I have always said that life is full of surprises.
You should take notice of that little something bouncing around in your mind or percolating deep down in that belly. Do you feel it? It is your subconscious part of your mind or body, telling you to keep working toward conquering that passionate dream. If you do, I believe something exciting will happen.
What is that something?
A few weeks ago, on February 22nd, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, checking out all the fantastic books I wanted to add to my To-Be-Read pile. I found this amazing quote on the Bookends Literary Instagram feed. It spoke to me. I took a screenshot, and I saved the photo. I printed it out and hung it on the wall above my laptop that I use every single morning to write a few words on one of my manuscripts.
In my mind, I am always searching for new ways to write. I want to explore, grow, and conquer ALL THE THINGS, including this current manuscript. I want to start the next book. I want to publish my work.
Doesn't every writer want these things too?
Exploring new ways to write, a new critique group, a new book, or new characters are what will help you grow. ~ Jessica Faust, Bookends Literary Agency
On the same day that I hung this quote above my laptop, I received an email of Congratulations! I was selected to participate in a weekend writing retreat in April with a group of 19 other writers from #5amwritersclub. Apparently, they must have liked my submission application. I was equally happy and terrified.
For this writing retreat, I would be starting a whole new book with new characters and a new storyline. Also, the organizer was requesting I fill out more forms about my project, so they could divide us up into smaller groups for short brainstorming sessions during the retreat. I only had a small idea of what that would be. I briefly wondered if it was too late to cancel my application because I wasn't even close to being ready to answer these questions for the retreat, not to mention the fact that I didn’t want to talk about. I’m not much of a sharing kind of individual. I started working on those answers, specifically a working title, a logline, a short pitch and a back cover copy. As I was freaking out about creating this information so early, a new story and characters emerged from nowhere. This made me smile.
After only two weeks of this quote hanging above my laptop, something incredibly cool happened. A writer reached out to me and invited me to join their critique group, a group of women I knew from Twitter through my #5amwritersclub morning check-ins. They wanted me to join them. Why?
I hesitated again because I haven't had the best of luck with critique groups. In the past, I usually gave twice as much as I ever received. I felt time was of the essence for me right now. I needed to plow ahead and finish my work. I sat down at my laptop to type a reply with a friendly “no thanks”. I glanced up to see Jessica's quote. "Explore new ways to write, a new critique group…"
So, I sent a reply to say I was interested, but I added a warning about the kinds of things I write. I had no idea what anyone else was working on, or what genre they were writing in, so it was hard to give a solid answer of yes. I decided to give them an easy way out to uninvite me. Who does that?
My answer: "Yes, I'm interested. I write crime fiction, suspense, and thrillers, which means I write about murder and criminals and dark things that make many people cringe. So, if you are looking for someone with a fun spirit and a lively personality, I'm your girl… if you are looking for someone who doesn't write about bad things, I might not be the right person for your group. So, we can discuss. For the record, I will not be offended if you rescind or revoke your invitation."
Five minutes later, a reply came. "Murder and mayhem are right up our alley." Then, I received the message that one woman is a crime fiction author (and of course, that is my favourite genre). Plus, the author who reached out and asked me to join the group is a psychologist who has worked with psychopaths and prison inmates for many years in her profession.
Did I just hit the jackpot? Was I being punked?
I love psychopaths and criminals. I love talking and writing about them, and not being one (just to make that clear).
I can't believe a few writers picked me out of millions of people scrolling the internet to start a new writing/critique group. Okay, to be honest, we have actually spent quite a bit of time chatting together in the same 5 AM writing meetings, so I guess it is not a total random thing. They do know who I am. Somewhat. Either way, I am now dancing around my kitchen, giving thanks to Jessica Faust, and she doesn't even know it. Maybe someday, when we get back to in-person visits, I can meet her at Thrillerfest or Bouchercon and thank her for the little piece of advice. "Explore new ways to write, a new critique group, a new book, and new characters"… I'm doing it all. I’m growing!
Life is definitely full of magnificent surprises.