Tag Archive | query letters

The Yarn Harlot Commands

Well, that was an unintentional break from blogging I took this week! I’d been enjoying my habit of almost-every day, but Monday and Tuesday I fell into revising my novel. I was at the end and it was going really well and I just couldn’t pull myself away. Plus, there’s not much to say about that. I was writing, it was fun. But I made it to the end, and the first draft is complete and now it’s been set aside to simmer for a little while.

Tuesday night I got another rejection, the 5th. I also pulled out the manuscript I sent to agents a few years ago, and found all the query letters and responses. I got two requests for fulls, as well as some personal feedback from sample chapters, and the overwhelming theme was “It’s good, but not good enough.” So yesterday I didn’t feel like blogging. Instead I moped and knitted, finding comfort in my yarn. And I finished my Color Block wrap and it’s so marvelous. The tails are even woven in; it just needs blocking.IMG_5630And I know, at least I’ve submitted the books. And the fact that I got the requests, not to mention actual thoughtful notes from agents, should be encouraging. That’s what I’m trying to focus on today. I’d like to think I’m a better writer than I was ten years ago. So that’s the manuscript coming up next. I still love that story. I still think it has potential. Let’s see if I can get it to better than “good enough”.

Here’s something my knitting friends will appreciate: this weekend is the Knitting in the Heartland conference, and the keynote speaker is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. SQUEEE, right?? I bought tickets for me and my Knitting SIL months ago. Then she and her family planned a vacation…the SAME weekend! Whatever. Poor planning, if you ask me, but she didn’t. Anyway, I was thinking about having to drive 45 minutes each way on crazy highways with construction and in the dark (I’m not a fan of those things), and going by myself, and starting to talk myself out of going. I tweeted about it, and this morning, the Yarn Harlot herself had replied to my tweet! IMG_5634There you have it. I have no choice. When the Yarn Harlot says you should go, you should go. So I will go and I will take my knitting and there will be lovely friendly knitters there AND those of us attending the keynote address get to shop from the vendors afterward! I will have plenty to blog about this weekend, that’s for sure.

I’ll probably take my Hitchhiker with me. It’s going more slowly than the previous ones. Maybe I’m finally getting a little tired of the pattern. But yesterday, instead of getting retail therapy at a yarn store, I shopped my stash and found my next project: IMG_5635It’s going to become a Tailwind Shawl; I just need to work out the sequence of the striping before I cast on. With any luck, I’ll have progress to show you tomorrow!

Good Wrap, Bad Hat, and Writing

We’ll call this Making Progress Monday. Look what I did yesterday!! IMG_5622I’ve got just a little bit left of that medium gray, and then it’s the last color and my Color Block Wrap will be done! It knits up so much faster than I expected, but it probably helps that I spent yesterday watching TV and knitting. I started Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, and fell in and couldn’t stop. Total binge day. This was perfect knitting for it too, mindless enough that I could keep my eyes on the screen most of the time. I wish I could have watched the whole series but I have two episodes left and the hubby says I have to wait and watch them with him. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. Maybe I’ll finish it tonight.

And the wrap was actually the second thing I worked on yesterday. I started out making a hat with some purple wool, because I needed a break from all the gray and wanted some color. It was easy to make, knit up quickly, and I like how it looks here: IMG_5620But this morning I put it on a head to take photos for this post, and…well. I kind of hate it. IMG_5624It’s not the pattern’s fault at all. I love the zigzags and the way the decreases look, but it came out so much more slouchy than I expected.IMG_5625I’ve made hats with this much slouch and they’re fine, but it’s not what I wanted this time. I’ll try it on my own head to make sure, but I’m thinking this one will be frogged and redone with fewer stitches and/or smaller needles.

I made progress with the writing this weekend too, on Saturday while my family was off camping. I took a break from the memoir I’m querying and instead focused on my novel. It’s the first one I wrote, probably the closest to my heart, and all I have is a printout from an old computer. So I’m typing it up and revising heavily as I go, and I was on a roll on Saturday. I was deep in a writing trance and got over 6000 words done. Granted, it’s revision so maybe not as impressive as pouring out that many new words, but I’m delighted anyway. I’m over halfway through it, and once it’s all typed up, I’ll leave it alone for a while and let it simmer again. I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing, and that was one of the pieces of advice that really struck me. (Sidebar: I loved his book; it was interesting and honest and smart. I didn’t learn a whole lot I didn’t already know about writing, but it made me feel I was doing the right things, and most importantly, it made me want to WRITE.) Anyway! I know this novel will need another big revision. I already have thoughts of what I need to add/change etc on the next go-round, but I’ve learned from experience that it’ll go more smoothly if I come at it with fresh eyes. I’ve also learned that I enjoy the writing part much more than the querying agents part!

One last thought: there’s been lots of buzz around Instagram lately, lots of posts asking people to “turn on notifications” so their posts don’t get lost, lots of anger that Instagram is changing their algorithm. I love Instagram the way it is, but I’m not freaking out about it. If nothing else, I have to accept that it’s a free app, and it’s a business, and they have to do what they feel is right for their business. We let them know what our thoughts are on the change, and now it’s up to me to adapt or move on.

In the interest of adapting, today I went through the accounts I follow and unfollowed several of the celebrity accounts, the bigger accounts I can see elsewhere or just don’t enjoy that much. Now my Follow list is a carefully curated list of crafters/knitters/dyers/makers (and friends of course) so whatever photos show up in my feed, I’ll be happy.

I’m a small fish: I don’t have a lot of followers and I’m excited when I get 20 likes on a photo, so this algorithm change might kill what little feedback I do get. And if it does, well. That will suck. And I will either keep posting photos because it pleases me, or I won’t. I have a new Ello account (I’m bonnyknits there too) and I might start using that more than Instagram eventually. But I’m going to be patient and give Instagram a shot. And while I do, I’m going to be generous with my Likes and comments, especially with the smaller makers/crafters. I really do think it will be okay.

I’ll leave you with my buddy Jack. He was so happy the hubby took the kids camping this weekend because it meant he could sleep next to me as long as he wanted! IMG_5610Happy Monday, friends!

Kindness Helps

I have to start by thanking you for the encouragement you gave me yesterday (and have given me in the past)! Each comment made me smile and bolstered my spirit, and I appreciate the thoughtful support so much. It’s things like this that make me think the world is made up of mostly good people, and we’re just the quiet ones most of the time. But look at the knitting community, the writing community, heck, look at Jenny Lawson’s (The Bloggess) wonderful tribe supporting those who suffer with mental health illnesses. I’ve come across so many truly kind, generous, caring people. It pleases me. Let’s keep it up. It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind, right?

Okay, so, what did I do with my peaceful day yesterday? I did revise my query letter, and I’m quite pleased with it, and I sent it off to four more agents! Once that was done, I felt I had earned some knitting time, so I settled in with the puppies and my Color Block Wrap. It works up FAST! IMG_5616I sped through the second color and onto the third in one evening. I’m not convinced the stripes are as big as the ones in the pattern so I might measure it this morning and make sure it’ll end up a wearable length. Just in case I need to frog, I haven’t trimmed my long yarn tails yet. However it ends up, it will be the coziest scarf/wrap ever.

IMG_5613For now, the puppies and I would like to wish a happy Easter weekend to those who celebrate, and a happy regular weekend to those who don’t!

Getting Over Rejection

Let’s play Bad News/Good News. Which do you want first? Bad? Okay: I’ve now gotten four rejections on my memoir queries. They’ve all been very kind and gentle, but they’re still No. The first was fine, the second was disappointing for a moment, the third was a deep breath, and the fourth kicked my butt for some reason. I really was expecting this, but apparently that doesn’t make it easier. Those rejections, combined with the knowledge that memoirs are hard to sell and have to be extremely unusual and compelling, had me thinking I should scrap the current manuscript and rewrite it as fiction.

But, good news: after several days of extreme self-doubt, I feel ready to get back to work. I have more agents to query; I might as well get through the list before giving up. I had a very kind friend who offered to read my query letter and synopsis, so I’ve got some strong feedback to help me as I revise. My family is heading out for the day so I’ll have some quiet time to really focus…if I can resist the call of my knitting.

I finished the newest hat yesterday; it was a super quick one. IMG_5606The pattern is called Sneaky Snakes and the easy 4-row lace pattern made a nifty squiggly pattern. There are only three decrease rounds so you definitely want to make sure you’ve got a long enough body. I like how mine ended up.IMG_5607With that done, I made some more progress on my Color Block Wrap. I’ve got the first block done, but I only made it to 65 stitches instead of 69. It’s fine, though. IMG_5608It’s delicious to knit and I’m looking forward to moving on to the second color tonight. It will be my reward for revising my query letter!

Writing by Numbers

4: queries sent yesterday

8: queries sent total

1: rejection received

31: agents who rep memoir on my list. This is not a very high number. I’m sure I can find more if I keep searching, though.

10: agents who require a proposal for non-fiction queries. I confess, these are lower on my list. A proposal includes so much detailed stuff: platform, comp titles, background, expertise, why is my book different/better, table of contents with chapter summaries etc…and well, it’s not just that it’s harder than the query/synopsis stuff, but it’s also that I don’t have as much to fill out a proposal. No major platform. Expertise? Um, it’s my life. And maybe that means my manuscript won’t be accepted, and if so, I’ll deal with that. But in the meantime, I’m working on compiling all this proposal stuff and I’ll give it a shot.

3: entries I get on today’s Twitter PitMad contest! I can pitch my book 3 times, and if an agent likes/retweets it, they want me to query them. Fingers crossed. Here was my first entry from this morning: SAHM finds new life in retail management, deals with theft, lies & drunkenness until illness forces her to check priorities.

4: library books I checked out yesterday. I got Stephen King’s On Writing, which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet, and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, which is supposed to be a fantastic memoir. Also got two YA novels for fun.

0: new completed knitting projects. But I’ve been working on my Moonstone Wrap, and I’ve used up the first two skeins and am on the second pair, so it should be done just in time for warm weather to be here, haha! IMG_5516For those celebrating today, have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s day!

Memoir or Novel?

It’s voting day here in Missouri and you can bet I’ll be out there doing my part! I hope all my fellow voters today do the same. Now, maybe I should have a more patriotic project to show off today, but all I’ve got is the completed green hat. Good enough for March, I think. IMG_5509IMG_5510Pattern is Duality, yarn is Malabrigo Rios in Lettuce. I’ve got enough leftover of it and the teal that I really want to make a striped version now.

Confession time: I didn’t get my two queries done yesterday. Somehow I got stuck in a self-defeating mood, convinced that I’m wasting my time trying to sell this memoir that no one will want to read. And I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve written other stuff too. I’ve got two completed novels in my files. So I thought about how I never did anything with those, and how the one I’m currently revising is surely trite and common. Then I thought about how I’m still struggling to build my Etsy business, and my proofreading client base, and suddenly it hit me that I’m trying all these things and none of them are working out the way I want them to. And bam, before you know it, my head is in a not-so-good place.

Therefore, I spent much of the day outside with the puppies instead. It was a beautiful day, so I don’t consider it time wasted. I’ll consider it a mental health day.IMG_5507

I soaked up sunshine and puppy loving and the smell of spring flowers. I wrote in my journal, and I knit on my hat.

IMG_5505

And today is a better day. Nope, I’m not giving up yet! I may still be unconvinced about my memoir but I’m going to work on revising my synopsis and query letter and then contact more agents. But I’m also pondering the idea of fictionalizing it, if this doesn’t work out. There are a few benefits to that route: I get more flexibility and freedom in storytelling, there’s no legal/liability issue from using the real company’s name, fiction is simpler to query (no lengthy, complex proposals), more agents rep fiction than memoir, and fiction is more marketable. But my concern is whether I would lose the heart of the story by making it fiction. Maybe part of its appeal is that it’s honest and true, and if it were a novel, it wouldn’t be as relatable.

What do you think, readers out there? Do you like non-celebrity memoirs? Do you seek them out? What draws you to them?

Here’s Grace’s opinion. Make of it what you will. IMG_5506

Don’t forget to vote, whenever it’s your turn! Every single vote counts!

Boring Wrap, Green Hat

My Manos Maxima wrap is going swimmingly. I made lots of progress yesterday while I watched a movie on a wet, gray day.IMG_5502But then…I kind of got bored with it. It is a really simple pattern, after all, mostly just stockinette. (This is why I think I will never be able to make a sweater.) So I had to set it aside and do something more interesting for a while, like cast on for a new Duality hat in a pretty green Malabrigo Rios. IMG_5501This is what I got done during our viewing of Apollo 13, and there were several spots I had to stop knitting and just watch. It’s just such a good movie, you know? Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise are so good, and Ed Harris is a bit attractive, and it’s all suspenseful and funny and stuff. So yeah, it was a good Sunday. Jack agrees; he appreciated being able to rest after all the excitement of the birthday party. IMG_5497This morning I was resting on my couch with a cup of tea, appreciating the view of the magnolia tree in my front yard. We had one at the house where I grew up, so this is a lovely reminder, plus it’s just a gorgeous tree. IMG_5500I can see it from the window of my craft room too, where I sit at my desk. Just another reason why I love this house. Maybe it will inspire me today as I get back to work on query letters. I got my first rejection yesterday, a very kind form rejection, and it’s fine. I’m expecting plenty of those. I’ve got lots more agents to query, and I still haven’t searched through the new Manuscript Wishlist website yet. I think my goal will be to send out two more queries today; that seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

I hope your Monday is productive as well!

Frogging and Query Letters

Ugh. I need to frog my Because I Love You Wrap and start over. Okay, no, I don’t really *need* to, but I want to and won’t be happy with it if I don’t. Here’s what I’ve got so far: IMG_5440I love how it’s knitting up, and I even watched a video about intarsia and figured out the yarn-twisting bit so there’s no hole where I picked up the teal for the stripe. Great, right? Right! But then I looked at the pattern again and realized that in the second half of the shawl, the stockinette sections are much bigger because of how the shawl grows. I would much rather have the variegated yarn in the big sections of stockinette than the solid teal. Maybe it’s a minor thing, maybe it won’t make a huge difference, but in my mind right now, I’m thinking it will. The only downside is that I’ll lose those two lengths of teal yarn (unless I just use them and have even more ends to weave in). But at least I figured it out before I got even further into the wrap!

Here’s some good news though: remember my Duality hat from yesterday? The designer noticed my project page on Ravelry and asked to feature it on the pattern page!! I love when that happens! You can see it here, and remember, today’s the last day to get the pattern for free!

And more good news (maybe): I sent my first query letters to agents yesterday!! I don’t know if I’ll ever think my memoir manuscript is “done” but it feels done. It feels ready, although of course as soon as I sent the letters I was consumed with doubt and self-loathing. I only did three; they take longer than you’d think. You have to determine each agent’s requirements, tailor your query letter for each agent, then copy and paste the requested materials (and in my case, reformat it when it goes all wonky in the email). I also had to write a brief synopsis, since one agent requested it along with the query letter. Each one is so different, it seems like. And there’s so much pressure to be PERFECT with that one short letter.

Ugh. It’s hard hard hard. But also so exciting. It feels wonderful to move on to this step, to believe in myself enough to send my book out for others to judge. And they will, and most of them will reject it. I recognize that, and it’s okay. I know there are thousands of books written every year and agents have to turn down perfectly good books just because it didn’t call their name. I only need one, one fabulous agent who believes she can sell this book to a publisher. Until I find her, I’ll keep sending out queries and waiting patiently.

And I’ll knit of course, to calm my nerves while I’m pretending to be patient.

Okay, fine, you’re right. Yes, I’ll play with the puppies too. IMG_5414

I guess I am a writer

Have you ever heard that saying,”If you’re a writer, you must write”? Like, ‘real’ writers feel compelled to write. I do think there’s a little truth to that. For a very long time, I tried to write fiction. I have two completed novels in my file cabinet, but my fiction writing is very sporadic. It’s HARD, you know? A few months ago, I decided that because I didn’t feel called to work on those books, or to write others, I wasn’t a writer. I often get those little “What if” moments, thinking “Oh, that would be a cool story!” But then I don’t do anything with them. Therefore, my self-deprecating brain decided that meant I wasn’t a writer.

But then I had an epiphany: I have this blog. I’ve been writing here for quite a while now. I’ve lost track of how long, but I’m thinking it’s around two years. Before that, I journaled. I was being too limiting: I AM a writer. I do feel compelled to write. I don’t write every day, though I’m trying, but I write often. And even though I started this blog primarily to talk about my knitting, I’ve written about a lot of different things: dogs, depression, loss, grief, parenting, reading, and now writing.

I AM a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction, but I am a writer. The things I am compelled to write are true, they’re stories of me and my experiences, my thoughts, my opinions. Maybe that’s selfish, or egotistical, to think that people would want to read about me. But maybe it’s also helpful to read about real people. I know I enjoy reading other people’s personal stories. They help me learn about myself, feel better about myself. They inspire me and teach me. They help me feel not so alone in this often-hard world. So why couldn’t my stories do the same? It’s a lofty goal, for sure, and I don’t know if I’m there yet. All I know is that this is what compels me to write, this is what comes out easily and with passion, these are the stories that read true.

Years ago, back in the stone age when a writer used manila envelopes, snail mail, and SASEs, I sent my second novel out to agents. I probably queried fifty agents, and I received a LOT of rejection slips. Those were disheartening, of course. But! I received one “Query me later”, one handwritten “Well written but not right for me” and one request for a full. No, I didn’t get an agent, and the book didn’t get published. But given the number of queries agents receive, I consider those responses as small successes. At least three people saw potential in my writing. Not just people, publishing professionals. Why didn’t I keep going, keep pushing with this book? No idea. Laziness, fear, frustration. I also had a young child at the time, so I could have easily gotten distracted. I’ve thought about going back to this book, but again, I haven’t pushed myself. Both my novels were written on old computers and revising them would mean completely re-typing them into my current laptop. Yep, that would be a good opportunity to revise. And I might still. But my current manuscript is where my heart is right now, my little memoir from my retail life. So that’s where I’ll be pushing. The real work begins now, as I move into the realm of query letters and proposals. I have to convince someone that my book matters. What tricks or tips do you have for writing query letters?

Last night, I handed off a freshly printed manuscript to my husband. Then, to distract myself, I started a new hat. It’s a lovely dark emerald green, and it will grow up to be a slouchy hat. IMG_4822

Writing a Book is Hard

I wrote this thing, this book-type thing. It’s a memoir of my years in retail management, and I’ve been working on it for over five years now. Today, I finished it. I’ve done all I can do by myself. I’ve written, re-written, re-organized, cut and pasted and added and deleted. I’ve read it and re-read it, had a few people read early versions that bear little resemblance to the manuscript now sitting beside me. And I think it’s done. I mean, of course, it’s not DONE done. I’m sure there will be more edits in the future. But I feel good about it (as good as one can feel about their own writing). It FEELS done. I think the major revisions are done, and now it’ll be tweaking to take out boring sections, flesh out good sections, building up the themes. For that, I need people.

My husband will be first, and I know he will be supportive and encouraging, and gentle in his suggestions. I’ve got a former co-worker in mind too, to make sure I wasn’t unfairly harsh or critical of our team. She’s a smart, well-read woman whom I trust to be honest but kind. And then I need someone who’s not related to me and who wasn’t part of that retail world, and I’m still pondering that. How do you find a good beta reader?

Then, I have to figure out what steps to take next. It would seem that memoirs are hard to sell, based on what I’ve read from agents. They need to be exceptional, and I’m not convinced I am, or that my story is. I’m a good writer, but does this story stand out? Why would a reader pick my book? What would they get from it? Is my story different enough from so many others? Would an agent even consider me without a strong platform? What the heck IS a platform anyway?

I’m still trying to find answers to those. And I’m pondering self-publishing too. It would be quicker, and I know that most of my former co-workers would love to read it. But I can’t help it: there’s a part of me that wants the validation of traditional publication. It would mean that someone out there valued my writing, thought it was worthy of sharing with the world. But why does that matter to me? Why can’t my own opinion be enough? Because I’ve seen too many self-published books that should never have been published, and I don’t want people to put me in that category.

So I’m going to find the list of memoir-friendly agents that I made, and I’m going to start researching. What do I lose by trying? (I mean besides my self-esteem and confidence.) Maybe I’ll get rejected 100 times, and then I’ll reconsider self-publishing. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that one agent who thinks it’s worthy. Wouldn’t that be something?