Guest Host Day!

Hi everyone!  I’m A. Grey.  ‘A’ is for Artemis, but it seemed a bit
high drama so I shortened it.  The lovely Christi asked if I would
guest host on her blog for a day so here I am! *wiggles with
excitement at being asked to quest host*  I met Christi when she guest
hosted over at Pimp My Novel last year
and we’ve been lurking on each
others’ blogs ever since.

Alright, nitty-gritty details… I write YA, everything from fantasy
to contemporary, although I’ve got a serious soft spot for dystopian.
I’ve only had two short stories published and I haven’t snagged an
agent yet, but oh what fun I’ve had so far on this strange and winding
road to becoming what I call a ‘commercially published’ author!  Maybe
I can make you smile with some of the things I’ve experienced, but
mostly I hope you’ll go away from here and look for a pen or computer
and start pounding out a book that one day someone will squee over in
a bookstore 🙂

So to begin…

I think that I started out backwards.  Most writers set out right
from the start with the goal of getting published.  For the first five
years that I obsessively wrote, I insisted to everyone who mentioned
publication that I never wanted to be published.  Looking back, I
think this was because I understood – without really understanding
what it was that I understood – that in order to get published, you
have to give your stories away, on some level.      

I was a big oral storyteller when I was a kid.  We used to spend
hours sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories.  Many of them
were made up on the spot and involved horses that had passed away or
long-dead soldiers who had purportedly stayed in the house (once a
Revolution era tavern) where our riding instructor lived.  But the
stories I wrote down were always my own, secret havens to which I
could return to for escape.  It took me a long time to grow into
wanting to share those stories, to decide that I was willing to cast
them out into the wilderness that is ‘public domain’ where anyone can
read them.

So I wrote, uh, a herd of high fantasy books… I wrote one, then a
second, third, fourth, and I started a fifth.  I knew where the story
was going, I knew the characters (all, like, nine of them, each with
their own POV) and I knew the world.  Anything else?  Well, who needs
to know anything else?  Yeah, face/palm.  And hell yes I queried that
first book!  Like three dozen times.  And, big surprise, the suckage
was rejected by all.  But ‘suckage’ doesn’t mean ‘trash’.  I still
have all those books.  I’ve heavily revised the first two, turning the
series YA (which it already was, it just didn’t know it yet)
consolidating the POV to mostly one character (it was her story
anyhow) and basically just utilizing everything I’ve learned since I
started them, to try and better them.

Meanwhile, I began and worked on numerous other projects, got two
short stories written and published, entered a few contests, and
didn’t win.  But I did get some feedback from judges, and I eagerly
gobbled up what they had to say.

When I look back now at those first books, I belly laugh at my own
blissful ignorance.  But I do it in the way that an adult wolf might
watch a pup yanking on the leg of a moose carcass.  The pup doesn’t
know that the moose – in life – could crush it with one kick, but the
pup also doesn’t know that one day, with the help of it’s pack mates,
it will be able to bring down such a creature.  The pup only knows
that the moose leg tastes good!  That’s the way I look at writers who
write for love of writing.  They just know that it’s what they want.
Everything else, they figure out as they go.  We grow and develop and
eventually find a place in our own pack of agents, editors, publishers
and fans, and then together we take down the moose that is the
publishing industry!  Um, yeah, I’m an outdoorsy type, so my analogies
are too…

 So, onward!  I wrote a book.  Yeah, another one.  I guess, really, it
wrote me.  I was just doing my high fantasy thing and *WHACK!*
Cheez-it!  Well, in my case, Book!  This girl showed up in my head and
she was from my world, but life as I knew it no longer existed.  She
was ill-tempered, golden-hearted, fiercely independent, and she
preferred life without underwear. Seriously there are innuendos of the
first line in there.  I had to tell her story.  Thusly, my dystopian
YA, EVERNOW, was born.  I wrote Evernow in about a month, then spent a month revising it and struggled with writing queries for a week or two.

Finally, I started sending them out.  I think I sent the first two
out in November of 2009.  One was rejected immediately.  The other
resulted in a request for the full ms.  *KILL ME NOW THEY REQUESTED
THE FULL!* Not only that, it was a ‘big’ agent.  Oh, I thought I’d
die.  We exchanged several emails, and while in the end he declined to
rep me, he praised my writing, and my voice (that elusive ‘voice’) and
his choice to decline was actually pretty cool.  See, he had a client
working on something similar, and he felt torn, even drawn to me over
them, so he chose them.  Which somehow made me love him despite the
rejection.

I queried again.  And again.  And some more.  Some responses were
straight form rejections, others requests, then rejections.  The more
I queried, the more I tweaked Evernow, and revised it.  The rejections
started to have more compliments in them.  And I started to hate the
word ‘but’.

It’s a funny thing.  When we start out, we respond to form rejections
with hair-rending wails of “WHY?  I swear I’ll fix it if you just tell
me what to fix!”

Then you move on to the less irritating ‘Just not for me’ rejections
and you get hopeful.  “Ok, so whatever.  Someone out there WILL think
it’s just for them!”

And finally you get to the ‘Your writing is
strong/commercial/moving/engaging/polished/insertbutterytermhere, BUT’

It doesn’t really matter what comes after the ‘but’.  At least not for
the first few hours after you read the rejection.  I even rejected
myself once, before realizing that I was being asked for a full,
because the agent had used the word ‘but’ and I zoned out as soon as I
got to that word.  My brother still teases me over that.

While all this drama was going on, I kept writing.  I wrote a
contemporary YA, from a guy’s point of view, and plotted other books.
I entered a few contests, and didn’t win anything.  I went to the
Sirens Conference, twice, and met a squeeable number of other writers
and authors and had a ridiculous amount of fun with them.  I wrote,
and I lived, I lived and I wrote.  And I kept learning.

I also kept getting rejected, but it started to not matter quite as
much.  It was as if I’d rediscovered that me who had insisted they
would never be published.  I reaffirmed that I didn’t need to be
published, I wanted to be published, which is a very important
distinction.  The primary reason I want to get published, is because I
want my stories to positively affect young people the way I was
positively affected by the books I read – hence my choice to write YA.

After that, I’d love to make just enough money to let me write at
least most of the time, if not all the time.  But if I live to be a
hundred and never hit the ‘big time’, I’ll die happy, so long as I
write until my fingers can’t hold a pen any longer.  And should it
come to that, I don’t want people to remember me as ‘that poor woman
who wrote her whole life and never got published’ I want them to
remember me as ‘that woman who spent her whole life writing and loved
every minute of it’.

Right now I’m in the middle of a companion novel to Evernow, set many
years after the original story, but with cameos by a few of Evernow’s
characters.  I’ve got a few queries out (I still dance around with
‘send regret’ each time one goes out, fearing that I’ll find a mistake
after the fact) and I’m working to revise the contemporary YA so I can
query it.  I’ve rewritten the entire ending of Evernow (gotta love
those characters who show up late and then change everything) and the
story is stronger than it’s ever been.  It might not be ‘the one’ that
lands me an agent, but it’ll always be a huge one as far as my
development goes.

That’s the thing with writers.  We never quite ever grow up, never
quite ever get to where we’re going, and we don’t really want to,
because that’s what writing is all about.  A journey, an infinite
roadway that winds and dips, clings to cliff edges and breaches
mountaintops so high you can scrape your knuckles on the stars, and we
just keep building the road as we go, dragging our readers along with
us for the ride.

Now, no matter where you are in your writing journey, go find a pen,
some paper, someone’s arm, or a computer (if you must go techno on me) and write some more people!  Write write write! 

And never ever give up!

And then hit me up at my blog Grey Places http://greyplaces.blogspot.com

or on Facebook username Artemis Grey
and tell me how you’re doing!

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15 thoughts on “Guest Host Day!

  1. Artemis–What an wonderfully outstanding blog! I loved every word beginning with “A is for Artemis.” I can see nothing less than the most magical success for you in this love and life we call writing and storytelling.

    Christi and I are both working on Oregon Trail stories. I love history and have been enthralled with the American West for as along as I can remember. My Oregon Trail story is currently in its little cubby hole while I attempt to write two novellas. One to tell a true fiction story about the tragic of my husband’s aunt when she died at the age of 18 in 1917. The other, quite an honor, is to try to write a contemporary romance to be a part of a series for The Wild Rose Press. I am among several multi-published authors in this quest.

    Like you, I have had a couple of stories, memoirs, and that sort of thing published. I dream, though . . .

    To you, A., I wish you nothing less than the most phenomenal success.

  2. Go for that dream! The payoff when you walk for the first time into a book store and there is your book will be worth it. And I know you will sell.

  3. Firstly: THANK YOU SO MUCH CHRISTI for asking me to guest host! This is an amazing opportunity and I’m just so proud to be here (ahem, that was a Minnie Pearl tribute for anyone who remembers…)

    Winona: Thank you so much for the kind words! I love discussing history, but I probably wouldn’t be good at writing it… I tend to digress and have to resist that southern urge to embellish things while thinking *well, technically it’s possible that that COULD have happened…* But how intriguing the story of your husband’s aunt must be! Sometimes I think that those with the shortest lives sometimes have the brightest stories. And congrats on your involvement with The Wild Rose Press. Romance IS something I’ve dabbled in, although I’ve just outlined the ideas for a couple of stories… we’ll see if anything ever comes of them…

    Sherwood: Thank you so much for the encouragement! It’s so uplifting to have the big wolves give us pups a warm bump and nudge sometimes 🙂

  4. Hello A. Grey: I also met Christi from her guest post on Pimp My Novel and we have since become grand friends. This cyber-space thing has opened up a whole new world to me.

    I find a kindred spirit in so many of the writers I connect with here. We write in different genres, from historical or category romance, to YA or paranormal, to mysteries and all of their sub-categories. The common thread of those published writers I read and the aspiring writers who connect with blogs is the basic love of the craft.

    I also began as a verbal story teller, not of ghost stories. I am a City Gal who beleives “roughing it” is being in a hotel with no room service. I was the girl in the back of the room in school, the last row in the auditorium or the one at lunch who always had great one-liners or stories about something funny someone in my family did. I loved the reaction I always got and it reinforced my love of story-telling. To be the dicotomy of a basically shy person who craves laughs, the stuff comics and actresses are made of and find more peace and fun behind the screen or behind the pages, has given me so many different perspectives of the people I meet.

    In this unique group we are all aspiring and while you might climb a mountain and scrape a star, I walk the streets of The City and scrape my knuckles on hard concrete. You write the stories young adults will enjoy and I write about New York City women on the edge that I think women of all ages might enjoy. Yet our paths cross here and they also cross in the vast universe of “the word,” because my latest WIP is a paranormal romance about a young woman and the ghost of her aunt, a once famous musical star on Broadway.

    I have several books waiting patiently in a dark corner of my files, and like vintage wine, I leave them to ferment while I grow up as a writer. When I revisit them, my craft will have grown enough to give them the treatment they deserve.

    The most important common thread we find in other writers who eventually become realized between the covers is their persistance and the dogged belief that if our work is not ready, we go back and do it again. Then when we think its okay, we do it again. When we think it’s good we do it again. Tess Gerritsen a best seller author of thrillers wrote in her blog one day that when she was on the tenth or eleventh draft of a book, she was almost ready.

    Hard work and the love of the craft is the stuff dreams are made of.

    My thanks to Christi for finding me yet another kindred spirit. Thanks to you for being so frank and honest about your love of our craft. I’ll be adding you to my blog list and look forward to following you as I follow Christi and a few others.

    Afterwall, it never hurts to have a good companion on a long journey, whether climbing a mountain or roaming along the streets of New York City. 🙂

  5. Winona,

    How wonderful to see you on here and what a lovely comment you left for Artemis.

    I think of you and your Oregon Trail story a lot and wonder at your progress. I still have the map 🙂 I hope all goes well with your Wild Rose Press story and you can count me in as a promoter and a buyer!.

    Thanks again for stopping by and supporting Artemis.

    Christi

  6. A. Grey,

    Thanks SO MUCH for hosting today! I really appreciate you taking the time to do so, and for your honesty in your post.

    Christi

  7. Ramblings,

    I think back on that guest post over at Pimp My Novel with such fond memories, because that is the day I met so many of my online writing friends.

    You wrote how you were the one in the back of the classroom, making all the jokes. Oh what I would give to have sat next to you…such fun we’d of had!

    Thanks for stopping by and supporting Artemis…I knew you’d love her! And, be sure to visit her blog because she’s got some really great and seriously FUNNY posts about writing and farming.

    Christi

  8. Great googliemoogilies sorry I disappeared there for a while, chasing ill-mannered ponies and hauling hay in preparation for some winter weather we’re supposed to be getting… Glad to have that done with!

    Ramblings: I am not a technologically-driven person, but my forays into blogging/facebook/livejournal have helped me make invaluable friends and contacts within the writing world (Christi among them). Sometimes the only thing that helps you get through a rough spot is having someone say ‘I know exactly how you feel! This is what I did when it happened to me’ and when you’re a writer struggling with writing, no one can give you that kind of support like another writer. Never mind that they write historical romance and you write high fantasy or some other combination. The craft is what matters, not the embellishment of its species. Writing is simply writing. Just your descriptions of walking the streets of New York (I have never been to such a large city, I find it inconceivable) had me embroiled in visions of alleyways and dying neighborhoods framed with crumbling sidewalks and feral hedgerows. That’s what so glorious about meeting fellow writers! You’re drawn into their worlds, worlds you may never create yourself, but which are built upon the exact same framework as YOUR worlds. *sigh* It NEVER gets old! Like Christi, I would love to have been seated next to you in school! As I’m fond of saying, the journey is more important that the destination, and what makes the journey what it is, are the companions sharing it! Thank you so much for stopping by and for the add! I’ll be cruising my way over to your blog to add you to my list as well!

  9. I really enjoyed reading about Artemis’ journey. It never helps to sit around waiting for rejections and acceptances because that does nothing in the long run. A story can go through many changes after we convince ourselves that it’s done, even after we have sent it out.

  10. Laura,

    I can’t even begin to count the changes mine has gone through…just the first chapter alone has had seven different starting points.

    Thanks so much for visiting.

    Christi

  11. Laura: SO TRUE! Some of my stories have changed very little, but most of them have gone through amazing transformations! I admit (and I have very few regrets) that I would sell a kidney to get the chance to re-query some of the agents I’ve already queried, with Evernow as it is currently, with the second ending… but such is life 🙂

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