Time Zones: It’s A Paw-ty

My baby turns three tomorrow.

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So, technically, and according to him when he flexes his super-hero muscles, he’s not a baby.

As very little is more magical than a birth and the thriving, I thought today’s blog post would be apt to talk of that with the combination of writerly things.

Back track almost three years ago: I poured my first cup of fully caffeinated coffee I’d had in a year at our local writers’ guild meeting when a writing-buddy turned to me. “I have a friend who just had a baby and she’s really struggling finding time to write. How do you do it?”

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My baby was six weeks old, my daughter almost three. The schedule my eldest and I had come up with—balancing playdates and naptimes and my writing—had twisted into something unrecognizable with the arrival of my son. Before, I wrote during her naptime. Constantly exhausted keeping up with her, I’d snuggle in and take a twenty minute power nap, then wake up with scenes vibrant, writing furiously for the next hour and forty minutes. We were clockwork, she and I. I was the big hand, she the little and our days spun around the clock face.

The baby was a different time zone. Naptimes where no longer times to write but times to nurse and change diapers and soothe so he would be happy while she slept. Days when their naps coincided were glorious but rare. When I changed course and woke early to write, one or the other did too. I didn’t make a sound but they could feel the moment I turned on the computer through cracked bedroom doors and down a hallway. I grew frustrated and raged that the universe was against me.

I wrote after the three am breastfeeding for a week or two.  The crash was spectacular and messy.

And I felt so guilty that I blamed them for needing me. Writing is a priority but these two amazing children are so much more. I needed to change my mindset on what I expected out of myself. This baby might be my last so I needed to appreciate the fleeting infant time more. The incredible bond while nursing, the coos and gummy smiles. The tiny fist gripping my pinkie.

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He still prefers to hold only my pinkie. It’s like our secret handshake. A way he reminds me that he’ll always be my baby no matter that he’s growing up.

I reminded myself of a pass I had put in place. I had given myself a goal, a manageable 500 words a day, to finish writing a middle grade fairytale retelling before he arrived. I’m goal-driven and finished it a month before his arrival. Revising doesn’t take the same mental capacity that creating does to me so instead, I used my writing time to draft. And journal. I wanted to remember every tiny detail of their babyhood and toddlerhood, so why not exercise my writing muscles by recording? And it was easy to put down when they need me.

My new leniency with myself allowed me to adapt my writing to teething times and night terror times and every time a child needs comfort and attention from their mother.

We figured out our own time zones. Though with my daughter beginning kindergarten in two weeks, I have a feeling we’ll need to figure this out all over again. But that’s a different post.

How has your writing time adapted to new children or new schedules? I’d love to hear what works for you

 

 

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Writing Contests & Tahiti Tours

This past weekend forty-five finalists culled from over 400 entrants had their queries and first three pages of their manuscript presented to twenty-six agents. Much better odds than a slush pile, right?! So today I want to focus on writerly things and talk about contests and what they can do for authors.

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In a nutshell: mentoring, networking, and getting your work in front of agents are the three most important things you can get out of participating. And that’s for everyone, not solely contest winners.

As a team mentor for the new writing contest, FicFest, I’ve now been on both sides. I first began entering writing contests in 2013. My manuscripts did well in them without winning (yes, that’s possible, haha) and the mentoring I received is what helped me connect with my agent. You can read that story here on QueryKombat co-founder and twitter contest-extraordinaire Michelle Hauck’s blog.

And so I wanted to pass my appreciation along to a writer I could help, deciding to mentor in the contest. It’s helped me too as I’ve met a lot of other writers, some of who in turn have beta read for me. The writing community truly is the best. My team leader, UK author Laura Noakes, feels the same way:

When I was querying, I entered a tonne of competitions similar to #FicFest. I met so many writer friends, learnt loads about publishing and writing, and had so much fun in those contests—querying is sometimes really hard, but contests made it fun. I suppose I wanted to be a mentor because I wanted to help someone else feel that way.

There are lots of writing contests and the best place to find them (and other writers) is on twitter. They mainly fall into two categories, merit and mentor. Merit contests are based on how well your entry already is, while a mentor-based contest focuses on an individual working with a chosen entrant to make their work the best it can be. It seems like a no-brainer to go for the mentor-based contests, but I was surprised at how polished some of the entries were–I didn’t know how I could help improve it. So they would be better suited for merit-based contests.

Maryland author Tiffany Hofmann, founder of FicFest, says she set out

to create a contest were all books were given equal opportunity, and equal representation. I believe we accomplished just that.

All genres are represented in #FicFest: Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. Each genre has three teams and each team is made up of three mentors who choose a mentee each and an alternate to share. What’s not to love about a contest that could potentially have forty-five winners?!

Being a mentor on Middle Grade’s Team Tahiti is awesome! (This year’s theme for FicFest is World Tour so each team chose a country.) In my pick, I fell in love with the voice and world building immediately, and after emailing the contestant, was excited that we could work together so well.

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Team Tahiti mentor Laura says:

I don’t think I realised how cool it would be to read revisions on a MS I already loved and think ‘WOW!’. The difference from the first time I read Devon’s MS to her revised MS is amazing, and shows how much hard work she put in. It was such an honour to see that journey!

Mentee Tennessee writer Erica Waters says:

I was surprised by how well [my mentor] understood my characters—sometimes it seemed like she knew them better than I did. She pointed out when they were acting out of character or speaking in inauthentic ways. None of my beta readers/CPs were quite able to do that.

The mentees had two months to work with their mentors. Hearing (and giving!)constructive criticism isn’t always easy (and sometimes overwhelming) when a manuscript has gone through so many revisions, especially in the all important first pages. But Erica has some comments she didn’t mind reading:

“Oooh, total Gollum-vibe. Excellent job setting this up since I felt the same horror as Vaya and Jada even though I eat fish lol.” I love this comment because it showed me how immersed she was in my story and let me know that I was accomplishing what I meant to in conveying an unfamiliar worldview. (The LOTR reference doesn’t hurt either!)

Curious to read Team Tahiti’s entries and see if they’ve gotten any agent-love? Check them out here! Only show your support by liking; commenting is reserved for agents.

I’d love to see your thoughts on writing contests! How have they worked for you? If you haven’t entered before, I hope this post inspires you to change that. It might be the push your manuscript needs.