Another Day, Another Rejection (or two)

In light of all the publicity regarding the whackaloon wannabe writer who attacked the literary agent who rejected his work, I thought I’d offer my own response in the form of how I react to rejection.

You see, six months ago, I made the decision to apply to a writing residency program—the Television Writers Program sponsored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Five weeks in Los Angeles, five days a week spent in the company of other writers, creating a product. It sounded fun. I mean, five weeks in LA, for one. I have a ton of friends in Los Angeles and the opportunity to see them on something of a regular basis was super tempting. Not to mention, the opportunity to be on my own for a bit. I’ve never, in my life, lived on my own. Went from Mom’s house to dorm, to shared apartments and houses, to living with the boyfriend who became the husband. The idea of flying solo for a month? Yeah… love the husband and the family dearly, but I can’t deny that idea held its own appeal. 

Then there was the basis of the program itself— the opportunity to learn to write for television—that was pretty attractive. You see, it was television that drew me back into writing in the first place—that started me on my path to becoming a published author. (Those of you who know me well, know it was my love for the crazy talented writers Joss Whedon employed on BuffyAngel that made me think, “Hey, I can tell stories like that.”) Of course, I very quickly discovered that I’m a wordy bitch and I like narrative and internal character motivation a hell of a lot and all of that adds up to “Write novels, dummy!” So I did.  And I’m pretty damned good at it, even if my sales haven’t exactly reflected that. At any rate, I applied to this program not so much because I want to be a television writer, although God knows, I wouldn’t say no to an interesting opportunity to write for pay. It’s what I am, after all, and let’s face it, I’m spectacularly unqualified for almost anything else, but more than anything else, though, I wanted something new. New skills, new tools to add to the arsenal. I wanted something that would get me excited about writing again. To jolt my ass out of the Pit of Suckagetude in which I’ve found myself mired lately (which is a post for another day).

The application was pretty rigorous and involved, requiring multiple forms and notarized releases and writing examples (I sent in When the Stars Go Blue figuring it for a great example, given it’s an adaptation) and a lot of attention to detail. Good thing I’m a Virgo, yeah? The application window was ridiculously broad, stretching from mid-March to mid-August; being me, my application was posted by early April. Participants would be announced September 17th. So I sat back and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Kept fairly quiet about it, because I didn’t want to jinx it. I also didn’t want to face a lot of “Why would you want to do that?” inquiries, and frankly, I didn’t want to hear that maybe I was out of my gourd crazy for doing this. (I’ve had that happen before—I’ve sent in proposals and been immediately hit with “Why on earth did you send in that idea?” which results in the Doubt Monsters breaking into a spirited rendition of Numfar’s Dance of Kill Your Joy. Did. Not. Want.)

I just wanted to live on quiet hope and also not get anyone’s expectations up too high on my behalf, lest it get my expectations up too high. Expect nothing, regret nothing, right? I had run the suggestion past my writer’s group and a few other close friends whose opinions I trust, and as time went on, I let a few people know that I had applied for a writing residency program, but no details beyond that.

Anyhow, due to a large number of applicants, they posted a message that the announcement would be postponed until the 18th.

Which came and went without word. (Damned watched email never boils or summat like that.)

Finally, this morning (the 19th, Talk Like a Pirate Day, arrrggghhh), I sent an email to the contact liaison. Within an hour I’d heard back. I hadn’t made the cut.

I wanted to be sanguine about this. I knew it was a longshot going in for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was my utter inexperience with the medium. God knows, I’ve dealt with a lot of rejection in the past thirteen years. Certainly a hell of a lot more rejection has come my way  than praise. I know how to handle it. I know it’s not personal. It’s not an indictment on me as a human being.

Didn’t stop me from crying. Rather a lot, as a matter of fact.

Not the throw-myself-on-the-ground-pound-my-heels-on-the-floor-scream-and-rant tantrum sort of crying, mind. While there are times I wish I could, simple fact is, I suck at that. In fact, I abhor most self-pity, at least where I’m concerned. I’m remarkably forgiving of anyone else’s need for pity/support, self or otherwise, for myself, I can’t fathom it. The husband puts it more bluntly—he says I suck at wallowing.

He’s… not wrong.

But this one has broken me a bit more than usual. I don’t know… I generally don’t allow myself to dream outside of the confines of my own stories. For my characters, I allow my imagination to take flight — no dream is too grand or goal too unrealistic or impossible to achieve. Dreaming for myself, on the other hand? I’m about as good at that as wallowing. For me, it’s never been about the seven-figure contracts or #1 Bestseller status, although I certainly wouldn’t say no to either. I’m a pragmatist—not a Puritan— fer chrissakes. No, all I’ve ever wanted is a nice, steady career as a writer. Not an easy task, especially in this day and age, but certainly not grandiose.

But this program… yeah. I let myself dream. And maybe that’s why it hit harder than it might have otherwise.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I pinged my agent to ask about the status of another project that was out on an exclusive submission.

Yeah. Another rejection.

Oddly, this one left me more meh than anything else. It’s part of the game, right? The rejection letter was head-scratching in that way that rejection letters are and again, allowed me to be meh about the rejection on the whole. I mean, I don’t like it. I’m not a masochist (at least, not any more than anyone else in publishing), but it’s hardly devastating. I believe in my project. I know it’s a really fucking good concept and with the insight and advice I’ve received from the beta readers, I’ve certainly made it a stronger project than it was at the outset. Like so much else, it’s the sort of thing that requires the Right Person see it and I have to believe the Right Person is out there somewhere.

More than anything, though, it was something my agent said in her email to me that allowed me to put everything into perspective:

I think that sometimes we’re denied an opportunity to explore something to show us how much we actually value it, and that it goes beyond curiosity. Maybe that sounds trite but if I know anything about you, it’s that if you’re passionate about something you really go for it.

Now mind you, she said this with respect to the Writing Program rejection, but the end result was it immediately sharpened my focus and strengthened my resolve with respect to…


Just writing.Telling the stories I love—the stories that need to get out or else they’ll drive me crazy(er).

It’s what I do. I really, really  fucking love what I do. Not only do I not want to do anything else, I simply can’t imagine doing anything else.

Something like ten years ago, after I’d started sending out queries and receiving rejections, but before I’d been published, I happened to stumble across an interview with actor Timothy Omundson where he spoke about pursing a career in the creative arts and some of what he said resonated with me—even then—to the point that I printed a pair of the more relevant quotes out and have kept them on my desk ever since.

One of those quotes is especially relevant today:

I really, really love what I do and for me, this work… there isn’t anything else. I’ve always been really driven. I think that is the most important aspect of my success… it comes down to how much I like it. I really think it has to be one of those things where doing it is the only option.

If you can do anything else, I’ve always thought you should go do it because this is potentially too hard a life.

No kidding. Today’s definitely one of those days where I idly wonder if it’s too late to get an accounting degree, never mind that no one wants anyone with my math skills balancing their books—trust  me. But after the tears dry and the inevitable trauma of “They hated my baby!” passes, all I’m left with is a sense of resolve (amidst the “You really are a sick glutton for punishment you crazy lady,” feelings).

I write. I’m pretty fucking good at it.

And I’ve got a couple of damned interesting stories to get back to. Anyone in publishing interested, give me or my agent a call.

I’ll be ready.

Ironic I’m working on this today…

What with Isaac making himself known and seven years on from Katrina- this passage from the Work-in-Progress is feeling especially poignant.

Initially, it had been the latter, by way of Mac and his weekend hobby, that had drawn Alex to Mère’s. Still relatively early in the post-Katrina recovery, he’d suggested she drop on by. Listen to him play his guitar and if she had a mind to, maybe help him lend a hand because at Mère’s, in those days, they’d needed all the help they could get.  It’d been that rarity: never once closing because of the storm, surviving on generators, charcoal grills, and a wing and a prayer. A loosely organized host of volunteers had cooked, cleaned, and procured supplies from God-only-knows where—best not ask what you really didn’t want to know—while overseeing it all had been Mama  Earlene and Lucille, her trusty twelve-gauge.

She’d offer food and drink to any who needed, take what payment could be offered and if none could, simply scribbled out an I.O.U., assuring the customer she was confident the debt would be paid. Even now, five years on, folks regularly eased in through the palm-shrouded entry, bearing their tattered half of a ticket along with payment while at least once a week an envelope would drop through the mail slot,  bearing postmarks from as nearby as Slidell or as far away as California. There was even the memorable instance  of a case of fresh-smoked salmon from Alaska that had landed on the doorstep with a simple “Thank you, Mama” scrawled on the side.

One gesture of generosity in exchange for another—one that may well have saved a life.

That was the thing—people remembered.

Even if they no longer lived here—forced out by circumstances beyond their control—they remembered their city and the people in it.

This city, it had a way of holding a body’s heart. Every time she crossed this threshold, Alex was reminded how she, herself, was living proof of that fact.

From A Tempestuous Noise

On Paying it Forward & the Power of Social Media

Yeah, yeah, I’m posting another blog. I can see you gaping from here. But this is important. Even more important than breaking down who wore what to the Oscars or the Golden Globes or shilling a new release.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourselves up off the floor.

We good now? Okay.

So, I’ve had this thing that I’ve done, ever since I sold my first book (going on *gasp* seven years ago, now) and that’s find a charitable cause to which to contribute. It’s not something I tend to make a big deal of because like religion, politics, & birth control, I find it a sort of private matter (sorry Rush, you lard-assed windbag, no videos for you).

Some years, it’s been a big thing—remember my RITA gown from 2007? The Maggie Gyllenhaal Oscar gown?

As some of you know, I won that in a Clothes Off Our Backs (now sadly defunct) charity auction, with the thought that I might one day, if I was really, really lucky, be able to wear it to a RITA ceremony, you know, if I ever finaled. Little did I know it would be that year and it wound up being my lucky gown, since I, you know, won. *pauses to preen just wee bit*

Most years, though, it’s been little things—small donations to multiple organizations, usually to theatre groups like Red Dog Squadron a not-for-profit theatre company or my own local Seattle Theatre Group or, of course, supporting museums, like Seattle Art Museum or the Experience Music Project Museum (look, I live in Seattle- how can I not?).

Thing is, while donating to these causes are, indeed, charitable, they’re generally also to my benefit—having a beautiful gown to wear, having theatre and museums to attend with the rugrats—let’s face it, I definitely get a pretty good deal out of it.

But now, things is a little different, children…

(And this is where we come to the Power of Social Media portion of our program.)

I’ve mentioned lately that I’ve been hanging more on Twitter than blogging, mostly because I’ve been so buried in the writing that my attention span away from it tends to be better suited for short bursts of, oh, 140 characters or so. Actually, it’s been beneficial from other standpoints as well. With Twitter, I’ve been able to expand the scope of the creative folks I come in contact with, from artists (@loveandcapes) to musicians (@janicewhaley) to actors (@chris_gorham) to writers of many, many stripes, across varying genres and media (Mediums? Media. Whatever). It stimulates my own creative juices (which sounds vaguely naughty) and stokes the excitement I feel for my own work in addition to helping the plot bunnies procreate. Hey, I never said I was completely altruistic—I’m completely open about what I get out of this.

I’m rambling, I know. Okay, I’ll get on with it. One of the actors I follow, Timothy Omundson (@Omundson) from Psych happened to mention he was guesting on the Pop My Culture podcast (@pmcpodcast).

(Hilarious podcast, highly recommended, but if you have kiddies, I suggest listening to it after dark or with headphones, lest the little darlings overhear. Five minutes of PMC and they’ll wind up sounding like extras from Deadwood. You’ve been warned.)

Anyhow, Tim also happened to mention that oh, by the way, Vanessa Ragland (@vanessaragland), one of the hosts, has got a charity thing going on. Goes to show how buried I’ve been, lately, since I follow both the podcast and Vanessa on Twitter and this had somehow slipped past. *shamefaced*

End result is, I checked it out and this is where I get serious, folks—it’s a big deal. Vanessa is in the running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year

And this is why:

Guys, you know me—inveterate smartass, can make a joke about anything, but you know, cancer is no joking matter to me. It’s an insidious motherfucker that has messed with my own family and has hurt way, way too many people who I love, taking their loved ones from them, far too soon. It even permeated my professional life in that I wrote Breathe, the manuscript nearest and dearest to my heart, in part to express those feelings of helplessness and loss that cancer can generate. It remains my biggest professional regret that it never found a publishing home; too many publishers scared off by the cancer-centric storyline. Too dark, too real, too… scary.

Too bad. Cancer is scary. It’s dark and it’s real and it can strike anyone, including little girls and their daddies. So yeah, I donated, immediately, to Vanessa’s cause. And now I’m asking you, my awesome friends, to help out. If not by donating, because God knows, I know times are hard across the board, then by at least spreading the word, via your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, whatever floats your boat. You wanna rent a plane and fly a banner over South Beach, go for it (although I think the money would be better spent on a direct donation).

Vanessa has until April 25th to raise lots and lots of money and even if she doesn’t win, which, of course, we want her to, she’ll win, because she’ll have raised lots and lots of money. You see where I’m going with this, y’all?

She also has another secondary, equally important, reason to raise lots of money: her dad. It’s a tragedy, really—Vanessa’s dad, Larry Ragland, for reasons unknown, decided to grow his hair. It’s apparently quite scary. Don’t believe me? Watch:

So there you have it. If Vanessa can raise $5K by the end of the campaign, then Dear Old Dad will have to part with his ponytail. If you don’t do it for the children, then do it for Larry.

Donate. Or pass the word.


Love you all.


This week only, FightCancer with CHARACTER(s). if you donate $50.00 or more to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society ROB PAULSEN ( Or Yakko! Or Pinky! Or Raphael!) will record a personalized outgoing message for your phone!

A Holiday Freebie, from me, to you!

In honor of the holidays and because I’ve been entirely too quiet of late (sorry about that!) I decided to resurrect a holiday story I posted several years back as part of a holiday blog tour. It’s been revised a bit and converted to a PDF so those of you who are so inclined can download it for reading on your favorite device. Or just read it on your computer, whatever floats your boat.

Mila and Adam, the stars of the little tale, are both chefs. This story was huge fun to write since I got to use my favorite friends-to-lovers trope, plus incorporate my love of cooking with every excessive tradition I remember from holiday celebrations growing up in a large Cuban family in Miami. Each thing mentioned in the story—the pistols at midnight, the sparklers in a cake, the relatives who worry that you’re going to wind up an old maid, the food—oh boy, the food—that’s all from my childhood. It’s a wonder I turned out as normal as I did.

BONUS: If you retweet with the hashtag #SWEETFINISH by New Year’s Eve, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy my award-winning young adult novel, WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE.

So, without further ado, Sweet Finish: A slightly silly, somewhat sweet story of two best friends who really, should always have known better.

But then, isn’t that how it always goes?


Sweet Finish

Going to New York. Are you?

Sorry, the apathy in blogging continues, although shockingly, I have been posting to FB & Twitter more frequently. I guess if it’s not about full on creative writing, my mind is only good for short bursts these days.

Anyhow, I do have some updates– I’m going to NYC next week for no fewer than three events (plus my mother will be flying up to meet me for a couple of days, oy!). So, if you’re in the ‘hood and interested, I’d love to see you.

In order:

2011 Teen Author Carnival

Monday, May 23, 2011
Time: 4pm-7pm
Admission: FREE!

Mulberry Street Library
10 Jersey Street
(Between Lafayette & Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10012-3332

I’ll be on a panel called, Teenage Angst: Getting It Right – The Emotions, The Voice, The Drama and just check out the list of authors who are also part of the panel.

Seriously, y’all. I’m plotzing.

1. David Levithan
2. Susane Colasanti
3. Melissa Walker
4. Kody Keplinger
5. Hannah Moskowitz
6. Gayle Forman
7. Torrey Maldonado

On Thursday I’ll be at Book Expo America signing at the Romance Writers of America booth from 9:30-10:00 AM.

And then Friday I’m at the Backspace Conference presenting on a YA panel there.

Saturday I fly home, fall down, go boom.

Please come see meeeeee!


I haven’t been blogging as much lately. I don’t know– part of it is I just don’t have a lot to say. Okay, well, I have plenty to say, but a lot of it is very cynical and harsh and yanno, I just don’t need to fling open the doors of my personal Bitter Barn all that wide.

I will say, though, that I have been writing. New stuff. Different stuff.

I should be working on revising Between Here & Gone, since as Lovely Agent put it, “You wrote two different books.” She’s not wrong. But after three years of work on that sucker, I just can’t stand to look at it right now. Even though I know how I want to change things up. But it would be some massive changing and right now… I just can’t. I’d so wanted it to be the book, the one that finally breaks me into adult writing, and instead, it was just a massive pile of bat guano. At least the second half of it was.

And as long as that’s how I feel about it, probably best I not work on it, you feel me?

But what I have been working on is fun. And exciting. And I did mention different, right? Right.

One is a YA, one is an adult, both have paranormal elements and no, that wasn’t a conscious choice or that I’m trying to write to market or anything. It’s just what the lizard brain prodded me to work on. I think it probably figured I was sick to death of contemporary realistic, since it hasn’t exactly been doing me any favors lately and frankly, it felt tired, like I was sort of sleepwalking through the process, so it decided I needed something completely out of my usual comfort zone.

Boy howdy, is this out of my comfort zone. Both of them. Aside from the paranormal elements, there’s the fact that I’m writing both in third person POV. Don’t ask me why– it’s just what the story demanded. Mostly because there are multiple POVs that need to be explored and again, multiple first hasn’t exactly worked for me in the past. And I think rather than beat my head against the wall, trying to get the industry to bend to my will (again, because that’s worked so well in the past), I decided to just go with it. And I’m trying really hard not to feel as if I’m conceding the battle, which is stupid, but tell it to my competitive psyche.

See, what I’m telling my competitive psyche is: “Look, doofus, you began writing in first person because it suited your skill set at the time. Now you’re a better writer, you can take all that you’ve learned in first and translate it to third person POV and rock the hell out of it.”

It’s actually working. My third, if I do say so myself, is actually pretty strong. It still doesn’t come quite as naturally as first, but hello– I’ve been writing in first person POV for nearly ten years.

At any rate, I’m hoping that these really are working as well as I think they are because I’d love nothing more than to be able to share them. The adult in particular is wicked fun to write (and I’m creeping myself out monumentally with it).

Anyhow, that’s me. For now.

5-star review from San Francisco Book Review!

Easily one of my favorite reviews so far! As of right now, I’ve only seen it on amazon, but I’m hoping they add it to their website and even the print publication. If it does make it into the print publication, I’m going to be prevailing on some kind SF-ista to pick up a few copies for me!

I especially love the Carmen comparison line. It’s something that hasn’t been mentioned quite enough– maybe I was too subtle with it? But give that there’s a slew of Carmen books at the moment, I wouldn’t mind STARS getting a little more press from that standpoint.

Anyhow, the review:

5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting tale of talent, determination, and love, March 2, 2011

By San Francisco Book Review (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

This review is from: When the Stars Go Blue: A Novel (Paperback)

Soledad, a talented and strong-willed Miami teenager with a Cuban heritage, is about to graduate from a competitive high school for performing arts. She has a promising professional dance career in front of her, and while she is deciding on what to do after graduation, a male classmate makes her an offer she cannot resist.

Caridad Ferrer gives an honest and intense portrayal of the often mind-altering experience of first love, and she shows us how first love can make the most determined and dedicated young woman question herself. In //When the Stars Go Blue//, Ferrer invites us into the passionate world of professional dancing, a world where even the strongest dedication of talented dancers cannot always conquer the physical demands of the profession.

This is a riveting young adult novel that puts a new twist on the classical story of Carmen. It will keep you reading until the end, as it is full of suspense and unexpected surprises. The Spanish dialogue scattered throughout the novel gives it a very authentic feel of the multicultural life in South Florida, and it also gives the reader a peek into Soledad’s connection to the Cuban community.

Reviewed by J Rodney

Lil’ snippet o’ somethin’

Just came to me and I scribbled it down. It might be the beginning of a new project:

“Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on you.”
~Satchel Paige

New Orleans, Louisiana August 28, 2005

His entire life he’d heeded those words. His daddy’s mantra, borrowed from the great Satchel. “That’s as good advice as any given by a man, no matter what color his skin is.” So no, he’d never looked back. Always looked forward. Always forged ahead. But the joke was on him now. Because that thing that was gaining was coming from ahead, rushing headlong towards them with speed and fury and an unforgiving wrath that roared and howled at the injustice, but refused to let up, to divert its course. Oddly, he wasn’t frightened. No, if anything, he was hopeful. Hope. A simple word holding so much weight. There was hope it would all be swept away—the dirt and filth and lack of decency. Hope that the demons and monsters would be swallowed whole and erased—leaving nothing in their wake but perhaps the merest spun sugar dust sparkling in air washed clean and new. Evidence that once, they’d been good.

Despite appearances to the contrary, they’d been good.

Once upon a time.

It had all once been so very, very good.