A King’s Ransom.

It’s been a good, hard few months. These moments, below, are the defining ones:

1) I’ve toiled over my quirky YA novel, The Girl Next Door, seven days a week since November 2008. Time not spent on life’s basics (or tending to dogs and horses) was spent in a sort of mental pilates, making TGND tight and lean.

I’m tired, but happily so. I’m very pleased with the end results, too. It ‘s amazing how abilities and skills solidify from one novel to the next — it’s what a writer always hears about, but to experience the process as it’s happening is pure magic.

Writing skills can morph into writing gifts if a writer is willing to put in the work. And even if you already have a knack for writing, still, it takes work.

2) We lost a bunch of photographs a few years ago when an old computer crashed. We certainly learned the hard way. At the time, I was devastated. I’ve often thought wistfully about those photographs.

I lost photos of old friends, photos of a friend who passed too young, some wedding photos, pet photos (some of the pets having since crossed the Rainbow Bridge) and photos from the apartment where we used to live, including our first Christmas lights together and a 9/11 memorial I’d started on the apartment lawn in the dead of night. (Originally being an East Coast girl, 9/11 hit hard. I’d also worked on the 79th floor of the World Trade Center after college.) The memorial was against the apartment rules, but they bent the rules for a whole week.

Just a few weeks ago, I came in from flaking the horses to see my husband bent over some strange device on the kitchen counter with a hard drive laying next to it. I still don’t know what it was, but it was miraculous; it accessed ALL the photographs we thought were irretrievable.


I’ve spent the last few weeks going through the pictures a little at a time, surprised by the emotions that shadow these images, on the verge of tears (both happy and sad) — to see old friends, former lives, former selves — and to see my animal babies, their likenesses captured so clearly it feels like, in a small way, they’ve come back to me.

The photos have even seeped into my dreams, and in my dreams, whether they be about horse, dog or cat, I remember scents, mannerisms, barks and meows I’ve been unable to hold onto in my waking life.

It’s both salty and sweet

how the heart remembers in dreams

what the waking mind can’t keep.

I kept a hank of Takoda’s tail (my first horse) who died of colic in July of 2007, although it broke my heart to cut it even after he was gone. I vacuum-sealed the hair in a plastic bag to keep his scent close, but even so, the scent disappeared.

Gone is really gone.

3) Querying is tough. Chasing the dream is tough. You toil and research and pray. You put in the work and hope for good results, but even then, you can’t be sure. For writers, that’s part of the journey; it builds character and characters. It’ll prove you to yourself in one way or another, holding up a mirror to both your writing and your fortitude (or lack thereof).

The query process is curiously endowed with more than its original, intended aim. I understand why it drives some writers crazy. I understand the intensity and the despair. Nothing of great importance comes easily, and perhaps it shouldn’t. But perspective and a bird’s eye view remain a querying writer’s best friends.

No doubt about it — staring your dreams in the face is heady stuff. You roar, you soar, you crash, but you still burn. You rise up from the ashes humbled but determined and even more sure that you’re the real deal: you’re a writer. You need no ones permission. You are who you are. Now, you REALLY know.

Sure, you could quit. Go ahead — quit. Seriously. Most likely you’ll find you can’t quit for long. You’re a writer, you know. Pens and paper, keyboards and fingers, words and thoughts, they go together like up and down, on and off, light and dark.

Rejection is tough, dream-chasing is tough, remaining steadfast is tough. And yet, there’s no other choice. We want to master our craft. We want to share new worlds. We want to be published, yet not sell our souls nor sell out.

All these things and more rear their subterranean heads; important things withheld in the past and those who withheld them. Feelings of not being good enough. Voices from long ago, critical or incredulous or condescending. Self-doubt, heavy as an avalanche, along with the dizzying flight of believing in yourself and your abilities during those crystal-clear, this-is-why-Iโ€™m-here moments.

The query process is literally haunted by one thousand ghosts.

If you’re a querying writer, validation can be hard to come by. Please feel free to plug yourself into the letter below:

Dear My Querying Self,

You ROCK for hanging your lily-white a** in the wind and sailing your work out there. Sure, it can feel like TORTURE at times, but you have to keep putting your work out there — it’s the only way to get to HERE.

I admire your courage and cajones, by the way. They’re just what’s needed to make magic happen, on or off the page.

The world can always use more magic, more understanding, more connection, more alternate worlds that teach us what’s important in this one. Do what you need to do, amigo, but whatever you do, don’t give up.

I know it can look bleak down there in the query trenches, but we got where we are now because of those rejections — they paved the way to that one YES that changed everything — EVERYTHING. The process made you tougher. It made the writing better. It was sooooooo worth it.

You want proof? See this book I’m holding in my hands? That’s YOUR first novel! So keep querying, keep dreaming, keep hoping and keep working — but most importantly, KEEP WRITING.

With gratitude and admiration,

Your Published Self From The Future — I owe it all to you!

P.S. I’m really sorry about the a** in the wind thing, though.

15 Responses

  1. Em!

    First, I love, love this bit: “Itโ€™s both salty and sweet

    how the heart remembers in dreams

    what the waking mind canโ€™t keep.”

    The post was beautiful and inspiring. But then, your words always are. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. {{{{{{{ Tasha }}}}}}}

    Thank you. : ) Usually when I’m thinking from the heart, poems come — that snippet came right in the middle of the post. I need to continue writing it.

    And we both know where I can go to read when I’m feeling writerly-discouraged — my own posts, lol!

    How is your Chapter Nine coming along?

    Em : )

  3. My dear Em, (hugs ya back)

    Chapter 9 is done. Chapter 10 is done. Moi is on Chapter 11. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would love to see you develop those lines into a poem. Please post it if you do!

    And, I often reread your posts for inspiration. I’m sure many do! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Oh, you made my night — hearing the magical words “Chapter Eleven”. Good for you! Woo Hoo! I can’t wait to read your novel!

    Awwww, I’m glad the twinkly magic dust of inspiration rubs off. Take as much as you want; it goes good with brownies, winks.

    Although, I’ve been thinking I should be tacking on a disclaimer to those posts: how I’m far from Suzy Sunshine as I wobble through the query process. I’m essentially writing down the inner pep talks I give to myself, being ferociously and stubbornly determined to retain both my love for writing and my emotional sanity. (At least, that’s the plan.)

    Even better if it helps others do the same.


  5. P.S. Tasha, did you see my new blog header? I was able to put one of my photographs up as the header. It’s like looking out a skylight into the Arizona sky … reminds me of Carly’s Heaven.

  6. That letter to yourself from the future is so perfect! It’s the best way to go about it. I don’t think enough people put stock in how effective visualization is.

    I plan to start reading your book tomorrow, Em. That’s why you haven’t heard from me yet: I confess I haven’t yet had the time to start. When you first sent it, I thought I’d take a peek. Almost 20 pages later, I caught myself thinking, wow, I’ve been sucked in! This is great!

    I’ll start it fresh again and you’ll hear from me soon.

    Thanks again for sharing your dream with me.

  7. Hey Em,

    Awww thanks. I can’t wait to finish my novel so you *can* read it. After a pretty easy chap 9 and 10, chap 11 is misbehaving. But since I conquered nasty chapter 8, I know I shall conquer revising chapter 11.

    Heh. I’m the same way regarding positivity posts. When I want to scream at my computer, I have to remind myself of my own post where I spoke of how revisions were great because we get to keep working until we are happy with our results.

    And I love your new header. You really, really need to submit some of your photos to the National Geographic amateur submissions.

  8. {{{{{{{{ Steph }}}}}}}}

    You’ve made my day (and beyond!) with your comment on my novel. : ) Thank you, Steph. And coming from you, it’s a huge compliment.

    It’s exactly what I needed to hear while I continue to navigate this seemingly endless stretch of Query Road. I haven’t found an agent match, yet, but the requests continue to pour in.

    But please don’t worry about the rest — I know you are so busy, and other things must come first. That said, when you do get to it, I’ll be excited to hear your thoughts on the story.

    Em : )

  9. Hey Tasha.

    I keep waiting for things to wind down because I do plan to enter a photo in the nat geo amateur photo contest, but things have been so busy, here.

    It’s like, one day you look up and all this time has flown by. I plan to take some time off in the next month or two and will enter it then, catch up on email, read books, etc. It sounds like Heaven; I haven’t taken a break or vacation in about three years, so it’s way overdue.

    And, I’m excited for the day your novel is in my email box. : ) I keep wondering what Anne and Beth are up to, after reading the first two chapters. : )


  10. Em, I really enjoyed this post. Very upbeat and wonderfully written. I liked too many lines here to quote but this is your writing – it’s rock solid. It has to work out. Love the new photograph on the top. That lone little bird is sheer perfection. That’s kind of how I feel when I am writing sometimes. Alone in my writing solitude with grey clouds and bursts of sunshine jousting for attention. It’s a beautiful photo. Good luck with your continued query process and keep up the inner pep talk!

  11. Thank you, Venus, and thanks for being an Angel in my day, today. : )

    I love that bird in the photo, too. It’s a hawk scouting for lizards (most likely) and it was a surprise — I didn’t see it when I took the photo; instead, I was mesmerized by the “eye of God” that I saw in the sun peeking through the cloud.

    Just big thank yous for *your* pep talk. It does get tough. A line you wrote in a comment (I think on Uppington’s blog, and which echoes my own sentiments) about the writing being all-important, not publishing, and essentially not selling ones soul, sticks with me like reinforcements arriving. : )

    I’ve been able to keep a good balance there, but it’s felt like a three-month-long therapy session. I’ve learned so much more about myself in the process that I have to smile, as always, at how the smart, smart universe works.

    It made me smile to see you here. : ) I can’t wait to catch up on yours and others’ blogs this weekend.

    Em : )

  12. Em, I’ve been wondering how you were getting on with query road – thanks for the update. A beautiful post – I think I shall print that letter and stick it up by my computer. My lily white A$$ thanks you! Honestly – I woke up depressed & burnt out this am, and then I read Gypsyscarlett’s Blog, and yours, and Hownotwrite, and now I feel so much better. Your sparkly magic dust makes the world a better place.

  13. Thank you for that. What a great post. I’m very close to querying, on my last editing round. My goal is to begin submitting by the end of the month. Good luck in finding an agent!

  14. {{{{{{{ Uppington }}}}}}}}

    Y’all are bringing out the “huggys” in me. : )

    Thank you. : ) You made me smile, today, too.

    Query Road is bumpy. I don’t have an agent-match, yet, and if writers think query rejection is tough, rejection of requests is tougher. But, I’m happy to say that it *does* get much easier in general as time goes on, and I think, mostly, because I am not taking it personally. I’m asking the twinkly-dust universe to direct me to the right agent, and the stretching I’m doing along the way is definitely, DEFINITELY worth it.

    I continue to receive agent requests; I’m sending out a request this weekend, another exclusive (sometimes you just can’t get out of them) and have another agent in waiting, if it doesn’t work out.

    I am persistent in reminding myself of my first novel, with no requests, and this second novel, with requests continuing to come in — I’m doing better this time around, and if not this novel, maybe the next one. I refuse to dismiss the gains along the way, just as big and important as the end result of publishing.

    It’s way too soon to tell, when it comes to TGND, but I remain happy with it, proud of it, content with it. I know the market is hard, I know agents are looking for books that’ll make it with the Big Boys — the NY publishing houses. I know agents have mortgages and families.

    But I still believe in the magic. I still believe that if I write my heart out, to the absolute BEST of my ability, magic can happen — I can help make magic happen, if I do the hard work.

    How are your novels coming along? Makes me smile to say novelS because you impress the hell out of me.

    I’m about to start the next novel — I have a great new novel idea! I’m trying not to think of it as two and a half books in a year — TGND, this next one, AND NaNoWriMo. Woah. (Because there’s no way I’m not doing NaNo again with you guys!) I just remind myself that it doesn’t mean they all have to be edited immediately — all I need to do is write them, and the writing is pure joy, my favorite part.


  15. You are so welcome, Courtney. : ) It’s good to see you here.

    I was just reading your blog (wonderful, by the way!) yesterday, but got interrupted. I will be back!

    I added you to my blogroll, although, I don’t see the link there today, so I’ll add it again.

    Good for you, on your novel and on almost being finished with the edits. How exciting! Good luck with your queries — luck luck luck — and I hope you find an agent as quickly and painlessly as possible.

    I’ve got my pom poms out for you! : ) Go Courtney Go!


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