Interview with Meredith Peters Hale, author of Mommy A to Z.

I’m always inspired by moms who find time to write, edit, and revise an entire book. Meredith Peters Hale accomplished all that as well as having her book published. I asked her to join my blog by answering a few questions. Thank you, Meredith!

What inspired you to write this book?
As I admit in the introduction to Mommy A to Z, this was never the book I envisioned myself writing. In college I always dreamed I’d write some literary masterpiece, along the lines of Milan Kundera or Albert Camus (my idols back in my twenties, when my idea of a good time was staying up all night discussing nihilism, with Dark Side of the Moon humming along in the background). Instead, when I sat down to write this great work of literature, I found myself writing about…sippy cups. And that’s when I realized that my life was no longer about existential crises and psychedelic ‘70s rock. I was living a new reality—one that that involved diapering a baby determined to dive off a changing table. Or farm puzzles that quacked for no reason at 4 a.m. Or laundry that multiplied every time I came within three feet of it. This was my new reality, and I couldn’t imagine writing about anything else. Because, somewhere along the way, I had fallen in love with motherhood, just as I had fallen in love with my daughter—unexpectedly, completely, and with my whole heart and soul.

When did you find time to write?
I don’t believe there is “found time” in motherhood. We’re always sacrificing in order to create time for those things we need or want to do. In this case, I sacrificed a lot of sleep, writing late at night, often into the early morning. I’m also a freelance editor, and I hired a wonderful babysitter to watch my son in the mornings while I worked on my paid projects and squeezed in some extra writing time. And, my parents and husband helped out whenever possible.

How many drafts did you write?

I wrote one initial draft that I did my best not to edit while writing (a difficult task for me, being a professional editor!). After I completed each book entry, I would go through and polish it. When I completed the entire first draft, I then went back and edited the text as a whole, rewriting whole chunks of it where necessary. It was a lengthy process. Revising the first draft took me about a month, and that was after many, many months of writing.

Did you have help editing?
Normally, I would advise any author to seek out an experienced developmental editor, because they contribute so much to helping an author realize and communicate her vision. In my case, given that I am an editor and my budget was limited, I invested instead in a copy editor, to make sure the writing was clean, clear, and flowed as well as possible.

Why did you choose the form of publishing you chose (self versus traditional)?
Before going freelance, I spent about eight years as an acquisitions editor at a publishing house, evaluating book proposals and pitching books to my publisher, the marketing department, sales, etc. As a new blogger, I knew that no matter how good my book was (at least in my humble opinion!), my lack of a “platform” would make it a hard sell. Publishers today want nonfiction authors to have built-in audiences – in part due to limited publicity budgets, and also because so many “celebrities” are writing books nowadays. It’s tough for first-time authors to break in.
Also, with traditional publishing comes compromise, whether it’s the cover, the length of the book, how it’s marketed, etc. I loved the idea of being able to control every step of the process, from the artwork to the distribution. I will say that self-publishing is very difficult, especially if you aren’t familiar with the publishing process. Self-published authors do everything themselves, which can be overwhelming, especially for busy moms. Figuring out the Apple upload process while your toddler is attempting to dunk his sister’s favorite doll in the toilet is not an easy task.
I currently have a couple of traditional publishers considering the Mommy A to Z book proposal. It’s a dream of mine to one day see Mommy A to Z as an illustrated print book, available to give new moms and moms-to-be at baby showers, etc. Stay tuned!

Any advice for other busy parents who write?

Make time for your writing, and don’t feel guilty! Realizing your dream will teach your kids to value commitment and creativity — and it will ultimately make you happier and more fulfilled. Establish a reasonable amount of time, and a consistent time of day, to devote to your writing. That said, remember to sleep. Writing until 3 a.m. may be convenient, but it hurts the next day! Most importantly, don’t give up. Motherhood often feels like five full-time jobs at once, and adding writing to the mix may seem impossible. But seeing your words on paper (or a screen), out there in the world, is a wonderful feeling, and worth all the anxiety, self-doubt, and exhaustion. Kind of like motherhood.
Good luck!
Meredith Peters Hale is the author of Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood, and the creator of the Mommy A to Z blog. To learn more about Mommy A to Z, visit MommyAtoZ.com or Amazon.

Thanks again, Meredith.

Head over to Meredith’s blog, One post I especially like is The Top Ten Things I Learned About Writing a Book.

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Hints for First Pages of Novels

Dialogue? Description? Question? Action? There are so many ways to write that opening line, that hook, that “gotta grab the editor right now or they’ll move onto the next manuscript in the slush pile.

Once you’ve decided on  your gripper of an opening  (and rewritten it 19 times) you have to figure out the rest of  the first chapter. This is what I’ve  been focusing on this past week.  I’m revising my early reader chapter book and I decided to head back to chapter one. But I had some obstacles.  How much should I include? How much can I save for another chapter? What will an early reader think is exciting? Or boring?

One activity I found helpful was dissecting  books in the same genre as mine. I took a few A-Z Mysteries, Magic Tree House books and Cam Jansen books and focused on the first few pages.  What did I look for?

  • What did these books have in common? Did they start with a scene? Dialogue? An inner thought?
  • Who was the first character introduced? And the second?
  • How did the authors make the characters distinct?
  • How and when did the authors introduce the setting?
  • How and when did the authors introduce the problem?
  • What did I learn about the story on just that first page?

After I did this with a variety of books, I tried to imitate what these authors did.  I realized it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s hard to get that first page just right, even on the fifth, sixth and seventh try. But using others as an example helped and I think by the time I’m on the ninth revision, I might be content.

Have you ever been stuck on a first page? How many revisions have you ever made on a first page?

 

 

 

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Kickstarter for Writers?

How many of you have wondered about raising money for your writing project? I know I have. Raise money, pay yourself a stipend, and not feel guilty about spending time writing and not getting paid.

Well, I’ve thought about it and that’s as far as it’s gone. But today, I happen to click on someone’s page who not only thought about it, but followed through successfully.

Author David Griswold and illustrator Eliza Reisfeld worked together on  Mother, What is the Moon? They successfully funded their project in less than a month. It seems they raised over $21,000 (please correct me if I’m wrong). Wow. That along with profits from sales will hopefully give them a chance to continue on with their next book. Congratulations to them!

What about you? Have you ever thought of raising money for your writing through Kickstarter? If so, what goal would you set?

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Moms Who Recently Published Books

Need some motivation? Need reassurance that a busy person can write,  re-write, edit and publish a story? Well, here are two moms who recently did all that. They  finished their books and have them out there for the public to read. Congratulations, Christine Ardigo and Heather Rigney.

I find it inspiring to meet moms who finish writing a book. As all of you know, writing takes time.  And if you’re a mom (or dad) you don’t have much of it. You squeeze writing in before the birds and kids wake up. You squeeze writing in while the kids are in the tub. You squeeze writing in during red lights or in the parking lot before food shopping. There is no regular eight hour chunk of time for writing. But these women figured out how to find the time to write and publish their first novels.  What writer wouldn’t be inspired?

Here are the links to these brand new books. Heather’s Waking the Merrow and Christine’s Cheating to Survive. These books are so new, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. But I’m carving out time in the next few weeks to read both and am excited to have Heather as a guest at my book club in June.

What about you? Are you a busy parent who has a final draft of a book finished or even published? Maybe you’re like me and have a first draft finished but are stuck at the revision stage?

Happy Writing,

Marcia

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Can a Conference Cure Writer’s Block?

Have you ever been in a writer’s rut? If you’re a freelancer, a novelist, a blogger or any other type of writer, I’m sure you have. One way to help boot the block is to head to a writer’s conference or workshop. How can it help you?

  • You’ll be surrounded by like minded people. What better way to spend a day or even weekend than by chatting with other writers?  Okay, I’m sure one of you is answering with a better way, but not much better.
  • You’ll learn something new to try out in your writing. Writer’s block can be kick started with inspiration from a workshop or encouragement from another writer.
  • You’ll finally have time to write. That’s one of the great things about attending events; there’s often a writing activity that you feel annoyed doing at first, but soon realize you love doing.
  • You’ll feel validated for spending all your free time on writing. Do you ever wonder why you spend your time writing that novel that’s going nowhere? Well,  hundreds of others wonder the same about their writing. You’ll meet them at a conference. It’ll make you feel good about yourself, I promise.

To find  workshops and conferences, just google the genre you’re interested in. Give yourself a price limit. These events can be costly but you can usually find something starting around $100. Local adult-ed workshops tend to be less costly and can help you meet local writer friends.

 

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In a Creative Rut? Ira Glass helps out

Ever feel like it’s time to quit writing that book, short story or move script? You’ve been working on it for a long time and it’s not getting any better. Well, take a look at this two minute video posted on Vimeo. A creative person took Ira Glass’s words and added a visual. It’s inspiring. It’ll make you head back to your unfinished manuscript and keep working until you get it right; or at least until you watch the video again.

Happy Writing, or in this case, Happy Listening.

If you find the name of the person who made this video, let me know so I can give credit. Thanks.

Marcia

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How to Be a Guest on a Blog

Ever consider writing a post for someone else’s blog? It can be fun, educational and helpful to you when you share your writing with another blogger. How do you start?

1. Make sure you’re comfortable having your writing critiqued and tweaked. The host of the blog might want to some change wording, grammar and style in order to fit his or her style of blog.

2. Click on PAGES on your blog and create a new page to advertise your writing services. Information to include:

  • Topics you write about
  • Your credentials
  • Do you write for free?
  • Will you write in exchange for a link to your own blog?
  • Will you write in exchange for your button on their blog?
  • Will you write for some other form of advertising exchange?
  • Do you charge? If so, how much?
  • What’s your average word count? Typically, blogs run between 300-800 words.
  • How to contact you.

3. Write a post on your blog stating you write for others and spread the word.

Happy Writing!

Marcia

 

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