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I planned to be in New York April 24th for the Edgars week. Mystery Writers of America is sponsoring several events leading up to the Edgar awards on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, I came down with a wicked stomach virus Sunday and had to cancel my plans. So while I’m in bed, the Edgar events are kicking off.
April 27th is the Edgar Symposium.
April 28th concludes with the Edgar Awards banquet.
I planned to pop over to the Discovery Times Square Pompeii exhibit too.
Oh well. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
Last Thursday, I attended Kristan Higgins book signing at Durham Public Library, which is a cozy library where one expects to encounter Lorelei and Rory from the Gilmore Girls. The activity room was filled to capacity with fans of Ms. Higgins work.
If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, GO! Ms. Higgins is a lively, eloquent, and entertaining speaker, who kept her audience enthralled the entire time.
Ms. Higgins has published seven books. Her current book, My One and Only, is on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller list. The story centers around a divorced couple. The heroine learns she’s maid-of-honor at the same wedding where her ex-husband is the best man. Because it’s a destination wedding In (Glacier National Park) Montana, they must ride together to the next airport.
This book is a departure from Higgins’ plucky classic romantic comedy heroines who believe in love. As usual, she decided to make things hard on her characters and contemplated the worst hero for her heroine– her ex.
At the time, she thought it was very original and didn’t realize there’s a class of books called reunion stories. For this type of story, a sunny heroine would not work. So Higgins created Harper, a woman who saw flimsy commitments her whole life. She did have a brief moment where she believed in love, but within a year she was divorced.
To avoid making her a cliché, Higgins wanted her to believe in marriage in a control freak sort of way. Then she set her off on the road, a place she’d never been before. She needed her characters far from the things they were comfortable with. And she needed the plot twists to be believable that they would end up stuck together.
Making it the best option for them to drive to the next airport required heavy usage of Google maps.
Higgins finds that the more she, writes the more she loves back story. In order to understand how things got so screwed up between them, she had to write about their history because the answers to their problems lay in past events.
Higgins loves to write about first love because it’s so seductive and the characters believe that as long as they love each other everything will be okay.
Her characters had to deal with the very real issues of communication in security. This may be her most emotionally mature work.
The heroine’s mother, Beverly, was originally envisioned as “Trailer Park Barbie.” however, the character fought back and refuse to obey Higgins. Instead of the very insensitive character she tried to write, the mother became kind and nice.
Every detail of the book was carefully selected, including Harper’s dog, Coco, who is half Jack Russell, half chihuahua. That made the dog part bold/brave and part fearful, reflecting on the duality of Harper.
To research Harper, Higgins picks the brain of a divorce lawyer friend.
Setting is very important to her. She went to Martha’s Vineyard to get a feel for the place. She’d never been to Glacier National Park, but someone in her writer’s group gave her hundreds of pictures. In order to capture the look and smell ,Higgins also went to the Park Services National Park website, where you can listen to the sounds you’d hear at each park.
In order to make the road trip from Glacier National Park to the airport realistic, Higgins employed Google maps, using the camera to see what the road looked like. The road trip went across Montana and North Dakota.
Higgins is a diehard Yankee fan. But her books are usually set in Red Sox territory. However it’s important to note the Red Sox hardly ever win a game.
When she started out as a writer all she wanted was to hold her book. Her agent told her that goal will change and she’d want to hit the lists.
Her kids are priority. But after hitting the lists and winning awards, she has traveled more. She’s spoken all over the country, but usually only sees the airport and the hotel. She attends conferences and writers groups’ events. Her busiest season is the spring and summer.
The more she writes, the faster she’s gotten at writing a book. As for self-doubt and worry, they remain a part of the process.
She enjoys her research, but it is scary to step outside what you’re used to. The road trip, the non-perky main character, the divorced couple–these were all risks.
To celebrate her placing on the New York Times list, Higgins called her friends and family and then helped her son with his math homework.
She is excited to have her publisher hire a publicist for her. She’s done interviews, blog radio talk show, and live chats with Q&A.
She just completed a book in March and turned it into her publisher. Her next book will be the last book of her contract.
The next book she’s writing will include the hero and heroine’s point of view in the third person. She’s very excited about it.
There are times, she and her publisher will disagree. For example, her publishers did not like how Harper was a departure from the typical romantic heroine. Higgins considered their feedback with an open mind, but felt strongly that Harper had to be this way. It looks like Higgins was right.
She has thought about doing a series, but hasn’t yet found a story for it.
In terms of her writing process, she starts with the character first, thinking what if you were x. She’s like a cat with a mouse, seeing if she likes it long enough to write a book. She has a file of 50 ideas, 49 of which did not become books. She’s also a big outliner, creating chapter by chapter outlines including setting. She’s very detailed and knows what will happen next.
Of course, things change in the first draft and many things have to be reworked. But that’s just part of the process of knowing your characters and spending time with them. She’s very hard on her characters and very realistic about her books, creating very high standards.
She read an excerpt from the book and it was absolutely brilliant. In this scene, Harper proposed to her boyfriend. Total Trainwreck.
Higgins loves kids and has them in her books. She has written three novels with fathers. Her 10th book will feature a heroine who is also a mom. Personally, she found the father is easier to write because she didn’t want to dive into motherhood in her romance novel. She also names novel kids after kids she knows in real life.
She tries to write everyday or do writing related activities. In the morning she gets her kids off to school, does housework, and goes to her office to write. Her office is located above her mother’s garage and does not have WiFi. A few hours of writing makes up a lot of pages.
She said the best and worst aspect of being a writer is that you are never away from your characters. There is no vacation from them.
She mentioned that her son wrote a novel at 11 and is now typing it with his cousin. Sounds like another Higgins author on the way.
Here are my notes from the CTRWA April meeting…
Next month is the CT Fictionfest one day conference. There will be 13 editors/agents in attendance and 128 attendees. And there is still availability if you’d like to attend.
- There will be:
- Cold reads of the 1st page of blind submissions during lunch and agents/editors will critique them.
- Agent/editor pitching sessions.
- Amazing workshops.
- A silent auction. Donations are currently being accepted.
Laura Moore was the guest speaker at our meeting. She talked about writing her romance trilogy.
- Her advice on the saggy middle? Resort to sex.
- She has had readers complain about not continuing characters in previous books. But she switched publishers and it is hard to get the later editors interested in her old characters
- It’s important to remember that readers get very invested in emotional lives of the characters you write.
- In a trilogy, it’s important to have an arc. Each book must be a complete story, but you have to unite all the books with a golden thread.
- This thread can be fine and weave seamlessly though.
- Her trilogy is a story of coming home/finding home. She wanted to explore the idea of sisters since she didn’t have them growing up.
- So she decided to write a story about three sisters coming together to save their family horse farm and find love.
- The sisters love lives waxed and waned throughout the books.
- Also, be honest with yourself about your personal life commitments and make sure you take them into consideration in setting deadlines.
- Moving, buying new house, college applications for kids–these all impact your writing life.
- She confessed to not having a feel for sentences and doesn’t think in terms of their beauty or rhythm. Instead, she strives to not make them flat or boring.
- She warned against making a heroine too perfect. In her first book, her heroine was gorgeous, a model and rich. Hard to make her sympathetic to readers. She had to have a weakness.
- As a writer, she finds herself more interested in backstory than what is happening in the novel. So she works to dole it out sparingly. Keeping in mind that backstory slows the pace.
- Her heros tend to be outsiders that come in.
- She loves prologues.
As a bonus session, Peter, Kristan Higgins and Jessica Andersen offered to be an “American Idol” panel to critique people’s pitches as preparation for CT Fictionfest. They were awesome. Gave honest, tactful and insightful feedback. And super thoughtful to do it before the conference so people have time to really hone their pitches.
Jessica started off with a quick overview of pitching:
- As a member of CTRWA, you can download from the members only section her pitching handout.
- She is doing the pitching workshop at CT Fictionfest next month.
- What are the key points of a pitch? Introduction, Mini-synopsis, and writing credits (if any).
- Introduce self and then state the title, wordcount, genre and hook.
- Introduce the main character and their challenge.
- Talk about who assists them.
- Tell what the twist is in the story–what works against the character?
- What are the stakes? Why should the reader care?
- The key is to make the pitch sounds like the back cover of a book.
- You are not trying to sell the entire story.
- You are trying to interest the editor/agent enough to get them to read 30 pages of the manuscript. You want to get a request so you skip the slush pile.
- Be coherent enough so that the agent/editor can see where you work fits in the universe.
- Kristan added that when an agent asks a follow-up question, take a breath and think, then only answer that question.
- Agents want to find a good book.
- Keep in mind great pitching doesn’t equal a great writer. But if you cannot talk about your story concisely, there may be a plot hole. Also try to keep the tone and presentation in line with your genre. Bring the voice in your story into your pitch.
Onto the actual pitches. Here are some points that were brought up by our fabulous “Idol” panel.
- Make sure your logline is specific. What sets your story apart from every other story?
- Keep it short. 1-3 minutes max. This allows time for questions and doesn’t allow agents’ eyes to glaze over.
- Make sure to tell the listener what is likable about your hero/heroine.
- Focus on the conflict of the story. What most the main character overcome.
- Be careful of x meets y comparisons.
- Avoid reciting your synopsis. They don’t want a blow-by-blow plot description.
- Talk about the most interesting stuff in your book. Dazzle them.
- Don’t get lost in the details or your own world building terminology. You’ll lose the listener.
- Voice in pitch is a definite plus.
- Don’t focus on setting up story and only talking through first 2 chapters. The best stuff may happen later. Give them a glimpse of the whole book. Intrigue them.
- Include inciting incident for story.
- Don’t talk about how to market the book for too long. A line or two is fine, but give them the meat and potatoes of the story.
- Practice reading pitch aloud because written sentences don’t always translate well into spoken word sentences.
- Shorter sentences work better in a pitch.
- Don’t talk about more than 3 names in the pitch. It confuses the listener. Don’t list all your characters
- Don’t ever say it’s a 10 book series. Way too big a gamble on an unknown commodity (unpublished writer). Say standalone with series potential.
Seriously. Whenever, I am giving a brief presentation or talk “Um” slides into the pauses. Why can’t I just freaking pause?!
I was practicing a 10 minute overview of charity auctions for writers today. And of course, I said Um like…um…well 100 times.
I’m not kidding. That little word keeps popping out of my mouth. So bad.
Grrr. I gotta stop saying it.
And then there is my need to rock back and forth as I talk. Like a crazy person. Not good. Not good at all.
Mind you I have given presentations to hundreds of people during college and grad school. At work, I presented to groups of 10-30 people.
But it never ever gets easier. I get serious pre-talk jitters.
The only upside is that I screw up all my practice runs and then my actual presentation is usually pretty smooth.
How do you deal with nerves during public speaking?
Last year, I participated in a few charity auctions and won manuscript critiques from agents, editor and published authors. Overall, it was a great experience for me. I’m still revising based off of the feedback I got.
I came across a few charity auctions with manuscript critiques as prizes so I though I would post them here in case anyone wants to participate:
1) A close friend of author Larissa Ione, Fatin, has been an integral part of the romance community for years and is a tireless, generous advocate for romance novels. On Tuesday, March 8th, she lost her husband in a senseless act of violence, leaving her alone with four children. You can find out more info about the auction to help Fatin at:
The auction itself is here:
2) Author Keris Stainton has organized a benefit auction for Japan with all proceeds going to the Red Cross. Bidding is open now and closes at 8pm GMT, Sunday 3/20.
(Bidding is in GBP but US bidders are welcome!)
There are 150 fantastic items available, including: manuscript and query critiques, first editions, coaching and dedications.
Both sound like really good charities and the prizes look awesome.
And lastly, remember to enter my blog contest to win a FREE autographed copy of Paige Shelton’s amazing cozy mystery, Fruit of All Evil. The contest ends soon.
In honor of one of my fav authors having a new release in March, I decided to have my first blog contest ever.
An autographed copy of Fruit of All Evil by Paige Shelton.
The rules are simple:
- Comment below with your responses to my questions and your email address.
- If you want to keep your answers private, comment below with your email address and email me your answers at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you answer all 4 questions correctly, you are entered to win a free copy of Fruit of All Evil signed by Paige Shelton. (Ms. Shelton has graciously donated a signed copy).
- Hint: Answers to all 4 questions can be found on Paige Shelton’s blog and this blog.
- The winner will be randomly selected from the correct entries.
- The contest ends on March 21, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST.
- You have 7 days to find the answers and comment. (If you’re good with a blog search function, this should take 10 minutes max)
- The winner is notified within 3 days via an update in the comments below and an email from yours truly.
- Note: This contest is only open to people living in the continental U.S.
The Contest Questions:
1) What is the ingredient in the cookie recipe in Fruit of All Evil that Paige had never worked with before?
2) What tattoo did Paige consider getting after reaching the NYT Bestseller List for the first time in 2010?
3) What was the best Christmas present I received in 2010 (excluding my Ipad)?
4) How does Becca refer to her job as maid of honor in Fruit of All Evil?
Sunday March 6, 2011, I attended ”In Her Own Words…An Afternoon with Author Ann Leary” a charity event for the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury (LVGW).
The event was at Carmen Anthony’s Fishhouse, which provided a lovely venue with delicious hors d’oeuvre, including lamb chops, mini-spring rolls, scallops wrapped in bacon, stuffed mushrooms, and a nice veggie and cheese and cracker spread.
The purpose of the charity event was to raise money for the educational programs of LVGW, which has 100 volunteers assisting its 200 adult learners to improve their written and spoken English skills. Students include immigrants from 25 different countries as well as people born and educated in the U.S. who cannot read and write at the level they should.
For any published authors who might be willing to donate signed copies of your books, the LVGW is currently in need of them for charity raffles this spring. You can contact them directly or shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to work as a go-between.
My father serves on their Board of Directors and suggested attending this event because it’s good to support literacy and he knows I love to hear authors talk about their experiences.
A huge thank you to Selena Smith, Tina Agati, and Susan Powers who organized a top-notch event. Everything was seamless–check-in, the raffle, getting wine, finding our table. You made it an absolute pleasure to be there. And every scheduled event/talk occurred on a timely basis.
Sticking to a schedule can be next to impossible at any event, but you made it look effortless. Everyone was there to support a good cause, but you made it a terrific afternoon for all as well.
One of the participants in the LVGW program was chosen for a makeover to be done during the afternoon.
Kathy Hanson of Webster Investments gave a quick intro to the importance of investing for women. One of the most striking figures was that 1/4 of all women is broke within a few months of their spouses’ death. The greatest takeaway from her talk was that everyone should have a financial plan regardless of your age and that the plan should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated.
Dan Settani of Viso Bella Day Spa and Massage Therapy Center spoke about the importance of facial peels to remove all the dead winter skin and unleash your spring potential. His estheticians gave some important points on peels and then did a little quiz with free giveaways.
Ann Leary (pictured above) graciously answered questions about being a writer and also talked about how important literacy is. She loves to read and loves books. And is also a volunteer EMT in her town in Connecticut.
She opened by talking about her own experience with Ancestry.com and tracking down her great great grandfather who couldn’t read or write English when he came to this country. He worked at a grocery store to learn English. It took him 46 years, but he ended up owning a grocery store and having a net worth of $3 million in 1895. This is the amazing success story every immigrant dreams of.
She then took some Q&A from the audience. I’ve forgotten the questions, but here are some of her responses:
- If you want to get started in writing, there are many workshops our there and organizations you can join. Write everyday and read A LOT. For practice, try to write in the style of an author you like. This will help you discover your own writing style.
- In terms of least and most favorite parts of the writing process–she loves when she’s drafting a novel and on a roll so that the book feels like it is writing itself. Getting to that point is probably her least favorite part.
- To deal with rejection, she advised that you keep writing, not with the idea of publication but just to tell the story.
- The first time someone came up and liked her book, she was stunned. It was the best feeling in the world.
She read an excerpt from her first book, An Innocent, A Broad, which is a memoir about her experiences of her son being accidentally born in England because she went into labor early and was stuck there for 6 months.She termed it a “fish out of water story.”
The excerpt she read made me laugh. Especially when she labeled herself an “inveterate turncoat” and a “ready convert.” The examples she gave tugged you out of your seat and into her memory. Fabulous writing.
Her second book was a novel about the wife of a tv star. Though a work of fiction, when it was published, people questioned if she modeled it on her and her celebrity, Dennis Leary. She said a resounding “No” to that.
As for platform, she considers having a famous hubby to have a definite effect on her career and readily admits that the road to publication might have been much harder if she weren’t married to him.
She thoroughly enjoys blogging and thinks it’s a great exercise in not self-editing. She suggested writing your blog as though you are writing to a really good friend who likes you a lot.
She mentioned she is working on a third book, which will include lots of characters and a murder in New England. Sounds fun.
When Ann finished taking follow up questions, Constanzo Clothing, gave a brief presentation on their tailor-made clothing and how to build a wardrobe with classic pieces.
Then they revealed the makeover candidate who looked lovely and super professional. Great makeover!
The event wound down with the winners of the door prizes and auction items being revealed. My dad won “A Night at the Movies.” A popcorn tub with root beer, 20 classic Hitchcock films (which are already in my room), movie candy (raisinets and snow caps) and two movie passes.
Did I mention how much he loves going to the movies? This is like the best door prize ever for him. I think he kinda earned it after hearing about makeovers and facial peels.
We also received free cookies from Savor cookies and a gift bag too.
All and all a spectacular event!
The CTRWA meeting kicked off with a critique group. Always interesting feedback from a variety of writers. Worth becoming a member just for this experience.
The Margie Lawson Workshop if coming up Nov 20th. I’ll be there.
Jennifer Fusco gave some great tips during her Craft Corner presentation on public speaking.
- Speak slower–it will calm you down
- Move around–it helps combat nervousness
- Arrive early to get the lay of the land
- Practice so you’ll know what you will say
- Don’t read to people–it bores them
- Have a plant/stooge in the crowd to ask a question
- Understand what is causing your nerves–fear of forgetting, fear not get message across?
- Have a plan for when you blank out
- Dress professional and comfortable
- Know your audience
Jessica Andersen did the Ask A Published Author panel and was on hand to sign copies of her new book Blood Spells. I picked up a copy. She mentioned that for every 12 queries, you usually get 1 positive response.
The guest speaker was a psychic medium, Tracy Timbro. What an amazing person! She equated the way spirits communicate as being almost schizophrenic in speed, imagery and words. She also asserted that anyone can get in touch with the spirits. It’s a matter of raising your vibration level and the spirit lowering theirs so that you can meet in between. Ways to increase your vibration levels include: meditation and participating in creative activities such as writing, painting, singing.
A key element is believing in it. If your mind shuts the door you will not be aware of the communication. Sometimes religion/personal beliefs make it difficult to open the door. It can be as simple as a loved one popping into your head, a song jogging a memory, or a dream that feels too real of someone who passed on. During sleep, our vibrations are higher and that is why it is easier for spirits to communicate with us.
In photos–orbs or light streaks can denote a spirit presence.
There are signs everywhere if you look for them–upset electrical appliances and feathers–both can be signs of a spirit. She does not believe in coincidence. She also does not believe that death is the end. She likened it to a kid going off to college. We choose our paths in life and struggle here. Spirit guides are the equivalent of our parents back home.
When she senses a spirit, there is a physical tingling over her skin—like static but magnified. She had felt taps on nose and head from spirits. She is pulled toward the person the spirit wants to communicate with. The images and voices are all in her mind. Sometimes spirits superimpose their emotions on her.
Ghosts and haunting occur because a spirit does not cross over either because it refused to leave or doesn’t know it is dead.
Time does not sync up here vs. afterworld. So a week in the otherworld can be like 80 years here.
There are two types of hauntings:residual vs. intelligent. Residual is when the energy is captured and remains there like a video on replay. Intelligent is when the spirit is there and can communicate.
Unlike the movie, Sixth Sense, she never sees an injured spirit. They always appear to her in their best state.
The chapter President, Toni Andrews, led a workshop on forming critique groups.
The purpose of a critique group included:
- Function as a 2nd set of eyes
- Informed feedback
- Learning experience
- A preview of editor and agent review
Critique groups are not for:
- Line editing
- Power trip for critiquer
Some important things to look for when forming a critique group:
- Having similar goals as writers
- Partners at same level professionally/ skillwise
- Written guidelines including a mission statement
- Max page level and timeframe for review
- Exit strategy–have a trial period
- Think about how to phrase things–be tactful
- Be honest
- Be clear and use specific examples
- Be humble
- Always find something nice to point out
Things to examine in critique:
- Writing–flow of sentences, changing up sentence patterns; do you need to reread sentences, POV clear, showing vs. telling, repeated words
- Pacing–is story moving? do you want to scan ahead? does each scene drive plot forward/have character development
- Dialogue–does it sound natural? Do men and women sound different?
- Voice and tone–do you have a reaction to it? narrative in POV character’s voice
- Atmosphere/Setting–where is scene taking place? Mental picture of setting?
- Plot–is it believable, are there holes in it?
The sandwich method works best when critiquing:
- Praise something
- Give constructive criticism
- Suggest how to address criticism
Overall, another amazing meeting. Lots to think about and tons learned.
Word count: 57, 288
My second weekend in CT, I went to the CTRWA October meeting, which is held at the Holiday Inn in North Haven. About 45 minutes from the parent’s house.
I had the Garmin and printed directions as my backups. Smart move too because my cell phone GPS cut out on me. Like just fell asleep and would not wake up. So I had to pull over and hook up the Garmin. That worked great and got me there in good time. Parking was plentiful and I arrived 20 minutes before the critique group was scheduled to meet.
A bit of butterflies–which I get whenever I meet new people. Especially when most of them know each other. Kinda like the first day at a new school where everyone else has been together a while. But what an awesome group of people! Friendly and welcoming–they immediately put me at ease.
Huge thanks to Bob, Kristan, Marian, and Christine for chatting with me and making sure I felt a part of the group.
The critique session was great–very tactful and balanced. Kristan did a wonderful job leading the discussion, pointing out what worked and what needed more attention. Everyone was very considerate in giving feedback and you could tell they worked hard reviewing each other’s first five pages. On top of it, everyone had good writing skills, so there was so much to learn from each other.
The CTRWA President, Toni Andrews, led the chapter meeting, discuss the chapter’s board of directors’ elections, upcoming events, and the Write Stuff Contest, which is open until December 1 and a great opportunity.
She also mentioned the upcoming one-day seminar led by Margie Lawson on November 20th, which sounds like a do not miss event. Toni mentioned that this event is one of two workshops that turned her into a writer.
She reminded everyone that November is also National Novel Writing Month where 250,000 people worldwide will be trying to write an entire novel in November and talked about regional groups to write with.Toni is a great speaker and made me want to volunteer, despite being a total newbie. She also mentioned the annual conference Connecticut Fiction Fest, which is May 14th, 2011–Mark your calendars.
A quick heads up–the November 6th meeting speaker will be a psychic medium and I plan to be there.
After the official meeting, we had the “Ask A Published Author” Q&A session, where meeting attendees could ask a published author (this time Toni) anything about writing and publishing. A question came up about the pitch and what should be in it. Toni explained that less is more and you want the agent/editor to ask for more from you. Make sure you get your “cool factor”/twist in the pitch.
In terms of finding out who’s acquiring what, Toni mentioned Publisher’s Market as a great resource. She also mentioned agentquery and querytracker, with the caveat that they include info on what the agent says they are acquiring (but this info could be a few months old).
She stressed how agents will read a submission until the first thing that stops them and then they put it down.
Lunch was served and everyone chatted at their tables. It was a fun, relaxing affair. I got to eat with our speaker, Jane Goodger, who is hilarious and totally down to earth.
Jane Goodger spoke about her writing career and the need to reassess dreams and expectations in your writing career. She has been writing for 15 years and published 15 books. She talked about the importance of writing what you read. She also talked about how her day job gives her insight into how quirky people can be.
In terms of PR, she talked about guest blogging, getting reviews, Twitter, Facebook, My Space and having a website. She sold her books after her presentation, and I picked up one of her historical christmas romance trilogy–looking forward to reading it as the holiday approaches.
The meeting ended around 1:45 PM. I stayed for the additional synopsis plot critique for members, which ended at 3:45. The plot critique was very helpful in getting you to step back from the scenes of your novel and look at the overarching story.
How can you ramp up the tension? What motivations don’t work? What thread needs to be woven in earlier or dropped? What isn’t making sense in your story?
I have to say CTRWA has a tremendously talented group of published and unpublished authors who really got me thinking about my story. Everyone in my group had great feedback to give. I’ll probably be mulling everything they said over for the next week as I tweak my synopsis.
Then I got in my car and drove home, feeling more satisfied and content than I had in months. All the upheavals of the summer are over. I can settle into my life here and stop worrying about packing boxes and moving. I finally feel like I am home.