Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Vulnerability: Steps and Lessons 

If you follow my social media (and I sure hope you do! 😊), you know that I just submitted my first round of line edits back to my publisher. During this process, I started to think about the amount of vulnerability that is needed in the author world, as well as lessons I have already learned. Let’s look at the meaning of the world “vulnerability” before I go any further.

Vulnerability- the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. (Oxford Dictionary)

These words strike me especially strong at this time in the world. They are powerful, anxiety provoking, and just plain scary! What is your reaction? What have you been vulnerable with or are being vulnerable about right now in your life? (Pause for self-reflection, lol…but seriously)

Okay, you’re back. So, I’ve given deep thought to the concept of vulnerability in the past, due to my role as a mental health therapist. I’ve thought about it for my clients and in my own life, but never as much as lately. I’m happy to share some insights here, in hopes you can connect to them for your own benefit. But first, a slight backstory. You know that’s how I work by now!

From the moment I opened myself up to the public as an author, when I started my website and social media platforms in December 2018, I had to get more comfortable with the risk of others’ thoughts, responses, and opinions…risk meaning the possibility of something negative or hurtful. I hoped and thought that most people would be kind souls, but you never know. “Attack” is always possible. That was level one for my vulnerability, in my mind, as I reflect back. It’s a constant threat, as I open up my heart every single time I post something or respond to other people’s posts. Of course, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Just as the next steps.

Level two came as soon as I sent my first query letter in June 2019. Now, you see, I was not only exposing myself to the public, but specifically to experts in the publishing field. Cue the racing heart and flood of second guessing my work. But I persisted. I had to in order to meet my dream of getting published.

The stakes kept rising with each risk I took; the pitch parties I participated in, the interactions with agents and publishers, going to classes, and joining webinars to build my skills. Every bit was allowing a piece of me to escape, without knowing where the piece would end up. This is wayyyy out of my comfort zone, let me tell you.

But then came the call with my now publisher. Level three was in action. She already knew I had not published books in the past, but during this call she mentioned a popular website I hadn’t heard of, which I told her I didn’t know, and I’ll never forget her response. She commented on me actually being a newbie to the field (not in a rude way at all, more like a “oh yeah” moment). The comment stayed with me because I always want to be known as knowledgeable and intelligent (that’s just a part of my personality). I love to be as prepared as possible for any circumstance, but can’t be, obviously. Also, what stuck with me was that it was okay with her that I was new. It wasn’t an issue at all. In that conversation, nor in future correspondence, did she ever have an issue with my past experience.

From that point on I felt a large increase in comfort with being able to be myself during our work together. The lesson of “honesty is always the best policy” is one I abide by and it was reinforced from the start of my relationship with my publisher. There is always going to be a first time for people. We all have to start somewhere and thank God she is giving me a chance.

The next lesson I learned from the requirement of being vulnerable in the author domain is that my desire to learn works for me and my success. Although I want to know everything I can, I know I don’t. Even if I was one of the experts in this field, I still wouldn’t ever consider myself an expert. I have a mentality that I’m always learning. There is always better and more I can do. I love to learn, as written about in last’s month’s blog, so why would this journey be any different? I know I need to listen to my experts (editor and publisher; also, another lesson) to make my book the best it will be. Otherwise, I may as well have self-published.

As I have read through the editor comments in my manuscript these last two rounds, I always try to keep an open mind. I need to be flexible and be able to ponder other people’s opinions of my writing, in order to make it shine. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I don’t agree, but that is okay. We can have conversations about both of our thoughts and go from there. Sometimes though, it may be that I first don’t agree, think about it more, come back to it at a later point in time, and then see the opinion is correct. Sometimes, even after thinking about it, I come back and still don’t agree, but change the issue anyway, just to see what it would be like. Then, magically, it does work better. Most of the time, the editor is spot on, in fact. It’s not easy to see some things within your own work; you need others. When your art includes your heart, which it always does and yes I rhymed on purpose, it can be difficult to know what can make it better. Even some published books can still be better, I’m sure. The experts are there for a reason, so let them help you. They are on your side. Defensiveness or ego be gone. They won’t get you anywhere, in my opinion.

Maybe the steps are endless in my journey, as I continue to embark on new and exciting aspects in the author world. I know I will be expanding in the future for areas in marketing and such, so there may be a hundred steps of vulnerability. Who knows? What I do know is that as I continue to open my heart and soul, I am becoming a stronger person. This gift is earned and takes time. I’m curious and excited to know all the steps and lessons that are to come in my future as an author.

Tell me if you can relate to being vulnerable at this time and any teachable moments you have had, below in comments. Thanks for reading!

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Author, Italian American Author, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction Author

A Time of Learning

Let me tell you a little secret; I’m a big nerd. Yeah, I said it. I don’t mind yelling it from the rooftops at this stage of life because it’s so darn true (unlike in my youth, but we won’t go there). I am a nerd in multiple ways, but one of the ways is that I love to learn.

I’ve always adored knowing everything about everything. Even things I don’t care about, I care about, if you know what I mean. It’s just for the sake of knowing more that thrills me, so sometimes the subject doesn’t even matter. I know I drove my mom crazy as a child with my million questions of “Why?” and “What does that mean?” She would try to answer until I got her to the breaking point, though that was not my intent. As I got older, I realized it is just that my mind doesn’t stop. Imagine a marathon of the mind. That’s me. Don’t even get me started on taking a multiple choice or true or false test. I could go on for hours for each answer’s possibility if time allowed.

So, this brings me to the present. The endless wonder I have within has done me well in life overall and continues to help me succeed in the author world. My lust to learn has allowed for a continuum of necessity and pleasure in my years, from retaining countless useless facts about topics of interest (hey, you never know when a Titanic fact may come in handy in conversation though), to providing me new worlds of hobbies (teaching myself the ukulele for one), to succeeding academically and in my therapist career, and navigating the publishing world to get my book in all of our hands. I thought last year was a year of major learning for my book and its process from how an idea goes to eventual physical book, but boy was I wrong. Last year only included writing, although learning to write to get signed as well, which I have told you is a whole different animal. This year of 2020 is only 3 months in and has 2019 almost matched, so I expect it to surpass last year.

Now, let me just say, because it would be strange not to address at this time, that I typically do not post on social media or put out on my website anything negative in any way, even in my personal accounts. I am a believer that what you put out comes back, so I want to say and write what I want to happen or just about spreading joy in general, be it through actual inspirational/growth quotes, travel pictures that are related to reading and writing, or Italy/Italian posts. That’s why you may have noticed my topics for posting include these themes, which I believe all have a cheerful vibe. Right now, in the world, there is a health challenge, so I had to decide recently whether to continue my inspirational path, when it would be easy to post only about the difficulties of this time. I don’t think people want or need the sadness and negativity (ahem, plain old reality) all the time, so I learned to listen to myself and the path I set out on over a year ago when interacting with the public. I am continuing to learn to keep that boundary, but there is a fine line sometimes. I do not want to ignore what is on everyone’s minds, so I find creative ways to address it and try to uplift others (which I sometimes need myself of course, and I appreciate when others do this as well).

So, there is the unexpected learning that has occurred from the world health issue at this moment, including the above and how to continue the focus on my writing with swirling changes in work and personal life. Then, there is the straight up learning for the editing and marketing process for my book, which was expected, although still has its surprises. What does that include you ask? Well, let me tell you what I’ve been up to since the last blog.

I have exciting plans for my website, all of which include a lot of, you guessed it, learning for me. Changing anything on my website was always scary for me because if it works, I don’t want to mess with it…except that I have to mess with it! Not being a web designer, these things are scary to an author, ok? Although I love learning, I sometimes have to push through fear, as I am sure you understand. But, I wanted to and did add new pages (a super secret writers page with upcoming fabulousness and a newsletter!). Go me! I also had to use an external app to get the newsletter mail list working; yet another layer of discovery. I secured my new and tighter domain name as well (no WordPress name appears in it anymore). This all sounds pretty simple, but for a Gen X’er new to this web creation world, it isn’t so cut and dry. But I did it. And continue to do it. Stay tuned for more website changes as we get close to my debut in Fall.

I am also learning more about marketing, including getting a logo and working with a graphic artist. Yup, I’m also not a person with a degree in marketing or graphic art! Go figure. And it seems like this career of being an author requires knowledge of many different fields. Thank God for knowing geniuses in the various fields. Specifically, being part of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association has been one of the best decisions I have made in my author career because their webinars are outstanding. The amount of marketing tips and ideas I have complied just from some of their expert talks is pages long.

Nerd Alert: All of these roles I have had to learn about and semi-take on has me even more excited about my path for my novel. It’s just that I didn’t realize 2020 would include all of these tiny pieces. A writer just has the idea, writes it, and then goes totally out of their element to get out there in the world (which seems to be the majority of us introverts anyway). It’s an interesting combination of knowledge to acquire, which continues to draw me in. I am not one for the same old boring job day in and day out, so this author life keeps me on my toes…and I love it.

Who knew (not me) that I would get to experience all of these interactions with others as well, be it in social media or otherwise? My main person in this whole process is my publisher (and I’ve learned so much from her already- she’s amazing). I have had some discussions with her for setting up my editing schedule recently, right through to a tentative release date (yet another I-can’t-tell-you-yet, but will soon enough). Right now, I am moving into the second phase of editing (out of 4; refer to my last blog for a nifty little guide picture), called line edits. This phase examines and fixes any issues with sentence structure and wording (so I don’t repeat something 5 million times; you might get tired of that, right?). While this is happening, cover design, the start of the marketing plan, and finding a narrator for the audio book is beginning as well. I am listening to actress voices to see if anyone feels like the right fit for The Difference. All this learning, all of the time; it’s wonderful. Keep it comin’!

I hope you enjoy your learning about the writing process from my behind the scenes posts. Don’t let me stand here alone in my nerdiness, please. I know I’m not alone! So let’s keep rolling with learning from life’s changes together, as well as this whole making my book a reality thing. 😊

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Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Behind the Scenes of a Book’s Life

Have you ever thought about what goes into getting a book in your hands? I have had a fleeting thought about it in the past, but must admit, I never put much thought into it…until I decided I wanted to write a novel. But, even at that point, my knowledge was low. My method was just to write and figure out the next step later. I knew that I would freak myself out with the requirements of the process if I looked it up any sooner (you know, the whole actually getting it ready to be published part, AKA the most important part). So, I just wrote the first draft of The Difference and when starting edits investigated the process. Thank God I waited because anxiety may have gotten the best of me.

Recently I finished my first round of content edits for my publisher. Content editing means analyzing anything that needs to be changed to make sure the story makes sense developmentally, including deleting, pulling a switch-a-roo with parts, or adding to the story. During my edits, I thought about how I have to share this behind the scenes experience with you! So, now you will know a little more of that burning question of “What is a book’s life before I read it?” I bet you always wanted to know.

Let me give you a general overview of the process, or at least my process. I created the manuscript, edited, revised, asked what we call in the writer world “beta readers” to read it (mine are 3 close friends who also are brilliant for various aspects of what I needed in a reader), continued to edit, oh and then edited again. Basically, think about continuing edits infinitely, or until publishing, but more on that in a second.

Once the draft was sent to my beta readers, I started working on establishing my website and social media. This is a necessary component of the process in this day in age because agents and publishers want to see more about you, want to see how many followers you have, and the platforms also show how marketable your book may be if they sign with you (more followers = more interest, logically at least but not always in reality). I am glad I started when I did because it does take a long time to build the connections. I’ll have to write another blog on this topic because I have had some fascinating and surprising situations.

Anyway, I then created my query letter, which is a cover letter in the general world, but it has a specific format in writer world. Us writers call this part “querying.” Letters need to include the word count of the book (oh yes, different genres have different word counts and they REALLY matter), a hook-type description that states the central theme and stakes of the character if they don’t solve some sort of problem, and anything of note about you as an author (awards, past successful novels and such). The letter must be 1 page, usually, and written in the tone of the book. Writers need to make sure the person reading it wants to continue reading, meaning the synopsis of the book the writer may have included or some of the first pages (submissions all have different requirements).

Speaking of the synopsis, writing that was next…and the absolute hardest part of my whole process to date. This document needs to be 2 pages max (sometimes 1) and tell the main points of the story, without any flare of fun in it (straight up facts only). Fitting a novel into this amount of space was a nightmare. Part of my outstanding beta readers’ help was reading the query letter and synopsis, oh, a thousand times (Nah, really 999).

So, once all of that was done, guess what. I edited and edited (and edited) the documents. But also, I listened to the beta reader feedback and edited my manuscript more. During this time, I also started to build a list of agents who I wanted to submit my documents to in the future. At that point, I wasn’t open to going straight to publishers (usually an agent helps you navigate the field, but going this route also means a writer needs to be ready to add yet another step. Publishers need to accept the mauscript from the agent “selling” it; so that’s 2 people to say “yes”). Luckily, my next step brought me to where I am today.

I decided to do a pitch party as another means of querying. These parties take place online where writers could pitch their book to gain agent and publisher interest, usually on Twitter. If the industry professional hearts (likes) the tweet, a writer can see their submission criteria and send them their documents. Many more rules exist, but that’s the gist. There are a few different pitch parties out there, but for my Women’s Fiction genre at the time, only PitMad was an option. So, I worked diligently on my 280-character pitch. Let me tell you how difficult that little task was, BUT extremely worth it. The tiny tweet needed to convey the hook and stakes of the character, plus leave room for comps (comparable books in some manner; topic, writing…), hashtags for the pitch party (#PitMad), and elements of the book, such as if it is a story including mental health (#MH).

I was all ready to go on the first PitMad date on June 6, 2019, having newly “finished” my manuscript (I had be ready to send to industry people right away if requested). I received wonderful interest that day, my official first day of querying. How exciting that my new Twitter friends helped me by retweeting my 3 different pitches I carefully crafted ahead of time, as well as real-life friends signing on for that day only in some of their cases. But, after sending my materials to the interested parties, I got the dreaded rejections.

I ended up sending my documents to more agents in the field, not just the people from the pitch party requests, but continued to receive a big fat “No.” I am sure I can write more on this specific section of the process in the future, but for now, I’m going to keep moving…as I had to do last year in querying. Like that transition?

So, I continued to, you guessed it, edit and query agents. It wasn’t until the second PitMad that my eyes opened to more possibilities for my book baby. Well, I actually took a webinar with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and learned about the different publishing paths. The combination of the two events allowed more flexibility in my thinking. By the second time I participated in PitMad, September 5, 2019, my lucky tweet from the first time around brought even more of a gift to my life; my current publishing contract. Here’s the golden tweet:

EAT PRAY LOVE feel + SHOPAHOLIC quirkiness: Rachel has “it all” but feels empty. Going on an ancestry journey to reveal a family secret has to also bring fulfillment (right?) or she may lose her relationship and worst yet, herself. #PitMad, #A, #WF, #CON, #IMM, #MH

I submitted to the requests I received and then waited for the rejections, but held out hope for a resounding “Yes.” Both results came from the interest from PitMad day, but all that mattered was that I got an offer from one of the requests; a small publisher named Kindred Ink Press, which turns out to be a perfect fit for me. I only queried 5 months total, so in the author world, that is nothing! I expected years of querying. I had put in so much time and effort by that point so don’t get me wrong, I worked for it, but also did not expect publication to happen so fast. I definitely feel blessed.

And after the signing of the publishing contract, on November 15, 2019, I’ve been in the true publication process. My content edits came last month, and I submitted the corrections in the manuscript a week ago. Now, I will have more rounds of edits until publication later this year. Yup, it takes a year to get in your hands from the point of the publisher contract. That doesn’t even include all the other elements I laid out for you above, plus many more details and querying paths, if you could imagine. Here are the main areas of editing:

(I’m in step 1)

Yet another topic of a future post (or two or three…) will be marketing my book. That’s a huge part of bringing it to you, obviously. And that part of a book’s life is open ended with boundless possibilities. But there you have the life of a book before it gets to you as a reader. Can you believe the amount of steps and hard work involved? Can you believe I will be starting it all over again with a second book? LOL! Well, what can I say; the writing bug has captured me. I’ll catch you soon with more of my journey, you know, between edits.

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*Please follow and share my blog if you enjoy reading about my author journey. 

  1. Just click on the “Follow” hover button in the bottom right corner. You will be emailed when new posts are created. 
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