We often think of the quote, “If you want to know what something really does, watch it when it isn’t doing anything.” We always knew we would write, but about ten years ago, we found ourselves with time on our hands and a window to do just about anything we wanted. So, what did we do? Stephanie started a novel and Jim went back to college to take English courses. Not quite the going-to-graduate-school or living-abroad ideas that we always thought we’d do when we had the chance.
Then, after years of running up to our cabin to write on the weekends, we finally moved up to Grand Lake and wrote as much as we could. Short stories, novels, and articles filled our days, and we pitched literally hundreds of agents.
Finally, our debut YA novel, Merged, was published by Month9Books in late 2019, just before the Covid epidemic. It was such a bittersweet time. Soon after our book came out, all the bookstores and libraries closed, book festivals and writers conferences were canceled, and schools weren’t allowing any author visits. But we learned how to connect in new ways with Zoom. All of a sudden, we could meet with people from all over the country, which was wonderful since we live in such a remote place.
We also discovered that awards are a good alternative way to promote your book. When Covid shut everything down, we decided to enter Merged into as many contests we could. To our surprise, Merged has won over twenty awards, including the CAL award for Childrens/Juvenile Fiction. Each award came with a promotion opportunity.
The question we get asked most is how do we write together. We live near a lake up in the mountains, which takes about 45 minutes to walk around, which is the perfect amount of time to brainstorm. Then, we storyboard our novel with colored index cards on a big corkboard. Each card has a few words about a scene or chapter, and we note the significant story points: inciting incident, plot point one, the midpoint, plot point two, and the black moment. When the board is about half filled with index cards, we start writing. Stephanie writes in the morning and Jim writes at a coffee shop in the afternoon. Once the first draft is written, we take turns editing it. After twenty revisions, we often don’t recall who originally wrote what.
We love to speak and are excited that conferences and festivals are back. Our most recent talk was on Creating Memorable Characters. We learned so much writing it, and had the best time when presenting it for the first time at the recent Northern Colorado Writers conference. We can’t wait to put together the next one.
Our next project is a middle grade contemporary novel that takes place in a small mountain town in Colorado. This seems to be the story with nine lives. It was our third manuscript that we had written years ago, and it had been rejected by over ninety agents. We decided to do one more round of edits and go out one last time. We must have finally gotten it right, because we got three offers of representation. The novel didn’t sell right, but our agent went out with it again this year and found an interested publisher. So, if you believe in a story, don’t give up.
Of course, writing organizations are essential for a lonely activity like writing. We’re sure we wouldn’t’ still be at it if not for the support and camaraderie of the writing groups we’re involved with. We’re members of CAL, SCBWI and Northern Colorado Writers, and Stephanie is currently on the Colorado Authors League Board. Getting involved is a wonderful way to find your tribe and stay motivated.