World's Oldest Fledgling

The blog of Stephanie Wardrop, Y A Author

The fledgling takes flight: my first year as a “real” writer

320px-Bird_in_flight_line_drawing_artWhen I started this blog a little over a year ago, I named it for what I felt like: the world’s oldest fledgling. Here I was, an acknowledged grownup, a degreed professional, but as a writer I was just starting to peek out of the nest.  I knew that as a soon-to-be published author I should have a platform to (ick!) promote myself, my book, my “brand”, but I felt like creating a blog for a book and a career that did not yet officially exist would be the height of hubris. Surely the publishing gods would smite me down for such presumption. But a year later, here I am.  Bird_Nest_in_Tree

It’s been an amazing year of milestones. First book birthday. First cover reveal. First reviews. First Facebook “like” on the author page that could not be traced back to family, friends, friends of family or friends, or former students. Swoon Romance has published three of the four e-novellas in the Snark and Circumstance series and accepted the sequel. I still feel like a fledgling, but I suspect I always will. There’s always so much more to learn, to do, to become.

So in the spirit of growth, I’m signing off from this blog and inaugurating a new “big girl blog” at stephaniewardrop.com in January. First, I’ll post a series of pep talks, advice, and shared experience for those who are going to make 2014 the year they become “real” writers. After that I’ll have reviews (can’t wait to talk Allegiant), pop culture analyses like those on my first blog smellsliket(w)eenspirit, and fun stuff like games and quizzes for Team Snark players. Please join me there in the new year.

But for now, I want to sign off by thanking everyone who made this first year as a published writer so special (and even possible):

*my parents for raising me in a house filled with books (true confession: I faked being sick at least once so I could stay home, lie in your bed, and stare at all the titles on the shelves)

*my husband and kids for being proud of and patient with me and my often distracted focus

*my publisher, editors, and especially Mandy Schoen for thinking that this Snark  book could even be a thing

*my friends who were so genuinely excited for me, especially those who bid to be characters in the Boston Strong/One Fund Boston auction and Kelly Haggard Olson for making the Snark necklace that helped raise money for lymphoma/leukemia research

*and last, but never least in my heart, everyone who read the books and especially those of you who took the time to post a review on a blog, Amazon, or Goodreads. You’ll never know how much this means to me.

See you next year!

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what we lost with ned vizzini

I’m at a loss to say anything eloquent or right about hearing about the death by suicide today of YA writer Ned Vizzini, but I’m going to attempt to say something anyway. I admire his work so much not just because he was a wonderful (YA) writer but because he talked about suicide and depression so honestly, so warmly, and even with such humor. And writing about depression, I have found, is almost as hard as living with it. This fact has been hammered home to me in the past few weeks as I try to write about what it is like to be a depressed, suicidal, or mentally ill young person, but I’m going to keep trying. Because somebody has to do it, and now one of the most eloquent voices on the subject has silenced himself.

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When I first heard the news I felt sorrow come over me like a wave, and that tingling started in the corner of my eyes and in my nostrils that means I’m about to cry. And then I felt something else: terror. His death reminded me of the thing we “recovering” depressed people can never quite forget – the best you can do, sometimes, is stay one or two steps ahead of the beast. And too often we fail to do that. I was reminded, again, that no matter how even-keeled, even (dare I say it) happy I feel now, depression is always lurking somewhere in the corner of my brain, threatening to take over. It’s an imperfect analogy but it must be a little like being in remission for cancer, or being an alcoholic and knowing that you’re always in recovery, that you never really “beat” alcoholism. Depression is like that, too.  Vizzini captured it so well in a line from his most famous work, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, when a character contemplates jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge: “There wasn’t anything to keep you from falling off, just your hands and your own will.” Sometimes your will just isn’t enough.  Sometimes your will fails.

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Which is why I understand, and want others to understand, what a lot of people won’t when they read the obituaries for Ned Vizzini. On the surface, he looked like he had it pretty good. Best selling, critically acclaimed novels, promising projects in the works. But the thing that’s so hard for the non-depressed to understand –  it’s what makes us depressives sound like a bunch of whiners who need a good butt kicking sometimes – is that our mental state often has nothing to do with the way things are objectively but how they seem to us. What looks like a spectacular win on the outside can feel like a crushing blow, or evidence that we’re just fooling the world into thinking we’re really smart or talented and eventually the world will figure out we’ve scammed them and get really pissed off at us (or maybe that’s just my own personal mental hell). This twisted view means the depressed person has to bear, in addition to a crippling depression, the shame of being depressed, of not knowing how good they have it or of not feeling sufficiently grateful. A line from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited struck me when I was a depressed teenager and when I recall it, it can still make me up crumple up like a Kleenex inside: “He was ashamed to be unhappy.” 

Better than Waugh, I think, Ned Vizzini captured that shame and managed to do it with such grace and honesty and humor. And as I said before, somebody needs to do that, especially now, especially for young people. According to Psych Central, “It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of children/teens are depressed at any given time. Research indicates that one of every four adolescents will have an episode of major depression during high school with the average age of onset being 14 years!” I’m going to keep trying to capture the experience of living with depression in my own work in progress, but I’ll never replace what Vizzini might have done had he lived to keep writing. I wish him peace wherever he is, wherever it is that we go after this life. I have to believe there is something more.

what i’m reading (as cosmic coincidence would have it):

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what i’m listening to:

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Next week I’ll wrap up my first year as a published writer here to offer my thanks to all who made it possible. 

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Indie Ignites Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Over at Indie Ignites’ blog, we’re having a monster rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate the season!  I’ve copied my post below to give you a little taste of what you can read about, but go follow that link above to enter for lots and lots of great prizes!

 

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I’ll have the (Christmas) special

 I’m honored to be the first to post for the INDIE IGNITES TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.
As the senior member of Indie Ignites (I think), I’m going to tell you young folks a little story of Christmas past. It goes all the way back to the days before blu-ray, before DVDs, even before VCRs – before cable TV, even. Yes, television used to come to us on four, maybe five stations, the three national networks and a couple of crappy local stations that played mostly local talent shows and horror movies (though I fondly recall one that had the Super G races, in which gerbils raced each other live, or even Dialing for Dollars, on which a host would call people during commercial breaks and give out prizes to those watching the movie.) Those were the days, kids.
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And the most magical part of the television viewing year was Christmas with its much-anticipated Christmas specials. They were only on once a year, so you had to study TV Guide to make sure you got the right night, because if you missed Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town you were stone out of luck. You just had to wait another 360 days to catch it again.
My favorites were The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I was always bathed, in my jammies, and right in front of the set on those special nights, and I didn’t even mind if they pre-empted The Brady Bunch. (Can you tell how old I am yet?).  I think my first crush on a fictional character was on Linus, despite his unfortunate hair.  He was thoughtful and had a spiritual quality I really admired even then. Plus his last name is “Van Pelt.” How cool is that? And to this day, whenever I am in a situation that calls for dancing, I imitate the side-to-side sort of pogo that Charlie and his friends did onstage at the Christmas pageant, hoping that it looks kind of cool and retro and ironic and not evidence that I have all the grace of a crippled donkey. (I could not find a free-use image from the special, but here is a Charlie Brown latte, which is almost as good):

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Charlie Brown latte, Christopher from San Francisco, July 9, 2012 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlie_Brown!_(7539446408).jpg

Unlike my own children, I was never scared of the Grinch. As a kid, I found his underbite kind of charming, though I cried whenever he mistreated Max, who had to be the sweetest little cartoon dog in history.  As an adult, I still love this special because it’s about the holiday being about love and not material goods, my daughter bore an uncanny resemblance to Cindy Lou Hoo as an infant (though, mercifully, without the antennae), and because as a veg*n I appreciate the sly anti-meat critique in the serving of the “roast beast.” Plus, I live in Dr. Seuss’ hometown now (in fact, his wife grew up just down the street from here) and I like to visit Springfield Museum Quadrangle’s Sculpture Garden to hang out with a bronze Grinch and Max. I could not find a photo of that that I could post without risking copyright infringement, but here is a pretty awesome sand sculpture Grinch:

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayobo/5293971507/

You don’t need to snow in Key West to make a festive holidaysnowsandman.

And you don’t need snow either to win some holiday presents. Just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here! Best of luck and have the happiest of  holidays!

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Three Debs Reflect

While we didn’t actually get to dress like this and practice our curtsies, some of the ladies of Indie Ignites became Author Debutantes in 2013. We published our first books and for the first time could call ourselves AUTHORS. So as this auspicious year comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to ask some of my fellow Indie Debs to talk about the experience of launching yourself into the world as a writer. Here’s what they had to say, below, but, first, MEET OUR DEBS

JC EMERY released her first novel,

 which is also the first in a series (MEN WITH BADGES). She self-published this as well as her debut novels in the BAYONET SCARS series. It’s been a very productive year for JC!

LISA BASSO also debuted with the first in a series; the novel

 kicks off the trilogy THE ANGEL SIGHT SERIES. She’s published with Swoon Romance.

I, STEPHANIE WARDROP, brought out the first three in a series of YA e-novellas based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The first installment was

published by Swoon. The last installment releases in January of 2014.

RELEASE WEEK AND BEYOND

I spent so much time worrying about the writing that I didn’t really put much thought into what it would be like when the book actually came out (I was just so relieved that it did!). Lisa Basso and I both had blog tours, so we were in the enviable but chaotic position of having to write twenty-plus completely fabulous blog posts in a few weeks. “It was crazy,” Lisa says. “I didn’t have much time to celebrate [that first week, but after that], man was that sweet.”  JC had to figure out how to market her book on her own (and let me tell you, she has gotten very good at it), so her release week was “quiet.”

But once the book was out and people were actually reading it (squeeeee!), things started to happen. For me, people I hadn’t been in contact with for years looked me up on Facebook and everyone was amazingly proud of me and very sweet about congratulating me.  Publishing a book is a big deal to people and it’s really gratifying to have had so many people happy for me.  I also suddenly got to meet (virtually) a whole group of other writers and wonderful bloggers.  Lisa agrees, saying. “I’ve gotten to know so many amazing bloggers, authors, and book lovers I never would have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise. Including the amazing ladies of Indie Ignites.” Right back at ya, Lisa!

JC had a few more twists and turns in her year-long journey. I’ll let her tell it to you straight, but if you go to Amazon or any other site selling books, you’ll see it has a happy ending: Through a strange twist of events, my first book ended up being free for five

months (which I talk about here). It was (in my opinion) a really good thing

for my career. It let people know that I’m here, but it also meant that I was

giving away my work for several months. Because of a shoestring budget, I

wasn’t able to do certain things until my fourth book (Ride, which debuted

October 25th

months for me to consider myself a published author. I kept making excuses

for how it wasn’t really real yet. I even made my mom wait until I was

enough of a success to tell my family. I just didn’t want to fail in front of them,

and since I had very low expectations, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with

what I’ve been able to do.

) like a formal blog tour, cover reveal, etc. It actually took several

BEST PART OF BECOMING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR FOR THE FIRST TIME

JC said “I felt brave. A lot of people thought I shouldn’t publish at all, let alone self-publish . . . I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and I didn’t know that I’d ever be able to make enough money off of a business to truly work for myself . . . but for now I can say that I made my dreams come true in 2013.”

For Lisa, the best part was, “hands down, being contacted by a reader who loved my book. There’s nothing like it.”

 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NOW IF YOU COULD?

It seems that we’d do it all over again if we had the chance.  JC said “Were there things I could have done better? Absolutely. I made mistakes—

big mistakes—but I wouldn’t want to have done a single thing differently. For

the first time in my life I showed myself how truly capable I am. I’ve worked

harder, taken more risks, and have ventured into areas I didn’t know possible

this year. 2013 has been the best year ever and I wouldn’t change a single

thing.”

Lisa had some good advice for newbie authors that I’ll share verbatim: “If I could do anything differently, I would keep a journal of the things that came up after I signed

my contract. I’d log how many hours I wrote, edited, and promoted each day.” Especially if you are trying to figure out if you can really “afford” to do this, even if you are not planning on quitting your day job any time soon, it’s probably a good idea to keep track of all the hours you put into everything in addition to the writing, the marketing, blogging, interviewing, and, with a little luck, red carpet-walking when you sell your book to Hollywood. Hey, ’tis the season to dream big! And this past year, many of our dreams have already come true.

Buy Marital Bitch at  http://www.amazon.com/Marital-Bitch-Men-Badges-ebook/dp/B00B687AX0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371196872&sr=1-2A Shimmer of Angels at http://www.amazon.com/Shimmer-Angels-Angel-Sight-Series/dp/0985029439/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386208596&sr=8-1&keywords=a+shimmer+of+angels, and the Snark and Circumstance series at  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=snark+and+circumstance&sprefix=snark+and+cir%2Caps%2C245  . They make excellent holiday gifts :).

This was originally posted on the Indie Ignites blog.

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I’m Not Stagnant – I’m Vernalizing

WIP It Wednesdays: When No Work’s in Progress

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Sometimes the right words come along when you need them.

I have been flagellating myself a lot lately for not writing anything but comments on student papers and the occasional blog post for over a month now. I tried to reignite my work in progress yesterday, and if my writing had made a sound, the neighbors would have heard the tortured screech of a rusty chainsaw cutting nothing and breaking down repeatedly – and they would have called the police, thinking something horrific was going on inside my house. I deleted everything I wrote and went for a walk, heavy with the feeling that I WOULD NEVER AGAIN BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYTHING. EVER. AGAIN.

And then I remembered a Tumblr post I had glanced at that talked about dormancy in creativity, so I Googled “dormancy and creativity” and found this wonderful sermon by Reverend Myke Johnson. He points out that “there are many plants in our landscape that will not flower without going through a time of cold.” This is called “‘vernalizing’” and artists do it just as plants do (and doesn’t “vernalizing” sound a whole lot better than “blocked”?) Image

He paraphrases Julia Alvarez, one of my favorite writers, and her assertion that her process is similar to the Greek myth of Persephone. Like Persephone, Alavrez says she has to go into the “underworld” for a period before approaching a new project. She’s accepted and even welcomes the “darkness” she has to face to create again; she knows she will write again, just as Persephone always reemerged in springtime.

It’s helping me right now to think that I am not hopelessly stagnating. Maybe I am just in tune with nature. I look outside and the world has gone cold and grey and, apparently, dead or sleeping. But I know that it’s not. I know that in a few months the grass will be greener and the trees alive with blossoms. I’ll rise again, as well – and hopefully well before springtime.

Before coming across this advice, I had two methods of my own to keep my sanity and confidence in these times of vernalization, and I’ll end by sharing them, in the hope that they may help someone else.

One:  When in doubt, walk. I am a big believer in walking as a form of meditation; even as I have Lady Gaga’s “Applause” in my earbuds, I am thinking more clearly and sometimes the answers come to me. (The endorphins help, too). And, underneath the insistent bass of my iTunes playlist, I hear other things. Last week I heard the voice of a character in another work in progress, one I set aside over a year ago. But there she was, talking to me, telling me she wanted to come back, and I am going to listen to her. I’m putting aside my stalled work in progress because there’s another story tugging on my elbow right now, and I want to honor that (how’s that for Romantic artsy-fartsy mysticism?)

Which brings me to two: I always have a couple of projects in the pipeline that I can turn to when I get stalled on what I’m working on. I used to think that this was evidence of my infantile attention span, but it has actually proven to be sanity-saving for me. Instead of despairing entirely that this WIP will never get done, I can set it aside and pick up another and carve away at that for awhile. I have a full draft of it, and I knew it needed some major reorganization but I dreaded that. Not any more.  I[‘m ready for it now. So as soon as this semester ends, I’m back to the book I set aside to send Snark and Circumstance on one last round of queries (which turned out pretty well in the end!). I’ll let you know what happens. 

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