A Love Letter to Gals with Goals

12/31/16

Dear Gals with Goals,

Two years of trying a goal per month and blogging about it with my best friend, Angela.  And now, on 12/31/16, it comes to a close.  We will meet for brunch today at the same restaurant we had brunch two years ago when we came up with this idea, we will replay all the goals and all the feelings and all the adventures, we will overeat and order champagne and try to take a selfie while we clink our glasses together, and we will excitedly move into the next season of life that this blog launched us into.

I won’t recap every goal from January of 2015 because most of you have been following along and there’s hundreds of blog posts to prove the adventures we went on.  But what I’ll say is – as I sit here in my bed writing this final blog post, there’s a book on my night stand that I received in the mail two days ago.  It’s a slim book with a turquoise cover and in yellow font in all capital letters on the bottom is the author’s name, and the author’s name is mine.  When I posted my first blog post on January 1, 2015 I never thought I’d have a copy of a book I had written sitting on my night stand by the time I posted by final blog post on December 31, 2016.

To say this blog changed my life would be an understatement.  What started as a cure for two high-achieving-goal-focused-perfectionist-type of gals turned into adventures and failures and accomplishments beyond what we imagined.

I recorded myself singing and posted it on YouTube because of this blog.  I wrote 30 love letters to people because of this blog.  I won $20,000 in Las Vegas because of this blog.  I did a fitness photo shoot and got 9 other women to do the same because of this blog.  I doubled my grocery bills by switching to organic foods because of this blog.  I connected with people who I never would have met otherwise because of this blog.  I flew to New York City because of this blog.  I encouraged people to set 30 day goals because of this blog.  I learned how much I loved writing because of this blog.  I got to meet up with Angela often and have full, fun, and long conversations because of this blog.  I published my first book because of this blog.

I have spent countless days feeling the ache in my gut that comes with nervousness every time I shared a blog post.  I have questioned myself and worried if people would judge me.  I worried if people thought what I was doing was dumb and if they hated my writing style.  All of it, all of those normal feelings that hold people back from trying new things, sharing their feelings, writing for the public to read…I have dealt with all of those things.  And I still do.  But what I have learned is, it’s much sweeter on the other side when we don’t let those things hold us back.  The rewards on the other side are so sweet, so fun, and so freeing.

So to my besties, my coworkers, my distant friends, my neighbors, my anyone-I’m-connected-with-on-Facebook, possible strangers, and my family – I am here to tell you (this is an order and I’m pointing my finger right at you) you should go after the biggest goals you can dream!  Do them.  Share them.  Be scared.  And then do them anyway.  Fly to New York.  Start your blog.  Take the singing lessons.  Write your book.  Sing your songs.  Be healthier.  Learn to draw.  Audition for anything and everything.  Get your life organized.  Get debt free.  Wake up early.  Be the only girl in the poker room.  Book the flight.  Buy tickets to that thing.  Use YouTube to learn the things you want to learn.  Ask the dumb questions.  Take the class.  Buy the camera.  Paint that one room in your house.  Buy the domain name and start the website.  Just go do!  Write down your biggest goal ever, make the worlds longest list of all the things it takes to accomplish it, and spend 30 minutes a day doing those things.  The time will pass anyway, just go do it.  And more importantly, none of it has to be perfect.  None of it at all.  It’ll be messy and clunky and uncomfortable and you may need to change courses, but go freaking do the thing you have been wanting to do for a billion years.  Go!  Do!  Now!

And when you think you have haters, or you’re scared of what people will say, or you feel unqualified (see also: imposter syndrome) then do it anyway.  Or email me and I will repeat all these words to you.  I promise you (and I’m qualified to say this after two years), people will love you for it.  They will see you doing the thing you’ve always wanted to do, and they’ll breath a big sigh of relief and feel a sense of freedom that they can go do the thing they’ve been wanting to do now too.  And if they don’t, don’t be friends with them.

In closing <<big breath in and exhale>>…

I want to sincerely thank every person who read our blog posts over the last two years.  All the encouragement, comments, likes, teasing, whatever…it kept us going.  If nothing else, I hope the fact that we put ourselves out there gives you a sense of encouragement to just be you and to go do the same.  Take imperfect selfies, have grammatical errors in a blog, it’s all in the name of fun and know that Angela and I are here to cheer on anyone in whatever adventures they take on!

Thank you to Angela.  You’re the best.  You’re simply the best.  You do what you say you’re going to do, you never judge, you always listen, you love adventures.  You’re the real deal.  <<fist bump>>

And the biggest thank you of all goes to my husband, Chris.  He built this website for us, answered a million questions about it, showed us how to post blog posts and upload pictures, he does all the technical stuff and pays for the domain name, and generally speaking encourages me in everything I do and keeps me moving forward in all my goals.  And life.  And technology.

As for the next season for me, the end of this blog is not the end of my stories…

I will be launching my own website, new blog included, in the early part of 2017.  It will be www.brookeignethocker.com for those dying to know and anxious to bookmark it (if you visit it now, you’ll be in an infinite loop because it’ll take you back to Gals with Goals until it’s ready to roll).  The new blog will run the gamut of topics and fun antics.  Also, I am currently counting down the days until my book launch on February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day!) where my book will be available on Amazon.  And last but not least, in the spirit of goals and New Years…people always ask me what my goals will be for next year.  Other than growing/continuing my focus on writing through blogging and starting a second book, you can find me not hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock for 365 days.  I’ve graduated to year-long commitments.  And I’m convinced this will change my life too.

Farewell for now.  I hope you visit me on my new site next year.  And if not, I hope it’s because you’re too busy going after your goals.

Always,

Brooke Nichole Ignet Hocker

 

Month 23 of 24

Angela and I are on month 23 of a 24 month experiment.  We’re on the home stretch of a project that grew out of long talks and the desire for something more exciting and adventurous.  If you’re just tuning in…where have you been the last 23 months?!  We have each been trying a new goal per month for almost 2 years and blogging about those experiences along the way.

Some of you loyal followers may have noticed a little radio silence on my end in the last few months, after consistent blogging every few days for a year and a half.  Here’s a quick recap (the weird kind of recap you get in 30 seconds when your favorite Netflix show has a year long break and suddenly you’re trying to piece together all the things you remember from the last episodes but the characters and events seems like a foggy memory).

I didn’t blog in September and October.  I was supposed to do something that was Angela’s pick in September and I was supposed to do a Bible study in October.  Angela gave me some grace when I would sulk to her over texts and dinners and emails about my heavy workload at work right now, and I’m pretty sure I missed the entire month of October.  It’s like, I went to work, did a lot of powerpoint presentations, and then last thing I remember I was passing out Halloween candy and intending to compliment one of the cute girls who came up in a leopard print costume by saying to her parents “she’s the happiest Halloweener we’ve seen all night.”  It was confusing.  The choice of the word “Halloweener” is one Chris still won’t let me live down.  But in any case, after a year and a half of goals and adventures, life has just handed me some very busy days that have left little steam for cleverness and motivation for my original goals.  I’m using words like “Halloweener” guys, I just need rest, I guess.

So here’s some random things I’ve been wanting to share along the way, and what you can expect next as we close out these 2 years!

1.  My book is releasing on February 14, 2017!  Remember how I’m writing a book in the midst of all this?!  While I’ve been quiet on the blog, I have been spending my weekends working through final edits and there’s officially a date, a book cover idea in mind, talks of a book launch party, and an idea for a second book.  Looking back on all of the goals and all of the blog posts – even with the failed blogging attempts in the last couple months – I will be publishing a book before I’m 35 (1 month before I’m 35 to be exact) which is a huge life goal and has made all of this worth it!

2.  Remember when Angela picked my goal for me last year and it was to speak at The Moth?  And then I never made it to a Moth event?  Well, during my radio silence period….I went to The Moth!  I didn’t speak though, so don’t get too excited.  (The Moth is like Ted Talks, but not as formal.  It’s more an underground type of thing where trendy people show up in some “only cool pool know about this place” type of bar, they put their name in a bag, names are drawn, those selected give a quick talk, there’s winners, it’s amazing).  Chris and I went to Portland in September and there happened-to-be a Moth talk night going on.  I didn’t put my name in or prepare a talk because I wanted to just check out how these things go down first, but it was a very cool experience and we heard talks and learned things about people we never would’ve expected.  I will definitely hit up other Moth events and put my name in the hat in the future.

3.  My actual goal for November, which is what I’m supposed to be blogging about right now is building a personal website.  I chose that goal because after 2 years of blogging I’ve realized I love writing and blogging is the perfect forum.  I knew I had the book brewing in the background too.  And I had the Tedx talk under my belt.  So this month I will still be pursuing that goal so I’ve got a one stop shop to share all my words in all those ways.  I have been talking with Chris some about domain names and what I want the website to look like and what to include.  The site will include a blog section where I’ll keep the blogging going but it won’t be focused on a monthly goal or specific theme.  I’ve had a ton of ideas on topics to write on, but haven’t put them here since we try to keep it focused on our monthly goals.  So that will be my forum going forward.  I’ll shamelessly share the link here and every other social media platform once things get up and running.

So that’s the nutshell.  That’s the weird and disjointed recap.  It’s good to get back on the ole blog.  Updates about the new website forthcoming.  Until then…Happy Halloweener.

The Fourth Bedroom

My goal for August is to decorate our fourth bedroom.  I wouldn’t normally need a goal centered around such things, but here’s some background…

In 2008, we bought a four bedroom house in a good school district…you know…for the kids.  I mean, we never really said if we’d have 0, 1, or 2 kids – and depending upon the day our answer could be any one of those answers.  So, upon our house closing I immediately painted our living room, formal living room, half bath, master bedroom, master bathroom, loft, full spare bathroom, office, and the spare bedroom that you can see right when you walk up our stairs.  The only room that was untouched was the fourth bedroom, because, well,…the kids.  It used to sit completely empty, but when we bought ourselves a new bed we ended up moving our old frame and mattress into that room.  I later put sheets, an old quilt, and an extra blanket and pillows in there and Chris began referring to it as his “nap room” – all the while my mom would say “I can’t believe you have that old quilt in there” when she would visit because we’re kind of home decor snobs.  I guess I was just reserving it until we figured out what we wanted to do with that room (because clearly once you decorate it, it can never be changed) and had considered turning it into an office for myself a number of times.  For now, my mom likes to call it her room and claim she’s moving in with us someday (sidenote: my grandma has a room at my mom’s house she claims is her room too, I guess it runs in the family).

Sometime towards the end of last year I actually imagined what it would be like if we did someday decide to have kid(s) <—I don’t even know why I added the “s” on that?  Anyway, I realized that if I had a kid and they were anything like me, they’d likely be scared of the dark.  They would likely bolt into our room in the middle of the night if they were scared.  And the position of the fourth bedroom would require running by the stairs where they could fall down them and injury themselves.  And then I realized the other spare bedroom that has been painted and decorated for years would be a better fit if we ever so choose to have kids (this is not some sort of teaser…there’s no talk of kids right now).  So after that random and made up scenario….I added this to my list of goals and here we are.  It’s simply going to be an extra spare bedroom.  It’s going to be a glorified “nap room” for Chris where I’ll tell him not to touch the decorative pillows, and a room my mom can feel good about the home decor in when she visits and pretend she’s going to live with us someday.

I spent this weekend doing step 1 which is painting.  Here’s an update of the current situation.

Here’s the sad little bare room it started as…

before

Paint samples.  Oddly enough, as I was shopping for paint samples in Columbus, my mom was doing the same in Dayton.  When I text and asked her what colors she liked best…I happen to have the same sample in my hand.  Needless to say, I selected one of those because my mom has good taste and I figured it was fate (and a little freaky!).

paint smaples

Paint choice: Polished Silver.  I knew I wanted a light blue/gray even though I am convinced gray paint is like women putting their hand on their hip in pictures.  It’s like I’m so over it, but you can’t deny it makes everything look better.

paint can

Here’s the brand I chose.  Lowes had a $5 rebate on their paints and the girl behind the counter who kept answering with “well, it depends on who wants it” every time I asked her a question (uh…I am the one who wants it, and I am the one who is asking) said this brand would only require 1 coat.  Sold.

paint brand

These 2 little things are must haves for trim.  Don’t even mess with those square shaped trim pads.  My mom introduced me to these little brushes with the tiny handle years ago and they have proven to be the best when you’re trying to hold them in a tight spot/corners.

supplies

Let’s get this party started…

paint

Start was delayed when I remembered I had to tape off the trim.  I hate that part.  If it’s a room that has been painted a number of times, sometimes, I’ll just skip that part and say “I’ll just be REAL careful.”  But, this room had never been painted, and, when you’re married to someone who is super organized, clean, and pays attention to detail….you tape the trim.

tape on

Trim…why does it take so long?  Not pictured:  phone playing Michael Jackson Pandora station.

trim

I used a filter on this to lighten the picture overall, so it appears a little more blue than gray (which was actually what I wanted in the first place before I settled for gray).

partial paint

I didn’t use a filter on this picture so I could capture as closely as I could what the real color looks like.  I’m pleased with the way the paint looks, but semi-depressed that the color looks almost identical to our other spare room. <<sigh>>

paint done

Before the paint party started, I did spend a good amount of time circling Home Goods for bedding and curtains.  This is the general direction I’m going on bedding.  More on that in the next blog post…

bedding

That Time I Didn’t Do What I Said I was Going to Do

My goal this month is to find a new volunteer opportunity.  I’m typically not the volunteer type and pretty stingy with my time – keeping a busy schedule otherwise and measuring success by productivity.  Chris and I have been doing Meals on Wheels for a year and a half, so I can’t say I’m all “must-be-productive” busy and no community service, but I was planning to try something new this month and expand my horizons/serve in new ways.  I thought I’d find some awesome volunteer opportunity and write about it and fast forward a year later everyone would’ve been so inspired and now everyone is volunteering.

Well, I haven’t done any new volunteer opportunities.  Matter of fact, I even contacted Meals on Wheels and said we wouldn’t be delivering anymore (for right now at least).

See, sporadically throughout this year, I started researching different volunteer opportunities.  I looked at things that may use my “corporate strengths” – Dress for Success, helping women get back into the workforce, volunteering to help people with resumes, etc.  I looked at things that may break down my awkwardness around kids – Nationwide Children’s Hospital (by the way, if you’re thinking of volunteering there, plan on 6 weeks for paperwork and doctor check ups, TB shots, etc).  I previously went to an informational session for a non-profit who helps teenage mother’s…since that topic hits close to home.  I even reflected on a quote I read about whatever breaks your heart is what your calling is (I butchered the quote, but you get the gist)…which has led to my compassion for the elderly.  I researched different senior living homes and volunteer opportunities.  I randomly landed on “adopt a troop” sites when googling “volunteer opportunities.”  I considered starting my own non-profit focused on becoming a pen pal with people who are lonely.  And….then….I did none of it.  And even better…I just didn’t even blog period until day 23 of the month.

It’s been a year and a half since Angela and I started this blog.  I’ve done 17 months worth of goals, and now on month 18, I’m just tired.  And even more-so, I just found myself emotionally and physically tired in the last couple months following my mother-in-laws passing.  So, I wouldn’t say I have been a slacker on my goal, but as June arrived, I decided to just make a deliberate decision to serve within my own home and my own family.  I just didn’t have it in me to start signing up for more soon-to-be obligations at hospitals, nursing homes, and non-profits.  I just wanted to focus on Chris and spending time with my own family.  I’m sure as life carries on and maybe my workload at work reduces some or as seasons change, I may get the notion to jump into some sort of amazing volunteer opportunity and changing the lives of people one food bank shift at a time – but, until then, I just can’t even right now.

So – if you’re interested in how I have ended up spending the month of June thus far….  I have been getting up earlier than normal (throwback to Jan 2015 goal) and getting into work as early as I can.  I have been completely swamped there (throwback to..basically always) and then I’ve been leaving work no later than 5pm (throwback to never) to meet Chris at the gym to lift with him.  In almost 8 years of marriage, we really had only worked out together a small number of times together (even though it was our original shared interest) – other than occasionally running the stairs together at Hoover Reservoir or riding to the gym together and doing our own thing.  I am 5 weeks in on crashing his lifting parties with his gym friends, and I may even be cramping their style slightly or slowing them down a bit, but this was my way of focusing on my health (mental and physical)…and secretly spending more time with Chris.  P.S.  He’s basically the strongest person I know.

Also, I’ve been spending more time with family.  At the end of May we went to Tennessee to visit Chris’ step-dad, and then I hit the road a couple weeks ago with my mom and Grandma and we headed to Lexington to visit my great grandparents on one side and my Grandpa on the other side, and then we went to my sister-in-laws the following weekend for a cookout.  Normally, I spend the weekends either doing the goal I set for my blog, or blogging about the goal for my blog, or rushing through plans to get things done.  I’ve just been keeping it simple and doing work, gym, and family things and tried to just calm it down on the ‘I need to rush home and finish X, Y, and Z’

So that’s where I’m at.  You know darn well my pride has gotten in the way as I dramatically throw myself over the side of the couch and tell Chris I couldn’t do it this month.  But, as mentioned before, this blog ain’t about bein’ perfect….

More importantly, here are some pics of the fam from recent travels

 

Me, my Mom, my Grandma

3 generations

Me, Chris, and my Great Grandma

Brooke Chris Mammaw

Chris and his Dad

 Chris Scott

Me, my Grandpa, my Mom

Grandpa

Me, Chris, my sister-in-law Sandi, my brother-in-law Chad

Tennessee w Sandi

My Grandma, my Mom, my Great Grandma

gma mom mammaw

10 Things I’ve Learned from Trying to Publish a Book

My goal this month was focused on trying to get the book I wrote officially published.  Here are 10 things I’ve learned along the way….

Longest Process Ever – Publishing a book takes years.  Years, I say.  If you want something overnight then you should definitely self-publish.

It’s Like Applying for a Job, but Worse – You know those amazing seasons of life where you’re applying for a new job and you spend days, weeks, or months of your life polishing your resume only for it to go into the abyss that swallows resumes and no one ever contacts you back except spam emails about sales positions in your hometown where you no longer live?  Trying to publish a book is kind of like that, but you submit a lot more words and no one cares about your community service or how much you saved your company through continuous improvement efforts.

You Need an Agent – Last year, I had an editor at one of the largest publishing houses interested in reading my manuscript.  This came about after I pitched the book at the New York Writers Conference.  I submitted it.  No response.  I submitted it again.  No response.  It’s like a bad break-up where you can’t get your favorite t-shirt and mixed CD back but you keep calling like the psycho they always thought you were.  In the publishing industry, you really need to have an agent.  There’s that super small percentage of aspiring authors that get their big break by somehow coming into magical direct contact with an editor.  These are the people who never intended to write a book and some editor randomly sought them out after their blog was booming or they made some killer recipes on Pinterest and now they’re a famous cookbook author.  They’re likely related to the those 15 1/2 year olds that have no make up on and beach hair and some modeling agent “discovered” them at a gas station and now they are all over Vogue.  I hate those people.  I have always wanted to be those people so bad.  Anyway, you need to get an agent….of which….I do not have – but I spent this month trying to find one.

They Won’t Know if You Don’t Tell ‘Em – One thing I learned last year in NYC was how people really won’t know what your book is about if you don’t tell them.  I think we (“we” meaning the author community….”we” meaning I just called myself an author again and used a trendy word like “community”) hold ourselves back a little because we don’t want to give it all away.  But if you’re pitching your idea to an agent or to an editor directly, you cannot assume people know your entire background, what inspired the book, and what they might love the most about it.

Dedicate Time to Pitching – If you want a publishing house to publish you, then you need an agent to pitch it to them.  If you need an agent, then you’ll need to set aside time dedicated specifically to pitching your book to agents.  This is done by writing a query letter, researching agents who would be interested in your work (agentquery.com) and then sending the letters on their way while you pull out a rabbits foot and do some sort of fancy lucky voo doo.  If you’re a writer, you probably just want to write and not deal with all this stuff…but…it comes with the territory so you might as well dedicate a fair amount of time to it.

Use Beta Readers – If you followed my posts this month, you read about my experience with BookHive Corp.  They provided approximately 9 beta readers who read my book and provided feedback.  And while one specific reader hated it so bad I’m pretty sure she is throwing darts at a photo of my face while she calls me self indulgent, the whole experience was worth it.  The nerves and anxiousness and excitement and all the other fancy words I felt knowing that 8-10 people out in the world had a copy of my book and were reading it was kind of cool.  If you’re writing a book, I would highly recommend using BookHive or any other beta reader company that could give you an I’m-not-related-to-you type of opinion of your work.

Read the Directions – Every agent wants authors to submit their query letter in a different way.  Some want a letter, most don’t want attachments, some want sample chapters, some want specific things stated in the subject, some want you to give them your first born baby and a luxury car.  I would recommend taking a weekend to list out all the agents you want to pitch to, what their guidelines are, and their contact information.  I did this in a spreadsheet so when the time came to finally send my pitch in – I didn’t really have to spend too much time per day submitting after my initial half day session of research.

Don’t Take it Personal – Yeah, right.  But try.  My month was filled with rejection letters and phrases sounding something like “I don’t feel enthusiastic enough about your project…” after I’ve spent a year writing personal stories.  It’s all about what publishing houses feel is marketable and what can make them money at the end of the day.  They can only publish so many books in so many genres, and random outside factors that you’re unaware of may reduce your odds.  If it’s an election year and publishing houses have a chance to publish your book or the next Presidential candidate’s…well….

People Do Actually Get Published – This process can feel like it’s never really going to happen (referring to traditional publishing…I am still considering self publishing).  You send letters and everyone tells you no and then you can easily just walk away because you’re so over reading all the chapters you thought of, wrote, edited, re-wrote, re-edited, made your friends read, and read again.  But people really do get published.  The process (apparently) does happen for some.  I’m not giving up, that’s for sure.  But if you’re in the same boat as me – I mean, people really do get agents and get published.  Right?

There’s Never a Good Time – There’s really never a good time to write a book and spend time trying to get it published.  Apparently, work and life don’t go on hold while you chase your dreams of book tours and possible book-to-movie deals.  Work was still in full swing as were my personal commitments but this blog has taught me to refuse to let that become an excuse.  I can tell you that as I’m typing this I have a long list of to do’s that aren’t related to stalking literary agents, but if you don’t do it now….when will ya?!

 

I did it

 

 

The Not Fun Part of Trying to Get Published

May 14May 15:  I did nothing to move my book closer to publication on these days.  I wallowed in the beta reader comments (see last blog) for a couple days and we did a day trip to Dayton for some family things.

May 16:  I had a call today with the owner of BookHive Corp.  It was a part of the service I blogged about last time.  You have 8-10 beta readers, you get the 30+ page feedback, and then you do a call or Skype to talk through your results and discuss ways to make your book better.  She gave me some great suggestions (after I told her I was still coming off the shock and dramatic reactions to the reader who hated my book) about reading the first 10 pages of several books which are like mine to see what they’re doing in those pages to draw me in.  It’s like she knew of my ability to only really make it about 10 pages through a book anyway.  She gave me some things to think about regarding the theme of the book, and then gave me some encouragement about the fact that my overall rating was 3.6 out of 5 and how she is friends with someone at a publishing company and when that company has opened up for submissions/reader feedback to see what they want to publish, anyone with a 3.5 or above would be a viable candidate for publication.

While writing a book is such a long process and that part drives me crazy, I did think about the fact that 1 year ago I could’ve never talked about my book or claimed to be an author…so that was kind of cool.

May 17:  I’m back in the game on submitting my pitch to agents.  I submitted my query letter and a sample chapter to Alida Nugent’s agent since she is the author an editor compared my writing style to at the New York Writers Conference.  I wasn’t aware of Alida Nugent’s work before the conference, but quickly started following her on Instagram and bought one of her books the day I got back.  The editor was right….our humor is very similar.  I knew I wanted to pitch to this agent and was saving it towards the end of my pitch list for some reason.  I guess because I have high hopes?  <<Fingers crossed>>

May 18:  My pitch and the first chapter of my book are waiting in the inbox of the company who represented the book (and movie!) “The Help.”  It was a generic company email, but I’m hoping my all caps in the subject with the agent’s name draws some attention.  Hopefully not the ‘she used all caps, delete’ type of attention but the ‘hey, that’s my name, I better read this…and now I love this…let’s publish this’ type of way.

May 19:  I pitched to an agent who said she likes criticism/essays and humor.  I am defining my writing as essays and humor…so…I’m hoping my words grab her attention.

May 20:  I went to dinner with Angela and Joe.  I told them all about the beta reader feedback and they told me all about how fabulous I am.  We split a carrot cake.

May 21:  I thought about my book.  I did nothing with it.  I thought about how hard it is to get a book published.  I thought about my timeline if I end up self publishing.

May 22:  I’m about to dive in and research more agents to pitch to as I finish my goal this month of trying to get my book published.  I have officially pitched to all the agents on my original list after I removed a few when I saw they really didn’t have an interest in my genre or they were from the same agency as another agent I pitched to.  I want to find at least 5 more agents to pitch to, so….back to agentquery.com I go….

When Someone Calls Your Book Self-Satisfied, Indulgent Junk

May 10 – 12:  Heard from BookHive Corp that I can expect my beta reader feedback on Friday.  Let’s just skip ahead to said Friday…

May 13:  Friday the 13th.

I received feedback from BookHive Corp. – a company that provides beta readers who read your manuscript and share feedback which is summarized and sent to you in a 32 page PDF.  Let’s just dive in, shall we?

There were 9 beta readers – all women – all between 20’s and mid 50’s.  The majority of the comments were positive, but how can anyone possibly focus on those when one reader hated it.  I mean, hated it.  I mean, she even read my blog (hello reader #6 if you’re out there) and hated it too.  “I checked out her blog and it was as superficial as I expected” (though there was a compliment in there about actually having a blog and working it).  I quickly did what anyone would do and skimmed through every question and page only searching for reader #6’s answers.  Nevermind that her comments were sandwiched between two glowing reviews, the fact of the matter is, there was a lady out there who read my book and hated it….and basically hated me….and I could only do one thing…fixate on it all day.

Here’s a taste of what was asked and what the readers said:

Q:  What were your favorite essays and explain why.

A:  “30 Love Letters in 30 Days – this essay was very very sweet and inspiring.  I found it to be beautifully written.  It was a nice insight into how we connect or don’t connect in this age of technology.”

A:  I really enjoyed “30 Love Letters in 30 Days.”  There is just something about telling people we love and appreciate them that we so rarely do, so it was great to read about.  It was also very inspiring – so much so that I have started my own writing of love letters to family and friends that I hold dear.”

A:  “…Really, I didn’t like her writing style or content at all so I cannot possibly tell you three favorite essays….”

A:  “I laughed out loud a lot while reading “Only Child Syndrome”….”

A:  “…I loved “PMS!” I laughed for about 10 minutes when reading it because it is something every woman can relate to…”

***

Q:  Please describe your response to reading the first ten pages of this book, whether it drew you in, or not.”

A:  “I was drawn in immediately…”

A:  “I really liked the way this book started.  Picking the first story to be first was a good choice.  I wanted to keep reading.”

A:  “I was not drawn in at all by the first ten pages.  I was, as a matter of fact, deeply annoyed from the very first sentence….”

A:  “The first few pages were enticing, but her tone got kind of annoying/grating with each self-praise.  It’s great that she’s accomplished many things, but it felt a little narcissistic.”

***

Q:  How was the writing style?  Was it like other books that you’re used to reading?

A:  “It reminds me a little of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, which I love.”

A:  “I loved the writing style.  I thought it flowed well together, and was extremely funny.  I haven’t read too many books formatted in this same manner, but I definitely thought it worked for her.”

A:  “…It felt sort of stream-of-consciousness and like I was talking to someone one-on-one in a cafe.”

A:  “….she doesn’t have depth to her experience that translates into her words.”

***

Q:  What did you think of the ending?

A:  “Wanted another!”

A:  “I think it was an interesting way to end a book…”

A:  “Her brand of “Christianity” strikes me as not particularly Christ-like and more of what the mainstream depicts as Christian.”

***

Q:  Do you feel this book is marketable and which target audience do you think it will reach most?”

A:  “Yes. I think the target audience would be women, and Christian women.”

A:  “Very marketable, feel that women would be interested.”

A:  “I know there’s a market for superficial memoirs but I’m not the person to judge where that market is.”

***

Q:  What would help make this book stronger, if anything?

A:  “Add in stories about her parents when she was younger.”

A:  “I think this book is already strong.”

A:  “Run this manuscript through the “cliche finder” and then eliminate every one.”

A:  “Actually give some advice or tell an interesting story, not just talk about yourself.  Write some funny essays.”

***

Q:  If you had to describe what this book was about in 2-3 sentences, what would you say?

A:  “…A series of personal essays.  It is the thoughts of a young woman about various aspects in life that many people can relate to.”

A:  “Midwestern girl raised by teen parents seeks fame, fortunetellers and family.”

A:  “A humorous collection of short stories about lessons learned from a mother and applied throughout child and adulthood.  There are many laugh-out-loud moments and highly relatable stories that many women will love to read.”

A:  “Catching up with an old friend.  A down to earth chat.”

A:  “Funny and delightful! Well worth the read!”

***

Okay, you guys get the gist.  Other honorable mentions of comments refer to me being privileged and trite.  There was mention of one of my essays being a “bullshit essay” and when reader #6 was asked about her favorite part of the book, I believe her answer was “it was short.”  There was also a comment about how my friends and family probably tell me that I’m a great writer and make them laugh but how those people should be questioning my ambitions for writing.

There’s so much more but I obviously can’t make this the longest blog ever, or can I?

All in all, I am really thankful I used BookHive Corp and Chris thinks it was great too.  He even tried to somehow compare me to Kim Kardashian, or her having haters, or having a specific target market, or somethin’.  I don’t even know.  But, after I got over the initial shock that someone out there really hated my book, my writing style, and didn’t jive with my humor…there was some helpful constructive criticism in there that I will be re-reading and trying to incorporate (after 40 rounds of therapy and a large cheese pizza).

I would be lying if I didn’t say the feedback, including some of the harsher comments I didn’t post here just because they were humiliating, didn’t bother me and make me want to throw the towel in and get embarrassed by all of it…but I did keep perspective thanks to family and friends (you know, the ones who tell me I’m a great writer and funny but who should question my writing motives).

The Opening Line of a Literary Agent’s Rejection Letter

Trying to get my book published – the adventure continues.

May 5:  Didn’t send any query letters out today, instead, I crossed off a couple agents who were on my list to pitch to because they were either from the same agency as another agent on my list (not advised to pitch to multiple agents at the same agency) or their website changed and I was having technical difficulties.

May 6:  My first rejection letter from an agent came in today.  Such break up notes have opening lines that read like…

“I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel enthusiastic enough about your project to offer representation at this time…”

While rejection letters are never fun, not doing anything and never putting yourself out there to get rejected in the first place is far less fun.  I’d rather say “I wrote a book and pitched it to agents and got rejected” vs. “I’ve always wanted to publish a book but have never made the time.”  Well, I guess I’d rather say “hey, did you see my book over on that shelf at Barnes & Noble next to all the other best sellers?!”…but, ya know.

May 7-8:  Mother’s Day weekend.  Focused on the fam and put the book pitching aside.  Used phrases like “once my book is published, this is the type of dress I want to wear to my book launch party” several times while shopping with my mom and Grandma — for good measure.  I can’t say I am not wavering back and forth every day on if this book will ever be traditionally published, asking myself who would ever be interested in it, and all those self defeating thoughts – but I’m not letting that get in the way of what I’ve set out to do this month.  I’m also anxious to hear back from the Beta testing group who read my manuscript.  I should hear back any day now.  I hope they keep in mind my strong desire and openness to only hearing positive feedback and rave reviews.

May 9:  I submitted my query letter and the first 3 chapters via an online portal to the agent who represented the author of “Goodnight Moon.”  If you can’t go big, what can ya do?!  I had to create a log in/account to submit to this particular agent/agency, which turned out to be pretty snazzy because I can log in and see any active submissions.  It makes it far less mysterious than sending to a random inbox and hoping someone’s eye balls are reading your words on the other end.  Regardless of what happens with the submission itself (hopefully fame, fortune, book tours…you know…humble stuff like that) I do try to pause and celebrate even getting to this point.  This goal has required more research and more of me in general than I ever imagined.

Dear Agent, Publish Me. Thanks.

My goal this month is focused on getting my book published.  If you want all the gory details leading up to this moment, read my last blog post The Evolution of a Debut Author.

May 1 – I had written down the names of 10 agents a few weeks ago after hours of research.  As a reminder, if you’re looking to get published by a large publishing house, you need to pitch your idea to an agent using a query letter – the agent then requests a copy of your book (or a few chapters, or a proposal, or something similar in nature)…or never writes you back for all of eternity – if they read your book (also called “manuscript”) then they begin pitching it to editors at publishing houses after they’ve agreed to represent you and you’ve signed contracts and debated how much of the share they should get if your book turns movie and who would play you as the main character (I’ve been told Amanda Seyfried is my doppelgänger).  And a mere 1-3 years later…you may have your published/printed book in your slimy little hands.

The agents I had jotted down either had an interest in buzz words that caught my attention like “debut authors,” “bloggers turned authors,” “appreciates quirky humor,” or “essays” or they were the agent on books I was familiar with.  Today I spent time googling some of the people on my list just as a reminder of why I picked these agents and to get an idea of what I need to prepare as I start sending them my query letter because they all request things in a different way.  Some request everything pasted into an email (no attachments), some want a query letter and the first 10 pages of your book, some want a query letter and a few sample chapters.  It really feels like a combination of online dating and applying college.  Everyone is trying to look their best virtually while pretending they have Native American roots or military ties that could justify a scholarship of sorts.

If you’re an aspiring author too, www.agentquery.com is the database of literary agents and a good place to start if you’re seeking an agent (advice given from someone who does not have an agent…yet).

May 2 – I started a google sheet with the list of agents, their email addresses, a column for the date I’m submitting to them, notes about why I chose them, etc.  I’ve learned that when I take on big tasks like this, even though I get super impatient and want to just start on whatever task is ahead of me right away, I do myself huge favors if I just get organized up front.  It’s like applying for a job and then forgetting what company you applied to and what position it was for until you’re sweating through your new suit from Kohls in your second round of interview with people who may sit in the cubicle next to you for the next six years.

Today I sent my first query letter to an agent!

This particular agent required a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript.  I forgot to put “Dear….” or address the person at all in it, and I wasn’t in love with the way my first 10 pages pasted into google mail.  But, it is officially off in cyber space.

May 3 – I checked my google mail a lot of times, because, obviously….an agent has had my query letter for a near 12 hours.

I didn’t feel like logging on tonight but this “send 1 query letter a day” thing is manageable and I have the letter crafted and ready to tweak accordingly.  And…my google sheet is too organized not to want to open and highlight and add the date I sent the letter.

I sent my second query letter.  This particular agent only requires the query letter.  I made it formal by adding the full address of the agent and addressed them by name as all good letters should do.

Two letters officially in cyber space.

Excuse me while I hit “refresh” on my google mail a zillion times.

May 4 – I googled the agent I planned to pitch to today.  And while the logo on their website was cute with a cartoon-like cat with it’s skinny little legs hanging over a couch…the all caps on their website that said “PLEASE NO PERSONAL MEMOIRS” turned me away.  While I’m not calling my book a memoir…some could call the essays “memoir essays” of sorts.  Once I saw the same message not only in all caps but in all caps and underlined, I decided to pick a different agent for the day.

My query letter is officially off to another agent.  It’s the same agent who represented “Marley & Me”…I like to go big sometimes.  You know never know!  And – bonus – her bio on the agency’s website says her response time is generally two weeks.  Maybe fate says her fast response times are meant for my impatient and antsy personality.

***Update****

Before hitting “publish” on this post, I received an email back from this particular agent.  The standard out-of-office message, but the message does confirm that she will respond within two weeks if she’s interested!  Let the two week countdown commence.

 

The Evolution of a Debut Author

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A few words about April…

Some of you may have noticed that I never finished writing about my goal in April.  In mid-April, unfortunately, my mother-in-law (Debby) unexpectedly passed away.  Among a lot of the things Debby loved, she was a huge lover of books and reading – she could read more books in a day than I could ever read in a month.  So as we navigate through this difficult season and I begin to get back in the rhythm of writing and sharing stories, I will be thinking of her throughout the month and her love of books.

***

My goal for the month of May is to focus on getting my book published.  You may have followed my goal last November where I focused on writing a book and trying to get it published – so I’m going to use this first post of the month to share a timeline of all the things leading up to this point and answer questions that I’m commonly asked (“commonly” means 2 friends and 3 relatives, but let me have my moment).

Here’s the evolution of a “debut author”…

December 2014 – Determine “write a book” should be a goal on this new blog I’m starting with my friend Angela called “Gals with Goals.”  Angela encourages me to make it a goal towards the end of the year so I’d have almost a year of blogging and adventures under my belt.

June 1-4, 2015 – Google “writers conferences in New York City” because I know I’m supposed to be writing a book soon, I want to go to New York City, and I love a good conference.  Find the “New York Writers Workshop” for non-fiction writers in November (the month of my book writing goal!) and tell Chris I have to go.  He agrees.  Read the requirements to be selected to attend and find out I have to submit a 100 word pitch.

June 5, 2015 – Talk non-stop about needing a book idea and hate every idea I come up with.

June 6, 2015 – Come up with a book idea and fall in love with it and keep re-telling Chris the idea until he loves it too.  Decide that after my recent Tedx Talk, “Raising Teen Parents,” (watch my Tedx Talk here) I would do a somewhat humorous take on it and write a series of short stories (true stories about my life) that each open with a quote/piece of advice my mom has given me that seems to be somewhat sketchy – but proves to be valid and true.  Google “book pitch” and spend multiple hours revising until I get my idea down to 100 words.

June 7, 2015 – Email the New York Writers Workshop my 100 word pitch.  Get nervous.  Block days on my calendar in November “just in case they accept me.”

June  8, 2015 – The New York Writers Workshop emailed back and said they’d love to have me.

June 9, 2015 – Realize I’m going to New York City to pitch a book that I haven’t even started writing.

June 22, 2015 – Get “computer glasses” from the eye doctor and ask the receptionist if the frames make me look like an author.  Say for the first time verbally without disclaimers and weird extra words and justifications that I’m writing a book.

July – Oct 2015 – Dedicate 2-3 hours every Sunday to writing.  Realize work and life consume me too much during work days and have to accept I can only write my book on Sundays.  Often spend 1.5-2 hours researching “how long is the average book,” “do you need to have non-fiction books done at writers conferences,” “how long does it take to publish a book,” “what’s the average word count for a book,” “self publishing,” “traditional publishing,” “freelance editors.”  Scribble notes in my journal of stories I’ve written, stories that are baking, stories that seemed like a good idea but feel dumb now.  Gain and lose confidence as the hours change.  Realize I can only write in absolute silence when at home or in crowded noisy areas in public.  Eat 5,000 cinnamon rolls at Fox in the Snow Cafe and deem it my official “writing spot.”

Nov 1-11, 2015 – Chris decides he wants to go to New York City with me.  Book flight, hotel, and continue saying “I have about half of my book done…I think that’s sufficient for the conference….you know…based on everything I’ve researched.”  Spend a week focused exclusively on a 1 page pitch which was the required item to bring to the conference.  Cyber stalk editors and agents who would be at the conference.

Nov 12-16, 2015 – Attend 3 days writers conference.  Revise pitch.  Have stomach aches.  Read my pitch to editors.  Leave without any editors asking for a copy of my (partial) manuscript.  Blog in length about the experience here.  Realize this was an opportunity of a lifetime and love every second and begin to get comfortable calling myself “an author.”

Nov 16, 2015 evening – Receive an email from the conference letting me know the editor I pitched my book to from Penguin Random House was interested in a copy of my manuscript.  Facetime with my mom and cry because I’m so excited.

Nov 17, 2015 – December 14, 2015 – Torture myself by hating everything I’ve written so far but following the self-imposed deadline of December 15 to send a partial manuscript to the interested editor.  Picked December 15 because it was the day Chris and I met and later became the day we got engaged – and it followed the “wait 4-6 weeks before sending in your work so you don’t send unedited crap” guidelines the conference gave us.

Dec 15, 2015 – Make Chris watch me scroll through the partial book I’m submitting to the editor to prove how many words I’ve typed.  Push send.  Pray something comes of it.

Dec 16, 2015 – Feb 20, 2016 – Hear nothing.  Lose hope.

Feb 21, 2016 – Re-send partial manuscript to editor because 60 days is the advised wait time if you hear nothing.  Remind self that hearing nothing is common in this industry.

Feb 22 – Mar 26, 2016 – Decide to focus on just finishing the book.  Stop researching editors, agents, and book launch party ideas and write, re-write, edit, add things, remove them, and focus on calling it “done.”

Mar 27, 2016 – The book is FINISHED!  Email book to beta testing/focus group, BookHive Corp, a company I learned about at the writers conference.  Get stomach ache because it’s the first time anyone except myself is reading it from start to finish, and the first time anyone who isn’t a family member or friend is reading any of it.

Apr 3, 2016 – Shift focus from writing to publishing.  Sit for 2 hours researching the names of agents who represent my genre/style and write down the names of 10 agents I will send a pitch to in May.  Websites say to send pitches (query letters) to 10 at a time…so that is what I will do.

And here I am.  A finished book.  A week or two out from hearing back from BookHive Corp with feedback.  A journal full of agents I will pitch my idea to, pray they will represent me, and hope they will pitch to an editor who will respond that they love it.

***

For the scoop if you’re just tuning in:

Title (unless a publishing house convinces me otherwise):  “Do What I Say:  Life as My Mother Predicted”

Fiction or Non-Fiction:  It’s non-fiction, true stories about my life, each chapter is it’s own essay – some humorous, some serious.

Length:  In Word it’s 111 pages which is approximately 31,000 words which could translate to a 200 page-ish book depending upon the dimensions of the book itself.

Readers:  Chris has read the book from start to finish!  This happened a few weeks ago.  My brother-in-law has read it and Angela has a copy too.  My friends Molly and Matt helped edit a number of chapters.

Published copies:  If I get an agent or can secure an editor, this thing could not be in print for another year.  If I exhaust all agent avenues and decide to proceed with self-publishing….let’s say by end of 2016 or before.

More books:  Yes, I want to write more books.

Parties:  Yes, I want to have a book launch party and I want it to be at Fox in the Snow Cafe where I spent many hours writing the book.