12 April 2011

Nothing But Good Times Ahead

I entered some writing contests in January. You may recall that my mother gave me The Guide to Literary Agents at Christmas. After flipping through the index, I decided to join the Romance Writers of America. It was a small gesture that made me feel committed to my writing. When I visited the RWA website, I discovered that the various chapters across the nation sponsor writing contests. I read the descriptions and requirements of each contest, and decided to enter three: Cleveland Rocks, the Winter Rose, and Between the Sheets.

Cleveland Rocks judged my first 6000 words, and Winter Rose my first chapter. Between the Sheets was my favorite, because I had to submit a love scene. Let me tell you, gentle readers, I labored long and hard on that scene. I had many discussions with my de facto editor, Janet, and my sister, Erin, who had to call me from the Safeway parking lot, for privacy. I dare say, it's sexy. Perhaps even hot. I giggled when I sent it off.

While visiting Mom, I got an email from Cleveland Rocks. It informed me that I wasn't a finalist, but my comment sheets were attached. I took a deep breath, and opened the file. The two judges were very complimentary, and insightful. Both said they would have kept reading! I was giddy with delight.

When my plane touched down in Newark, I turned on my phone, and saw I had a voicemail from Texas. I listened to the nice woman with the charming accent explain that I am a Winter Rose finalist! Wait, that makes me sound like a beauty contestant. Rather, my entry, "Big Sky," is a finalist! I really wanted to whoop, but I'm not big on public yakking, so I mad-texted instead, first to the Captain, then Mom, Janet, and June, my de facto agent. When I got home, I saw Two, asked about his week, and then said, "Okay, enough about you. Guess what happened to me??!!" I smiled for a solid day, as I made everyone look at my name in print on the Yellow Rose website.

I'm not going to lie, and say it doesn't matter if I win or lose. It would be fantastic to win. But, to paraphrase the Academy Award nominees,  just getting to the final is a prize, because someone from Harlequin will read my submission. And I am unafraid. Letting June and Janet read my first draft was more nerve-wracking than this. They read A LOT of romance. They know much, much more than I do about what makes a satisfying novel. When they gave me their seal of approval, I felt like I could compete, even if I do still think they grade me on a curve. Writing my first sex scene was even more excruciating. It took me days and days to get up the nerve to let it be read. By comparison, having strangers critique me is cake. 

I have entered two more contests since I submitted to those first three. I realize I'm in danger of being labeled a contest slut, but I don't care. This is my first book. Tart me up, and ship me out! I want all those kind, talented judges to read what I've written, and tell me what they think. Some will like it, some won't, and I'm okay with the results.

There are many writers with more talent and skill than I possess right now. More than anyone else, I am competing with myself, because I want to get better at my craft. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, especially in the last four months, and I can't wait to do more. Maybe it was the vacation, or the arrival of Spring, but I am in a particularly optimistic mood. I want to stride forth, armed with a fertile imagination and a fearless soul!

I haven't heard from the Between the Sheets folks. I think they lost my entry, because they posted the finalists and I haven't received my comments. It's too bad, because it was a really good sex scene. Even the Captain agreed, and he's hardly my target demographic. Oh well. Time to re-apply the lipstick, hike up the skirt, and slink on over to the next contest. I'm a cheap date.

19 comments:

  1. Squeeeeeeee! Hooray! Honey this is so awesome. So, so happy for you! I can't wait to read this book - must go clear another space on the "Future Books by Betties" shelf. :)

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  2. Oh yeah! Congratulations.... on the getting this far and just the DOING it!

    Julie
    (I only have flat non-soft cookies right now too, I feel Five's pain so clearly.)

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  3. Go you! That is awesome stuff, you must be super proud.
    And I don't think slink is the right word, you should be strutting your stuff right on over to the next contest.
    (I have no cookies right now)

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  4. Megan you make me laugh, thank you! I love your image of hiking and slinking :) And I'm SO happy for your excitement and that you have something happening that is exciting for YOU. I know it's great to be excited about good things happening for our kids, but something for us? SWEET. Good luck, and send some chapters, woman!

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  5. Just to be clear to all your fans and loved ones: I certainly do not grade on a curve!! (Although it made me laugh out loud when I read that.) I admit that I would have found something constructive and encouraging to say, even if you had only been a mediocre writer. I love you and I wouldn't have wanted to discourage your early efforts. But I was very surprised and pleased to learn after reading the first installment that I didn't have to work very hard to be enthusiastic about your writing.

    I do read a lot of romance, but it is mostly written by the same handful of writers. I'm very picky about quality and I have always struggled to find new writers to enjoy. I'm so thrilled to know that my next favorite writer is going to be you!! Can't wait to read the new stuff.

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  6. WOW!!!! You're a really hot contest slut---very in demand!

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY MEGAN!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! (the sweet pea doesn't yay yet)

    Congratulations that is soooooo awesome and shows a lot of bravery on your part. I can't even write a sex scene. Too embarrassed. My mom and grandma are reading my novel in progress. I would like DIE. Perhaps should be writing for a more immature audience like myself? I can't wait to read YOUR novel though! AWESOME!!!!!!!

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  7. No curve here! My grading system is on an absolute scale and you are breezing through like you bought the cheat sheet. I have read a lot of romance. And it is tough work finding funny, smart and original writers. In fact, it has been a thin couple of years for new authors in my library. Imagine my delight and surprise to find one of best friend's writing just what I want to read.

    I remember reading the first couple of chapters while on the subway. I had lived in the same apartment for 10 years and had the same subway stop for the whole time. On that evening, I was so absorbed in the story that I missed my stop on the express line and ended up 65 blocks further up town. It was the FIRST time I had done at in 10 years of commuting. I'm just saying.

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  8. Yay, Megan!!!!!!

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  9. Hmm. My first post seems to have been eaten. Let's try again.

    WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!! Go Megan!! You're doing awesome. Pimp that novel, baby! And, uh, where's the link? I'd like to go see your name in the finalists column. :)

    Woo!

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  10. Thanks, everyone, for the huzzahs. Today I am editing the next four chapters in the book, in the hope that someone will ask to see them. I am employing the "Nick Cannon" method, which is an obscure pop culture reference.

    Nick Cannon is a young (20's) man who got his start as a comedian/dj/singer. One day, he meets Mariah Carey, and declares, out loud to the Universe, that one day she will be his bride. They're expecting twins.

    Since I can no longer claim Mariah, or Nick, for my own, I have decided I would like to be a successful novelist instead. I think it is a much easier task for the Universe to fulfill. That Mimi seems rather high-maintenance.

    @Lora: Yes, it was unnerving writing "nipple" the first time, knowing my mom and M.I.L would eventually read it. Not as disconcerting as having mom reply: "I don't know what the big deal is. It's how you all got here, you know."

    Yes. That's enough explanation, thank you.

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  11. @Delia: I added the link. I'm still learning how to be a good, self-promoting, floozy. Thanks for being my pimp. Hmm. That seems perjorative, and masculine. Perhaps "Madame" or "Lady?" Like Lady Heather, Gil's friend on CSI.

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  12. maybe my other comment got eaten by the blogosphere....maybe i misspelled the verification word....

    anyway, how do i email you, oh self promoting floozie?

    i have a rather comprehensive ms works table of romance lit agents accepting new clients along with their preferences and addresses and i want to send it to you!

    i know....you're probably afraid i'll bombard you with forwards about male enhancement...but that is justa risk you have to take.

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  13. @Lora:It goes without saying that the Captain needs no male enhancement. However, I do need an agent. You, and anyone else, really, can email me at macoakley {at} verizon [dot] net.

    The Captain will appreciate your well-organized table, because he can't even get me to keep track of the contests I've entered. He actually suggested I make an excel spreadsheet! My sides still hurt from laughing.

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  14. Crap, does this mean I have to finish the manuscript? And query? Something else to learn...

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  15. Readers! I forgot to mention that Colette, otherwise known here as Follower #22, is also a finalist! You can wave at her picture, and also read her name on the website. And, if I am not mistaken, she is also a finalist in Cleveland Rocks! My blog continues to attract only the highest quality readers.

    (But, seriously, Colette, if you tell me you finaled in Between the Sheets, I'm kicking you off.)

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  16. Congratulations, Colette!! Very impressive. Looks like we have another upcoming publication to look forward to.

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  17. Congratulations, Colette! I feel like I'm in the presence of greatness here.

    Also, Megan, I bring you this: http://www.spacejock.com/Sonar.html
    And this:
    http://querytracker.net/
    I use both. Do it to it, lady.

    Oh, and perjorative masculine or no, I'm pimpin'. It, as they say, ain't easy, but it's the only profession that allows one to dress like Huggy Bear and that's all the incentive I need.

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  18. Wow, Megan, you rock! This is just so exciting. As a writer wannabe (first I gotta put pen to paper ... or fingers to keyboard), I am going to watch your rocket to fame and fortune very closely so that I may emulate you.

    I use spreadsheets for everything. I could help you; it's not hard for something that simple. It's complex ideas and math that kill me; I don't make spreadsheets for anything like that.

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