My personality has been a “get it done” and “focus on the destination” person. That changed as I began my writing path. I began to slow down and be more intentional and reflective. If you are pursuing writing, you will be all too familiar with the fact that things don’t move as fast or in the way that we would like them to move. And sometimes this can be a good thing as we learn more about ourselves in the process.
Here’s a few of my reflections and suggestions based on my journey for a literary agent.
1. Join Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as they have a plethora of resources. Spend time reading and reflecting on what you discover by keeping a writer’s journal of helpful tips or a file on your computer. I anticipate receiving their quarterly bulletin and devour it over a cup or coffee or maybe a glass of wine. Join The Canadian Children’s Book Centre as well. Their newsletters and resources are fabulous.
2. Get to know your writing community through social media. My personal preference is Twitter. At the beginning, I would look up children’s authors I admired and follow them (not literally as that would probably mean a restraining order). By doing this, you also see who may “rep” the author as a literary agent which also leads to the literary agency. Using my handy writer’s journal, I would make specific notes. By following well known authors and up and coming debut authors it gives such valuable insight into the writing world. Now this can become time consuming. You don’t want to actually spend all your time on social media and no time devoted to writing. I would block out a set time period and even set my timer. When time was up, social media was put away. I received my first writing opportunity for Get Bedtime Stories app through my involvement on social media and connecting with other storytellers globally. Check out my five stories “Carter and the Cedar Forest Critters” and other authors’ story worlds on the app. The publishers are always interested in meeting new authors.
3. At first I would look at my list of literary agents and feel a little overwhelmed. Who should I send to? Will she/he like me?Feeling a little like a teen back in high school trying to fit in, I began my search for a literary agent. This takes time and maybe a glass or two of wine the first few times you receive rejections. I would go to my writer’s journal and look up an agency that I had written down in my searches. Spend time looking at the various authors and the genre of books they represented. Then look at the individual agents on the website and read about each agent. Take time to get to know them. This has been a process I’ve truly enjoyed. There are some amazing agents out there that have a true passion for literature. Take note of the agents that fit or rep what you write. Don’t waste your time sending to lit agents that are looking for something you don’t have. Not only is it frustrating for you by wasting your time, it is equally frustrating for them sifting through emails of irrelevant material. So don’t submit to an agent who has a wish list of YA or thrillers if you write about rainbows, unicorns and puppies. Often I will be reading about a literary agent or follow his/her tweets and think, “I’d love to hang out with this person!” (Again this is where your thoughts should stop to avoid that restraining order.)
4. Now is the time to start reaching out and querying. This is very important. Go back to the literary agency’s website again and specifically the agent’s info and query EXACTLY how you are instructed to query. Follow the guidelines and don’t go rogue. By following precisely what is asked, you will demonstrate to the agent that you are willing to respect his/her guidelines. After all, this is the first impression the agent receives from you. You don’t get to dazzle with your winning smile or charismatic charm just yet. I would query several agents at a time (not at the same agency though). Be aware of the agency guidelines.
5. Write down when you query and with what agent. And again, I prefer to write it down versus a spreadsheet as I feel it is almost therapeutic in a way. Now this is the hardest part. Put it out of your mind. Not checking your inbox every two minutes is one of the hardest parts in this process. The best advice I received from a fellow author is to get moving immediately onto another project. Even put your devices on “do not disturb” while you are writing so you don’t become distracted.
6. When I first began this process it was hard if I did not hear back from a literary agent. It was a blow to the self-esteem at first. After all, you are handing over a little piece of your heart. But it is getting easier. Just this January I had a revise and resubmit request from a lovely agent. She took the time to provide such valuable feedback. Now unfortunately, not all agents can do that or can even respond as the amount of queries they receive is unbelievable. And when you do get a rejection, look at it as an agent looking out for you. An agent does not want to rep an author that he/she feels might not be a good fit. After all, it’s like those pair of jeans. You want a great fit, otherwise it’s not going to feel comfortable or make you look as good as you should.
7. Take a rejection with your head held high. Don’t feel you need to argue your point or prove why your book would work. This does not do you any favour in the literary community. Take a page from Covey, “People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” If you want to let off some steam, go for a walk, soak in a tub or crank up the tunes and dance it off (but close your blinds if you choose the last two…take it from my personal experience). Just don’t hastily respond back to a rejection. You will have emailing regret later, my friends.
8. Connect with an author community. Authors get authors. An author community is one of the most supportive groups of people. They are amazing cheerleaders and they also understand the highs and lows. Family and friends, as great as they are, may not always know how to encourage or kick you in the butt when you need it.
So I am still on my journey for that great pair of jeans and my BFF literary agent. But I’m actually enjoying it. Meeting amazing people along the way. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have my eye on the prize. It just means that the prize will be oh so much more rewarding when I reach it. Your journey may have some detours, washed out roads or switch backs up a mountain. But it is your journey, so embrace it, believe in it and pat yourself on the back for continuing on it.
I’d love to connect and hear about your journey too.
May your day be filled with good stories and your cup with coffee!
Connect with me on:
Life is like a book.
Some chapters sad,
Some full of excitement,
Some with unexpected plot twists.
But as your story unfolds
May you have
Strength to persevere,
Love deeply and
Choose to be the voice that makes a difference.
2018…here’s to a great chapter in your story, my friends!
-written by Nikki Bergstresser (December 2017)
Five nights before Christmas, there’s much left to do
Shopping, baking and decorating too.
Some are all ready, their houses pristine.
I’m waiting for elves that might help me to clean.
Just trying to get in the ‘Christmasy’ mood
And keeping at bay any Grinch attitude.
For, “Did you get that?” and “Did you do this?”
Trying to make sure there’s nothing I miss.
Yet part of me just wants to lay on the couch
Avoiding the chaos and being a slouch.
Watch Hallmark movies from morning till night
Cause you know by the end everything is alright.
Stay in my pjs and not comb my hair
Eat caramel popcorn, drink wine without care.
It’s time to stop daydreaming, get the job done.
No elves are coming to join in the fun.
For Santa is sweet, a big jolly dude
But momma’s the one who prepares all the food.
It’s ok if things don’t go just as I plan
Just breathe, bite the head off a gingerbread man.
Adjust expectations and keep them real low.
Take a page from Queen Elsa and just let it go.
For days may seem long but years go by fast
Hold on to the moments, make memories that last.
-Nikki Bergstresser (December 2017)
Getting a good night’s sleep. What’s that you ask? Here I thought once our children were older and sleeping through the night, we would just fall back into a pattern of sleeping well and waking rested. No, getting older brings a whole new set of sleeping challenges (Another issue for a different blog post). But what has kept us awake this past week is small, furry and sleeps in our bed. Delilah, our little Dachshund dog. We adopted her from a rescue a couple of years ago. Delilah usually sleeps the entire night, snoring away and snuggled up tight to me. But this week she had woken in the middle of the night needing to go outside frequently. Living on the coast at the bottom of Sumas Mountain, wildlife is a common sight. So Delilah is not able to go outside by herself for fear of her becoming a sausage dinner to a critter.
Delilah gave me the nudge to get up. No amount of coaxing was going to get her back to sleep. I clumsily reached for my glasses…another issue with getting older. 4 am on the clock. Using the sweetest voice I could muster at 4am, I woke my husband. He mumbled, “Why can’t you take her out?” He already knew the reason but was biding himself a few more seconds under the covers. I tend to be a big ol’scaredy cat to go out in the middle of the night.
Don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows that I love wildlife; but not the unexpected encounters in the dark.
Partly to reassure and partly out of frustration, my husband said, “There’s not going to be any animals sitting on our lawn waiting for you.” He searched for his shoes. Taking Delilah out, he continued to mutter to himself about the lack of sleep he’s been getting. Poor guy had not signed up for middle of the night pooch potty duty. Looking out the window from the living room, I saw something on the lawn about 10 feet from my husband and dog. At closer observation, I realized there hunched up on the lawn was an owl! An owl was on my lawn! Picturing this owl attacking my dog, I frantically called out to my husband. This scared the owl away. My husband came back inside with her. He had seen something when he went out but was not wearing his glasses so had not realized it was an owl. I felt a twinge of guilt when he asked if I was more concerned about his safety or was it just Delilah I was worried about. Oops. Of course I was worried about him too.
After the excitement, Delilah and my husband went back to sleep. Unfortunately, I could not fall back to sleep easily. So I stayed up researching owls. I came to the conclusion that the owl was a barred owl. I also did some research about owls eating pets. Putting my whole “an owl is going to eat my dog” worries aside, it was pretty incredible to see it soar off from our yard with silent wings.
Delilah is back to snoring and sleeping through the night again. Same thing can be said for my dear husband. But me, I keep getting up, sneaking downstairs, hoping for a glimpse of the owl, because you never know what you may see…..when nature calls.
What encounters with nature have you experienced recently? I’d love to hear about it.
May your day be filled with unexpected surprises and your cup with coffee.
‘Tis the season where one can become overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle and endless “To Do” lists. Calendars become crowded with concerts, get togethers and various other seasonal activities. If not selective in what you can or cannot accomplish, it can lead to a bah humbug or holiday burn out. Preparing for Christmas means being intentional and purposeful in planning.
One way that our family has been intentional during the holidays is to create family traditions. Something each year we anticipate. And because we have these traditions already in place, it is important to schedule accordingly so as not to “overbook” our calendar. Here are some ways to help in avoiding the Christmas Chaos.
1. Family Chat
Before the start of the season, sit down as a family and discuss what are some special activities/events that you look forward to every Christmas. Also list the events that you are required to attend such as school concerts, work parties, etc. It’s important for every family member to be heard during the brainstorming. Having full family input creates a sense of ownership and will make it easier if everyone is on board.
2. Evaluate the List
Look at the list. Ask yourself these questions:
-Will this activity add to the special times together as a family?
-How many activities during the week can our family handle without feeling the pressure? Are there any things that we could postpone or bump to the next month?
After you have narrowed down the list, plot on the calendar the activities for everyone to see. Often during the season, families can become flustered and the best intentions unravel with not everyone knowing the schedule. This way, family members who thrive on predictability and routine will be assured with one glance at the family calendar. In this day of technology, and calendars on the phone, we may assume all family members know the plans but this isn’t always the case.
4. Realistic Expectations
Sometimes the best laid plans unravel. Unexpected things arise such as illness, weather, work etc. How as a family will we respond? Do some problem solving together to anticipate the unexpected. Don’t set your expectations too high. Even though it is Christmas, there will still be daily life happening. Siblings will still argue. The house will still get messy. But how as a family can grace and understanding be interwoven into these moments amidst the height of holiday excitement? What ways can we help out? What ways can we show empathy?
Keep checking in with family members. Ask how they are doing? Be aware of tensions building. Know when it is time to “retreat” to a quiet place when feeling overwhelmed. Know when to ask for help. Remind each other frequently that you are all on the same team working together to make this time enjoyable for everyone.
6. Remember the Reason for the Season
Keep reminding each other it is not about having the “Pinterest Christmas” or keeping up with those around. It is a time to reflect on gifts that don’t go under the tree. What can you “give” to others to show how you appreciate them? During those times in the mall when it’s a fight for a parking stall or lines in stores seem endless, what ways can you show others the true meaning of Christmas in your response? Are you willing to give up that last parking spot you’ve just found? Do you let the mother with the screaming toddler go ahead of you in the lineup? Do you give a smile and tell the overtired cashier how much you appreciate their work?
By being proactive and purposeful during what can be a stressful time of year, it will allow your family more time to enjoy being with each other.
I’d love to hear from you on how your family takes chaos out of Christmas.
Stay tuned for my next blog article on creating family traditions during Christmas.
May your day be filled with joy and your cup with coffee!
Yesterday I took my daughters to the art gallery for a field trip on Canadian contemporary art. Now I have always enjoyed viewing art that included landscapes, like Monet paintings. Abstract Expressionism and Conceptualism in art has never been something I was drawn to.
We walked into the first gallery. I looked around. There were some blank canvases, black canvases and what looked to be some wrapped in cardboard, bubble wrap and tape. My reaction, at first glance, was that this gallery was obviously under “construction” and not finished being set up. It was then that the guide began to say these were the first pieces of art we would view.
What? There’s nothing there. This was going to be a short field trip. Just give it a chance, I coached myself through this internal dialogue.
Within a couple of sentences, I was drawn to what our guide was saying. She was, by all accounts, a natural story teller. She spoke about the art pieces with confidence, knowledge and most importantly a passion to share her love of art. She talked about how some artists had a routine and process about their work. The three “black” canvases had been painted over with hundreds of layers of prime colours. Looking at it from the side one could see the multi layered progression. It caused me to reflect on how people present themselves. At first glance sometimes all we see is that first impression. Not knowing what lies underneath, the process and experiences that developed layer after layer, shaping who we become. What? These three dark shaded canvases actually moved me, caused me to react, reflect and respond to the artist’s work. If I had just gone into the gallery, looked around without hearing the story, I would have left disappointed and feeling empty about the experience.
Walking into another gallery, I heard someone mutter a phrase I have often heard about abstract expressionism art before. “It looks like a child painted this.” Again our guide began sharing how some artists use spontaneity to create their art. Without planning or thinking, the artist is actively moved to splash, smear, drip or use some other creative method to abstractly create. We were given pieces of graphite and a paper, asked to choose a piece of art to sit in front and study the lines and markings of the work. Just sitting in front of the art, observing, I began to see different aspects of what at first looked to be chaotic emerge from the painting. I loved what spontaneity created.
So my take away from the field trip:
Perspective can change with pausing to listen to the story, looking deeper than the surface and allowing yourself to feel the emotions drawn from the experience.
And I fully plan to return to the art gallery again, as I left with several stories of my own just waiting to be written.
So my friends, may your day be filled with new experiences and your cup with coffee!
When going on vacation, one of the things I look forward to is connecting with other people. Hearing their story. It is amazing when you show someone you are interested and invested in the conversation, how much she or he will open up and share life experiences, the joys and the hardships. After all, we all have a desire to feel like someone is interested in us, our story. One of the places I have found to meet a diverse group of people with unique stories is when we vacation at DisneyWorld. And this past trip to Orlando did not disappoint.
At the Animal Kingdom resort, we met a lovely young lady from South Africa. Graduating from high school she chose to delay her post secondary education, leave her family and friends for a year to join in the international program. What a journey! She has spent the year meeting people around the globe and sharing her passion for animals with Disney guests. Not only gaining leadership and communication skills, it has given her direction when she goes back to South Africa to pursue a career related to her passion of educating others.
On the other end of the spectrum, we met an employee that has been with Disney for 40 years. Now that speaks volumes to job satisfaction. And you could really tell how much he enjoyed what he did. To stay in the same job for that long is becoming much more rare. Imagine all the stories he could tell from his days at Disney.
Then there was the little boy that came up to me. I was sitting in the lounge with my husband and this little guy walked right up and just looked me in the face and stared. I gave him a little smile and that was all that was needed. He spent the next while sharing with me all the things he was good at doing. Looking up at his smiling mom across the room, I got the impression that maybe others did not always give her son the opportunities to carry on such lengthy conversations. We spent the next while talking about what he liked to do. When it was time for him to leave, we said our goodbyes and I continued on conversing with my husband. After a few minutes, this little guy came running back up to me all out of breath. He hands me an origami washcloth snail and was beaming. “This is just for you!” My heart melted. I gave him the biggest high five and thanks, he skipped off to his waiting mom. She mouthed “thank you” to me and off they walked.
Another evening, sitting around the bonfire, we met a comical crew from southern Louisiana. They were a retired group of four, off on an adventure. Well, they kept my daughter and me in stitches for the entire visit. Not only was their accent a little hard to decipher at times when they talked quickly, but they also all talked at once! They were a hoot! I will admit there were times when I just had to smile and nod, not fully understanding what they were saying and hoping I wasn’t agreeing to something I would regret. After we left them still sitting at the bonfire, walking away my daughter leaned over to me and said, “That was the show, now time for dinner!”
So this was just a little snippet of amazing people I chatted with during vacation. My life has been enriched by the people I meet on my journeys. Listening to their stories allows me to be a better writer and hopefully a better human being. The world doesn’t seem quite so large or so scary when you take the time to connect with the people around you.
I’d love to hear from you, too! Feel free to drop me a comment for connect with me on Twitter.
September is a whirlwind of activities. From filling out a plethora of forms for each child, to making sure you have groceries to pack those school lunches and even just getting into the car on time for activities…without forgetting a child. It can be overwhelming! Calendars once again become filled with who has to be where with what and at what time. In my opinion, one can never have enough coffee for the first few weeks of September!
Last Monday I was feeling quite proud of myself for getting my daughter to tennis, packing a supper for her to eat in the car after the lesson and then picking up her friends and taking them all to their first time at youth group. We drive up to the event and I said, “Wow, we are the first to arrive!” Again, feeling proud of my organization and time management. Waiting for awhile, we realize something is “off” as there are still no others showing up. I get a sinking feeling that maybe I missed something. Sure enough, a quick look on my phone and I realize yes, I am early….by exactly one week. Youth was NEXT Monday. Here I had three girls waiting, excited to attend youth group for the first time. So plans changed. We loaded into my car and went for gelato! The girls spent the next 90 minutes giggling and connecting.
Connecting….sometimes the best connecting is spontaneous. But having intentional connecting is also important. Making time, face to face time takes planning, especially at such busy moments in the year. With school starting up and new routines, it opens up chances for stress and anxiety to creep into our lives. If we feel the pressure at these times, I can guarantee our children also feel the stress and those anxious thoughts of new classes, making friends, tackling homework and getting into a routine.
Slowing down to connect with our children is important. It helps for them to see we are on their team. We see them. Often asking, “How was your day?” or “What did you do at school?” are questions that get limited responses, “Fine.” “Good.” “Nothing.”
Make connecting meaningful. Share with them your experiences in school. Things you enjoyed, what you maybe found difficult or funny anecdotes from your school years.
I have attached a printable PDF click here: Talk to Me-Making Connections that can guide you in sharing about your school experiences. Simply print it out, cut the questions apart and put into a jar. Each night at supper or bedtime, pick a question out of the jar and answer it. Your children will enjoy listening to your school experiences and it will draw them into discussing their experiences. They will feel connected with you. This opens the door to further discussions throughout the year when different situations or emotions occur.
Let me know in the comments below how you and your children enjoyed these questions. Did you come up with other questions that you can share with us?
I was given a Friday deadline for submitting to my publisher and was reminded today by my oldest daughter that Vienna is nine hours earlier. Ooops! I am assuming my deadline is Vienna, Austria time, not BC pacific time.
I’m such a procrastinator because I guess I work best under pressure. haha.
I sent the girls outside to wash the patio furniture this afternoon so I could write. Win/win right? Then realizing the paint is peeling on my 17 year old patio furniture, I went to the paint store to pick up special spray paint to repaint the cast iron chairs. Which I did.
While painting the chairs, I noticed the BBQ grill was disgustingly dirty so I looked up online how to clean grills naturally. While gathering the supplies to clean the grill, the doorbell then rang and the patio cushions I ordered from Lowes arrived. I put the new red cushions onto the now dry patio furniture and noticed it attracted a hummingbird. This reminded me my feeder needs more food and I was out. A trip to Buckerfields occurred to pick up more hummingbird food. Seriously???
Remember the book “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie?” I need to write one, “If you Give an Author a Deadline”.
Anyways, I have almost met my deadline despite my inability to stay focused. Just a few admin details tomorrow and I can officially submit.
Now to watch a taped Hallmark movie to celebrate….
To tell a story, one must be present. Be aware. Be still. For there’s a story just waiting to be told in the eyes of people you meet and along the path as we journey. Some stories make us chuckle, some may bring a tear to our eyes and others fill us with excitement for adventure.
I am over the moon excited to share my author website with you as my story telling journey continues. It will be a place where you can read about my current writing projects and see my blog where I will share new books with you as well as little snippets into my life.
For my newest writing journey, I have partnered with Little Lights Studio to write stories for their new app Bedtime Stories. Stay tuned for more info and dates for the app release as we work on this project.
Keep looking for stories to tell…..they are all around you.