Ashley Franklin

When a girl who has no agent starts looking for one

This is it! I’m back in the query trenches. Don’t roll your eyes. Yes, I know that there are plenty of writers out there who are in the trenches. I know that there are plenty of writers who have been in the trenches for quite some time. What makes me so special? I never spent that much time in the trenches in the first place! That’s why I am currently terrified. When I pushed send yesterday, I felt physically ill. And this isn’t be trying to be poetic or speaking in hyperbole.
Before landing my last agent, I’d queried maybe 10 agents (15 tops, but I think 10 is pretty accurate). Then, thanks to that whole flood thing, I’d all but given up. I got an agent thanks to a Twitter event that I entered at the last minute.
Now, here I am looking for a new agent. It’s different this time because I now know how brutal querying can be.
I’m also different this time around. Now, I have an idea of what qualities in an agent. Before, I just wanted one. I wasn’t picky. Another difference: I guess I’m considered pre-published since my debut picture book is scheduled to come out Summer of 2019. I’m also not querying picture books this time around. Nope! I’m querying a chapter book. If I thought few agents were interested in picture books, there seem to be even fewer interested in representing chapter books.
As usual, I have lofty goals. That’s my thing. I’ve said several times that I want to write stories that I wanted as a kid and stories that I want for my kids. Brown and black kids can do some amazing things too. I hope I get to show this in the stories I have been blessed to create.
Blessed? Yes! Creating something from nothing isn’t just talent. It’s a gift and a humbling experience when it all comes together. So yeah, blessed. Now to find an agent who wants to help me share this gift with the world. Wish me luck!
 

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Tinkering around with a new revision strategy

I wrote a picture book story of Black Creole girl a while ago. The few editors that responded did like it, but they either a) weren’t in love with it enough to buy it OR b) wanted me to up the stakes.
One particular editor commented that as she read it, it made her want to get up and dance. This is actually my favorite piece of criticism so far. It stuck with me.
Last week, I decided to dust off the manuscript and try it again. I printed it out and took notes directly on it. I made a list of things that I wanted the new manuscript to do. I went through with my trusty pen and crossed out everything that I didn’t think would help  to reach my list of manuscript goals.
I have about four sentences left, and they’re still not fully exempt from the chopping block. I even changed the title! Was it hard to get rid of that much text? I’ll admit that I did pout for like two minutes. I got over it though.
I feel fortunate that I”m not one of those people who gets extremely attached to their writing. Did I love this manuscript enough to revisit it? Yes. I guess that does show some attachment. However, I’m not so attached to it that I’ll horde words just for the sake of keeping them, especially if they’re not beneficial.
I’m sorry! I haven’t touched upon the title of this post yet. I mentioned that the editor mentioned liking the sound of the manuscript. So, that’s one area of focus I’m really trying to bulk up. Remember the cartoon Madeline? I loved how it sounded as a kid, so I’ve started listening to old YouTube episodes of it as I do my revisions.
Will this land me an agent or result in a sale? I have no idea, but I”m having fun. Never stop having fun on your writing journey.

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A little Aesop, a Bit of Thunder & Self-Actualization of my Writer Self

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: my mom was all about representation when I was younger. Sure I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood and attended a predominantly Black church, but school was on the other end of the spectrum.
I was in one of those gifted and talented programs, and there were only a handful of people of color in it at any given time. Clearly I learned a great deal, but there were also a few experiences that clearly stand out from the rest.

  1. My third grade math teacher was a Black woman. I don’t remember her last name, but I remember her first name was Bathsheba. She probably didn’t know it, but she made my day–Every. Single. Day. Her being brown made me feel less awkward, less alone. Seeing her made me feel like maybe I could grow up and feel like I could have an important job too. Maybe I could even be teacher.
  2. In my elementary years, I was also introduced to the first Black characters in a school-assigned book. My English teacher was white, and I couldn’t tell you her name now if my life depended on it. But I am thankful for her. Having followed the traditional route of reading what most kids read, what you naturally assume are books featuring non POC–Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, etc., imagine my surprise when we started reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Brown characters! Brown characters all around! I guess this class was also when I had my first of what we would now call “woke” experience. I was surrounded by white people and was reading about ill-intentioned white people. It was a new layer to the feeling of difference. But, I was reading about brown people. It was also the first book I remember making me cry. It was also important because it was the first POC book that I remember beyond Aesop’s fables. Yes, it was also dated, but it made me feel relevant.
  3. The first two events sparked something another first-the first time I changed my mind about what I could be when I grew up. Maybe I could write too. I vaguely remember that we had a reaction assignment. I remember writing about slaves. My Uncle read it before I turned it in, and I remember him asking if I’d really written it because it was really good. My teacher also thought it was good. Maybe that’s when I first became a writer. It just took me until my 30s to remember my purpose and step back into it.
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That weird space between goals and dreams

As a writer, I feel like this is my permanent home. I’m constantly somewhere between goal-chasing and dreaming. I haven’t really given this limbo-like space much thought, so maybe I’ll have a bit more clarity by the time I’m done this post.
Perhaps what fills this space is waiting–waiting to hear from critique partners, my agent, an editor, a publisher, my agent again, etc. For someone whose mind is constantly going a mile a minute and who is so impatient she yells at the microwave to “Friggin get a move on!”, to say that this is a learning experience and a test in patience is certainly an understatement.
What do I do as I strive to reach my dreams of being a full-time writer a reality? I wait. Honestly, I write more. I whine to my husband. I strategize my next move. I feel like this is an impossible goal, and then I tell myself to knock if off and keep pushing.
Maybe those strange little dudes were on o something with that whole “whistle while you work” thing. Maybe small distractions that you can do while you work at a larger task are ideal. Whatever the case may be, I know I have to keep at it.
 

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Say it: I'm a writer!

I was one of those people who wouldn’t come out and say I wanted to be or was a writer when I first started. I know I”m not the only one who does this. Why is that? We live in a society that thrives off of titles and recognition. We celebrate our differences (well…sometimes), so why is it so hard to yell it to the world?

I’M A WRITER!

Is it because we expect some snarky remark like the following:

  • Well, who isn’t?
  • Aren’t we all?
  • How’s that going to pay the bills?
  • Well, where’s your book?

Well, writer friend, let me tell you something: You are a writer. If you write, have writing goals, are working on your craft, etc. you are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different!
Seriously, it takes a lot of heart to become a writer. This journey does not come pre-paved or even cobbled. Many of us wander around getting, our feet and legs getting cut with rocks and sticks as we move forward in faith. Yes! We have faith in our writing, even if it may waiver from day-to-day. What we must keep on a daily basis is faith in ourselves. My journey may not be the same as yours, and your journey may not be the same as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter. Own your journey and enjoy it.

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Writer’s Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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Writer's Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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On writing when inspired

I know that everything ain’t for everybody. I also know that we writers have our own methods that we use when working in or craft. Still, I am often left somewhat perplexed when people say they only write when they inspired.
First off, I imagine them staring out the windows of log cabins, waiting for nature to show some sort of sign before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I see their faces light up as a majestic bird swoops down from the sky and hovers effortlessly right in front of a window while an assortment of animals exits the woods, congregating to awe at its beauty as well. Aha! Inspiration has hit, and the writers’ minds are now flooded with ideas that will certainly bloom into masterpieces. The heavens have provided divine guidance, after all.
I know that’s a bit much, but that’s how my mind works. Personally, I think that my writing depends more on my motivation than inspiration. To me, they’re totally different.When I’m motivated to write, I have clear-cut goals I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to be on somebody’s bookshelf. I need to write to do that. Uh-oh, an unexpected expense popped up. I need to rekindle the flames of one of my freelance writing gigs. See, that’s concrete. If inspiration happens to kick in at some point, that’s fine, well, and dandy.
I honestly can’t trust myself to solely rely on divine inspiration to write. I would be sitting around like “Oh wait. Was that it? Was that a sign? Hmm…maybe tomorrow the sign will be clearer.” I’d get nowhere.
This morning, I’m neither motivated nor inspired to cook breakfast. Hopefully, my husband feels one of them. I mean, seriously….Who can write on an empty stomach?

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My writing. My baby. My fitted sheet?

I know lots of people who consider their writing to be their babies. I’ve had students say it. I have writing friends that say it. I understand that you give birth to an idea. You nurture it and watch it grow. Then, you send it out into the world, hoping that it can not only survive but thrive. It makes sense.
But, I’m not one of those people. I can’t be. If I did, my writing would probably never leave my computer screen. When you think about all he eyes that view your work even before it’s released to the public,it’s a scary thought. I am just now about to put my kids into daycare, and it’s causing all kinds of feelings on the inside. (Naturally, I’ll say more about that when it actually happens.)
I’m not saying that I don’t care deeply about my writing. I’m pretty sure that most writers do. (How else could you harness the energy to relentless write, revise, and repeat?) For me to fully invest in the writing process, I have to think of my writing as a fitted sheet. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.)
If I try to do it quickly, I cannot fold a fitted sheet to save my life. (Let’s be honest. I can barely do it slowly.) I have to really concentrate on it, and I always try multiple times in order to come up with something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have someone else see. Shame? Yes! That keeps me far away from the “I can write this in one draft” mindset.
No, Ashley. No you cannot.
The fitted sheet mentality ensures that I get critiques and review my writing with a critical lens rather than a rose-colored one. Besides, you can’t have everyone in you linen closet with things all in disarray.
 
 

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Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!

We were watching an episode of Goldie and Bear on Netflix yesterday. Both my 5yo and 2yo love the show. This particular episode had Jack and Jill at a sleepover with Goldie and Bear. Before I’d even had a chance to fully recognize it, this is what my 5yo yelled:

“Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!”

The thing is, he didn’t stop there.

“His head is brown, like mine. His arms are brown, like mine. Do you think his legs are shaped like mine too? I think we’re twins!”

Yes, Jack and Jill were brown. He was so excited, all I could do was smile. Moments later, I was a bit sad. If he was this excited, this also meant that he’d noticed a lot of the things he watched had characters that didn’t look like him. Mind you, children’s television has lots of animal and inanimate object characters. That sort of equals the playing field. However, if those same animal and inanimate objects typically have grey or blue eyes, it’s kind of implying the same thing.
Some people think that when we call for diversity, we want to do away with what has typically been the norm. That’s not the case. We want the norm to be more inclusive. We want to share the spotlight. We want our children to see they can be and do anything too.
This experience reminded me of why I am striving to become a published picture book author. I know that I won’t be able to control the artwork, as I’m not an illustrator. But, I will work tirelessly to write stories that may help to widen the types of representations that are available for young kids to see. It’s time for diversity to go beyond being an idea in our heads and something we can tangibly see. Isn’t there a common saying that goes something like  “You have to see it to believe it.” Well, I’m already at the believing part, and I am truly ready to see it.

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