Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Raising My Glass to Drunk Writer Talk!

I was honored to be asked by wonderful author Maureen McGowan if I'd guest blog today about my first sale on her sister site Drunk Writer Talk. Here's the link: http://drunkwritertalk.blogspot.com/2008/04/welcome-marilyn-brant.html .

Please stop by and say hello to us! And, if you can, make time to visit the archives. Maureen, Molly and Sinead have a wealth of information for writers, and their posts are by turns inspiring, thought-provoking and entertaining.

Thanks, ladies, for letting me visit!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Sold My First Novel...

...and my second!!

I'm thrilled to say the book that won RWA's Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements last year (According To Jane: A Novel About Pride, Prejudice & the Pursuit of the Perfect Guy) just sold to John Scognamiglio, editor-in-chief at Kensington Books, in a two-book deal. It's a women's fiction project and will be coming out in late summer/fall of 2009 in trade paperback. The second women's fiction book--ingeniously named "Untitled #2" at the moment--will follow, but I'm not yet sure when it'll be released. Or, in fact, which story it'll be.

I've only had a couple of days to let this information sink in, so I know I haven't come close to fully processing it. When my agent Nephele Tempest called me with the news of the offer last week, my brain was stuck between two sentences, which left me unable to say anything other than: "Oh, my God!" and "Thank you..." Pretty much repeatedly. For an hour.

But I have one or two additional thoughts now on what getting The Call has meant to me. Yes, there's a sense of validation. To discover that someone (not your best friend, not your favorite relative) loves your story for many of the same reasons you loved writing it--well, that's a remarkable gift. To be writing exactly the type of story you enjoy writing and to have someone (with acquisitional power, even! :) want to add it to his Fall '09 list...it would be hard not adore this person. Fervently. Sight unseen and without so much as a phone conversation. It would be equally impossible not to feel incredibly fortunate that this particular manuscript crossed this particular editor's desk at this particular time.

Then there's that whole Dueling Internal Voices thing, where Voice 1 shouts, "Getting a novel published is too hard, and I can't do it!" while Voice 2 shrieks back, "But I sure as hell will, and I dare anyone to try to stop me!" I've been living with this increasingly loud argument in my head for almost eight years. Knowing that Voice 2 won the battle and getting to see this process through to the end is a great relief...although publication never really feels like "the end" among novelists. This is an industry where perseverance, determination and commitment are not only required to get into the publishing game but at every level afterward. I'm pretty sure anyone who's taken on fiction with an intent to sell understands this.

Yet, I haven't known a single published author who didn't experience moments of doubt before getting her call. Wondering whether she'd be able to turn her dream into reality. Wondering if she'd be able to persist long enough to make it happen. Or, once that call came, if she'd sell again. Or get a large-enough advance to quit her day job, hit a coveted list or successfully change genres. Published or unpublished, we all have to fight against the skepticism and fear that comes whenever we confront that seemingly endless wall of rejection.

I started writing fiction seriously in the summer of 2000. I have enough rejection letters to travel to the moon and back--or at least to somewhere in the Balkans. But I spent a lot of time this year thinking about the dedicated published authors I know, many of whom suffered through multiple rounds of revisions on their latest projects, years (not months) between sales and the steep writing-craft learning curve necessary for anyone not born with a natural and encyclopedic knowledge of Robert McKee's Story. I remembered these writers--these warriors, actually--as I revised this novel, revised it again, asked friends to critique it and point out where it didn't make sense (and, let me tell you, there were plenty of spots...). And even when they insisted I had it right--that I should feel confident going into editorial submissions--some days it was just so hard to believe this call would ever come...

But it did. Finally.

Oh, my God!

And I know I wouldn't be able to make this announcement were it not for the tremendous love, support, friendship, critiquing genius and infinite encouragement of my family, my good friends and my writing community--which, incidentally, are not mutually exclusive groups. So, here's to all of you.

Thank you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Did You Eat Your Veggies Today?

Without so much as an attempt at explaining why, I feel compelled to report that I was meditating this morning on the subject of "Vegetables." As unpopular as this may be to admit, I really like most of them:

Freshly steamed asparagus.
Chinese peapods, straw mushrooms and bell peppers stir-fried together in happy harmony.
Light tomato sauces made thick with carrots, zucchini, portabellos and onions.
A delectable chopped salad tossed with a chunky cucumber dressing.
Mmmmm, good!

Quite seriously, with the notable exception of celery (which may be the world's most horrible food), I'll eat almost every kind of vegetable--from above or below the ground. So why then am I not eating more of them? (Yes, I asked myself this very question as I munched on tortilla chips before lunch...)

My answer came quick and sure: Because, unless I buy some prepackaged thing, which often isn't especially appetizing, vegetables take actual work to prepare. And I don't like chopping tomatoes, grating carrots, dicing cucumbers, slicing peppers or shredding lettuce. I'm exceptionally lazy when I'm hungry.

Which is why some less-healthy product like, say, Oreos (just using this as an example, mind you :-), can be so tempting. Just open...and eat.

Know what I mean?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


We renewed our summer pool passes a few weeks ago and, yesterday, more information came in the mail about pool opening dates, hours, etc. With the warm weather (finally!) starting, it won't be long before I'll be forced to pull out my swimsuit, sunscreen and flip-flops again.

But that wasn't the kind of flip-flopping I'd been obsessing about this morning. Rather, I have stacks of to-be-read books in my office (and, also, near my bed...and in piles in the family room...and under a corner coffee table in the downstairs play area...and, well, you get the idea :), and I don't know where to start. Which genre to delve into next. Which author to study. Where to devote my time, energy and attention in the face of such literary abundance.

So, I've been doing this annoying thing: I'll start reading something. Find I'm enjoying it. Make it through about a third of the book. Get distracted by some required research I need for a writing project...or by a novel recommendation from a friend...or by a review I'm scheduled to write. Flip my attention to this other thing, convinced it'll be temporary but, like a pinball, I end up ricocheting from one work of fiction or non-fiction to another and only end up finishing the original book after I've renewed it twice at the library and it's finally due or within hours of my promise to return it to its owner.

It's exhausting. And I don't want to read this way anymore.

But the second I pick up one book and vow to commit to it, my gaze collides with the glossy covers of another three, and I think: Oh, but I want to read those, too! And I'd planned to months ago...

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Incredible Kidd

A week ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Sue Monk Kidd speak to an auditorium of rapt fans on "The Writing Life." Four of us trekked into Chicago to see her. (**And, thanks, J.T., S.P.J. and K.K. for a wonderful night!!**) Eight pages of notes were insufficient to capture all the words of wisdom Kidd shared--her own and those of her favorite authors--but I'll pass along a few paraphrased highlights from my messy notebook:

~Discovering our personal stories is our spiritual quest. Your job is to become "the greatest version of the grandest vision you have for yourself."
~You're called to "a place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet." You must find the "necessary fire" that inspires your creativity.
~Creativity is a spiritual experience and we need to find the one place where we belong (in a literary-truth sense). "Go into yourself and see how deep is the place from where your life flows." (Rainer M. Rilke)
~"No art ever came out of not risking your neck." (Eudora Welty)
~Every true creative assertion requires courage. Writers must have: "Something to say, the ability to say it, and the courage to say it at all." (Maya Angelou)
~All American fiction boils down to two plots: Somebody goes on a trip or a stranger comes to town.
~Writers need to be able to differentiate the expression of their truth from the expression of their public personas (that is, their true "place of belonging" vs. their ego).
~"The imagination needs to browse." (Thomas Merton)
~Quoting Zola's "If you ask me what I came to do in this world--I came to live out loud," Kidd asked us to ask ourselves: What does my out-loudness serve? And, referring to a Wordsworth poem about "making sounds on the page" as a way to get others to respond, she urged us to learn to make that true sound that will inspire the world to "call back" to us.

It's funny, trying to write down these little soundbites...they hardly do justice to her talk. She was a delightful, inspirational speaker who, despite New York Times bestselling success, seems to have remained grounded and still humbled by the mysteries of crafting fiction. I know just about everyone and their sister has read The Secret Life of Bees by now, except me. It's on my towering TBR list. I did read--and fell in love with--her novel The Mermaid Chair and greatly look forward to any of her future work. Any other Kidd fans out there?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My One-Year Anniversary...

...of blogging!

I know, I know, my once-a-week posts are painfully infrequent by the standards of most serious bloggers. Kind of on par with my one year of adherence to a low-sugar diet in which I follow it, roughly, one day out of every 7-10. In other words, not a bad thing but, possibly, not especially effective either.

Then again, "effectiveness" is relative.

I developed a habit, which was nonexistent before. I met online a great many other bloggers. And I got to know my fellow writing friends better through their blog musings and their comments on mine.

So, while I hope to increase the frequency of my posts ("hope" being the operative word, not "promise" :-), I've had a good first year. And I thank all of you who are reading this for being a part of it.