Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Fun Facts: Knowing You've "Arrived"

Today's post title is a little facetious - I'm not sure one ever knows if one has "arrived" in a business, unless you win an Oscar or are elected President or something. But in talking about writing, it's interesting to think about milestones, and how we know whether we've "arrived" as a writer.

Does it mean we finish writing a book? Or that we sign with an agent? Maybe we "arrive" when the book is finally published, and others can buy it. Does it need to be in print, or is e-book enough these days? Maybe you haven't really "arrived" until you hit the New York Times best-selling list, or your book is made into a movie. Or until you're a household name.

For me, it has been a series of milestones, and each time I meet a new one, I feel another giddy sense of "arrival." The first time was when I signed a contract in 2007 for One Night in Boston, my very first book, with Samhain Publishing. The next was when I received my print copies of that book in the mail.

The next big moment of "arrival" was finding Summer's Song on the shelves in a Borders in NYC - that remains a highlight of my career. I also had the chance to be interviewed on a Portuguese news channel when Kindles first came out - that was pretty cool. I was invited to a women's luncheon for authors who had influenced readers. I went to Las Vegas for the EPPIE Awards, for One Night in Memphis, in 2009. A reader from the Czech Republic wrote a fan letter and asked if I'd send her a bookmark.

And yesterday, I reached two more mini-milestones that made me think, "huh, maybe I've arrived in this industry." A local book club, Between the Covers, chose The Promise of Paradise as their March read, and I decided to hire myself a virtual assistant to try and organize my writing and marketing life this year. (More on this later - virtual assistants may sound fancy and high-falutin', but they're quite affordable)

I guess what I mean to share with all this is not only the twisty road that my writing life has taken, but also that we as writers should celebrate ALL the milestones along the way, that there isn't one "moment" that means we've arrived as a writer. As I know from first-hand experience, around another bend can be something that knocks you flat on your face. I've had editors leave, publishing houses fold, manuscripts rejected more times than I can count. It's how we pick ourselves up that really matters. We've "arrived" when we decide we have, plain and simple. Don't let others dictate the measurement of your success .

Happy writing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Mentionables: Why I Love Small Towns

It's no secret that many of the novels I write are set in small towns: The Promise of Paradise, Summer's Song, Beacon of Love. And while part of me considers myself a "city girl," in love with the bustle and opportunity and endless restaurant and theater choices of big cities, there is also something safe and soothing about life in a sleepy small town.

This is a blog post I wrote a while ago about the town I grew up in.

This is the town I live in now. It is approximately 25 square miles in size and home to about 7,000 people. It has both a state and a federal correctional facility inside its borders, and it also has a train station that will take you to NYC in a little over an hour. It was also just named fifth safest on the list of "Safest Places to Live in New York State."

But Mount Hope is also currently facing a situation of internal town, and without going into detail, it's been very interesting over the last few weeks to watch the townspeople rally together to save a historic building. This town is small, it's in the middle of nowhere, it may be backwards in some of its thinking and practices, but it also has roots in farming families that go back generations. It has a hardware store where the workers know exactly where every single item is, aisle and shelf. It also has the claim to fame of being the site of one of the most famous sanatoriums from the early 20th century (this was the place to come if you had tuberculosis, to let the pure mountain air heal you). In fact, Ernest Hemingway's earliest love, Agnes von Kurowsky, the nurse he fell in love with in an Italian hospital, worked at the sanatorium after she left Italy (and broke poor Ernest's heart). And here's a funny historic detail for you: the road I live on still goes by "Sanatorium Road" on the electric company's records, though it was changed years ago.

This is not a metropolis by any stretch of the imagination, and there isn't a whole lot of diversity in many of the people who live here. But most days, I will take the sleepy hillsides, the spotty wi-fi service, and the tiny grocery store with its limited shelves of goods. Mount Hope has heart and good people. And that's why I love small towns.

Look out for the Hometown Hero series this year, Beacon of Love this spring and Inferno of Love later in 2014....because along with charm and safety, there are also passionate secrets in the small town of Lindsey Point, just like Mount Hope and a thousand other small towns in this big, beautiful country of ours.