12.30.2010

Tribute in 2010- A Literary Look Back at the 1st Decade of the 21st Century

Photo credit: Bureau International
des Expositions Official Site
Hi friends!

Wow, 2011, huh? Remember Y2K? At the time I was in the ninth grade, fourteen years old, in the mountains of North Carolina skiing with my best friend and her family. People were stocking up and clearing out the grocery stores with a frantic anxiety that I could not understand. It seems silly now, but the thought of all our computers shutting down meant an end to our way of life. Imagine having to sit at home with a book and a glass of homemade wine (because stores couldn't operate without computer inventory and, therefore, nothing would be grown, stored, shipped, or purchased, dontcha know?). What terror! I could certainly go for a time without my cell phone buzzing or the nightly news sending me into a downward spiral of depression.

But enough about that! Today's post is, as you can very well see, a tribute to the big moments of the past decade...more importantly, it's a tribute to the people, the books, the classes, the happenings that led me to write and read. All writers have a story about why they write; usually it's because they stumbled upon some fabulous author, or because they were told bedtime stories, or because they were lawyers and decided they hated lawyering (is that a word?).

Mine is fairly typical. My dad read Bible stories to my brother and sister and me growing up (I used to get bored and pick at my fingernails while imagining a scene where Mary and I would chill at the feet of Jesus while Martha acted like a frenetic housewife). I wrote my own "books" and "published" them by creating a cover of posterboard and Crayola markers. Then, when I was 10 years old, I stumbled upon the haunting face of a young girl, trapped on the cover of a diary in my elementary school's library. Her name was Anne Frank and she pretty much changed my entire outlook on writing. I saw how it saved her from the horrors that existed all around her, even within her own family, and I was deeply moved that she had, indeed, become the famous author that she had always dreamed of becoming. I started a journal when I was 11, and I still write in it. It slowly became my conversations with God and, even now, I can go back and read how He changed my heart as I was writing. I see the Bible as powerful not just because it is the living word of the Lord, but because it's tangible...because we can see it and read it over and over. Because we can go back to it in the moments when we think we've forgotten what to do...and that's what writing is to me. That's what stories are to me. They are holy...they are good...they are pure.

When I was 14 I turned in a fantasy story to my English teacher as a part of an extra credit assignment. She didn't believe, at first, that I had written it. That same year, my mother introduced me to Harry Potter. It had not yet become the worldwide phenomenon that it is now, and I actually refused at first because I thought the whole premise of the book sounded silly. I don't even recognize that girl anymore! Ten years, seven books, seven movies (can't WAIT for July!), tons of games and posters and magazines and dolls later...well...it would be an understatement to say that J.K. Rowling's incredible talent had an effect on my literary aspirations. I traveled everywhere with her and would lose myself for hours in the pages of her books. Lunch and dinner would go by and I'd hardly notice. It was the first time I realized what great storytelling was all about, and how hard it would be to become a great writer.

I still read constantly in high school, but boys and friends and thoughts of college steered me away from writing. I've always wanted to be a singer, a dancer, an artist, a model, a writer, a designer...anything that would allow me to create and perform. Singing was at the top of the list but, despite my aspirations, I could never quite get over my stage fright. I performed hundreds of times with the women's choir in college, and even had a few solos, but I always felt that shaky panic in my gut when I knew I was about to be alone under the spotlight. It's why I earned myself the nickname "Key Change Girl" after I sang the national anthem my freshman year at GSU...I freaked out and dropped to a lower key in the final verse so my voice wouldn't crack. Yeah. You read that right. So can we please stop talking about it and move on? I had (have?) a decent voice...but without a troupe to perform with, I couldn't hack it. Now I'm learning the electric guitar because I'll never be able to let music go...maybe one day...

I changed my major from Interior Design to Journalism in late 2003...which I hated. Journalism was too objective (well...that's a matter of opinion...no pun intended). I was bored with reporting facts and, to be honest, I was no good at it. I hated AP style and felt it was too restricting, but I stuck with it and looked forward to my music classes (I had a music minor by this point) for comfort. Then, lo and behold, during the fall of 2005, during my junior year of college, I was taking a stroll through the English department, debating another change of major, when I discovered a flier hanging on one of the many bulletin boards. Georgia Southern had brought on the Writing and Linguistics degree. There were four choices to pick from for your preferred concentration and, wouldn't ya know it, creative writing was at the top of the list. I almost died right then in the middle of the hallway. I walked straight over the my advisor's office and filled out the paperwork that afternoon.

I would say that the rest is history, but I can't forget my incredible professors. Sonya Huber. Peter Christopher. Laura Milner. Eric Nelson. These exquisite writers showed me a world I had never seen before. Writing was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was torn apart and put back together by my peers and my teachers, and I loved every second of it. It was in their classes- Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, Poetry, Rhetorical Writing- that I began to understand the process of making words become more than just characters on a page. If I had pages and pages to write, I could never describe what these people did for me.

I did some travel writing in Greece during the summer of 2006 for study abroad. I published a few articles and poems in the campus newspaper at GSU. I published two articles in Susie Magazine. I even submitted a poem to The New Yorker just to say that I had. It was rejected and I expected nothing more than that. I just wanted to say I had done it. And then I started writing a novel. I worked at a publishing company for nine months. And then I wrote another novel. And here I am.

Now wasn't that fun? =)

One quick thing and then I'll be on my way...

One of my resolutions for 2010 was to read 100 books. I only read fifty, but I wanted to share with you my top ten favorites before we jet off on our weekend adventures:

1. Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. The Shack by William Young
3. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
4. Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
5. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
6. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (I'm a fan...)
7. Something Blue by Emily Giffin
8. True Colors by Kristin Hannah
9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
10. The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

What were your favorites for 2010? I look forward to reaching my goal of 100 this new year!

Travel safe and be blessed!

XOXO,
Wendi

12.29.2010

If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is around to hear it...


Jillian and I on my 25th birthday this year.

Hi friends!

Last night I had a belated Christmas celebration with my best friend, Jillian, and we went to see Black Swan (cheery, right?). Besides being an amazing film, it was probably the most sexually, emotionally, physically graphic movie I've seen in a long time; however, the intensity worked for the thrilling story and, as much as I hate to say it, some of the more squeamish parts were necessary to get the point across. And while it will put you on edge the entire time, I do recommend that you see it (on a side note: prepare yourself for some uncomfortable moments...such as the Mila Kunis/Natalie Portman oral love fest). But I am no Roger Ebert...so let's get to the topic of today's post!

I brought up my friend, Jillian, because she has always been enthusiastic about my writing. After we exchanged gifts and returned to my apartment in the city (late night McDonald's snack in tow), we sat on the couch and talked about my novel, among other things. Jillian has read most of my first novel (if you haven't visited me here at ABC before, I wrote about 100,000 words on one novel but have never finished it) and she loved it. It is centered very tightly around my own experiences in college, and my efforts to navigate relationships, a group of friends who became more like family, classes, and the newfound independence that comes with moving out of your parent's home. It is autobiographical, but I'd like to call it creative non-fiction...or even fiction for that matter. My creative writing professor, Peter Christopher (R.I.P.), always said once something is written down it becomes fiction. Either way, it's full of things that my friends would recognize as truth, and plenty of other material that was inspired by reality but completely made up. When I got to the subject of my newest novel, Jillian, after demanding to know why she hadn't had a chance to read it, asked me what it was actually about. When I responded, her eyes lit up from behind with a certain kind of glee (which made me want to puff out my chest a little bit, I'm not gonna lie) and said:

"Legs (her nickname for me...I'm very tall and she has a hard time keeping up), I want to READ this book!"

If you knew Jillian, you would know why this was so important. She does not bullsh*t. She does not play games. If she thinks something looks bad or isn't going to work, she says so...believe me. When my wedding dress didn't fit me right and I asked her if it looked bad she said, "Well, I can tell it's too big in the front. But you're getting married so who cares?"

So if Jillian didn't think the premise of my novel sounded like a story worth reading, I would have been able to see it on her face before she said a word.

Agents and publishers will tell you (via their blogs or their rejection letters...whatever the case may be) that you need a trained eye to read your work. Friends and family do not count, unless they happen to be editors. And while this is absolutely true, I also think it's important to let the people closest to you in on your work because it's people like them who will support and encourage your efforts...and it's people like them who will be standing in the aisle at Barnes and Noble reading the back cover and thinking "Do I want to buy this?" They are by no means the final say-so during the writing process, but I believe their encouragement can be a great tool to push you forward on a project you might have stopped believing in.

In my case, Jillian's words have made me eager this morning to boot up my laptop and hammer out the final edits.

XOXO,

Wendi

12.28.2010

Does word count really count?

Hello friends!

In all my musings on writing and publishing, I feel the need to clarify a point: I do not think of myself as an expert. If I was an expert, I would have a published novel right now, yes? But I will admit that I am far more knowledable on the subject than your average person. So while I wouldn't go toot my own horn to someone like, oh I don't know, Kathyrn Stockett (stop reading this and go buy her book The Help right now...but come back to me when you're done, k?), I would say that this Bundle is a good source for those writers who are just starting out and need a bit of advice on how to navigate this world.

On that note, let's jump right in!

I've been reading through a dozen agent blogs over the past few weeks and I keep trying to find someone who is THE source for word count. There are hundreds of rules about hundreds of genres, so after I figured out exactly what my genre was (women's fiction...not chick lit...they are actually different things...think Kristin Hannah vs. Emily Giffin) I went searching for the "correct" word count.

Let me just save you the trouble of wondering. There isn't one.

All in all, most agents (as well as publishers, authors, etc.) agree that your average novel should be anywhere between 70,000-100,000 words. Once you start tipping over into the 110,000-120,000 arena, you've gone a bit overboard...that is unless you're extremely famous and have a huge fan base and can do whatever you want (i.e. J.K. Rowling)...or if you're writing some sort of historical epic. My first novel, the one I never finished, is hovering somewhere around 115,000, which is way too long for  the story I'm trying to tell, especially if I'm not even done with it yet. My newest novel, the one that is complete, is perched quite happily on its word count of 60,000. It's a little shorter than I'd like, which is strange for me because...well, I don't know if you noticed...I like to talk. I love details and I adore following pages into the history of a character. I rambled too much in my first novel. In this one, I was so excited about it that I rushed to the finish line (it was 50,000 words before I started editing...much too short) without allowing the reader to find out who these people were. I'm still working on it. In my readings I have found that most agents won't send you a rejection simply because the book is too short (or long...though they can and they have) because if it's a story they want to read, it's workable and during the editing process it can be lengthened/shortened; however, I do not want to take that risk because agents have tons of queries to read so they want to find any reason to say "no" and move on to the next person. Word count could be that reason...so I'm trying to make sure that it is not an issue with my novel.

Rules vary from genre to genre and person to person. I just want to give you a general idea of what to expect if you're trying to write a book. Young adult novels are typically shorter. I've seen anywhere from 35,000-70,000 word counts, but many of them tend to be longer. Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook (I like using him as an example because his website has so much detail about his early career) is not YA and it was only 52,000 words, which is extremely short. But his characters, his plot, and his story were all there. I think word count depends on the type of story you want to tell.

If you send out an amazing query letter, chances are someone will pick you up, no matter the word count. The most important thing is to know your audience and know your story.

Until next time!

XOXO,
Wendi

12.27.2010

White Christmas (for the first time ever!)

Hello friends!

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and happy holiday! It snowed here in my hometown in Georgia, for the first time that I can remember in my 25 years, on Christmas morning. What a blessing that was! I was happy to read that all my fellow Facebookers posted that this Christmas was their best ever. What a difference a little snow makes, huh? Sorry to those of you who live and/or had to travel up north where it got ugly. All the more reason for you to live below the Mason-Dixon line in Hotlanta (yes, I just said that...I'll understand if you want to smack me). But seriously, I went to New York for Christmas back in 2006 (Amazing place! I would, actually, leave Atlanta to live there...even if I had to bring my own jugs of sweet tea with me) and it was the coldest I think I've ever been. Not my idea of a holiday, let me assure you, despite the culture, the beauty, the fun, the...well...you get the picture.

But now that (most of) the holidays are past, I want to look towards the future. I'm very excited to be participating in the Chick Lit Plus Reading Challenge for 2011, and I'm working on my book as we speak (or I will be whenever I'm done typing this). My hours at work are early now (Praise the Lord! After 3 long years!) and so I will be getting home at a normal hour and, therefore, will have more time both when it's quiet at work and at night when I'm home to finish the edits. My prayer is that I will be able to brag about my progress come New Year's Day...but we'll see how that goes...

I went through the bookstore (surprised?) to try and find a good read to start off the Challenge. I'm thinking of Emily Giffin's The Heart of the Matter as my first read. I've read each of her other books (all hilarious, witty, authentic chick lit...none of that sappy stuff) and fell in love with her, so it's a no-brainer. I have a few other choices on the list, as well: Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich and The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. Thoughts? I read with lightening quick speed, so I'll probably have my twelve read in less than 6 months...BOOM! ROASTED! If you didn't understand that, it's okay...I forgive you.

One quick side note: Go see Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I know most of us are more familiar with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe but, believe me, they are all fantastic stories! C.S. Lewis was one-of-a-kind and I would like to see his work supported more than it has been (in the movies anyway). My favorite line from the film? Eustace, the obnoxious-cousin-turned-hero asks Aslan if he will ever see Him again. In response, Aslan says "I'm always with you, only, in your world, I'm known by another name." That's our King, our Savior, Who is with us no matter if we're at work, brooding, or in a magical land that we entered by falling into a picture frame =).

XOXO,
Wendi

12.23.2010

What are your resolutions?

Hi friends!

Only two more days until Christmas and I'm finally done with my shopping! Hooray! Now I just have to wrap it all, clean my house, and get a good night's sleep before the festivities begin tomorrow (praise the Lord that my work is allowing us to have Christmas Eve off this year...not so in past years...). I've been listening to Christmas music all week and I am ready to worship at Buckhead Church and relax with my family and friends.

But after Christmas, after all the food and sweets and down-time, comes the resolutions for the new year. Have any of you started your list yet? In honor of this impending celebration (and subsequent struggle to follow-through with said resolutions) I have posted mine from last year. Let's have a look-see, shall we?

BTW...this was posted on Facebook Notes...otherwise I probably would have lost it by the end of January. So here we go...

New Year's Resolutions 2010


(I wrote out 25 because it's a good round number and, unfortunately, that's how old I turned this year.)

1. Finish my book- CHECK (I actually wrote two: one coffee-table book, and one novel. The first is published...the second is...well...on it's way in that direction)!

2. Get through my first grad school class and internship without hyperventilating or anything similarly ridiculous- CHECK (for the first part...I did have a panic attack after months of barely any sleep)

3. Read a one-year version of the Bible and finish it by December 31, 2010 - Got through to April...but I still have 8 days! =)

4. Go skydiving!- CHECK (twice)!

5. Let Jesus be my King and Pierce be my prince-Working on it...

6. Get my novel published, sell lots of copies, go on a book tour, reach #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list, and have it picked up for a movie...that's not too ambitious, right? Okay, I'll settle for being published- CHECK!

7. Visit my family in California- CHECK!

8. Read 100 books- Got exactly halfway there.

9. Make our new place a HOME- CHECK!

10. Write more letters- CHECK (my sister-in-law is my new pen-pal)!

11. Finish my Greece scrapbook- Psshh....

12. Save and maintain at least 3 months income in our savings account- HA (I did start our 401(k)!

13. Stop being a control-freak- I have nothing to say to this.

14. LOVE LOVE LOVE all day, every day, no matter who, what, when, or where- Working on it with every fiber in my being!

15. Be selfless- Like most of these, always a work in progress.

16. Get a tan-CHECK

17. Join a dance class with the hubby ;)- I did join a class but, alas, the hubby stayed behind...

18. LAUGH -CHECK!

19. Learn to cook one incredibly exquisite dish and serve it to family and friends with our fine china- That's a good one for 2011

20. Get Bella all her shots, a nice grooming, and a few little breath mints ;)- Does washing her in the bathtub and waking up to find her chewing on the toothpaste tube count?

21. Limit my procrastination (because stopping altogether is just an unattainable resolution)- Much better this year, I must say.

22. Drink a bottle of water every day- Maybe I should change "water" to "sweet tea"...

23. Live in the freedom that grace has given me- Loving this part of the journey!

24. Add another country to the ones I have already visited- I added it to a list of places I want to go...so...that's all I've got for now!

25. Spend more time outside- CHECK!

The final tally? 13 out of 25 (and, yes, I'm giving my self extra points for the things I did twice, such as skydiving and writing two books). Not too bad! 2010 was definitely the first year I have ever followed through with my resolutions. I imagine some of them will continue on for the rest of my life!

So what are your resolutions for 2011? Have you got any crazy/wonderful things you'd like to accomplish?

Merry Christmas!

XOXO,
Wendi

12.22.2010

'Tis the season!

Hi friends!

First off, let me begin by simply stating that I love (love, love, love) Joy Williams' "Here With Us". It is, in three words, UH. MAY. ZING. You should go check it out!

So how is everyone doing? Fabulously, I hope. I'm a little behind on my Christmas shopping, but I suppose it's not that bad considering I won't get to see some of my friends until after Christmas Day, so I'm not as stressed for time. I can't wait to attend the Christmas Eve service at Buckhead Church on Friday. It was incredibly intense on Sunday...what great fellowship! What a blessing it is to serve a King together with other believers who desire Him. Plus, I got to hear "Oh Holy Night", which is my absolute favorite of all the Christmas melodies =).

Today I thought I would touch on a few of my recent thoughts on writing and blogging. I've been spending inordinate amounts of time reading agent and writer blogs online (most of which are, to say the least, hilarious) and it's been great not only for increasing my understanding of the publishing world, but also for encouraging me to write and edit. I'm thisclose to finishing my novel and sending out my queries, and reading these blogs are (despite the actual time spent reading them) really helping me along. I read what other aspiring authors have asked, and what the agents have to say in response, and it makes me feel that publishing my novel is just around the corner. Time cannot be wasted! It's like the winds in Sharon Creech's YA novel Walk Two Moons (another thing that is absolutely UH. MAY. ZING...I'm 25 and I still adore her books) that follow Sal around whispering "hurry, hurry, hurry...rush, rush, rush". I will not let the New Year pass without having completed my edits. This is not simply an arbitrary deadline I've given myself; it's more a notice to remind me that I can finish the book, and soon, if I devote myself to it the way I should.

My hope is that I'll work on the novel this evening (and spend some time asking for my husband to forgive me for being such an immature brat last night...tired Wendi + not-tired husband and long work hours = ARGUMENT...which was entirely my fault, I will admit) and then relax with some coffee and the Gospels. I need a bit of time to gather my thoughts away from how stressing this week has been so far. Thankfully, my hardest tasks have been taken care of and I can move on to, well, the work I actually WANT to do.

I hope that each of you is having a wonderful holiday season. My prayer is that you'll spend some time reflecting on how adored you are by our Servant King and reading about the incredible story of His birth. No matter what you believe, I hope that your holiday is a blessed one and that you have safe travels!

XOXO,
Wendi

12.17.2010

A hot mess...

...yup, that's me! At the very least, I am this week. I'll get back to you later to let you know if much has changed.

Editing was going really well early on in the week. I had completed more than half of my novel, and was well on my way to being finished when BAM! Temperatures dropped and everything in the metro-Atlanta area iced over. Now if you are not from Georgia you might be well surprised to know that we, unlike our Yankee brethren, do NOT know how to drive in inclement weather, even when said weather is...well...just not that bad. Southerners, myself included, would probably have panic attacks if required to travel in, say, Chicago during this time of year.

Something that does always surprise me, however, is that we haven't gotten used to driving under such conditions. Why don't we have chains for our tires, or salt, or gravel to put down in the winter? It may not snow (or stick) very often but, every year like clockwork, it ICES. Temperatures dip below the thirties and it's too cold for snow (ha!), so the rain immediately turns the roads into ice skating rinks. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. What is our problem? My guess is that people have memories like peanuts and, somehow, forget...

What really happens is that in some areas, yes, the ice is very bad. Bridges, for example. And there are a TON of bridges in Atlanta. The city sends out trucks to take care of the ice, but they always wait until after the damage is done. Why? Don't they know anything about being prepared in advance?

I left work on Tuesday night around 9:30 p.m. We tried to get out early, but it's finals week, and I can't very well tell students to get out when they have work to do (I'd have liked to...I knew it was going to be hell trying to get home). After I left I got about 15 minutes down Interstate 20 and dropped off my co-worker at her apartment. I couldn't even go down her street; I just had to drop her off at the gate because the whole road was...you guessed it...icy. As I left, I passed over a bridge that had a few rough patches, but nothing major. The news crew was there, though, because somebody had hit a telephone pole.

Back on I-20, I passed 9 cars wrecked on the side of the road. Mind you, I still hadn't seen any ice on the actual interstate. But, suddenly, I did see brake lights....tons of them...for miles...I-20 had been shut down. So I got off on some random exit and used my phone GPS to get me to downtown from the back roads. I got off on MLK (success!) thinking I could make my way to Spring Street and get home from there. No such luck. I got turned around twice because the roads I needed were closed. At this point, mind you, I had been on the road for almost two hours (for what is typically a 25-minute commute). I finally ended up in the West End, which is NOT a good place for a young woman in a fairly decent carto be when the sun goes down, especially when there is a risk of wrecking said car and being stuck...but there I was anyway. After fighting with my husband, who was desperately trying to find another route for me and who was very sweetly worried about my present location, I found my way back to I-20. Success again! No traffic! Oh, but then it got interesting...

I was a only a mile away from the downtown connector, thinking I pretty much had it made by this point. Just a few more minutes and I'd be pulling into our garage. But then I got on to the connector (which just so happens to start off as a steep, curving BRIDGE) and immediately started to fishtail, along with the other five cars behind me. I panicked, to say the least. It was black ice and it was ugly. The whole damn thing was just a sheet or frozen rain. I finally got my car to stop and I prayed very hard, and cried a good bit, too. I've driven on ice before, but I've never been stuck on a bridge where my only hope was to slide down and hope that I'd be able to control my car enough to not slam into the concrete guardrail at the bottom. My favorite part was when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a semi-truck COMPLETELY sideways, slowly slipping along the top of the bridge, approaching me at a speed that made me want to jump OFF the bridge and into the on-coming traffic below. But then it stopped. It was still a good thirty yards behind me, and I would have been buffered (or smashed) by the other five cars between us. I watched as some people tried to putt-putt their way to the shoulder and sit with their flashers going...while about ten others, over the course of an hour, put on a brave/stupid face and risked the downhill slope. Mercifully, every one of them made it safely to the bottom.

I called 911 to see if they could get a truck out there. The woman I talked to was wonderful but, alas, no one ever showed up...at least not while I was there. My mother called me and, as mothers are want to do, panicked that her daughter was stuck on an icy bridge after midnight. My husband called and tried to help me figure out what to do. I had to pee really badly (sorry...but it is relevant to the story) and so I was getting very desperate. I was sleepy. I was scared. And my bladder was about to explode. Not a good combination. But then...

...my father-in-law called me. He is a great man, and I am very lucky to have married into such a family. He is older and wiser than most, and he has worked on cars for years (sometimes he forgets that he is 73 and tries to challenge the younger generation at redlights), so his knowledge about cars and how to operate them goes way beyond my nine years of experience. I was finally at the point of saying "Eff this", and, inch by agonizing inch, he talked me through how to get to the bottom without crashing. Literally, inch by inch. It was release the brake, press the brake, release the break, press the brake, over and over for more than fifty yards until I finally rounded the curve (and even though I got used to what I was doing, it was still a little precarious there towards the bottom when the bridge was at its steepest and, every time I pressed the brake, my back end would slip a bit). FREE AT LAST!

Oh, I'm sorry. You thought it was over?

I merged onto I-75, now only minutes from home, and who should I see when I try exit? A Georgia State Patrol. Blocking my way. "The whole bridge is frozen," he says to me.

Are you surprised?

So I got off on the next exit, made it home safely, and RAN inside to the bathroom while my husband parked the car for me.

And then I called in sick yesterday and spent the whole day nursing an upset tummy. I listened to classical music and wrote and drank coffee by the pretty Christmas tree. Oh! And I finally got to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for the first time in years. Hooray for me!

The End.

12.13.2010

Chick Lit Plus Reading Challenge for 2011 (because who doesn't love to read girly novels?)

Hello friends!

I hope you got a chance to read Jordan's interview with me, here on ABC; if not, please go check it out! It's a fun little Q&A, if I do say so myself...







Today's topic is the Chick Lit Reading Challenge, hosted by none other than the creator of one of my favorite blogs, Chick Lit Plus. Samantha is her name, and reading finely-written chick lit is her game. I signed up yesterday (it involves books...need I say more?), and you should too! But first, a quick glance at the rules:

1. The goal is 12 chick lit books throughout the course of 2011 (that's not too hard!).
2. Two of the twelve must have been written by new authors whose novels debuted during the year of the challenge.
3. Keep checking back in with Samantha at Chick Lit Plus in order to find the latest and greatest information on new releases and potential books for your challenge!

Prizes will be given away monthly, and Samantha is available to answer any questions you might have. Make this challenge a part of your New Year's resolution to read more in 2011 (unless you never keep your resolutions, in which case please make it a part of something you know you'll follow through with...like your bi-weekly manicure...go ahead, read your chick lit! Unless you speak Korean, you probably won't know what those salon ladies are saying to each other anyway...).

Head on over to Chick Lit Plus now and sign up for the challenge!

Love, Wendi

12.12.2010

Author Jordan Christy shares her thoughts with A Bundle of Contradictions!



Photo credit: Sarah Barlow
Hi friends! Today we have a very special guest on ABC (drumroll, please!): Jordan Christy, author of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World. If you're anything like me, you've probably wondered why so many young women feel the need to act out in order to get attention (Miley's video bong hit, anyone?), while the fabulous girls who keep their clothes on, say "please" and "thank you", and work hard seem to have become the minority. How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World is a young woman's guide to living with grace and style in the 21st century and, judging by its success, it would seem that classy girls like Jordan are actually the majority.

And so, without further ado, ABC presents: Jordan Christy

1. How did it feel, after the success of Hepburn, to know that so many women identified with your work? Very humbling! While writing it, I truly thought, "Well, at least I know my family will buy four copies." So, it's been very exciting and gratifying to connect with so many others who feel the same way. 

2. Can you tell me anything about your new book? I will say this: it's a different genre :) I can't even tell you how much fun I've had writing this book, I'm going to be sad when it's finished!

3. What is your go-to Starbucks order? Oooo good question. Depending on the season, either a hot or iced decaf caramel macchiato. 

4. Describe your writing process. Do you write every day? I wish! I'm usually lucky if I get one good writing day a week. But that one day is a big one: usually 8-10 hours straight. I know a lot of writers require a very specific space or environment to write, but my requirements are very minimal; as long as I'm surrounded by a bit of clutter and have a hot beverage, I can write almost anywhere. 

5. What one piece of Hepburn advice would you like to pass on to your childrenAmong others, respect. It seems that respect for elders, authority figures, etc. is becoming a rarity, and I want my children to truly value and respect everyone from their teachers to their grandparents. 

6. Do you have a reality show guilty pleasure? We actually don't currently have TV at our house, just movies and DVD's. So, I'm extremely out of the loop with reality shows. But, my husband recently bought me The King of Queens on DVD so we've been having fun reliving the late 90's with Kevin James.

7. Who is your favorite author/what is your favorite book? Gah! That's like asking me to choose my favorite ice cream. Hands-down my favorite books are humorous, semi-autobiographical works about everyday life ala Jean Shepherd, Nora Ephron, etc. But I always love a good YA novel, too: Ann Brashares, Meg Cabot...Oooo but then there's children's books, too. I love Flat Stanley, Matilda, The Baby-Sitters Club...To sum up, I've tried really hard to be a super-serious scholastic aficionado, but it turns out I just have the literary inclinations of an 11-year old. 

8. What is one suggestion you would offer new authors trying to get published? Write about what you know. It's always much more impassioned and authentic.

9. We both live in the South, a region famous for its hospitality and manners. Do you find that women here make it a higher priority to act like a Hepburn, rather than a Hilton? I do believe there is a bigger emphasis on civility and propriety in the South. However, I've come to find countless classy girls in every region, from the West Coast to Australia!

 10. If you could spend the day with one celebrity, who would it be and why? I really want to be friends with Gwyneth Paltrow. I think we'd have a good time together. GP, if you're reading this, call me. 

A BIG thanks to Jordan for stopping by and sharing her thoughts with ABC! To find about more about Jordan, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

XOXO,

Wendi

12.10.2010

To query, or not to query? That is the question.

Happy Friday friends!

Today's topic is the query letter. The more I am involved in the writing process, research for how to create the best novel I possibly can, and publishing said novel, I find that the answer to the question above is this: QUERY. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

What is a query letter, you ask? Good question.

A query letter is, in its most basic form, a document that details who you are, what you've written, and why it is the most fabulous piece of artistry that will ever be created. Queries are important because a successful one could ultimately be the bridge between your novel gathering dust on your shelf and becoming a must-have at Barnes and Noble.

After you've finished your novel (I'll get to non-fiction in a second), and only AFTER you've finished (I'm including edits, final edits and, yes, more editing), you'll want to put together your letter. The most important pieces of information to include are your writing background (any published work, degrees, what-have-you), a short summary about the book (title, word count, basic plot), and why this book is relevant and/or will be a success. Think about why you want to read a book. What would YOU expect readers to want from YOUR story? Sell yourself! Because that's exactly what you will have become at this point: a salesman (woman, person, whatever...). And if you don't believe in your story, who the heck will?

Nicholas Sparks, bestselling author of, well, just about every tear-jerking love story in the last fifteen years, actually posted his original query letter for The Notebook (his first novel) on his website. It is a treasure, people! Pay attention because this is the query letter that led to signing with the talented agent he has been with for his entire career, as well as a million dollar rights deal with Warner Brothers (and, let's not forget, one of my favorite movies with one of my favorite wish-they-would-get-back-together-couples: Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling).

You can view Sparks query here.

Once you are ready to send out your letter, do your research. There are plenty of excellent guides out there for top literary agents, and most of them include a little bio, what they agent, as well as contact information. An agent is going to be the person who reads the letter and, if interested, contacts you to see your book. This is why you have to be finished with your novel first; you'll want to get it sent out as soon as humanely possible, which means you won't have time to finish editing. You'll probably get rejected. Many times. This is okay. It's never happened to me because I'm still editing but, honestly, I'm looking forward to it. Why? Because I can't wait to know that all my hard work is paying off and, at the very least, I am receiving feedback. If you've been following me for a bit, you know I am planning on framing my first rejection letter (and, of course, my first letter of interest!). I'm most excited about knowing that other people are reading my work and that it has become a tangible thing. But enough about me...back to queries and agents...

Once you've been accepted (it WILL happen!), it is up to YOU whether you want to work with that agent. You might have a few who want to represent you, which is a great place to be. Figure out who really understands your characters and believes in your potential to not only make money (let's face it: agents only make money by selling your book, so money is essential here), but to continue to create stories that people love. When you've found the right one...CELEBRATE! Do a victory dance. Drink some wine, go out with friends. Call me! I'll be excited to hear about your success.

Now it's up to the agent to sell your book to a publisher. Lots of people send their manuscripts directly to a publisher, but this is not a good idea. Publishers don't want to sift through unsolicitd manuscripts to find something worth reading. Agents do that leg work, and publishers (for the most part) respect agents because they have already made sure the novel is up to standard before they see it.

Non-fiction (how-tos, memoirs, cook books, etc.) work a little differently. In this case, you don't have to have the book written, or even started. But you do have to have a good idea about what you want to write and why. You'll put together a proposal to send to agents, which will be a detailed synopsis of the book, chapter by chapter, in addition to a letter that looks much like a query. A proposal usually runs about twenty pages. This is not a simple thing to do and it requires a good deal of time and effort. The final process is mostly the same (send proposal to agents, get rejected, then signed) but then you'll have to write the book. The good news here is that you'll have your agent before you write, so you'll have a great support system in place to do the work.

Leave comments or questions, if you have any, and I'll be glad to get back to you!

Wendi

12.09.2010

What can I say? When I make a promise, I keep a promise =).

Hello friends!

I promised you all in recent posts that I would have some cool things to offer here and, boy, am I very thankful to announce that, very soon, A Bundle of Contradictions (ABC) will be hosting one of my favorite authors: Jordan Christy, author of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World! Words can't even begin to express my excitement!

The whole process came about when I, after seeing so many bloggers do the same, wondered "Now why in the world couldn't I interview someone?" So I fiddled around on a few author sites and found that, voila!, many of them have contact information listed, either directly to the author or to a publicist. I have been following Jordan's blog since I first read her book last year and, every week, I receive her "Happy Hepburn Friday" updates in my email inbox (You should subscribe too! What girl doesn't want to learn how to mix up a batch of stuffing muffins on a whim or put together beautiful photo collections as gifts? These are the things that all ladies should be well-versed at doing, my friends! You never know when you'll be hosting a party!) I sent a quick email to her publicist who, in turn, emailed Jordan who, in turn, emailed me. Sometimes all it takes is just putting yourself out there. Jordan is a classy girl and she has written about the lost art of living with grace and style, so it's a great pleasure to have her stop by for a visit on ABC.

Be on the lookout for her interview and, in the meantime, check out her book! It's a fun read!

Wendi

12.08.2010

A Bundle of "One Day I Will..." Favs

Hi friends!

Today is a quiet, not-very-productive day for me and my editing, so I thought that I would procrastinate further by listing a few (or more) "One Day I Will..." favs, just for your entertainment ;). These are not in order of importance; they just kind of fell out of my head. So here we go:

1. One day I will...travel all over Europe with my dear friend, Lauren.

2. One day I will...take a picture of myself "holding up" the Leaning Tower of Pisa (I know it's cheesy and touristy, but who cares?).

3. One day I will...author books as a career and use my downtime to be a housewife.

4. One day I will...read the entire Bible, from start to finish (a task I began this year in my One-Year Women's Bible and only got through to April...).

5. One day I will...handroll my own sushi.

6. One day I will...live close to my best friend, Jillian, again.

7. One day I will...have another wedding (to the same man, of course...I'm speaking here in terms of anniversary vows).

8. One day I will...have a daughter named Lucy and a son named Lucas.

9. One day I will...wear every item of clothing in my closet without repeating outfits.

10. One day I will...drink a bottle of water every day.

11. One day I will...walk where Jesus walked.

12. One day I will...see Anne Frank's diary in person.

13. One day I will...live outside of Georgia, preferably by the beach.

14. One day I will...sit in rocking chairs with my hubby of 50 years.

15. One day I will...purchase in-season Louboutins, a Chanel bag, and a DVF dress.

16. One day I will...pay of all my student loans and credit card debt (!!!).

17. One day I will...buy my Dad the '68 Mustang fastback ("midnight blue, restored from the ground up", he always says) he's talked about since I was a kid.

18. One day I will...be a good mom.

19. One day I will...see my older brother play drums for a really awesome band at a really sold-out concert.

20. One day I will...give $1,000,000 to Georgia Southern's Alumni Association.

21. One day I will...crowd surf.

22. One day I will...meet Butch Walker.

23. One day I will...get over my stage fright (singing, not speaking).

24. One day I will...see my name on the credits of a (good) movie and they will read something like this: "Based on the bestselling novel by Wendi Nunnery".

And the last "One day I will" (in honor of my age, don'tcha know?) is...

25. One day I will...learn how to cook like my grandmother =).

Love, Wendi

12.07.2010

Writing the book was easier than this...

If you've just started reading, you might be interested to know that I wrote two books this year. If you've been around for a while (I still see my one loyal follower here, but maybe there are others who have not subscribed), you are fully aware of this already. Either way, one of the books I authored was The Mayfield Family Story, a 100th anniversary legacy title from The Storyline Group, a publishing company here in Atlanta that I worked for from January to September. I was an editorial intern and was assigned, because of my desire to become an author and my experience as a writer, to be in charge of writing the story for Mayfield Dairy Farms (c'mon...I know it's mostly a Southern company, but everyone should recognize the big, yellow jugs of milk at the grocery store...), which was, I have to say, a huge honor for which I am extremely grateful (here's to you, Phil). The Mayfield Family Story is currently at the printers and should be available this month. And, boy oh boy, I can not WAIT to get my hands on a copy, to actually hold, in my hands, the result of nine months of hard work (I'm guessing this is what motherhood would feel like?). The second book I wrote is my own novel, a fiction work I'd like to believe fits somewhere in the genres of chick lit and Southern gothic, but not quite as sappy nor as dark. And this, my friends, is my struggle...

Editing. Sounds harmless enough, right? Do not be deceived! Editing one's work is like stripping it of its soul, only to have to find all the pieces (literally...sometimes I've written notes on scrap paper and I have no idea where they are anymore) and put them back together in a way that is not only plausible, but better than before. It's a tough game, to be sure, and I find myself longing for the days of just putting pen to paper (well...fingers to keys) and letting it flow. Editing means having to look back and say "Ugh, what was I thinking? How in the world did that sentence ever make sense?" It's pretty much my least favorite process in the world. And yet...

The more I go back and fix what I didn't think was broken, the better the book becomes, which would seem obvious, but I find that I am always surprised by this fact. Hopefully, it won't be too long before I'm done and I can send it off to a few agents (and by few I mean, oh say, twenty). I'm working on my query letter right now (which, so far says something like "Please like my book and ask to see it, or else I shall perish!"), but it's a little counter-intuitive to write what the book is about before I actually finish it. I'm just working through intro, the "Who is Wendi" section, what she has published (again, thank you Phil!), and why she is a great writer. Like a cover letter, only more intimidating.

With job changes, moving (again), and the holidays all around the bend, I feel like some good, steady editing could be the ticket to my sanity, if I let it.

Wendi

12.02.2010

Examining an Examiner

I know I promised cool things this week and, yes, I fully intend to keep those promises; however, they might have to be put on hold for just a bit longer. For those of you who are reading my little Bundle, I apologize! But keep coming back and you efforts will be rewarded ;).

Now, while the specific things I'd hoped to manifest here on this blog (i.e. the "cool" things) have not yet yielded results, I do have a few other fabulous topics to discuss:

First: I am DONE with my final project for my Global Human Rights class...DONE DONE DONE! Now, I just have to wait for our group grade and my individual grade (as of right now it's an A and I have a 4.0...let's hope it sticks!).

Second: I am editing my book...FINALLY. It's a slow process, but I have a new goal for myself: New Years Day. Which leaves me with just under a month to write, edit, print, package and send a beautiful query letter (while I simultaneously edit the actual book because, this I promise, there will be an agent contacting me...I just know it!). Keep your fingers crossed that I will be successful in this endeavour...it will reveal a good deal about my work ethic and whether the fact that I finished my book just before my deadline was true to character...or just an anomaly.

Third: I have a new writing gig: I am officially an Examiner! Examiner.com is a site hosting thousands of writers who post articles pertaining to their particular topic of expertise for their particular area of the country. I am the Christian Perspectives Examiner for Atlanta. My first article, titled "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas", went live last night! Please go "like" it, comment, and generate traffic! The more you read the more I get paid! Please and thank you ;).

Whew...I'm busy. But it's wonderful to be busy. God is good and so is life, my friends.

I'll be back soon, hopefully with presents!

Wendi