Later, 2017

To say that 2017 was wild would be an understatement.

In January, I opened up a blank word document and titled it “Halle Book” (because lol what are titles?). When I began typing, I knew three things to be true: Halle is anxious, Halle loves YA books as much as I do, and Halle is Jewish. And TO BE MISREAD was born.

February I froze my toes off and interned at MTV News for a second semester, where I continued to learn from some of the most creative and innovative voices in journalism. I was interviewed by MTVU for a series called “Intern Confidential” and while my video is totally cringe-worthy, it was fun nonetheless.

March marked the publication of the first piece in my “Please, MTV News, Let Me Interview YA Authors” series. I had the privilege to interview authors that I admire, as an intern, and I will forever be grateful to the editor who allowed me to pitch these stories and engage with incredible voices in the community, including Angie Thomas, Lilliam Rivera, Nicola Yoon, Julie Buxbaum, and Adam Silvera. Each interview was a blast to conduct, and I learned so much about craft and storytelling. It also made me realize that while working at MTV News was a blast—my passion is children’s publishing.

Apartment Hunting = April. I don’t remember much else besides attending open houses and searching for the perfect first place.

In May, the true adulting began! My boyfriend graduated! We signed the lease to our first apartment! I went to Ikea for the first time! I learned how truly expensive furnishing an apartment is! Moving into an apartment was this weird blend of awesome and sad for me, because I realized that the house I grew up in isn’t really my house anymore, you know? That from this point on, home base for me is four hours away from my family. I try not to think about it too much.

…May also marked the first time I flew on an airplane by myself! I don’t particularly love flying, so I consider this to be a milestone. I visited Dallas for the first time, where one of my best friends (Hi, Erin!) showed me around her hometown, introduced me to true Dallas barbeque, and made me ride a mechanical bull (true story).

June marked my first summer in New York City—and yes, it’s as gross as everyone says. But it was 150% worth it, because I spent the summer at my dream internship, in the publicity department at Random House Children’s Books. I learned so much about the industry, read so many great books, and worked under the best team. More on this later!

In June, I also typed THE END for TO BE MISREAD. I hadn’t finished a first draft of a manuscript since 2012, so I was basically a blubbering mess. At the beginning of the year, I thought I’d might want to try my shot at Pitch Wars again, after applying and not getting into the 2016 round. But I didn’t really think I had anything that would be ready to submit. With the encouragement of my incredible critique partners, Rosiee and Alec, I gathered the confidence to attempt to whip TBM into shape for the early August submission window. It was a long shot, but why not?

[JULY = A blur of revisions / internship stuff ]

So August comes and it’s the month of Pitch Wars and to make a long story short, because I already did a whole blog on this, I got in! I am still forever grateful to Rachel Lynn Solomon for choosing to mentor me, and I’m even more grateful for our friendship beyond Pitch Wars. And that wasn’t the only good thing that happened in August! I also had the opportunity to continue interning at Random House for the fall semester, which I happily accepted.

September and October were the consequences of being a full-time student, intern, and Pitch Wars mentee. I am so grateful for every opportunity I had, and I am honestly so freaking proud of myself for accomplishing the manuscript rewrites alongside a full course load—but I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I preached self-care on Twitter but was totally neglecting my mental health IRL. I stopped doing yoga because quote, “I didn’t have time.” It’s the first time I ever experienced working under a deadline—and I learned so much about myself and how I deal with stress in sometimes unhealthy ways, which is something I plan to work on in 2018! In the end, I ended up with a manuscript a million times improved, and I am forever a better writer thanks to everything I learned from Rachel.

[When I did take a break from Pitch Wars, I was meeting so many cool people IRL! Seriously, September was like this epic months of meeting writing buds. I attended Brooklyn Book Fest, where I met Sierra and we were basically inseparable all day! At Boston Teen Author Fest, I connected with fellow Pitch Wars mentee Rachel Simon. And I got to meet my mentor, Rachel, when she was vacationing in NYC! Seriously, the best part of this whole writing thing is the community—it's the coolest thing getting to hang out with the people you tweet at every day IRL. Highly recommend, and I can't wait to meet so many more in 2018!]

My mantra through these two months was, November, November, November. Pitch Wars ended November 1st and the second half of my semester was way lighter than the first. Just make it to November, and then you’ll have time to read and yoga and be again.

I thought.

On November 2nd, I came home from class to a three-alarm fire in my apartment building. I stood outside with the other tenants for over two hours, unsure of location of the fire, of what it meant for us. We later learned that the fire started on the sixth floor (the top floor), in the unit directly above ours.

To make a long story short, we were lucky. Considering the amount of water damage the unit sustained, the only thing we lost to damage was a rug. However, the NY Buildings Department put a vacate order on our unit—it had to be gutted and re-renovated thanks to the damage.

We were gutted.

November was a mess of packing up our life (and realizing how much stuff we had wow), putting all of our belongings into temporary storage, apartment hunting (again!) and moving from central Brooklyn to Harlem. It was a mess of a month, but I am so eternally grateful for the help we received during this time. To having an amazing friend who let us crash on her couch for nearly three weeks, and to Rachel and Rosiee for helping me through the madness of the agent round and querying (yes, that was all still happening!) and literally sending out queries for me while I was dealing with all of this life stuff.

If I had the lowest low of my life in November, I also had the highest high. On November 27, 2017, I signed with my fantastic literary agent, Taylor Haggerty. That deserves a whole post of its own though, which I promise I will write shortly after the new year!

This December, I turned 22, handed in my pre-sub edits, and for the first time in months, relaxed. I’ve been reading and brainstorming new projects and watching Parks and Rec and it’s been awesome.

And now I'm looking forward. 2018 is the first year truly marked with uncertainty and the first time I can say that I don’t know where I’ll be when I’m writing this post next December 31st. It is the year I graduate from undergrad, the year I finish being a student (for now). It is the year I will finally get to experience the joys and anxieties of being out on submission. It is the year that I have to find a full-time job. I hate uncertainty. I hate not feeling in control. So instead of listing goals and resolutions, I’d like to share what I will do this year

In 2018, I will:

  • Graduate from NYU with a major in Media & Communication and a double minor in Creative Writing and Business of Entertainment
  • Read at least fifty books and write Amazon reviews for every book I read
  • Write, write, write like I’m running out of time
  • Take self-care seriously
  • Do yoga at least twice a week
  • Meet more internet friends IRL!!
  • Continue to engage with the children’s publishing community
  • Attend at least one book event per month

For me, 2017 was about growth, professional and personal.

2018 is about embracing what I can’t control and focusing on what I can.

 

Journey to Pitch Wars 2017!!

“I am a mentee.”

I find that I keep repeating this to myself at random moments. I am a mentee. Like, I have to say it over and over again for it to be true, because I still can’t believe it’s true. I am a mentee.

So now I’m going to do one of those cheesy posts where I lay out my Pitch Wars journey.

First, let’s rewind to 2016.

2016 was the first year I had a manuscript that might be Pitch Wars worthy. It was a YA contemporary road trip novel that I had been working on since high school – just about four years of drafting, revising, stepping aside, revising, and revising some more. I was proud of that book. Confident. Maybe just a tad overconfident, in retrospect.

I submitted my materials within minutes of the window opening.

Then I waited…and waited…and waited some more. I got zero requests on that manuscript, and while in my head I knew that this wasn’t a commentary on my skill as a writer, my heart was crushed. During the sub window, I had begun working on a new YA contemporary. New characters were forming and a new story was being built – but I couldn’t let my Pitch Wars manuscript go.

October came around, and I decided to give Nightmare on Query Street a try. To my surprise, I actually got into this contest and was lucky enough to be able to whip my query and first 500 words into shape with the help of the lovely Peggy Rothschild. From Nightmare on Query Street, I got agent requests! I was ecstatic! I had all my pages ready to send. All rejected with the vague, “the voice is great but I didn’t quite love it enough to take it on” or something along those lines.

I tried not to be discouraged, and I was still working on something new.

Then in December, I learned of Author Mentor Match. I thought, hey! This is perfect! There’s no agent round like there is with Pitch Wars, but I had wanted to be a part of Pitch Wars for the mentorship anyways. Something wasn’t clicking with this MS, and I needed to figure out why.

I entered AMM. I wasn’t matched.

With that rejection, I took it as a sign that it was time to shelf road trip book. I had entered numerous competitions. I had queried with little request success. I decided that road trip book was just another manuscript on my journey to publication. It was a book – not the book.

So in February 2017, I got serious about the manuscript I’d been working on on the side. I trashed the old beginning I started over the summer and began it from scratch – and man I fell for this book hard. It’s so corny to call a manuscript the book of your heart, but as I was writing this one I just knew something was different. The words came so easy. It was bookish. It was anxious. It features my brand of Judaism – something I never attempted to write about before, but something I promised myself I would try after the 2016 election. It’s basically the most personal, the most me book I’ve ever written.

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That book, in case it’s not obvious by now, is TO BE MISREAD.

I thought it would be impossible to have a draft ready for Pitch Wars this year. It was wishful thinking. But I finished drafting in June, sent it to my CPs (shout out to Rosiee and Alec), and crossed my fingers and waited for their notes to come in. I had prepared for the worst.  

When they expressed how much they loved it, my first reaction was shock. What? No, it’s terrible! It’s not even close to ready, nope, no way! But their notes and enthusiasm convinced me that okay, maybe I have something here, maybe I can do this.

So I took their feedback and spent the entire month of July deep in the trenches of revision. I knew the manuscript still wasn’t perfect – but I was proud of what it was and ready to submit it with a week to spare.

I held my breath and pressed submit.

And within 72 hours, five out the six mentors I submitted to requested. I honestly couldn’t believe it, every time a new email from a mentor arrived in my inbox. It was surreal, to be honest.

It was even more surreal to learn that I got in. Three weeks after submitting, I got the results while on vacation with my family at Niagara Falls. I’m honestly lucky I didn’t drop my phone into the falls when I got the news!

I am so, so excited to be a mentee. I’m even more excited that Rachel Lynn Solomon is my mentor (Hi, Rachel!!). I’d gotten a sense via twitter that we had a lot in common and I was super duper hoping she’d connect with my MS…but not gonna lie, Rachel was totally the mentor I thought was “too cool for me.” I tried not to get my hopes up every time she replied to one of my tweets.

And then she picked me. And then I started jumping up and down.

I am already sooooo excited to dig into revisions under Rachel’s mentorship, and I cannot wait to see how TO BE MISREAD evolves in the next two months. It was definitely a journey to get to this point, but it really feels like everything ended up exactly how it’s supposed to be!

So let’s do this, Pitch Wars. 

I am a mentee.