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What happens after you’ve typed THE END …




TYPEWRITER



I’ll always remember the day I typed those two hard-won words “THE END” and leaned back in my chair. I was thrilled to have accomplished my goal, yet terrified to take the next step. I’d read the horror stories—that elusive and exclusive world of publishing seemed so formidable—thousands of query letters a day were unceremoniously tossed into the infamous slush pile. So what could I do to make certain mine wasn’t among them?

 

I thought about the research I’d done in my design business—all those hours I’d spent studying furniture, fabric, and accessory manufacturers before deciding who among them was the best for the market I was seeking. And as I contemplated finding not just a literary agent, but the right literary agent who would present my work to a carefully selected publisher, I knew research was the key.

 

Week after week I checked out agents in Publishers Marketplace and Agent Query. Once I learned who was selling what to whom, I compiled my submission list as thoughtfully as I had selected furniture manufacturers.

 

The next big moment had arrived—it was time to compose the all-important query letter. I’m embarrassed to admit that this single page, 275-word document took an entire week to write, rewrite, and polish. But I viewed my query to be exactly like the showroom window in my design studio—it had to immediately stop people in their tracks, stir curiosity, and hopefully delight whoever saw it so much that they’d fling open the door. I’ve always believed in the wisdom of that old adage: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

 

Thankfully the hours of research and the rewritten-so-many-times-I-thought-I’d lose-my-mind query letter delivered results beyond anything I could have anticipated. But my involvement in my book’s journey didn’t stop on the day I signed my publishing contract. Interior design had taught me that having the product simply wasn’t enough—it was time to start marketing. I began by searching for book bloggers on the Internet, and I made contact with the ones who expressed their enjoyment of Southern fiction and coming-of-age-stories, and I set up accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Being a card-carrying introvert, these things weren’t easy for me. The marketing of design services involved creative advertising in print media, and rarely was I the focal point. But I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone when it came to marketing my book, so I extended my hand and got out there—tentatively at first, no doubt about it, but I connected.

 

And here’s what I found—a new group of book-loving friends—a few as near as my hometown and others as far away as New Zealand and Russia. I’ve met exceptional people—librarians, booksellers, book bloggers, published authors and those who aspire to be. I’ve accepted invitations to be interviewed on blogs, in print, and in the media, and I’ve added more book-signing events to my author tour. The lone wolf part of me howls at all this, and more than once I’ve felt the acid burn of fear in my throat, but the interior designer turned author who understands the importance of marketing always wins out.

 

Looking back, without the marketing experience I developed as a business owner, I never would have taken full advantage of the opportunities available by connecting to booklovers via the World Wide Web. But in the rapidly changing world where newspapers are faltering and dropping their book review sections, and more and more people are getting their news online, it’s imperative that we, as writers, explore every avenue available.

 

It takes time, research, and even a bit of chutzpah to put ourselves out there. And it takes courage too. But as Mark Twain said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”

 

 

 

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Get out of the house …





Boy & his dog



When I first saw this photograph I was drawn in to the point that I could have written a novella about the boy and his dog.

 

Perhaps I should have.

 

Perhaps I will.

 

This single image brought memories flooding back to me of my childhood years on the farm—barefoot days spent running through the open fields with our dog, Midnight, at my side, his ears flopping in the wind. And when I think about those days and all the hours I spent outside exploring, learning, imagining, and dreaming, I can’t help but wonder: what is happening to the children of today? I see them walking to school with earphones crammed into their ears—oblivious to bird-songs. I see them hunkered down in their seats on airplanes engrossed in some animated computer game to the point that hey have no interest in looking out the window to see the Grand Canyon looming below. And I see them “hanging out” at malls on sunny days while the mysteries of nature goes unexplored.

 

This past weekend I gave an author talk at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona. In the front row of the audience sat a lovely young woman who listened intently and scribbled notes. When I had finished speaking and asked for questions, she raised her hand.  She was a creative writing teacher and she told me how much she enjoyed the character development and the sense of place I created in my novel. So much so that she would be using my novel in her classroom. She then asked what advice I would give her students on those topics.

 

I told her that being awake and aware was the key. When we are fully in the moment, when our senses are completely engaged and we are truly awake and aware, we train ourselves to be open. And, when we are open, we soak up our environment like a sponge. Being a human sponge is the single most important thing that I, as a writer, can do. By opening my senses, I expose myself to the nuances of all that surrounds me. Everywhere I look, everything I see and hear and taste holds the magic to stir my creativity. The inspiration for a well-turned phrase, a story, a poem, or a full-length novel is everywhere.

 

Truly. Everywhere.

 

I’d write more on this subject, but the birds are singing, a breeze is sneaking through the window and tickling my face, and the urge to get outside and soak up some good subject matter is impossible to resist. As I walk toward the river, I hope I see a child with his/her dog enjoying the magic of nature, but I won’t know until I leave my computer and get out of the house.

 

 

 

 

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The video that changed my life …

 

 

Every day I try to stay awake and aware to the goodness in life. Whether it’s waking in the early morning to the distinct song of a red-winged blackbird, or watching raindrops glide down the windowpane on a cloudy evening, I feel a connection with all that surrounds me. Being awake and aware keeps my senses open which is imperative to my writing career.

 

But there’s a down side to this. We creative types feel on such a deep level that it’s oftentimes difficult to stay balanced. The daily news is filled with negativity, and it’s impossible to pick up a magazine or newspaper without seeing an image or reading a headline that leaves me feeling gutted. There have been times when I’ve wanted to shut down and shut out. So much so that I entertained the thought of moving so far out into the country that I could disconnect from just about everything but nature and my writing. Yet, in my heart I knew that idea wasn’t feasible.

 

Not long ago I came across a video, and when I watched it and listened to the words, I could feel something inside myself shift. I wondered how a simple 5-minute video could evoke such a sense of peace. But it did. And still does. I watch this video often, especially when world events and abuse to innocent creatures become too overwhelming. I’m sharing it here with the hope that others who haven’t seen it will enjoy its message.

 

Warm thanks to Brother David Steindl-Rast …




 






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Thank you isn’t enough …



Thank You!



Thousands of book-lovin’ people have touched my life since Saving CeeCee Honeycutt launched in January, and each day I’m amazed by the kindnesses that have been given to me so freely. My book tour has been beyond anything I could have dreamed. Each time I walk on stage and stand at the podium, I take a moment to look at the faces of all the people who gave up precious hours in their day just to hear me speak. An author has never felt more privileged.

 

2010 applause

 

My book has been embraced from Maine to Alabama, and from California to Georgia, and soon it will be published in Italy, Germany, France, Israel, and Poland. It has also landed on 9 bestseller lists, including the New York Times. When my novel was selected by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as an OKRA PICK, I was so stunned I could hardly talk.

 

What continues to touch me is that in a time in our history where many readers have been conditioned to expect shock and horror in the books they read, the story of little CeeCee Honeycutt and the women of Savannah who gave her the chance for a better life resonates within the hearts of countless thousands.

 

To the book people of the world—those who love the written word and the magic of storytelling—readers, book clubs, librarians, booksellers, and book bloggersI say a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU. Every day you add a richness to my life that I’ve never before experienced. And everyday I am grateful.

 

 

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So, I’ve made it!







Bubbles


There are many phone calls a writer dreams of receiving, but for most of us it’s the “big three” as I like to call them, that leave us breathless, and yes, feeling a bit childlike in our joy.

 

First comes the call from a literary agent saying they’d love to represent our work. Then the call when a publisher wants to purchase our book. And then, further down this crazy and uncertain road, is the day the phone rings and we hear the one word that takes our breath away and has the power to drop us to our knees … BESTSELLER!

 

I’m thrilled to share the wonderful news that Saving CeeCee Honeycutt has hit several bestseller lists since its launch date of January 12, 2010:

 

New York Times

SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance)

Heartland Indie

Southern California Regional Indie

Mountains and Plains Indie

Bookscan

Ingram

Barnes & Noble

Amazon (Hardcover and Trade Paperback)

Amazon (Kindle #1 in Literature/Humor)

Book of The Month Club

 

Also, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt has been selected by SIBA as a 2010 OKRA-award nominee for Southern fiction (hardcover).

 

Thank you to all my readerslibrarians, booksellers, book bloggers, fellow authors, magazine and newspaper reviewers, and the many book clubsfor embracing CeeCee’s story so fully.  And a special thanks to Pamela Dorman, my publisher, and to Catherine Drayton, my literary agent.  A writer couldn’t feel more honored.



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