Something really strange happened to me about a month ago. I got a book deal.
The first, and only, publisher I sent my book, Almost True, to accepted it for publication. My emotions ranged from excitement to dread to disbelief to excitement to dread to disbelief and then back to dread. My feelings about actually getting published were muddled, to say the least. But the dread persisted and here's why:
I felt guilty. I was supposed get my first rejection letter with the first press I tried to publish with. Real writers get rejections. And they get a lot of rejections. That is part of being an aspiring author. You get rejected but you persist. It builds character. It tests your determination. The submitting and rejecting of work is a crucible. It separates the serious writers from the hobbyists. Plus, it is unheard of to get accepted by the first publisher you try for. Mine was the guilt of an extremely lucky person.
And I felt guilty because I've written a book my grandma won't read because the content could be considered offensive. This issue deserves a post of it's own and maybe one day I will be able to distill into words the complicated relationship I have with my writing and the expectations of my religion. But getting the book deal made me realize I wasn't ready to openly share my writing. I wasn't ready to turn my Facebook page into an advertising platform for my novel because I felt like if I were to say “Please read my book” I'd need to include an asterisk with a message at the bottom of the page that said “unless profanity and mature themes will offend you, then please don't read my book and please don't judge me.”
Aside from the moral dilemma I was having, there were also legal implications with the book deal. I was given seven days to review, sign and return the contract to the publisher. And the contract was written in that stupid legal jargon that hides what you are really getting yourself into. I did what all authors with book deals should do, I had a lawyer look over the contract. Luckily, my father-in-law is a lawyer and he looked at it free of charge. (Well, not entirely free, I had to email him a copy of my manuscript so he could read my book.) I also read the contract about a million times, too. From what I could tell and what I researched on-line, the contract was crap. After an hour long conversation with my lawyer (I love how official that sounds!), we decided I needed negotiate a few things before I signed:
Her email back was professional and the message was this: we don't negotiate on our contracts. So I walked away. I had to protect my book and my fiscal liability.
It never occurred to me that I would get a book deal that I would have to turn down. But given the muddle I was in with publishing, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. If anything, it was a relief in some ways. See, I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my writing. In the mean time, I'm not shopping Almost True around. I'm tinkering with it some more, trying to decide if I should turn it into a book my grandma would feel comfortable reading or if I am secure enough and brave enough to present it as is. Either way, I am confident publication is in my stars, even if I have to self publish.
I went to Life, the Universe and Everything again this year. I missed last year because I was 8.5 months pregnant and I didn't want to birth my baby at a writing conference. The conference was notable this year for a couple of reasons.
1. I had to bring the baby with me because he will not take a bottle and is still figuring out solids (even though he is 11 months old, common, kid!). My husband, Brandon, was sweet enough to come to the conference with me to help take care of the baby so I could enjoy the panels. Brandon ended up getting something out of the conference, too. He teaches a comic book as Lit class at the community college and there were a number of comic book related workshops and panels he was able to attend. I think the conference was a win for everyone.
2. My very dear friend, Apryl, traveled all the way from Arizona to attend the conference. It was fun to see her and catch up and show her what beautiful place Utah is to live. Southern Arizona does not have OMG-huge snow-capped mountains.
3. I pitched my book to a publisher. Okay, so I didn't actually "pitch" because when someone asks me what my book is about I reply with "I don't know." I never know where to start. Do I start with that plot and if so, do I start at the beginning and how detailed should I be? Or should I start with the characters? Maybe the themes? Anyway, I had the option to either pitch or have the representative critique me query letter and first page. I went with a critique because it felt much lower stakes and relied less on me talking. Anyway, she liked my query and the first page and said to send in a submission package. So, I am going to send in my book for consideration! Yikes! We'll see what happens and I will keep you all updated.
All in all, LTUE this was excellent, mostly because going to a conference like that makes you feel like a real writer.
THIS MAY BE A "TMI" THING FOR SOME PEOPLE SO READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION
Everyone told me I would need a C-section. I'm 5'2” and before pregnancy weighed about 110 pounds. My mom had all C-sections. Being small, for some mystic reason, would preclude me from having a “normal” child birth. I wanted to avoid a C-section at all costs (it's major surgery) so I did some research. Here's what I determined I would need:
At 4am I went to the bathroom again and this time there was something weird about my pee. My water had broken. I woke up Brandon again. I told him we'd probably need to go to the hospital in the next few hours. I went back to the living room and started timing my contractions. My midwife said to go to the hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting at least one minute and this has been going on for an hour. I continued to drink water, listen to my hypnosis and tried to relax. The contractions were getting stronger and I could no longer sit through them so I got up and moved. Either walking or swaying. The swaying really helped.
Brandon joined me in the living room around 5am. Over the next hour my contractions jumped from 7 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart to less than 3 minutes apart and they never reached a full minute. They weren't following the "rules" my midwife has prescribed. When a few in a row were under 3 minutes, I told Brandon we needed to go to the hospital. We changed out of our PJs, grabbed my hospital bag and drove the 15 minutes to the hospital. Sitting was the last thing I wanted to do so the drive was pretty terrible.
When we got to the hospital, I was put in a triage room before being admitted. I waited about 20 minutes before being evaluated by a nurse to determine if I really was in labor (this was one of the hardest times of my labor; the pointless waiting. It actually wasn't until I started bleeding and announced that I felt the urge to push that a nurse made her appearance). The nurse told me the bleeding was okay and she checked to see how far dilated I was. I was 6cm and she then decided I really was in labor and moved me to a delivery room. I have to admit at that point I asked for an epidural. I was really uncomfortable and feeling a little frantic. The nurse told me they couldn't administer any pain meds until my midwife arrived and evaluated me first. And oh, they hadn't even called her yet.
Another half hour or so ticked by. Brandon went over my birth plan with the nurse and I was hooked up to contraction and fetal monitors. My midwife arrived around 7:30am. I was so relieved to see her and was able to relax again. Things felt like they were under control. She checked to see how far dilated I was and I was 9.5 cm. I asked her for an epidural and she said it was too late to get one, the baby would be here soon and any meds this late would affect the baby's respiratory system after birth. (I still asked about 3 more times over the next few hours for an epidural or any pain meds. It wasn't that I was in real pain, I was just tired and I wanted relief).
I was feeling the urge to push and my midwife told me to push if it would make me feel better but it wouldn’t necessarily help delivery the baby since I wasn’t to a ten. I pushed and it felt better. The thing I didn’t expect about labor was between contractions, there is no pain or discomfort. I was able to relax between contractions and the contractions didn’t hurt, they just felt like the world’s worst menstrual cramp that I knew would go away in a minute or so. There is so much hype about the pain of child birth and it’s just inaccurate.
Anyway, the pushing started to distress the baby. His heart rate dropped. I was told to stop pushing and I was moved to the bed and put on my side, trying to get the last of the cervix gone and find a position the baby liked to bring his heart rate up. His heart rate stayed down (in like the 80’s). I was given an IV (just saltine, no Pitocin), an oxygen mask and they put a heart monitor on his head to get a better reading. His heart rate improved but not enough.
Meanwhile, I was doing my best to breathe through the contractions instead of pushing which was the absolute worst part of my labor. My body wanted to push, the urge is truly out of your control, and I had to fight that urge.
At some point I was asked if anyone in my family had ever had an adverse affect to anesthesia and my midwife was texting on her cell phone. Later, I found out I was potentially being prepared for an emergency C-section. My midwife was texting the OB over the practice and he came down to Labor and Delivery. He didn’t come into my room, for which I am grateful. That would have freaked me out. He talked to my midwife at the nurse’s station and monitored the baby’s heart rate there. He told my midwife to go ahead and proceed with the delivery. The baby would be fine.
At around 9am, I couldn’t fight the urge to push anymore. I was growing more and more exhausted by not pushing. I told my midwife I couldn’t not pushed anymore. She checked me and I was finally to 10 cm. I was given the okay to push as my discretion. Yay! I pushed for about an hour and half. The actual birthing part, which I anticipated as being the most “painful”, again, was just super uncomfortable. It felt like I was trying to push out the world’s largest piece of poop. The delivery was hard because I didn’t know exactly when it would end and I am someone who likes certainty. And it was hard because I just got so tired. Again, there was no pain between contractions (except for the feeling of skin being stretched and it wasn't painful, just weird)
After only 9 hours of labor, Jonah was born at 10:53am.
I attribute my positive birth experience to my Hypnobirthing course and my midwife. Because of hypnosis, I was able to relax completely between contractions and not be afraid of what the next one would feel like. Also, because I wasn’t afraid, the contractions didn’t hurt, they were just extremely uncomfortable at their worst. Because I had a midwife, I had excellent bedside support and she solved the baby’s falling heart rate with all her available resources first instead of resorting immediately to a c-section which I fear an OB might have done. But really, I think God knew I needed an easy delivery so I won't be afraid to have another baby (in 5-10 years).
Saturday I went to my first writing conference: Life, the Universe and Everything. It's a speculative fiction conference and since the book I am currently working on is technically "paranormal romance" (although I like to think my book is more sophisticated than that label suggests) I thought I should go. I've heard good things about the conference and with my SLCC student ID I could go for free. I thought going to a conference with tons of other people who want to achieve the same thing as me would make me feel like my dreams were impossible, that the odds were stacked against me. But the opposite happened. I walked away from the conference feeling like my dreams are possible, l just have to keep working hard. Life, the Universe and Everything was a super awesome experience! Here's what I took away from the conference in no particular order (except I do save the best for last).
1. Almost every published author on every panel I attended said they wrote for years and got hundreds of rejection letters before they sold their first book. One of the authors (I really wish I wrote down her name) said that the people who don't get published are the ones who give up. If you keep writing and keep working you will get published.
2. Throw away your first book, even if you love it and its awesome. You have not yet written your best work. (I do agree with this and I think after this rewrite on my current novel I'm going to call it done and move on to another project. Maybe I'll try writing something I won't mind my parents reading.)
3. Read anything and every thing. Read outside of your genre. The more knowledge you have to pull from, the better your stories will be.
4. Subplots are to help build and round out your characters. Characters should have interests and passions outside of what is directly happening in your story and subplots should be used to develop these passions.
5. Ebooks are the future. Getting a print book deal is not what it once was. There are many more opportunities out there to successfully self-publish.
But the real thrill for me has nothing to do with the panels I attended or what I learned about writing and publishing. I met one of my favorite authors!
Let me set the scene: My friend Julie and I were waiting for a panel to start. I am a people watcher and an ease-dropper by nature. I was looking around the room to see if anything interesting was going on. I glanced behind me and there sat Emily Wing Smith (author of The Way He Lived and Back When You Were Easier to Love. If you know what's good for you, read The Way He Lived.). She doesn't write sci-fi or fantasy so I didn't expected to see her there. She smiled at me and I smiled back. After the panel ended I wanted to meet her but I'm really shy. I don't know what to say to normal strangers, let alone strangers I know in a peripheral way that I deeply admire.
Emily Wing Smith crossed to the other side of the room. I said something to Julie about wanting to meet. Julie told me I should go introduce myself because it would make her feel good that someone in this room recognized her and read her books. So I got up from my chair and accosted Emily Wing Smith and blurted, "I love your books!" Not, "Hi, I'm Sarah. I read your books and really enjoyed them." But I seriously practically yelled, "I love your books!" And I was shaking and red-faced and smiling way too big. Emily Wing Smith smiled back and read my name tag and said that It's Nice To Meet You Sarah. And I told her again that I love her books. She asked me about my writing and I gave her a very lame one sentence plot synopsis. Then someone bumped into her or me and so I told her it was nice to meet her and that I love her books.
I don't want to be a stalker but she's doing Writing for Charity next month and I might try to get into her workshop.
In a recent critique session with a long-time friend we both lamented that the revision process seemed never ending for our respective novels. I jokingly suggested we should just give up. She then replied, “I wish I could. But I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.” So there we are, each of us on that long, sour path, to writing novels and hopefully get published.
I've been thinking a lot about why I want to publish and I don't really have any extremely good reasons. It's not to make lots of money or to become famous (those two things rarely happen). I do have a number of rather sad reasons. One reason, an embarrassingly powerful reason, is so I can justify being such a dripping nerd in high school. At least those years of studying too much and reading too many books and being too shy and self-conscious will pay off. I'll show those people (who were never ever mean to me) that while I might have been very quiet, I had a lot going on upstairs and, well, here it is: I've written a book.
But the reason I am more inclined to share with others is that I have stories I think are worth telling and I want a lot of people to hear them.
Hi, I'm Sarah! I write young adult fiction and LDS romance. I live in Salt Lake City, UT with my skinny husband and tiny son. I also am very small.