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Fun with terrible titles

One of the super fun things about debuting in 2016 is getting to be part of the Sweet Sixteens, an awesome group of Young Adult and Middle Grade authors with books coming out in 2016. And today, I’m accepting my first Sweet Sixteen challenge: create #8TerribleTitles by scrolling through my debut novel, FIRSTS, and landing randomly on eight phrases. Thanks, Ashley Herring Blake and Emily Martin for tagging me for this challenge!

For some writers, titles come easily. For others… writing a title is almost as hard as writing a whole book. (Case in point: FIRSTS was not the, um, first title for FIRSTS.) But I sure am glad it wasn’t called…

1. JUST ENOUGH FOR PROTECTION, NO EXTRA FRILLS

2. I’M MY OWN STATISTIC

3. EVEN AFTER SIX MONTHS OF THIS

4. A COUCH CUSHION THAT MIGHT AS WELL BE AN ICEBERG

5. SIMPLIFIED AND PREDICTABLE, MY WEDNESDAY FRIEND

6. THE ONE COG LEFT IN THE MACHINERY

7. THEY LOOK DIFFERENT HORIZONTAL

8. HAVE BEEN JOINED BY BITCH

Well… this has been very entertaining! I tag Shannon M. Parker and Nisha Sharma!

A bit of news…

On a recent gray, chilly October morning, my day started with my dentist informing me that I have a cavity (damn those pre-Halloween mini-chocolate bars). Then I burned myself with a curling iron and got stuck in traffic and was in a mad rush to make it to work on time. I figured it was just going to be one of those days– the kind wherein nothing goes my way. The kind that practically demands a big glass of wine after work.

Boy, was I wrong– about everything except the wine champagne. Because later that day, I got a call. A call from my fabulous agent, who had the best news ever.

WE HAVE AN OFFER!

I’m so thrilled to announce that my YA contemporary debut, FIRSTS, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press in 2016! My editor is the wonderful, super-smart Kat Brzozowski. I can’t even express how excited I am to be working with her on FIRSTS.

I’m still pinching myself that this is all happening– that what started as an out-there idea in my head is now going to be an actual book, a physical thing I can pick up and flip through. (And maybe hug tightly to my chest from time to time. Just kidding. Sort of.)

I feel like the luckiest writer ever to have the dream team of Kats supporting me. My rockstar agent, Kathleen Rushall, who has been so unfailingly positive and helpful every step of the way. And my new editor, Kat, who is so insightful and enthusiastic and knowledgeable. She has made me feel right at home already. Both of these lovely ladies understand my book so well and I know that I couldn’t be in better hands.

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the idea for FIRSTS was just taking shape. I had no CPs and no agent. I was querying a different book and poring over other writers’ success stories, hoping that someday I would have my own to tell. I was reading widely and writing every day, turning it into a habit. I was learning to trust my instincts more. I was determined to never give up.

And in the end, I think that’s the most important thing– not giving up. Not quitting because it’s hard or because finding an agent or getting published is taking longer than you thought. FIRSTS was the third book I wrote. Beforehand, I wrote two NA contemporary books that I shelved. There were times when I felt sure I’d never be published. But ultimately, I realized that the only way I would ensure that nobody would ever read my writing was if I stopped writing. So I kept going. I kept writing and learning and querying and entering contests. (Like Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars, which was the greatest experience. Read about it here!)

The one thing I did stop doing was comparing myself to other writers. Everybody has a different journey and a different story, and rarely do we know the full extent of these stories. Once I stopped comparing myself to other writers and focused on enjoying the stage of the process where I was at, I honestly felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Like I had given myself permission to live in the moment I was in, not the moment I wanted to be in or the moment somebody else was in.

Now I’m in this moment, and I’m loving it. I couldn’t be happier that FIRSTS has found its perfect home with Kat and Thomas Dunne Books!

Now, for that glass bottle of wine champagne…

PWAnnouncement

PMFIRSTSAnnouncement

On keeping a routine fresh

I’m the kind of writer who needs a schedule to be productive. Without my routine, it’s easy for me to become unmoored and start to feel lost. I firmly believe that those butt-in-chair hours are so essential to everything—work ethic, progress, creativity, growth. And I always know that I’m going to have a good day when I have logged some writing time before I head off to work in the morning. Athletes talk about endorphins—about feeling their best right after a workout. I feel like that after I write.

But life gets in the way, and some days the routine gets interrupted. Some days, I just can’t sit down at my desk for my planned time before work and commit to a writing session. I know this, but I still struggle to feel like I’m on an even keel when I deviate from my routine. I start to blame myself for reasons why I couldn’t put in the time. I feel less creative and therefore less fulfilled.

The struggle for me is not letting my routine turn into a rut. Routines are key to consistency as writers, but adaptability is just as important—being able to change things up and go with the flow. A routine shouldn’t feel like a chore. I shouldn’t be hard on myself if I sit at my desk for an hour and only have two hundred words to show for it. Or if I decide to read instead of write one day.

So my goal is to be more open, more spontaneous. I want to pick up my tablet and write on my lunch break because I feel like it. Write at the kitchen table or visit the library for a change of scenery. Brainstorm or research something for my book instead of churning out words.

What I’m learning is that words are impossible to quantify, and progress in writing can be measured in so many different ways. A day isn’t only a good day if two thousand words are added to your word count. Maybe you only write fifty words, but they’re fifty words that fit perfectly. Or maybe you read a great book and feel inspired. Maybe you play with a new idea, something you want to work on down the road. Maybe you take a walk and mentally recharge.

These are all important aspects to development as a writer—and the more forgiving I am of myself, the happier I feel the end of the day. And the more likely I’ll be to plunk down at my desk at midnight for some spontaneous words.

I’d love to hear from other writers—how do you combat a writing rut?

On carrying out an idea

I think we writers can all agree: sometimes, writing feels like magic.

But the rest of the time, it feels an awful lot like hard work.

I have been ruminating on this blog post for awhile and thinking about the importance of carrying our ideas out– committing to finishing them, no matter how many challenges they throw in our way. Sometimes, coming up with an idea is the part that feels like magic. A beautiful, unsullied idea that hasn’t had the chance to be messed up or go awry. An idea holds so much potential. A fresh start, a clean slate.

For me, the challenge is carrying out that idea even when it starts to become something different than it was in my head. When it starts to tell me what direction to go, and I feel like I have lost all control. When it stops being perfect and starts being real. And this is where the hard work part comes in. Because as magical as writing can be when the going is easy, it’s that much more rewarding to plow through the hard times. To sit your butt in a desk chair and keep writing, even if your muse never shows up. To write through your inner critic, who is silently whispering that what you’re writing doesn’t live up to that unsullied idea you first conjured up.

I feel like there’s a lot of temptation at this point from new ideas– brand new shiny ones that pop into your head when you’re struggling to carry out what you’re currently working through. New ideas with the promise to become a new manuscript that hasn’t been messed up yet. They always come to me when I’m feeling the least inspired with a current project, and they do their best to tear me away from it. The fresh start sounds tempting. A new Word document that hasn’t been ruined yet. The chance for more magic.

But I think there’s so much more to be said for finishing what you start– to give your ideas a beginning, middle, and end, even if it’s not the middle or end you initially intended for, and even if it doesn’t end up looking anything like it did in your head. When it’s done, it might be something totally unlike what you imagined– but it might be even better. What I’m coming to realize is, if you don’t give it time and commit to it, that’s all it will ever be– an idea in your head. Any idea can feel magical, but carrying it out is where the true test happens. It’s something only writers can do.

And sure, some ideas might not make it to a finished product. There’s no shame in realizing you’re not passionate about a project anymore and putting it aside. But what I want to avoid is having a computer filled with half-finished manuscripts and abandoned projects that I quit just because they got too hard. I don’t want to give up on ideas when they turn into something else different from what I had envisioned.

The project I’m working on right now is one of the difficult ones. The first draft flowed out very quickly, but then I realized it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It needed big changes. It basically needed a total overhaul. I was intimidated and frustrated and didn’t even know where to begin. I had a series of false starts with it and wrote a bunch of scenes that probably won’t see the light of day. But now I’m slowly cobbling it back together, and I’m okay with that. Because I realized there’s no magic formula. There’s only one formula that’s guaranteed to work. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

It might sound silly, but one particular motivational strategy has been working well for me this month. The sticker reward system. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much pleasure I get from sticking a new one on when I reach my goal for each day. But it works for me, so I’m sticking (no pun intended!) to it.

And all those shiny new ideas that pop into my head at what I consider inopportune times? They’re typed up in a separate Word document, and they’ll get their turn.

My current motivational strategy.

My current motivational strategy.

Why You Should Hit Send

It’s that time of year again… time for the fabulous Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars contest! The mentor wish list/bio bloghop happens from August 4-18, and the submission window opens on August 18.

As some of you probably know, I was a Pitch Wars mentee last year. And as some of you may not know, I almost didn’t enter Pitch Wars. I had convinced myself that the competition was too stiff, that I wasn’t ready, that my manuscript wouldn’t be what the mentors were looking for.

You know, the typical excuses of the insecure writer.

On submission day, I waffled about entering all morning and afternoon. I had already spent hours reading the mentor bios and whittling my choices down to four. I had a query and pages ready to go, but I stalled and stalled until I was sick of my own excuses. Finally, I just hit send. I figured, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? I had a brand new YA manuscript that had never been queried or entered in a contest before. If it didn’t get chosen, I would take that as a cue that it needed more work before being sent into the world. I would at least have tried.

But much to my surprise (and delight!) I got picked by two mentors, Lori Goldstein and Evelyn Ehrlich. (They are both mentors this year too!) I was chosen as Lori’s mentee and Evelyn’s first alternate. I was so happy that my manuscript resonated with both of these amazing ladies, and I buckled down to work hard.

And work hard I did. With revision notes from Lori on my full manuscript, I made a schedule that would allow me to edit and incorporate all of her feedback. I also spent a lot of time crafting a pitch and honing my query with both Lori and Evelyn. Our efforts paid off: during the agent round, I got eight agent requests for FIRSTS (plus one ninja request).

It was a whirlwind. A crazy, amazing experience that changed my writing for the best. So I wanted to pay it forward with some of my tips for getting the most out of Pitch Wars.

If you’re chosen:

  • Have an open mind. Take your mentor feedback seriously. Before Pitch Wars, I had never had any of my manuscripts read by another writer (big mistake, I know). Lori picked up on so much that I would have glazed over—plot holes, character inconsistencies, places where words had been overused, spots where sentences could be smoother. Evelyn and Lori looked over several pitches and helped refine until we had the perfect one. Point is, you enter this contest to make your manuscript better—so be open to ripping it apart and changing what isn’t working, from your title to your pitch to your whole plot.
  • Be active on Twitter. I’m a generally shy person, but I wouldn’t have gotten nearly the same PitchWars experience if I hadn’t followed my fellow writers on Twitter and gotten to know them and their amazing manuscripts. I found that I was cheering for other people even more than myself! I was lucky enough to become friends with fellow Team Evelyn member Emily Martin, who is now my awesome CP. (Emily is a mentor this year and is seriously brilliant, by the way!) I loved the way everybody supported everyone else, and the genuine team atmosphere. It’s a great feeling knowing that so many encouraging people are rooting for your success.
  • Take your time. Don’t rush your revisions. They won’t happen overnight, nor should they. Having a schedule helped me complete things on time, but when Lori advised me to do a final read-through to check for places that were still rough around the edges, I took her advice and I’m so glad I did. Turns out, my manuscript needed that extra mini-round of edits and I’m glad I completed them before turning it in to agents. Yes, agents would rather you take your time and wait a few days than have you send them a subpar manuscript. This is your chance to show off your best work, so take the time you need!
  • Start thinking of a pitch early on. Be able to describe your manuscript in just a couple of sentences. This will really help later on. I found that writing a pitch was just about as hard as writing a whole novel, so being able to whittle your manuscript down (ideally to 50 words or less!) is an invaluable skill.
  • If you don’t get requests in the agent round, don’t stress out about it. Your entry was chosen for a reason– because a mentor saw something special in your writing– and you are well on your way. You can still query the old-fashioned way. And if you do get requests, don’t be shy to send queries out after Pitch Wars too. I found my agent, the wonderful Kathleen Rushall, while querying.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The mentors are there to answer them, whether to elaborate on a suggestion they made or hear a new idea. My mentors were both so easy to talk to and bounce ideas off, and they gave such great pep talks during the agent round too!

 

If you don’t get chosen:

  • Keep writing. This is the biggest one. Keep remembering why you write—because you love it—and write the story you want to write, not the one you think will sell. You can worry about the rest later. Don’t be hard on yourself because you weren’t chosen– because if you keep writing, you will be chosen someday. You will find the route to getting your work into the world– the path that works for you.
  • Find a CP who you trust. This person will be very important to your development as a writer. This person is not just somebody who tells you everything you write is amazing—he or she is somebody who will dig deeper and help you uncover issues that you might not notice yourself. He or she will push you to make your work the best it can possibly be. He or she will tell you what’s working and what isn’t, and that feedback is so essential to thinking outside the box in an isolated profession like writing.
  • Research agents and what they are looking for. I stalked agency websites, followed agents on Twitter, and made a query spreadsheet with agent names and notes about each one. I read agent interviews and made a list of agents I thought would be a good fit for FIRSTS. This takes time and effort, but it’s so worth it. If you aren’t focused, chances are you aren’t getting your work in front of the right people.
  • Send out queries. Different writers have different strategies. Some send in large batches, some in small. I was in the latter camp. I tweaked FIRSTS constantly and didn’t stop thinking about how to make it better. After shelving my first manuscript, I was much more focused with FIRSTS. I only sent it to agents I thought would be a really good fit– agents I would be thrilled to work with if they offered rep.
  • Read, read, read. When I queried my first manuscript (a NA contemporary), I admittedly hadn’t read much NA. But before, during, and after I wrote FIRSTS, I read tons of YA. I read works from writers whose work had things in common with mine and writers whose work was nothing like mine. I read light, humorous books along with darker ones. Reading not only educates you in the market you’re hoping to break into, but also lets you see why these books got published. Voice, tension, characters, great plot twists—they’re all there, and you can learn from them.
  • Enter other contests. Even if you don’t get picked—or if you get picked but don’t get requests—you’ll make friends and connections along the way, and that’s the best part.

Hopefully this post has been helpful for anybody on the fence about hitting send. I wish everybody entering the very best of luck this year. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines! If anyone has specific Pitch Wars questions, I’m happy to answer. You can find me on twitter at @laurellizabeth.

Click here to visit my amazing mentor Lori’s website and read more about my Pitch Wars experience and what happened after.

Oh, and for anyone who is interested, here is my pitch from last year’s competition!

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes provides a unique service to the virgins of Milton High: the opportunity to get their awkward first time over with, judgment-free. But when her best friend’s boyfriend wants into her bedroom, it’s not just her secret that spirals out of control, it’s her life.

Happy writing/pitching/querying, everyone!

Behind the Scenes: Release Week!

BehindtheScenesBlogTour3

If you’re a writer at any stage in the path to publication– drafting, editing, querying, or just trying to find a great read– chances are, you have probably stumbled across Dahlia Adler’s blog, The Daily Dahlia. (And if you haven’t– go visit, because it’s awesome.) You should also follow Dahlia on Twitter if you don’t already, because she’s full of amazingly helpful information (and is also quite hilarious)!

The lovely Dahlia Adler!

The lovely Dahlia Adler!

 

Dahlia is such an all-around positive person in the writing community, from making all of our TBR lists a lot longer with her book recs to posting inspiring author stories to blogging about all different facets of the publishing industry, all while doing her own writing. So I’m happy to be part of her blog hop to celebrate the release week of her debut, BEHIND THE SCENES, which officially releases today! I just bought mine for my Kobo and I’m dying to start reading. BtS is the story of Ally, a high school senior whose best friend is TV star Vanessa Park. Ally nabs a job as Van’s on-set assistant to earn some much-needed money, but things get more complicated when Van’s sexy co-star Liam gets involved… and Van and Liam are forced to date for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss. Read more about it here and just try not to get hooked.

In honor of BtS, I’m doing a behind the scenes look at something I make time to do when I’m not writing. Something that relaxes me and lets me zone out of whatever characters and dilemmas are taking up residence in my brain.
I love to paint.
I taught myself how to paint. I never had any formal training, and I never really considered it. Mostly because it was never a serious pursuit for me– more something that I didn’t want to get too serious about, because I was afraid that would take away from the fun. I used to sell my paintings at festivals and art fairs, but generally these days I just make them for family and friends. I usually work with acrylics, but once in awhile I’ll do something in oils. I have an easel set up in my office overlooking the backyard and I try to spend time there as often as I can.
I paint just about anything– landscapes, people, animals– but some of my favorite subjects are birds and flowers. There’s just something peaceful about them that I gravitate toward.

 On the other end of the spectrum, I really have a thing for tigers. They’re fascinating. One day I’d love to see one in real life (and not just the zoo).

And once in awhile, I just feel like painting something totally weird. Because weird is always the most fun.

Painting7

I hope you all enjoyed the look into my hobby.

If you need me at all today, you’ll find me glued to my Kobo…

Happy release week, Dahlia, and thanks for letting me be a part of it!

behind-the-scenes-adler-cover

 

 

 

Office, before and after

Desk, before.

Desk, before.

After!

Desk, after!

 

One of my favorite things about moving into a new house was getting my own office. I was so excited to have my own space to write and the freedom to do whatever I wanted with it. Since the room is small and it wasn’t in our budget to buy new furniture, I decided to see what I could do with a bit of white paint and the desk I have had since I was a kid. The furniture I had for my office didn’t match, so I thought whitewashing it would make the room look a lot more streamlined.

The project was pretty straightforward, and quite easy. I picked up a primer and white paint at a hardware store and cranked up some music while I worked. After two coats of primer and two coats of paint, all I had to do was wait.

I wanted my office to be simple and uncluttered, but still have enough personal details for it to feel like me. I upholstered an old stool to provide a seat in front of the window, which looks out onto our backyard. I made space in a corner to set my easel for when I want to paint.

The project didn’t take very much time (or money), but the impact went a long way. It just goes to show how a couple of small changes can make a huge difference! And now that I’m content with my work space, I’m happily seated at my new (old) desk, ready to write lots of words. Even though I can (and do) write everywhere when the occasion calls for it, it feels great to have a space to call my own now.

 

 

I have an agent!

LaurieContract

 

So, the superexciting news I have been dying to share with everybody is that I have signed with the amazing Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency! I’m so thrilled and honored to be represented by Kathleen and I can’t wait to start working with her!

That’s the short version. The long version? I wrote a book. I queried it. I learned from it. Then I wrote a second book, and learned from that one too. Then I wrote a third book, my first attempt at YA contemporary (ironically, titled FIRSTS)  and decided to enter it in a contest called PitchWars, run by the fabulous Brenda Drake. My PitchWars mentors, Lori Goldstein and Evelyn Ehrlich, helped whip my manuscript into the best possible shape. FIRSTS garnered several requests during PitchWars, but after the contest was over, I started sending out queries as well, and this is where Kathleen found me– in the slush pile. Regular, old-fashioned querying DOES work!

When I received an email from Kathleen asking to set up a call for later that day, my stomach started doing flips. Was this the call? I tried not to get my hopes up and did my best to get through the rest of my workday without thinking about it at least once every ten seconds. (It didn’t work.) But when Kathleen called, she made me feel at ease right away. She told me how much she enjoyed FIRSTS and my writing. Then she told me she wanted to offer representation. (At least, this is what I think happened. I was too excited to remember it exactly!)

I sort of lost my ability to string sentences together, but Kathleen was smart and kind and answered all of my questions. She let me know her ideas for FIRSTS, great ideas that all resonated with me. And she was interested in my future writing, too. I had the feeling Kathleen was somebody I could have a great and long-lasting relationship with– somebody who would fully support me throughout my career and advocate for me and my work. She appreciates that I like to push boundaries in my writing and is willing to take risks with me, which I think is so important.

The next couple weeks were pretty hectic. My husband and I moved into a new house and I received three more offers of representation. I feel so honored to have been considered by every agent who offered. They were all so thoughtful and insightful, and made me realize even more just how amazing the writing community really is. I’m grateful for all of the agents who took the time to read FIRSTS and offer feedback and kind congratulations. Really, I just feel so lucky to get to be a part of such a great community.

If you are reading this and in the query trenches right now or feeling down about writing, don’t give up. There were several times with my first book where I wanted to throw in the towel, that I thought life would be easier without the cycle of stress and hope and rejection that came from sending my work into the world. And yeah, it would be easier. But I could never give up, because I had to write. A huge, irreplaceable part of my happiness is tied to it. So I started reading more YA and figuring out why I loved the books I loved, and what made them so memorable. I wrote without self-editing, something I had always struggled with in the past. I spent more and more time logging in word counts every day. I used to struggle to hit the 1K mark, then found myself reaching 5K or more without even realizing it. I was having more fun with writing because it didn’t feel like work. I wasn’t so critical or hard on myself. I let myself write things that definitely sucked and probably didn’t make sense, knowing I could go back and fix them later.

Another piece of advice I have is to enter contests. Inevitably, there will be some you are chosen for and some you’re not. I have had my share of both experiences. But I can honestly say that entering PitchWars was the best decision I made for my writing career. Lori and Evelyn are HUGELY influential to me, and I have learned so much from them. It didn’t stop when the contest ended, either. Lori and Evelyn have been there for me every step of the way. They have answered all of my silly questions and offered so much wisdom and encouragement and support.  So to both of you wonderful ladies– a wholehearted THANK YOU! I only hope I can help somebody out in the future the way you two have done for me. The best thing about contests isn’t the exposure or the requests from agents– it’s the amazing people you meet. Like my lovely CP, Emily Martin, who offered several invaluable insights on FIRSTS. (Thank you, Emily!)

And lastly, here are the stats, for those of you who are interested. I have included the stats for the first book I wrote along with my stats for FIRSTS, just to show how much of a difference reading widely and writing every day makes.

WAITRESS

Queries sent: 57

Full requests: 12

Partial requests: 5

Rejections: 22

CNRs: 18

FIRSTS

Queries sent: 33

Full requests: 16

Partial requests: 1

Rejections: 12

CNRs: 4

And last of all… remember that it only takes one yes, so if being traditionally published is your goal, never stop until you find it!

Happy writing (and querying)!

On Inspiration

Gatsbyquote

As writers we find inspiration in all sorts of places. From our dreams. From situations we face or faced in real life. From eavesdropping on conversations (come on, you do it too). From newspaper articles. Sometimes when you least expect it. Often when you’re not looking. Occasionally when you’re scrambling to find a pen to write it down before it disappears.

I used to think I was no good at conjuring up new ideas. I once complained to my mom that I wasn’t an “idea person.” I felt stunted and not the least bit creative. Now I know differently. I was just waiting, expecting a brilliant notion to smack me in the head, and it wasn’t going to happen that way. Now I know that ideas will only come if you’re open to finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere. And once you open the door to inspiration, it makes itself at home. You’re not going to get anywhere just waiting for something to happen. Inspiration won’t just come and knock– you have to let it in. It’s the same with writing and everything else in life.

This quote is one of my all-time favorites, from one of my all-time favorite books, The Great Gatsby.

They were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

I guess it could mean a lot of different things. To me it means that the world is full of layers. What you see on the surface gives way to so many other dimensions, if you know where to look and trust yourself to look there. On the bottom, holding everything up like a shelf, is imagination. Whimsy. Creativity. And inspiration. Everything that we seek as writers, everything we need to bring stories to life. Sometimes it’s buried underneath day jobs, bills to pay, morning traffic, monotony. Sometimes the minutiae of everyday life. It’s easy for inspiration to be covered in all that other stuff. But as writers, our job is to peel away the layers and go there.

And once we do, we always know how to find our way back.

Throwback Thursday: My Checkerboard

Magazine shoot in Greece.

Magazine shoot in Greece.

I once had a university advisor describe my academic trajectory as a “checkerboard.” All over the place. Interrupted. Hard to follow. The opposite of linear.

This got me thinking about writing, and how all writers have a different path too. Some people get an agent with their first book. Others write several books until one is the perfect fit. Some decide to self-publish. It’s easy to compare ourselves to other writers and wish we had what they had. It’s easy to get disheartened about rejections. But everybody is different. Everybody has their own way, whether it be a straight line or a squiggly line or a checkerboard. And no way is perfect, even though it might look like that from the outside.

I started university a year early, mostly because I couldn’t wait to get out of high school.  I thought I would get an Honors degree, followed by some kind of Masters. Then modeling happened, and I had a decision to make: stay on my academic path or jump way off it.

I jumped. I stopped university two credits shy of a degree for the chance to model in Tokyo. School would always be there, but that opportunity wouldn’t. After Tokyo I didn’t go back to school. I went to Athens, and after Athens, Paris. My friends back home were cramming for exams, going to parties, figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives. I was running around to castings and photo shoots and trying to navigate the Metro lines in Tokyo (update: never did). But when I came home from Paris and decided I missed school and wanted to go back, it was difficult finding traction. I didn’t know what to major in. I questioned the worth of classes previously taken. I was confused. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. There were moments I wondered what my life would be like if I hadn’t deviated from my path. Everything would be so much easier linear.

Magazine shoot.

Magazine shoot.

But I’m grateful for my checkerboard, especially now. Modeling has been a huge part of my life and has taught me things I could never learn in a classroom. I learned how to handle rejection and criticism. Models have to have thick skin– you go to so many castings each day, and most of them are for jobs you’re not going to get. You learn how to celebrate the ones you do get and don’t sweat the ones you don’t. You make friends and celebrate their successes, and they celebrate yours. I have done my best to apply this attitude to the business of trying to get published. My road might not look the same as someone else’s, and that’s okay.

Because in the end, I really do believe things work out how they are supposed to. Nobody’s path is completely straight. We all have decisions to make and bumps in the road. We all have deviations and setbacks. The challenge is seeing them for the good, and appreciating the change they evoke within us. The challenge is learning to love our checkerboards for what they are– the roadmaps to our lives.

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