A New Direction
"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination," - Jimmy Dean
Welcome to my new website and blog! Take a look around. Make yourself at home. Don't worry, the old blog will still be available at: http://anitasaxena.blogspot.com/
I'd like to focus this blog on giving back to the writing community. Sharing my journey. Providing encouragement. I hope it can be a place where we can be real and transparent.
I started seriously writing in 2004. I didn't sign with my agent, Adriann Ranta Zurhellen, until 2014. And here I am still writing, pursuing publication.
I think there's a false belief amongst some aspiring writers that when you sign with an agent your writing career will magically fall in place. For some people it does. That first book sells. Sometimes there's an option for a second or third book.
But for others, like myself, that's where your grit and determination is tested. My first book that went on submission didn't sell. We received some positive feedback, but overall there wasn't a place in the market for my novel.
I followed sales on Publisher Weekly and read all the tweets about book deals.
I can look back on where I was two to three years ago and see that I had gotten in a hurry. I wanted to sell something so bad that I wrote with a disregard for depth, reflection, and research. My agent kindly told me that my next two projects were not submission ready.
I withdrew from social media, my blog, my online acquaintances. I allowed doubt to settle in. It was of my own creation and became my powerful nemesis.
I floated for awhile. Focused on other things. But, I wasn't happy because I wasn't writing. But whenever I tried to my internal editor, which was a slave to doubt, shut down everything I tried to do.
In the winter of 2017 I began teaching a course for the UAB Honors Program called How to Write a Young Adult or Middle Grade Novel. There were sixteen bright, eager college students in the class. The goal of the course was to write a second draft of the first 10,000 words of a novel by the end of the semester.
We studied Beth Revis' PAPER HEARTS. It's a spectacular book on writing. We also had the honor of many guest speakers visiting us in person or via Skype.
Lou Anders is a playwright, journalist, screenwriter, Hugo and Chelsey award winner for editing and art directing in publishing, author of the middle grade series, THRONES & BONES. He shared his wisdom on act structure and plotting through his Script Tips talk. It was my third time hearing his talk, but every time I hear it, I learn something new. After class was over, Lou asked about my writing. He encouraged me not to give up.
Randi Pink, author of INTO WHITE, visited us. She talked about the importance of describing our characters with sensitivity. Randi is entertaining and funny, but also knows how to tackle those difficult topics. She encouraged me to visit a local writing group that she's a part of. I had been invited to the group last fall but hadn't been able to fit it in my schedule. This time I made it fit. Meeting with other writers face to face has been invaluable.
New York Times Best Selling author Beth Revis visited us via Skype. She talked about her writing process. Shared gems of information on how to keep voice consistent, character and setting development, story structure, and how to move on when a project doesn't work out. I was inspired.
Irene Latham, poet & award winning middle grade author of LEAVING GEE’S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY visited us in March. She shared a quote from John Truby's book THE ANATOMY OF A STORY: "Write something that may change your life." She talked about the importance of being a different writer. She told us to overcome our fears so that we can write.
My agent, Adriann Ranta Zurhellen of Foundry Media, visited us via Skype. She shared with the students how a book gets published, how to write a query, and find an agent. She talked about how not all books sell. And when she shared the reality of this with the class, I felt like she was talking to me. She may not have been, but it felt personal, motivating. When the skype visit was over, the students commented on Adriann's passion for what she does and her genuine love of books.
Our last author to Skype visit for the semester was my critique partner and dear friend, Diane Magras. She is the author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter (Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin Random House 2018). She shared an inspirational metaphor of her own writing journey.
I know the purpose of the course was for me to teach the students how to write children's literature, but I felt like I was the one benefitting from their optimism, their creativity, and the lessons shared from all of our guest speakers. When the semester ended, I was sad to part from my students, but eager to start writing again.
Since then, I've kicked doubt out the door, and I'm going full steam ahead.