From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, July 10, 2017

Have You Diversified your Writing Portfolio?

Firstly, check out this awesome post from Chuck Wendig about making a serious career/living out of this wordsmithing we do.

One thing he talks about in this post that I've been trying to focus on lately is diversifying your writing paths. There are a lot of great writerly options out there, and I don't think we have to pick all of them, but I think we should at least pick a handful.

I like novels, and I think most of all y'all do too, and that is and will stay the largest egg in my basket. But I think Chuck is wise to advocate incubating more than just one egg. (If you're looking to make writing your career, at any rate. There are other writing choices and lifestyles that are beautiful and wonderful too.)

Since writing for a living has been my dream since I was in middle school, this is advice I've been trying to take to heart. And now that I've finished grad school, this is where I'm focusing my energies. I'm querying the novels, of course, but I've also started seriously learning about pitching articles to magazines, news stories to newspapers, working on projects like picture and chapter books as well as my MG and YA novels, researching screenwriting, professional blogging opportunities, etc. Because those are the writing paths that seem at least sort of interesting to me.

There are a ton of other writing possibilities too. TV writing, technical writing, medical writing, legal writing, tons of stuff. In fact, so many it can feel overwhelming. But narrowing down your focus and energies on the opportunities and projects that really excite you can help you take steps towards full time writing.

Do you think this approach to a writing career is helpful for you? What three writing paths would be your top choices?


Monday, July 3, 2017

Two Ways You Might Be Self-Rejecting Your Own Writing

I'm fighting self-rejection at this very moment, actually.

As I'm sitting at my computer trying to decide what to blog about, every idea I come up with seems dumb. Including this one. You guys are already pros. You don't need my two bits. I've got a shelf next to me of books by Ellen Degeneres and Jim Gaffigan and Dave Barry and when I'm working on bloggy stuff I pull one of those books out and glance through it for inspiration, but what often ends up happening is that I see how hilarious these guys are and I'm like, well, if I post anything ever, someone's going to hold up my drivel next to the genius of Dave Barry and it will by like Tyra Banks entering a beauty contest with a blob fish.

Okay, I'm being over-dramatic here, but there are some not very nice monsters that can sneak into our brains sometimes. And really, self-rejection and self-doubt can be like an anvil tied to the ankle of a swimmer. You may be Micheal Freaking Phelps but if you're attached to that anvil you ain't goin nowhere.

As I've struggled with starting new projects lately, and as I've talked with writer friends, I've noticed too serious ways we writers tend to self-reject ourselves. I mean, we get rejected enough. We get the proverbial door slammed in our face all the time, there is NO reason we should be slamming it on ourselves.

1. We Self-Reject our Original Ideas. This is the one I've been dealing with lately. I finished a novel several months ago and it was one of the easiest novels I've ever written and it just felt natural and fun. But ever since then, every tiny idea that's come through my head has been like a little ant under the boot of self-rejection. Every idea has felt stupid and dumb. I get a spark of something and then the monster in my brain says, "No, that's not how things really go." Or, "No, that idea isn't going to interest anybody but you."

So what to do about? I say we should call it the jerk-face meanie poo monster that it really is, see it as a voice separate and apart from our true selves, put a sound-proof glass box around the nasty beast, and ignore it. Or at least do our best to most of the time. This has helped me. I've wanted to write short stories to submit to places like Asimov's or FSF but I've been stuck. But once I realized that this doubt voice was one I didn't have to listen to, I thought to myself, well heck, I'm going to write a story about sister missionaries in space if I darn well please. Who knows if it's going to end up succeeding anywhere, but I'm sure having a dang fun time writing it. And more importantly, I can already tell that the writing is more vibrant, engaging, and alive, then it would be if I was trying to paint-by-numbers some idea I thought would be what everyone else wanted to see.

2. We Self-Reject our Final Product. We're writers, which means words are our business. Ink-blobs on the page is what we're trying to sell, and sometimes it can feel weird. Like standing on the street corner asking people to by a picture of us. But it's not that. You know how the best writers have impacted your life, and what they have done for you. They've given you everything, haven't they? I know that's what writers like C.S. Lewis and Wallace Stegner have done for me. Now, I'm not saying we're going to be Lewis's and Stegners, but we shouldn't be embarrassed that we're doing what they did either. We're making beautiful things. Maybe even art.

When you have a finished piece (and I mean redrafted, beta-read, spit-shined finished) then don't let the self-doubt monster stop you there. You've done it. Now show it. Let the world benefit from your voice and your hard work, and trust that it will in fact benefit. Because someone will, and you may never know. But trust. Yeah you'll still get rejected from the outside, and that rejection sucks too, but just keep going. Make them reject you, don't reject yourself from the outset. Keep your finished pieces out in circulation. When your poem is done, send it. When your novel is done and the best you can make it, query.

You can do it.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Is Everyone taking Anti-Depressants Without Me?

Okay. So the first and by far the most important thing that needs saying here is this: modern medicine is wonderful. Mental and emotional disorders are real, should be treated compassionately, and if anti-depressants or other pharmaceuticals can help you, then that is great. The ensuing thoughts are just me word vomiting my own experiences because this is my internetz space and I feel like it, okay? But we’re all going to remember that modern medicine is hooray and every single one of you people is wonderful and lovely, outside of whatever medicines or vitamins or fish oils or oozing laboratory concoctions you put into your body. Any questions about this, I’ll refer you to Dr. Bruce Banner. Who is lovely.

We good so far?


I’m pretty much the ultimate stubborn optimist, so I tend to move forward viewing things as pretty great. I have bad days like anyone, sometimes really bad, and sometimes for a long time, but I’ve always been able to figure things out and move forward. I’ve never taken anti-depressants or been to a therapist. I did once take anti-anxiety meds after I got surgery on my jaw, and at first I was stubborn and thought, pssh, why are they giving me anti-anxiety meds? But that only lasted until the middle of that first night home when my heart wouldn’t stop racing and I couldn’t stop crying and I had no idea why. Then I took the anti-anxiety meds, and felt much better.


Because optimism is what I’m built with, there’s a thing that happens to me every so often. I’m going along, living a pretty happy life, and then something will inform or remind me that someone I know and love has a brain space or personal life space that’s pretty darn crappy. That’s broken or sick. And this inevitably, although it shouldn’t, takes me by surprise and throws me for a small loop.

So, yes, because of the way I see things, I often find myself discovering that a situation I didn’t know much about was a lot worse than I thought. Or that someone I love who I thought was doing just fine actually isn’t, that they’re getting therapeutic and/or medical help for some really hard, crappy stuff. Basically, that things are much more terrible than I thought they were when I was looking at them.

Now, obviously, this little mental jolt is a million percent less of a deal than the actual hard stuff that other people are going through. Obviously. But it’s still a jolt. When it’s bad, I end up feeling like I can’t trust my own head. Like somehow I’m being deluded. That what I experience isn’t real.

I end up thinking, is everyone seeing the real world except me?

I end up wondering if maybe I’m not as complex, nuanced, or profound as other people.

Of course, I am a stubborn, defensive, and firm believer that one person’s reality is no more “Real” than another person’s. My White Utah Mormon Girl reality and a Black Inner-City Chicago Boy reality and a Chinese Rice Farmer Grandma reality are all Reality. They’re all part of the “Real World.” And I get back to that mindset eventually, usually pretty fast. But I guess what I’m saying here is that everyone has weird neurosis, and that’s what makes us so wonderful.

At moments like this I take my own form of medication, which is a self-prescription for a forty-seventh viewing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Remember when Dev Patel’s character is watching all his dreams collapse around him and his hotels going out of business and his mom hates his girlfriend and he’s doing his best to keep things together but they’re basically imploding. He’s distraught, but then he finally says, “Things will be alright in the end. If they are not all right, then it is not the end.”

And that’s the thought I’ll leave you with.

Until the end.

Blog Spotlight: Blogging Can Lead To Many Career Paths, by Anne R. Allen
Submission Spotlight: Tomaz Salamun Prize (and a residency in Slovenia?!?!?)

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Most Life-Changing Book of the Last Year

Hey everyone! Been a while, for which I'm sorry. But life is in a routine again, the chaos is manageable, and the blog here is back in action!

So I think we have many reasons we want to be writers. One of them, at least for me, could be summed up as influence. I want to be able to influence lives the way other authors have influenced mine. And this can mean a lot of things, from a Judy Blume who makes a little girl feel better about herself, to an Upton Sinclair or Harriet Beecher Stowe who influences an entire nation. And I'm saying that with the understanding that both of those are equally important.

I want to talk today about an Upton Sinclair type book. I've had an interesting experience talking about this book, unlike any other. I tell people what it's about, or even just what it's called, and I see them shut down. They don't want to know.

And that is so surprising to me.

The book is called Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I hope you'll let me explain a bit before passing over. It may seem like a Vegan Manifesto, but it's not. The whole first chapters of the book are about how important meat, particularly his grandmothers chicken and carrots, has been in his family. And then he goes on to talk about modern farming practices. Factory farming. He's not saying we shouldn't eat meat. He's simply asking us to consider where that meat is coming from.

And honestly, why don't we? Why are we so willing to not think about what we're putting in our mouths, and when the information is put in front of us, we do our utmost to push it aside and ignore it?

I won't go into the details, because I think the information he presents does best in the context of all the research and first hand experiences this writer went through. But I ask you to read this book.

That's really the point of this post. Writers can make a huge difference. Write to make a difference in the world, and read to make a difference in yourself.

And please read this book.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Anagramatically Speaking and YA Call for Submissions

Anagrammatically Speaking

What’s in a name?
Another name?
A mirror?
The law waiting to be wealth?
It worries me
That education can mean cautioned
Or worse, be auctioned. A simple idea count.

The Word may indeed have the power to warn.
But what do you make of abortion?
A bio torn?
I rob a ton?
Brain too?

Something strikes me as true
About using a thing to describe itself.
Parliament is, after all, a collection of partial men.
A politician becomes too easily a coil in a pit.
And the US of A is a hot fuse.

From the words In God We Trust we borrow tutored wings.
But when we say America, we also say I am race.

Sometimes the words tell us what we already know:
Internet chat rooms are where the morons interact.
A dangerous situation puts us near God.
Even a great organization might just be a training zoo.

It’s what names say that frightens me
With the accuracy:
Clint Eastwood was destined to personify old west action.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born a famous German waltz god.
And William Shakespeare’s name prophesied I’ll make a wise phrase.
Could President Abraham Lincoln have done anything
Other than end Americans’ ill-born path?

What does it say if all I can make of my name
is nasal healer?
And what if a poetry writer

Is just a petty worrier? 


Writing Prompt: What type of magic system could you create with anagrams? Any ideas?

Call for Submissions: Well known and well respected YA magazine, Cicada, has a new call for submissions on the theme of "Duality and Doppelgangers." Due on June 20.

Read More: Check out Writer Unboxed great post on how writers can best use video marketing and networking.

Weekly Awesome: Have you guys heard this poem? Because seriously take the few minutes out of your day and watch. It is stunning.

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