Friday, December 30, 2011

My Year in Writing--2011

It's sort of become my tradition that my last post of the year is a month by month summary of my writing journey over the past twelve months. (You can find 2010's post HERE and 2009's post HERE). And since this year was a BIG year, it was kind of crazy to look back and see how far I'd come. Lots of ups and downs and twists and turns and unexpected happiness. I hope you guys enjoy!

Saved from myself
I had high hopes going into 2011, promising myself that THIS would be the year I'd sell a book. But a number of revision woes paired with the realization that it'd been a year since I first met Laura at a conference and had nothing to show for it except a pile of discarded revisions (and, of course, an AMAZING agent--which I was very grateful for) made me start to doubt that this project was *really* going to get me anywhere. So I started considering a terrifying option (starts with "sh" and rhymes with "delve"). I even asked Laura if she thought we should put the project aside--but she convinced me to keep going. A few days later I went to ALA midwinter and ended up talking with someone at the Simon & Schuster booth. She asked me about my book and after I described it, she strongly recommended I have Laura submit the project to Liesa Abrams when it was done, saying it sounded like something she would like. That turned out to be a VERY good suggestion--but more on that later.

Broadening my horizons
Back in December, I'd made plans with a friend to attend the San Francisco Writer's Conference--and the time had finally come! But I was excited AND terrified because it was my first time traveling anywhere by myself (probably hard to believe with all the traveling I've done recently--but this was the beginning of that). And I'll admit, I was more than a little nervous when I got there. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to adjust and I realized, Hey--I can do this traveling-by-myself thing! I even figured out how to catch a train to meet my lovely agent for lunch (got off at the right stop on the first try--you have no idea what a miracle that is!!!!) And while Laura and I were talking, she suggested I attend the Big Sur Writers' Workshop in a few weeks to get some additional feedback on my draft. It took a few calls to convince my husband, and several emails to get squeezed in after registration had already closed, but then it was settled. I was traveling again--this time by road trip!

Not sure if it was the 7 hour drive I did (by myself!) to get up to Monterey for the conference, or the amazing (albeit somewhat intense) revision advice I picked up while I was there--but I came home from Big Sur feeling like I could conquer the world and DETERMINED to make my publishing dream a reality. Cue a chaotic three weeks where I pushed myself harder and wrote and revised more than I EVER thought I could. And... ended up sick as dog because of it. (I am such a bad example when it comes to taking care of myself).

Thanks to the Head-Cold-Of-Doom (which I'm fairly certain was actually walking pneumonia--go me!) April was a bit of a slow month. Especially since it also involved a bit of WAITING. (Oh publishing, why do you do it to us?) But it ended with a bang. I was still under the hazy fog of cold medicine when my phone rang out of the blue one evening with Laura's name in the caller ID. Her first words were, "I'm so sorry for the emotional roller coaster I'm about to put you through" and my heart sank thinking, she's dropping me as a client. But no--it wasn't that (thank goodness). She'd heard from Liesa Abrams about my book (yes, my book was on submission--hence the WAITING)--and Liesa had loved what she'd read. BUT, before I could get too excited, Laura told me she needed a synopsis for books 2 and 3--A.S.A.P.  And...I didn't have one. *head explodes*

Dreams Come True
After much scrambling and panicking and pulling-of-all-nighters, I managed to assemble the synopsis we needed and Laura sent it to Liesa and promised she would let me know when she heard back. Naturally that meant I kept TRYING not to think about it, whilst stressing and worrying and thinking about it constantly. Four days later my phone showed Laura's number again and I answered it, preparing myself for the worst. BUT IT WAS AMAZING NEWS. A three book offer.  I... kind of went into shock. Especially since it was a pre-empt, which meant decisions had to be made quickly. A few hours later, Liesa and I had "the call" (most amazing two hours ever!!!) and, after two days of back and forth phone calls and emails with Laura to iron out all the details, it was official. Liesa Abrams was my editor. I WAS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!!!!!! And then Laura had to go and say, "but we won't announce until we have the contract." Major buzz kill. :D

Keeping secrets is hard. Keeping huge, life changing secrets is even harder! But even though my book deal was The-World's-Most-Impossible-To-Keep secret, it was also very much a reality. I got my first round of edits (equal parts scary and exciting) and set to work on them. And at the end of the month I flew to New Orleans to meet some friends at ALA and got a tiny glimpse of what it's like to be an S&S author. Everyone at the booth knew who I was--and they even snuck me into the S&S party one of the evenings. But the best part was that the girl I'd met at ALA in January was there, and I got to personally thank her for suggesting we send my draft to Liesa. I will be forever grateful for her amazing matchmaking skills.

Still waiting
Another month of secret keeping. I was starting to get really good at avoiding questions or giving the kind of vague answers that don't actually tell anyone anything. (I would make an excellent politician at this point). But I kept myself busy by finishing up my revision and going to Comic Con--where I got to meet more of the awesome S&S team and became thoroughly convinced I'm with the best publisher ever. All I needed was for their legal department to get me my contract so I could share the happy news.

STILL waiting!!!!
Still no contract (have I mentioned that publishing is slow?) but this month I had far too much going on to really feel the waiting. I had SCBWI LA, where I got to meet my awesome editor in person (it's amazing I didn't tackle hug her right there in the lobby!) and spend three days following her around like a lost puppy soaking up as much Liesa time as I could and realizing just how lucky I am to have such a kind, smart, funny, FABULOUS editor to work with. And the rest of the month was swallowed up by the chaos that is WriteOnCon. I really can't explain how we pulled together such an amazing (and exhausting) conference--but we were able to help far more people than I ever thought possible. The success stories are still trickling in. (And I'm still recovering) :)

OMG--are we seriously still waiting????
Okay, I'll admit, at this point the waiting was getting a *tiny* bit old. Especially since I FINALLY got my contract (huge, HUGE moment, btw). But we still couldn't announce because S&S had decided that we needed to change my title and Laura wanted to use the new one in the announcement. And unfortunately, I SUCK at titles (no really, I have a blog post percolating on this subject--titles are NOT my friend). So I spent the next few weeks sending lists of suggestions--which were all rejected (because they were horrible)--and driving Laura and Liesa (and probably everyone else I talked to) crazy because I could not find a name for my impossible-to-title book. But all the frustration finally paid off when we landed on KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, a title I absolutely love. And I promise I will tell you the story of how we got there someday--it's a good one.

With the title in place, Laura put the announcement into PM and PW and the news was FINALLY out there. Which led to one of the most surreal weeks of my life. Everyone's support and enthusiasm was seriously overwhelming, and I will never be able to properly explain how much it meant to me. And it was SUCH a relief to be able to talk publicly about what I had going on--especially since my copy edits arrived and DUDE. I am not a fan of those things. Thank goodness I could finally whine about them to all of you (somehow I suspect you guys were less excited about that). 

Now that I was done with the waiting I expected life to go back to normal. But what I didn't realize is that my life has a slightly new definition for "normal" now, one that includes lots of switching gears, and balancing different things. So November became all about learning how to juggle. I wish I could say that I've perfected the system for it, but it's still very much a work in progress. In the meantime I'm getting really good at setting priorities and making To Do lists and tackling things one at a time. 

Bring it on!
Still lots of chaotic things going on, but I've switched my primary focus to the item with the highest priority: writing book 2. Not gonna lie--it's SCARY writing a sequel, and I have spent more time than I'd like to admit worrying that I won't be able to pull it off. BUT, I finally realized that every step of my journey so far has been nothing more than me doing the best I can, working hard, leaning on people who are smarter than me, and trusting that I can do it. So... I'm just going to keep doing that. Word by word, page by page, revision by revision, I'll get there. I just have to believe.


Yep--it's official. 2011 was a CRAZY year. And I have a feeling 2012 is going to be even more exciting/chaotic/eventful. I really have no idea what I'm in for--but I have no doubt it's going to be a wild ride. I really hope you'll come along with me!

See you in the new year!


  1. Wow. What an amazing year for your Shannon! Congratulation on all the great things happening for you! I suspect 2012 will be incredible. You've got a book that will be on book shelves! AW!

  2. You've had a completely amazing year, and I agree with Lisa Aldin that 2012 will probably be even more spectacular! :)

  3. Wow! Congratulations, Shannon, and best of luck with #2! :-)

  4. Wow, Shannon! What an amazing year - I am SO happy for you! I can't think of someone who deserves success more than you :)

    Best wishes that 2012 will be even more spectacular!

  5. What a great year--even though it was filled with SO much waiting!

    Go Book 2!


  6. Three cheers for a great year! You are seriously awesome for being able to keep a secret like that. That takes true strength. :o

    May 2012 be even better!!

  7. I'm so glad that 2011 was amazing (albeit crazy) for you. It was really great to meet you back in April at LATFOB. I can't wait to read Keeper of Lost Cities. Who knows... you might be at LATFOB as an author in the future!

  8. What an amazing year, Shannon. I really enjoy reading your posts sharing your journey with us. I bet 2012 is going to be even more amazing :)

  9. It sounds like a whirlwind year. Congratulations! :)

    Hope you have an even better 2012!

  10. Here is to a awesome New Year with even more fabulousness in 2012! Loved your round-up of 2011...and totally impressed you be-membered it all, lol!

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing! I'm a fairly new follower and this gave me a great overview of what happens when the manuscript is finally done and actually gets accepted. Thanks for your honesty and humor.

    Congratulations on a wonderful year and the best of wishes on the next!!!

  12. This was so much fun to read! It's so much fun to read how much our stories are the same, and how much they are different. You've had such a busy year! And I wish you the best of luck writing the sequel!

  13. You had such an amazing year, I'm sure only more good things are in wait for you. :)

  14. Wow - it really is an amazing story Shannon! I still smile everytime I think of it! Here's to even more success and joy in 2012 :)

  15. Wow, my head's ready to explode and I'm only READING about what you went through. Your journey from 2009 to now has definetely been a journey (and yes, I read your posts from 2009 and 2010!) but if anyone deserves to have their work published, it's you, Shannon. The emotional rollercoaster that you've endured just proves that you have the strength and courage to keep going and to better yourself. I can't wait to see your book on the shelves later this year and I'm excited to know that it'll be the first of many awesome stories from you :)


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.