What I’ve Been Up To Lately

Hi all! I’ve been MIA on the blog lately, so I wanted to fill you guys in on what has been going on in my life.

I told you of my plans to enter The Great Love Inspired Author Search. Well, I’m happy to announce that I made it to the second round! This means I’ve got to figure out plot issues and crank out words. I also have to make sure to leave enough time at the end for a final read through and edits.

So, for the past month, I’ve been balancing work, family life, and writing.

Sometimes, the balancing act is easier than others. Right now is an extra-busy time at work. You see, I’m a school teacher, and we’re at the end of the school year. That means end-of-the-year activities, semester exams, awards day, etc. It also means coming home at the end of the day so exhausted that all I want to do is eat a bowl of cereal and climb into bed.

Fortunately, this is the last week of school for the 2018-2019 year! After Friday, I will have one last thing to juggle.

However, with doctors’ appointments, workshops, and other things that fill up a teacher’s summer, I’ll simply be changing one balancing act for another. Also, I’m not as far along in my manuscript as I had hoped to be at this point, so my days will be a different kind of busy.

Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

My dream of a publishing contract is within my reach. I just have to successfully make it to the other side of the tightrope. I can do this!

Some things that I do in my everyday life to help with this balancing act include cooking one dish CrockPot and InstaPot meals, not stressing if clothes aren’t folded and put away as soon as they come out of the dryer, and drinking lots of coffee.

What about you? What are some of your best tips for balancing all that life throws your way?


Here We Go Again…

Harlequin’s Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense lines are hosting another pitch opportunity for writers seeking publication with them. I’m excited and working diligently to polish my synopsis and first chapter so I can submit it before the first round deadline.

I don’t remember the exact moment when the desire to become a published author took hold in my heart, but I know it was sometime during my seventh grade year of school. I remember sitting in my bedroom writing and thinking one day I’d walk into a bookstore and see my name on the cover of a book displayed on the shelf. If only I would have worked toward those dreams back then, I might have achieved my goal before now. But really, what does a thirteen-year-old know about dreams?

It was thirty-five years after the writing bug bit me before I decided to actively seek publication. I’d heard about a pitch opportunity with the Harlequin Love Inspired line. Having been an avid reader of their books for several years, I knew I’d love nothing more than to be one of their authors.

In that first pitch opportunity, I received a request to submit a proposal. Which I did, though it was full of many rookie mistakes. Several months later I received a lovely rejection letter from the editor. She kindly explained why my manuscript wouldn’t work, while at the same time praising other aspects of my writing. She could have easily sent me a form rejection letter, but instead, she took the time to offer encouragement. This was priceless to me!

Since that first pitch, six years ago, I have entered two more Harlequin Love Inspired pitch contests. The last two times, I wrote manuscripts targeting the Love Inspired Suspense line. In both of these contests, my manuscript made it to the final round and received multiple revise and resubmit requests from the editor before ultimately being rejected. Obviously, my writing had improved, but I hadn’t quite gotten it right.

And, now, here we go again. I love pitch opportunities because they provide deadlines and push me to accomplish more than I ever thought I could. With the announcement of this newest pitch opportunity, I’m both excited and nervous. Only time will tell if I’ve improved enough to finally receive the coveted book contract.

Some people may wonder why I’d try again. After all, I’ve been seeking publication for years and have received multiple rejections from my dream publisher. Why put myself through the stress and open myself up to possible rejection again? My answer would be, why not?

Chalkboard vs Dry Erase Board

After using my Kanban board for a couple of weeks, I decided I needed to go ahead and invest in a larger board so I could do a monthly overview. So, Mountain Man and I headed off to Hobby Lobby. I found a nice white board and was just about to pick it up when I noticed a nice, framed chalkboard. Now, I don’t know if it’s because I’m a school teacher or what, but I love chalkboards. I could picture how beautiful it would look with the brightly colored sticky notes shining against the black background. Hubby agreed, so we purchased it and a few more items and headed home.

I do not have an office in my home and have done most of my writing at the kitchen table or sitting on my bed or couch using a dining tray to hold my laptop. We have a desk in the corner of the living room for Mountain Man’s desktop computer, but the area became a ‘catch all’ and was not a place where I’d want to sit and write.

I’ve been on a mission since the New Year to declutter and organize my life. I told hubby it was time for him to clean his junky desk and let me have a designated place to write. So, we set about cleaning and organizing the area. Once we were finished, I dug out washi tape and divided the areas of my new Kanban board. Then Hubby hung my shiny, new board on the wall. At this point it was late and time for bed.

The next morning, I gathered all my sticky notes and set about doing my planning for the month. I got everything hung on the board, and we headed out to church. Imagine my surprise when we returned home and half of my sticky notes lay on the floor. Apparently, sticky notes do not adhere as well to a chalkboard as they do to a dry erase board. Lesson learned.

Now, what to do with my beautiful new chalkboard. That’s easy. Since I’m determined to become a better plotter and stop being so much of a pantser when it comes to writing, I’ve decided to make the chalkboard my Story Idea Board. I’ve divided out sections on the top for story ideas and  notes, and I’ve divided out sections on the bottom for my current WiP (work in progress). I specifically struggle with overall goal, motivation, and conflict for each character, so I added space for GMC points for each character, including the villain(s) in my stories.

IMG_5219Why, yes, those are sticky notes on my chalkboard! 😀 I did discover that the larger, lined, sticky notes adhere better than the regular sized sticky notes. I’m going to try using them, so I can assign a specific color to each character and change the GMC for each chapter as needed. If the sticky notes start giving me too much trouble, I’ll just use colored chalk and keep a notebook of changes as I go.

I didn’t take a before picture of the desk area (honestly, I would have been too embarrassed for you to have seen it), but here’s an after photo.

IMG_5231It’s still cluttered, but it’s a more organized clutter. I’m also not real happy with the placement of the shelf (another purchase from Hobby Lobby), but I think we’re going to add a second shelf that’s lower on the wall and  a little off center to try and improve the look. We’ll see how that goes. I’m definitely not a decorator, so it could end up looking worse.

So, for what it’s worth, if you’re looking for a board to use as a Kanban board (or anything that requires the use of a lot of sticky notes), you’d be better suited to stick 😉 with a dry erase board. If like me, you love the look of a chalkboard, be ready to make adjustments or use it for something other than a Kanban board.

It Takes A Village

If I could give one piece of advice to people who are just starting their journey to publication, it would be, surround yourself with a good group of writer friends. I’m very blessed to have a close group of writer friends I can turn to when I’m in need of advice, encouragement, or even a ‘virtual’ kick in the backside to get my writing in gear. No matter my struggles, they are my go-to people, and they are there for me.

You might wonder how to meet writer friends. There are numerous ways to do this.

Join Writing Associations

I’m a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), RWA (Romance Writers of America), and Faith, Hope, & Love (a special interest chapter of RWA).

Attend Conferences

I know it’s expensive to attend conferences. Travel expenses, hotel, conference fees, etc. add up to lots of $$$$. However, if you are serious about becoming a published author, this can be a great way to meet friends and make connections in the writing world. Because it’s so expensive, I don’t go to a conference every year. However, I’ve attended two ACFW conferences. Both times the conference was being held in Nashville, TN, which is only a three-hour drive, so I wasn’t out money for airfare.

Visit Writing Blogs

Some of my closest writing friends entered my life via blogs. Search for writing blogs that fit your genre and interest you. When you find blogs you keep returning to time after time (Great. Now I have Cyndi Lauper stuck in my head.)…sorry, I digress…anyway, when you find blogs you really enjoy, don’t just read the posts. Participate. Leave comments, and get involved in the discussions.

Be Active on Social Media

Harlequin Writing Community was one of the first groups I ever became involved with. When I first found them six years ago, it was a different setup. They had a website with message boards, but now they’ve moved solely to Facebook. Another group I enjoy is the Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group. If you are an Inspy Romance writer, this is a great place to meet authors and readers (who one day may become readers of your books).

No matter where you meet your writing friends always remember, the act of writing may be a solo activity, but learning the craft and (hopefully) getting published takes a village.

To my village…I love you all, and I’m so thankful I don’t have to navigate the road to publication alone.