Blooming

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When I moved into my new house in LA, I wanted a yard full of poppies in springtime. A small thing, sure, but I could see it, and it was going to be glorious. Rows of sunset orange, tangerine, cream and dusty green. I bought seeds, put them in the fresh, damp ground — I expected them to grow.

As spring arrived, and the whole of California it seemed was bathed in that orange glow, my backyard filled up with green stalks. Rows and rows of green. Not a single blossom anywhere. I would walk outside, combing the —what really just looked like weeds at this point — green for the smallest sign of color.

And I was disappointed. I really wanted those flowers to bloom and they weren’t. Every time I saw a poppy on the roadside, or in my neighbor’s yard, it was a small reminder that my flowers might never bloom. It was hard to be happy for the rest of California when my yard was still poppy-free, and my expectations were totally dashed.

But, I didn’t pull up the green, even if it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. One day, maybe, there would be poppies in this garden, maybe I would get to see it, or maybe I would have moved on to some other house, some other garden, some other field of wildflowers waiting to bloom. One day, I would get my little sunset garden.

Sunday afternoon, while I was doing homework at the kitchen table with my son, my eyes traveled to the backyard, to all that wild green, and they caught on something.

Bright, vibrant, wide open, bathing in sunlight. A few perfect poppy flowers.

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When I look closely now, I see a multitude of blooms waiting to open up, promising me flowers for days, more than I even expected.

Expectations can create a false sense of urgency, they can push your patience into panic, your faith into fear. They can make you feel like everyone around you is getting the fields of wildflowers you hoped for, while you are getting green stalks of flowerless weeds. But patience pays off in time. Not pulling up the flowers you planted because they aren’t blooming yet, pays off, too.

Waiting for that warm Sunday, when the sun touches the garden just right, and the first little flower opens up, pays off in spades.

 

A Writer’s Journey

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I wrote my first novel during my then 2-year-old’s afternoon naps in my tiny living room in Brooklyn, NY. Writing it was a fever dream & I was consumed. I poured everything I could muster into it.

But I learned a lot writing that book over and over. I got close to signing with agents and met many of my core writing community during that time. I also learned how to let something go when the time was right.

I used the only guide I had as an early writer: the books I was falling in love with. I copied Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo. I spent way too long revising. Like three years. I obsessed. I didn’t want to give it up.

I wrote another YA fantasy, & it was better because I was a much stronger writer then. I landed an agent & I went out on sub. I wanted the sale, and it never came. It was time to go back to the drawing board again.

I also kept writing screenplays. Then, thanks to a real life fangirl experience, I fell in love with Comic Con. I became deeply fascinated, rooted, to what it meant to be a fan. I wrote a screenplay set at Comic Con that was about grief & isolation & being alive.

I ended up submitting that script to Austin Film Fest & placing in the second round of the competition. I decided to write it as a book. I’d never written anything contemporary before, or this personal, or this truly, deeply completely ME. It was exhilarating.

During the writing of that book, we decided to move to LA, and then I decided to part ways with my agent. To go back into the query trenches was terror inducing, but staying where I was no longer felt right.

I began querying again in January 2017. I had a 100% request rate. It was a roller coaster of feels. And then it was nothing. After few reluctant passes, mostly silence, I felt powerless, & confused, & I was not doing great with it.

I started writing a book with my writing partner. For six months, we wrote ELLIE IS COOL NOW on Wattpad & I worked on a solo book in the background. Then ELLIE took off. We were nominated for the Watty Awards, and won! It was freeing, and empowering.

January 2nd, 2019 I decided to query five more agents. I decided that would be it. Whatever happened, it was well with my soul. I searched MSWL on Twitter, & that’s when I saw Devin Ross. I had a punch in my gut that I should to query her.

And then she requested. Then she emailed me less than a week later in the middle of the night to set up a call. I ran around the house. I punched the air. (& maybe my husband a few times from excitement.

She offered to represent me. She loved this thing I loved and wanted to work on it – wanted to work with me. It was exactly where I was supposed to be, a whole year later than I expected.

The journey we take as writers is a lot like the journey we take as people. We think we have a path we’re on, & that we know where it’s leading, what it will look like. We even think we know what we want. Then we learn: we don’t know, not a lick.

Your journey may be different. It might seem easy for me to say “Never give up” because so far that’s worked well for me. But it isn’t. There’s nothing easy about looking back. At any point I could have stopped – I DID stop even – & I might never have gotten back up.

Now I have to believe that book will sell (and sure, another will if not that one but that’s not the point) – I have to believe somewhere very near is my next yes, and somewhere out there is yours.

Never give up. No matter what.

Big Announcement

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I’m thrilled to say that I am now represented by Devin Ross of New Leaf Literary! She’s fierce and whip smart. Her passion for my book is the stuff of dreams. I’m an over-the-moon and flying-through-space kind of excited about partnering with her to build my career in new, awesome ways.

It’s a journey, y’all. This publishing journey. This life journey. It’s a ride full of twists. It’s sitting and thinking and digging deep. It’s getting up and doing the work.

I couldn’t be happier with all the dips and ebbs, the massive climbs, the sweeping views I’ve already experienced. I can’t wait for all the things to come, and glad I have this person in my corner to help me pull the best punches.

Here we go…!

 

End to Begin

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2018…

I took roads never expected to take, leaps I had been afraid to make, and I loved every bleary-eyed, wild, weird and wonderful moment. Even the really horrible ones.

I experienced some of my biggest professional let downs to date alongside some of my most profoundly exciting accomplishments. I decided that every moment will work together for my good no matter how grim it feels as I wade through it.

I taught myself to think differently about almost everything. I let go of a method that was leading me to madness. Depression and anxiety peaked, and I had to learn how to feel and war my way through without going under.

I changed the way I went for my goals, what I believed about the story I was living, what would happen when I set my eyes like flint.

I learned to be quiet.

I learned to take responsibility, forgive, redeem and reward in a new way.

I partnered with my destiny. I partnered with a writing partner. I learned that to be truly successful at either, you must be truly transparent and willing to grow.

I gave myself validation. I believed in my talent. I discovered a new process.

I won every battle — even the ones I lost. Because I was up, doing it, and I was not going to take NO for an answer.

I lived. I took time off from writing. I went on trips and flew first class. I asked for MORE than I’ve ever asked for and I watched it come my way.

In 2018: I learned to be me again.

I can’t tell you how to be you more fully, how to live your big life and what that will look like when you do, if you are. But – never settle. Stop settling. As Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found playing it small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

2019 better get ready.

XO,

R

PS. There are two more IO strategy sessions up for grabs with our genius Jenny Beres. If you think you want more for your books and want a way to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

WHAT YOU GET:

  • 90 min to 2 hour strategy sessions with JENNY BERES  –  genius of IO Strategy and the one who designed our ELLIE IS COOL NOW campaigns. The same campaigns that drove our reads to almost 70,000 reads.
  • A detailed and customized Influencer plan specifically for YOUR book.
  • Video trainings to take you to the next level.

Influencer Outreach For ALL

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I already shared how we used influencer marketing to help readers discover ELLIE IS COOL NOW.

(Read here if you missed out!)

But I gotta tell you, this decision came a lot easier to Alex, my co-author, than to me. Selling wasn’t a natural thing to me. And even though we were giving it to readers for free through Wattpad, make no mistake – we were selling.

And selling is an art form all it’s own.

The first time I posted on Instagram about ELLIE, I didn’t even put a link to the story. Asking people to read felt… uncomfortable. But oh man, I wanted them to read.

I knew that awkward whimper every time I posted couldn’t go on.

And I decided to do what needed to be done to change it.

Y’all. I love to write. I dream in stories and I think in plot points, but what I’ve learned watching ELLIE explode on Wattpad is that a passionate readership is its own stunning love affair. It makes the hours alone in the room feel even more rewarding. Because after the writing is done, the readers are the ones who give the story a whole new life.

Learning to create meaningful campaigns with influencers is an incredible, versatile tool to get your story in front of readers who will fall in love with it.

And once you learn how to work with influencers to help build your readership, you can turn around and recreate the magic again and again.

For every book you publish.

For any platform you publish on.

And I want that for you. I want that for me.

I want that for every dedicated writer with a story to tell. This influencer table is overflowing with delicious food and room to spare.

If you’re an author, if you have a book out RIGHT NOW, or will have one out soon, if you want to learn a strategy to sell your book using influencers, drop me a comment and I will tell you more about a supacoo way to do JUST THAT!

Finding an Audience

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Now that the writing of ELLIE IS COOL NOW is wrapped (but new chapters are still being posted weekly on Wattpad — we like to keep y’all in suspense), I wanted to share a little bit about the ride.

First, some back story:

ELLIE IS COOL NOW is the rom-com I’m co-authoring under the pen name, Faith McClaren, and we publish chapters every week on the free reading platform, Wattpad.

My co-author, Alexandra Grizinski (pen name, Victoria Fulton), and I began posting our story at the end of May.

On August 27th, we were selected for a featured list on Wattpad, curated by the brilliant minds at Wattpad HQ.

One week later we were longlisted for the yearly celebration of storytelling known as the Watty Awards.

We were shortlisted.

Then we won.

It’s been a dream come true + a blast and there’s more to come.

But it didn’t happen by magic. (Okay, maybe a little magic. We are unicorns after all.) When Alex and I jumped aboard this train, it took a minute to find our seats in the first class cabin where all the popular books seemed to be hanging out.

Then we had an idea. A coffee-fueled epiphany.

And fortunately we knew exactly who we needed to help us make it happen.

Our friend (and Alex’s business partner), Jenny Beres specializes in Influencer Outreach Strategy. It’s a talent she’s employed with top clients and companies to get them the best advertising bang for their buck. So we thought, if she could do it with skincare, why couldn’t she do it with our book?

We know that what sets stories apart — in any sense, and not just on Wattpad — is reader engagement. On Wattpad, that meant numbers. Eyes on the story. Votes. Comments and interaction. In a sea of free content, what brings new readers is visibility.

Jenny used her skills as “the LeBron James of Influencer Outreach” (direct quote from her Linkedin), to create an influencer campaign at a price point we were excited about.

That campaign began the first week of August.

Now, if you’ve read this whole post (hi, you’re awesome) then you’ll know all the baller sh*t hit the gilded fan the third week of August.

It is not a coincidence. It’s a direct result of marketing.

This week we climbed over the 60k reads wall. We get to share our story with readers who LOVE it. We have found our spot by the window in the first class cabin and we just ordered a bottle of champagne.

I know a lot of us are writers with books coming out – or already out. Many will be writers with books coming out. To most of us — myself included — marketing is an opaque and terrifying orb of mystery. But here is an example of when it worked.

I would love to hear: have any of you used influencer outreach for any of your books?

Let me know in comments!

xo,

Rebekah

Writing is the JOB

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Here’s the thing: I don’t actually think it is any easier to show up to the work we feel required to do — the work with immediate financial return — than to show up to our creative work.
 
Both require commitment. Both present challenges. Both can be frustrating/exhilarating/mind-stretching.
 
The difference is how we value the creative work – how we allow ourselves to treat it.
 
When my son was 2-years-old and I decided to commit to the WRITER in me dying to run free, I had to confront the idea that as a stay-at-home-mom my writing could always be placed on the back burner.
 
Right behind the mac ‘n cheese and broccoli.
 
I had to begin to shift my thinking from:
 
First, I take care of everything that needs to be done around the house, I make sure to play for a few hours with my son, I get dinner prepped, and THEN I can write if I am not asleep on the couch by seven pm.
 
To:
 
The house can be messy, or someone else who lives here can pitch in. I can hire a babysitter occasionally. We can order take-out. My husband can put the kid to bed. Screen time will not kill my child – I want to finish this scene.
 
The writing MATTERS, it is real and important and I have a right to pursue it.
 
My job as a mom remains demanding. My job as a freelance editor and book biz coach continues to require energy and time. I am a social butterfly who loves to hang out with friends and go do fun things in LA.
 
My writing WILL NOT be put on the back burner no matter what else winds up on my plate.
 
My plate is full with valuable, interesting things and I am lucky.
 
We cannot achieve the big dreams we harbor inside without agreeing to make big changes to the way we view our passions.
 
YOUR writing is a job worthy of YOUR time.
 
Value the creative life and the creative life will begin to pour out of you.

5 Steps to 500 Words

TGI the Weekend!

I’m blacking out time on my schedule to write some words, but I thought it might be fun to drop some knowledge about HOW I get 500 words NO MATTER WHAT.

1. Decide the writing will happen and you will enjoy it. So much of the story around writing is about how HARD it is. How challenging it can be to get what’s in your brain out on paper (or a Word doc). I won’t lie to you and say the writing always feels like shooting rainbows out of my fingers, but – especially in the drafting phase – I always remind myself that this is a chance to purely create. It’s alchemy with words. It’s FUN. Even when it tries to convince me it’s HARD.

2. Set the scene. I know writers who need it dark, with candles flickering, music playing. I know writers who exclusively write in cafes with bustle and noise all around them. It doesn’t matter how, but find a way to use your senses, and habits, to trigger your creative brain. It doesn’t have to be the same every time either. Honoring the time with your story is what matters.

3. Set a timer on yourself. This can be a few hours, or 30 minutes or whatever you want. But having a window for the words helps. It’s like how having a deadline can spur you to finish a project. It will help you stay with your writing instead of slipping onto Instagram, or taking one of those Buzzfeed quizzes where you make a pizza and they reveal the color of your soul.

4. Write forward. Once you get momentum going, try to stay with the forward motion until you hit a goal. You can always go back and edit after. But you can’t edit at all if you don’t write the words to begin with!

5. Reward yourself WHEN you succeed. Celebrating the victory of setting a writing goal and then meeting it is SO IMPORTANT. Sometimes, when I need to get a lot of words in one day, I will set little rewards up for hitting 500 word increments – a fresh cup of tea, a walk with my dogs, playing a round of Mario Party with my son – and then I will give myself a big reward at the end of the day. This usually involves wine and Netflix, and it’s glorious because I did the work and I loved the process and, best of all, I WANT to do it all again tomorrow.

COMMIT

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WRITING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A HOBBY.

When I was 26 -years-old, I moved to Brooklyn with my husband and son. The move was for my husband’s career — at the time my career was caring for my then two-year-old son. But I had always WANTED to write. To be a WRITER. I had dabbled in it for years- mostly with one act plays and screenplays that lived in perpetually unfinished states of being.

Writing was a hobby, for me, not a career.

I will never forget the moment that changed. I was sitting on my front stoop watching my son draw with chalk on the sidewalk. The sun was low and everything was bathed in orange and pink light. I had just started writing my first novel EVER and I was in that heady stage of early romance with the process. It was unfamiliar and sexy and deeply, unthinkably terrifying.

It was a beautiful evening, and I was doing what I had always done with my time — and LOVED doing — except one thing had changed.

ME.

My fingers itched to type. My head swam with a character’s voice. I was in another world and it was exactly where I wanted to be. Right then and there, I knew I had to commit.
I had to call myself a WRITER.

I had to admit I wanted to make money with my craft. I had to claim the time necessary to get there. Because I wanted it for more than a hobby — I was love-drunk with it and I never wanted to break up. I knew that in order to get where I wanted to go, I had to stop pretending there was anywhere else I COULD go. That any other thing would ever be ENOUGH.

Making the transition from I WRITE IN MY SPARE TIME to I AM A WRITER takes nothing more than a moment of choice. For me, that moment was there on a red brick stoop outside my Brooklyn pad, watching the sunset and knowing I had work yet to do that day. Every time I sit down to write, I commit again. I’ve been committing for seven-years straight. Through multiple novels and screenplays, ghostwriting jobs, and MANY ups and downs in the publishing industry.

I KEEP ON COMMITTING.

If you want to be a writer – then you are one. You don’t need permission. You just need to commit.

MORE

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Today we signed a lease for a new place in LA, and we’re so excited, but not just because it’s bigger, with a yard and a pool and a cute little patio, on a quiet tree-lined street, but because we just did a thing neither of us ever really expected we’d do. And we LOVE surprising ourselves.

Six years ago, we were living in Brooklyn, and we needed to move. Our grocery store had closed down, which had changed the landscape of our neighborhood dramatically – something you can really only understand if you have lived in New York City. I couldn’t imagine committing to another apartment, because that meant committing to Brooklyn for another year. So we didn’t. We found a house back in Texas, and we left.

For years I have gone back to that moment, the moment I chose to leave. I’ve examined it from different angles, in different light, under a microscope of new experience, lessons learned. I never question my choice, but recently I began to question the reason behind it. I was afraid of that really being where I lived. I was afraid of not making it there. I couldn’t commit because I didn’t believe I was capable, or it was right.

We don’t have to move in LA. Our apartment is nice. We have a Starbucks right across the street. Our landlord is low-key. But still I knew— as I began to make new commitments in LA, and my son wanted friends over, wanted space, more autonomy, and my dreams began to take shape in big ways— we were starting to outgrow the walls of our apartment.

Examining your feelings can be SCARY. It always surprises me what I’m actually feeling at all when I take the time to look closely. When I saw this house was for lease, I knew, in that small place reserved for absolutes, this was my house. It was easy to choose it, and then easier to pursue it with bulldog tenacity. Then easier still to work through the challenges that arose, the fears, the stretching. It was easy because I DECIDED it would be.

Guys. I cannot stress to you enough how important that part of the equation is. Deciding to believe, or not believe, will make the difference. Faith is not about what it visible and proven, it is about what you believe without seeing.

So when I signed the lease today, sent the money, drove by again to glimpse my future, I wasn’t scared of all the unknown ahead of me. I was excited for all the growing I get to do in that bigger, brighter house. Because now there is space for something MORE.

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