Monday, April 28, 2014

Standing behind what you write, even when others think it’s controversial

                        This one is tough for me since I always prided myself on having a thick skin. At first, I was anxious and upset about some refusals to read Choices because of the controversy. To me, my story isn’t controversial. To me, it’s real life, but I understand from a traditional romance reader’s perspective I guess, Choices can be controversial. Some people weren’t interested in reading it due to the adultery factor. I understand that now, but my immediate response was to run and hide and change my story even though, deep down I really didn’t want to, nor did I think I should. It was just going to take time until I found my niche, until I found the right readers where Choices resonated with them. I needed to find readers who were willing to invest their time in a story that wasn’t neat and tidy. Living life and making choices isn’t always neat and tidy, or sweet and nice. It’s not surprising to me to write a story that isn’t neat and tidy as well. Patience was the word of the day, then weeks, then months as I waited to find my niche.

           I wrote a story that was human with human reactions, responses and flawed characters just like real life. There’s also hope and redemption, too, just like real life. I was intimidated at first and thought about changing Choices to please other readers when I realized how ridiculous I was being. To me, writing is also a way to not only express my creativity, but also to get people to think about themselves, or others, or difficult situations. The goal is not only to write a creative story, but to allow the reader to contemplate the situations presented in the book, digest them and then discuss or debate their opinions with others. To me, that’s writing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What I learned about myself and writing while I self-published

            Mistake number one-never publish until your work is thoroughly edited. That was my first mistake, along with many others, but this one’s a doozy. Writing, honestly is revising, revising, revising. What I thought was a polished product really wasn’t. I needed serious editing and not just editing from my close friends. I know that now. My friends are great and they did offer great feedback, however, you need a professional to guide you in the right direction and catch some major writing slips.

            Reading a few negative reviews from Goodreads enlightened me to that fact. Not all negative reviews are poisonous. Some can be very helpful. So I decided to pull Choices and have it professionally edited, but the question was where to start. At this point I was feeling very discouraged. I failed. I don’t take to failure well, yet, great success comes from failure and how else was I going to learn if I didn’t make mistakes. So when I feel sad and overwhelmed I take a break and escape with a good book. I picked up a book I had been wanting to read for a while. This book was self-published around the same time I published mine. This book was wildly successful. I fell in love with the author’s writing and her fantastic characters. I had to tell her, but I was nervous. I took a deep breath, felt the fear, and reached out to this author, not expecting a response. I was authentic with my appreciation of her writing style and of my own failures. She probably thought I was crazy, but she was so immensely kind. I was pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised. This woman is an incredible human being. She is a true gem. She took the time to encourage a total stranger. I will never forget that, ever! I will do my best to certainly pay her kindness forward. Her advice and words of encouragement were inspiring and uplifting. She offered wonderful suggestions and tips and before I knew it I had found myself a wonderful editor by the name of Erica Orloff. I learned first-hand that the self-publishing community is an amazing one, filled with resilient, compassionate, talented, supportive authors.

            I learned so much from Erica as well. I re-vamped portions of my book and found the courage through my newly acquired advice to try again. And I did. And here I am, writing blogs, a sequel, and starting another series. I learned that I wore my own pair of ruby slippers, and that I had the power to find my own way home, with a little help, of course, from my very own Glinda.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What inspired me to write Choices

            There were so many things I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a TV news anchorwoman, a fashion designer, a news journalist, a nurse, a teacher and a psychologist. That’s quite a variety. I wanted to make sure I had all the bases covered. I was also a voracious reader. My entire family was. Memories as a kid always involved a family member reading a book. My dad, my mom, and my older sisters. The best vacations also involved sharing our responses to whatever book one of us was reading at the time. My family instilled in me a huge love for reading. It was also my escape. My childhood was lonely and broken at times. Reading allowed me to escape the loneliness and I found solace reading about people who experienced a similar pain between the pages of a book. The words breathed life into these imaginary people that I wanted to be friends with, that I wanted for family. It also sparked a deep desire to create those same feelings of connection, relief and escapism for another person. Ultimately, I wanted to create and help people in the process. Teaching called the most to me at the time of college major declaration, though. My fear of failure was strong, so strong I allowed it to overshadow my desire.  So, I went with door number two or six if you count all my other options. I could still be creative and I loved working with children, especially children in impoverished areas. Although if you talked to my family they would swear I became a teacher just so I could boss people around. In the fourteen years I taught, I felt restless, I still felt a deep yearning to explore something different. I’m a goal oriented person. I like challenges and I wanted to challenge myself to something bigger. I wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to write.

            I always wrote something, really bad poetry, random thoughts, character names, gratitude journals, quotes, lesson plans, wish lists and ideas for novels. I started my very first scrapbook when Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married in 1981 at the age of thirteen. I cut out pictures and wrote my own bubble quotes for each picture. I was so proud of myself. I kept going from there, writing diary entries, taking creative writing classes whenever I could in high school and college, keeping journals that were cathartic and therapeutic during some dark days in my early twenties when I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder that was incredibly exhausting and as equally painful. I took a break from teaching sixth grade in West Philadelphia so I could figure out how to tackle this auto-immune disease, went back to school to procure my master’s degree and started my family. When my oldest, who is now sixteen, was ready to begin school I went back to school with her and started teaching Kindergarten. I’ve been there ever since. I love teaching. I love Kindergartners. They are my absolute favorite, but my yearning and restlessness was increasing and suddenly my reading choices were changing as well. My girls started talking about this book Twilight. I had no idea what they were talking about and I insisted that I read it first before they did. I was hooked, but what interested me more than anything was Stephenie Meyer’s personal story about how she started. She inspired me to sit in my girl cave, as my husband has affectionately dubbed it, and write something more than lesson plans. She gave me the courage to put my ideas that gnawed at my brain on my computer screen and actually save it and then have the nerve to label it. It was reading Jamie McGuire’s personal story that gave me the balls to self-publish it. I never met Jamie. She wouldn’t know me from Eve, but her story, her advice she posts on her blog, inspired me to not be afraid. She held my hand even though she didn’t know it, or me. For the first time in my life, I was truly going to live by my own personal mantra, feel the fear, but do it anyway. It was time for mommy to practice what she preached to her little people at home. It was time to go big or go home. The clock was ticking and it wasn’t the female one, it was the life one that kept chiming through the night, through the fog of my dreams.

            I started Choices in 2009. It’s taken me five years from beginning to the end product you’ve purchased on Amazon. I wrote during the summer months, during holidays, weekends, days off and sometimes these characters hijacked my sleep and I wrote all night and then taught all day. I’ve had some major bumps in the road, some huge failures and some huge successes writing this book. Some people are shocked at the subject matter because I’m a Kindergartner teacher, but honestly that’s not all I am. I am a creator. I wanted to write something outside my realm of knowledge. Some of my friends were shocked and couldn’t understand why I didn’t write a children’s book…um, because I didn’t want to. I wanted to write something real, something edgy, something dark, yet promising, hopeful. I wanted to write a big romance, but not a typical romance that’s sweet and neat. I wanted to write something gritty and real. I wanted to write a story about a strong woman who’s had some strong situations that forced her to feel out of control and her response to it. I wanted to write about a character that was forced to really examine her life. I wanted to write a story that forced this character to ask herself the question no one wants to ask themselves, am I happy or am I lying to myself and believing the lie? Am I just going through the motions? I wanted to write a story about how a woman doesn’t have to sacrifice everything about herself in order to save someone who isn’t interested in saving themselves. When is enough? When do you draw the line in the sand and say I need to take care of me now. Life is hard. Life gives you cards you don’t want. Life is unfair. Life is real. Life isn’t pretty sometimes, but it does give you choices. So, therefore, I give you Choices.