Twenty-Two Years (and One Month)!

In this edition

  • Resources for Writers
  • Twenty-Two Years (and One Month)!
  • Veronica's Words of Wisdom
  • Free Expressions Baby Pictures 

 

RESOURCES FOR WRITERS

Do you know that Free Expressions can help you on every step of your writing journey? From concept to story development to deep editing, workshops, and more, we're here to help you succeed.

One-on-One Story Mastermind Sessions
Editorial Services

CURRENT WORKSHOPS
Breakout Novel Intensive - Tampa FL, Hood River OR
Emotional Craft of Fiction - Seattle WA, Irvine CA, Jersey City NY

 

TWENTY-TWO YEARS (and One Month)!

Last month, Free Expressions celebrated its twenty-second year in existence. Which seems incredible to me, particularly since *I* have not aged at all in that time. 

Publishing sure has, though. Or rather, it’s evolved. Twenty-two years ago, only a handful of legitimate independent editors plied their trade; very few people self-published—and only through “vanity presses;” young adult fiction barely existed; and writers generally connected through small local writing groups and the pages of Writer’s Digest magazine.

In that time, I’ve been witness to many waves of industry panic -> recovery -> growth as conglomerates bought out and consolidated publishing houses, imprints expanded and contracted, and, of course, eBooks made their appearance. Every time, the pot-stirrers rang alarm bells and brought out the big shovels to bury books as an art form, to lament publishing’s inevitable slide into the abyss.

Me? I just kept plugging away.

I practiced my own writing craft in a variety of genres (and have been lucky to get paid for it), and I helped my clients and students most by focusing on the work. Not industry gyrations. Not predictions of success or failure or the next big thing. But on helping writers create great big beautiful books. 

I’ve grown the company by working with people who share my values and who operate from a place of generosity, skill, adaptability, and optimism. I am so lucky to have such wonderful partners in the journey. We treat our clients the way we wish to be treated as writers. We put on the workshops we’d want to attend. And we try to stay nimble enough to keep creating new offerings, to tune in to what the writing community most needs to help them succeed. 

Twenty-two years later, we’ve seen hundreds of clients and students reach--and exceed--their publishing goals. We’ve helped people to bestselling success in both independent and traditional publishing. We’ve been privy to a galaxy of starred reviews. And it’s been an absolute honor—and super humbling privilege—all the way through.

Of course, there are bumps in the road. And of course, the path of authorship is not for the faint of heart. It can be grueling and heartbreaking and tedious--and also transcendent and beautiful and rewarding. It can load you up with riches and then pull the rug out from under you. It’s not easy. It’s not guaranteed. But that one-on-one connection between an author and a reader just can’t be beat in my mind. Books are life-savers. Our brainwaves and heartbeats operate on the frequency of story.     

So, here we are, twenty-two years later. Publishing is still a multi-billion-dollar industry. Books still break out and become runaway bestsellers. People love their print books and their e-readers. Storytelling is valued more than ever. 

My first writing mentor, Gary Provost, used to say, “It might as well be you.” Meaning that no matter what industry upheavals occur, no matter what platforms become most popular, no matter how many slots remain on the lists of editors, someone’s book will be published to huge success. So why not yours? 

That has been our guiding principle for more than two decades. And for us, it works. We can’t thank you enough for allowing us to do what we do. We look forward to your success, to nurturing your dreams, and to celebrating the magic of story with you for years to come. 

- Lorin 

 

VERONICA'S WORDS OF WISDOM

(From Lorin: Thanks to the amazing Veronica Rossi for allowing us to share this excellent series of tweets. Such important points, beautifully expressed.)

Things I tell myself over and over and over...

  1. I will write the best book *I* possibly can.
     
  2. I will take the time I need to do it right.
     
  3. I will not compare my work/career to anyone else's.
     
  4. I will always strive to be better.
     
  5. I will not beat myself up over my mistakes/shortcomings.
     
  6. I will trust my instincts.
     
  7. I will not seek approval through my art.
     
  8. I will be as honest as I can be in my work.
     
  9. I will never take for granted how lucky I am to 1) have a passion, and 2) be able to call it work.
     
  10. And I will never quit. The Journey is the Point.

 

FREE EXPRESSIONS BABY PICTURES

Over the years, Free Expressions has grown and changed a lot. From an infant website and a smattering of offerings in the late 1990's to the robust website with the workshops and services we offer today. Enjoy the journey!

SPOTLIGHT: Luisa Prieto -- Learn about your own writing

Brilliant. Witty. Charming. Luisa says these are all words that her cats would use to describe her (if cats could talk, that is). 

Originally studying journalism, Luisa took a left turn at Fictionville, where she now resides. She has independently published more than half a dozen novels using the pseudonym Faye Larson. She describes her books as romantic comedies with a high chance of happy endings.

When not writing, she's thinking about writing. She lives with the aformentioned cats (pictured lounging above) and her equally brilliant, witty, and charming (and patient) spouse.

 

"Whatever happened to the days when parents were embarrassed by their kids' writing?"

 

Why are you currently writing under a pseudonym? 

My parents were just too proud of my previous erotica writing.

Seriously, they'd buy books and give them to friends. Whatever happened to the days when parents were embarrassed by their kids' writing?

What did your parents' friends think of you writing erotica? 

My parents have actually never said. They're just exceptionally happy to see my name on the cover. I suspect their friends either never read the books or never told them what they thought.

It's really funny because when I was in my twenties, I always imagined my parents would be HORRIFIED. I once joked that I'd want my name to read "Luisa Prieto, daughter of Jose and Lola Prieto."

I realize now my parents would love it if the books read like that.

What project are you currently working on?

My current project: my current WIP is a existential tale about a man overcoming his fear of death and--just kidding.

It's about two guys falling in love.

There may or may not be vampires.

I haven't decided.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your most recent book or working on your most recent writing project?

Since the beginning of the year, I've been doing the 365k/365d challenge, where you write a thousand words every day for a year.

Not only has the challenge helped me write more, it's taught me things about my writing that I hadn't known (things like: I write more in the afternoon, keeping a daily word count is important, and writing the blurb before writing the story makes the story clearer).

Doing the challenge is like creating a personalized how-to-write book.

I'd strongly recommend it to everyone.

What do you consider your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment?

One of my books was briefly listed in the Also Boughts page of a Henry Rios book.

When I was younger, I loved that guy's series, and seeing my book listed beside his just blew my mind.

I bounced off the walls over that for DAYS.

If you could go back 10 years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Do the 365k/365d challenge.

Reading all of those how-to-write books is good and going to workshops is EXCELLENT, but you need to learn about your own writing.

 

"Sometimes you'll discover a problem you didn't even know was there, but that's okay. There are people there who want to help you make that story the best it can be."

 

What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

No matter how many times I've read Don's books or attended the workshop before, I learn something new at every workshop.

There's also something about being someplace new, surrounded by people you don't know but who all want to improve their writing, that makes ANYTHING seem possible. You notice things in your story you hadn't noticed before and problems that seemed impossible suddenly seem workable.

Sometimes you'll discover a problem you didn't even know was there but that's okay. There are people there who want to help you make that story the best it can be.

What does your dream writing retreat look like?

The Free Expressions workshop in Hood River, only for lunch and dinner they give us sushi.

There's also a guy whose only job is to bring everyone Starbucks. At every meal I get to sit with Don and Lorin and I always think of witty things to say.

I also remember to bring everything I'll need and don't need to run to the store during the week.

 

"Throughout it all, Lorin was incredibly thoughtful and brilliant. She went through my questions one by one and gave me some really great advice. She also helped me realize that if I had a problem with something (say, setting), then I likely had that problem in other stories too."

 

What's the story development process (SDP) like with Lorin?

I'd actually done the SDP once before with her a couple of years ago.

I thought it'd be like a longer version of our one-on-ones at the workshops so I was blown away by how much more intense the actual meeting was.

We met for three days and on each day I brought in a different story. We delved deeply into each and by the end I had a lot of new ideas.

This time, we only met for a day. Since I knew how intense it could be, I tried to better prepare for it by spending the week before thinking of questions to ask her.

A lot of my questions had to do with the story I was working on (How do I make the story funnier? How can I make the character iconic?), and some had to do with general writing things (how do you work on a series if you're afraid of working on a series?).

I sent her the questions and the beginning of a story I was working on a couple of days before we met, and then thought of a few more questions to add. When we met, we went over the story, the questions, and then came up with more questions to discuss.

Throughout it all, Lorin was incredibly thoughtful and brilliant. She went through my questions one by one and gave me some really great advice. She also helped me realize that if I had a problem with something (say, setting), then I likely had that problem in other stories too.

How did the SDP with Lorin help your process?

It effected me on various levels.

Writing-wise, I found ways to make the story deeper. Because of all of the questions we went through, I also had lots of new ideas for both that story and writing in general.

On a personal side, I felt empowered. Sometimes current events gets me down and it was great to talk to someone who believes that creating is a form of fighting. As Lorin said, "people still make art in gulags and concentrations camps."

 

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading: 
    The back of a Ritz cracker box. I laughed, I cried, I ate a couple.
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    Harry Potter. I want to go to magic school, get a wand, and defeat a dark lord, preferably without having to do any homework.
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    Music, usually Enya. I know there are studies out there that go into how some music just gets the creative juices going but all I can say is, "she sings pretty."
     
  • Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
    Coffee. Preferably in an IV that sends the liquid straight into my veins.

You can find out more about Luisa's books at her website, www.fayelarson.com. Her books are available on Amazon.  

SPOTLIGHT: Veronica Rossi -- Just Keep Going

 

Veronica Rossi is a best selling author of fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, was the first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy. Released in January 2012, it was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The series appeared in the NY Times and USA Today best seller lists and was published in over 25 foreign markets.

Her second series for young adults began with RIDERS and concludes with Seekers, due out on Tuesday, May 16th. Riders is the story of four modern day teens who become incarnations of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the prophetic girl who brings them together. 

Veronica completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is a lifelong reader and artist. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has lived in Mexico, Venezuela, and all over the United States, to finally settle in Northern California with her husband and two sons.

When not writing, Veronica enjoys reading (it’s worth repeating), painting, and running. She does NOT like anything involving numbers, the addition of them, subtraction of them, you name it. They terrify her. Her obsessions generally lead to fictional works. Currently, she’s exploring New York City during the Revolutionary War.

 

"It is always exciting to see a book move into the world. It never gets old. It humbles me. It inspires me. I feel very, very fortunate."

 

As a New York Times bestselling author of over half a dozen published novels, how does it feel to send SEEKER out into the world? Have your feelings changed since the publication of UNDER THE NEVER SKY?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with SEEKER’s upcoming release. It’s my fifth YA book, and the eighth book I’ve published (three of which are co-authored with our dear Lorin!) It is always exciting to see a book move into the world. It never gets old. It humbles me. It inspires me. I feel very, very fortunate.


Now that SEEKER is about to be released, what project are you currently working on?

I can’t get into too much detail quite yet, but it’s my first historical fiction, also in the young adult category. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s my best work yet!


Has your writing process changed since you finished SEEKER?

My process changes with every book I write. Sometimes it’s only a slight modification, sometimes it’s significant. I do have tools I almost always rely on. For example, every one of my books gets a trifold poster board, where I break out the three acts in scenes. But I’ll use that at different stages for different books.

In RIDERS and SEEKER, for example, I wrote my way into the stories much more than I did with my UNDER THE NEVER SKY series. I just do what works. 


What do you do know as a writer that you didn’t do or wouldn’t have done before?

As far as what I do now that I didn’t do before: super early mornings. It’s my new thing. My way of achieving deep focus. I get up at 4:30 every morning and get a couple of hours in before my kids wake up.

I’ve discovered that my mind is in a really good creative space at that time. I have a quiet brain then. I can look at my manuscript and really see it (rather than zoning into that space where I’m thinking of my to do list, lunch, how I need to get laundry going, etc.) If I skip my early mornings now for whatever reason, I’m a little devastated. I love them.

 

"I’m still learning as a writer. I’m still developing. I don’t think I realized just how much that would happen on my journey."

 

What is one of the most surprising things you've learned about yourself or your writing? 

I’m still learning as a writer. I’m still developing. I don’t think I realized just how much that would happen on my journey.  


What do you consider is your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment?

I think I’m getting better. At least, I’m more motivated than ever. And I’m writing for a living and managing to stay alive in a pretty tough arena. I’m legitimately living my dream, and it’s awesome. I don’t know how I got this lucky but I’ll take it!


What challenges or fears do you face with writing and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

I face challenges and fears in my writing every day. Every single day.

One of the ways I cope with them is to keep a running list. It’s literally called, “My Worry List.” If I have a fear about a thin character, a flimsy scene, etc. I add it to the list. Just doing that takes some pressure off. I can then turn to finishing whatever draft I’m working on, knowing I have that list to turn to when the time is right. 

So, that’s a practical way to push through. But most of the work is mental. I have to talk myself into the right headspace a lot. And I have great writing friends who I can lean on. We support each other through the doubt and the discouragement.

The whole thing with writing is to keep going. Writing is layering. It’s revision. But the only way to get to those later drafts is through pure grit. Just keep going.

 

". . . the only way to get to those later drafts is through pure grit. Just keep going."

 

What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

I met Lorin Oberweger about eight or nine years ago at a FIRE IN FICTION workshop in Austin. I also was super inspired by Don’s teachings. Between the two, I was hooked.

After that I attended a BONI in Northern California, where I live. I got to know Lorin better. I was critiqued by Don (and cried, because he told me the truth… Don knows this.) It was a life-changing critique. Because of Lorin and Don’s honesty and guidance, I found the right path. I turned to the manuscript that would launch my career. 

Lorin and I have become good friends over the years, and co-authors, as I mentioned above. I’ve worked with so many people who “do books” but I have the highest regard for her ability. She’s just gets me, creatively. And we do enjoy our sushi dates. 


In a recent article for the Tor/Forge Blog you mention “Trust the process.” What advice would you give writers who may be having a hard time with Trusting the Process?

This is something that gets a bit easier to believe the more you write.

You start to be able to look back at all the times you felt lost in the woods, and somehow, miraculously, made it out. I’ve written a few books now that, at some point, I thought just weren’t going to come together. In fact, most of them I feel that way! But, as I said above, the whole thing is to keep going. You have to be bullheaded about it. Your desire to finish a manuscript only needs to be a teensy bit greater than the sum of your fears about that manuscript.

 

"Your desire to finish a manuscript only needs to be a teensy bit greater than the sum of your fears about that manuscript."

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

I’ve had a lot of great guidance over the years. One thing that resonated with me personally was when my mom told me, “Write for yourself. When you do, you write beautifully.”

Now, that’s such a mom comment, right? But it hit home for me because I have a tendency sometimes to look at what others are doing, or to care too much about what others think. I’m trying to get better about limiting external influences to those that only help me do what I want. My mom’s words remind me of that. I keep them on a post it by my desktop!


What outside hobbies or interests help fuel your writing? Especially when you’re feeling “lost in the woods?”

I’ve come a bit late in life to running, but that’s what I have been doing for the past few years that helps me. Writing is so sedentary. Years ago, when I first started, I could spend the bulk of a week indoors with my computer. I have learned I need fresh air and movement. Apparently I wasn’t designed to read and write books all day, unfortunately.

 

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading: 
    So many things! I am reading a dozen research books at the moment. I’m also reading a young adult fantasy called THE CROWN’S GAME, which is about a battle between two magicians in a fantasy world based on Imperial Russia. And I also just finished a really gritty and excellent adult historical novel called THE NORTH WATER about a whaling expedition in the late 18th Century that goes terribly wrong.
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    This is a bit obscure, but I love this book called ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR, inspired by feudal Japan. The setting is just rendered in such a poetic and gorgeous way. I’d go there!
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    It depends on my mood. I’ll do whatever is working best. I do have playlists for each of the books I’ve written with songs that set the right tone. And I especially love writing to film scores; sometimes I just need atmosphere with no lyrics.
     
  • Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
    Coffee. Sometimes tea. I don’t like to eat while I write. I love food too much. I wouldn’t get many words down.

You can find out more about Veronica at her website, www.veronicarossi.com. Her books are available through all major retailers and independent bookstores.  Purchase Seeker at Amazon.