This Podcast Needs a Title

The One with Hetal Avanee

April 27, 2021 Peter Malone Elliott & Erica Davis Season 1 Episode 1
This Podcast Needs a Title
The One with Hetal Avanee
Show Notes Transcript

In the first episode of This Podcast Needs a Title, Peter and Erica chat with author Hetal Avanee about her experiences with Pitch Wars, signing with a literary agent, writing for/with youths, and snacks. Come for the insights, stay for the love of spreadsheets.

Speaker 1:

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this podcast needs a title. I'm Erica Davis

Speaker 2:

And I'm Peter Malone Elliot . And this is real talk about writing publishing and everything in between Erica. How are you?

Speaker 1:

I'm doing well. I'm actually really giggly and excited and over excited because this is our first recording of our first episode with our first human guests .

Speaker 2:

It's a big deal. It's very exciting. She's

Speaker 1:

Looking at me in the waiting room right now. I can see her. I see you. Hello . I'm I'm doing well. Um, my sister and her family was here for the last week visiting us. We hadn't seen each other in 20 months because of the pandemic. Yeah, it was, it was really great. Hi everybody. I miss you guys shout out to the fam that out to the fam. And how about you? How are you doing?

Speaker 2:

I'm good. I'm good. I , uh, I'm , I'm hanging in, I submitted an application for a new apartment. I'm moving across country in the next month, month and a half. Wow . Get things. Things are going okay. I'm just plugging along. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Hey listeners, this is the section. This is the segment in our podcast where we will answer your questions about me or Peter or the podcast or pipeline. Uh, and there are none. So crickets sound effect here. Sure . Turn the weed .

Speaker 2:

W we , uh , correct me if I'm wrong because I don't know about the Tweenies because again, as we establish an episode zero, I'm an , I'm a grandpa on a rocking chair, looking out at the sunrise or sunset, whatever potato, potato , uh , we , we put out our, our expertise is expertise, sits side expertize on Twitter. And I want , I put a bunch of them, but the one I'm really looking for from you guys, I want someone who loves the hate watch the second season of true detective, as much as I do. I really want that. I really want like an hour and a half long episode dedicated to Colin Farrell and true detective season two. And the glowering the modicum of various glowering faces he makes. And that season, I just did some it's miraculous. It's good stuff. And I've got a mustache like him, you know? I mean, I'm just, I'm really, I'm Channing .

Speaker 1:

It's win-win yeah . I think we should do is launch bonus episodes on our birthdays. Like the Peter show. You can do whatever you want on the Erica show. I can do whatever I want. Yeah . But today, today it's the huddle show waiting for us to unmute her is huddle Avani. Who's not only a two-time pitch Wars , mentee, but she just signed with a literary agent. And she is one of my writing buddies, emotional support writing buddy. Always

Speaker 2:

Good to have already, buddy . It really is. And

Speaker 1:

You saved my life so many times huddle. Uh , Peter, why don't you do the honors of unmuting her? Here we go. Welcome. Hedo . Hi all. How are you doing? I'm nervous. I think I've already said that. Why are you nervous? I don't know. In my own head, I think I sound pretty like, I don't know, nails scratching on a chalkboard, but you know, I've , I've heard the opposite huddle .

Speaker 3:

It's so

Speaker 1:

Awesome to have you here. Thank you for letting us rope you into this. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for Allie . Absolutely. And um , we have a bunch of stuff we want to talk to you about. I can't wait to hear about your agent. I am so excited for you. Congratulations again. Thank you . Yeah, that's so cool. And um, we have a couple of questions from our Twitter friends for you, and we also have our own stuff that Peter and I just want to pick your brain about

Speaker 3:

What should we start with? Well , actually, if it's okay with you. Yeah . So we call ourselves the Queens of like the pitchforks Queens. I mean, whatever we are, w like you said, writing buddies, we are emotional support writing buddies. We spent like, if we're on a four hour zoom for sprinting, we probably spend three hours of that talking about each other's lives, one hour of it sprinting to actually get words on paper. But I was telling them how I'm nervous, excited for this. And , um, one of them said, Oh yeah, I saw that. What is the name of that podcast again? And I was like, it's called the podcast, needs a title. She , yeah , that's how it's gonna stay. So there you go. There's a question for the, both of you in this podcast. And I was like, you know , I don't know that they plan to change it. And she's like, I love it. So yeah , the titles here this day, people don't like it , as he said on the rocking chair.

Speaker 1:

Good question. When I was thinking about when I was falling asleep last night and , uh, I think it would have to be an amazing title for us to uproot it,

Speaker 3:

Circling back to huddle.

Speaker 1:

And you were just talking about your pitch Wars friends. Can you talk to us first about pitch Wars? What the heck? Not yet . Not so much. What is it, but also

Speaker 3:

What is it? So I've been writing for a very long time. And then I think it was, I can't remember the inception, the first class of pitch Wars, maybe it was like 2012. I think there, there a theme at that time was like painful. And so they had all these images drawn up like commission . I don't know somebody had free time and they were like pitch Wars , come in, like be agented by , um, I'm sorry, come and be mentored by an agent and author to help you , you know , understand the industry and get your manuscript into the right place and all that stuff. So was all that one year and the next then I decided, Oh, I want to do that next year. So I seriously wrote so hard so that I could try out for pitch Wars. And funny enough, even when I know that I have nothing and I don't even want to enter pitch Wars, I enter pitch Wars every frigging year, because I have FOMO, like when it comes to that, I'm like, but what is because I have trust issues. I don't do the whole, Hey, have some CPS or beta readers read your stuff. And so I don't do that. And I mean, I'm sure that is bad for me, and I'm sure I'll get over it someday, but now I'm not there yet. Not this day , not this day, but essentially a pitch. Then they have a dedicated site for like inter like submitting your manuscript to send , I think it's like the first 10 pages of your manuscript, a query letter, a synopsis.

Speaker 2:

It's not unlike an, a , like a submitting to a

Speaker 3:

Right. You're giving them your submission package. So it's honestly like good practice because , um, they will also, if you're accepted into the program, like they will work with you on all of those things as well to be like, well, you're pre letter worked in this way to catch my attention, but then went off on this tangent. So we bring it back in , um , that type of thing. So that's what happens. And so, like I said, I , I think, I think 2016. So I've like you said, I'm a two-time pitch Wars, mentee. Um, 2016, might've been the first year that I actually had something complete and polished enough that I felt like was good enough to be submitted to pitch Wars. And so I did, I did submit and I was surprisingly chosen. Um, I say surprisingly because it , hello, all of us and in the writing world know that new adult doesn't exist, unless it's like a version of 50 shades of gray. And so like, I was sorry, I wrote a new adult urban fantasy. And so like, that was obviously, I was like, I can break it. I can break into this John rhe , it's going to happen. Right. Like how many years later? It's still not a thing too much of our like, sadness, like too many of us. But , um, yeah, so I entered with that and then we did an overhaul on it. We were going to change it to a paranormal romance. And, you know, I had two mentors at the time. One of them who concentrated on like the line editing bit, one of them on the that's. So cool.

Speaker 2:

So , so huddle I'm , I'm curious. So first off, congratulations on signing with this new agent was the, was the pitch Wars process part of signing with this agent? And if so, how did that influence the process?

Speaker 3:

It actually did. So , um, I ended up signing with Tara Gonzales from Erin Murphy, literary agency, and , um, just her enthusiasm for that, for the middle-grade manuscript that I wrote. And to be fair, this was my first. And so like, I got into pitch Wars with it and I was like, what? Okay, cool. I did something right. And Tara, she had just so much enthusiasm for it. And she was like, I totally connect with these characters. I love the relationships. I love the setting. Basically. I'm going to punch type into my keyboard and hope the keys don't fall off and all that fun stuff . Her enthusiasm for it is the reason that I wrote the story. And so yes, pitch Wars. She definitely requested during Pitchfork, wait, did she request or any pitch Wars now? I can't remember if there's two requests now I'm going to go back to my spreadsheet. Cause I'm a spreadsheet junkie and I have not . That's really good. Know your spreadsheet

Speaker 1:

Junkie for querying, is that right?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Oh, for everything. Everything . Yeah . So I plot on spreadsheets. I honestly track my queries on spreadsheets . Nice. Yes. I do have subscriptions to query tracker and you know , all these other things, but I still am old school. And because I work in it, I do spreadsheets all day every day and I can't like get away from them. So , Oh my gosh. And I have all these formulas, like how many days have passed? When do they think that when should I receive a response? Should I nudge? It's ridiculous. My spreadsheets are Riddick . She did request during the showcase because I thought, like I said, spreadsheet junkie. I have it written here on two 16. She confirmed that she received it. That's amazing. I was wearing pants and a shirt. It was green with lemons done.

Speaker 1:

Great segue, Erica. You're welcome, Erica. This is leads into one of the questions I actually had to you. I had for you huddle about your agent, what was the deciding factor in picking and going with Aaron Murphy , literary agents ?

Speaker 3:

Um, so because I am a French spreadsheet junkie, I have this, I have this tab on my spreadsheet that says top mg agencies , top mg , sellers, and Erin Murphy is up there as one of , and they are, they're huge in the kid lit world. Right. And so, because I want to live in mg for a while and I really want to immerse myself , um , in this phase of life because this is where my kids are at and I want to be able to write for them. In fact, like that's a whole nother thing about why I wrote the story I wrote,

Speaker 1:

Which we will circle back to in a few minutes. That's a question from one of our Twitter followers.

Speaker 3:

Um, no, that's fine. Um, but like, just because Erin Murphy has so many, like they've been in the kid lit world, that's her concentration, right? Um, yes, there are some, there was a time in my life where I was writing adult and obviously stuff. And then I, I ventured into why a , um , but I guess I just never really got that voice. Right. Because the number of rejections I have kind of tell me, I didn't really get it. Right. Right. But I mean, over the years, I've just kind of, I had so much fun writing this story that I knew I wanted to live here for awhile . And so like that ultimately helped me make my decision. I was like, okay, for the long run for where I see my career going right now, how I want it to go, this would be the right fit

Speaker 1:

As of this moment. How long have you been agented now?

Speaker 3:

When did I accept ? Was it three 11? No, it wasn't three 11. It was four 11. So it's been like almost two weeks. That's awesome. Well then

Speaker 1:

Let's circle back to them . One of the first questions we had from our Twitter friends, someone wants to know what is your incentive ?

Speaker 3:

So the , so here's the funny thing is I was in the doldrums. I didn't know. I wanted to do, I know I wanted to write something, especially for my daughter. And I had this weird dream one night and honestly it was such an odd dream. I don't have dreams like this and I definitely don't wake up and go, like, I need to write this story. That doesn't happen to me. Right . But in this case, I really wanted to write this story. So essentially it's a modern day bakery. My , um , I don't even know if I'm in the dream at all, but I could see my kids standing at the counter. Right. You know, they're , they're there to order their cupcakes and cookies or whatever. What was interesting to me is that even though from the out , like there was a line out the door, it was really crowded. Obviously this is pre pandemic. Right. And they're standing there and they're whispering to each other and they're watching the Baker, like just spit around in her pretty dress behind the counter, like a lobby dog . Like this is a Disney, like you think snow white is singing at them. Like, isn't this lovely look at all my treats, but no, my kids are whispering to each other because they're like, she's not right. She's like an evil witch or something. And it was truly like this moment, like I had this hot Hansel and Gretel moment where I was like, they see her as the wicked witch. Who's trying to devour something from them, their souls, their spirit , I don't know . And so I woke up and I was like, I asked my daughter that day. I'm like, if I had to write a story about you, what kind of story would you want? And she was like magical. And I'm like, great, because I need to get her away from the Harry Potter stuff right now. So I have yet to, I have yet to address the turf stuff with her. I'm letting her live in that magical world for now. Right. But I want her to have an alternative and that's why I wanted to write this for her. And so she's like, I want it to be magical. I want it to be at a magic school, you know? And yeah. I already know I have my magic. I just want to be able to use it already. And I was like, I think I can get you two out of three of those.

Speaker 4:

How old is your daughter now?

Speaker 3:

She is 12 going on 16. She's brand new that's honestly . So that's the inspiration for the story that got you, your agent. Yes, absolutely. And so it is that like, if you know the title of it, Annika Patel and the Beasley bakery, it is truly like, based on that. And , but once you start writing, you know, how an idea takes hold and just goes its own way. That's kind of what happened. What happened? How did it change? I swear, a writer's job is to spend like two weeks doing research. They're just going to throw away later. Anyway. Um, so my nine year old , I asked him one day, I said, do you want me to write you a story? And he was like, sure. And I said, okay, well, if you could have any superpower , what would it be? It was like, I want to control time. Like obviously I'm like, okay, I'm glad he didn't say and visibility. Cause then, you know, hello, where do you have an idea for his story? Then I have an idea and I actually did pitch it to Tara. And she was like, this sounds so sweet. And I really want to get a story out there for your son too , because she knows that I wrote the story on eco Patel for my daughter. And so like, yeah. So there's that too. What does your daughter think about you now having an agent? Because of the story about her? Her first question was okay. So when do I get my book?

Speaker 2:

My mom hurry up. Jeez .

Speaker 3:

I was like, that'll be like two or three years from now. If I'm lucky, she's like, are you kidding me? And I was like, publishing is very slow. I love you. Like, I'm sorry , because although this story is about her, I have yet let her read it because I wanted to make sure that it's perfect. Right. And already it's not her idea of perfect because it's, you know, it's, it's , it's not set in a magic school, but the second one would be if I can write this as a series and it is that in India, which she was like, I did not ask for that. And I was like, those are interesting.

Speaker 2:

Well , my daughter is really, really funny .

Speaker 3:

No, my kids it's my own fault. I made them sassy. I'm sass love that I would never have before my kids started talking back at me. How, describe myself as sassy, but a truly see my influence on them and I'm okay with it because I'm like, okay, I taught you. Well, you can speak up. That's so great.

Speaker 2:

So have you, have you seen since you've signed with Tara , has the, are you doing revisions with her or are you preparing to send it out without going into too many details? Obviously you kind of stand right now.

Speaker 3:

So she sent me the edit letter. Oh God. Was that a week ago. And so I immediately went to my spreadsheet and I was like, okay, here are the days I'm going to do spend editing. Here are her notes. I'm not kidding. I'm a spreadsheet junkie. I took her notes and align them in my spreadsheet to the scenes that she specifically called out. Um, so Tara sent me large big picture notes, kind of the same way that I had gotten the notes from Gail Villenueva from my pitch Wars mentorship. And I kind of connect with this way because it's not so much, she's saying you need to change this specific aspect because it's not working. It's more like, well, what do you think about this? Or can we make this deeper or can we make this lighter? Exactly. It's collaborative. And you know, there are these questions that make you think, and that's exactly what happened with Gail . She would just give me, she gave me like, I think it was a 21 page edit letter and a lot of it was just like questions. Right? And so the , because of the way that she had approached the editing with this LA my last round of pitch Wars here , um, I honestly added 50% to the story. Wow. And I cut out some unnecessary, like subplots that didn't do anything for it, but that I, you know how they say, like, you need to take a step back and like really think of it. Yeah. I wasn't doing that. So she did that for me and I was like, you really need this. And so I had no problem cutting out those babies. Like I think I cut like six sub characters. I was like , they're , aren't necessary. Yeah . It's so hard to do that for yourself. So it's awesome to have that collaborative partnership,

Speaker 2:

A pair of fresh eyes is the most important thing when revising, I find,

Speaker 3:

Yeah . Actually this leads into a really good question we had from another , uh, follower on Twitter. Um, they wrote, I'd love to know about your writing process, especially, and this is what I like. Anything you consider a quirk or unique to you. Such a good question. I think that, okay. Obviously the spreadsheet thing, I can't do anything without my spreadsheet. So I many years ago found the seven, the story structure by Larry Brooks. And I honestly follow, I can't do anything without trying to plot out my story with his story structure. There is a website that has like all of these different types of spreadsheets. Hello, my love with like save the cat, beat sheets, the Larry, the story structure, beat sheet, a romance beat sheet. And honestly there's like just all of these beat sheets. And so , um, I've honestly taken versions of all of them and splice them together and something that works for me. That's awesome. And I just high level try to write out those plot points because if I can at least make sure I'm getting the inciting incident, the midpoint , the climax, that stuff. Right. I feel like the rest of it, I don't structure the rest of the story. I kind of just make sure I'm hitting the beats at the point that I'm supposed to hit the beats and I kind of let everything else flow. So I know that not a lot of people, either pants or plot, I'm kind of in between, I'm a hybrid. Yeah . And I also am quirky in the way that if there's a new writing software out there, I'm probably going to be the first person to try it. No , I was just, I was just like two days ago. Cause I love my beat sheets and I'm like, okay, I need to figure this out. There's another app out there that was , um, it's another cloud app , um, that I was able to download. And I was like, okay, let's figure this out. So talk about beat sheets like this, this app has like 13 variations, like what kind of beat sheet you would want. So , um, I'm just in the 30 day trial. I'm not sure I'm going to use it, but we will see

Speaker 2:

Kind of ties in actually perfectly to another Twitter question. We had huddle. Uh, this question comes from one of our followers. Uh, they ask , I always want to know more about how mothers find time to write and how they handle the mom guilt that comes with ignoring the kids to write , asking for a friend Winky face.

Speaker 3:

I like that you knew to say Winky face, you all hit Peter. Don't let Erica tell you different just yeah. So mom, guilt totally is a thing. And I think when my kids were younger and they didn't understand my, they took offense to my goal way. I need my own time. Like that really like hit me. But , um, when they were younger, honestly, I didn't write as much. I didn't have as much writing time as I do now. Luckily , um, now, because they were both in school during the day at the moment, you know, I can write during that time in between meetings, I honestly take as much. And I learned during this whole like writing for Wars , I need to take every opportunity that I have to write and just write. And so like if I had 30 minutes, at least between meetings at work, I would honestly spend that writing or editing if I didn't have something to follow up on for work. Like obviously I'm balancing the day job and the writing. But , um, so I was able to do that when they were younger. I'll be honest. It was, there was less writing. It was less structured. I should say. I can't even remember the number of manuscripts I've trunked from that period of when they were babies to like basically teenagers at this point at 12 and nine. Like, I can't even tell you, but I would say that , um, I started this whole, I thought about this whole writing journey back in like 2007, 2008. And so I've been writing off a nonsense and yes, mom, guilt is a thing, but at the same time, it's especially in the last year, it's about self-care . This is part of my self-care right. I need to have this time to myself or I'm not going to be a good parent. And so that's how I kind of offset the whole mom guilt thing with taking this time for myself. Like there are times when my kids don't even want me, right. They want to be in front of their computers. They want to be in front of their computers. They won't be playing with my phone. Okay, cool. Take it like, go like go for an hour. That's an hour I can spend for myself when they're younger. Obviously it was like nap times, or I was very lucky because my parents, when my daughter was tiny, there were times where I could send my daughter to my parents' house for like a week at a time because she was their first granddaughter and they loved her and they didn't mind it. Right. And so like, they would take my kid for a week, a week, a month. Right. And so like that was time I could spend for myself as well. But I think in the end, what it comes down to is, and if it's not writing, if it's like yoga or if it's just like sitting there and vegging on the couch and watching TV, the self-care thing, it's obvious. It's always that. And mom guilt gets in the way of that. And it could be dad guilt too. Like if that's what you're doing as well, you just have to find that time for yourself. You have to make the time for yourself.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's awesome advice. Especially if you want writing to be a career, you know what I mean? That's such an integral part of the process. You have to find it. Yeah. And that kind of perfectly actually leads into another question that we had, obviously, a big thing that we like to focus on here is, is most writers balance writing in a day job, right? There are a select few that write full-time and we all hope to get there, but most of us are balancing. How can you speak a little bit to how you balance the two and the difficulties that you had in developing this manuscript that got you signed?

Speaker 3:

Sure. So , um, so my day job, I work in it, but no, I do not develop code because my, my degree is in English literature. Y'all yeah, I am . But I'm a systems analyst. So how did that work out? Evidently, apparently so actually my husband was in it. He was a developer and he was like, we need more people who can speak tech and business at the same time, like to the layman and you would fit that gap. And so who knew my husband got something. Right. And so as I've been telling him this for years, it's fine.

Speaker 5:

Okay .

Speaker 3:

That's great. But for 14 years, like I've just, I've basically become, I've been a systems analyst and um , more recently becoming like a product owner, which is the new, new , uh, agile, new age, agile term for basically an analyst or somebody who owns an app. Right. So , um, but finding that balance between the work and the joy is all, I think it's going to be difficult for everybody, but there, like I said, after school, when the kids are playing computer for an hour, I'm going to sit down and write for an hour. And I just thought actually what it comes down. One of my other little quirks that I have to have in order to be able to write a single word is I don't do soundtracks, but I do have to find the right mood music. Nice. I'm really good at tuning out the words of the music I'm hearing, but I need the beat and the like, I need the tempo in the background to help me get in the mood. So, wow. I was gonna say with the edits , uh , when I first wrote anicca Patel , um, uh, I'm going to refer to it as APB Patel on the Beasley bakery. APB

Speaker 5:

Is such a good title.

Speaker 3:

So I loved the original. We can go back to that in a minute. But when I was writing APB , I was looking for tracks that like exuded that whole I'm 12 going on hood because at the time that I wrote her , um, she was 12, right. And during pitch Wars, we aged her down. But at the time, right, so you're 12 going on, teenage hood . And so there was a lot of like, Amazon has these stations. There was one called Burl squad. That's what I played on. Repeat the entire time I was writing when I was revising, because we aged her down. I was honestly, and I know this, I know it means nothing, but I was looking at the black pink station, but because they just had the look and the feel and the beat that I wanted. And so like , it just kept me motivated. So , um, it's funny, you know, some people, I wish I was one of those people who was like, Oh, I had to use this , uh , cereal . Like, I don't know, pocket. I had to put back in the background or I work in silence so that I can hear the voices in my head. No , I need to find the right music to actually like write a single word. And that's one of them you've already actually touched on this, but we had , uh , a final question from our Twitter friends. What's something you haven't written yet, but would in the future. Okay. So APB was originally supposed to be written out of magic school. And so I had that, those elements in it in the first round, before it went through revision, and that was one of the things that was like, it's on the periphery. We don't spend time at the magic school. You can keep referring to it. But do we really need to have these moments where she's embedded in the school with these, like people, like I said, I had no problem with cutting them out because like, when I thought about those notes, those were from , um, from Gail through pitch Wars. Right? My thought about them, like, yeah, you're right. Like they're not adding to it. Like they add some atmosphere, but they weren't necessary to the plot of the story as a whole. And so like, it was easy to cut them out. But in that , if this becomes a series, which I hope touch wood , right . If I can get it in a series, the next book or books hopefully will be set at the magic school because I feel like that's core to what the rest of the, the overarching plot kind of entails. It has to do with the way the magic works in the world that I created. So there's that for , for my son, I wanted to write, it was actually, I don't even know if it's anti villain or anti-hero . I was going to write him as he has the super power to control time, but his parents are soup . I'm pointing at myself. Y'all can confirm her. His parents are super villains. We're using him for bad and he does not want to do that. Right. And so it was going to be this whole thing. And so that I haven't even plotted out yet, but he's now saying, so where's my book. Oh my God, my kids, Oh God, you can get that from me. I think. Yeah. In an ideal world, you want this to be a series of how many, how many books do you see this going in an ideal world in a perfect scenario. So I wrote this with, like I said, it started off as this dream about Hansel and Gretel. And I went off on a tangent. So what ended up being is you've heard of the seven sins. Hinduism has something similar that's six. And so in the first book we've met two of them. And so ideally this would be five books so that we can meet one in each, however, who knows if I'm going to do well, or if I'm going to do it all. And so like, if I have to condense it to like two or three, I could do that as well. Like introduced to every time. That's another thing . But ideally, but the other day I did actually create titles for the other books because , Oh my God, that's awesome. I'm just, you know, what's the word manifesting. Put it out there, man. So there's that, that's awesome. The second half of that last question was also what characters from any medium books, TV, video games, movies, or comics, would your characters like to meet or hang out with, or have tea with? Oh my, well again, because I wrote this with both my daughter and my son in mind, and there's very much us in this book, which is like, Oh, thank you, Tara, for, for liking me and my kids, because this is my family, but with magic. So that's great. Um, I know that my daughter would love to meet like Hermione Granger. Like that would be her ideal or Luna. She actually loves Luna. Yeah, my son, I don't, that's a good question. Well, he's only, he's a supporting character in this book, so that's okay. We don't have to figure it out . We'll address that on the anniversary episode of this podcast of this right . Where he would have heard it by then. And he'll be like, mom, what? The age? You better not. Cause they'll only be 10.

Speaker 2:

So I have a question for you. Um , looking, taking a step back and looking at this whole, getting an agent process. Is there something that you wish you would have known going into it that you could share with people that are looking to get an agent?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Um, So obviously, so just as a bit of the background, like I said, I've been writing on and off for 13 years. I actually have stats for this and I wanted to bring them up. I, this doesn't even count the stories that I wrote before I started traditionally querying because there was a point in time where I was like, I'm just going to write for Ihara collagen . So here's a bunch of romances. Nope. They died. So like that was a phase of my life where I did not track any of those. And obviously it didn't go anywhere. But for the five stories that I've written and traditionally queried I've accumulate , I've sent out at least 200 queries. I've gotten over 150 rejections. Wow . And I've only gotten two offers. Okay, too . Yeah . And so if there was something I could tell myself, five years ago, it would be, this is a marathon. Do not think that it's going to happen instantly because everything in publishing takes time. That first full request doesn't mean instantly you're going to have an agent. I mean, I got requests for additional pages. When I look at my stats, at least a hundred times, I was asked for additional pages, awesome query. Right. That meant nothing right. To two offers off of a hundred of those right. Accumulated over a five-year six-year five-year period. So if there was anything I could tell younger me, it would be just breathe and don't punish yourself for not writing because there was a point in time where I couldn't write, I couldn't write for a full year. Yeah. So yeah. I think two things, I think it's really, really important for me. Who's going to be querying soon to hear that, to be reminded of those numbers. I interned at a literary agency and I saw those numbers firsthand, but I have yet to actually go back with the knowledge that I know now apply that like it's not personal, it's a marathon. It doesn't happen quick for everybody or anybody hit that nail on the head. Yeah. Have you ever wanted to stop writing? Yeah. So like I said, I did take all of 2019 off. I think I actually did query thumb a query, a different story in 2018 and then 2019, I just couldn't do anything else. Like I was just tired. I was so tired and I was, I was tired of the rejections. I was tired of thinking it wasn't wasn't going to happen. Right . I was tired of just putting it out there and not getting anything back it's over the years I've become introverted. And it really takes a lot of my, it takes my energy to put it out there and I didn't think I had anything to spare. And so honestly, 2019 was just me taking a break from it all. And I didn't know if I would come back to it. And then I had that dream in early 20, 20, and I wrote that for my daughter in like mid 20, 20, right before pitch Wars. Before that window opened, I spent about two months writing it and three months, like another additional like three, four weeks polishing it , getting it ready for pitch Wars. But that was like in 2020 when I wrote this story, that is when I started writing again. And when I look back on it, I needed that year to myself. I had to take that break and just let things sit for awhile . Um, because obviously something was, I felt like I was broken. Like, and I don't think that anybody should punish themselves for that. I used to be of the adage right . Every day you must write a word every day, right? Oh, that sounds exhausting. It is exhausting. And you know, what's funny is that even though during pitch Wars, you had three months to do your edits and I tracked every day. I'm not kidding on a spreadsheet, girl, dude, you have no idea. I had red, yellow, green, like, did I write really well today? Did I not write really well today? Do I not write it all out ? I'm not even kidding. What was the deciding factor between green and yellow? What

Speaker 6:

Was it? Was it word kills ? The number

Speaker 3:

Of words it was word count. Wow. That's harsh. Yeah . Okay. No, it is. But you know what? This time around with pitch Wars, I was okay with it because I was like, okay, this is like a writing deadline. I would have to work on. Like, that's the thing. Like I think originally when, when P back in 2016, when I was in pitch Wars, yeah. You only had a month to turn it around, but that might be very true to how quickly publishing wants you to turn around your edits because you will go through multiple rounds of it. Right. Supposedly I don't know. I'm not there yet . I haven't gone on stop yet. Right? Yeah. So I think at that time, I wasn't ready for that pace. However, this time around, I set my deadline and I hit my deadline because of that. And I was okay with it. And, you know, even though I only gave myself four weeks to , to edit during this last round of pitch Wars, there were, there were like three or four days and it's on my spreadsheet where I did not write at all. And I was okay with it. I was like, Nope. You to let that percolate for a bit. I'm stuck. I need to figure out how to get past that hump. And I'm okay with that. What's funny is I try to do symbols. And I was like, dang Wingdings . But none of the symbols worked for me. And I was like, you know what? I need to do this for myself. And it was like, here's a check Mark. And like, I tried to do like combination of check Mark and the do not enter and all that stuff. And I was like, this , this works. Like, I don't mind color coding. I like color coding. So that helped me.

Speaker 2:

I'm curious. So as someone who's written across age groups, adult WIA , and middle grade , do you find that your process changes as you go from age group to age group? And do you have a preference in terms of outlining your spreadsheets, et cetera, et cetera.

Speaker 3:

So I wouldn't say that my process changes, but the content definitely changes. I'm still on the spreadsheet. I'm still trying to hit the right beats. But now, like, especially when you're an adult and Yia , it's like expected to have a romance subplot . And honestly, that's the thing. I find the hardest to try to fit into my spreadsheets. And so that's, those are the points where I trip up and I'm like, am I doing this right? I don't know if I'm doing it right. Because if, if the wrong for me, the romance is never the primary plot. It's always a subplot , right? For me, the fantasy, this external factor is the larger plot. But I think in an adult Nya, that's like it's to be expected that there's going to be a romance, romance, romance somewhere. Right. It could be like a horror. And actually, I don't know. I don't read why a horror anymore. I mean, the Christopher Pikes back in the day, I don't think they don't count so much. One 800 wrong number. Sorry, what was it ? I don't even remember them forever . I know which one you're talking about though. Like , can you imagine that in the cell phone number , I just wouldn't pick up. It'd be a two-page .

Speaker 2:

I definitely know who Christopher pike is.

Speaker 3:

Oh my God . Um , huddled , this is we're gonna , we're going to slow things down for couples and slow skaters only. Now, what do you eat while you're writing?

Speaker 2:

This is the most important question of the podcast.

Speaker 3:

So it is what do you eat? What are your writing snacks? You know, it's funny is that one thing gets into my, can you have some, I don't think you want it. Cause when I get in the rhythm, I don't want my fingers off the keyboard and I need that. I need the words to just get out of my head. Maybe that's why I never finished books. Cause I'm all in between . This is life-changing . I need a minute here. Hold on.

Speaker 2:

For our listeners, Erica just took off her headphones in it's just a mess. Wow.

Speaker 3:

She is . She's pounding her head against her desk. Like hell no wonder. Never published anything.

Speaker 1:

Jesus.

Speaker 3:

I mean, when I'm like in the process of actually plotting though, and like thinking about the story and getting the aesthetics, because hello, I'm like I need the visuals. And so I'm going to go on to Pinterest and make a board for each of my stories. Maybe that's a quirk , but I have to have the board to be under to be able to have those visual clues that I want to embed in the story. So that's big on me too . Oh, wow. Um , I will always have my sparkling water next to me though. I can't drink flat water anymore . You really? I like when this pandemic started to stop, I will. However , say like I said, I do have a sweet tooth and I will have Fords of candy around me that my kids do not know about. Oh . Or I hide or if they know about the cannot find because I need buy candy. And so like anything with caramel , like a Twix bar or Carmelo or I don't even know, like whatever, I'm all over that actually I think in the, I think I have hidden away snack cakes right now. Pretty sure I have like little Debbie snack cakes right now. However, I only , I only eat that in between, like when I've actually gotten some words out of my head that goes along with the music because I'm following the music and the tempo that I don't want that to stop. And I , and that helps fuel me. And so I just get going.

Speaker 1:

So when you say you don't like your hands to disconnect from the keyboard, you mean that like you're , you're because you're in there with the time in the zone you're in. Oh, you're in the zone. I don't know .

Speaker 3:

Yeah . I'm here . I don't even think about it honestly. Like I can come, I can come out of a writing few, like an hour later hour, two hours later and be like, Oh, it's way past lunchtime. I should probably have eaten something like four hours ago. That happens to me all the time. Interesting. I mean, I love my food. I do. And when I get up, it's like, okay, it all goes in my mouth. But at the time that I'm writing, like if I'm going to dedicate that time to writing, especially as a working mom, because my time is so like I only get these pockets. I definitely just want that to be the thing. What you need to do, Erica is get your Furbies on a schedule and be like, mama needs to write right now, leave me alone for an hour. No, no crying at the door. So I write like diaspora , the se fantasies. And so what that is, is because I grew up in the , I was born and raised in the U S to immigrant parents. And so my mom and my dad still had old school Indian values that they try to impart on little Western born and raised me who was like, no, thank you, mom. I don't want to do that. Right. That type of thing. Like there was this one time I told my mom, I am not Indian. I'm American. You need to get G get off my back about that. And trust me, I hate that. I hate that. I did that as a kid, as a kid. I can't imagine the pain I inflicted on her. I'm sure when I said those words, luckily she's forgiven me because she lives across the street from me. So like , obviously she loves me. We've gotten past that, but for me, everything is going to be, my niche is , I mean, what I want to write from now on is this, he dies for a fantasies, right? Um, just stuff that's stuck in the real world because urban fantasy is my first love. And I want it to be in the real world with fantastical elements, because I feel like that's what my kids are reading right now. And to be fair, they are the audience that I'm looking for. And so I definitely want to go that way, but there's this one in particular that has to do with ancient artifacts, right. That Tara is very excited for me to write and I can't wait to get to, but we have to get, at least these, we get APB done and maybe the second one done. And then I can like concentrate on that on the other one, that one will be Yia . So the way that I envisioned it, I would be dipping my toes back into Yia . Um , so we'll see if that whole remember that whole, I can't fit romance into a story. I don't know how to do it, or if I'm doing it right, right . See if I do that. Right. I don't know . Or if I have to that just made me think of another question for you. I want to know. Then you've got all these projects. You have like nothing but awesome ideas coming down the pipe and you have this project you're working on now and you have a day job in human children to keep alive. What portion of your week is , um, non-writing stuff and what Paul is writing? Well, if we're going to go in one day, like I need like 18 hours of sleep. I love my naps though. I have some nice , um, in , uh , so day to day , I could probably carve out two to three hours of writing time. And whether that , um, while the kids are at school, more likely it's after they come home and they're glued to their computers, thank God they have their own, their own computers at this time, which by the way, eight year old daughter was like, did you have a laptop like this when you were growing up? And I laughed and I laughed. I'm like, Oh baby. Like during there , we have structured hours for our kids screen time. And so like, they know when they're going to be on the screen. And that means, I know when I can actually get up here and sit down and be on the computer. And it might only like on a good day, it'll be like three hours on a, not so good day. It might only be a half hour because of the cooking and, you know , keeping the humans alive and keeping the cat fed. Because apparently I'm just saying, I'm just saying, we're worried about the cat than I am. The humans , the humans know where to get the food. The cat cannot get his own suit. Okay . Right. And the kids, this is true. Well, the kids are in charge of the cat and they don't do it. So sometimes it falls on mom and I'm like, are you kidding me?

Speaker 2:

Uh , but, but going back to something that you said before, so you said that most of the work that you want to do in the future, you want to have the , uh , an Indian focus, right. As, as you said, as someone that was born and raised in the U S to immigrant parents and someone who, as a child kind of bucked at your culture, what, what prompted the switch to want to focus on that in your writing?

Speaker 3:

So it honestly comes back to my kids. So I think I'm doing a disservice to my kids. So, because I've been born and raised here because I learned good jockey , which is the language that I speak with my parents. Like, you know, here in the States, I have an accent when I talk in it, by the way, like a nice , like true this he's no. And they're like, seriously. And I'm like, whatever, at least I understand you, very good. My kids speak even less than me. And they have no connection to our culture. So here's like, I, I think I also did a disservice to representing how I grew up. So even though we grew up in the States, we grew up in, I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and there was a huge Indian population in and around Dayton. So there were actually like lots of Indian functions, like for the holidays and stuff. And we loved my sisters and I loved dressing up to them, going to those functions. Like just the atmosphere you get from a group of Brown people like stuck in a, in a high school, gym, dancing in circles around like an altar in the middle of , so every autumn there's this , um, festival called Nova three. So like, if we're in India, this would be nine nights of like dancing and dresses and food and everything. And here in the States, we had two weekends of it. Like we would do one Saturday, Friday, Saturday, we'd do another Friday, Saturday. And we love those. And so, but my kids have no appreciation for that. Um , my kids have no appreciation for going to India. They have no context for it and that's on us because my husband and I have not taken them back since they were each three. Each of them was three. They went to India for like three, four months with the grandparents. Right . But they don't remember much of it and they have no appreciation for it. And maybe as a kid, I didn't either, but I feel like they need to have that opportunity to make that decision for themselves. They need to at least form an opinion at first. Yes. It's different. Yes. It's loud and it's a little dirty and it's like, why are these people yelling at me? And they're not really yelling. This is just the way we talk when we're all around other Brown people, we're just very loud. Right. That type of stuff. But they don't have that context even here in Columbus, Ohio. So I'm in, I'm in central Ohio and yes, there's a huge busy population in central Ohio, but because of their aversion to the crowds and all of that stuff, honestly, I haven't pushed it on them. And I'm not saying my parents pushed it on us. We enjoyed it, my sisters and I, but they don't. And so I do not push it on them because I feel like in this day and age, it's not about that. However, am I doing them a disservice so better to answer your question in a very roundabout way. It's because I want it to be this easy fantasy focused because I feel like I'm doing them, my kids, a disservice by not introducing them enough of it to them, you know? And so if it's only through the books and through the impressions that I had growing up, at least they have some context because it's true to what I experienced. It might not be the same thing that, you know, another kid whose parents are better at taking them to India, keeping them embedded in the culture and stuff is, but this is their experience. And I want them to have a piece of it. And honestly, the book I touch on that because yes, as a kid, I was like, Oh , why do we have to get in this rickshaw with six other people?

Speaker 7:

Because that's what you do. There's a seatbelt in a rickshaw, like the size of a bug. Like, are you kidding? Then you sit on laps and you hold on for dear life and that's what's happening . But I want them to read that. And you know ,

Speaker 3:

When they're older, I want them to form their own opinions because I love going to India now, but I'm an adult and I have more freedom. Have you read any books that you do see your own representation? And you know, it's funny is that before we all became woke and you know, started recognizing how , um, people appropriate other, other cultures for their own fodder, I didn't have a problem with a poo in the Simpsons to tell you the truth. I was like, Oh, look in Indian , who owns the quickie Mart? Well, my parents own a motel. I grew up in a motel. Most of the other Indians I, that we interacted with in Dayton owned motels or convenience stores or gas stations. So that was on true to what I was dealing with back then. But nowadays, now that we, as the first gen of that age are older , um, both of my kids' parents work in it, my husband and I work in it like that . That is not a concept they understand. So back in the day, I probably should have taken more offense, but it wasn't as loud then as it is now, luckily nowadays there are this, the authors, you know, Saya , Anthony Ghouta and Roshni Choksi and you know, there's so many other, you know, picture book authors. I don't actually know the names of, because my kids are beyond the picture book age, so I haven't actually read them. I know, but, but I will be, I will be honest when I see there are still appropriation, there was actually , um, a huge, there was like a three book preempt romance deal to a white author who married an Indian who thought she could write the books from the point of view of the Indian. And they heard

Speaker 7:

About this, actually it was probably from me because

Speaker 3:

I, like, I blew up. I was so angry for days about this. And I feel like for any culture, that's appropriated, I feel the same burn. It shouldn't have been approved of back then. Right. But it definitely in this day and age now with social media and with people speaking up and out and against all of that, like it truly needs to be heard. And so nowadays, yes, there are some current authors I would never promote because they're doing that cultural appropriation thing. Marrying an Indian does not make you the authority to write from an Indian point of view. You're still writing from a different lens than an Indian. So write from your lens, like write your own. So my, my sister has two very young kids. They're like two and one, not even one yet. They're, they're, they're tiny. I love them. I love those tiny humans. And she's big on trying to get them engaged in the culture early. Good for her because I didn't do that. Right . But she has all these books, you know, like about Indian holidays. And she wants, when the Indian holidays come up, we just did a Holy thing, which is like throw colored powder at each other. We just did that at my mom's house. Like, you know , a couple of weeks ago when it was Holy . Um, but there was one book. She, she had left at my mom's house and it just burned me. Cause I was like, this woman is white. Why is she talking about Devale ? Like, I don't care that it's a picture book. I don't care that it was published in there's probably 2018, 2018 is near enough that this shouldn't have happened. Yeah . You know, I , I just, I hate it for us because that's an opportunity that we have lost to re we and other POC has lost to write that same book because somebody else has taken it. But also I hate it because maybe it was easier to give it to someone who's not POC because they knew how to water it down. It's kind of like when you go to an Indian restaurant, like, I honestly, there's some Indian restaurants we love around here, but when my husband orders, he's like, I need it spicy up to level 13, like nice things. Are there water down there, there , the flavors are muted and they're , it's honestly different than what you would get in India. Right? Like what you grew up with and it's that same thing. So now Mo more of this, these need to speak up and we need to be able to tell our stories. That's really what it comes down to. What did you do when you found out you were given an offer of representation? Yeah . That's a good question. First offer the email. Wasn't clear to me whether or not it was an offer. And I actually had to call if I had to phone a friend and then I switched from phone to FaceTime and I was like, is this what I think it is? And I'm holding my phone up to the computer screen, like a loop , like forwarding the email to her. And I'm like, is this what I think it is? And she's like, yeah, I think so. I was like, did I just level up? And so like that. So I freaked out. And then the day that I had the first call , um, I cried, I cried during the call, like at the five minute Mark that , um, but it was like, it was just like, it just felt validating for once. Right. It felt, I finally felt validated that somebody wanted to read this type of story from someone like me and it just made me feel good. And then , um, when I got the second offer email, which was from Tara , um, I was honestly like, my cousin was over here, him and my husband were probably talking sports and I was doing out on the couch or whatever. And my , my phone has that DV for the emails to that one special. Oh yeah. Cannot recommend enough. Have a separate author, email account for yourself so that you don't get, you don't get confused by your dings , like between your regular email and your author email. That's amazing. And do you know how many times I Googled, I need to change this out of my Gmail and it , there was no answer. There's no way to change the gene notified because yeah . The notification sound for the Gmail, from the Gmail app specifically, I could not change because my husband started working for a company where they use Gmail. And so every time I heard that ding, ding, it was his phone, not mine. And I'm like, are you kidding? 60 times a day? It was, it was frustrating. But this one was late night. And I got that email. I saw , I heard the dang heart beating , open up the email. And I , I honestly just like started crying. And my husband's like, what happened? I tossed in my phone and then I hid under a blanket. Cause I was overwhelmed. I didn't want to cry in front of my , I didn't eat my cousin witnessing what a mess I was. So

Speaker 1:

Has there been a moment of celebration now that the crying is ,

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah, no , yes. You're right. Paused because it will happen intermittently throughout this process . This podcast . Yes. Oh yeah. So no, after the call with Tara , um, I definitely, and actually after both calls, I did, I had told my kids leave me alone. I got to have this call kind of like the same thing with this podcast. I was like, leave me alone. Don't talk to me. I got to do this thing. Right, right. But I came out of the room. I swung open the doors. Music played birds flew. Right, exactly. I screamed. And my kids were playing their computers as they would so that they would leave me alone. And they each came out of their rooms. They were , well, no, my daughter immediately said, yay. My son, dude, once he gets into a game, it's kind of like me writing. She's like in the zone snacks for him, I was like, Hey, you hear me? And he was like, Oh yeah, great, good job. Cool areas . And the worst. I'm just kidding. No, you're very, it's very true. No, they are. They're they're amazing. And the worst at the same time they learned it from watching you, I got to put it all on me. Cause why you thought we were afraid of this world. Okay . Whatever at all, whatever

Speaker 1:

I've been thinking about this for the last 30 seconds, we're winding down this episode. Now our first official episode. And I want to know how to do you want to join in on our accountability goals for each other that we're going to do because I can always reach out to you for when we record episode two and read out your yes, I met my goal. No, I didn't shut up. Erica. It's just a mini segment we're doing towards the end of every episode.

Speaker 3:

I love it. Yeah . You want to join? Sure . Let's do this

Speaker 1:

Time now for our first official accountability goals segment. So my goal by the next episode recording is to have a new fleshy outline for my young adult horror called this is how scary.

Speaker 3:

Awesome. That's a great goal.

Speaker 1:

My goal. That's my goal for episodes for the beginning of episode two , um, huddle , what about you?

Speaker 3:

I need to be 50% at least with the edits

Speaker 1:

That I, Oh , Tara. Okay. My little mg . So I've given myself a four week timeline. And so by then I should be 50% good at least. And I'll check that and I'll check in with you via Twitter or Slack and find out how that goal went. And we'll read it out in the beginning of episode two. How about that? Awesome. That's a great goal.

Speaker 2:

Good . That's a really good one. Yeah. Yeah . I have, I probably have two accountability goals. My first is for the psychological suspense novel that I'm working on. I'm almost to the halfway point of the first draft. I want to get to at least the halfway point, if not further. Um, so that's, that's my writing goal. And then my other goal, which is writing adjacent, I , after talking to Erica, I realized that I need to step in the 21st century and get myself a website and make one. Um, so I'm going, I don't know if they'll have the website completely done two weeks, but I want to at least get it very close. And that's a big step for me because you know, as we talked about in episode zero, I still write things on a stone tablet. That's that's definitely how stone tablets work chisel. Yup . Yup .

Speaker 1:

Peter in your defense, you're already ahead on that goal because yesterday you did Slack me and swear about Weebly. So

Speaker 7:

How horrible for you

Speaker 1:

Weebly , if you're listening, I use you.

Speaker 2:

I used you and I rejected you legally. So that's it. It's going to be good. Probably not going to be able to use that, but that's all right. We use the first

Speaker 7:

Part. It

Speaker 1:

Dear partnership by sorry, uncle Matt. Let's cross that one off the spreadsheet. Do

Speaker 2:

I need to restate the second part?

Speaker 1:

I don't think so. That's your call. I wasn't really listening.

Speaker 2:

And guys, we did it. That concludes episode.

Speaker 7:

[inaudible]

Speaker 2:

Up next to the episode two, we're going to have John Cosgrave as our guest, who was one of the category winners in the 2020 book pipeline published contest. He wrote a novel that's loosely based on his real life experiences. And let me tell you, I've read a lot of stuff. This is one of the most wild things I've ever read. So he's going to be a great guest. So tune in rumor is he's from New Zealand. He is a Kiwi.

Speaker 1:

And if you have any questions, rants and raves about writing, or you want to learn more about us or pipeline, please visit pipeline artists.com and follow us on Twitter at the podcast title or on Instagram at this podcast needs a title bonus information. Huddle is huddle writes on Twitter huddle. Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you.

Speaker 7:

Extraordinary.

Speaker 2:

I could use some prune juice.