29.


“Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.”
~Sammy Hagar

When I was younger, I used to wait in excited anticipation for my birthday. Falling out on September 9th, it always gave me something to look forward to even after the summer sun slowly began to blend with the autumn crispness. It wasn’t about presents, or cake, or adventures in mini golf and roller skating (though, granted, I enjoyed those, just as any kid would). But more so, it was about the chance to spend a day celebrating with all the people I loved most. It was a chance to make wishes for the coming year and believe, truly believe, that they’d come true.

The innocence of a child, right?

I hate to say it, because I really do think it’s best to approach life with optimism and hope, but over the past few years, that belief faded … and instead of looking forward to my birthday, it became something that put me in a funk. Instead of it being the marker of what I’d accomplished since the previous September, it became a marker for all I’d yet to achieve. All the wishes that went unfulfilled. All the goals that were still dreams and nothing more. Sure, I’ve written a book – or two, or three, or four – but they haven’t been published yet. Sure, I’ve gotten requests from agents, but they didn’t result in an offer. Sure, I’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity, freedom, and support to create these book-babies, but they weren’t out there in the world to share.

If you asked me ten years ago where I’d be at twenty-nine, I’d have rambled off a list of answers. And do you know how many of them correlate with where I actually am now? A quarter, if that. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset about that for awhile. For as much as I would never begrudge anyone their success and dreams-turned-reality, it can be hard to watch these things happen to everyone around you while you’re still sitting on the sidelines. It can be hard to work and work – and work some more – only to have it not pay off.

But then something happened. I spent a lovely long weekend in Ocean City for my birthday. It’s amazing what a difference a week makes: not even seven days after Labor Day, and the shore was so quiet and peaceful. I swam in a pool that was empty except for my mom and me. I sat on a beach that was free from the summer chatter, music, and makeshift sports tournaments. I stood in an ocean that was rough from the rip currents, but devoid of all the boogie-boards you normally see. I walked on the boardwalk in sunshine, in clouds, and in a monsoon (no, seriously, that’s exactly what it looked like as torrents of water suddenly poured down from the sky and my dad, sister, and I ran for cover under a pavilion). I had Polish Water Ice, Dippin’ Dots, and Steel’s Fudge. I spent the evening of my birthday in my absolute favorite place in the world – Ventnor, NJ, where my grandparents used to own a condo. It’s been fifteen years since they sold it and Ventnor still has my heart. It always will. There was something very special about being there again – about walking on the boardwalk I’d traveled down every summer as a kid, about venturing onto the beach and watching the lights of the pier glimmer down onto the ocean water below, about going out to dinner with my mom at JoJo’s, a restaurant that will always hold such wonderful memories and still remains my favorite. I had a fantastic time with the people I love most in the place I love most.

And for the first time in recent years, I didn’t spend the day beating myself up or feeling like a failure for not having accomplished every goal. Twenty-nine feels old to me, but I know it’s not. My goals can still grow. Am I published yet? No. Married with kids of my own? No. Working at a news station like I’d have been insistent upon in my answer ten years ago? No. But I have worked at that station before. I have written four books. I have experienced a joy through writing them that words cannot come close to describing. I do have the best family and some really fabulous friends who are the family I choose. And those things? They’re the best gift of all.

So instead of getting into a funk because another year has come and gone, I’m going to be thankful for that year. I’m going to be thankful for the one ahead. I’m going to remember the inspiration of standing on the boardwalk and gazing out at the ocean. I’m going to remember how my family went out of their way to make it a special day. I’m going to remember the kind words from friends like y’all. I’m going to remember that, no, I may not be where I imagined, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It means success comes in many forms. It means my hard work has paid off in other, intangible ways.

I am looking forward to what twenty-nine has to offer.

Here’s hoping for a wish come true.

An Equation.


“I’m gonna free myself, gonna make a change,
And like a butterfly, I’mma spread my wings.
Been crying for too long, now I’m drying my eyes,
Grounded for so long, now it’s time for me to fly.”
~Pia Toscano, “This Time”

Book
reading Laura’s fantastic new book on the beach

+

Ocean
this view

+

Seagull
seagulls!

+

Walk
early morning walks on the beach

+

Pool
swimming

+

Idol 2
American Idol concert

+

Idol 3 - Pia
meeting Pia after the show!

+

full request from an agent (!!!!)

=

lovely week so far!!

Next: meeting up with Erin tomorrow (so excited to spend time together in person after six years!) and re-packing for another few days at the shore next week. Yes, we’re the dedicated Idol fans who split up our vacation this year so we could go to the concert. Here’s hoping for less rain and more sunshine next time around. Here’s also hoping that the next two days magically become forty-eight hours long instead of twenty-four, because workaholic me really wants to send out more queries and start another round of edits on the manuscript before we leave. Or maybe I’ll just save that for the shore. After all, what better to act as inspiration than an ocean that glitters like shimmery diamonds?

What has the equation of your week added up to so far?

Crossing the Finish Line.


“If you are going to run this race, you have to do it because you want to, because you have something to say or because it means more to you than anything in the world.”
~Arabella Hicks, via Susan Breen in The Fiction Class

It has been a long week. It’s been a difficult week, an emotional week, and a week that I sincerely hope won’t ever be repeated. Without getting into all the details, I’ll just say this: good health is everything. Everything. If you and your loved ones are healthy, then the rest will fall into place. The family situation I mentioned in my last post is still ongoing, so if you’re so inclined, any and all good thoughts are still most welcome and deeply appreciated. I believe in the power of positive thinking, I believe optimism can change the world, and I believe that miracles can happen if we have enough faith in them. That’s the perspective I’m choosing right now.

I’m also choosing to keep looking forward. It has been a difficult week on the querying front, as well, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me, but I’m trying very, very hard to keep looking on the bright side. To that end, I wanted to share this quote I came across while reading Susan Breen’s novel. My friend Sara loaned me the book a couple weeks ago – she said she thought of me right away when reading it – and I’m so glad she did. The way it’s structured is unique, creative, and innovative. It bounces back and forth between Arabella’s personal life, the fiction class she teaches, and the way the two intersect. I was particularly drawn in by the sections about her class – the dynamic of the students, the bond she develops with them, and the way they all grow not only as writers, but also as people.

My absolute favorite part of the book is a discussion Arabella has with one of her students. He’s questioning whether to pursue a career, a life, as a writer, and she gives him the advice quoted above. It’s been a few days now since I finished reading, but those words have stayed with me. They struck a chord in a way that goes beyond explanation. I didn’t just read them. I didn’t just understand them. I felt them. I still do. Because they could not possibly be more true. Writing is a joy. It’s captured starlight and magic come to life. It’s a passion that stirs so deep inside that you can’t even figure out where it comes from, where it becomes a part of you. But taking that next step? Working every day to turn your dream of being a published author into reality? It is hard. It’s harder than I ever could have realized until I jumped into it with both feet and an open heart. The twists and turns, the ups and downs, the strength and emotional fortitude it takes to pursue this relentlessly … it’s worth it, and that’s precisely because it means the world to me. It would be easy to let myself fall back in the race, to slow my pace and let everyone run by, but I refuse. Publishing, like so much else in life, is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in it because I want to be. I’m in it because I have something to say and something to write. I’m in it until I cross that finish line … and then I’ll be headed for a new finish line, the next one.

I am not athletic. I am not a runner. When we ran the mile in high school, I was among the last to finish. But slow and steady wins the race, and I’m not talking about a race against others. I’m talking about the race we challenge ourselves to, the one we set as our goal. There may not be any medals to win, but I fully believe that if we keep at it, if we keep running, we’ll get a far greater prize. One step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have traveled a great distance.

3, 2, 1 … JUMP.


“When you’re on the edge and looking down
With all the lights flashing around
Stars shine above your head
Don’t you give up just yet.”
~Graham Colton, Cellophane Girl

Graham 2010

Confession: There’s a good chance that this post was inspired solely by the fact that I’m excited to see Graham in concert tonight. Seriously, y’all (I know, I know, northerners don’t get to use that phrase, but since ROM and its sequel both take place in Atlanta, I consider myself an honorary southerner by heart), you should check out his music. I was first introduced to him when he opened for Kelly Clarkson on her Breakaway and Hazel Eyes tours back in 2005, and have been a fan ever since. There’s a very real, very relatable, very genuine quality to his songs, one that makes you realize he just gets it. The lyrics are honest, the melodies are intriguing, and the combined result both inspires and encourages. It’s clear that Graham believes in and feels the music, and he shares that vibe with his listeners.

My favorite line from the song that opens this post is: “On the edge of the world, she’d rather jump than just look down.” Sometimes there are lyrics that truly speak to you, and for me, that’s one of them. I’ve always been the kind of person who reaches for the stars instead of just wishing on them, and this publishing journey has taken that to a new level. There are so many points when it would be easier to step away from the edge, to back away from the never-ending cavern of emotions. I could write the books, but not push them – and myself – to the very strongest. I could finish the books, but save myself from the off-the-charts stress that comes from querying agents. I could try to detach myself from my work enough to even out the emotional roller coaster that this process takes writers on every day. Except … I really couldn’t. I really can’t. Maybe that’s because I’m a perfectionist, maybe it’s because I’m so invested in my characters that I find myself thinking about them countless times throughout the day, maybe it’s both. Definitely it’s more.

I don’t want to work on a book that doesn’t push me further. I don’t want to write a novel that isn’t the best version of itself that I can make it. I don’t want to give in to the stress of the querying, the waiting, the I-have-a-new-email-time-for-my-heart-to-skip-a-beat feeling. Patience is a virtue for a reason, and this industry is the best real-life teacher of that. This might sound corny, but it’s something I believe in whole-heartedly: we never stop learning. We never stop growing. We never stop evolving. We should never want to stop. Through plotting, through outlining, through writing, through querying, and yes, even through waiting, a whole new world of understanding and possibilities has opened up to me. That’s something I’ll be forever grateful for (and something I remind myself of every time I refresh my email/check my phone/count the days since I sent off material). I kind of feel like I’m standing right at the edge these days, on the brink of my greatest dreams and most fervent wishes. Would it be easier to just stand there and look down on them? Sure. But am I going to jump anyway, even without knowing if I’ll land on both feet? Without a doubt. I’m going to keep leaping with an open heart and open arms, doing everything in my power to grab the world that’s waiting. Stars shine above, and hopes linger below, ready to be snatched up.

Here’s hoping Graham sings this song tonight. And that wearing heels will prevent me from looking as short as I did in last year’s picture with him.

What about you? Are you a looker or a jumper when it comes to your dreams?

A Love Affair.


“When a writer talks about his work, he’s talking about a love affair.”
~Alfred Kazin

No, not with someone tall, dark, and handsome (although I am quite ready at this point for all the Prince Charmings to find their way off whatever deserted island they appear to be hunkered down on). I’m actually talking about my new manuscript, which I was so, so excited to jump into last Friday. I’ve been looking forward to writing the sequel to Reflections of Me ever since I wrote the final word on the final page of the original. I wasn’t finished with those characters yet. Or, perhaps it would be more fitting to say, they weren’t finished with me yet. As I realize all over again with each project, it is a truly special thing when you let them – and their journeys – lead the way.

It’s a bit different this time since I already feel like the cast of characters is comprised of old friends. I spent just over two months writing their first story, but between brainstorming, plotting, editing, revising, and querying, they’ve lived inside my head and heart for much longer. And now I get to bring them out again, to travel along as their story continues to unfold. Know what that makes me? Lucky. So unbelievably, indescribably lucky. In a way, it’s like coming home. I’ve missed those characters so much these past few months, more than I even realized until I started writing about them again. Brainstorming was fun. Color-coding character sketches was fun. Developing a loose outline – one that’s already curving to fit in new ideas – was fun. But sitting down at the computer and finally, finally, finally letting the words to their story flow again? Priceless.

It’s been a very reaffirming experience. I’m just under 14,000 words in at this point, but already I can see the possibilities opening up before my eyes. I have glimpses not only of where Sofie and the other characters are now, but where they’ll be fifty, a hundred, two hundred pages from now. That writer’s part of my brain is just bursting with inspiration and joy, and it feels good, so good to get swept up in the magic of writing again. I’m not going to lie, the querying rollercoaster has been especially emotional lately. Last week was both the most hopeful and most disappointed I’ve ever been. I could have let it break me, I could have let it completely dampen my spirit, but I refused. Instead, I took some time to let myself feel the heartbreak (I know that might sound like an exaggeration, but this book, this journey, this dream, they’re so important to me that that’s what it felt like) and then I moved on and moved forward. I sat down, skimmed through all the notes in my writing journal, opened that blank page on the computer, and wrote.

And wrote. And wrote some more. Take today, for instance. I sat down with the intent of writing my usual amount, which equates to four or five pages and about fifteen hundred words. Two hours later, I took a breather and realized I had twenty-seven hundred words that spanned eight pages. Oops? This is why I adore writing, though. Getting lost in the words and their magic, getting so immersed in your characters’ lives that you completely lose track of your own, it’s the most invigorating feeling. It doesn’t matter how many times I experience it, it still sends that same starburst of inspiration exploding along my veins. I love it. I love this. And I love it far too much to ever stop. E-V-E-R.

This week it’s been back to writing, back to daydreaming (why is it that story ideas ALWAYS come to you when you’re unable to jot them down, like when you’re driving? I may or may not have pulled over on a Starbucks’ parking lot the other day to grab my notepad … and then I may or may not have had to buy one of their amazing double chocolate chip frappuccinos since, hey, I was already there), and back to querying. My spirit is refreshed and rejuvenated, and I’m more determined than ever. Jumping into this new book – all its joys and all the challenges that come from tackling a very different writing format that I’m used to – it’s been so wonderful. I believe in pushing myself as a writer, in growing with every project, and I’m excited to see how that continues to unfold with this one.

Never mind the fact that I also may or may not have slammed my wrist into my laptop in a writing frenzy and ended up with a lovely dime-sized bump to prove it. Occupational hazard? I’ll take it. In fact, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Blast from the Past.


“Breaking down the walls
Do the impossible
It’s impossible to you, not impossible to me
Not impossible for me…”
~Kelly Clarkson, “Impossible”

Okay, I suppose “the past” may be stretching it a bit. After all, five years ago isn’t exactly an eternity. Still, though, when I think of all that’s happened since then and how different my life is now, it’s sometimes hard to believe. Five years ago, I was interning at the news station I had dreamed of working at for years. I was spending my days writing news promos, learning the intricacies of the Avid editing program, and more. I loved every minute of that internship, and leaving when it drew to an end was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I still remember the way I sat in my car in the parking lot, not wanting to turn the key in the ignition. Fast forward to spring of 2006, and I was facing another goodbye, this time on my last day of student teaching. I worked in a sixth grade Language Arts class, and even though journalism and writing were my passions, I wanted to see my double major through and finish the requirements for my Education degree, as well. Going into student teaching, I didn’t know what to expect. On that last day, I realized with certainty that it had been more than I could have imagined.

Did I end up pursuing a career in teaching? No. I went the journalism route, and that’s given me experiences I’ll always be deeply grateful for, experiences I’ll always treasure. But am I glad I had the opportunity to teach those fifty-four students? Yes. And you know, in the process, they taught me a lot, as well. I still have all the sweet cards and notes they gave me on my last day, and every so often, I’ll go back to read them and reminisce. Getting to watch those kids learn, getting to see their excitement over something like creating their own newscast or choosing which song to use as part of the day’s grammar lesson … it was all special in its own way. And, I know now, I’m not the only one who looks back on those five months with great memories.

Today was our community’s annual craft fair, and since many of the high school’s clubs are often selling raffles/merchandise as a fundraiser, I had a feeling I’d see some of “my” former kids there. Sure enough, I did. The “hey, I know you!” made me smile, and the “so do you still like Kelly Clarkson?” made me laugh out loud. Apparently I left somewhat of a lingering impression. Five years later, I don’t remember the exact grammar lessons I taught them. I don’t remember all the books we read, all the vocabulary we covered, all the activities and units I added to the regular curriculum. I do remember the way one girl sang “For Good” to me on my last day. I do remember the way they asked me about everything Idol-related. I do remember how excited they were on the day they finally got to present their newscasts, the culmination of a month of hard work. I used the quote “we must teach our children to dream with their eyes open” as part of my final presentation for my student teaching seminar, and it’s something I think applies to everyone. We should all dream with our eyes wide open. We should all break down the walls and do the impossible.

That’s exactly what I’m determined to do. Sending off the first round of queries for Reflections of Me was exhilarating, inspiring. Getting a request for the full manuscript just two days later was exciting beyond belief. Is there a good chance nothing will come of it? Yes. I’ve learned enough about this industry to understand that. And if that agent passes on the book, it’ll be okay. I’ll keep querying, keep working, keep writing … keep reaching for the impossible until it’s held firmly within my grasp.

What about you? Do you dream with your eyes open? Do you believe that the past can have a lasting impact on the present, and maybe even the future?

Ready, Set, Query.


“Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said that it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”
~Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy)

Hopeful. Nervous. Excited. Anxious. Inspired. There are so many words to describe how I’m feeling now, how I felt this afternoon when I sent off my first round of queries for my new novel, Reflections of Me. It’s funny, I thought maybe this time would be different. After all, I’ve been here before. I’ve sent the queries, I’ve checked my email over and over (and over), I’ve gone on the emotional rollercoaster that this journey embodies, I’ve taken to heart the comments and feedback agents have given me. So this time, it would only follow that things wouldn’t be the same, right? Wrong.

Well, actually, maybe that’s not entirely true. If it’s possible, every emotion is even more magnified this time. The hope is higher, the excitement greater, the inspiration stronger. I’ve made no secret of the fact that writing this novel was very special for me. There was something indescribable about the experience, something that transcends explanation. To say this novel is like my baby is the best comparison I can make. It was a pure joy to work on from the first day of brainstorming straight through the last day of editing. Even the query and synopsis were fun. This book, it didn’t just entrench itself in my mind. It entrenched itself in my heart and soul. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t want to work on it, and I’m already itching to start planning its sequel. I’ve said for years now that writing is my work of heart, and this just proved it all over again. It showed me firsthand how much passion writing can invoke, how much pure happiness it can bring. No matter what the future holds, no matter what the queries bring, I will forever be glad that I took a chance on this story. I understand now that when something won’t leave your thoughts, it’s for a reason. It sounds corny, I know, but it’s like this book was meant to be mine.

I’ve always been one to believe in serendipity. Yes, it’s beyond important that we make our own luck, but sometimes it can’t hurt to believe in fate and fortune, too. So when I was in NYC on Sunday (to see Jordin Sparks in “In the Heights” — she was fantastic!) and this restaurant was directly across from the theater, I had to smile. My main character’s name is Sofie, but one of her advertising clients insists on always calling her Sofia.

Sofia's

Good sign? I’m choosing to believe so. We also stopped at Rockefeller Center, which will always be one of my favorite parts of the city. The flags, the surrounding buildings, the ice rink that’s open now … all of it has an energy and atmosphere all its own. Just being there, feeling that adrenaline and inspiration, is exciting in its own right. A stop by the Simon & Schuster building made it even more fun – and meaningful, knowing I was just days away from sending my first queries. It may be silly, but every publishing house excites me, makes me warm and fuzzy. I can’t help it, and I don’t want to.

Rockefeller

Simon & Schuster

As I start this next step on the journey, I’m going to keep on believing that things happen for a reason. If I get a chance, I’ll take it. If it changes my life, I’ll let it. I’ll embrace that opportunity with open arms. Is this road an easy one? No, but as the wise words of Meredith Grey remind us, nothing worth having ever is. It’s worth it, though. It’s so worth it.

All you need is love…


“Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing… the rest will follow.”
~Jane Yolen

Love.

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear that word? It’ll differ for everyone, but it’s probably safe to say that most of you didn’t immediately start thinking about your favorite book, that novel you simply couldn’t put down until you had read the last page. Sure, it’s a very different kind of sentiment than that all-encompassing, head-over-heels, I’ve-met-my-soulmate love (erm, well I certainly suppose so, anyway, since my prince charming still appears to be lost on another planet at the moment), but it’s a kind of love all the same, and it’s important. And it’s that love – that indescribable, gut feeling when you just know something is right for you – that’s often so essential in the publishing world.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard authors and agents stress how subjective this business is – and I get it, I really do. Everyone has different tastes. Just like we fall in love with different books as readers, so do agents as they sort through the hundreds upon hundreds of queries they receive. A book could be written wonderfully, but if it doesn’t have that spark that grabs the agent’s interest, there’s going to be a missing factor in the equation. The love needs to be there. Authors have said it, agents have said it, and yesterday I had the opportunity to hear the same thing from a publisher. It really is all about subjectivity. It’s all about love.

When I first got the email from Arcadia’s Alumni Association saying that renowned publisher Arthur Levine would be speaking at the school yesterday, my reaction was – SERIOUSLY? Just a brief background on him: he has his own imprint with Scholastic Press, he’s worked in the industry for over two decades, and he’s the editor responsible for bringing Harry Potter to America. So yeah, he’s kinda, sorta important (how’s that for an understatement?). I was really, really excited to go hear him speak and so eager to see what information, stories, and wisdom he had to offer. I always love when I’m able to gain insight into different authors’ and agents’ experiences in the business, and to get to see the industry from this third viewpoint seemed like a terrific opportunity. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I couldn’t wait to learn more. And even though a lot of what he talked about dealt with things I had already come across during all the research I’ve done, I can safely say that several parts of the event stood out.

– Voice, journeys, and love: these are three of the main components that are so vital. Just like most agents look for a unique voice in a novel, that tone that draws them in and leaves them craving more, so do publishers. It’s universal in that sense, it seems. And really, if I stop to think about what I enjoy as a reader, that voice is definitely high up there on the list. Then there’s the whole idea of the main character going on a journey. After all, who wants to read about someone who just stays the same? I love “watching” the evolution of the characters as novels progress, and it’s something I always strive to make a central part of my own work. And then there’s the love, which Arthur stressed multiple times. Each agent and publisher will fall in love with different components, and that’s okay. It’s better than okay, actually, because doesn’t every writer want to work with people who are equally as passionate about the novel?

– Diligence and persistence: these are beyond crucial. Being an author isn’t just writing a manuscript. It’s taking that novel into your heart and soul, giving it the time and effort it needs to flourish. This is a tough industry to break into, a really tough one. Even though I may not be there yet, I’m learning to see the beauty of taking things one step at a time, strengthening my persistence and refusing to ever stop until I turn this dream into a reality. Arthur spoke about the importance of giving your manuscript the time and attention it needs and then the persistence of never giving up on it. Check and check.

And you know what else? He was so nice – funny, cheerful, honest, and willing to answer any and all questions. I think a lot of the time, the major players in this industry can seem so intimidating, but I was struck by how completely opposite he was from how publishers are often portrayed. The same is true for many of the agents whom I’ve been in contact with. Yes, they’re savvy and smart, but they can also be so genuine and down-to-earth. I’m seeing more and more how wonderful people in the publishing industry are, which only makes me more determined to keep at this until it happens. I’ll keep working for it, fighting for it, and believing in it. Because, after all, isn’t that what you do when you love something enough?

Do you agree? Can love for your work really be the determining factor in a career choice? Is that enough?

Door #2.


“Sometimes goodbye is a second chance
Here is my chance
This is my chance…”
~Shinedown, “Second Chance”

“When one door closes, another one opens.”

How many times have you heard that quote before? How many times have you heard someone mention it? How many times have you applied it to your own life? For me, I think it’s an idea that’s always been in the back of my mind, at least to some extent — the thought that there’s always another opportunity, another chance, another possibility. And, looking back on the past few years, I realize now that I’ve been lucky enough to have that play out for me on more than one occasion. There was the internship in WPVI-TV’s news department – the one that was discontinued the semester before I was to apply in college. There was the newsroom editorial apprentice program at the station (think: that “foot in the door” type job after graduation) – the one that, again, was discontinued in the midst of me applying for it. And then there’s now, my quest to turn my passion for writing into a full-time career and to have With a Little Bit of Luck published.

But that internship? I ended up applying for one in the Creative Services department instead, where I got so much invaluable hands-on experience that I may not have had the chance for otherwise. I learned a great deal, met some truly special people, and had opportunities that I never would have imagined (seriously – I still get a little giddy whenever I think of the promo I wrote being read on-air!). And that apprenticeship? I was crushed when the program was done away with – and subsequently elated less than a month later when I was offered a different job at the station, working on the ABC News Archive project. Again, it was an experience I otherwise never would have had, filled with the chance to meet and work with some truly wonderful people and to learn about things I had never had the opportunity to before. And, best of all, it gave me the chance to take on a second role at the station – working with my mentor in journalism, at her request. I wouldn’t have traded that unbelievable experience for the world … and it came about when one door closed. I will forever be grateful for that, because it’s what allowed me to walk through the door that will always be a special time in my life that I’ll treasure and be so, so thankful to have had.

And this journey to publication? This ultimate dream-come-true? Well, the road may as well be paved with signs and reminders that sometimes, everything really does happen for a reason. I won’t lie, I was crestfallen when I heard back from the agent last Monday and read that she had ultimately decided to pass on my novel. Logically, I knew that was likely – rejection is the name of the game in this industry – but it didn’t make it hurt any less. Like I said in my last entry, though, I made the decision to take her kind words and thoughtful advice and use them as motivation. Just getting that far was a big step in the right direction – maybe not a leap yet, but sometimes the best thing to do is take it one step at a time. Now, talk about a new door opening when one closes … I was absolutely elated when I opened my email Wednesday morning to find a partial manuscript request from a second agent!! How’s that for timing? I’m well aware this second request could go the way of the first, but I’m choosing to be cautiously optimistic and hopeful. Just to have had two requests within a month of starting to send out the letters (I always make sure to have ten out at a time – for every “no” I get back, I submit to another agent) is positively, absolutely, amazingly thrilling for me. Fingers crossed!

I’m learning that sometimes, in some ways, goodbye really is a second chance – and I, for one, plan to continue taking every opportunity I can find to make this dream into a reality. This is my chance. I won’t squander it.

What about you? Have you ever had one door close, just to have another open and give you an experience you’ll never forget? Do you believe that what’s meant to be will always find a way? Do you think everything happens for a reason?

Striking a Chord.


“Radio, radio
Tell me what I wanna know, wanna know
I’ve been wide awake, staying up all night
Waiting for a song that will make me feel alright…”
~Brooke White, “Radio Radio”

Grey’s Anatomy coined the phrase “dance it out.” Now, I can’t remember exactly what episode it was from or what exactly they were dancing out, but what I do know is that the concept is one so many people can relate to in their own lives. Whether it’s dancing it out, walking it out, or something else entirely, everyone has a way of working through whatever decisions or experiences they may be struggling with … and for a lot of us, that involves music in some way. Of course the artist and song will vary, but the common thread that stays the same? Music gives us something to think about. It inspires us. It motivates us. It makes us realize that whatever we’re dealing with, someone else is, too. We all have that song or album that speaks to us.

I had a few of those today. I’m about as far from a dancer as humanly possible (seriously, every dancing gene went to my sister!), so my method is to walk things out – but almost always with music. I like finding that meaning in every song, and I appreciate it perhaps even more when that meaning finds – and inspires – me. Today that came in the form of Melinda’s “I Will Be” and Carrie’s “Crazy Dreams.” Both came on my ipod as I was taking my daily walk, and the timing couldn’t possibly have been any better. Yesterday I found out that I wasn’t going to get the answer I had been praying for from the agent who requested my partial manuscript, which left me with two choices: allow myself to feel helplessly discouraged or take this agent’s very nice, very thoughtful email and use it as motivation. I’ll admit to being crestfallen when I read the words – somehow an “almost” hurts more than a “no” – but I made the conscious choice when I woke up this morning to turn that hurt into hope. I made the decision to allow myself to be very disappointed, but to also focus on her kind words and to be elated that I’ve gotten this far. I have every intent of taking this agent’s suggestion and kind words and running with them – but first I had to literally hit the pavement to walk it out. And honestly? Those two songs could not have come on at a better time. They’re exactly what I needed to hear.

And on another note entirely (pun not intended!), I also wanted to mention what a major role music plays in the writing process, at least for me. I’ve always been one of those people who loves to immerse myself in a song, and I find that holds even more true when I’m writing. So often I’ll be writing a scene, or even just thinking about one, when lyrics will pop into my head. There are certain lines that just seem to embody my characters or the situation at hand, lyrics that I always keep in mind as I’m writing. For example, there’s one scene toward the end of With a Little Bit of Luck where I feel like a specific line in Jordin Sparks’ “The Cure” is just the absolute perfect description for what my main character, Emily, is feeling. I can’t listen to that song anymore without thinking of the book. I’m one of those people who needs quiet when I write, but you can be assured that when I am listening to music, I’m always inspired by the lyrics I hear and the singers who get to the heart of the matter so beautifully. I love getting to extend that aura and mood to a scene and to my characters.

So, all that said, I’m going to continue hoping and praying that crazy dreams really do come true – and I’m also going to continue to work as hard as I can and do everything in my power to make that happen. Today, I heard the songs that made me feel alright. I heard the music that struck a chord.

What songs inspire you and your dreams? Do you ever dance it out? How does music impact your life?