Category Archives: Success stories

Pop the Prosecco: We’re Celebrating!

We’re back. That’s right, after a largely unintentional summer-induced blogging hiatus, the RWs are back and we’re packing some seriously awesome news.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Restless Writers. Ten years, people! That’s a decade of pages, Pringles, prosecco and friendship that frankly, I can’t imagine doing without. 

To celebrate our milestone, I am attempting something a little different with this post, taking you behind the scenes to share some insider information, reflections and a collection of our favourite moments so far.

To get this blog post started, I used my very rusty journalism skills acquired as a student reporter for The Queen’s Journal (GO GAELS!) and did some actual research. That is, I posed the same set of questions to each of the RWs and asked them to email their responses directly to me so that I could keep everyone’s answers a surprise until I hit publish on this blog post.

Each time one of their emails appeared in my inbox, I rushed to open it, like a Christmas present. I loved reading each of their unique perspectives and learning a little bit about what this group means to them. 

Without further ado, here is a glimpse inside the minds of the RWs on the occasion of their 10th anniversary.

Lessons Learned

What’s the one tip, trick or piece of advice you’ve picked up through RW that you use all the time when it comes to writing?

Sharon: For me, the one thing the RWs have taught me about writing is, just write. True story, the first time an invitation was extended to me to join RW, I chickened out. I had two very small kids and a really long list of excuses — what did I really know about writing next to the RW OGs, Beckie and Maria?, I’d just embarrass myself, what would I write?…and the list went on. Now, when that self doubt creeps in, I say to myself, “just write,” and you can worry about the rest later.

Beckie: Unless you puke, faint, or die – keep going. Whether or not you think “nobody’s going to read this,” finish it anyway. It’s not about doing it all, it’s about doing your best at all you can do. Keep your day job, but don’t quit your daydream!

Andrea: Be alright writing a first shitty draft. There is no shame! And, double space when you’re writing so there is room for feedback (I heard ya Beckie – every time!)

Maria: It’s a tie between “write a shitty first draft” and “watch out for repeated words.”

Getting Up Close and Personal

What is something you’ve learned about each of the RWs, that you didn’t know about them when you joined RW?

Maria: I didn’t know that…
Andrea would show us all how to tackle and achieve goals with such gusto.
Sharon would surprise us all with such delicious details from her past relationships.
Beckie had such a mysterious and exciting family history that she could mine for un-put-downable stories.

Andrea:
Maria is petrified of bees and could probably teach me a few things related to more than just writing 🙂
Sharon is the best baker, most loyal, and feistier than you think
Beckie is the most thoughtful, is a hundred steps ahead of me, and works harder than anyone I know to get shit done.

Beckie:
Andrea: Three words: Brave as fuck.
Sharon: Two words: Culinary whiz.
Maria: One word: Pigtails.

Sharon:
Maria: Is a phenomenal writer. Period. If there is one person that makes me want to hang up my keyboard and call it a day, it’s this one.
Andrea: Wears her heart on her sleeve and it’s impossible not to get caught up in her passion for all things family, theatre and life!
Beckie: Is a green thumb ninja and the most generous soul. Need extra veggies from her garden? A book for journaling? Some fancy shampoo? She’s always surprising us with thoughtful gifts for all of life’s occasions and sometimes, just because. 

Making Memories

What is your favourite RW memory so far? 

Beckie: Every. Single. Writing. Retreat. Hands down. Because Restless Writers retreats combine our two greatest loves – writing and grape juice, usually in some picturesque setting somewhere away from reality. Ladies, it’s been awhile, can we please book one?!

Maria: Oh, so hard to pick just one… I loved surprising the girls at the writing retreat in Niagara-on-the-Lake last fall and enjoying an impromptu overnight with everyone. But the Christmas we all made those stencilled sign-boards stands out as a super-fun creative evening. 

Andrea: No fair. Too many. Having all of my RW peeps make the trek to my one-woman show – even Maria made it from BC. Unpacking bag after bag of snacks at our first retreat together.  

Sharon: Finding Maria on my front step with a beautiful gift basket and a hug from the RWs, the day after my mom died. Combing a tiny, secluded beach in NOTL with Beckie to unearth THE perfect rocks for some inukshuk DIY. Every one of our creative Christmases

Lightning Round

After all these years, I thought it would be fun to see just how well the RWs know each other. For this part of the post, I asked the RWs to answer each of the questions below for themselves and then share what they thought the other RWs would say.

Have a look:

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

How’d we do? Beckie took the top spot with a total of six correct guesses. I faithfully attempted some math to present a slew of fancy percentages but it made this history major’s head hurt. Rest assured, it seems we all could use a little brush up on our RW knowledge.

While we may not have all our facts down, I can tell you with much accuracy that being a part of the Restless Writers, after all these years, continues to be a source of great happiness and creativity. I love this unique little brood we’ve built.

Kindread spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” —L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Happy anniversary bitches. XO

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Inspiration, News, Success stories

Some of us write great stories. But all of us live them.

For those of you still looking for ideas for Christmas, here’s one: Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Amy Newmark.

This week, I received a call to do a media interview for Chicken Soup as I am a contributor to this edition! My story, From Vile to Vegas appears in Chapter Nine: Life Lessons and is about a home reno project—one that was full of drips, drama, and dazzle. Sure, renovations aren’t typically associated with celebrating Canadian culture but why shouldn’t they be? I think being Canadian is about having a story—and we all have them. I had written the story based on personal experience, and my writing group encouraged me to submit it. The journey to flow, form, and function (it was a bathroom reno) was honest, humorous, and oh so frighteningly real.

Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada is full of inspirational, amusing, and encouraging stories that will touch the heart of any Canadian. Stories include a wide range of topics written by Canadians, from daily life to Canadian holidays, along with tales from tourists and visitors. In addition to the 101 stories contributed by everyday Canadians, personal bonus stories from Amy Sky, Marc Jordan, Matt Duchene, George Kourounis, Laura Robinson and lyrics from Liona Boyd’s upcoming album, “The Return,” start every chapter.

Being a part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family has been a positive experience for me. If you like to write (and need some publishing credits under your belt), check out their submission guidelines at www.chickensoup.com. They are always looking for new contributors to share stories of hope, courage, and inspiration.

Has anyone else been published in Chicken Soup? What was your experience like?

BJas

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Filed under Author Interviews, Book Reviews, Books and stuff, Getting published, Success stories

Hollywood calling…and waiting on the one

Taking the lead from our wordbitches friends, and given that fall is staring me in the face, I thought I would recap what I wrote this summer and set my goals for fall.

As for my writing summer, it all started with a phone call from Hollywood. A major studio was interested in a screenplay that I co-wrote. I can’t believe I just typed that. The script required a slew of revisions. So, we revised, we stressed, we cried, we screamed, we revised some more—then we resubmitted. This script (a psychological thriller) generated increased interest, particularly in other genre samples. So, we dusted another script off (this time, a sci-fi/comedy) and polished the hell out of it. Then, we were asked, “what else are you working on?” GULP. So, we resurrected yet another script (a mythological horror). Are you counting here? This is screenplay number three in the span of a month. Lesson: when pitching, always have at least three projects ready to pimp.

I can tell you that three’s a charm. The response from the studio was that’s “the one.” So, naturally, we revised some more. Lots more. And into the wee hours of every. single. night. My summer was a blur. We managed to turn a solid treatment into a polished, albeit draft, screenplay. The experience was excruciating and even unbearable at times, yet somehow gratifying beyond belief. This screenplay now sits in the hands of fate and we wonder if it has that x factor; will it be “the one?”  

While I was engaged in this process, I was also doing revisions with my agent in response to publisher feedback on a picture book (currently on submission). And again, I revise. And I wait. I’m almost certain my next flurry of revisions will be on my middle grade novel which is also ‘somewhere out there’ on submission. Lesson: fall in love with your characters because you will be spending a very long time with them.

Between revisions and more revisions, I also managed to paint an entire house, landscape @LoriDyan’s backyard, tend a vegetable garden, plant fifty trees, read three novels (not enough), contract a flu (followed by an eye infection), reno a kitchen, tremclad the house, build a shed with the hubs, attend Pilates each week, and let’s not forget—work full time.

I need a vacation from my summer. Hear that, universe?

On that note, I formulate my goals for fall as I do every year at this time.

Here goes:

1) Plan a fruitful and wordalicious writing retreat with the Restless Writers.

2) Review my MG novel (a hefty yet inevitable task). Oh, the revisions I’ll make!

3) Put a serious word-count-dent in my new YA novel.

4) Begin book 2 of a 3-book children’s picture book series. Book 1 was published in Spring, see it here.

 5) Promote Chicken Soup for the Soul: Oh Canada where my story, From Vile to Vegas appears, to be published this November.

6) Plan my Oscar speech? (okay, so a girl can dream)

What are your writing goals for Fall? Are you waiting on “the one?” 

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation, Success stories

Agent aficionado

Pinch me, please. I have an agent!

After many months of queries and pitches, it happened. I received an offer of representation. And not just for one manuscript, but for three of them: a middle-grade novel, a children’s picture book, and a non-fictional proposal. My head is still spinning. Spin, spin, sugar!

Prior to the offer, I received plenty of the standard rejection responses, with the usual one-liner pass. Then I started to receive referrals to ‘other’ agents, invitations to query ‘other’ manuscripts, and even personalized feedback—still in the form of rejection; however, it was some of the nicest, kindest, rejection yet. And for me as a writer, this was truly encouraging. In speaking with these agents by email and phone, I learned that my submission was one of value, even if additional work was required to make it shine.

Then I met Kathy LaVergne of Word|Link USA—and the rest was simple. I said “yes” to her offer of representation and signed, sealed, and mailed the agreement!

I’m thrilled to bits to be represented by Word|Link. In the short time I have worked with Kathy, she has been incredibly kind, supportive, and quick—with all three manuscripts currently on submission, and editor’s comments surfacing in my in-box. I’m fantastically fortunate to be working with an agency that, according to Publisher’s Marketplace is one of the top 20 dealmakers in the United States.

My hubby, the analogy-king, sums it all up like this: “It’s like you’re Danica Patrick, you have a car, but now you’ve gotta go to the races.” He’s right, I’m in the driver’s seat and I’m on my way,  über excited, as I enter this next chapter in my writing life—one step closer to publication.

And I must must must extend a gargantuan thank you to my readers (friends, family, beta testers), and especially my critique group and fellow Restless Writers, for helping me get my manuscript to a level worthy of submission.

Having an agent still means more waiting, more finger-crossing, more cringing, and of course more rejection. But I am stoked. Bring it on!

BJ

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Filed under Getting published, Success stories

The Book Launch of Carrie Bradshaw’s Dreams

Okay, not quite. I don’t have a best friend who is a publicist, but I can assure you, THIS book launch will fit your itsy-bitsy writer’s budget. And let’s face it; it all comes down to you, the author, unless your name is Rankin, Rushdie, or Rowling.

For the last year, I have had the pleasure of writing a book within the realm of my ‘day’ job. The book was published in May and just this week was the book launch bash. It’s a book for children, and clearly, whenever you involve kids in an event like this, you can’t lose. The launch included everything from a media release to fancy cupcakes (with feathers on top), an animated book reading, buttons, stickers, photos, free gifts, book signings, and interviews with the press. OMG—the local media showed up, notebooks and cameras in hand. And I did my very first book interview, ever. The inner workings of my mind now exist in the public domain, for all to praise and scrutinize. Umm, bring it on.

I couldn’t have asked for a more successful book launch. The kids had a blast and the media had all but good things to say. It was blogged, facebooked, and tweeted—a perfect day, that made for a great week of coverage. Now just emerging from this super satisfying experience, I thought it might be nice to share some of the gems that made it great. When it’s your turn for a little exposure, try these book launch ideas. They worked for me.

5 Tips for a successful book launch:

Be realistic. Plan a launch within your means and splurge on the right things. Since my target group was kids age 4 – 8, I splurged on “themed” cupcakes, because they are 1) pretty, 2) kids like them, and 3) so do I.

Location, location, location. A childcare centre was the perfect place to launch a picture book. Staff loved the exposure and there were no rental fees. Be warned however, there are REALLY small chairs at such places.

Cultivate relationships. With the popularity of social networking, I secured a handful of sites to blog about the event and link back to the book site.

Get your ‘press hook’ on. Inform the media. Promotional interviews score some big bang and large readership—at no cost to you. Sending personal invitations with a media kit to these folks is a super duper idea.

Be prepared to chat. You will need to speak at your book launch. It’s a given. Be ready to talk about the book and where the inspiration came from. This was the #1 question to me at the launch.

Offer incentives. This includes everything from signed copies of the book to cool prizes (free books/DVDs) for doing an online review. These reviews are promo pieces you can use and quote later.

With some creativity and a modest budget, you can make a nice splash. Sure, a book launch may not make or break your book, but it can certainly help, so do whatever it takes to make it memorable. And above all, treat yourself—to a cupcake or a swig of champagne, YOU TOTALLY DESERVE IT. Cheers!

B Jas

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Filed under Author events, Getting published, Success stories

Confessions of a Reformed Pantser

(That's not my scrunchie)

I hate outlines. I prefer to write like I read: with no idea what will happen next. While writing without a plan may be thrilling, it is also a very time-consuming, painful process for me.

My last manuscript was written in a few months; however I then spent the next year revising it, which included scrapping the first seventy pages. Although I liked the idea of pantsing my way through a manuscript along with Stephen King and Nora Roberts, in practice I ended up writing myself into all sorts of corners.

For my newest WIP, I’ve gone the planning route and the results so far have been outstanding. The feedback I’ve received from my fellow Restless Writers on my outline has allowed me to control the pace of the story, delete superfluous scenes that haven’t even been written yet and flesh out my protagonist (thereby ensuring that the first seventy pages of this WIP aren’t full of unnecessary character sketches).

In one sense, it feels like this process takes a lot longer, but I know that the bulk of my work is already done. If only I could apply this newfound organization to things like grocery shopping, I figure I’d have three or more hours a day to actually write.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Are you committed to one method? Why does it work (or not) for you?

LD

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Success stories, Trials and Tribulations

How To Almost Win An Agent

A few weeks ago I was waiting for my kids to get ready for school and decided to check out Twitter. As luck – as in, horseshoe up the butt luck – would have it, @knightagency had just tweeted about their latest and greatest contest, She’s Just That Into You, which would be starting in moments.

In a nutshell, Deidre Knight would be looking for a new client via the agency website. The first 175 people to leave a comment on the Knight Agency blog could send in a query letter. From those, Deidre would pick her top 30 entrants, who would then send the first 10 pages of their manuscripts. It would then be whittled down to 10 entrants and 3 chapters, then 3 entrants and full manuscripts.

All of you querying writers know that this is a fairy-agent-god-mother situation, so I immediately bribed my kids to give me 10 minutes of peace so I could enter. My typing lessons from high school (yes, I’m a fossil) didn’t fail me and I managed to get into the first round. Since this step was based on luck rather than writing, I didn’t get my hopes up.

But when I saw that I’d made it to the second round, fantasies of book tours and Oprah appearances filled my head. Daydreaming turned to obsession. I even considered holding off on my queries until the contest was over, lest I disappoint the legion of agents out there looking at my contest-winning-worthy query.

Needless to say, I did not win. Nor did I make it to the next round. I did, however, learn an important lesson – one that I’m always telling my kids but have never truly put into practice myself: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. In other words, I didn’t win (this time), but that’s okay. At least I tried.

LD

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Filed under Awards and contests, Starting up, Success stories