Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique


by Glynna Kaye
My yard is undergoing a landscape makeover which requires that the bird and squirrel feeders be removed for the process. One morning a squirrel raced frantically back and forth along top of the wooden fence as if crying: “Who swiped my feeder? Who swiped my feeder?” Change. It disturbs the peace of even the smallest of God’s creatures.
Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, God is the only unchangeable in our world. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And no matter how many people would like to vote him off Earth Island, he’s still in charge. Always has been, always will be.
Other than that, however, change in almost everything else is the norm today. You go to bed with one reality and wake up the next to another. In 2002 a book came out called “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson which addressed this issue in an allegory. Mice scurry through a maze, seeking what makes them happiest—the cheese—only to find out one day that the cheese isn’t where it’s always been. Over and over they futilely keep running back to the same place where they previously found the cheese rather than searching out its new location.
As someone who’s long been a tiny cog in the “corporate world” wheel, I’ve seen the companies I worked for relocated, down-sized, sold, merged, split, reorganized, re-reorganized and re-re-reorganized. Nothing stays the same for long as companies attempt to minimize losses and maximize profits. In this rollercoaster economy, things are even more dicey. That’s the day-job world I’ve lived in for fifteen years, and I’m constantly learning how to roll with the punches, increase my knowledge base, acquire new skills, and reposition myself to be more valuable to my employers so I can keep that day job that pays for the cheese!
Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom or working outside the home part- or full-time and you want to supplement the family income through writing commercial fiction. Or maybe you’ve already paid your “corporate dues” and are determined to make your writing dreams come true--far from the rat race you washed your hands of. “So what,” you’re asking yourself, ”does this Corporate America talk have to do with me?”
Well, unfortunately, when you get a book published you become a miniscule cog in Corporate America’s big, big wheel. Publishing is a business. BIG business. As much as an editor might like to, they can’t merely pick you out for publication because they like you personally and love your first book. They must believe—really believe—that the market they’re targeting will also love your books (as in plural). They’re taking a huge monetary and professional gamble that you’ll consistently produce stories that will satisfy an increasing number of readers and turn a profit. The bigger the profit the better. Not even Christian publishers are charitable organizations. Both ABA and CBA must keep an eye on the bottom line. They can’t lose money indefinitely and stay in business.
I’ve been reading Romantic Times magazine since the early 1990’s. I have a LOT of back issues, and in reviewing them I see a number of writers who were “names“ a dozen years ago who are still “names” now. But you know what? As I turn the pages of today’s RT Book Club, a disheartening number of the authors whose books once populated the reviews are nowhere to be found. A search of the web finds no mention of them. Or maybe only an isolated reference to a last book published a decade ago. Pretty sobering. Where did they go? Perhaps it was by choice that they’re no longer published--some things are only “right” for you during a season of your life, then God leads you to close the door and move on. Or did someone run off with their cheese--and they never found it? Did they attempt to find it?
So what are some ways we, as “newbies,” can keep an eye on our writing cheese?

- Join writers’ organizations (RWA, ACFW, etc.) to ferret out changing market trends. Take an active interest in the profession. Don’t write in a vacuum.
- Attend writing conferences and workshops for the same reason—often agents and editors speak to anticipated reader trends and what they’re looking for to fulfill that market niche.
- Read writing-related magazines, newsletters, and professional journals, both on-line and paper (Writer’s Digest, RT Book Club, Romance Writer’s Report, etc.).
- Network on-line. Editors occasionally find time in their busy schedules to visit popular writing-related blog sites. (Last month Seekerville hosted Barbara Scott of Abingdon Press, and on Thursday, November 13, Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill will be our guest.)
- Read current books marketed by the publisher(s) you’re targeting. What might have been considered standard tone, style or content in a genre or line five or ten years ago may now be passé.
- Read outside the genre you’re currently targeting or published in. Broaden your horizons. Maybe you’re writing Mom-Lit, but (after a rough day with a houseful of sick little ones or a harried ride on the subway) you find yourself picking up a LuAnne Rice women’s fiction with a low key New England setting. Keep that in the back of your mind in case the market shifts and you must look for another writing place to call home. Just because you can’t publish/remain published in your current niche, you can still write something you enjoy and which doesn’t compromise your innermost values and beliefs.
- Listen to what your editor says about your publisher’s (and readers’) needs. Is it a need that (within reason), you can fulfill? You’ve never written a novella, but your editor is putting together an anthology? Give it a shot. The line you’ve been writing for tanks? Where does she think you’d fit best in another one? She isn’t thrilled with your latest proposal? Ask for her input, counter-propose, and give her something she can wholeheartedly get behind.
- Don’t be surprised if during your writing career you must reinvent yourself so to speak. Maybe it’s going from one line to another. One genre to another. One house to another. Category to single title or vice versa. First person POV to third. Don’t allow your writing world mindset to become so narrow that your immediate response is always “no way.” Think through it. Pray through it.
- Don’t give in to fear when your cheese gets moved. Take a deeeeeep breath. Be positive. Be proactive. So often it’s not the situation we find ourselves in but how we react to it that causes us the most grief. With the right attitude and some genuine effort, you may find yourself in a much better place than you were before. A framed quote sits on my desk: Don’t fear tomorrow. God is already there. Those are good words for a writer to live by.
As Camy discussed in her Seekerville post (Good News and What I Learned From It), being flexible is a MUST if you’re intending to be in this business for the long haul. Publishers are bought out. Merge. Restructure. Go under completely. Editors switch houses. Reader tastes change. Lines fold. One of my friends wrote over 100 category books before taking a well-deserved breather. When asked the key to her success amidst the ups and downs of publishing, she said: “Write every day. Read every day. Never forget this a business. Give your editor what she’s looking for.” Or as Camy so aptly put it: “be willing to be willing.”
Remember the scene in the 1997 movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” where Jules (Julia Roberts) comments that while Kim (Cameron Diaz) is like crème brûlée, what their mutual “hero,” is really looking for is Jell-O? Kim responds: “I could be Jell-O!” Now THAT determined little lady has the makings of a successful published writer!
So, like the little squirrel racing along the fence in my back yard, panicked because his “cheese” has been moved, there are some things that are out of our personal control. But I have no doubt that after a few days Mr. Squirrel will be checking out the neighborhood and discovering that while my feeder specialized in unshelled sunflower seeds, the one next door has corn. Or peanuts. And while it takes a bit more effort on his part, another yard features shelled sunflower seeds that might tickle his taste buds. It’s my guess the little guy won’t give up looking for a new source of food, and he very well may find something he likes much better than the “cheese” originally within his grasp!

Glynna Kaye’s Steeple Hill Love Inspired “Dreaming of Home” is a 2010 “Carol Award” and “Maggie Award” finalist, as well as a first place winner of the “Booksellers Best” and “Beacon” awards. Her next books (also set in Canyon Springs, Arizona) are “Second Chance Courtship” releasing February 2011, and “At Home In His Heart” debuting August 2011!

This post first appeared in Seekerville 10/22/08

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.


Helen Gray said...

(Ma banging on the dishpan here.) Come and get it. Coffee's ready.

Great stuff Glynna.

Oh, and I enjoyed the craft book I won from you last month. Thanks!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Great visual, Helen. You are SUCH a writer.

Love this post even more this time around, GK.

CarolM said...

Wonderful post, Glynna!

Helen, you're on the ball!

In honor of the VeggieTale premiere this morning*, here's a veggie spread.

But since that's not enough and since this week was the birthday of a certain literary icon, there's also green eggs and ham to go along with it. Or seperately. Whichever.

I would love a critique :).

carol at carolmoncado dot com

*I am taking my off-spring and meeting Andrea S. and her off-spring to the largest Veggie premiere in the country [last I heard]. Something like 3500 people expected...

Renee Ann said...

Love this post, Glynna! It was great to be reminded that God is the only unchangeable, but sometimes we need to be figure out how to be jello. I'll remember that for a good long time:) Blessings!

Debra E. Marvin said...

No pressure, Helen, but the day is not the same if I don't see your face in the morning.

By the way, Glynna, I hope that cheese is Romano or something that ages well. I'm coming along as fast as I can pedal. Every day.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning Seekerville! Even though I'm not a coffee drinker, Helen, it sure SMELLS good at this early hour!

It's seems funny to look back on blog posts written years ago! I'm always "editing" in my mind as I re-read them.

I'll be popping in and out throughout the day -- my AA's (final version I see before it goes to print) arrived and I have to read thru the whole manuscript line-by-line with a fine-toothed comb; also working on the art fact sheet due next week; AND need to make up writing time I lost the last few weeks due to a cold, day job demands, etc.

Have a great day!

Lorna Faith said...

Thanks for the great advice Glynna! Keeping my eyes on the cheese:)

I would love to be entered for a 5 page critique:)


Christine said...

This is awesome advice especially to those of us attempting to enter the maze. So many nuggets of wisdom!

I appreciate the points about change. I needed to move out of a bad work related situation a couple of years ago. But, hating change, I hung on. God had to use a lot of heartache to kick me out of that situation, but a year later, I understood why He wanted me out of it.

Please enter me in the contest for the five page critique.

Thanks again for your post!

Andrea Strong said...

"There's never, ever, ever been a show like VeggieTales!"

What? Oh! Was I singing out loud?

So sorry, can't wait for the Veggie Premiere. Carol, I think you should have gone to bed earlier.

Helen, you're great, always on the coffee.

Glynna, I'm like the mouse in the maze for the first time--I haven't found the cheese yet at all. Here's hoping this post is a great reminder for me someday.

Can't stay long, busy day. First is the VT premiere. This evening we have a singing at church. The pastor (my husband) is coaching a basketball game, so he won't be able to attend. It's up to me to represent the fam.

Could you say a prayer for the Dora Falcons? They're playing for the District Championship tonight. Go, Falcons!

Hoping all you ladies and gents have a wonderful weekend.

Janet Dean said...

Your post is chock full of wisdom, Glynna. I read Who Moved My Cheese years ago. I'm not always fond of the changes I see, but you're absolutely right. Everything changes but our God. I'm clinging to Him on this wild roller coaster ride called life.

Thanks for the coffee, Helen!


Joanne Sher said...

Super DUPER reminder. Keeping that stuff in mind can make SUCH a difference.

Pepper said...

Thanks for the great insight, Glynna. There's so much to consider and LEARN! Whew

CarolM - we are one mind. It takes moms of preschoolers to use examples from talking vegetables.

Pepper said...

Oh and I'd love to be entered in the 5 page critique.
Thanks a bundle,


Jackie S. said...

Great post, Glynna...hope that squirrel is happy now!! Just received (in mail) your book Second Chance Courtship and can't wait to read it!!!! Hope you are feeling better (the cold bug).

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, a Veggie Premier. Does it get any better than that? Yes. In my jammies writing all day. LOL.

Petunia said...

Did someone mention VeggieTales?

Petunia said...

Here's a hello from the VeggieTales crew
Just letting you know, we are Seeker fans too

CatMom said...

Good morning from rainy Georgia! Really enjoyed this post, Glynna, and I'll most likely re-read it for those important reminders. Also enjoyed the visual of the squirrels running along the fence. As I'm typing this I'm viewing a chubby squirrel out on my deck, LOL. (yes, I feed them waaay too much)~ Blessings, Patti Jo :)

CatMom said...

p.s. Excellent coffee, Helen! I poured out my cup to refill it with YOUR coffee! ;) Patti Jo

Julie Lessman said...

Classic post, Glynna, and I remember it well!!

And it's raining in St. Loo, too, Patti Jo, so that's our cue to burrow in with Helen's coffee and a laptop and write the day away ...

Happy weekend, all!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, this is a first. A visit from Petunia.

Which vegetable are you...(I should know this. I SHOULD know this...)

Petunia said...

Oh sweet Tina,
I'm a rhubarb.
But I do have a tiny crush on a certain Cucumber who will remain nameless.
Don't want to pickle him with embarassment.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Thanks for the great advice, Glynna! It's always so encouraging to start the day with Helen's coffee and Seekerville!

I'm taking advantage of a cloudy day to stay in and write lots.

Please enter me for the 5-page critique.


Jan Drexler said...

Now I KNOW my children are all grown up. I didn't even know that Veggie Tales had a new one coming out! - although the French Peas did enter into our dinnertime conversation last night... I guess the changes and trends I'm keeping up with have changed :)

I loved your advice, Glynna, to write every day and read every day. I'll also have to check out the publications you mentioned on-line. I don't want my cheese to be moving without me knowing where it's going!

Have a great Saturday everyone - I'm trying to get some chores out of the way so that I can get on to the next chapter.

Glynna Kaye said...

Coming up for a breather! I'm making good headway on my AA's--about 100 pages to go.

And the Veggies are visiting today--friends of Seekerville! How fun!

Having lived in the "corporate world" for 20 years, we get it hammered in to our heads that CHANGE HAPPENS. Companies have a constant challenge to stay competitive, to use their people resources to best advantage, so employees must remain flexible and go with the flow. Be ready to change directions on a moment's notice. Learn new skills and processes. Take on new responsibilities. Is it FUN? Sometimes. Sometimes not. But you still do it. That's something I always want to keep in mind with my writing. When the market shifts, not to let my self wail TOO loudly, but look at it as an opportunity to shift gears and grow. Discover--and learn to use--talents and gifts buried within me that I didn't even know I had.

Well, break's over. Back to proof reading!

Virginia said...

Wow, excellent post! I like to think that libraries will be around forever, but they're run by cities, and if anyone is in trouble, state and city run government is it. :( Soooo, libraries have a bottom line, too, and even though I can't imagine a library without the children's librarian, that could always happen. ("Where's my cheeeeeese?")
Thanks for the great post... God is constant.

And Helen, you sure made me laugh!

Kav said...

Glynna, sage advice and very timely (even if it is nearly three years old!) I'm experiencing mega-change right now and I'm going to read this over and over again to remind me to embrace it and be positive about it....GULP!

And I haven't joined any writing organization yet so you've inspired me to get going on that as well.

Pam Hillman said...

Great lesson in being flexible, Glynna!

Mary, if you're not comatose after reading all about Glynna's rats and squirrels, you might want to look away NOW.

This morning, my son informed me that one of our dogs had a HUGE RAT treed on a power cord up close to the ceiling on the back porch.


Dh is gone to a cattle auction, and ds2 tried to "dispose" of it, while ds1 was on his way from his house to assist.

Mr. Rat got away, and ds1 was disappointed that he didn't get in on the fight!


I locked all the doors and stood on top of the couch until it was all over!

Pam Hillman said...

Mmmmm, great coffee, Helen.

Thank you for starting the pot every day!!!

CarolM said...

So Andrea and I [and our offspring] are watching the Veggie premiere and there's a 4 story high pile of snow between two buildings.

Mr. Lunt says "We'll have to wait for the spring thaw" [to get to the church on the other said].

Andrea and I look at each other and say 'That's like something out of a Mary Connealy book!'


CarolM said...

Guess that makes a lot more sense now that I read through the comments and saw that Petunia stopped by ;). They must have read some Mary-fic before writing this one and decided to give her a shout-out.


Petunia said...

We seek inspiration in the BEST places.
The Bible
Old musicals
Classic fairytales
Lord of the Rings
and Seeker authors.

Even vegetables need to grow from the creativity of others.

I prefer setting rat traps with peanut butter instead of vegetables.
You never know which poor character you might bait the trap with.
Unless it's an unruly zucchini.
But I don't think rats are favorable to zucchini.
Few animals...or people are.

Pam Hillman said...

Ah, Petunia, but then we have a conundrum.

Peanut butter is made from peanuts. That's a legume.

Are legumes any less deserving of life than Veggies?

Oh, my!

What to DO now?????

Pam Hillman said...

Pouring rain here.

Actually, it's very peaceful (no high winds), and so relaxing.

I don't have to go anywhere today. I can just relax and play Ketchup, and sneak in a nap later.


Petunia said...

I did not think of that
Let's stick with cheese to catch ther rat :-)

Walt Mussell said...

After reading this, I think I need more coffee.

I remember reading that book. Sometimes finding your cheese can be difficult.

My kids loved Veggie Tales when they were younger.

And I'm always up for a critique.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Just sitting down with a fresh cuppa and getting caught up here. I chuckled at your squirrel, Glynna. We have a birdfeeder hanging from the corner of the roof just off the back deck, and whenever it needs refilling our resident squirrel runs back and forth on the deck railing!

I'm keeping an eye on the cheese... nibbling away at the edges and praying for the right kind of appetite to contribute to a healthy long life.

(I think I'm already in the pool for this week's critique draw.)

Pam Hillman said...

Ah, yes, GOOD choice, Petunia.

Cheese and...unfertilized eggs.

I think that's about it, right?

Petunia said...

And badly behaving zucchini.

Sometimes a gourd or two.

Never rhubard, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, peas, or grapes.

It does get tricky.

Pepper said...

I reread your post a few minutes ago and it got me thinking ( out for smoke and fire)

Writing isn't much different than the rest of our daily 'dreams'. We do what we feel God is calling us to do, research, learn, grow...and trust him for the product.
Whether that product comes in a published form (which is a wonderful icing on the cake)
or whether it's a changed life (even better) - for ourselves or someone else.

Being a flexible thinker is a living 'happy' skill, don't you think? Innovative thinking combined with a passion for a good story helps us ride out the corporate hurricane...that coupled with a healthy dose of humor.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Exactly, Pepper.

Do you know what the opposite of faith is?


And most of the time that's what we are struggling with in life, in the writing life...

Not lack of faith but fear.

Pepper said...

Oh so right, Tina.
It's easy to just see the giant, instead of the powerful God standing behind the shepherd boy.

Cathy Shouse said...


I enjoyed reading this. It was nice to "see" everybody today for a light conversation.

Wish I could have stayed in out of the rain, but had some errands so I trudged around in it. So nice to be in and warm, now! Cold and damp is my least favorite combination. Although, it beats the snow we were having!

Indiana, the bi-polar state!

Andrea Strong said...

The Veggie Tales were great. I started to tell how they get over the Connealy-worthy wall of snow, but realized it might be a spoiler for some of you. :) I didn't think it was as good as Dave

The Falcons lost :( . The plus side is, now they don't have to practise every afternoon. That means hubby gets more time at home, and that's always good.