Pamela K Witte

Crashing The Gate! Writerly Advice From Industry Folks In The Know… Introducing The Apocalypsies!

Said | Dec 31 2011


The Apocalypsies Battle Writer’s Block!

 Welcome! Come on in. By now you know the drill.

Think the gates to publication are closed? There’s no way for you to break into the industry? Think again. The next two installments of “Gate Crashers” are dedicated to the Apocalypsies, 2012’s up-and-coming debut authors in the Kidlit industry! Each of them shared similar doubts, worries that the road to publication was blocked, that they’d be writing forever, never reaching that awesome goal of—Wow! I challenged Writer’s Block and now I’m being published! Each persevered and a bunch of them agreed to join “Gate Crashers,” sharing three personal tidbits of wisdom to help other writers (YOU) stick with it.

Push open the gate. Step inside. Learn. Enjoy. Conquer.

 Click the pics for awesome links


A C Gaughen


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Just keep going.  Remember that you write for yourself and not for anyone else, so just write the stories that your soul needs to tell.  Eventually, someone else will want to read them too.  And just keep going.  This industry seems to be largely about dumb luck, and you need to stay in the game. 

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication :

All the waiting!  I waited six months to sign the contract, spent about another six (a little more) in all the various stages of editing and still had another six months to wait!  And the crazy thing is that I was on a pretty short timeline as far as the industry goes.  Baffling! 

3. Most fun thing:

Seeing other people excited about my book, and not in a beta-reader, “yay you’re AWESOME!” way, but in a “lets work on this together and make it awesomer” way.  Collaboration and the publishing process tend to feel like Captain Planet (combining to become a superpower). 

Chanelle Gray


 1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Read, read, read! You’ll need to know what genre you’re writing in and what age range your book falls in. Once you know that, pick up as many books that too fall under those categories and read, read, read! The reason I say this is because a) You’re going to need to find something about your novel that stands out. Like vampires? Read as many vampires novels as possible so that your book doesn’t feel the same as all the rest. b) So you know what works within that genre and age group. Obviously every person is different, but you’ll get a general gist of what kinds of writing styles, narrative voices and description levels your book will need.

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

Rejection is obviously the obvious answer, but more specifically on R&Rs (revise and resubmit). You work so hard to edit your novel to an agent’s advise and then you sit and imagine the day when you get that email or phone call to say they love your work like you do and want to represent you. So when you do get that email and instead of gushing about your work its a couple sentences telling you thanks, but no thanks – it is devastating. 

3. Most fun thing:

For me it was writing queries! I know a lot of people hate it, but I love doing it. I still write queries now when I’m talking about story ideas with my agent! I might open a business of writing queries – you never know 😉

Colleen Clayton


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Read a LOT and read widely, don’t limit yourself to reading strictly Young Adult.  Yes, read YA, read lots of YA, but also read adult fiction, classics, genre fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  READ, READ, READ.   

Always be writing something new. Especially when querying.  It will not only keep your mind off The Rejection Roller Coaster but it will also allow you to keep your options open.  Beware of literary tunnel vision and of chaining yourself to one manuscript.  When I first started writing, I made the mistake of putting all my eggs into one manuscript basket (a manuscript that ultimately failed to land an agent, let alone publication…) and after two years of querying, editing, re-working, re-editing and slaving over the same manuscript, I finally got over myself and moved on.  I wrote something completely new, I wrote What Happens Next...the manuscript that ultimately landed an agent and was bought by Little, Brown. 

For unpublished 40+ year olds who are writing Young Adult and who maybe feel like “their YA ship has sailed”…Don’t!  I never wrote one creative sentence until I was 35.  When my book debuts, I’ll be 43.  If you’re older and feel like you’re late to the ball, just remember all that living you’ve been doing these past years, remember the deep well of experiences you have to draw from, remember how much READING you’ve done.  Those things add up to a lot when it comes to writing.  And if YA is what you feel compelled to write, and if YA is where your writerly voice and literary comfort zone lies, THEN WRITE YA. Technology, music, slang, trends, etc. have changed since we were kids but the themes…meaning the myriad joys and heartbreaks of being a teenager…those are universal and timeless. Don’t ever think that age has a single thing to do with writing good YA fiction.

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

Admitting to myself that my first manuscript was not going to be published.  Starting from scratch, swallowing that salty lump of pride and failure and writing the first sentence of a new story.

3. Most fun thing:  

Going to lunch with my agent and editors.  Even though it was several months after I had inked the deal for WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, that lunch was the moment when things became real for me.  I was so nervous that I could barely eat. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, like I was watching someone else’s life.  Seven years of brutally consistent, never-ending rejection had led up to that lunch. Needless to say, it was pretty freaking fantastic. 

Elisa Ludwig


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Keep yourself entertained. Maybe that sounds obvious but there are so many things to get hung up on during the journey to publication (and afterward on into infinity) that it’s easy to suck the joy out of the very thing you love. And chances are, you probably didn’t get into this thing because you heart writing query letters. So make the work as exciting and engaging as possible, and that can sustain you to the next step. 

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

For me, it was making the commitment to the process. I always wanted to write, and write professionally, but it took me several years to accept the reality that if I was going to do this I was going to have to write a manuscript on my own time and with no guarantee that anyone would want it. (I was already working as a freelance writer, and I was trained like a Pavlovian dog to only write for a deadline and contract.) But book publishing doesn’t work like that. No one was going to come along and “discover” me and offer me anything. I had to take a risk, and invest the time without knowing how it would all turn out. Soon after I made that decision, things fell into place relatively quickly. I just wish I’d done it earlier. 

3. Most fun thing:

Being part of something bigger. I was so busy writing early on that I didn’t participate in any forums or meet many other writers. The community of kid-lit writers is so excellent—I feel like I stumbled into this amazing world that was in my backyard all along.

 Emily Hainsworth


 1. Advice to aspiring writers:

The most important advice I can offer to aspiring writers is simply to sit down and WRITE. You can spend hours reading blogs and expanding your social networks, but you’ll never get published if you can’t turn all of that off, put your nose to the grindstone, and finish writing your book. 

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

The most difficult part of my path to publication was knowing when to admit an idea was no good. I worked for four years rewriting my first book, trying to catch an agent with a weak idea. I finally gave up and wrote something new (THROUGH TO YOU), and that was the book that finally got published. 

 3. Most fun thing:

The best part of my journey to publication (not to sound cheesy) has been the journey itself. I never dreamed I would actually get published, let alone with HarperCollins. So many wonderful surprises have happened to me this year, including the book being optioned by Paramount Pictures. It’s just been fun to be on this ride. I think I’ll jump up and down like a little girl when I get to hold the finished novel

 Erin Lange


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Feel the love.

Bottom line, you have to LOVE writing – even when it’s work. Love it because it’s more entertaining to tell yourself stories than to watch TV. Love it because it gives you a profound sense of accomplishment when you’re done. Love it because it helps you relax or vent or escape. I don’t care why you love it, but you have to feel the love.

Writing is too much work to be in it for the end game of publishing.

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

The waiting is the hardest part.

And there is so. much. waiting.

If I get nothing else from this path to publishing, I will at least have learned patience. I hear it’s a virtue.

3. Most fun thing:

There are so many amazing moments along the path to publishing, but the most fun? That’s tricky. I had a heck of a lot of fun at LA SCBWI, meeting all of the people I’ve gotten to know online during this process. But I have to say, the most fun part for me is still – and will always be – writing the first draft. That’s when I really feel the love.

Gina Damico


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

This may sound like a no-brainer, but let other people read your stuff before you send it to agents/editors. I didn’t do this, and even though by some crazy bit of luck it all worked out in the end, I really wish I had. It’s extraordinarily helpful to get someone else’s opinion, especially since you’ve been in the bubble of your own head for so long you probably can’t tell which way is up anymore. They’ll be able to point things out that you’ve missed, problems you weren’t aware of. It may mean another revision, but your work will be better for it.

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

Waiting. The publishing industry is excruciatingly slow, and refreshing your inbox several times a day isn’t exactly the most constructive use of your time. But you CAN’T HELP IT.

3. Most fun thing:

Working with my agent and editor has been a blast. They totally get me and my book, and it’s still a wonder to me that we can have these long, in-depth conversations about characters that I previously thought only I would ever care about. Oh, and getting to see the looks on people’s faces when I told them I wrote a book is also quite fun. They never see it coming, the poor fools.

 Hilary Weisman Graham


1. Advice to aspiring writers:

revise, revise, revise! The first version hardly ever works.  On paper, or in life.  Think about the first version of the adult you.  Got a mental picture of it?  

Just like you were not a suave seductress, tossing out insightful yet witty bon mots about the latest John Updike novel while simultaneously sweating in your jelly shoes at the seventh grade dance, the first draft of your fiction is also not quite ready for the grown-up world.

 But we all gotta start somewhere. 

 In Bird by Bird, the wonderful Anne Lamott urges writers to write crappy first drafts.  This advice is important, if not inevitable.  But the thing I find that most often holds new writers back from this process is that they’re too proud about the toil it took to make this thing they created to notice its flaws.   Do You Know How Hard They Worked on This?   Waa.

Well, guess what, people?  That hard work you did is just the beginning!  Because if you’re truly doing service to your story, your prose, and your characters, the bottom line is that it’s going to take several passes to get it just right.  And yes, it’s a ton of work, but each time you refine it, you discover new ways to make your story even better, until finally, it’s (almost) exactly as you envisioned it.  But never completely. 

 Revising is dependent on your capacity for detachment, so if you’re having trouble looking at your own work objectively, remember it’s a practice and you need to give it time.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do is walk away from what you’re writing for a day or two (or a month) so that you’re able to look at it with fresh, unbiased eyes.

2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

For an impatient gal like me, the hardest part about getting REUNITED to come to fruition was the wait.  I realize my timeline’s a bit of an anomaly, but it’s literally taken years to get to this point.  REUNITED was born way back in the fall of 2008 when my editor at Simon & Schuster, (who was not yet my editor) had the idea for a book about ex-best friends reuniting to see a band they once loved. 

 She sent the idea (which at this point was all of two sentences) to my agent (who was not yet my agent) who sent it to my manager (I’m also a screenwriter) who sent it to me.  Inspired by the concept, I spent a few hours coming up with a two-page outline which I then sent off to my manager, who sent it back up the ranks.  Turns out, everyone loved it, so I was asked to write a longer outline, which to me writing the first three chapters (to prove I could write fiction), and then, of course, to make revisions to those chapters (three separate times).  Finally, in June of 2009, everyone was happy with the work I’d done and my agent made the deal.  

 A full year after that (sigh) my contract was ready to be signed and I wrote the rest of REUNITED and turned it in to S&S by my deadline, in March of 2010.  The receipt of my first edit letter came a long time after that.  So long after, that it was decided the release date for the book be pushed back by a year.  After that, things moved fairly quickly, and shortly after my first round of revisions were handed in, my second edit letter (which turned out to be nothing compared to the first) arrived.  I made those chances and the manuscript for REUNITED was finally delivered in June of 2011.  Phew.

 So now, when I tell people my book’s coming out in six months and they say that’s a long time away, to me, it seems so close I can taste it.

3. Most fun thing:

 The writing!  That’s not to say every day was all rainbows and unicorns, but to me, there is no better feeling (with the exception of a few unmentionable pleasures) than being in the groove while I’m writing.  I love what I do and feel immensely grateful I get to do it.

Jay Kristoff


 1. Advice to aspiring writers:

Don’t write because you want to get famous and buy Scottish castles. Don’t write because you need validation or you think if only you can get published, everything in your life will be OK. 

 Write because telling stories and building worlds helps you breathe. Write because writing makes you wonder what on earth you ever did before now. Write for that wonderful moment when you create something that makes the hairs on the back of your arms stand up, or tears well in your eyes. Write because you truly, madly and deeply love it and can’t imagine what you’d be without it anymore. 

 There are so many obstacles along the road, so many setbacks, and the journey is so very long, that you need to love it with everything you have to make it through.

 2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

 The waiting. Waiting on beta readers and crit groups. Waiting on agent queries, then agent revisions, then House submissions. Then contracts and editors notes and more revisions. Then copy edits and page proofs and cover designs and sales meetings and marketing plans and publicists and OMG YOU ARE THE ZEN MASTER OF WAITING.

Patience, young Padawan. Patience. You need it just as much a love. :)

 Jennifer Lundquist


1. Advice to aspiring writers: 

Resist the temptation to write in isolation. As writers I think many of us are introverts and it’s easy to hide out in our writing caves. But there are several resources available to help you hone your craft. Find a critique group, or a critique partner (or both). The encouragement alone is worth it. On the days when I felt discouraged and wondered if I was crazy for thinking I could ever write a book anyone would want to read, I’d go to my critique group and come home feeling motivated and inspired to keep going. Never underestimate the power of connecting with others who are on a similar journey.

 2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication: 

The hardest thing for me was acknowledging my first novel wasn’t going to get published. It took me two years to write that book, and I poured my heart and soul into it. Sometimes I worked on it at three in the morning after I’d been up for hours with a colicky baby. It seemed a masterpiece to me, and after all the hoops I had to jump through just to finish the darn thing the thought that it wasn’t good enough for publication was heartbreaking. But, I had made the decision that I was going to keep writing—no matter what—and so as soon I put that first novel away, I started on a second book, which eventually became Seeing Cinderella.

3. Most fun thing: 

Discovering that the kidlit community is full of amazing rock stars! Authors are incredibly encouraging and are always available to help you and answer your questions. All you have to do is ask! Also, last Thanksgiving I got to sit at the table with my in-laws and tell them about my book contract. I’m not gonna lie, that was supremely cool.

Kami Kinard


1. Advice to aspiring writers:  

I’ve met a lot of aspiring writers over the past decade or so and I’ve found that the ones with these three things in common eventually reach their publication goals:

 1) They stick with it and don’t give up despite setbacks and rejections.

 2) They work hard – many, many, many hours over weeks and months and years at their craft.

 3) They are willing to learn and grow as writers. They realize that there is always room for improvement, and they seek to keep perfecting their work.

  2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:  

I live on the eastern edge of the United States in a small southern community.  It is hard to network and connect with industry professionals and other children’s writers here. I feel like I am at a geographical disadvantage, but I’ve accepted the fact that living here means I need to travel north to NY, NJ, or PA once or twice a year. I do that now and it helps!

 3. Most fun thing:  

Meeting other like-minded writers is the most fun thing! I have a blast at conferences and talk to my writer friends in other parts of the US via e-mail or phone fairly frequently.  Writers have great imaginations, so our conversations take us places I don’t normally get to go.

Kate Walton


1. Advice to aspiring writers:  

I used to give the advice of “never stop writing” but I’ve revised my advice to “write to become a better writer.” I believe there is a huge difference. If all you do is write and write the same way in which you’ve always written, well, then you’re not growing as a writer. How does one hone their craft (and I do mean craft – writing is an art form, one that must be studied)?  Take classes, research the craft, read in the genre in which you write, spend the money to attend writing conferences and get quality critique feedback. Push yourself every single time you sit down to create something new. 

 2. Hardest thing about the journey to publication:

Definitely querying literary agents. It was 2.4 years and 148 rejections worth of exhilaration and disappointment, persistence and determination.

  3. Most fun thing: 

Definitely the friends I’ve made through blogging. I find it fascinating that the act of blogging has opened up my world to people all over the world. The support and the camaraderie in the blogging community are incredible.

Stay Tuned for Next Month’s Installment!

 The Apocalypsies Part 2

Pamela K Witte

Pamela K Witte

My favorite place to breathe, write and read is my middle-of-nowhere cabin in the mountains where I live with my husband, dogs, deer, elk, bears and mountain lions. Currently I'm obsessed with my new novel for young adults (YA). A dystopian action adventure. I love being an author of action and adventure books for YA and middle-grade (MG). I dig tombs, treasure, pharaoh kings, mummies, Aztec warriors, magic and mayhem. My hobbies include hiking, river rafting, skiing, sailing, SCUBA, exploring, caving, rappelling, treasure hunting, spelunking, archeology, and introducing kids to faraway places like Egypt, Mexico and China. As Production Manager for an Independent Film company, I’ve learned the importance of developing vivid, action packed scenes and fast-paced believable dialogue. As a psychiatric practitioner specializing in youth issues I’ve gained unique insight into a world that aids me in the development of strong, memorable, teen characters! If my characters do exciting, extreme things like repel off mountainsides or explore subterranean crystal caves, you can be sure, I tried it first! My books are guaranteed, the real deal!
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16 Responses to “Crashing The Gate! Writerly Advice From Industry Folks In The Know… Introducing The Apocalypsies!”

  1. Great post! Makes me even prouder to be among the Apocalypsies. Here’s to an amazing 2012!

  2. AC Gaughen says:

    So funny that almost all of us said waiting is the hardest part! Such good advice here too!

  3. I love reading the advice from my fellow Apocalypsies as well as reminding myself of my own. 😉

  4. Elisa Ludwig says:

    So interesting to read all of the different perspectives here. Thanks for putting this together, Pamela!

  5. So great to see the comments–and YAY for Apocalypsies! We’ve had a great time getting to know each other for over a year, but now we can share the fun of our releases!

    My book will be out soon, Pamela. I’d love to be in Part 2!

  6. Trisha Wolfe says:

    This is a wonderful post! I love all the different perspectives, and a great abundance of knowledge! I’m so honored to be among these amazing authors! Go Apocalypsies! 2012!

  7. So much to ponder in this month’s installement.
    To Colleen Clayton, re 40+, I began to write seriously on retiring from teaching at age 60. My inspiration was the English novelist Mary Wesley (1912-2002), whose 1st adult novel was published when she was 71. She went on to write 9 more novels and became a best-selling author. She had written and published 2 children’s books prior to that at age 57. I’m lucky to have a children’s book published at 65!
    To Kami Kinard, I too am at a geographical disadvantage, living in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but the internet compensates. Had I not lived here, I might not have become a children’s author at all.

  8. I love these posts, and hearing from different authors. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!

  9. Pamela K Witte Pamela K. Witte says:

    Thanks to everyone for posting comments! I love featuring enthusiastic authors who take pride in their writerly community. We’ve all had those moments of doubt/anxiety/fear and we all have something to share. Together, we prop each other up, have each other’s backs, inspire and support one another. That’s what Gate Crashers is all about. If you’d like to be featured in the future, please leave me a message!

  10. So many great pieces of advice here! Emily and Jay’s answers really resonated with me, personally. One of the biggest lessons I learned early on was that I could (or should) not have internet access while working.

  11. K.A. Barson says:

    These are so inspiring, no matter where you are in the process. Thanks so much!!

  12. Lydia K says:

    I so enjoyed reading these! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one suffering with waiting and all the other stress of the publication journey.

  13. Ryan Graudin says:

    Awesome insight and advice, Apocalypsies! Like Lydia said above, it’s so good to know that I’m not going through this process of publication alone!

  14. So fun to read everyone’s responses– the ways they were similar and the ways they were so different. And I love the excitement among everyone!

  15. Justina says:

    Awesome! I really wish this series would’ve been around when I first started writing. There’s some great advice here!

  16. Love this series of interviews! So much good advice here for writers in any stage of the process.

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