My Unworkshop Weekend

I haven’t been incredibly active on my blog as of late, mostly because I’ve been busy. Busy with mom-ing, acting, and costuming at times. Also, I’ve been diving into my editing business, which, I have to say, I love. I love dissecting query letters and manuscripts and seeing what makes them tick.

But! I knew I had to write at least one blog about my time here at the Highlights Foundation Conference Center for an Unworkshop.

To start at the beginning, in March, some of my writer friends were planning a writing retreat for October. The very idea of a writing retreat- a chance to get away from momhood and housework and costumes and vacuuming- was mouthwatering. The problem was, since Baby #2 is due in October (yay!), I knew there was no way I could go with them.

So I began searching. I knew exactly what I wanted: A post-published writers’ conference or retreat, preferably for kidlit writers, that wasn’t about marketing. I needed time to do a drastic revision on my current novel, meet some friendly writers to talk with/commiserate with, and maybe talk a little craft. The problem was: This conference didn’t exist. This is when I found the Unworkshop at the Highlights Foundation Conference Center in the Pocono mountains.

Fast-forward to my time here: First of all, for a city girl who grew up in a small, rural town, coming here was like coming home.

I arrived on a Friday evening, about an hour after dinner was served and found my cabin- Cabin 11- all ready with my name on the door and my heavy-duty tote bag, containing a name tag, instructions, and meal times, on the cozy twin bed. The room has its own coffee pot, complete with coffee and many types of tea. There’s a mini-fridge already stocked with a few cans of soda, an air conditioning unit in the window, and baseboard heating to keep the place warm and snug. It has its own bathroom, with a full tub and shower, and a bookshelf full of Picture, Middle Grade, and Young Adult books. There are sheets and towels, and the beds were already made up with homemade quilts donated by a Highlights Alumnus. As well as a ceiling fan, screened windows, and an overhead light, there are little lamps by each bed, and one perched over a writing chair. This truly is a family place, designed by writers, specifically to accommodate writers!

Hesitantly, I made my way to “The Barn,” where a large, friendly group of writers- all here for an intensive workshop week with a mentor author/editor- encouraged me to step into the kitchen and ask if there was anything to be heated up. I did. The chef soon brought out a plate just heaping with delicious, farm-to-table, local food. He even brought a bowl of cut strawberries and fruit at the end for dessert.

I settled into my cabin, set up my work station, and watched the sunset before planning out my schedule for the next day, as there was no set schedule for me to follow, except for meal times.

In the morning, I had a bright and early delicious breakfast- pancakes, eggs, sausage, local breads and jellies, and homemade granola were among the offerings. The writing group who was here for an “official” workshop welcomed me with open arms, and the CEO of the Highlights Foundation even joined us for a cup of coffee, telling stories and treating us like family. I then went back to my cozy cabin and proceeded to write. I made a calendar of events for my new book- something I’d never attempted at home- and began the tedious work of inserting a new ending into a solid draft. Lunch was homemade soup and Monte Cristo sandwiches with local bread and salad. I then went for a short walk, down by the creek and around the farmhouse. And then came more editing… and a nap. A much longer nap than anticipated. But with a cute bed like this, how could I resist?

Before dinner was a half hour of h’ourderves, complete with red or white wine, local cheese, homemade spreads, veggies, and crackers. The conferencing group once again welcomed me into their group, as well as the other woman who was here on her own for an Unworkshop. I got just the right amount of writer chit-chat: hearing about their projects, processes, and progress, and telling a little of my own.

The Barn is a lovely space- a huge open area for large meetings or meals, a living room-style sitting room with a coffee table for small groups, a kidlit library/dining room for groups under twelve, and a big loft for morning yoga, as well as any writers who want to write in a more public space, or mid-sized group meetings. There is always a table with coffee and tea, little bagged snacks, and even a freezer with ice cream! The patios outside are meant for congregating, with large, round tables and an outdoor refrigerator with drinks.

That evening, I called my son and husband and attempted to dive back into the manuscript, but realized that it needed just a little bit more plotting to figure out every little kink. I sat on my bed with the lamp on and fixed those last few plot points, after making a huge leap and transferring 10,000 words into the cut file.

In the morning was another lovely breakfast- steel cut oats with assorted fruit toppings, eggs, and bacon- and the writing group’s mentor graciously invited me to stay for their week’s wrap-up. I sat quietly as their mentor dispensed wisdom like it was candy, and the writers recapped what they’d learned from their week of one-on-one meetings with her and each other. It was definitely a blessing of an extra experience that I neither anticipated nor dreamed of.

 

After that, the majority of the writing group left, while a couple people stayed on to do an Unworkshop of their own. I spent all morning writing about 3,000 words of the new ending, and came to lunch ready to chat. Once again, the CEO of Highlights came for coffee, and this time we visited about Westfield (the small town in SONG OF SUMMER, where he happens to have roots!). Then back to my cabin for a (shorter) nap, and to work through the new climax of the book.

The climax of the book was done just in time for dinner, where I got to eat with two ladies who were also Unworkshopping (one from the day before’s group, and one who had just arrived), as well as meet the new conference group, here to learn about writing Jewish children’s books.

After my last delicious dinner (roasted vegetables, chicken, homemade bread, with local maple walnut ice cream for dessert- for anyone who’s interested), I returned to my cabin and yawned my way until 10 p.m. to finish the brand new ending.

And here I am this morning! Reading about other people’s experience here at the Highlights Foundation Conference Center Unworkshop got me through some really stressful times, so I hope to pass the gift on to others! The staff is accommodating (even taking people to and from the airport), the facilities are gorgeous (many individual cabins as well as an eight-room lodge, complete with a meeting room), the food is truly to die for (obviously- half this blog was about the food!), the location is breath-taking and creativity-inspiring, and I can’t wait to come back! In two years. When the new baby’s old enough to be left. *sigh* Ah well, I’ll be counting the days.

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Deleted Scene from Song of Summer

Hello friends of Song of Summer!

Thank you so much for your help in reaching 51 reviews on Amazon! As promised, here’s a never-before-seen deleted scene straight from an early draft of the book. I hope you like it!

SONG OF SUMMER
Prologue: Carter

I tear a chunk of funnel cake from the greasy paper plate and fold it into my mouth. Savoring the spongy sweetness while attempting to brush away the stray powdered sugar that fell onto my t-shirt. This succeeds in smearing more across my chest, and the casual brushing turns into concentrated scrubbing before someone tugs on my arm. I glance down. The lights from the food booths and portable spinning teacups cast a carnival glow on my little sister’s face, exaggerating her pout even more.

“Carter! No fair!” Trina signs.

I lower the plate to her level and she rips off a giant piece, shoving the funnel cake into her mouth, powdered sugar already coating her cheeks. A drunken bee hovers near her face and I brush it away with the back of my hand before she sees it and freaks out. I’ve just waved it off when a couple of girls walk by, their mouths going, “Awww!” in unison as they press their hands against their hearts. Short shorts bare their legs all the way down to flip-flops and dusty feet with matching, perfectly pink toenails. I look back up to their faces and give them a half smile. Trina tugs on my arm again.

“Carter!” she signs. “We’re going to miss the fireworks!”

I give her the plate to keep her hands busy. “It will be impossible to miss the fireworks, Trina,” I sign back. “Giant balls of fire in the sky? Hard to miss.”

She rolls her eyes at me and turns on her heel, heading back to the field where thousands of people sit on hundreds of blankets and lawn chairs. I lunge forward and tap her shoulder. “You know where Mom and Dad are?” I ask.

She rolls her eyes again. Must be a very popular dismissal with nine year olds nowadays. Whatever happened to sticking out her tongue? “Yes,” she signs with her free hand.

“You sure?”

“Yes!”

“Tell them I’ll be there soon.”

“Okay.” She turns on her heel and swishes through the crowd, the flounces on her hot pink skirt bouncing. I turn back to the improvised midway. Every year, it’s an inauguration into this strange part of the state from my native New York City. We always leave the city in time for the Fourth of July celebration on Chautauqua Lake. The smells of fried food and people sweat are familiar, as are the game booths, food booths, mini carnival rides, and crowds of people who all seem to know each other.

I walk the dusty paths and people watch: tired parents with sticky-faced children, the occasional elderly couple who decided to brave the traffic for some real cotton candy, and preteens in giggly, lip-glossed groups. Also, of course, my agemates—teenagers in pairs with interlocked fingers, or mini-mobs of girls and guys eying each other up, deciding who they’ll kiss when the sky turns pink.

A group of teenagers blobs up the path toward me, weaving in and out of each other, ebbing and flowing like a giant single-celled organism. A dark blond guy with a five o’clock shadow pegs popcorn at a couple of girls near the front of the group. The tall, leggy redhead ducks and turns to yell at him, gesturing wildly, but when she faces front again, there’s a smile behind her eyes. The five o’clock shadow guy laughs at the back of her head and throws a piece of popcorn to one of his friends, who catches it in his mouth. Then he flicks another piece of popcorn at the leggy redhead’s friend, a short girl with her dark hair in a long ponytail. The dark haired girl removes the popcorn from her hair, holds it up in the air with a flourish, and sticks it straight in her mouth, brushing her fingers to dust them off pretentiously. Although she never turns to face him, the whole thing is clearly visible to the five o’clock shadow guy behind her.

“Thanks,” her mouth says around the popcorn.

I find a small smile on my face.

The leggy redhead grimaces, pointing at the dark haired girl as she chews the piece of popcorn that was once in her hair. “Eeewwww!” her face says, and the dark haired girl grins, shrugging. She swallows.

“What?” the dark haired girl’s mouth says, like it’s no big deal. She grins and looks away from the amorphous teen blob, catching me staring at her. I quickly start inspecting the brightly colored plastic flags strung across the top of the candied apple booth across the aisle.

After a few seconds—during which I gather that the flags are green, yellow, blue, and red, and not in as good of shape as they presumably once were—I glance back to the dark haired girl. Her back is to me, turned to talk to her friends again. Her hands move, not with any real communicative purpose, but the movement takes my mind to my friends back home. Tonight, they’re probably on the roof of Daniel’s building on Riverside Drive, watching fireworks explode over the Hudson. But what’s the big deal? This podunk Independence Day is the only one I’ve ever known. And at least this summer, I have my Ducati and a measure of freedom.

My daydreaming has caught up to me and the teen blob has passed, on their way to a blanket on the grass somewhere, I’m sure. I wander the mini fair for another few minutes, until the last bit of the sun goes down and a practice firework shoots across the sky. Then I, along with everybody else still left in the park, head to the field of blankets and lawn chairs.

It’s tough to tell who’s who in the semi-dark, but with the help of my cell phone, I barely make out Trina’s little hand waving in the air. I give her a nod and turn the phone off, sliding it into my pocket before picking my way across the field.

Then someone knocks me off balance.

I put my hands out to steady myself, but I’m never in any real danger of falling. She is, though—she’s holding a funnel cake and giant soft drink, and a family is sitting right at our feet, about to get drenched—so I reach out to her elbow and back, steadying her while she regains her balance. She takes a second, eyes gaping at the drink in her hand before turning them up to smile her thanks at me. My half smile returns unbidden. It’s the dark haired girl from before. The one who ate the popcorn out of her hair.

These are the moments I wish I could talk. I would say, “Oh! You! I saw you earlier, with the popcorn! That was awesome.” Then she would say something funny, and I would tell her I’m staying in Chautauqua for the summer if she ever wants to hang out. And I would text her my number. But I can’t just text her my number now with no small talk. So I shrug and let go of her elbow.

Still looking up at me, she covers her mouth with the hand holding the cup, her eyes squinting with laughter. Thankfully, she takes the hand away from her lips after a second.

“I’m so sorry!” her mouth says, the lights from the carnival turning her lips dark and her eyes bright.

I shrug, a smile on my face, and wave away the apology. Any time that girl needs catching, I’ll be happy to do it again.

She turns her head abruptly, and I follow her gaze. Her redheaded friend is waving her down, yelling something, but it’s too dark to see what.

The dark haired girl looks up at me again. “Gotta go,” her mouth says, and she grins.

I nod and, as I continue my trek to my family’s blanket, I watch her pick her way across the blankets to her friends, soft drink in one hand, funnel cake in the other. When she reaches the blanket, she settles down next to the popcorn-throwing guy for a couple of seconds. He casually throws an arm around her.

I sigh. Of course. Of course she has a boyfriend. What was I thinking? Then the redhead grabs the dark haired girl’s arm and makes a show of moving her to the front of the blanket, out of the popcorn thrower’s reach. I grin to myself as the dark haired girl goes with her friend. When she stands up, she glances back, searching the area where I caught her. I should have never left it.

A little hand taps my leg.

“Sit down, Carter!” signs Trina. “You’re blocking everyone’s view!”

The minute I sit down, fire streaks across the sky, exploding purple in the air and rumbling low in my chest.

Happy Independence Day.

 

I hope you like the extra sneak peak into Carter’s world! Personally, I loved writing a scene where we get to observe Jenni, Robin, and Trent “in the wild,” so to speak, from Carter’s point of view.

In my mind, this scene still exists in the world of the book, and you’ll notice that the first chapter of Song of Summer mentions that Violet’s “long, plastic fingernails shine red, white, and blue, the commemorative paint chipping from last week’s holiday.” In the world of the book, Carter and Robin did actually meet before that fateful day at the diner!

If you want to read the rest of the book, you can find it:

Here from Amazon (Kindle)

Here from Kobo

Here from ibooks

Thanks to CarrieAnn DiRisio for some incredibly helpful line edits, as well as Ashley Turcotte from Brown Owl Editing for copy editing this chapter to a beautiful shine! Thanks also to my awesome editor at Bloomsbury Spark, Meredith Rich for encouraging me to post this. As always, thank you to my most excellent agent, Uwe Stender at Triada US. And, of course, thank you to every single person that read and reviewed Song of Summer – without you, this chapter would have never seen the light of day!

We Did It!!!

Dear friends of SONG OF SUMMER,

Thank you so much for all of your sharing, encouragement, and especially your REVIEWS! In less than a week, we went from 47 to 52 reviews on Amazon!

 

As promised, a deleted scene will be coming your way very soon! It’s at the copy editor now for a final polish, but it will be posted right here on this blog at 9:00 AM EST on Friday, March 11th. Only three days away!

If you loved the book, tell your friends! If you didn’t, tell your enemies! 😉

Thank you so much!

If you’ve forgotten what it’s all about, or want to buy a copy for a friend, it’s available:

Here from Amazon (Kindle)

Here from Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Here from Kobo

Here from ibooks

Deleted Scene for 51 Reviews!

Hello everyone!

It has been a crazy seven or so months since releasing SONG OF SUMMER! I have had the pleasure of seeing it recommended on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. I’ve gotten five star reviews and one star reviews, and more comments on the ending than I can count!

SONG OF SUMMER is currently being read by the Senior class at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where I took ASL classes and made some important beta-reading connections. The book also inspired one woman to stop in Westfield, NY on her trip to Niagara Falls. She just had to see the diner! My mother recently told me that the woman who inspired the character of Violet was excited to recognize the fictionalized version of herself, and I was thrilled when the owner of the restaurant that inspired the Grape Country Dairy attended my release party. I could not be happier with the response that it has gotten, which is why…

I HAVE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

When SONG OF SUMMER reaches 51 reviews on Amazon, I will release a never-before-seen deleted scene from the original book!

Now I can’t say much about it, but I will say that this is a chapter from Carter’s perspective that was in the second draft of SONG OF SUMMER. And it involves funnel cake.

So here’s how it works:

  1. If you have read the book (and only if you’ve read the book!), go to the SONG OF SUMMER page on Amazon and click “Write a Customer Review.”
  2. Write your honest review! It can be two sentences or two hundred! It can be anywhere between one and five stars! Did you love parts of it? Hate parts of it? Love themes? Hate themes? Characters? Setting? Was the book just *meh?*Tell the world!
  3. When SONG OF SUMMER hits 51 reviews on Amazon, I will release the deleted scene right here on my blog! Why 51? Well, you see, Amazon’s algorithms do something special when a book hits 50 reviews. In short, it will really help my ability to reach new readers.

SONG OF SUMMER is currently at 47 reviews. That means we only need four more reviews to get that extra scene. I’ll update you here and on Twitter (@LLAWrites) as the reviews pour in.

Come on, internet! Let’s do this!

5 Small Ways to Help a New Author

I had a lot of wonderful people help me out when Song of Summer was released. If you want to know how to support the debut author in your life, here’s how to help both before the book is released, and after!

BEFORE THE BOOK IS RELEASED:

1) PREORDER: Did you know that the pre-order numbers are all lumped into the first week of sales? They also help put the book on the charts before it’s even released, making it jump in search engine recognition!

2) SHARE EVERYTHING: If your author friend makes any kind of announcement, it’s probably a big one! This includes, but is not limited to: Cover reveal, Amazon sale, blog posts, pre-order promotions (like all of the lovely people who shared my Best of Westfield raffle basket!), launch party announcement, and especially the day of the big event– the book release! If you’re on Twitter, retweet like it’s your job! Tag some groups that you know that the author might not know- try to introduce the book to people in your circle of friends who are outside of your author friend’s circle.

3) PARTICIPATE: Goodreads is one of the best ways to participate in the book’s release before the book is available to the public. Add it to your to-read shelf. Ask the author a question- all of these things make them look legitimate and popular (which helps to sell books). Someone I graduated with asked me a Goodreads question and it made my day! Add the book to a couple of Goodreads lists. Is there a giveaway? Enter!
Other ways to participate: Leave a blog comment, send a Facebook congrats, attend the release party, join in a pre-order promotion, retweet a link with your own comment- these are all ways that I felt INCREDIBLY BLESSED by my loving, supportive community!

AFTER THE BOOK IS RELEASED:
All of the above, plus…

4) LEAVE AN HONEST REVIEW ON AMAZON (or Nook or Kobo or ibook): The average reader chooses a book based on how many stars it has and how many reviews it has on Amazon. ALSO! The more reviews a book has, the better search optimization it gets! I can’t tell you how happy I am to have 20 reviews only 20 days after the book was released. Even if it’s only a sentence or two, even if it’s not a 4 or 5-star review, an honest Amazon review is worth way more than its weight in gold.

5) MAKE CONNECTIONS: Are you in a book club? Do you know the local librarian? Do you have any kind of blog or vlog? Are you a high school English teacher or are you related to one? I have never known an author to turn down a chance to connect with readers, whether it’s three readers or three hundred. Reach out!

I was a diner waitress and barista for a long time. If there’s anything I know, it’s that a dollar may not seem like much to you, but it can make or break a waitress’s night. That’s how I think about book promotion: One tweet, one Goodreads question, one Facebook post, one two-sentence review may take only five minutes of your time, but it means the world to a brand new author.

Thanks again to my wonderful support network, and I hope this is helpful to those of you looking to support the debut author in your life!

To find out more about Song of Summer, click here

Song of Summer is here!!!

Today is the release date for Song of Summer!song of summer coverFor all of you lovely people who pre-ordered, the book is on your e-reader at this very moment! For all of you lovely people who didn’t, here are links to order it!
Click here to order on Kindle from Amazon.
Click here to order on Nook from Barnes and Noble.

Click here to order from Kobo.
Click here to order from ibooks.

Now that THAT’S out of the way, here’s what reviewers are saying about Song of Summer! (WARNING: Some of these reviews are pretty spoiler-y, so if you want to keep the plot a surprise, read the reviews AFTER reading the book!)

Okay, so… I LOVED this book. LOVED IT. It’s past 4am right now as I’m typing this – that’s how much I loved it.” – Thu from Transitive Verve (click here for full review)

“This book is the perfect summer read. I mean it, it’s kind of like summer exhaled and this book came about.” -Laura from Ink Stains and Books (click here for full review)

“While the romance aspect makes brings a lighter aspect to the story, it also offers a thought-provoking look into the life of someone who is hearing impaired, and the difficulties they experience in attempting to navigate a world that caters to those who can hear.” -Katie from Shelfishly Addicted (click here for full review)

“Now this is romance! Meet my newest book boyfriend, Carter, and, yes, I’m willing to share him with you.” -Nicole from Handheld Dream (click here for full review)

“The diversity in this family was such an amazing aspect to this story.” -Rosie from Rosie Reads (click here for full review)

And now for some pictures!

Carter:                                                                Robin:

Carter  Robin Peters

His ride:                                                                              Her ride:

yellow ducati streetfighter 848 - Carter's motorcycle  2000 Subaru Outback- Robin's car.

For more pictures, go here!

And what about music? Let’s just say I listened to a LOT of folk while writing this book, but this song holds a special place in my heart (and this book):

For the rest of my Spotify playlist, click here!

And finally, thank you to everyone. I mean it. I wish I had more words to say but it’s almost midnight and I guess my brain is turning into a pumpkin.

And finally, to borrow from The Abridged Shakespeare Company: If you like it, tell your friends! If not, tell your enemies.

See you Westfielders tonight at the launch party! And I’ll see everybody else out in cyber-space!

Thanks again.

CP Bloghop Pt 3: How to Give Good Feedback

Hi and welcome to the last installment of my three-part series on Critique Partners! Good feedback is the most crucial part of being a good critique partner. Lucky for you, I’ve had years of training on how to give feedback from my job as a Standardized Patient for UPMC. So let’s do this!

1) Be honest AND kind: It’s possible! The difference between being rude and being kind is often the difference between making a judgment about the piece (“This is a bad analogy”) and stating your reaction to the piece (“This analogy makes a strange picture in my head”). The first says that there is something WRONG. The second says that the analogy may not convey the message the author wants it to convey. It states specifically what’s wrong with the analogy, instead of just calling it “bad,” which isn’t fixable.

2) Don’t assume: Never assume that you know what the author wants to convey! This goes for sentence-level editing as well as character choices and big-picture themes. Stating your reaction to an action/word choice/etc leaves the ball in the author’s court: “Xavier seems like he’s over-reacting and I don’t like his character as much because of it,” is so much better than, “Xavier would never do that! He’s too nice!” Maybe the author wants to show a breakdown in Xavier’s character, or his weak spot. Saying that something “seems” a certain way leaves room for interpretation, rather than declaring that something “is” a certain way. You are not the God of this world- the author is.

3) Know your limits: So you offer to critique a book and find yourself reading about your own problems. This is a sign that you are too close to the material. Stop. Put the book down. Write your CP a nice email about how sorry you are, but you can’t read about anorexia/fatherlessness/racism/whatever is pushing your personal buttons right now. You are not in a place to be objective. Your content editing will not be helpful because your own (very raw) biases will get in the way.

4) Don’t try to be funny: “Does anyone smell like anything other than shampoo in this book?!” is a fine note to leave… for YOURSELF. “Xavier smells like shampoo. In the last chapter, Thelma smelled like shampoo. Just a heads-up,” is a fine substitute. It’s specific, doesn’t imply that anything is wrong with the book (maybe this is a world where everyone smells like shampoo!) and it leaves the ball in the author’s court. Being funny can often seem mean to the author. Imagine that someone makes a joke about your kid, or your dog, or your mom. Yeah- maybe your kid is small, but nobody’s allowed to call him shrimpy. That hurts. Books are our children. Respect that relationship and don’t insult them, even if you’re just trying to be funny.

5) Say positive things: I did a whole blog on The Power of Positive Feedback, and it’s one of my most popular blogs for a good reason: People need an honest, objective person to tell them what they’re good at. We all know that we can get a million good reviews and one bad one, but that bad one will stick in our minds. Those million good reviews are still necessary- imagine if they weren’t there and all we saw was the bad one! Mark the places that make you laugh or cry. Mark the places that make you cheer for the hero or boo the villain. Look at over-arching strengths: plotting, pacing, humor, memorable characters, swoony/edge-of-your-seat/bone-chilling descriptions. Everyone has something good about their writing. Find it.

Thanks for travelling along on my little CP blog tour! My sincere thanks and apologies go out to the CPs who taught me these lessons, whether directly or indirectly: You have made me a better editor and friend.

song of summer coverIf you want to check out the product of countless CP hours, my debut YA Contemporary novel, SONG OF SUMMER is being published tomorrow! And if you want me to critique your first page, all you have to do it pre-order it and send the receipt or screenshot to lauralee.edits @ gmail.com.

Click here to pre-order on Kindle
Click here to pre-order on Nook
Click here to pre-order on Kobo
Click here to pre-order on ibook

If you missed the other installments of this blog hop, here they are!

CP Bloghop 1: Four Ways to Find a Good Critique Partner -See Laura Write, Laura Heffernan
CP Bloghop 2: Five Ways to Be a Good Critique Partner- This Literary Life, Nicole Tone

 

Best of Westfield

The setting for Song of Summer is my beloved hometown, Westfield, NY. This is a place where the doctor’s office has a hitching post and the residents argue over whether we can boast three stoplights or four (one really just blinks all the time, after all).

westfield-new-york

So what is the Best of Westfield?
It’s the neighborly, uplifting spirit of community which compelled local businesses to donate items to my launch party raffle basket. Visual artists and practical artists, vintners and bakers, farmers and craftsmen all banded together to help make my launch a success! I can never thank them enough!

How does a person win this beautiful basket of prizes?
1) Live in the Westfield/ Chautauqua County area, or attend the launch party. (July 7th from 6-7 PM at the Patterson Library).
2) Pre-order a copy of Song of Summer. (Here for Kindle) (Here for nook) (Here for Kobo)
3) Email your proof of purchase (a screen shot or a copy of the receipt) to: songofsummerbook@gmail.com

This will automatically give you a chance to win this prize basket, worth over $100, from area businesses!

So who contributed to this basket?
Allen-Dale Farms
Bee Natural Honey Farms
Blanche’s Goodie Garden
Fudge ‘n Stuff

Gardens of Eternity
Grape Country Soap
The Gypsy’s Trinkets Jewelry
Lauridell Acres
Merritt Winery
Peaceful Designs
Vetter Vineyards Winery
The Wool Works
Young at Heart

What exactly is in the basket?
Here are a few things…
IMG_1186 IMG_1184 IMG_1185  IMG_1181

And a whole lot more! Search Twitter for #BestofWestfield to see more pictures.

PS- Keep a close watch on my Facebook to discover ways to get extra tickets for the Best of Westfield basket!

Making Yourself Write (when you really don’t want to)

“I hate writing. I love having written.” -Dorothy Parker.

Boy, she sure said it. Some days I absolutely hate writing. I know, I know, I’m a writer. I’m getting published! Ah! But I’m still allowed to hate writing. For you, maybe it’s not first drafting (like it is for me). Maybe it’s editing. In any case, we all have to do things we don’t want to. Here’s how I make myself:

1) Bribes: “If I write X words today, I get a latte!” These words are not uncommon in my life. Replace “a latte” with “a milkshake,” “pizza,” “reading time,” “to watch a movie,” or any number of things, and you have about 90% of my first drafting process. It is perfectly fine to reward yourself if it gets words on the page!

2) Withholding: “No _______ (Facebook, Twitter, chocolate, COFFEE, lattes, once it was even blogging) until I write X words.” This has potential to be very effective, but it can’t be used too many times in a row! Believe it or not, I once got used to life without Facebook.

3) Consequences: “If I don’t get X amount of words written in two weeks, I have to _____!” My most (in)famous consequence was eating a banana. I HATE bananas. The idea of actually eating one makes my palms sweat and my stomach turn. Needless to say, I got the draft done.

4) Internal Motivation: I have a card stuck in my computer monitor that says, “Scuzzy is counting on you to tell her story.” Who is Scuzzy? One of the awesome main characters of my new Work in Progress. You are the creator of your characters. Nobody can tell their stories but you. So get to it!

5) Writing buddies: Who exactly keeps me from hitting the lattes before it’s time? Who catches me on Facebook and gleefully awaits the great banana-eating of 2015? My buddies, of course! Now don’t give “Make sure I write” duty to just any new CP you’ve dug up. You want a friend whose friendship won’t be put on the rocks just because they wouldn’t meet you for coffee until you wrote. They don’t even have to be writing buddies- just people who aren’t afraid to say, “Have you written today?”

What do you do? How do you stay motivated to keep writing? What project are you avoiding right now?

How to Wait Efficiently

Anyone who’s been writing for any length of time will tell you that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Also, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Here’s a waiting plan for various stages of the waiting game:

Waiting for Betas/Critique Partners to get your book back to you:
CONSUME MEDIA- books, movies, TV, magazines, internet articles, blogs… that have NOTHING to do with your book! If you’re anything like me, you write in sprints and consume next to no media during that time. Now’s your chance to refill so you can pour it all back on the page! Grab a latte or a glass of wine and relax a little before your revising begins.

Waiting after your first batch of queries:
START SOMETHING NEW- Now is the time to have a lot of fun coming up with new and exciting projects to get your mind off of submission. Brainstorm new books, sketch brief outlines. That way when the agent comes knocking, you’ll be able to give them a couple of your new ideas.
INCREASE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE- Have a social media account that’s pretty much defunct? Ever want to try out blogging or Twitter or Pinterest? Do it! It will increase your platform, get your mind off submission, and keep you close to your email inbox!
HELP YOUR FRIENDS- Remember those great CPs and Betas who helped you polish your  novel and/or query letter? Now it’s your turn to repay the favor.

Waiting after your second, third, or fourth batch of queries:
DON’T GIVE UP- That’s the important thing.
REVISE YOUR QUERY- If your first 15-20 queries don’t result in any partial requests, it may not be a story problem, it’s probably a query problem.
DIVE INTO SOMETHING NEW- Beyond just brainstorming and fun, get down to some serious outlining (if you’re a plotter) or scene-dreaming and inspiration free-writing (if you’re a pantser like me).
READ CRAFT BOOKS/TAKE A CLASS- Is there a common thread in your rejections? Look it up and fix it! What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger. With a little work, your weaknesses can become your strengths.

-If your queries don’t work, you don’t get an agent after a year and a couple of revisions, either take the plunge and self-publish or do what I did: Write a new book!-

Waiting while your agent is submitting your book to editors (aka: “on submission”):
COMPLETELY IMMERSE YOURSELF IN YOUR NEW BOOK- Do NaNoWriMo. Do writing sprints. Write that first draft like crazy. That way, if an editor calls, you’ll have enough distance from your first book to be willing to accept new revisions. If the editor call never comes (which happens!) you’ll be ready to give your agent the new book.

Waiting for your first book to come out:
SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN! Remember back when you were waiting on your first batch of queries and you re-invigorated your social media presence? Do it again!
WRITE ARTICLES AND GUEST BLOGS- Expand your audience by posting on others’ blogs! (That being said, if anybody wants me to guest blog, I’d love to! Drop me a line! lauralee.edits @ gmail.com)
POLISH YOUR SECOND BOOK- Time to revise and revise and revise again.

Now you’ve come full circle- back to waiting on CPs.

(If, while you’re waiting, you want me to critique your novel’s first page, just pre-order my book, Song of Summer! Go here to learn more!)

What are some of your waiting tactics?