Monday, November 30, 2015

The Love of Reading Lives On!

I had a group of Grade 8 students working in my classroom the other day. They were working on a variety of projects and activities and sitting in small groups around the room.

One of students started a discussion about the book he was reading (In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis). He knew a few others had read the first book in the series (Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy as well) and asked if they thought it was okay to read the books out of order.

One girl used the phrase companion book and, having read both books, told him it would be fine, although there could be a few spoilers about a character. A few other students agreed, and the conversation turned to what they liked about the world building in the book.

Another boy chimed in about the world building in Extraction by Stephanie Diaz and he encouraged them to read it because, while it was really different in almost every way, he thought all the books created vivid worlds, powerful characters, and intriguing (his word!) conflict, and that students who liked one would like the other.

The conversation was interrupted by the bell, but it was some great eavesdropping for so many reasons:

  • the authors the kids spoke about are friends of mine from Agent Query Connect (the kids know nothing about my connection to these authors)
  • the gender of the main character didn't matter to anyone
  • the conversation was completely and totally spontaneous
  • there was NO adult intervention or commentary (I sat back quietly and grinned!!!)
  • they showed great understanding of the books and all kinds of literary concepts
  • they were able to look past the obvious dis-similarities to deeper connections within the books
Talk about an uplifting few minutes! So, for those of you who are worried about the next generation of readers, relax! 

What about you? What positive reading have you seen and heard about lately?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Robin Gianna's Writing Journey

Please welcome Robin Gianna back to the blog today!

My writing journey started with a summer beach read, and the epiphany that I wanted to write fiction.  
A formerly voracious reader, it was the first novel I’d read in quite a few years, mostly just picking up the occasional magazine while my children were small.  I know some mothers take time for themselves through books, but to me, being interrupted all the time in the middle of a story made it much less enjoyable!
But my youngest was no longer a toddler, and I grabbed a book to take on the trip.  After I read it, I
found myself lying on the beach deeply thinking about the characters. Then, back at home, oddly and obsessively creating new scenes in my head while I was cooking, driving, doing laundry. Weird! I thought maybe I was losing it until I realized these were someone else’s characters and I needed to come up with my own.  Clearly, I needed to write a book!
And so it began.  It didn’t seem so crazy, right?  I’d write a book, then sell it.  I had a journalism degree, after all, so I was a pretty good writer.  I’d read a lot.  How hard could it be?
Well, the answer is, pretty hard! :-) For me, the learning curve to writing fiction was much longer than I ever dreamed it would be.  Early in the journey, I began reading a lot of romances again and remember looking at websites of authors I liked, to learn about them.  Then was flabbergasted that it had taken some of them five or seven years to get published! *gasp*  How was that possible?  
My attitude makes me laugh now, because I know the answer.  Books are hard to write, and competition is fierce when it comes to having an agent or editor become interested in your work.  The number of years between my epiphany and selling?  Nine.  Yep, nine, though I wrote in fits and starts, often letting life get in the way.  Even when I wasn’t writing, though, I kept studying the craft.
In January of 2012, I decided it was time to either get serious about getting published by writing and submitting more, or quit.  I gave myself until the end of that year for a positive sign that I should keep going, in the form of landing an agent or having serious interest from a publisher.  In the midst of working on a single title, I saw that Harlequin Mills & Boon was having a Fast Track submission event for their medical line, where writers could submit just one chapter and a synopsis, and get feedback within a month.  Considering one could turn gray between submitting and getting a response, sometimes, that seemed like a great thing!  And my husband and many of our relatives and friends are physicians and nurses, so I’d have people to bother for research.  Why not? 
Then I pondered how to stand out in the crowd.  I decided that an unusual location would catch attention, but to stick with a popular trope so as not to stick out in a sore-thumb kind of way.  I set the book in Benin, West Africa because my husband had worked in a mission hospital there long ago, and went with a secret baby storyline.  
I was asked for two more chapters.  Woot!  Shortly after, an agent who had requested a single title of mine the prior year offered me representation, which I happily accepted.  Then Harlequin wanted the full manuscript.  These were the signs I’d asked for—obviously, I wasn’t supposed to quit!
In May of 2013, I got THE CALL.  So thrilling!  So happy!  Frankly, though?  Pretty quickly, it became a bit of a ‘Be careful what you wish for’ thing, because my life could not have been busier at that moment.  My father-in-law had experienced a life-threatening heart problem, and was living with us for a few months to recover. My mother fell and was in the hospital, then rehab. My son was graduating from high school, for which I was planning a backyard party and cooking gobs of food, and my daughter was interviewing in NYC for internships, with me accompanying her to help her move in, etc. 
Oh, and I had that new writing career taking up a lot of time, but I didn’t remove anything from my already busy life to accommodate that change.  Can you say stressful?
My daughter still laughs about the morning I got an email from my editor, saying they were going to tweet about their new author, and what was my Twitter account?  I went tearing up to her room, shouting like the house was on fire, telling her she had to set up a Twitter account for me. :-)
So, what I’ve learned that I’d like to pass on?  Get a website set up in advance, even if you don’t publish it until you’ve sold.  Get your social media in order.  Know you will have deadlines to meet and edits to do and promotion for releases that can come pretty fast and furious.  Figure out what you can delegate to others, and what things in your life you might have to do away with.  Ask for help from family members, because they can’t read your mind about what house responsibilities might be pushing you over the edge.  Most of all?  Take care of yourself.  Don’t let one of the things you drop be the exercise you used to do.  Re-energize by engaging with friends, because writing can be a lonely business.
One more bit of honesty?  I’ve had some tough things to deal with personally over the past year and a half, and there have been a few times when I thought maybe it wasn’t worth it.  That I’d gotten ‘get published’ off my bucket list and I was done.
But then my box of books would come, and let me say, that’s a great feeling.  A reader will tell me how much she enjoyed my book.  A bit of a paycheck shows up in the mail.  The book I’m working on comes together, and it feels wonderful when that happens.  All of that makes me smile, and that’s when I know.
It’s worth it.

About Robin
After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens.  Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.
Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

Her Christmas Baby Bump

One Christmas night with consequences! 

Talented midwife Hope Sanders’s dream of holding a baby of her own is finally coming true! She’s just weeks away from beginning her fertility treatment—and then meeting gorgeous hotshot fertility doc Aaron Cartwright throws a holly sprig in her plans… 

Aaron’s mistletoe kisses might be dazzling, but after they spend one magical Christmas night together, Hope never expects to end up pregnant! Now she’s faced with telling Aaron her surprise baby news…but has she finally found the man of her dreams, too? 

Midwives On-Call at Christmas

Read Reader Reviews

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Enter to win signed copies of Her Christmas Baby Bump on Goodreads. 


Thanks Robin for a glimpse into your journey. Love the Twitter story! 
I just finished Her Christmas Baby Bump and it's a Terrific story!! If you're looking for a great contemporary romance with characters with heart, you need to pick up a copy - loved it!

What about you? Anyone else give themselves a deadline for success? Or get a family member to set up the social media?

I know none of us are giving up - and it WILL be worth it!