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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Storytime showdown

Well, here I am trying to be a professional writer, and my 5yo tells me he’d rather have his dad tell him his bedtime stories. What kind of foolishness is this?! It’s bad enough both of them said dada first. Can I catch a break?
I’m joking, sort of. For real, I did feel some type of way that I wasn’t given the title of supreme storyteller of the Franklin household. Like, that’s supposed to be my thing. I do the writing/ story thing, and hubby does hubby-like things.
Of course I made it my mission to figure out why my kids like my husband’s stories better. The answer:They’re totally action-driven. Apparently, I take too long to get to the good stuff, and they want mostly good stuff.
So, last night, I tried out a story about a frog that gets carried away by a huge storm. It was short, sweet, and full of action. My 5yo said “I really loved this story.”
I’ve said before that I sometimes get inspiration from my kids. It looks like my husband is a good source as well.
Let’s hear it for #TeamFranklin. (smile)
 

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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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My battle with rhyme

I have some pretty random writing goals. Yes, I primarily want to write picture books, but i have a pretty big writing goal that includes that. I want to get one of everything published. I want to publish a MG, NF, an article, etc. I’d even wanted to get an academic article, but they keep switching up APA on me, and I’m too lazy for that.
What does that have to do with anything? Writing a rhyming picture book is on my list of writing goals. I am proud to say that I’m getting better with it.No, really!
I went from an okay story with erratic rhyme. Then I had a pretty good story, but the rhyme seemed forced. Now I have a pretty good story, but the rhyme is leading the story too much.
That looks like progress to me.
So, what did I do to fix my most recent issue with rhyme? I first sent my manuscript to Rate Your Story. Their feedback is extremely helpful. Then, I read my manuscript one time and sat it aside. I wrote down (yes, by hand) what story elements I needed to tighten and brainstormed some solutions. After that, I wrote a new manuscript. I pretty much only kept two characters from the original. Now, I’ve sent this most recent manuscript to my critique partner. Where’d I get this particular critique partner? He’s actually one of my favorite partners I found through the KidLit411 Manuscript Swap group on Facebook.
Make those connections, my friends, and keep on tweaking those manuscripts.

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My Halloweensie Entry: Geraldine's Boo Debut

I decided yesterday I was going to actually write a story for Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie contest. She has awesome prizes, so why not? So, while the kids are taking their sweet time eating their 2nd breakfast (morning grazers).
The story had to use the words ghost, spider, and moon in some way. It also had to be 100 words or less. Mine is exactly 100 words, excluding the title.
_____________________________________________________________

Geraldine’s Boo Debut

Geraldine Ghost floated out of bed singing a happy little song. Her Halloween scare debut was tonight, and she had to practice her BOO song. When she got to the chorus, she HICCUPED! She hiccupped all day while the sun was high in the sky.
She held her breath. She turned red. HICCUP!
She drank water. She pouted and turned blue. HICCUP!
She sat near a tree, under the gumball moon, when down came a spider.
“BOO!” said the spider, and frightened Geraldine’s hiccups away.
That night, Geraldine floated along the stage, singing her song. It went without a hiccup.
 

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On being bad at waiting

I suck at waiting. I am crazy impatient. Guess what you can’t be when you’re working towards being a published writer: impatient. I distinctly remember waiting to hear back from agents as being ridiculously agonizing? I had to stop my emails from getting pushed to my phone.
I didn’t know what to expect after I got an agent. I mean, where’s the backdoor guide to what happens between signing with an agent and getting published? I need that. Here’s what I imagined would happen:
 
Yup. My agent would roll out the red carpet that would lead to my publishing dreams. After all, I had made it! I had been noticed and plucked from the eager writer masses.
That’s not what happened at all. There are levels to this! It’s like a tiered claw machine. I am armed with stories, but I have to yet again get noticed and plucked from the (albeit smaller) masses. It’s a mental marathon.
So, no. Having an agent doesn’t mean that you have someone to roll out a red carpet that leads to your publication dreams. It does mean that you have an ally, an ally that helps you swing over alligator moats, bust through drawbridges, and kick down doors. Obviously, those things take time.

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It's not a competition, but it is.

Having a writer friend is awesome when you are a writer as well. You have someone who understands what it’s like to work endlessly throughout the day and still sometimes feel like you’ve done nothing. You have someone to maybe bounce ideas off of. You have someone who knows when you need a little extra support and when you need space to vent.
It can be quite the emotional ride when you are sharing in someone else’s successes and setbacks. There may even come a time when you have to admit that you are a tad bit jealous of someone else’s success.
After all, haven’t you worked just as hard, if not harder? Haven’t you attended just as many workshops, conferences, and inspired gatherings? How many agents are even still open to queries? How many books do publishers even want to publish this year? What about you? When is it going to be your turn? It’s not fair!
Well, you’re right. It’s not.
The weirdest thing happened when I signed with my agent. I was over the moon excited, but I also felt a bit guilty. While at first I thought that was crazy weird, maybe it’s not. I’m a part of several Facebook writing and kidlit groups, and I’ve seen people post about the hundreds of agents they’ve queried and the years they’ve spent writing and revising their masterpieces.
I wanted them to win too. That’s when I made a realization that I probably should have made earlier on. This is a competition, even if we don’t want it to be. There are several finite variables on the path to publishing, and there are a great deal of us with the same goal.
There’s nothing that I can change about that. But, there is still something that I can hope for. I hope that when those moments of self-doubt, frustration, and jealousy do happen, that each of us will recognize them for what they are–moments.
Those moments will pass. Don’t let them distract you from your upcoming moment when it is your time to shine. That’s the beauty of a spotlight. It highlights us at our best. You know what they say, the best is yet to come. Don’t forget that.
That’s a reminder for me just as much as it is for anyone else.
 

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What's the tub journal I keep talking about?

Okay, so if you’ve been following me on Twitter for more than a week, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point you’ve seen me mention a tub journal. I’m sure that many of you can relate to feeling like you have to multitask or things will never get done. Busy parents, I know you especially know that trips to the bathroom are sometimes all the alone time that you get. (Let’s be real. Some of our kids hunt us down in the bathroom too.)
Some people say they get their best ideas when in the shower. My most dominant shower thought is something along the lines of “Ugh, what am I going to do with my hair today?” Then is all spirals down to wondering what the kids are doing and what snacks need to be replenished, and what’s in the fridge to even cook, etc. Clearly, the shower isn’t my ideal clear thinking space.
Behold! The tub journal was born due to a lack of time, selective focus, and ideas that never quit. In reality, it’s a legal pad that I jot down all of my ideas. I don’t use it anywhere else unless I’m typing up my notes off of it. That’s the thing, since the tub journal can get wet at any moment, I always make sure to type up my notes before the next tub journal session. There’s no need to take a chance of good ideas getting washed away.
What about you? Do you have any odd note-taking habits? Surely I’m not the only one.
 
 

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Note to self:Don't get lost in animal stories.

I feel like I am truly getting closer to my dream. Thanks to my overactive imagination, I can almost smell the picture book newness with my name on it. In real life, while I’m waiting to hear back from publishers, I am continuing to write. After all, that’s what you do to avoid stalking your email. Seems logical to me.
I’m drafting 4 new picture book manuscripts at once. (I can’t think one story at a time.) I realized that 3 of them have a non-human main character. For me, this is problematic.
I grew up loving animal stories. They were my comfort zone. Why? They felt like a safe alternative since I didn’t see much of me in the stories I loved. I’ve said before that I had copies of folk tales and all that. Still, I could only relate to them but so much.
Today, I made a vow to draft a manuscript focusing on a human character for every non-human character driven story. That might not mean much to you, but it does to me. To me, it matters. For the little girl whose imagination readily filled with White characters and animals but struggled to imagine someone who looked like her doing similar things, it matters. For the little girl who will always remember being told that she could only be the neighbor or the dog when playing “house” at school because she didn’t match, it matters a lot.
 
 

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Won't you be my (bookshelf) neighbor?

This week on Twitter, I had a super brief conversation (after all, it is Twitter) in which I agreed that having diversity simply for the sake of diversity in literature is an epic fail. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of this as an issue until the original poster’s tweet graced me with its presence.
That got me thinking. If folks think writers and publishers are seeking diversity at the expense of quality, it is seriously time to offer up some clarity. For example, it is my dream to be a successful writer. (My definition of that likely differs from yours, but we’ll save that for another post.) I don’t want a red carpet rolled out for me simply because I am a POC writing diverse characters. No! I want to be right alongside of any other writer, POC or not, whose work has received accolades if my writing is of the same caliber.
Yes, recognize that I am a POC and my characters will be diverse. However, don’t box me in. If I happen to write something amazing, I don’t want someone to say that the writing has merit and I’m a good writer for a POC. Nope! If I’m awesome, don’t segregate my awesomeness. Spread it around.
How do you organize your bookshelf? The present state of my bookshelf wold likely give someone hives. It’s just that unorganized to the untrained eye. To me, I have my books arranged by how much I like them. Sula is next to Madame Bovary. Great Expectations is next to Hamza’s Heroes. See, that may mean nothing to you. To me, it means I know exactly what I’m reading next.
Maybe one day I’ll be on your shelf. I wonder who will be my neighbor.

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