HOPE IN THE MAIL, REFLECTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE (Penguin Random House, 2020) is more than a book title for Wendelin Van Draanen, bestselling author of more than 30 novels. “Hope in the mail” is also a mantra Wendelin and her husband created to encourage and inspire, over the course of the author’s journey into publishing. After each rejection, “You need to put hope in the mail,” was a reminder, meaning try, try again; send another query! And now, Wendelin’s 20 years of experience is shared in her first non-fiction book. Wendelin is also author of FLIPPED (which became a Warner Bros. feature film,) THE RUNNING DREAM, and WILD BIRD, as well as the Edgar-winning SAMMY KEYES mystery series (Knopf/Random House.) Watch for two new STEM-based picture books coming soon from this former teacher.
During the monthly meeting, Wendelin elaborated on:
1. Story Writing: What It Means to Be a Writer and More
– It means you write: commit to it; prioritize it; live and breathe your story.
– Dream big, work hard, and do not give up. Everybody has a book in them!
– Frame of mind: spend time with your story even as you multitask throughout the day; listen to the story in your head as you research/work.
– Find your reason to write: why do you want to get it on the page?
– Combine plotting your story with following “pigs” (creative/spontaneous ideas.)
– Teach yourself to be a finisher; tie all story threads to the theme.
2. Revising: Process and Silver Linings
– Process tips: At bedtime, reread pages written during the day and edit. Repeatedly, go back to the beginning to reread the story as a whole for revision, integration, and consistency. Why bedtime? Your brain will continue to process the story overnight. It also helps momentum to stop writing mid-sentence, or at an enticing spot; then, the next day you will know how to continue the story.
– Enjoy a romance with revision to become a better writer, fully understand your characters, and solidify your theme.
– Remember that editors are there to make a better book for you.
3. Peeking Behind the Publishing Curtain
– Agents are recommended (especially in today’s publishing world.)
– Be sure to interview agents for the right fit.
– Attend conferences to connect with agents and editors; write thank you notes.
– To help find appropriate agents/editors, read author-notes and social media on similar books to yours.
– Track submissions using spreadsheets.
– For career longevity: be grateful and kind; remember the people who helped you, and be sure to give back generously to the writing community.