A few months ago, I got the news that any unpublished writer would be thrilled to getâ€”A revision letter from an editor was on its way to me.
This was for my single title, historical romance, TO REIGN EDEN, which is set in London and California in 1875. Technically, it could be termed an American historical and as many of you historical writers know, news of selling in that sub-genre has been grim the past few years. So, imagine my surprise when I actually received the letter and not a word was mentioned about changing the part of the story set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I thought for certain the editor would tell me to expand the part set in London, but that wasnâ€™t the case. Of course, I re-read the letter, wondering if she missed the fact that itâ€™s set in the West. Nope, she hadnâ€™t missed it. Three-fourths of the book is set in the West. Wow. Terrific! Does this mean that Westerns are on their way back to bookstore shelves? I certainly hope so.
When the editor told me the letter was on its way to me, I rejoiced. Finally! Iâ€™m going to be given some direction for my story.
Then I get the letter. And I freeze. Waitâ€¦what happened to the excitement? The thrill? The changes were not complicated by any means, but for the life of me, I couldnâ€™t immediately see HOW they were to be made. Of course, the changes suggested by the editor would definitely make the story even stronger and that was a good thing, right? Then what the heck had happened to me? Was it just that I needed time to digest the notes and look at my story a different way? The seven months separation–while it was on the desk of the editor–wasnâ€™t enough time? I felt as if a wall as humongous as the Green Monster in Fenway Park blocked my path. Where did it come from? And how do I get around it? Scale it, move it, or go around?
I WANT to make the changes, I truly do. I want this to be the best story it can possibly be. And writingâ€™s a businessâ€¦I know that. Then how do I thaw out my fear of revision? Will this happen every time I get a revision letter? Or did it happen now because this is my first story and the first time I had ever submitted anything to the publishing industry? I really hope itâ€™s the latter.
Now, I havenâ€™t been just sitting around, not writing a word. My intent is for TO REIGN EDEN to be the first in a series about the dynamic Harrison family, so as soon as I sent off TRE, I wrote a first draft of another story and outlined the story of a third. But after working on those for several months and still not hearing back from the editor (and thinking she just simply threw it in the nearest trashcan where it belonged), I decided to cover my bases and start a contemporary romantic suspense that Iâ€™d been wanting to write for a few years. Yes, years. So I did.
Now, Iâ€™m nearly finished with the contemporary and Iâ€™ve received the revision letter for my historical, so now itâ€™s time to focus on that one again. Iâ€™m sure I can do it now. In fact, the thought of hitting the story hard this week has excitement running through my veins now, not fear. Maybe the contemporary story just demanded to be near completion before it would release me to go back to my historical. Doing just that, going around, seemed to be what I needed in order to get past that wall.
Wish me luck as I venture on the other side. And to any of you who have experienced the same fear that builds up that ugly mental block, I hope you find a way to face it down, too. If you have, what did you do to overcome your own Green Monster? Scale it, move it, or go around?
I adore fall. It truly is my favorite season. Even up here in perennially green Washington, we have enough leaf changing to warm my autumn loving heart. So imagine my horror, when here I am still enjoying my fall asters, my pumpkins are barely turning orange and my husbandâ€™s grumbling about falling leaves on his lawn, when the late night news does a spot about retailers putting Christmas stuff out earlier than usual.
â€œChristmas??? Itâ€™s only October,â€ I complained grumpily. Then I looked at the calendar and realized that perhaps it is time to start preparing for the holidays, but not the ones youâ€™re thinking of. Forget about the usual rush of the November and December and letâ€™s get perfectly clear about what is really bearing down on all of us: New Yearâ€™s Resolutions.
Now before you start grumbling about my putting the champagne wishes before the turkey platter, I intend to make a good case that the time is NOW to start thinking about where you want your writing career to go in 2006. Better now than at the end of a six week, turkey induced, sugar cookie propelled, one-more-piece-of-fudge-canâ€™t-hurt coma, only to find that on the morning of January 1st (after a few glasses of bubbly and a warm smooch from the DH) youâ€™ve vowed to write a bestselling, seven-figure advance, 650 page epic comedic romance set in the French Revolution.
So this year, letâ€™s have clearer heads prevail. What do you need to do in 2006 to take your career toward the next step? Yes, right now, make out your New Yearâ€™s goals for next year. Write them down, the first things that come to mind. What are they? Finish a book? Find more time to write? Find an agent? Try a new genre? Okay, those are great starts and usually where New Yearâ€™s goals end. By February 4th theyâ€™ll hardly be on your radar.
This year, take one more step and list under each of these goals the steps you need to take to accomplish it in 2006. Say you want to finish your book, but finding more writing time is a problem. Ask for an Alphasmart for Christmas. Come January 1st, youâ€™ll be writing on the go, and those pages can start adding up. Consider this: write one page a day, 250 measly words (they donâ€™t have to be perfect, spelling doesnâ€™t even count) and youâ€™ll have your draft done before the end of the year. Be creative, now, quick, get your goals in place, set a clear vision for 2006, before you wander into a Target and get caught up in a frenzy over those tins of Danish cookies or mesmerized by the twinkling of tree lights.
~ Elizabeth Boyle
This is the speech given by Mindy Neff and Sue Phillips in recognition of Chelly Kitzmiller at the October 2005 meeting of the Orange County Chapter of RWA.
I know there are a lot of people in this room who donâ€™t know Chelley–mainly because she moved off to the Tehachapi mountains! But I think itâ€™s so important for our members to understand our chapterâ€™s history, and for all of our past presidents and board sisters to be recognized and remembered.
Today, weâ€™d especially like to recognize and honor Chelley Kitzmiller, the very first president of our chapter, and Iâ€™d like to take a few minutes to tell you about this remarkable woman.
Way back in the day when authors had little or no access to other writers or writing workshops, Chelley was an avid romance reader with a burning desire to write. So, when she saw an announcement that Rita Clay Estrada was coming to California to establish a Romance Writers of America chapter, Chelley not only attended, she raised her hand and volunteered to lead our new chapter, organizing and putting in place many of the programs and services we still have and use today.
The first OCC meeting was held in Chelleyâ€™s house with only a handful of members. Later, the meetings moved to a restaurant and included lunch and a general meeting. It was Chelleyâ€™s idea to give out flowers for sales like we still do every month. She gave out daffodils, and somewhere along the way weâ€™ve merged into roses. She also set up the raffle–like weâ€™ll be doing this afternoon–and along with another member, began the OCC Unpublished contest and the mentor program. Although we no longer have the mentor program, it was very successful for many years and together with the contest, both programs have been highly instrumental in growing our chapterâ€™s membership.
Because I wanted you all to know more of the personal side of Chelley, I asked Sue Phillips and Jill Marie Landis for some highlights. Iâ€™ve already stolen Sueâ€™s thunder by mentioning some of her memories, so Iâ€™ll let her tell you what Jill Marie Landis had to say.
Jill says: â€œAnyone who really knows Chelley will tell you that the phrase, “That’s impossible” rarely enters her conversation. She’s tireless, loyal, enthusiastic and generous. Her close friends know to run for cover when she says, “Hey, I have an idea…” because she always has an idea.
â€œChelley is always on the move. Her enthusiasm and creativity know no bounds. Since her move to the mountains of Tehachapi, she’s started two successful bookstores and a Radio Shack, and organized a Tehachapi street fair–and thatâ€™s only a few of the things she’s done. Early in her career as a writer, she also worked as a publicist for other authors. She has a gift of pushing people to do better, or to at least see the other side.
“Chelley’s husband, Ted, is a self-proclaimed “Acorn Shaman.” He reads the acorns in the fall to predict the weather in Tehachapi. It started out as a joke to everyone but Ted, but now folks stop by the Radio Shack (which the Kitzmillers own in conjunction with their daughter’s bookstore, Books and Crannies) and ask for weather predictions before planning their vacations.
Her great love is animals. All kinds of animals. She is forever taking in abandoned dogs, Chihuahuas in particular. At any given time they have from six to eight of them around. (Jill calls them the piranha pack.) Chelley has two burros, an assortment of fowl, a cockatiel, cats, and an occasional goat. When she lived in Orange County, she owned a monkey.
Recently Chelley has taken up photography and is taking weekend workshops and classes so that she can submit and sell photographs along with her free lance writing for magazines. She also sells a line of her own photo cards. In addition to doing her own writing, she has ghost edited for a major New York Times author. Currently she has a novel being submitted to publishers, she’s working on a new book, and is under contract with Time West Magazine for a major travel article on the El Camino Real and California Missions.
I have to say, Chelley, that you are one amazing woman, and weâ€™re very lucky that you were here 24 years ago, willing to give your time and energy and talents to take a handful of romance authors and hopefuls under your wing, setting in motion the fabulous Orange County chapter that we are today.
Would everyone please join me in a toast to Chelley Kitzmiller, who raised her hand 24 years ago and became the first president of our Orange County chapter. Thank you, Chelley!
In appreciation for all youâ€™ve done for our chapter, weâ€™d like to give you this plaque in honor of your leadership and service as our first OCC President.
October is OCC’s birthday month. This year we are having actress and author, Harley Jane Kozak, as our speaker. In keeping with OCC’s tradition, we are hoping that as many as possible of our past presidents will be joining us. It will be a fun day as we celebrate 24 years of OCC!
OCC’s birthday got me thinking. I joined OCC right after I got an offer from a “publisher” that would be thrilled to publish my manuscript for $6,000.00 dollars. As in I pay THEM money. I knew that I needed an education and quick.
I joined RWA and OCC. That was one of the best career decisions I ever made. By the time I was offered a contract where the publisher paid ME for my book, I was in a position to say, “Thank you very much. I’m delighted that you are interested in my book and will call you back as soon as I’ve had a chance to think about it.” Those are the most important two sentences I ever learned as an unpublished writer.
When I did call back, I had a list of questions and possible contract changes. From those, I believe I got two thirds of my requested changes to the contract offer. I managed to negotiate two contracts for four books and did a fair job before getting an agent. I owe a huge thank you to OCC and all the experienced authors who shared their insights with us.
All of us at OCC have been educated enough to know that finishing a manuscript is a huge achievement. Howeverâ€¦it’s only the start.
Getting published? Well it’s another step, but just a step in a very long and sometimes rocky path. But OCC lights the way with as much knowledge and support possible. In the last year, I hit a couple rough spots and found information and support at OCC. Things turned around for me and I made the two book sale. Those sales don’t happen without serious hard work and determination by the author, I don’t want to minimize that. But, and this is so important, there are times when we need friends and colleagues to light the path. OCC members did that for me, keeping me laughing and my priorities in order along the way. Thank you OCC!
And last, volunteering. It’s the members, each and every one of us, who make up the beating heart and creative soul of OCC. I am a fairly shy person (I hear the OCC Board of Directors laughingâ€”stop that!), all right, I USED to be a fairly shy person. When I first joined OCC, I stayed in the background and tried not make a fool of myself. But when my kids got older, I stopped make excuses and volunteered. I got so busy and had so much fun, that I no longer felt self conscious or out of place. I have grown and gained confidence, enough confidence to let Marianne Donley trick me into becoming the Co-President (don’t think I’ve forgotten that, Marianne!). These days, even making stupid blunders no long makes me sick and mortified. Now I just laugh and move on. OCC values each of us for our unique gifts and abilities. Become a part of OCC’s heart and soul by volunteering.
Come out in October to celebrate OCC’s Birthday. Listen to our fabulous speaker, Harley Jane Kozak, buy raffle tickets for the now-famous microwave that was signed by many, many authors in Reno, try your luck at the other big ticket items or the baskets, reconnect with OCC’s Past Presidents, laugh with your friends, brainstorm with your colleagues, and have cake (don’t even get me started on carrot cake. Carrots are a vegetable, not cake. Proper cake should be chocolate!)
Let’s all lift a glass of cider and wish OCC a Happy Birthday.