Surreal Moments

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By Jelly Dude (Emotion motion) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
There are a lot of firsts when you are a debut author. First call from an agent. First chat with an editor. First time your name and picture appear in Publisher’s Weekly. First time you see a cover sketch for you book. First time you see your name on Goodreads and Amazon and Powells. And all of it is heart-racing, jaw-dropping amazing. And terrifying. And unreal.

Still, you’re expected to be a professional. To hold up your end of the deal. Your part of the conversation or presentation or panel discussion.  To simply do the work. So that’s what you do, and you do it all perfectly normally and appropriately. Or at least you seem to. Because inside – another part of you – a much more real part of you – is jumping up and down, screeching and poking you in the ribs. “Can you believe this?!” this part is screaming. “Are you paying attention?!” “Is this really freaking happening?!”

I had one such experience at a conference I was at recently. A part of me was chatting and talking and nodding along – making perfect sense, while the rest of me was floating above the room trying to take a mental picture of what was happening so I could treasure it forever. Which is why I’ve decided to start recording these events here on my blog, in a little series I’m going to call Surreal Moments in a Debut Author’s Life. That way all those little “Oh my God this is really happening” moments can have a place to express themselves and their excitement as inappropriately and unprofessionally as they want.

Because, let’s face it, I’ve never been terribly cool – and I really don’t think that’s suddenly going to change now.

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My Much Anticipated Edit Letter

My edit letter arrived today! I’m super excited, a little scared, and about to  burst with the desire to dig in and make this the best book I can.

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I printed the whole thing out (sorry trees – I’m planting two of you guys in the spring, I promise), highlighted, sticky-noted, and am now ready to cut, trim, clarify, and rethink. The best thing is that my editor, Kristin, is totally in sync with my vision. Her questions are great, her suggestions are spot on, and I am so excited to tear into this book again.

(The second best thing is that after reading the whole novel again, I still like it – phew).

If you need me, I’ll be at my desk. Send chocolates and coffee, good thoughts, and maybe a glass of wine or two. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

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A Real Live Book Contract

Well, it’s official. Dreams do come true.

Another milestone moment in this writer’s journey has happened.
I signed my book contract. A real contract, from an actual publisher, with dates and numbers and expectations all lined out – and my signature right there in blue ink.

book-contract | www/patriciabaileyauthor.com

Sometimes life just works out – and when it does it really is pretty awesome.
And more than a little humbling.

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Driving in Circles: Recalibrating My Writing Life

 (Photo: Calsidyrose/Flickr/CC rights)
(Photo: Calsidyrose/Flickr/CC rights)

My car has a compass in it. One of those digital displays that tells you which direction you’re going. It’s handy when you’re not sure you’re on the right road and you have zero sense of direction (which is kinda the story of my life) and you start to question every twist and turn of the journey you’re on. It’s reassuring to know that at least you’re pointed in the right direction. That if you keep easing forward, you’ll end up there eventually.

The problem is that every now and then it gets confused. One minute it’s working just fine, and the next it’s not sure whether your going forward or backward, North or South.

The manual tells you that when this happens – when the display shifts from showing a direction to showing a great big digital C – it’s time to recalibrate. It tells you to go someplace safe and drive in a wide circle. It also tells you to do this more than once if needed. Some confusions take a little longer to correct. A little bigger arc to adjust.

But if you follow the instructions, soon enough you’re compass is restored. North, South, East, and West are clearly marked once again, and all is right in the world.

For the last several weeks I’ve been driving along with my internal compass completely out of whack. And I’ve done what everyone who hates to read the manual does: I’ve just kept going, pedal to the metal, certain that if I just keep driving, I’ll figure out where I am eventually.

So far eventually has been the better part of a month. And I’m just about out of gas.

Which means it’s time to find a safe place and drive slowly. One wide circle. Maybe another. I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to remember this, but here I am – looking for a safe place to recalibrate myself, my life, and my writing.

For me this means spending a little more time journaling each day. A little more time sitting in the sun watching the birds and the deer play in the yard. A little more time breathing. And it means remembering to pause as I make my way around the circle. Adding in space for a few stops so that I can take in the view – to see my work and my life from a little bit different angle.

I’m not sure how many circles it’s going to take to get my internal compass working again – but I know from experience that if I take it slow the cardinal points will be restored and I’ll be able to start journeying again – only this time I’ll remember to plan to stop at a few tourist spots along the way – just for fun.

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I’m a Success? My Oregon SCBWI Conference Tale

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Last year I almost didn’t go to the Oregon SCBWI Conference. I even told my buddy in Portland I wasn’t going to go. Not this year. I was just not up for it. Then, months later, something – the same something that tells me when it’s time to start a new story or go get that mole checked out – said “You should go, and you should do a manuscript critique.” I realize this may sound strange if you’re not someone used to helpful brain-based voices telling you what to do. But, I’m a writer, and I tend to listen to the voices in my head; they’ve never steered me wrong. So, I went to the website. I looked at the pictures of agents and editors still taking manuscripts; I read their bios; and I picked one. One with a friendly face. One who grew up in a small town in Oregon. One who looked like she’d be easy for someone like me to talk to. Then I paid my fee and sent in my pages.

On the last day of the conference, during the last consultation spot, I met with Kerry. We talked – but not about the manuscript. We talked about growing up in Oregon. About small towns and food trucks and trips to the coast. She told how much she loved my pages. She told me to send her the full.

So, I did. And she loved it. And she became my agent. All because of the Oregon SCBWI Conference.

This year I signed up immediately after I found out my book sold. It was my “you’re really a writer now” gift to myself. It was also a chance to say thanks. Thanks to my friends who I knew would be there, and thanks to the ladies who work so hard putting the event together. Plus, Matt de la Pena and Victoria Jamieson were going to be the keynote speakers. Who would want to miss that?

 

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The conference was wonderful. I met new friends and hung out with old ones. I took a ton of notes – because every presenter had such good advice to share. It was so good, that for all of Saturday it was easy to just concentrate on listening and learning and being inspired. As long as I didn’t look at Sunday’s schedule – and the panel scheduled for the morning – everything was cool.

 

Yep, that’s my name in the program. Right ttinyIMG_3480rotatedhere with the likes of Rosanne Parry. She with her four novels, and me, with my teeny tiny book deal. The title of the panel? Local Success.

Three things you should know about me:

  1. I’m mostly shy.
  2. I’m a much better listener than I am speaker.
  3. The hardest part of working as a teacher was talking in front of large groups.

Thankfully, no one really wanted to hear about me. I could talk about SCBWI. About the great people I met there (like Catherine who took the panel picture). About how the organization helped me. And about how supportive the writing community is. So that’s what I did. Even though I was mostly terrified. Even though was certain I was not talking into the microphone right. Even though I was not 100% sure that what I was saying wasn’t coming out in some sort of high frequency gibberish.

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And, I survived – without breaking out in hives or falling over in a freaked-out faint.  Which pleased me. But what pleased me more was the people who came up to me after. The people who said thank you. The one’s who said my story made them feel like they could meet an agent and get a book deal, too. Which is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to dispel the myth that you have to be super cool or super connected or super important for this writing thing to work out. I wanted people to get that if I could do it – if I could sign up for a consult. If I could drive 5 hours to better my craft. If I could be brave and talk to people and share my work and ask for feedback, they could too.

Because I really think what  I said is true. Success lies in a succession of tiny brave steps. Writing the book. Taking classes. Asking questions. Chatting with strangers. Sending out the query. Meeting the “scary” New York people. And generally being kind and open and hopeful.

SCBWI is a good place to practice all of that. Plus you learn a ton – and even meet amazing writers like Matt and Victoria, and Rosanne. Who could ask for more?

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Welcome!

Did you hear?

PWANNOUNCEMENT

The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan has been bought by Albert Whitman & Company!

That’s right. I have a book deal!

 Coming April 25, 2017!

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