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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On leaving my agent

I know you’re probably shocked to see me post since I haven’t posted in ages, and for that I apologize. You see, when your life revolves around your use of words, you sometimes have to know when not to run your mouth.
I’ve posted several times about my desire to be transparent with you about my writing journey and all it entails. My time of silence was not at attempt to keep you in the dark. Instead, it was a self-check. Yes, sometimes you have to check yourself. Deciding to leave my agent was one of the toughest decisions that I’ve had to make since embarking on this writing quest. I chose to confide in family and my trusted writing friends (new and old). What I didn’t want to do was to blog away while still all in my emotions.
That being said, after making a tough business decision(it wasn’t personal at all), I am back in the query trenches. It’s a scary thrill right now. I actually plan to start querying in about two weeks. I’ve been working on my query letters and new manuscripts. I’m ridiculously excited about the new manuscripts that I’m working on! (Judge your mother. I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition. What of it?!)
Am I sad that the path I thought I was on came to an end? Of course! But, if I’ve learned nothing else, I am definitely learning to hang on and enjoy the ride. You’ll never know what you’ll learn and who you will meet along the way. If you’ve hit a few bumps during your own writing journey, know that you’re not alone. Take time to regroup and press on.
So, here we go again (smile).

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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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Why Cree had to win the day

I took an unexpected detour on my writing journey and did a bit of editing. How did that happen? An old college friend who knew of my published picture book quest reached out to me. When she told me of what she and a colleague wanted to do, I couldn’t say no. They didn’t just want to write a picture book, they wanted to birth a unique character to add to children’s bookshelves. That’s just what they did.
Ti and Lora created a perfectly imperfect African-American girl character. Think on that. Two African-American women from Philly saw a void and filled it. It’s as simple as that. See a need. Fill a need. While self-publishing can come with its difficulties, they persisted. Their community of friends, family, and loved ones helped their dream become a reality. Not only did Cree win the day, Lora and Ti did as well.
Cree Wins the Day isn’t just a story for girls. I have two boys, and the closest rival to this book in our home right now is Pete the Cat. What makes Cree so appealing to them? My 5yo likes that Cree wets the bed. My 2yo likes Cree going to school. (Those are all the spoilers you get. Go buy the book  from Amazon if you want to know more.)
Cree embraces what makes her different. Cree’s abilities, that sometimes make her days  a little crummy, show readers that our day-to-day lives may not be perfect or go as expected and that’s okay. We should always love ourselves and know who helps us to have a healthy mental space. That’s a lesson anyone can get behind.
 
cree
 

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Snowballs, Icebergs, and Reality Checks of Writing

To those of you currently battling snow of epic proportions, I apologize if the title alone made you roll your eyes. However, I promise that no other title was better suited. Compared to others, my writing journey is still in the beginning stages. Yes, I have had some wins along the way, but in regards to time, I haven’t been at this for multiple years.
Snowballs
When you see announcements of others striking multiple book deals, it is easy to loudly applaud them while internally wishing you could pelt them with an arsenal of snowballs. After all, you want to take them down, not actually hurt them. It’s hard to not be jealous. You want your name announced. You want your book on shelves. You want a spot on the illustrious bookshelf of the chosen few.
But, here’s something to keep in mind: While you were busy wallowing in your melting snowball arsenal, you missed all of the grunt work that someone else was doing.
Icebergs
Ah, the iceberg of success. If you’ve ever tried to reach any type of goal, this image should be burned into your brain. As writers who have not yet tasted the sweet fruit of success (and the type and taste of said fruit will vary from writer to writer), we must keep in mind that we are likely unaware of the setbacks, missteps, and failures that another writer has had to endure. We are likely too much in awe of acquisitions announcement to even think about this sometimes.
Reality Checks
As much as you want a rea l check, don’t discount the importance of a good ole reality check. For me, I had to ask myself if I was doing all that I could to improve my craft. Was I seeking enough critiques from quality critique partners? If I wasn’t happy with the critiques I was receiving, was I actively seeking to get better feedback elsewhere? Was I using my time wisely? Was I paying attention to what was selling? Was I using mentor texts?
See, there are plenty of things to do to make sure that you’re crafting the best manuscripts that you can. Besides, I don’t want to just be on a bookshelf. I want to leave a mark on the entire library. Back to work!
 

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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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Of course, hard work, but LUCK!

Hey, writer! Clearly we work hard to hone our crafts. Some of us spend years in the query trenches. Many of us spend a great deal of money  on critiques, books, conferences, and courses. Does that guarantee our success? Absolutely not.
When you are frustrated, and maybe even irritable, with where you are in your writing journey, please don’t forget how subjective this all is.
I’m still toiling away even though I have an agent now. (See, getting an agent is just one hurdle of many. It’s not the golden ticket to being published.)
You may feel that you’re doing everything right and getting nowhere. You could be write. Despite all of your hard work, you may still need the stars to align and the right editor to champion your work.
Don’t underestimate the role of luck in all of this. Just know that out of 365 days, one of them is likely to be your lucky day.
Let’s keep writing!
 
 

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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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Good critiques matter!

 

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A critique’s purpose is to help. Don’t get caught up in your feelings.

 
If you’re a writer, and you’re on the fence about sharing your work, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my students:

Get over yourself!

Why? A good critique can help you take your writing to the next level. Yes, many talk about the overall importance of critiques. Let’s be real. If getting high quality feedback wasn’t important, people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it. With so many writers wanting and willing to get their work read, you’d think paid critiques wouldn’t be so popular.

So, why are they? It could be for the simple fact that people expect detailed, thorough, comprehensive feedback when they do critiques. Paying for one increases your chances of that actually happening. Hey, I may jump on that bandwagon years down the line. I have years of teaching and tutoring experience. Still, I wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay me for a critique until I have some published books under my belt. (On that note, if you do pay for a critique, make sure it’s from someone who has a solid reputation and some credentials to stand on.)

Still keeping it real, some critiques you get during your writing journey are likely to be garbage. The comments may be super vague. That’s a totally appropriate reason to give your critiquer the virtual stank eye, but resist the urge. If you give an awesome critique of that person’s manuscript, you just may encourage him/her to up their game in the future. After all, we’re writers. Aren’t we supposed to grow in our craft?

 

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