March is National Women’s History Month. Did you know that out of the 13 honorees in 2017 under the Theme of Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business, 5 of these women are from the southern states of North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi? Now these are some Strong Southern Women.
When I think of March, I think of basketball – The ACC Tournament and the Final Four Championship. It’s one of those months that are hard to define. It’s a fickle, temperamental time of year. So far in this crazy month, we, the folks who live in Georgia, have received a large dose of spring. Daffodils sprouting everywhere earlier than usual, trees budding, and even some flip-flop weather. Well, today Mother Nature is snickering. It’s so cold outside, you’d think it was mid-January.
So what is a southern girl to do? Well, in my case, I stay inside and send out queries in the ongoing search for an agent. This go round is for my second novel, Relative Consequences. I put my first book, Weather Permitting, through another set of edits and it now sits simmering on the shelf. I’ll get back to it this summer. Queries are nerve racking. You might hear back from the agent you are writing to, or maybe not. From what I understand though, agents aren’t fickle at all. They know what they want. The term I keep seeing is “subjective.” Literary agencies are subjective and each agent has a personal list of what he or she is searching for and accepts. It’s up to the author to send her query to the right agent. Then, the proverbial ball (see how clever – using a basketball metaphor here) is in their court the moment you hit the SEND button on your email. Then you wait. Fingers crossed.
Now, on with the show . . . I’d like to welcome my guest blogger for this month. Lauren Koffler Denton. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.
Turning A Dream into Reality
I’ve always been a reader, but I haven’t always been a writer. At least, not of fiction. If you count the trunk of journals in my garage as evidence, then I’ve been a writer since I bought my first diary (pink and turquoise with a puffy cover) at the mall when I was about eight years old. But I didn’t begin writing fiction until after college. My years of inhaling as many books as possible and picking up the pen to process my thoughts turned into a desire to tell stories to entertain, to encourage, and to connect. I distinctly remember sitting around with a group of friends soon after I moved to Birmingham and saying that my dream was to be a writer of books. Not only that, I wanted to see them on bookshelves—and not just the ones in my own home! The dream felt too big—too unattainable—but there it was for all to hear.
Well, not all. Just the 12 or so people gathered together that night. But I’d put words to the dream, and while I didn’t tell many people about it, the desire kept churning away in the back of my mind. People and settings and opening scenes kept tickling my brain at the most inopportune moments, so I began to write them down. I have the opening chapters of several overly wrought, cliché-laden stories burning a hole in a thumb-drive somewhere, but at least I was taking baby steps toward my goal. When my oldest daughter was about two, I got the idea for a story based around a horrific string of tornados that had ripped through Alabama just a couple months before. I pulled out a notebook and wrote the first scene as I saw it in my head. Over the next six months, I followed the story as it presented itself to me, and I finished it by Christmas. I was over the moon—I’d accomplished part of my dream! Now the only thing left was to get the thing published!
Many people call their first novel their “practice novel” and for good reason. I went through a round or two of edits on my own, then shipped the manuscript off to two writer friends, expecting pats on the back. What they came back with, however, was the necessary truth that it wasn’t near as good as I thought it was. Even more, it needed serious overhauling before I showed it to any agents. After some hand-wringing, I realized they were right and I put that book away.
I still had the urge to tell stories though, to make people smile and laugh and maybe feel a little less alone. Slowly, another story began to take shape—this one with a rambling old B&B, an eccentric grandmother, and a charming woodworker. But this time all those fits and starts, the rough beginnings, and the completed (although not very good) novel gave me the perseverance and courage I needed to forge ahead with this one. Through a fantastic creative writing workshop, many months of revisions, and another author’s generous helping hand, my first (but really second) novel, The Hideaway, will be published April 11.
I’m not always the most determined girl. I necessarily don’t shy away from hard things, but if something is just too hard—if it seems doomed from the get-go—I may step back and let someone else take on that particular battle. I’m so glad I didn’t step back from this dream though, that I kept writing even when it seemed no one but my family and close friends would ever read The Hideaway. It’s enough for me to know that I persisted, that I didn’t give up when it felt too hard, but I also love that my two young daughters think it’s pretty cool that Mama will have books on the shelf in the library.
You can find Lauren on the following:
Thank you, Lauren. I can’t wait to read your book.
See y’all next time,