Fairy Dust or Hard Work?
May 27, 2011

Ernest Hemingway's desk in his house in Key West.

So the writer can only do his or her part to the best of his ability and place himself in the best position for the next steps. There are ways to get noticed, but still no guarantees.

Editor Beth Hill    Click here: Editor’s Blog  

Exactly.

I’m of the camp that believes a writer can make their own luck through hard, hard work. In a sense, the first part of an author’s career is an apprenticeship to Writing. To experiment, practice, (and above all), write. Again, dare to suck. The only way to write amazing, get-noticed material is through writing dull stuff, wrong stuff, first drafts, embarassing ideas, the grocery list, if necessary, as long as you keep the pen (or keyboard) moving.

When we write, we train our brains to write. To think. To create. It’s no different than anything else we do, from drawing, knitting, riding, *fill in the blank*. We don’t draw perfect people, knit perfect sweaters, gallop and sidestep right out of the gate. First, we learn. We practice, put in the hours. Study what those further ahead of us know. Be willing to fail. But, also be willing to get back up, get back to the page.

Neither magical thinking  nor daydreams of ones books on the shelves will make it happen over the long haul. The best tool a writer has is hard work — to keep writing — to persevere.

Every day is a new page.

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Creative Courage.
April 12, 2011

The thing about publishing is that it’s like a reallllly long ladder with neverending rungs. Just when one rung is reached, the next comes into view, then the next. Just like a poem or a novel, it seems we’re never finished.

Sometimes the writer’s journey hurts so much it aches — a physical sensation I’d liken to a punch in the gut, and which, from time to time, can extract a low groan which causes dogs’ heads to turn and husbands to pause the television to inquire.

Some days there is over-confidence, not necessarily because a writer thinks they’re oh-so-great, but as a stop-gap measure against the waves of doubt that threaten to drown the hope, occurring mostly on the days we feel especially discouraged, stressed or unsure.

Other days we can lose all confidence because it’s easier to give up for a day (or month or week) than to continue to remain confident (takes much more energy) and withstand the aching assault on our writing hopes and dreams.

That’s where creative courage comes in.

It takes courage to create art, and not only to create it, but to risk the criticism and exposure that accompany the act of putting our work (our heart) out there.

Courage will falter from time to time. That’s normal. Those are the times it behooves us to follow our dreams back to their roots, to the childlike magic that precedes our words, brushstrokes, camera flashes, musical notes, pirouettes …

At it’s heart-shaped core, the act of art is an act of bravejoy. If an artist can reconnect to the joy, the doubt subsides and the hope and fortitude return.   

Writing is tough, getting agented is tough, going out on sub is tough — creative courage is tough, but if you’re creating art, if you’re putting yourself out there, if you’re picking yourself back up after a rejectional fall, please consider this post a candle in the window, pages and pages of belief in you, a full-out sentence parade with a marching band, flashy floats and paragraphs and paragraphs of confetti in your honor.

More and more, I admire the artists of the world. I believe artists change the world, both within and without. 

So thank you, artists who come before us, for your creative courage. Thank you for lighting our candles with yours. We hope and dream and leave the belief-light on in the jules (and jewels) of your example.

Tomorow is a new day of words.

Tomorrow is art waiting to happen.

Six Agent Offers!
October 24, 2010

SQUEE!!!!

After writing three YA novels, navigating a close call with my previous manuscript, and spending four months on Query Road for my present work, hollyrusken@yahoo.com, I received an offer of representation on Thursday — and another on Saturday!

As if that isn’t heady enough, three more agents are making their decisions by Monday, and I eagerly await agent-phone-call-number-three Monday afternoon.

To say my head is spinning would be the understatement of the century!

After years of drought, the floodgates have opened. I feel so many emotions — relieved, excited!, thankful, validated, and the list goes on and on. The champagne, chillin’ in the fridge for ten months, has been cracked …

One word -- YUM!

… the roses sniffed …

From my husband, my staunchest supporter.

… and happy dancing has commenced all over the house, even if it causes the terriers to bark at their crazy, face-hurts-from-grinning-so-hard human being.

I wish I could adequately convey the feeling of a lifetime of hope and dreams mixed with years of hard, hard work culminating in the representation I’ve been dreaming of!

I will, when I can. But more so, I want to reiterate to my fellow travelers that the dream is POSSIBLE, DOABLE, REACHABLE if you continue to work hard, believe in yourself, and most of all, SHINE!

To my writing community, my beta readers, my supportive writing friends, my old friends who believed in me from the start — YOU ROCK!

I wouldn’t be here without you. For that, I thank you with all my heart.

Nailed to the wall by the phone for 8 months. There are more questions on the back, also.

I have until the 30th to make my decision, so I’ll be back to announce the news.

Until then, honking at you from the Happy Writer rest stop on Query Road, still grinning like a fool and pinching myself!    

By popular demand: the B side!

 (No saguaros were harmed in the taking of this photograph : )

All Shapes, Sizes And Ages.
October 5, 2010

I was a child writer, once.

At eleven, after saving up money from odd jobs done for neighbors, I paid for and attended a children’s writing workshop. I’d thought it was a workshop for child writers; to my surprise, it was a workshop for writers of children’s literature!

The adult writers thought it was so cute that I was there, but the mistake didn’t faze me — I considered myself a “serious writer”, and I learned so much that day. There were agents in attendance who were extra kind and encouraging, who praised my iniative and advised me to keep writing — that, one day, I’d get there.  

I was there to learn, not to pitch my manuscript, although I had a finished one at that point in time. While it’s different for everyone, I wasn’t close to (emotionally) ready for the harsh realities of Query Road.

Which brings me to my point: lately I’ve noticed, while frequenting writers’ blogs and groups, some extremely young writers pushing for publication, or for publication before *insert very young magic age here*.

While there are some amazing younger writers, statistically there are few writing prodigies for a reason: it often takes emotional seasoning and years of life experience to write a novel that resonates with a broad audience.

Most readers won’t think a book is special because the writer is under eighteen; most of us don’t consider a writer’s age when we read a novel. A book is special when the writing is special, when it touches something inside us or opens our hearts and minds to new worlds, or new ways of thinking and being.

There’s no magic age when it comes to publishing, and no shortcuts; being young doesn’t earn a writer special treatment, nor with a ready manuscript should it bar a young writer from representation. Talent develops at different paces — for example, S.E. Hinton was fifteen when she began writing The Outsiders, and eighteen when the novel was published. Frank McCourt published his debut novel, Angela’s Ashes, at the age of sixty-six.

I happen to believe that’s the best part of being a writer — how, no matter ones age, race, gender, height, weight, appearance, we all have a shot — when the writing is ready — and that’s the trick: that there are no tricks, only solid writing, belief in the dream, and practice, practice, practice.

Postcards From Query Road.
March 18, 2009

I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” 

Albert Einstein

As a struggling (but still-hopeful) writer on Query Road, there’s nothing to stop you from taking your car at one hundred miles an hour and plowing it into the next tree, as you gather rejection letter after rejection letter. Symbolically and deep down, where those crises of confidence and self-esteemless moments lurk, it stings to have The Gatekeepers of Hopes and Dreams not even slam the door in your face, but refuse to open it in the first place. 

While we as writers try hard not to take it personally, it can take an uber-steady will to separate rejection from our hopes and dreams. As we hope agents will make at least a little fuss over our polished offerings, and dream of one day holding our book in our hands all fresh and pink and full of promise, there remains a fine, sketchy line between heart and publication.

So, put it on cruise-control, worthy writers, and take in the scenery. It’s really true what they say about it not being the destination but the journey. As you bravely collect rejection letters yet remain steadfast in your quest, you are learning, growing, marinating, maturing and earning your “masters degree” in self-confidence, hard work, persistence and patience — all things that will not only make you a better writer, but a better person who writes. 

And a better driver as you cruise down Query Road, bopping to the tunes and spying the perfect turn-off for a picnic — a writer has to eat, after all — where, on the grassy slope, the light bulb goes off, as you’ve just thought of an idea for your next novel.

What a lucky writer you are, indeed.

 “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein