Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finding a Rhythm

It’s hard to break the habit of thinking in the pattern of the academic year, whose calendar ruled my life from when I was five years old until last May. When someone says “year,” my first thought will probably always be “August through May,” and although TGIF shouldn’t mean anything to me now, its still a relief when the weekend rolls around.

I have to get adjusted to a more fluid rhythm, one where neither the academic nor the solar calendar rules. Right now I’m in limbo on a few projects. My agents have sent out a manuscript, but so recently that there’s very little chance of hearing back about it any time soon. I’ve completed and revised (several times!) a nonfiction project, and now I have to leave it alone and try not even to think about it for as long as I can stand it, until I read it over one last time before declaring it ready to be read by someone I'm not related to. So I'm twiddling my thumbs.

This period of waiting isn't marked on my calendar. It's not a spring break I knew was coming and could plan for. Next year it might happen earlier or later, or not at all. And this is something to adjust to.

So I’ve written and scheduled a few posts for the blogs that I contribute to regularly. I’ve caught up on articles that looked interesting enough for me to bookmark them, but that I didn’t have time to read until now. I’ve read the most recent Newbery winner (meh) and skimmed some books about fairy tales, looking for nuggets I can use. I’ve started putting together PowerPoints and handouts for presentations I'm doing next month and this summer.

All of it is productive work, and I know I'll be glad to have those blog posts in the "bank" when their due dates roll around, not to mention the presentation materials. I just have to get used to grabbing these opportunities when I can and not think of them as time that I should have spent writing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It Worked!

I’ve been itching to post this for a while, but couldn’t until it became official. This is from the deal section of today’s Publishers Marketplace:

Author of ANNA OF BYZANTIUM Tracy Barrett’s THE STEPSISTER’S TALE, a retelling of the classic Cinderella from the stepsister’s perspective, in which beauty, romance, and happily ever after aren’t quite what they seem, to Annie Stone at Harlequin Teen, in a two-book deal, by Lara Perkins and Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

(Yes, I have two agents—the Laura and Lara mentioned above. And they have an intern named Laura.)

I’ve been working on both The Stepsister’s Tale and the novel that went out on Friday for a long time. Both were basically complete but in serious need of revision, but what with the day job and my position at SCBWI, I couldn’t hunker down and do what was needed in any kind of concentrated fashion. Nor did I have the time to start anything new.

Well, as of May 11, I’ve had the time to do both. My agents sent out another manuscript on a submission round last Friday, and I have a non-fiction manuscript and another novel (my NaNoWriMo project) nearing completion.

Laura had given me some excellent editorial comments on an earlier draft of Stepsister, and before it went out on submission Lara went through it page by page with comments, suggestions, and queries that made all the difference. I dug in and revised over and over. I lost track of how many drafts I did—drafts that I would have loved to do before, if only I’d been able. And it has paid off.

Do I wish I’d gone to full-time writing earlier? Honestly, no. For most of my time at Vanderbilt, I loved my job. For the last few years, I liked it. I never hated it—never even disliked it. But when the time came, it was the right decision both personally and professionally.