Moving on

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The recent movie, Silver Linings Playbook, based on the book by Matthew Quick, struck a chord in me.  Why?  Because my book CRAZY, coming out in 2014, happens to deal with the same subject--bipolar disease--and I was sufficiently entertained and duly impressed with how the movie handled this often delicate subject.

Patrick Solatano, admirably portrayed by Bradley Cooper, is released from an eight-month stay in the hospital with a determined, if not unwieldy, desire to get back on his feet.  He faces a restraining order from his wife because he severely beat up the man he caught her in the shower with when he returned home unexpectedly. He now reluctantly must see a court-mandated therapist and take regular medication.  If this isn't enough, he is ordered to live in his parents' house where his comically OCD father is running an illegal bookmaking business.

While the movie is billed as a romantic comedy, the humor depicts the often painful and embarrassing events surrounding mental disorders discreetly and realistically.  In fact, many realities of mental illness pervade this movie: Pat's reluctance to take the medication he needs, the existence of similar traits in both father and son, the gravitational pull that often exists between two neurotic/psychotic people (Pat and Tiffany, beautifully portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), the benefits of physical outlets (Pat and Tiffany develop a dance routine and enter a contest), and the inevitability of numerous setbacks and regressions along the road to recovery, or at least stability.  

While the happy Hollywood ending is both predictable and oversimplified, I applaud this movie for its depiction of two resourceful people with mental baggage who have the guts to keep working towards better mental health.

I hope when my book hits the stands in 2014 readers will be reminded that better mental health can be a real possibility for those who keep striving towards that goal.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Now that I have come down from the ceiling (directly related to having landed a book deal) and settled onto firm ground once again, I have had a chance to reflect on the journey thus far.  The Beatles would affirm that it was "a long and winding road."  

Perhaps my trek could be useful to some out there who have set out on a similar journey.  For those who have already traveled this road, it might be interesting to compare notes.  Here are just the facts, ma'am (relying on memory in many cases because, as you will see, the journey was long and arduous):

  • 1994 - Sitting under a palm tree on Myrtle Beach, while my husband watched our twin boys, I wrote a poem called "Oceanography," a cathartic exercise in dealing with my mother's mental illness
  • 1996 - "Oceanography" published in The Texas Review
  • 1994-2004 - Numerous poems dealing with the same topic were written and published in various literary magazines.  
  • 2004-2006 - A collection of twenty poems materializes, and writing buddy Carol Baldwin suggests that they need to be a book.
  • 2007 - Work begins on the first draft, called Breakdown
  • 2009 - Attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, NY and work directly with Patti Gauch, retiring senior editor of Philomel Books
  • 2010 - Sign with Julia Kenny, agent at MarksonThoma Agency in New York
  • 2011 - Revision requested by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company on YA novel written in verse titled CRAZY 
  • 2012 - Receive 3 offers within 2 weeks, sign with Eerdmans for a 2014 publication date
If you are good at math, you already know this process spanned eighteen years. Eighteen years!  I feel like this has to be some kind of record.  Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.  But hopeful writers listen up.  Life went on as usual for most of those years, with full-time teaching, full-time kid raising, and full-time being a minister's wife.  I would have to say that the last year of waiting was probably the nearest I got to pulling my hair out, sitting on pins and needles, chewing my nails to the quick, being totally driven to distraction.  Perhaps if it had been fewer than eighteen years, I may have been able to eliminate a few of those cliches!  

But I write this to ENCOURAGE all writers out there.  If I can wait eighteen years you can stay the course, whatever your course may be, and all the while keep believing in your work.  

Friday, November 16, 2012


You know the old 1941 song made famous by Glen Miller, sung by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Beyonce.  Its love song lyrics go like this:

At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song.

It goes on to say:

I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I could call my own......

Writing a fiction book is a lot like entering a love relationship with a real, live person.  You certainly have to get inside the character to the point that he or she becomes real, and you have to love that character through and through.  That's the writing part.  Then, you have to find an agent and/or a publisher who falls in love with that character.  That's the hardest part.  And all the while, you have to hang on to that dream that drove you to the writing and carried you through the desolate days, weeks, and months of waiting for someone in the world out there to connect.

This is my official announcement that my YA novel written in verse, CRAZY, will be published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company sometime in 2014. Today I've been running around the house like a mad woman singing this song, because the tune is as seductive as a contract offer, and the words lilting enough to lift my feet right off the floor.

I have lots more of the process that I want share in the days and weeks ahead. But for now, I simply want to bask in the warm glow, give all the glory to God, and keep on singing AT LAST......

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


So here I am on pins and needles (feels more like daggers and spears) once again because my yet-to-be-published book CRAZY is making an appearance at yet another acquisition committee.  The first time around my agent wooed a larger, well-known house into "loving" my book onto the acquisition committee, only to leave me dangling indefinitely.  Still dangling I am, while their last word many months ago was "everyone at BLANK HOUSE loves this book."  Go figure.

At my agent's suggestion I have spent the past several months knocking on smaller doors without her representation and have landed once again on the chopping block, er acquisition committee.  This time, along with the full manuscript, they requested a marketing plan and have used words like "interested in publishing.....looking forward to working with you."

Should I be excited or filled with dread?  Should I bask in the fact that someone wants my manuscript (or do they)?  Will this time be any different than last time?

These questions swirled in my head this morning when Augusta Scattergood's blog found its way to me (thanks to my good friend and writing buddy Carol Baldwin.)  The post is titled Celebrate Everything, and in the writer's world, that means even rejections accompanied by a personal note (as opposed to no note at all or a stock phrase:  Doesn't fit our list.)

Thanks, Augusta, for reminding us that every step along the way has value and is worthy of celebration if we just pause to consider how far we have come.

Bring it on, Acquisition Committee #2.  I'm ready for whatever you have to say (but please, could you make it snappy?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Self-publishing or Not, That is the Question....

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to a group of writers at the Charlotte Write To Publish Group. They invited me to talk about my experience acquiring an agent, so I gladly stepped up to the plate and gave them the full monty.  I traced my humble publishing history from Sunday School supplements to write-for-hire curriculum, to adult poetry, to my yet-to-be-published YA novel, CRAZY.

I talked about the time and money I have poured into professional critiques, workshops, and conferences to fine tune my manuscript.  I described my 4-month quest to snag an agent. I detailed the grueling year-and-a-half of rejections, close-calls, near misses,  agonizing waiting and elevated blood pressure. And I bravely divulged that my agent and I have come to the recent conclusion that I should launch my own search targeting small, independent presses who do NOT wish to see an agented piece of work. The writers listened politely and showered me with intelligent questions in the end.

Then I sat back and listened to them share their stories, and one after another they unveiled their self-publishing or subsidy publishing journeys.  Someone passed around a shiny finished product, another shared pieces of his glowing Kirkus reviews, and yet another outlined the ease and efficiency of getting her book edited and uploaded.  I listened politely, asked intelligent questions, and left with my head spinning.

This morning I woke up with a gross WHY headache.  Why am I doing this to myself when I could take half the money I was going to spend for yet another workshop, go to and within hours be on my way to published bliss?  In fact, with a little design savvy I could click my manuscript into the published realm before dinner tonight without spending a pretty penny.  Why not?

Fellow writers who have gone this route, please hear me.  I am not bashing you, your work, or the choices you have made.  Quite the contrary, for the first time in my writing career, I am seriously asking myself why not?

My head is in a muddle, but I'd love to hear from clear thinkers out there on either side of this slippery slope.

Monday, September 3, 2012


On this fascinating sojourn to find a publisher for CRAZY, my Young Adult novel written in verse, I find myself launching into new territory.  Backing up a bit, I have worked with an agent for the past year and-a-half to no avail.  While she loves my book and has found a publisher who also claims to love my book, no contract offer has been made, and the hope of one coming in any time soon is fast waning. The tight state of the writers' market these days, particularly for Young Adult fiction, is a whole topic for another day's discussion.  

But getting back to the here and now, my agent has become a friend and advocate who has agreed to look over any contract offers I might land on my own and to help with foreign rights should this book ever make it to the shelves.  So I find myself once again polishing up the queries and cranking out the submission lists, something I mistakenly thought I could abandon forever once I landed that agent.  

My intention here is not to invite you to a pity party, but to join me in a new venture which is the exploration of e-publishing and alternative markets.  As luck would have it, one of the first days out on this new trail I snagged the interest of Tod Davies,, publisher of Exterminating Angel Press and its e-magazine by the same name.  And no, neither she nor her site is about eliminating heavenly beings, and I'll leave it up to you to discover the origins of this unique name.  She has invited me to share some of my work from CRAZY. If you will go to and click on EAP: The Magazine at the top, my piece called "Beth's Opinion" is listed in the column on the right.  It wouldn't hurt my feelings if you "liked" it and I will love to receive comments here, since that option is not open on the site.

Thanks for joining me on this arduous but ever-fascinating journey!  

Monday, August 20, 2012


I'm back.  It's been almost a year.  I told myself I wasn't going to blog again until I had something substantial to blog about.  So I retired from teaching.  That may not be substantial to you, but it is major to me.   Today, as a matter of fact, would have been my first official day back in the classroom.    So I set the alarm for 6:00, in spite of the advice from other retirees who said I should never have to set the alarm again.  I was at my desk by 8:00, well.... maybe closer to 9:00 by the time I read the paper.

The point is, I am now Writer-in-Residence-at-My-House, and I made it to work almost on time this morning.

I'm not at all sure about the substantial information I am going to write about, but I can tell you this:

I will be writing about writing
and writing to make it right
and righting as many wrongs
as I can
through writing
and writing the right way
if at all possible
and sometimes maybe
just to be writing.

You're brave to be hanging in there with me.

I'll see you at my next substantial post.