacation. See the July post for details about the “Ocean and Dead People Tour”, which was awesome. Anytime I’m near the ocean, I’m happy.
  • Speaking of our vacation, we did a lot more family history research. We’re kind of obsessed, although Marty would argue that I may have an addiction to Ancestry-crack.
  • I published my book, Traveler, as a paperback through Amazon.com and donated a copy to my local library. It was kind of a big deal for me. Check it out.
  • I read books that were not related to school or schoolwork. Heavenly.
  • I wrote. Not as much as I would have liked, but I did write.
  • I took Youngest Child to rehearsals and did hair for his show. High school kids are awesome, and I sincerely mean that.
  • I auditioned for a show and then I went to rehearsals.
  • I made two new adorable kitty friends. They live across the street and come to visit us pretty much every night for pets and treats. I love them.
  • We spent family time together, precious these days. The boys are starting to go off in their own directions and the time when they will only come home to visit is approaching quickly. I treasure our family dinners, the boys’ impromtu baseball and football games in front of the house, the flying Nerf darts, even the insults. I hope their memories of these days will be happy, too.
  • Marty and I went on lots of dates, including finally going to the Detroit Riverwalk for the first time. This is a good married-person thing to do. Often. I highly recommend it.
  • We started watching The Crown. I’m addicted. And Prince Philip is a jerky-jerk.
  • I rode my bike, Lulu, a lot. We didn’t get the theatre bike group going again, I was too busy to commit to a night this summer, but whenever I had to go to the library or somewhere within 3ish miles, I walked or rode Lulu. Good times.
  • Last, but not least, we took Oldest Child back to school today for his last year of college. Middle Child goes back next weekend. The days of us all together are finished until Thanksgiving. (I’m going to make them take a Christmas card picture while they’re home. Shhhhhhh…)

The crickets are singing, the bats are clicking.

Goodbye, Summer, goodbye. See you next June.

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HEY! GUESS WHAT??? (You can tell I’m excited when I’m writing in all caps.)

Traveler is now a PAPERBACK!!! No longer relegated to simply ebook form, you can now get Traveler, a middle grade novel, on Amazon for $15.99. If you have Prime, then you pay NO SHIPPING!!! Which is awesome.

Simply follow this link and you can have Traveler in your hot little hands as early as THURSDAY!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/198333166X/ref=abs_add_sc_?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Aren’t you excited? I am!

Happy reading!Shameless Plug For My Book

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I’m becoming jaded by the news and I don’t like it. I detest the ugliness, racism, misogyny, lies, and disregard for the environment in our country today and it makes me feel hopeless. I don’t understand why people intentionally ignore facts, excuse blatant wrongs, hurt each other, and don’t take responsibility for their actions. I don’t understand why adults ridicule traumatized children. This country needs a big dose of Dr. Phil and/or God right now, but I have to focus on something else for a minute. I have to, or else the anxiety becomes my whole world. I have to focus on good, beautiful things that I love. Here are some of them.

  • My husband, for so many things, but his hand on my hip as we sleep is something that makes me love him all the more. I’m a light sleeper and I have a lot of bad dreams. Most of the time, when I wake up, Marty is there, a reassuring presence who makes everything alright. (Even if he is snoring loudly.)
  • My boys, individually and all together. They’re so unique, I love talking with each of them alone. And then, when they’re together, it’s like having a heap of puppies romping through the house, except the puppies shoot dart guns, play baseball, and creatively insult each other.
  • Fuzzy kittens. Enough said.
  • My neighborhood party store. Brothers Steve and Randy know me and sell me my weekly MegaMillions ticket on my runs. It’s like Cheers, but not a bar.
  • My theatre. Well, not my theatre. My niece thought I owned it, but no, lol. It’s a place where I’m accepted and I can be myself. I can express myself. A nice place to be.
  • My penpal/dear friend, Sabrina. She lives an ocean away, but is such a kindred spirit. And she puts up with my crappy Italian.
  • Music. It gives so much meaning to life. Hamilton, Pentatonix, and Lindsey Stirling are my current obsessions.
  • Writing. I have an outlet. I’m sort of good at it, but still have a lot to learn. This week, I completed a novel on Bessie Blount, the real one, not the sleazy HBO version. Accomplishment.
  • Babies. Babies are my heart, my joy. Incredible innocence. They’re a promise that life goes on.
  • My church. My church is progressive, including people of all races and sexual identities. I love that.
  • London. London is my dream, my hope, my destiny. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world. Six years now… it’s been too long.
  • Italy. Italy is life to the tenth power. I can’t wait to get back.
  • Cadbury Mini-Eggs. Can’t help it, I adore them.
  • History
  • My therapist, Renee. She’s listened to me for seven years now and I adore her. Most of the time. Not when she’s telling me something that I don’t want to hear, but I know it’s for my own good, but, yeah, she’s awesome.
  • Ireland. Such fond memories of an impossibly beautiful place where I went with some amazing people.
  • Genealogy. I’m a sucker for historic records and long-ago grandparents.
  • Easter candy. Right now, this is an essential part of my diet.
  • God. I saved the best for last. Prayer is essential in these times of confusion/craziness and God remains my rock, every day. My spirituality keeps me centered, grounded, and keeps me sane.

Take some some time and reflect on what makes you happy. Leave it as a comment if you like. I’d love to hear what you love.

Until next time, a presto.

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