Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dating Analogy for the Win!

Okay, so for this analogy, pretend I'm a young Brad Pitt. Take a good look at the picture on my right, and imagine the person talking is that guy.

MaryAnn, I think you looked at me just a little too long.


The Dating Analogy

Seriously, MaryAnn. My words are over here. 

When I tell people I'm a writer, the first thing they often ask is "Where do you get ideas?" 

The fact is, idea's are everywhere. Imagine that you are in a bar, ( which apparently is a place where you meet people...I don't know, I'm a Mormon.) or at a party, trying to fall in love. Ideas are like cute girls, and as a writer/ young Brad Pitt, it's my job to pick up any of these girls/ ideas and try to make things work. 

Ideas, like hot girls, can fall into a few categories. Please allow me to label you.

The Girl that is Too Hot For Me.

There are simply story idea's that are out of my league.  Now, I'm a young Brad Pitt of writers...obviously... but still. :) 

Some idea's I'm just not ready for/ would laugh in my face if I attempted to pick them up. I know this, so I don't choose them. No offence, hot idea. Maybe it'd work out, but I'm not gonna waste my time only to be rejected.

The Two Timing Girl

 This has happened to me more than I'd like to admit, but often I start writing an idea, and then I find out that the idea is currently dating another writer. Has this ever happened to you? You start writing a story, only to find out that someone else, often a smarter, more published writer has already climbed that hill. Doesn't work. Heartbreaking, but you got to move on.

 The Bad News Girl Who Won't Let Go

I knew this girl who dated a great guy for a while, and then they broke up, because they knew it wouldn't work out between them. It wasn't anyone's fault, they just weren't compatible. But they wouldn't stop hanging out, and she lost years... YEARS... on a guy she knew wouldn't work for her. 

I've seen this happen to writers too. Sometimes an idea just won't work, nothing wrong with the idea, nothing wrong with the writer, they just aren't compatible. But as the writer focuses on this bad news idea, there isn't room in their head or their schedule for any other idea. Walk away, girl. Walk away.

The I'm Not So Sure Girl

This is the relationship I'm in right now...writing wise. I have this idea. I like it. I like the dynamic between  the girl and they guy, the casual flirting, the history of pain. I like the system of magic. But it hasn't swept me off my feet. 

I keep writing it, asking questions, finding out more, spending time and energy trying to have a relationship with this idea. And you never know... I could get all the way to the end of this story without ever committing.  I guess you could say I'm settling for this idea until a better idea comes along. You could also say I'm a jerk.

I don't care. I'm a young Brad Pitt.

The Love At First Sight Girl

Our eyes meet across a crowded room. This is the one,  I  think. We start talking, and every expression, every second I'm with her is amazing. My heart starts racing. When I'm not with her, I constantly think about her. While I'm working, while I'm making breakfast, while I'm in the shower (...did I just loose my G rating?). A song will come on the radio, and I'll think of the girl. I have to tell everyone I meet about this girl; my mom, my friends, even complete strangers, all need to hear about this perfect beautiful girl. This is the girl I can commit to. 

See, writing a novel is a commitment. But when you can write something you love, it's not work. When the idea is right, writing is like falling in love.

Now, for fun, I'm going to label boys/writers. Super Fun!

The I Won't Ask Anyone Out Guy

You've met him. He's nice. He's not bad looking. He would be a great boyfriend/ husband/ father but he won't ask anyone out. Maybe he's spending too much time at work, or playing video games, but this guy just won't show up at the party. He might make an occasional appearance, click on Word, look around the blank screen, ignore the hot girls, and then go back to playing Zuma. This guy/ writer is wasting his time, and his good looks on video games/Facebook/ Pintrest.


The Big Talker

He talks a good game. He tells the girl how he wants to be in a committed relationship, the house, the kids, the publishing contract. But then after a couple of weeks( or chapters) he finds a reason to end things. And then he's back to talking big, about his goals, his dreams... Girls flock to him, but then nothing happens. He could even fall in love. Meet the girl of his dreams, complete a novel to the end, and then never pop the question/ submit a query.

Sad how much I resemble this jerk.

The Best Friend

This is the guy who has it right. He's trying. Honestly he's trying. He's there for the girl. He asks the right questions, submits to the right markets. But all that happens is the big fat rejection. It's scary being this guy. Putting his heart out there so often, waiting for the time it'll click. Soon, he might stop trying. Soon he might give up.

But then, he'll find a girl. Things will click, the right words will fall into place, the story will start making sense, and all of the heartbreak, all of the rejections, will prepare him to treat this girl right. 

Things work out in the end for the best friend, they always do.

You just can't give up.

What other comparisons can you come up with?

Friday, January 15, 2016

On in a Million Special

*So I wrote this four years ago, and I needed to read it today. I'm prepping The Waxling to go on Submission, and I'm terrified, because I still have this voice in my head, whispering, "What makes you think you're special?"

Stupid voice in my head, listen to this...*

So I grew up with this kid Johnny Madsen. We weren't ever close friends, mostly because he was a really cute boy, and as a boy crazy girl, that meant I didn't ever talk to boys.

Logical, right.

Anyhow, I remember Johnny Madsen often because of my fifth grade teacher. One day in class she asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Everyone raised their hand and said things like, "I want to be a doctor," or a firefighter, or a mom. I raised my hand to say that I...Sheena then Dabel... wanted to become a movie star. Luckily for me, the teacher picked on Johnny Madsen before she picked me. Because Johnny said he wanted to be in the NFL.

The teacher, (I don't remember her name, but I do remember her really horrible haircut.) then proceeded to explain why that dream was foolish. She said that in classrooms all around the country there were kids dreaming of becoming professional athletes, or actors, or singers, and it just wasn't going to happen for ninety-nine percent of them. For most of those kids, she said, the closest they are going to get to being in the NFL is to watch it on TV. Then she looked pointedly at Johnny and said, "Do you really think you are one in a million special?"

I remember this, because Johnny, this tall scrawny kid with a mess of black shiny hair and gorgeous eyes, got royally mad at the teacher. He was usually pretty quiet, but on this day, the normally soft spoken Johnny he basically yelled at the teacher and told her she was mean and dumb and wrong.

After she sent him to the principal's office, she looked around the room, "So how about the rest of you," she asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

My hand stayed hidden under my desk.

I think about her now, this nameless teacher with a bad haircut, as her voice tells me that I am wasting my time trying to become something special. I think about her as I get discouraged, and I think about her after I receive a vicious rejection.

What am I doing? Do you really think YOU are one in a million special?

And then I think about Johnny Madsen. That picture...right up there...that's of him playing in the NFL.

Now it's true, not everybody who dreams get to wake up and realize that they are living their dream. But some people do.

But the fact is,  it's not something that you just wake up to make happen. I think about the hours and effort Johnny had to put in at the gym to go from that scrawny kid to that hulking giant. I think about the hours he spent on the field, the practices, the injuries, the hits he had to stand up and walk away from. He could have quit at anytime, but he didn't. I think about the stubbornness it takes to go from one in a million who dream, to become one of the few who are ready to become selected.

Now I can't choose if I will ever be "drafted" so to speak. But I can show up. I can practice. I can prepare, and hopefully when the day comes I will be ready to say, "Pick me, Pick me."

Hopefully, by then, I'll be ready.

Really, I don't think the odds are one and a million. I think it's much closer to fifty fifty. It'll either happen, or it won't. Fifty fifty.

But it'll be my choice if I'm ready.

So... Mz... whatever your name is... I, Sheena now Boekweg, want to be a writer.

Go ahead, tell me it's not going to happen.  See if the principal can save you from my wrath.


p.s. How about you? Want to join me and say, I...[state your name] want to be...[state your dream]?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Have An Agent!

I've been imagining writing this post for a long time. The Waxling is my eighth completed novel. I've been telling strangers that I was a writer for ten years now, and now I can say it without twitching.

I'm now represented by Jessica Sinsheimer at Sarah Jane Freymann Literary!

It's so unreal. It's been a long road, and I can't really believe I'm here. 

Long Story Short:

I started querying THE WAXLING in March 2015. 
(I previously queried FUNNY TRAGIC CRAZY MAGIC in 2012)

Queries sent: 92
Requests (including contests):28
Contests I participated in: Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, pg70pit
Twitter contests: #PitMad, #kidpit, #sffpit 

The Long Story Long:

Just remember this is how it ends. With Adam Levine. Hold tight to Adam Levine and you and I will both get through this.

March 2015. THE WAXLING has been beta'd, revised, beta'd (again) and revised (again). I've polished my query letter (v.1), assembled my list of 20 agents from #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List, a hashtag on twitter where agents and editors say what they'd like to see in their inboxes), and I had a plan-- I was going to start my querying journey with #PitMad (a twitter contest where you pitch your story in 140 characters, and agents make requests). I had this image in my head that my dream agent would like my pitch and I'd send her my book and she'd fall in love. 

SO... I logged onto twitter early in the morning ready to pitch my heart out, only to discover #PitMad was the day before.

QUERYING LESSON #1-- Check twitter more than once a month. Daily if you can swing it. Also check out Sub It Club. They have a list of contests and opportunities that I found really helpful.

I started sending out queries and no one immediately loved it. A week passed and no one called me or offered me a contract. I mean what nonsense was this?

And then the day came and I received my first request. I screamed. I called my mom. I called my sister. I shouted from the rooftops to every single person who cared (and several who didn't) that a real agent wanted 10 whole pages from me. 

I later realized I forgot to attach my pages to the initial query.

It's fine.

It wasn't the dumbest thing I'd do while querying. I once sent a query with the subject line THE WAXING instead of THE WAXLING...much different tone than the one I was going for. It makes me think of a YA horror that takes place in an abandoned hair salon.

*scribbles down idea on a piece of paper*

Anyway, the point is, I'm a human being who learns.

And overshares.

QUERYING LESSON #2 --Publishing belongs to the stubborn. Don't give up. But don't keep doing the same dumb thing over and over if it's not working.

I kept querying. Time kept passing. But also, life kind of stopped moving. 

A few weeks (months?) later I heard about Pitch Slam. I joined a new facebook group of querying writers who were preparing for Pitch Slam (HI PITCH CRIT CREW!) and I learned SO much from them. The brilliant and lovely Kimberly VanderHorst selected me for her team and I was beyond thrilled. Pitch Slam gave me feedback, four requests, and some of the most amazing friends.

QUERYING LESSON #3-- Don't go it alone. Also, contests are some of the best ways to make friends. 

After Pitch Slam I started a quick revision pass. Real requests from queries started rolling in, and some personalized rejections WITH FEEDBACK! Feedback is such a kindness. I had to listen to it. I ditched my prologue, reworked my first three chapters, and clarified motivations until finally the book was done.


PitMad 2015 (June). Oh boy I was ready for it this time. I pitched my little heart out and received several from JESSICA SINSHEIMER.

I sent my query (v.7) and 10 pages her way with just a trickle of hope that my initial "#PitMad would make all my dreams come true" idea would actually happen. 

A few days later I received some great feedback from a full, and I knew I needed to do another revision.

So I jumped in. This would be a big one. Another new chapter one, major changes to the middle and the end. And then those changes left ripples and basically I broke it. So I stopped querying, and focused on fixing the book.

And that was when Jessica requested the full.

I was like...erm...

She was SO NICE! She told me to send what I had ready, and then send her the revised version when it was finished. 

QUERYING LESSON # 4-- Don't be afraid to revise.

It took another month, but when it was finished and ready I sent it to Jessica.

Two weeks later I found out I was selected for Pitch Wars.

I had to email Jessica again, to tell her I needed to reviseAgain.

Again she was so nice about it.

Pitch Wars was the greatest thing of all things. I've blogged about my experience with it here, but even my squeeing, and Adam Levine gifs can't do it justice. I made such brilliant and kind friends, I learned so much, and I finally made the story on the page match the story in my head. 

When Pitch Wars ended, I sent the final manuscript to Jessica and to the other agents who had requested it. A quick few weeks later, Jessica emailed me to set up the call, and I've been freaking out ever since. 

There were eleven other agents who wanted to consider it, two phone calls, several emotional break downs, and one firm and exciting decision.

I have an agent. Jessica Freaking Sinsheimer. And I'm so happy.

This is me right before Jessica called.
Scared out of my freaking mind.
Worried I'd say something totally awkward.
I did.
It's fine.

And this is me now.

QUERYING LESSON # 5. You will not do this alone, and when your day comes, remember those people who lifted you up.

Thank you, first and foremost, to my sweet husband Darren who hugged me during my breakdowns, and squeed when I told him I had an offer. My best writing friends; Sabrina and Melanie. My betas- Kendra, MaryAnn, Meredith, Susan. The Prosers, Hatrack, Pitch Crit Crew, and the Pitch Wars Mentees, especially Isabel. 

Huge shout out to my AMAZING mentor Megan Grimit, and to Brenda Drake who runs both Pitch Wars and #PitchMad.

Thank you also to my mom and dad, my siblings, and my best friend April, who were here for all of it, and to my kids who suffered through it, and who prayed for me.

I can't believe it's real.


p.s. Jessica tells me we're going to do a revision pass.


It's fine.