Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guest Authors Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Today's Guest Authors are part of the Goddess Fish Young Adult Blog Tour, Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance. Charity and Darcy are two friends and collaborating authors who took an unconventional path to publication and finding their own way.
Please welcome Darcy and Charity, who will be giving away a Geek Girl prize basket to one commenter randomly drawn at the end of the tour. They are also offering an awesome Best Friends Forever contest. All you need to do is go here and tell the story of how you met your BFF. If you win, not only will you win a bag, but your BFF will as well. The bags contain:
An autographed copy of The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, The new iPod Shuffle, A mix tape (CD) of songs about friendship, DeBrand's Chocolates, Matching T-shirts...and a few geeky surprises. Good luck!!
And now, here's Charity!

Writers, I think, have a fascination with publication stories. I know I did--and still do. I think we tuck away this strategy or that in the back of our minds. If only I write my query letter like this, or pitch to editors like that. Then, *then*, I’ll make it.

But it never seems to work that way. I’ve heard other writers remark that publication is no more difficult than the right manuscript landing on the right desk and the right time.

Sure! Simple!

Thing is, if you’d told me five years ago how I’d end up with a young adult novel on the shelf, I wouldn’t have believed you. First, I’d put that project away, never to look at it again. I did this, despite what my good friend and critique partner Darcy thought I should do.

A year or two later, I pulled it out again. This time, it was as a writing exercise. I reworked the entire novel using Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. I did every single exercise. What did I have to lose? The manuscript wasn’t going anywhere in its current state and despite my previous banishment of it, I still liked the story and the characters.

I wasn’t necessarily going to send this version out, either. But when I finished the revisions, I gave it another try. At this point, I entered the land of the almost-but-not-quite rejection. I was close, but something was off.

At that time, Darcy was also sending out her manuscript. Through one of those weird twists of fate, she ended up talking to an agent who had rejected my manuscript but remembered it--and urged her to convince me to consider revising and resubmitting.

But I’d already retired the story for a second time. Darcy cajoled. She urged. You might even say she pestered. Then she committed a writer sin: she rewrote my first chapter in an effort to show me what the agent had meant.

She claims I didn’t speak to her for three days.

Truth be told, it was the shock. I wasn’t angry at Darcy, but I was devastated. I could see what she’d done, but was at a loss to do it myself. I was even more convinced that this particular manuscript was a dead end.

Darcy kept on revising, in secret, although a few months later, she confessed by sending me the three or four chapters she’d done. I saw her point. But call it pride, or my own sense of inadequacy, I just couldn’t bring myself to work on the manuscript.

Then something awful happened. Darcy’s twenty-one-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. He had a tumor on his tongue, one doctors weren’t sure they could completely remove.

Darcy lives a few states away from me and I felt powerless to help her. I couldn’t even give her a hug, never mind bring over a hot dish for dinner, or offer to wash a load of laundry.

But then I realized that I did have a hot dish. I sat down at the computer, printed off the first several chapters of the manuscript Darcy had revised, then created a group on Yahoo for the two of us. I called it YA Hotdish and I sent Darcy an invite: “Let’s work on this together.”

Tragedy can make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew. The only thing standing in my way was me. Learning about Matt’s cancer knocked all the pride and ego out of me. It wasn’t about me anymore; it was about Matt. It was about the possibility of selling the manuscript, of being able to help Darcy with the medical bills I knew were already piling up.

In a way, it was both empowering and freeing. I saw what Darcy was doing could take the manuscript from unpublished to something you’d find on the shelves. It wasn’t quite there yet, but we were getting close.

We worked on it together, learning how to blend our voices while Darcy drove her son to countless doctor appointments. By the time Matt was scheduled for surgery, we were done with most of the book.

When he went into the hospital in late May, I went on a mission. I revised the query letter, compiled a list of fabulous agents, and started sending out letters and partial manuscripts.

The agents who were interested were *really* interested and we had requests right away. By August, we’d selected an agent and were working with her to revise the story.

And by the time Matt’s doctor said everything would be okay, our agent had sold The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading to Simon Pulse.

If there’s a lesson in this for other writers, I think it’s this: The path is not always the obvious one. Keep an open mind about what you can do and where you can go--in writing and your life. Sometimes going boldly forward is the right thing to do. And sometimes, it isn’t.

As I wrote to Darcy in one of the first messages in our YA Hotdish group:

I'm sorry it took me *so* long to get over myself.

But considering how everything turned out, I’m glad it did.
~Charity Tahmaseb, co-author of The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading

Here's the blurb and a short excerpt to The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading:

When Bethany -- self-proclaimed geek girl -- makes the varsity cheerleading squad, she realizes that there's one thing worse than blending in with the lockers: getting noticed. She always felt comfortable as part of the nerd herd, but being a member of the most scrutinized group in her school is weighing her down like a ton of textbooks. Even her Varsity Cheerleading Guide can't answer the really tough questions, like: How do you maintain some semblance of dignity while wearing an insanely short skirt? What do you do when the head cheerleader spills her beer on you at your first in-crowd party? And how do you know if your crush likes you for your mind...or your pom-poms?

One thing's for sure: It's going to take more than brains for this girl genius to cheer her way to the top of the pyramid.

Winter Varsity Cheerleading
Call-Out Meeting
Go Panthers!!!!!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a high school boy in possession of great athletic ability must be in want of...
A bowl of oatmeal.
At least on a cold November morning in Minnesota. And maybe a carton of orange juice on the side, but definitely not a girlfriend. Jack Paulson, mega basketball star and crush extraordinaire, did not date. Just ask any girl in the Prairie Stone High School junior class. The cheerleaders, the preps, the drama queens, the band crew, the art nerds, the skater chicks, the stoners, the loners, the freaks, the cool and the not-so-cool, all of them had tried.
Including me.
I was hoping to try again that day, if only my best friend, Moni, would show up already. Ever since her parents divorced and her dad moved to Minneapolis, it was like he took Moni's punctuality with him. She'd been totally unreliable. So I wondered, could I pull it off? Could a lone geek girl linger by the cafeteria door in a casual manner? Not likely. You see, every school has a danger zone. At Prairie Stone, ours occupied the space in the lobby that was an equal distance between the cafeteria, the gym, and the girls' bathroom. It was the spot where all the popular kids hung out. A place the rest of us tried to avoid. Moni and I called it the gauntlet.
We discovered that term last year, in word origins class. In case you're wondering, gauntlet (noun) = a form of punishment where the victim must endure suffering from many sources at the same time. It comes from the Swedish word gatlopp. In Sweden, apparently, they used to punish reprobates (n. those who are predestined to damnation) by making them strip to the waist and then run between rows of soldiers who were armed with sticks and knotted ropes.
That sounded about right.
And so I stood at the edge of Prairie Stone's gauntlet, close enough to the gym to sniff the delicate aroma of sweaty socks, near enough to the cafeteria to catch a whiff of oatmeal -- and the promise of Jack Paulson. One more step and I would officially enter gauntlet girl territory.
Chantal Simmons, the queen of cool and gatekeeper of popularity at PSHS, stood at the apex of it all. She turned her head in my direction, her blond hair flowing in a way rarely seen outside of shampoo commercials. Her glance made me consider climbing the stairs to the balcony and crossing over the top instead of pressing my way through -- but only a coward would do that.
Which is to say, I've done it plenty.
Chantal had a radar for weakness. One wrong move and she'd find yours and use it against you. Forget those sticks and knotted ropes. Chantal could annihilate the hopes and dreams of your average high school junior with just a whisper. And once upon a time, back in the dark ages of childhood and middle school, Chantal Simmons was someone I had told all my secrets to. In retrospect, that was kind of like arming a rogue nation with a nuclear bomb. No risk, no reward, I told myself. If I wanted an early-morning glimpse of Jack Paulson (and I did, I really, really did), then I needed to cross into enemy territory. Alone.


ProdElektra said...

Wheee!!! Another fantabulous interview! Seriously and honestly, I rarely ever read interviews before these. Thanks guys.
I could feel your feeling through each and every word, Charity. Sometimes your pride gets th better of you and you become an obstacle in the way of something that is otherwise pretty simple to reach. But yor friendship overcame your pride--that's the most important thing. Again, I'm really glad Matt is okay now. One good thing came out of it--both of you have a stronger friendship (that we all envy and desire!) now, and an amazing YA book on the bookshelves which we can't wait for!
And read the first chapter again. Amazing job. Keep it up:D


Charity said...

Thanks, Prodhi, for your nice words--and for following us around. ;-) And a big thanks to Liana for hosting us today!

jodi said...

It sounds like a really good book. :) I hope everything works out for both of you.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Great guest post. I really enjoyed reading this, and it's definitely true...nobody's stories are the same, whether it's book writing or just life in general.

I'm glad that things are going well now though.

lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Erica said...

Great post! I'm really enjoying reading all your guys's posts. It's so inspiring!

Llehn said...

I'm glad everything worked out. :-)

Llehn said...

Hmmm ... I have Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass on my shelf. Maybe it's time I cracked it open?