In this week’s Creative Penn podcast Joanna Penn challenged her listeners to review their past career leaps based on the four-year Olympic cycles, then project our goals into the future. What a fun challenge! Year to year changes seem small, but when you look at a four-year leap, you can see the gains better. I stopped everything and started sorting through my vague memories to see just how far I’ve come.
In 2008 I was a homeschool mom by day, aspiring writer whenever I had time.
I was working on a blog called Routines for Writers with two of my writing friends. We were learning how to do all the things online while we worked on our fiction projects. I had no social media presence, and the internet seemed a bit of a scary place for someone who is quite private.
Back then I was getting ready to query a middle-grade fairy tale. I’d been a professional writer before having kids, but took time away to raise my children. (I worked full time as a technical writer and wrote freelance teen articles.)
That spring I took a (now defunct) course for authors called Author MBA. We covered branding and goal setting, ultimately coming up with a personalized business plan. Over these next few years I took classes from Margie Lawson and focused a lot of my time on learning how to write and revise.
November 2008 is the NaNoWriMo when I wrote the first draft of my YA novel Cinderella’s Dress, which would go on to become my first traditionally published book.
Twitter was my first social media account.
Four years later and nothing measurable on the writing career front. That middle-grade fairy tale was met with limited success (requests for fulls and partials—including a full request at a publisher I would have been thrilled to sign with—but no contracts.) And then I’d started querying the Cinderella book.
In the fall I went to a local SCBWI conference and learned about a new publishing house, Entangled Publishing. The publisher, Liz Pelletier was speaking, but I hadn’t planned on going to any of her sessions. Until I heard her first pitch. After all the panelists gave their spiel, I changed all my plans and went to all of Liz’s sessions. This was a new company doing publishing in a new way and I wanted to learn more.
I submitted Cinderella’s Dress that November, got the “call” or in this case, email in June 2013. By January 2014 we were in edits and the book came out June 2014.
I created my own website and signed up for social media accounts like crazy, along with every webinar on social media marketing I could get my hands on. I even started a YouTube channel. (Never expected to do that!) AND joined Toastmasters for a few months to break that fear of public speaking (Can’t I just write the books? Do I have to TALK about the books, too?)
Fun events: being on two panels at Phoenix Comicon, getting rock-star treatment at ALA Last Vegas (American Library Association conference), local book signings, and the Yallapalooza event at the famous Changing Hands Bookstore, plus several school visits in front of creative writing classes, English classes, and, surprise (!) an assembly.
By 2016 I had two traditionally published books out, and a third set to launch in October. I’d been listening to Joanna’s podcasts for a several months as my interest in self publishing had been piqued after watching several friends put out their own books, and I was curious if the grass was greener on the other side.
I had a project that I loved, but was a hard sell for traditional publishing as it didn’t fit into any neat category. It was the perfect book to try to do on my own. I published Liz and Nellie, a historical retelling of Nellie Bly’s race around the world, and learned the grass wasn’t greener, it was purple. Self-publishing is quite different from traditional publishing in many ways (need another blog post for this), but personally rewarding.
In another surprise turn of events I took a summer job as the writer in residence at Mesa Public Library. I taught four classes and held one-on-one appointments with aspiring authors. I grew a lot professionally as I helped aspiring authors further their careers. That job wrapped up yesterday, leaving me more time and energy to focus on writing my next historical fairy tale this fall.
Along with a group of three other writing friends, we decided to put together a writing retreat this summer. After all our planning we sold all the available slots, and thirteen local authors went up to Pine, AZ to escape the heat and focus on writing and networking (AKA eating, laughing, and general tomfoolery–read the series of tweets regarding the uninvited centipede one night!)
And lastly, in a twist of irony over my almost-conquered-fear of public speaking, I’m one of the moms in charge of Speech and Debate club for school this year. How did THAT happen?
What could change in another four years? Well, my job as homeschool mom will be coming to a close. One child will be out of the house with the other soon to follow. I’m not going to dwell on the empty nest feelings here, but when it happens, I want to be ready to take a big leap in my writing career. What will that be? I have a few more years to figure that out. I did enjoy the one-on-one mentoring during my residency at the library, so maybe I’ll look into doing more of that.
I’d also like to continue the one-book-a-year path I’m on. This year it was two books and that was a stretch given all my other responsibilities. However, I do have more ideas for self published projects, so once in a while a bonus book will get tossed in the mix, I think.
I’d also like to see my middle-grade books find homes with publishers. I suppose if several more years go by and they remain unsold, I can publish them myself. Middle grade is a harder sell for self-pub, but better than having these stories I love hide out on my computer with no readers at all.
To sum: since 2008 I’ve had three books published, another on the way, both traditionally and self-published. I’ve been a panelist at several events, the largest being Phoenix Comicon. I’ve had a stint as a writer-in-residence and helped plan/create a writer’s retreat weekend that will likely turn into an annual event.
I couldn’t have done any of this without a willingness to try. Especially a willingness to get out of my comfort zone and just say yes when an opportunity came up. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 Tokyo has in store. Thanks Joanna for the challenge!