Monday, June 15, 2009

An Author’s Apprenticeship

© April Star 2009 all rights reserved

I started penning stories when I was in first grade and learned the wonder of stringing letters together to make words, and words together to form stories. Professionally, I've been writing and submitting manuscripts since 1976. I collected more than 200 rejection slips before receiving "the call" from Five Star/Gale for my debut novel, TROPICAL WARNINGS: A Wanderlust Mystery, written under my pen name, April Star.

Several weeks after submitting my manuscript to the acquisitions editor for Five Star, I remember thinking: I've polished this to the best of my ability. Written it with a passion and desire unlike anything I ever felt before. Please, God, don't let it get rejected! Moving on to my new project, I found an e-mail message from Five Star. I know this has to be a rejection, I thought. There's no way I'd hear back with anything positive so fast! I opened the e-mail and read: "We are pleased to inform you that we would like to offer you a contract for TROPICAL WARNINGS...

I hyperventilated for several moments, then took a tissue and cleaned my screen, thinking I was perhaps seeing things that weren't there, and then I screamed out to my husband, "A contract!" He assumed I was thinking out loud about how I'd have my next victim killed.

I used to believe that once authors signed a contract, that was it-they just waited for their books to appear on bookshelves. I had no idea of the hard work ahead. This included meeting deadlines for edits, which fortunately were few and minor. The editing I had to do was clearly marked, and my editor made the task painless and actually a fun learning experience. I also had to assist a design artist with the cover art to make sure it accurately depicted the story.

I had no idea where or how to begin my self-promotion and marketing efforts. (Again, I believed falsely that the publisher did this.) Since my manuscript's acceptance, I have spent endless hours working out a solid business and marketing plan, having a web site built that I can maintain and update myself, contacting bookstores, setting up interviews, meeting with the media-all while working a full-time day job and in the evenings working on book two in my series, THE LAST RESORT (coming June 17, 2009.)

Another valuable lesson I learned was the truth behind the age-old advice "Write what you know." I believe it was the originality of my story idea that made an editor sit up and take notice of a slush-pile submission. The amateur sleuths in my story are young retirees who are full-time RVers and manage to find murder, mystery and mayhem at every camping resort they pull into. I couldn't find any published cozies that completely focused on this type of background.

As a former full-time RVer and campground manager, I had been brewing this series in my mind for close to 10 years. Once I set it free and allowed the characters and story to emerge on paper, the passion of what I knew and what I wanted to write came together, and there was no stopping me.

Halfway through my novel, Jerry and I moved and I took a job as manager of a mobile home/RV park, a demanding job that took a lot of energy out of me. I learned that what was actually zapping my energy level was that I was ignoring my heart's desire: my passion and need to write. The solution, I found, was not to demand a certain number of hours to write, as I had before, but just to make sure I wrote every day. I soon freed up more hours to write when, after three years, I left my job as manager and thought I'd retire and become a full-time author. I soon discovered that in order to write I needed to also be surrounded by the work I loved. So, again I took a job at an RV resort, this time as an Office Coordinator rather than manager!

Don't ever think anything is too mundane or unimportant to write about. Whether it be your workplace or the habits and personalities of people you know, if you begin to have that gnawing inner desire to capture it all in words, do it-don't ignore it.

Writing is, first of all, something you do for yourself. It's important not to get caught up in what everyone else is writing or what genre you're told you "should" or "shouldn't" be focusing on. Listen to the whispers from your soul and write about what you hear.

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About the author:
JoMarie Grinkiewicz, who writes under the pseudonym of April Star lives in Sebring, Florida where she works as an Office Coordinator at, where else – an RV resort! She is also an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the American College of Forensics Examiners International. Stop by her web site and see what reviewers are saying about the Wanderlust Mystery Series.


Marta Stephens said...

"It's important not to get caught up in what everyone else is writing or what genre you're told you "should" or "shouldn't" be focusing on. Listen to the whispers from your soul and write about what you hear."

Words of wisdom! Thanks for joining us on MB4, JoMarie. All the best with your soon to be released novel, THE LAST RESORT.

Kim Smith said...

Great post JoMarie! It's always interesting to hear what has been the journey for others! Great to have you on MB4.

Sheila Deeth said...

Neat post. Thank you. Interesting to read how much more there is to it beyond the longed for acceptance.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

"Listen to the whispers from your soul and write about what you hear." Amen to that! Thanks for a wonderful article, JoMarie, and best of luck with your book(s).

April Star said...

Marta, It was great to be a guest here and I hope to stop by more often! You are so right that it's very easy to get caught up into what everyone else feels we should be writing about. With my new WIP, Murder in Paradise: A Paradise by the Sea Mystery, I was inspired strictly through those whispers through my soul. When that happens, I jump in and begin to write. I like to refer to this as my creative binge! Thank you for your comment, Marta. All the best. JoMarie

April Star said...

Thank you, Kim! JoMarie

April Star said...

Hi Sheila, Thanks so much for your comment on my post. It's amazing how I always believed that all a writer needs to do to succeed is to write! I never dreamed that all the promotion and marketing would take just as much, if not more, time to develop and implement than the writing itself. Wishing you all the best! JoMarie

April Star said...

Thank you, Aaron! What an interesting journey you have had. I enjoyed visiting your blog. Much success to you. JoMarie