Kentucky in One Word: Southern

January 29, 2013

(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

Everything I love so much about growing up in Kentucky and continuing to call it home can be summed up in one word: Southern. 

The view from my parents' home.
I'm not talking about its geographic location (especially because some people tend to argue that it's not technically a southern state) and I'm not talking about its history (which also causes controversy over whether Kentucky should be considered Southern. to which I say, "Pshaw").

In my friend Alecia Whitaker's book, The Queen of Kentucky, the main character, Ricki Jo, is a girl who lives on a tobacco farm. (If you haven't read it, do. Then buy it for your friends. So good.)

Alecia, who lives and works in New York now, mentioned to me once that when she does readings from her book up there, it's almost like her book is a fantasy novel because Ricki Jo's lifestyle is so foreign to kids who are growing up in the city. That conversation stuck with me, because I'd never really given that much thought. After I considered it, I realized that the idea of growing up in a place with no front yards, with thousands of people living around you, where the traffic never really stops--that hardly seems real to me either. 

Where I grew up, five o'clock traffic isn't even a thing. I could sit on my parents' front porch and hear the soft sound of water trickling at the start of the Dix River across the road. Our cows getting out and traipsing down the road was about as rowdy as it got around there. It was beautiful and quiet, and I still feel the need to escape to it every now and then.

I love being a southern girl. It's always one of the first things I say when asked to describe myself. That one word says so much about a person and about a place. I love wide, open spaces with tall weeds, wildflowers, and enormous trees. Religion is a big part of my life. I think sweet tea should be consumed daily. I think all girls should know when to be ladies, and all ladies should drink bourbon. I have a deep appreciation for great football. Everything tastes better when it's made from scratch. There's no party like a good field party with a bonfire and pickup trucks. I believe that "Yes Ma'am," "No Ma'am," "Please," and "Thank you" are some of the most powerful words a person can say. 

There are times when I wonder what it would be like to have grown up somewhere else, or to live somewhere else now. While the glamour of city life appeals to me now and then, especially as I learn more and more about the publishing industry, I just can't imagine being this in love with another place. No matter where I go, I'm always going to want to come back to peace and quiet on a wide front porch with a huge glass of iced tea.


GIVEAWAY! The Archived by Victoria Schwab

January 26, 2013
Several months ago, I heard that the lovely Victoria Schwab had a new book coming out in January 2013 called The Archived. As soon as I read the blurb, I was basically obsessed. See for yourself.
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
I mean, right?! I love this concept so much. SO MUCH, that I pre-ordered as soon as possible and then promptly forgot that I'd pre-ordered it. I ran to the bookstore this week when it released to buy my own copy.

For those of you keeping track at home, this means I have two copies now. Which means one of you is about to capitalize on my scattered brain.

So let's talk about this giveaway. Since a person's history plays such an important part in this book, I want you guys to tell me something funny/interesting about YOUR history in the comments. I'll use to pick a random comment for the winner. It'd be super great if you follow me on twitter (@meganwhitmer) and follow this blog....but I'm not gonna make it a requirement.

I'll go first!

I was just reminded of this story tonight, so I'll tell it. It's an Embarrassing Megan Moment. A couple months ago, I went to Knoxville to hang out with Sarah Blair, Angi Black, and Megan Orsini (Um, this was AMAZING on all the levels).

So you guys know how I can't hear very well? (If not, you haven't watched my first vlog.) So this kind of thing I'm about to tell you happens a lot more often than I care to admit.

At the hotel, I'd just arrived and we'd all done the squealing and hugging and professed our undying love for each other. Someone knocks at the door, and I open it. There's a super nice maid there, letting me know that they hadn't cleaned our room because the Do Not Disturb sign was on the door. Very sweet. Then she says something else and before my brain processes it, I reply, "I'm Megan."

She stared at me long enough for me to realize she had not been introducing herself. She was asking if we needed towels.

SHE SAID, "Do you need more towels?" AND I SAID, "I'm Megan."


I don't know guys. But I'll never live that one down, as evidenced by the following....

Okey dokey. Leave a comment with quick story from your history, and make sure you leave your twitter handle or email or some way for me to contact you if you win!

This giveaway will close at 11:59pm EST on 
Monday, January 28, 2013. 

ALSO! I'm opening this up to international readers as well--however, if you win and the shipping is absolutely insane, I reserve the right to send you the e-book instead....just fyi (and if that happens I'll pick a second (stateside) winner for the physical book.)

Update 1.29.13: chose #2 as the winner, and the second comment belongs to @boundiali! I'll get in touch with you about sending you the book!

To everyone- this was such a fun giveaway. I loved reading your stories and getting to know you a little more in the process. We'll do it again soon.


Between + Spencer Hill Press = LOVE 4EVER

January 21, 2013

First off, back on October 24 I was like, "I'm gonna do a vlog every week!"


Past Me is so cute.

Alrighty. If you were on Twitter Monday night, you got to experience the most incredible thing with me. I announced that my book, the book that I've been working on forEVER and have rewritten a silly number of times all because I'm so addicted to the characters I can't let them go, is actually going to be published.

And here's how it all went down.

Last summer, I pushed through the third complete rewrite of BETWEEN. It was a major one--changing from past to present tense and getting rid of a couple of main characters. I sacrificed a LOT of sleep, and finished it just in time to post pages in the WriteOnCon forums. (That was the first time I'd ever participated in WriteOnCon--if you never have, DO. It's a completely free online writing conference. I cannot possibly say enough good things about it.)

Based on the pages and query I posted in the forums there, I received a few requests from agents and editors to read the full manuscript. I sent it off to them, and waited. In the meantime, I'd also sent the rewritten draft to a few beta readers. As their feedback started rolling in, I started revising again.

The rejections came in slowly. "Too fast-paced." "Not fast-paced enough." "Not for me." "Fairy stories are out." (I take serious issue with calling my book a "fairy story" but WHATEVER.)

And then I got a rejection from Danielle Ellison with Spencer Hill Press, with a (heh, fairly lengthy) list of the reasons they were rejecting it. Now, we all know it's super fun to see a long list of the problems in your manuscript, right? But at the same time, it was sooooooo awesome to see, right in front of me, what they did and did not like.

Luckily, many of the problems in the email were things I was already working on in the latest revision (because my critique partners are BOSS, right?!) So I emailed Danielle and thanked her for the specific feedback because I was working on revisions and the notes would be so helpful.

It was just a rejection. And all I said was thank you. I didn't expect to hear anything else.

But then Danielle emailed me back, telling me to resubmit after I finish my revisions.

So then I forwarded all of that to Leigh Ann and we were all, "HOT DAMN! That's sort of an R&R!"

When revisions were finished around mid-November, I sent the new and improved manuscript to Danielle and sent out queries to agents from a few contests I'd entered. And then I didn't send out anymore. I'd queried a previous version of BETWEEN (3 drafts ago), and while the current BETWEEN is way different from that one (in that I'd feel completely comfortable re-querying agents with it), I just....didn't want to. I decided that for this particular book, I wanted to go with a small press or self-publish. (And I'll do a separate post on why.)

As you already know- I heard back from Danielle in December with an offer on BETWEEN, and I signed my contract right after the first of the year. Then I waited for what seemed like an eternity for it to post in Publishers Marketplace.

I don't have the patience to make it bigger. You know what it says anyway.

So then finally, FINALLY, I was able to announce it on Twitter. And then Twitter exploded.

It. Was. Awesome.

So many of you have been with me since I entered my very first contest with BETWEEN (A Cupid contest, February 2012), and you've all been so great--whether you've read my book, helped with my query, or just cheered me on through lots and lots of revising. I love the little community we have, and how we're all there for each other to share in the highs and lows that come with this crazy thing we all decided to do with our lives. Thanks so much for being as awesome as you are. I can't begin to tell you how much you guys mean to me.

And now for the numbers.

Query Stats: (Across all drafts, obviously...)
I used Querytracker for everything. I love that site and can't recommend it enough.
Total queries sent: 52
Partial/Full Requests: 6
R&Rs: 2
Offers of Rep: 0
Offers of Publication: 1 (YAY!)

AND HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS PRETTY MY BOOK IS ON GOODREADS. Click here to go gaze at that beautiful page.

Love you guys.


A Dream Come True, aka I GOT A BOOK DEAL!

January 15, 2013
(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky.)

As many of you know from my very first post on Her Kentucky, I've been working on a young adult novel, BETWEEN, for about two years. I wrote it, then re-wrote it, re-wrote it, and re-wrote it again. I'm talking major, beginning-to-end rewrites, not including all the minor revisions I made on those drafts along the way.

Many times, usually about halfway through a rewrite when I realized I had written myself into a corner and couldn't find a way to make my plot work, I thought about giving up on it. 

I'm glad I didn't.

I decided pretty early in life that I was going to write books. I gave up on that dream several times as I got older. Writing was always something I enjoyed, but I quit looking at it as something I would seriously pursue. I didn't even really understand how a person got a book published, and when I started looking into it, the whole process seemed so big and terrifying that it just felt too far out of reach for a girl from a tiny town in Kentucky with no publishing connections and no idea of where to start.

One day, I'm going to sit down with my daughters and tell them that. I'm going to explain how I almost let my silly fear of the unknown keep me from doing the one thing I'd known I wanted to do since I was old enough to make up stories. Some dreams might actually be a bit out of reach. (For instance, my goal of marrying Prince Harry is probably not going to happen and might even be slightly creepy at this point. And also I married a pretty stellar fella already.) But other dreams only seem out of reach because you're told that they're impractical, or that they're the kinds of dreams only certain people get to have. 

I'm so thankful that I have the kind of family who never said, "This is ridiculous. Grow up." 

This morning, I gave my six-year-old a really long, thought-out speech about how I had wanted to be an author ever since I was a little girl and it's important to never give up on what you want in life. She looked at me very seriously and said, "Mommy, my dream is to make toys and houses for all my Little Pet Shop animals."

I nodded, hugged her, and told her to go after it.

No matter what, I want her to know she can be whatever she wants to be. Even a Littlest Pet Shop toy and house designer.

Finishing That Draft

January 2, 2013
Twitter is one of the best things that ever happened to my writing career. I met all of my critique partners there, got to know all kinds of amazing authors, learned about contests and conferences, and learned more about the business of writing overall.

Twitter is also the absolute worst thing that ever happened to my writing career. Everybody is so fun and smart and engaging and there's always someone around to talk to. So when I'm sitting at my computer writing, it is entirely too easy to "just pop over to Twitter for a second to see what's going on." (And suddenly five hours have passed and my children are running around naked and starving.)

When I was finishing up the latest draft of BETWEEN, I had to come up with a way to be productive in spite of my very, very serious addiction to social media. Here are a few things that worked for me, and I'm hoping some of you might find them helpful as well!

  1. Set a deadline. And then announce it to EVERYONE. Tell Twitter. Tell everyone you live with. Announce it to Facebook. Put it on your blog. Tell anyone who asks about your book. I set a deadline based on WriteOnCon. I wanted to be finished in time to post my work there.
  2. Find an accountability partner. For me, it was the lovely Maggie Hall. She was revising her manuscript (THAT SOLD TO PUTNAM/PENGUIN IN A THREE-BOOK DEAL JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT). Maggie and I would set deadlines and goals for each other. I would tell her, "I will send you 50 pages by Wednesday," and she'd tell me whatever she was sending me. It was perfect. We didn't even need to critique for each other--just needed to keep each other accountable. I never would've finished the last draft without her.
  3. Unplug. Do whatever you have to do to get away from the Internet. Write in a place with no Internet access. Better yet, don't use a computer at all. Write by hand. (That's also very helpful to do if you're one of those people who's constantly editing as you write. Doing it by hand forces you to keep moving forward.)
  4. Create a designated writing time. I admit, I've never been good at this. I'm more of a "Write when the mood hits you" kind of gal. The problem with that is I could go a few days without finding the mood and then end up writing for 7 hours straight to get my pages to Maggie on time. As a wife and mother, that was pretty ridiculous. As I start writing again this month, I'm planning to use a more regular schedule and get as much done as I can while my kids are in school. Let's all hope I can do that. 
  5. Reward yourself when you finish. For me, that reward was a month-long break from writing. And it was BEAUTIFUL. I had no idea how much my mind revolved around Between until I stopped working on it. I had all this free time, and I was so relaxed. When I'm writing, even when I'm not actually writing, I'm thinking about it--dialogue, scenes, character traits, random things that would make my book different. The break was absolutely perfect.

Good luck!
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