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On Top of the World or Down in the Dumps?

Jenny Panelist

There are two ways writers think about their work. The first goes something like this: "This is the best thing I've ever written. No, not the best thing I've ever written. The best thing that's ever been written ever, anywhere, world without end, period. I'm gonna sit back and wait for the big bucks."

The second goes: "This is the lousiest thing that's ever been written, I'm a piece of poop and should probably just jump off a cliff and land splat on the ground like a smear of writerly ketchup."

The funny thing is that we think these things about the very same book.

No wonder writers are nuts. The mood swings alone could do us in. And that's without getting into rejections, royalty checks, and the fear that we'll turn 40, or 50, or 100 without ever having made it.

This was driven home for me this past week because I went to...

ThrillerFest AKA Best Writers Con on Earth

Cal at Thrillerfest 14

ThrillerFest is one part summer camp, one part family reunion where you actually love every family member who comes (in the pic is my son who got to attend this year), and one part opportunity to learn/network/make progress in the biz.

I recommend it for readers, fans, emerging writers, and established authors alike.

This time, I heard about a dark side to writerly get-togethers, though. And because I don't think humankind is so great at discussing the things that make us feel small, and low, and less than Facebook-faced, I want to bring it up. If I can't tell you all when I feel small, or big for that matter, who can I tell?

So There I Was in the Land of Hopes & Dreams

Jenny's panel

And dreams come true. For real. I personally have witnessed at least a dozen successful author/agent pairings come out of PitchFest. If you are looking for an agent, get thee here next summer.

My role is part of something I call PrepareFest. Here's what happens. Authors come in before PitchFest begins and help emerging writers shape and hone their pitches. It's big, it's frenetic, two hours go by in a blink, and to paraphrase the great D.J. Palmer—whose novel, Saving Meghan, is THE book to read this summer—you will wake up after it's over and think, What just happened?

As I was leaving the grand ballroom where PrepareFest takes place, there was one of those velvet ropes dividing the elevators from the space where all the hopeful, nervous, excited writers wait to meet editors and agents up close and personal. And you know what I thought?

I am not proud of this.

It was along the lines of that great line from When Harry Meets Sally.

Tell me I'll never have to be out there again. Watch this clip! Seriously. #nostalgia

ThrillerFest brings together writers at the top of their game—George R.R. Martin was our flipping Spotlight guest last year; Steve Berry offers wisdom and advice to the debuts; R.L. Stine gave a signed book to my son, for goodness' sake—as well as the newest of the newbies.

That's what's beautiful about the con.

Jenny's panel

But it's also what can make it rough for those still trying to climb the ladder of this business—or get onto the first rung. Writers look for an agent for weeks or months or years. And once you've been at it for a while, trust me, it feels like it's never gonna happen. I know. I was there once.

Right now, a book is sitting in the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. It's been on the list for 42 weeks. And it was written by a first-time novelist who is 70 years old.

No matter what hill you're currently on—publishing or not. Keep climbing. You'll get there.

I Met My Publisher in Person

Dominique Raccah

Dominique Raccah was just awarded the Critics Choice Publisher of the Year by Strand Magazine.

This is not the first such—Dominique was also named Person of the Year by Publishers Weekly.

But it is the first time I got to see the award presented, and hear my publisher's passion for books relayed to a roomful of ardent readers, industry folk, and fans. It was a truly amazing night.

My publisher actually gave me a hug. I felt like I was meeting royalty. It would be like if the Queen decided to go in for a hug instead of just observing my fractured, clumsy curtsey.

Author Spotlight

The Alchemy Of Noise

This month's Author in the Spotlight, Lorraine Devon Wilke, wrote a fine novel on a very tough subject:

After two novels focused largely on relationships and family politics, my latest, The Alchemy of Noise, takes a decidedly dramatic turn, exploring the impact of racism through the lens of an interracial couple.

At its heart a love story, the narrative evolved from my own experiences living with a man of color during the 80s, when proximity to what he endured—the “million little cuts” of prejudice, insensitive friends; police harassment, and ultimately a violent arrest—altered what I understood about race; illumination that, sadly, remains relevant today.

Committed to exploring how bias and bigotry are disparately experienced depending on demographics and privilege, the books follows the third-person perspectives of both protagonists, and the characters in their orbits, authenticated by meticulous research, interviews, and feedback from sensitivity readers.

With the goal of telling an emotional, suspenseful, page-turning story informed by those insights, my hope is that readers will be both moved and entertained.

So Then I Got Edits for My Next Novel, Coming July 7th, 2020


Some of you already know that I find edits...difficult.

Challenging. Click for more When Harry Met Sally!

If only my editors weren't so wise, smart, and every single thing they said so right. If only they didn't always, ALWAYS make my book better than I could have made it on my own. I was going to try and say something insightful about editing, but I don't think I can. I have to get to work.

Wish me luck because I'm afraid it will wind up being the worst book ever written.

Or possibly the best.

Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull,


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