Post Retreat, Back at Work, Keeping Sane…mostly

My current read: Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna (Sourcebooks Landmark)

So I had an amazing time at my first ever Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat! As I said in my last post, it was amazing meeting, connecting, and talking writing and books with so many fantastic writers.

I’m already looking forward to going again next year.

But that is a whole year away and Monday found me up, bright and early, trying to get some writing in before heading back to work for the week. And I did, but man, not nearly as many words as I cranked out while away.

This is the ongoing challenge, keeping the new book progressing and growing in my off hours while the bulk of my days are spent working in a profession that requires 250% of my headspace. Like many other writers who also work jobs, I often come home so exhausted at the end of the day, all I want to do is sit in silence and stare into space.

Or nap. I love naps even though waking up from them feels like trying to raise myself from the dead.

But I’m now on a bit of a roll with the new book–thanks to the retreat–and it’s always easier to keep a writing habit in motion that to try to coax it up and to the keyboard from a weeks long hibernation.

In other news: I had an article featured on Women Writers, Women’s Books. Go check it out!

Also, Tuesday my editor sent me an email that basically said, “So um…that question I asked you in your copy edits letter that you didn’t address…”

And I replied, “Oh…right.”

So I fixed that. But only after I placed a call to my ex-chief of police uncle who DID NOT tell me what I wanted to hear, but reaffirmed that, yes, I needed to make the change because there was no way the gun was going to end up where it did. So, lest I wanted to look like a fool…

And I try to not do that, at least not when it’s avoidable.

So I dug back into my copyedits and changed everything pertaining to the gun being in a place it could and would not be.

So to sum up: Back from retreat and trying to hang onto writing mojo, back at work and trying to not burn myself up from both ends every day, had an article published, and making last minute copyedits in a hurry before Her Perfect Life heads out to the printer for ARCs.

Did I mention it’s only Wednesday??

Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat 2019

Back Row: Erin Bartels, Sherri Gladwell Leimkuhler, Alison Hammer, Denny Bryce, Rebecca Hodge
Front Row: Rebecca Taylor, Barbara Conrey, Lyn Liao Butler

This week I have had the great good fortune to travel down to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Retreat.

I have been to many writers conferences and retreats in the past, but this is my first time attending WFWA’s. The format is not as intense, or jam packed as larger conferences I’ve been to and this allows the entire four days to be more intimate in general.

On the first day here, I met more amazing women dedicated to their creative passions and writerly pursuits than I ever did at the larger venues.

And not just met–engaged in real conversations where we shared our personal progress, greatest hopes, and biggest fears about our writer lives and careers in this often tough business.

Ever since joining earlier this year, I have loved this community and the attitude of support and generosity that it engenders. Which was why when they announced the need for volunteers to raise their hand for board positions opening up for the 2020 year, mine shot in the air.

I’ll be running for the WFWA secretary position this fall!

I’m looking forward to learning more about the organization and contributing what I can to it and its members. But mostly I’m excited to continue to meet and connect with more people in this community through our shared love for the written word.

Almost Done…

Working on copy edits and it’s pretty messy in here…don’t judge

I have a few celebrations this week.

But before I get to that: For those of you that follow me on social media–in this picture you can see my giant bulletin board that I covered in fabric a few weeks ago being put to proper use. The thing weighs an absolute ton and was hard to hang by myself–and yet I did! And it’s 100% level! Is there anything worse than uneven shit on your walls??

Okay.

First good news: I’m nearly done going through the copy edits for Her Perfect Life. Most readers probably don’t have any idea how many times an author goes through the book, at various stages of the editing process, before it’s a final-final copy.

I can tell you, right now it feels like I’ve read this book fifty times!

But with every pass, we get closer and closer–I can hardly wait to hold the advance reader copies in my hands in just a few months!

Second good news: Blurbs from other authors have started to come in. These are the complementary lines from other established authors that adorn the covers and inside pages of the book.

And I now have two from New York Times Bestselling authors!!

When I read that they would be reading the book, I was thrilled. But when I read the praise they sent in to my publisher, I may have cried…just a little bit.

I asked my agent for their addresses and sent them both a thank you bottle of wine. Which, by the way, if you haven’t ever used wine.com to send gifts, you may want to check out.

Other than that, I’m getting ready to head out for the Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat down in Albuquerque next week as well as working with my WFWA mentee and reading through some of her work (which is so good!)

Did I mention I also spend my days at my full time job…

Yeah, it’s a little hectic around here.

Great Friends

Brunch at Perfect Landing with Kristi Helvig, Rebecca Taylor, and Shawn McGuire. Not pictured, A.G. Henley (who moved and is greatly missed!)

Between sitting around my fire pit and watching the full harvest moon rise on Friday night, and brunch with two of my favorite writing gal-pals on Sunday–I had a wonderful weekend!

I feel so fortunate to have made long lasting connections with other women in the writing community. Getting together with them on a regular basis does wonders for staying sane, motivated, and above all else, positive about this oftentimes crazy business of book writing and publishing.

When it comes to our writing careers, we have bounced pretty much everything and anything off each other. From book concepts, to ideas for marketing, cover copy, cover designs, writing resources we’ve come across–you name it. There probably isn’t a single topic we haven’t tackled at one of our regular Sunday brunches.

But by far I feel the greatest benefit, at least from my perspective, has been the genuine support and friendship we have for one another. Any rough patch, day, or season–all it takes is one email and we rally.

On Habits

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

I’m thinking about habits right now, specifically mine, because I am fully aware that I’m at the crux of needing to change some of mine right now.

Over the past few weeks, probably since going back to work, I feel like I’ve been sort of in drift mode. Meaning, I know where I want to get to, and I can see the destination out on the horizon, but there’s no wind and my engine seems to be malfunctioning.

My boat is drifting off course.

Now it’s early enough on my journey–I still have time to get everything fixed and reroute.

But if I wait too long, keep staring at the sunset in a mindless paralysis of non-activity, the degrees between where I am and where I need to be will eventually become so great that I will have blown any and all chances of arriving on time.

Enter the toolbox called Habits.

Fortunately for me, I know the habits that have worked for me in the past that get me working consistently and progressively:

  • Waking up early
  • Setting reasonable daily word count goals (that are actually achievable on hard/busy days)
  • Saying “no” to pretty much everything and everyone for at least 4-5 months
  • Closing my office door, locking it, and being very firm with anyone looking to get past it
  • Having set social media times and restrictions about “checking it real quick”
  • Resisting the urge to binge all the amazing shows for at least 4-5 months
  • Not drinking alcohol for at least 6 months (I do miss my wine…but even one glass makes me so lazy and also prone to Netflix my motivation away)
  • Exercising at least twice a week because everything else is easier when I have energy and feel alert

I have found that even one-less-than-helpful-habit tends to set off a chain reaction on a whole slew of others that accelerates my drift status away from where I want to get to.

For example: When I haven’t worked out for a few weeks, by the time I get home from work on Friday I am absolutely exhausted. I drag myself into the house vowing that I will just take a quick nap and then get to work on writing in order to kick start the weekend of writing.

But then, my husband texts me a siren call, “What to meet up for happy hour?”

Now, I’ve been working my ass off all week–I DESERVE happy hour and I really love sitting at that particularly atmospheric bar and catching up with this guy.

“Yes! See you there.”

Now we have a wonderful time! And that’s great.

Except, as I’ve aged I have found, sadly, that even one glass of wine leaves me sluggish and mentally unfocused. Additionally, these effects don’t seem to subside as quickly as the alcohol does. So, I wake up Saturday morning, later than I wanted to, and not especially raring to go on mentally strenuous activities requiring me to use my imagination and sustain focus and attention for extended periods of time.

Instead, I roll toward my husband and whisper, “Hey, let’s go out for breakfast.”

And because he’s such an easy sell, we spend the next six hours on breakfast, then shopping, then wandering around downtown–all of which is completely lovely but does not involve me sitting in from on my keyboard.

I’m drifting. And every moment takes me farther and farther away.

Here is how I change course:

It’s Friday night and I’m exhausted from a long week. But I’m not even going to entertain taking a nap–I go to Orange Theory instead.

Text from husband comes in, “What to meet me for happy hour?”

Yes, I really do. But I text back,

“Sorry, on my way to OT and then I’m in for the night. Also, I’m writing this weekend but if I hit my word count goal tomorrow morning want to go see a movie after?”

With this course of events, I’ve likely added at least five thousand words to my manuscript by Sunday night AND feel rested and energized enough (because of working out and making healthy choices) to get up early Monday morning before work and keep at it.

I’m heading back toward my course with momentum fueled by the habits and choices that I KNOW get me there and then keep me there.

Big Personalities

As I knew would happen, I ended up having a wonderful time catching up with my writer friend, her husband (also a writer), and one of their very good friends and critique partners.

It is almost always invigorating to hang out with other writers. There are just certain aspects of your VERY BEING that are not easy to convey in words–and I often find I don’t have to with other writers.

We simply get each other.

This is an integral component of “finding one’s tribe” I believe. It’s like coming home for those of us that spend such lengthy time in pursuit of a profession that requires us to spend a great deal of time alone.

Not that most writers don’t PREFER to be alone most of the time.

But we’re still, mostly, human after all. It’s good when we can find each other in the world.

There’s a conversation we had (myself, my friend, her husband, their friend) that I’ve been thinking about it since Saturday. We got onto talking about the Big Personalities of the world.

You know, the ones you can’t help but slow down to watch on the social media freeway. We each had a few names, and some of us confessed that we really enjoyed watching these larger than life lives play out on our screens.

We all know some of these Big Personalities in our real lives. Sometimes they have reputations for sheer talent, sometimes for bad behavior, and sometimes because they live their lives out loud with a wild abandon and utter disregard for the more banal social mores that keep most of us safely ensconced in sensible shoes.

With the exception of Big Personalities that harm others, I kinda love that these people exist in the world. These people that go big, go home, and then share all their escapades with us.

It reminds me: you only get to live this particular life one time…why the hell would you ever waste even one day of it trying to fit in?

It’s Friiiiiday

It’s early, so you get a picture of my fancy feet. Everything else is still waking up.

Status: Silly happy that it’s Friday

One of the really frightening things about being back at work now is HOW FAST the days and weeks are zooming by.

It dawned on me about ten minutes ago that it’s September 6th today–7 short days until my review of the copyedited manuscript for Her Perfect Life is due back to my editor.

What??!! How did that happen? Where did the last week slip away to?

It disappeared into countless meetings and stacks of paperwork that have nothing what-so-ever to do with my writing life. I realize that maybe sounds a little grumpy, but I’m actually not. Just slightly terrified at the prospect of keeping ALL the plates in the air…you know?

Going through these copyedits–this is my FINAL opportunity to make any changes before it goes to the printer for the advance reading copies.

There is a slight pressure I’m experiencing…it’s taken up residence right around my solar plexus.

So obviously this weekend will be spent working on copyedits. BUT as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ll also be sneaking down to the Colorado Gold Conference to have a catch-up-cocktail with one of my writer friends.

And I’m so excited to see her!

You know those friends that you maybe only see every 6-12 months, but as soon as you sit down together it’s like no time passed?? Yeah…this is that. Plus she is hilarious and super smart and basically tons of fun to hang out with.

So that will be my Saturday evening, but other than that I will be chained to my laptop for the weekend.

And grateful for the opportunity to spend my time working on something I love.

On Accepting the Unexpected

Rebecca Taylor in front of the Chateau Marmont

So as many of you already know, I’ve been working at making a career as a writer for quite some time now.

To recap for anyone joining, I started writing my first book while pregnant with my daughter–she’s 16 now.

There have been many ups and downs over the years, but between switching markets a few years ago, signing with my agent, and then landing a two book contract with Sourcebooks, there was a part of me that actually believed the most challenging parts of my journey were behind me.

Over the summer, my editor emailed to tell me she was leaving my publisher. She had other opportunities she was exploring.

She went on to reassure me that I and my book were being left in more than capable hands and that she looked forward to watching my book’s entrance into the world next year and would continue to cheer me on–albeit from the sidelines now.

I told her how much I would miss her, how grateful I was to have had the opportunity to work with her, and how very happy I was for her to be starting a new chapter in her life.

And I was happy for her, truly–and also completely terrified for myself.

What did it mean that the person who acquired my book, the one who loved and championed it within the publisher was now leaving eleven months before my first book would publish?

I didn’t know.

So I Googled and found that I wasn’t the only writer to ever find herself in this exact circumstance. Apparently there is a term for books that are left mid-cycle:

Orphaned.

And readers, I don’t mind telling you, I hadn’t cried up until reading that word, but “orphaned” hit my emotional nail square on the head.

So I spent the next several days worrying and feeling very sorry for myself. I may have also asked the writing gods, more than once, “Why…why me??!”

But once the storm passed and I moved into whatever stage of grief acceptance is, I realized a few things. First off, my editor was right; she was leaving my book in more than capable hands. Secondly (and this one took me a little longer) no one is more in charge of my career than I am.

Meaning what, exactly?

Meaning that I have a great agent, I had a wonderful editor, and I now have a new wonderful editor–but the through line that connects every aspect of my writing career HAS to be me. Regardless of change, hirings, leavings, markets, great luck, terrible catastrophe, highs, lows, and smooth sailing–I am the only aspect of this career over which I really have any control.

And that was ALWAYS the case.

So, I dried my eyes, took stock of all the writerly blessings still before me, and got back on with getting on.

I realize this certainly isn’t the last time a storm is going to blow through around here…so I better figure out how to best keep those winds at my back.

The Connections We Make

Rebecca Taylor

This Thursday is the start of the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference here in Denver. Since the first time I attended in 2010, I have been to this conference several times. It’s impossible for me to say how many opportunities in my writing and personal life ended up coming my way because of joining Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and attending this conference.

There are whole webs of events and people that spun over the years from the initial choices I made to join this organization–to go to this conference.

I didn’t meet my first agent at this conference, or my second…but I did meet a woman who would end up helping me to get a job with a literary agent. I have met fellow writers, and many lifelong friends through RMFW as well. And let’s not forget to mention all I learned over the years from other writers, agents, and editors dedicated to giving their time to teach on just about any and every aspect of writing, editing, marketing, publication, productivity, and emotional hangups you could ever imagine.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers was the first step I took that led me to where I am today.

I’m not attending the conference this week, only because I committed to attend the Women’s Fiction Writing Association Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the end of the month. But, I am supposed to pop into the hotel bar and have a drink and catch up with one of the writer friends I met through RMFW all those years ago.

If you see me there, make sure to say hello!

A Whirl of a Summer

At The Last Bookstore in LA

I have had the last four and a half days off from my day job, and today I even had the entire house to myself–which almost never happens it seems. Needless to say, I’m feeling very relaxed and centered and like I’ve been able to actually commune with my own brain.

Always a lovely gift.

It’s hard to believe that the summer is coming to a close. This one sped by in what felt like record time. That always happens where there are a few different trips spread across the weeks. The days are still blazing hot, but the nights are getting cooler and cooler–which I love. Yesterday my son was watching a show, and the setting shifted from a scorched desert landscape to a remote cabin surrounded in snow.

My reaction to the sight was visceral–so I guess I’m officially looking forward to the cooler fall temperatures.

Another contributing factor to the fast summer was probably that I was working on completing the larger edits for Her Perfect Life. I just received the copy edits back and now have until September 13th to get those turned around.

I know for everyone else, June 2, 2020 probably feels very far away. But as I experience each milestone of this publishing process, I see how quickly the next ten months are going to go.

We’ve just recently received responses to some of the author blurb requests that we made. I’m so grateful to every single author that has been so generous with their time and their kind words after finishing Her Perfect Life.

Next up with be the actual paperback advance reading copies (ARCs) that will be printing at the end of October! It’s practically around the corner