Come to My New Blog!

If you followed a link here from a comment I made on somebody's google blog, I would love to have you visit my blog, but this is no longer it. While I may occasionally post things here again once in a long while, virtually all my content will be at from here on out. If you were curious enough to come this far, why not give me one more click?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Progress Report Time (Contest Win Edition!)

Allergies have got me up a bit earlier than I'd prefer this morning, so it seems like a good time to get down to something I never quite seem to make it to on my priority list--this blog. Insert here the standard whinge about what a difficult school year this has been in terms of powers that be putting new requirements on our plate that weren't there before without relieving us of any of the old requirements. The smart course of action would be to figure out which of their directives I can get away with ignoring, but I'm too obsessive/compulsive to know how to do that, so instead I drive myself into the ground trying to do every single damn thing. I put in twelve+ hour days every single day, and that's no hyperbole. You'd think that would be enough to be ridiculously together and on top of everything, but really it's just barely enough to tread water. And the worst thing is most days I'm not sure anybody notices how much I'm doing at all.

But enough whining about work--I want to talk about writing!

I've actually done a pretty decent job of making time for writing in spite of the work madness. I've got a new idea for a YA fantasy novel fleshed out and hope to get a running start of several thousand words written before the summer begins. I wish I had a title for it, if for no other reason than so I could come up with a meaningful label for this post.

My most exciting news right now is still about Vanishing Act, though: my query letter and opening pages won Janet Reid's Backspace Contest! My biggest frustration is how few people appreciate what a big deal that is, to me anyway. Lisa went to the Backspace Writers Conference in 2009 and it was an amazing experience. The chance to workshop your query and opening pages with scores of agents, in-depth and all in one venue, seems to work wonders for helping aspiring novelists master that step on the road to publication. I don't know if anybody's tried to collect data on what percent of their participants go on to secure representation and eventual publication, but, anecdotally, their numbers seem to be phenomenal. Indeed, Lisa arrived at Backspace unrepresented, but left with an offer from an agent. She's not the only one.

The Backspace folks have already been in touch with me and they've already been unbelievably enthusiastic and generous. I've won other prizes before--vacations and such--where I felt on arrival that the attitude was, "You're already getting this for free, so don't expect any frills at all." Not so with the Backspace conference. They've made it clear to me that my prize includes any and all parts of the conference that I'm interested in, including the parts that would normally be an extra charge. They've also made me feel as welcome and as valued as any paying customer.

It occurs to me that in all this gushing about the Backspace folks, I really ought to express more appreciation for the folks at Fine Print Lit and Nancy Coffey Lit & Media, not just for choosing me, but for holding this contest every year. I'm not certain who's picking up the tab for me to attend this conference, but we (teachers in my county) haven't had a cost of living increase to our salaries in three years, and now we have to deal in the coming years with attacks on our profession and our salaries from Republicans in our state legislature, and times have gotten increasingly tough for us as the years have passed. Every year it seems we tighten our belts a little more, and only occasionally do we look back in awe at just how much spending power we've lost, bit by little bit. Used to be we could go to the occasional writers' conference, or, hell, take a vacation or something. Used to be we could afford to buy tickets to Disney World right in our own backyard. Used to be we could eat out with some frequency. Now we cross our fingers that next year will still find us living in the same house. It's safe to say there is no way we could afford to send me to a $750-$800 conference (not counting airfare or hotel). This is an awesome opportunity that I would never have if not for this contest. Also? Janet Reid sounds totally nice on the phone, and not like a shark at all.

I can't wait until the end of May!


kriswaldherr said...

Congrats, Joe! I'm really excited about the conference too. I hadn't expected the Backspace people to include the "frills" either, such as the query and pages workshops on Tuesday. It's an astonishingly generous and wonderful gift from the publishing-powers-that-be. FWIW I live in NYC, so let me know if you need any tips about town.

Joe Iriarte said...


Since it's still during my school year, I'm pretty much just popping up on Wednesday after school and back down on Saturday after the Donald Maass workshop. I don't think I'm going to do any sightseeing this time.

(Although, silly as it sounds, one of my regrets from my last trip to New York was not going up in the Empire State Building. I just couldn't justify spending what they wanted to charge to ride up to the top of an office building, though.)

(As it is, work's going to curse my name for turning a three day weekend into a five day one!)

kriswaldherr said...

Go the Empire State Building at night, if it's clear. It's lovely. And yup, expensive. But everyone should do it once in their lives. It's really worth it.