Thursday, December 31, 2020

A look back at 2020

Longtime readers of this blog know I don't do resolutions. I do goals. They're more practical. More useful. More motivating.

For the purposes of this blog, my goals are mostly writing-related, but sometimes I throw in a health-related one as well. Because, after all, you can't be at the top of your writing game if you're not feeling and living your best.

Well, last year, I tried something different. Instead of broad, all-encompassing goals that were largely out of my control (get an agent!), I set more specific goals that were entirely within my control (submit queries to 100 agents).

I shouldn't have bothered. Why? Because I ended up reaching my real goal for the year, and did it well before meeting the arbitrary but exceedingly ambitious submissions goals.

1) Complete my first chapter book

Success. I finished the first in my (projected) book series based on my play The Enchanted Bookshop. This one had the three main Lits--Dorothy Gale, Tom Sawyer and Pollyanna--splorging into the novel Treasure Island in order to get gold that will help Miss Margie pay her rent.

2) Complete a second entry in the chapter book series

Failure. This didn't happen. I started a second book, this one based on Around the World in Eighty Days. I thought I had a concept, but I quickly ran into some hurdles I couldn't jump over and decided to come back to the story a later time, when I felt more inspired--or at least more jumpy.

And no, that time hasn't come yet.

3) Submit the first chapter book and series concept to 20 publishers

Failure. Middle-grade novel series are the domain of large publishers and most of those won't even glance at your manuscript if it's not represented. So I decided to hunt for an agent first.

4) Submit the chapter book to 100 literary agents

Success--sort of. I didn't make it to the full hundred. In fact, I only made it 37 before I reached my real goal for the year: landing an agent. As described elsewhere, the most excellent Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer DeChiara Agency offered to represent me in March and he acted quickly in submitting The Enchanted Bookshop to several large publishers, followed a few months later by his submission of my Edison Young series to many of the same publishers.

Turns out that even if I hadn't received an offer, it was unlikely I would have hit that magic number because I was limiting my search to agents that focus on children's literature and there's barely a hundred of those in the whole biz.

5) Submit the TV series to 100 managers

Failure. I didn't even send one. But that's okay because Stephen's agency has a staffer who specializes in selling their properties to Hollywood. The books series comes first, of course. But it's good to know that if it's a success, there's a pathway to bigger things.

6) Submit the TV series to 100 agents

Failure. See 5) above.

7) Write one more TV series episode

Success. I completed the origin story for the Lits in an episode featuring the indomitable Don Quixote. But until the books series finds a home, this script has nowhere to go.

8) Walk half an hour a day

Success--and then some. What with my day job and my writing time and my family time, it was nearly impossible to squeeze in some exercise time.

Then the pandemic hit, and I was forced (encouraged? allowed?) to work from home. That saved me a whole hour of commuting time every day, and I used half of that time to start working out on our elliptical a rather pricey purchase that had mostly sat unused for the year since we'd bought it. (The other half hour a day? I'm learning Italian through Duolingo.)

And, man, did it help! It got my blood pumping, shaved twenty pounds off my weight and even dropped my blood pressure by a few points (not as much as I would have liked, but still).

Four successes out of eight goals? Not too bad, I guess. More importantly, I'm excited for the new year. Due to the pandemic, publishers are slow in their responses and even slower in laying out cash for a new series. But now that a vaccine had been released, the end of that very long tunnel is in sight.

May all of us get there. Together.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas comes to life

I wasn't expecting much for An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas this year. It came out just three months ago, and with the recent surge in COVID cases, it seemed unlikely that anyone would be performing it this holiday season.

So it was the best Christmas present of all when my latest Google search turned up not one but three video versions of the play as well as an extensive gallery of photos from a fourth production.

Some of the productions are performing on stage in masks (see the Delaware school production above). Some are performing it on Zoom (like this Minnesota church production). And some are performing it the old-fashioned way (like the Georgia school production below). 

Of course, social distancing policies are a decision for the schools. But it warms my heart to see that even this year, my newest play is able to share its message of faith, hope, and Christmas joy.