Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Does "Lights Out" Mean for Me?

All morning, I’ve been struggling with this question: what’s the literary equivalent of an athlete playing “lights out”? (For those who don’t know what “lights out” means, please Google ‘Kawhi Leonard, Heat v. Spurs game 3’.)

As some of you might know, I penned (or, rather, typed) the final pages of the first draft of my novel this last week (hurrah!) Probably for the rest of my life, I’ll be editing and rewriting said novel. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

But, the fact that I have a first draft gets me thinking about the next stage of this beautiful and horrific process. In order to get published by a traditional publisher (that’s the dream), I’ll need to find an agent. Apparently, that’s the hard part. So this summer is going to be spent going to workshops and conferences, networking with people and doing my “lights out” best to find an agent and get published.

This weekend, I’ll be at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop in St. Simon Island, GA. It’s a small setting, which will hopefully be great for me to meet people and network.

The following week, I’ll be in the June Residency for my Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of Tampa. It’s a 10-day intensive program where we’re basically eating, drinking and regurgitating all things book-related.

In early August, I’ll be going to the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC and will be participating in a “Pitch Slam”, which is like speed-dating for writers and agents. They put you in a room with 50 agents and you have 90 seconds to pitch your book to any agent in the room. The agent will then have 90 seconds to respond to you, and potentially request a manuscript from you, and then you move on to the next agent. It’s a great opportunity to meet agents, get feedback, and maybe, hopefully, prayerfully, God-willing….find an agent. It’s a long shot (please see this article), but a girl can hope, right?

To play "lights out" means to leave everything on the court, to hold nothing back, and to do your absolute best. So, here's what I've decided to do this summer in order to be the "lights out" writer/connector/networker that I want to be:

1. I can't be afraid to take risks

I read an article recently that encouraged writers to take risks every day. With this in mind, I'm choosing to "leave everything on the court" with my writing, every single day. I am fighting to stay true to myself as a writer and to be vulnerable in every aspect of my writing. I know I won't ever fulfill this perfectly, but I sure am trying.

2. I can’t be afraid to talk to people and ask questions

According to an article I read this week from Fast Company, 70% of people claim that they’re shy. So, that means that pretty much everyone around me is also afraid to talk to people. So at these conferences, hopefully it’ll be a relief when I speak up (regardless of how awkwardly I do it)!

Also, if you’ve ever taught a class before and had a Q&A session afterward, you know how terrifying it is to stand up there and wait for someone, anyone (pretty please) to raise their hand and ask a question. Any question. Doesn’t matter if you don’t even know the answer or if it wasn’t even related to what you were talking about. So I’m making it my goal to craft a question for the speaker/lecturer for every single class that I attend this summer.

3. I HAVE to talk about my book

So, a few years ago I decided that I was going to learn Russian. I took a class at UF and LOVED it. And, I was actually quite good. However, I refused to speak to native speakers in Russian simply because I was embarrassed and afraid. Needless to say, I didn’t grow that much as a Russian speaker.

In some ways, I can feel similarly with my book. It’s vulnerable to talk about something that is so dear to me, and I’m so afraid of someone scoffing or mocking me or simply thinking not-so-good thoughts about me, that I don’t talk about it.

I’m grateful for my wonderful husband, who ALWAYS brings up my book to people and practically forces me to tell others about it. But now I need to be able to do that on my own. Confidently. With poise. And clarity.

We’ll see how it goes.

4. No matter what, I have to keep hoping, praying and persevering

Let’s say I get through this summer, and the stars did not align, and I didn’t find an agent (which, again, is very likely), I am resolving now that I will not give up. Please remind me of this fact later on.

As I continue in my journey, your prayers and supplications are requested and much needed. Thank you in advance! :)

How about you? Have you set any goals for yourself for this summer? Feel free to share in the comments :)