1 in 6,000

What if someone told you that your chances of winning the lottery were 1 in 6,000? You don’t even have to pay cash to play! The cost of entry is simply two years of your time, part of your sanity, and oh yeah, a piece of your soul. How do you feel about the odds now?

The chances of landing a literary agent are estimated to be 1 in 6,000. The best book agents get upwards of 1,500 queries per MONTH. They will only sign a handful of clients per year. Other writers say you’re getting close when you’ve had a handful of full manuscript requests. “It just needs to get in front of the right eyes!” and “You just have to keep going!”

Agents that request are first wowed by your query letter. Then they have to love the sample pages. Then they spend the time and energy to read through the projects that they think have potential, and if you’re lucky, they give you feedback along with their pass. That is the best an author can hope for until they get the fateful email that offers representation.

I’ve had full requests on manuscripts since 2015. Does trying for 7 years still mean I’m close? Yet I still get my hopes up every time I send one off. “This is it! I’m going to be let into the promised land of publishing!” What is the deal with this ever-loving HOPE that keeps me doing this? Rationally, I know the odds. What amount of writer’s hubris do I possess that makes me think I deserve to be the one?

I shelved Hedge Dancer this week. The full manuscript was rejected (with very kind and thoughtful feedback) by a lovely agent and I’m feeling rather down about it, if you can’t tell by the previous four paragraphs in this post. I will no longer be pitching that project and it will reside in my metaphorical desk drawer until when and if I ever decide to revisit it.

I’m pouring all my energy into this next project. Word count update: I am 31,000 words in. Around 50k left to go. Then I’ll edit. And write a query letter. Then I’ll research agents. Send it out. And hope.

Damnit.

Love,

Taylor

Sometimes we gotta keep on dancing

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

I’ve been hit hard by August melancholy this week and the singular beauty that briefly encompasses the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s such a small window of transition where we all hold our breath and wait, suddenly realizing that those endless summer nights have subtly gotten shorter, and the mornings need a sweatshirt.

Over the past five years, September has marked the start of hurricane season. Fall meant checking the hurricane update every day and knowing in our guts an evacuation was coming. The heat held on as long as possible, remaining well into the 80’s through Halloween some years. Even back before we had the boat, California also liked to skip autumn.

But this window reminds me to pause, instead of pushing forward through each change like I usually do. It isn’t just suspension, however, I am actually being brought back in time. I don’t know if it is because I’m writing my first YA novel, or the temperature drop over Labor Day weekend always meant back to school, but I don’t feel like a 32-year-old mother of two.

Instead of sending my own four-year-old off to school this week, I half-expect to walk out the front door and find my little gold 1995 Honda parked in the driveway, pom poms in the back window. I am forever sixteen in September, spending my Friday nights under the bright lights of a stadium. My nose is numb but my body is warm, cheering on a team everyone knows is not very good but we do it anyway.

I have no desire to relive these years. Once was enough! But this time of year seems to have brought back the memories with a poignancy I had not expected. I choose to think of it as a little visit from my former self, and maybe I’ll get to see her every September from now on. Maybe she’ll be proud to see what changes each year brings me, and I’ll greet her memory as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go season everything in my life with pumpkin spice.

Love,

Taylor (Conor, W, and R, too!)

Book #6

I started a new book project this week. If anyone else is keeping track, this is will be my 6th book. Every time I finish a novel, I think that will be the last one, convinced that there are no more stories inside me. Then, inevitably, an idea starts to take hold. With Cloaked, it was the opening scene. With Sonder Village, it was the setting. With Hedge Dancer (the book I’m pitching now), it was an effervescent main character who had to be shared with the world.

I was very afraid this past year that I really was out of stories. Usually, my brain needs a 6 month break before notes, bullet points, and quotes start finding their way to scrap paper. I finished Hedge Dancer in September, and come February, there were still crickets. All spring I waited, amid the moving chaos, for something real to take hold. My mind and my body were still whispering ‘rest’, and for once, instead of trying to do it all, I listened.

So much of writer advice is “Butt in chair!” “Those words won’t write themselves!” “Habit over waiting for inspiration to strike!” A lot of times it is true, and this advice pushed me to complete five novels. But I had drifted too far from myself, and I needed to get back to me before I could create imaginary people with the love and depth they deserve. I’m finally reading more, devouring books like I used to when I was a teenager. I’m falling into more frequent posting on here without it feeling like a chore. My consistent workouts are helping me so much mentally. I feel surrounded and supported by family and loved ones.

The craving to put pen to paper started two weeks ago, but I forced myself to wait. My wonderful, fabulous sister got married last week and I needed to focus all my energy on her special day. Emotions from that day left me on such a high that I just had to start right after.

Radiant bride

I usually write adult fiction, so this urge to write a YA novel took me by surprise. I will update on the drafting process in the coming months. I hope I can pull this off.

Love,

Taylor

Author Confession

In a bid to flex my stagnant writing muscles, today I’m going to confess my deep, dark, author secret—

I’ve never read copies of my own published books.

I’ve held them, hugged them, and handed them out, but the last time I read both Cloaked and Sonder Village, it was on a computer screen to approve the final galley copy before publication.

At first, I think it was because by the time the books launched, I was so sick of editing them through for errors that I had them memorized. Then months passed and I still couldn’t crack the spines. Now years have gone by, and it’s been built up so much in my head that I’m too scared.

I was at a different place in my life and in my writing career with these books. I like to think I’ve grown enough to look back with fresh eyes, but I am afraid of the cringe. Writers tend to be a finicky lot. We chase perfection and are frustrated when our own works do not measure up to the authors we idolize. The story I remember writing is not the story that will appear on the pages. I don’t think my ego can handle the blow right now. Pitching my current project has been particularly heart-wrenching and I have little enough forward momentum as it is, so I’m not sure if looking backward is the answer. Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough.

I’ve had enough space from high school to look back at these photos, at least! Here’s to celebrating how far we’ve come, and how much farther we must go.

Love,

Taylor (and Conor, W, and R)

Now What?

This is the longest I’ve ever gone in the past five years without posting on the blog. It wasn’t because nothing happened, quite the opposite in fact. We have moved across the country, bought a house, Conor started a new job working from home, and we are in the middle of setting up an entirely new life. I couldn’t bring myself to post after the final goodbye to the boat in February mostly because, well, I’m not sure which direction to take this site.

I know that I want to keep writing here. I love looking back at the entire summary of our liveaboard experience and I’m so happy I kept the blog as a log. Now that our lifestyle is no longer as “unique” or “adventurous”, I question why anyone would keep reading about it. This is no longer a sailing/liveaboard guide. I keep my kids and family off social media for the most part, so it definitely won’t morph into a mommy blog. Conor isn’t active duty, so no #militarywifelife. Does that mean…it’s just me? My thoughts? Is that enough to keep this going?

I guess I can try. I have a feeling it will have a heavy emphasis on writer’s block, publishing industry frustrations, and impostor syndrome. My identity the past decade has been my role in relation to others, but now I am moving ever so slightly beyond the demands of babyhood and into brief moments of toddler and big kid independence. There is more space to breathe and to carve out an identity of my own.

I want to keep writing books. I want to turn it into a viable career. I haven’t published anything since 2019, but not for lack of trying. In 2020 I rewrote an early project of mine, which I pitched but didn’t get picked up. I wrote another book in 2021 and started pitching it in early 2022 but I don’t know if I should give up on that book as well. Once we are done moving in, I’ll sit down and start yet another book. It is daunting and terrifying. Now that we are rooted, I’ll finally have time to dedicate real energy to marketing, drafting, editing, pitching…and what if I still can’t get my big break? My previous excuses are now no longer relevant. It’s just me, and if I have what it takes…or not.

Maybe this blog needs a new title.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Officially Boat-less

This is a long-overdue update. SV Story Time is under new ownership! And as much as we miss the boat, a mental to-do list a mile long was instantly wiped away after we signed the paperwork. I am happy and grateful that something we loved so much will get the time and attention she needs to really shine. However, that mental space is quickly filling up and I’m trying not to get overwhelmed.

We have now turned our focus to the upcoming move to Washington. A mortgage is secured, job applications are sent out, and we are slowing putting the pieces together. BUT—holy hell, this house hunt. Prices in the Puget Sound have skyrocketed over the past few years and it’s giving me a panic attack. This is completely new territory for us, and I am afraid of making the wrong choice. Factoring in schools, possible commutes, location, construction, cost…it makes me crave the simplicity of before. Don’t like where we are at? Pick up and move. I know this is part of the process of putting down roots, but knowing it needs to happen vs. actually doing it has my mind in turmoil, and I’m not really sure how to fix it.

This past year has been a humbling experience. I say this as I check my inbox to receive yet another query rejection for my latest book (I think the count is in the 30s or 40s now). Some days, it feels like we have it all figured out. Others, it’s “Dear Author (ouch), I just don’t feel that this project is the right fit for me. Thank you for considering me for your manuscript and I wish you great success with your writing career.”

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Officially the end of this chapter. Thank you to everyone who has followed along this transformative journey. It’s been a great 5 years.

I Want It All.

I want to travel and live abroad. I want routine for my kids to thrive. I want to write more books. I want to contribute more to our household income, instead of as a hobby. I want to be a present mom. I want an identity outside of them. I want to keep living minimally. I want a house with a huge kitchen for my husband to enjoy. I want to buy another boat. I want to set down roots. I want to meet new friends in exotic places. I want to deepen and nurture the connections with existing family and friends. I want the ocean. I want to rest. I want my MFA. I want to have everything right now.

And it is impossible.

There is simply not enough time or energy to accomplish everything. It is vital that we dedicate these important resources in a meaningful way, and these past few years, I have been spread too thin. I have focused much of my energy on external growth, the growth that is easy for me to see and measure—the boat adventure, publishing books, raising children. This ‘tree’ of mine has grown noticeably taller, branches spreading out in every direction, always moving up up up and seeking more more more.

But what about my roots? The core and foundation, the stability that allows for strength, has been neglected as we seek the next exciting thing. I realized I need to spread my roots down deep and work under the surface for a while. The year up in Virginia has been lonely, and both Conor and I find ourselves longing for community and connection. For family. For the childhood friendships that lasted through adulthood. As Mary Schmich said, “Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.”

These amazing people have cheered us on while we experienced living in California, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Virginia. Celebrated the birth of our children and career successes, but it has been from so far away. I yearn to be present in the lives of people I care about in real way, through the ups and downs. I want to dance at their weddings, hold their babies, and simply be with them without a return to the airport. I want to show the people we love how much we love them. After a decade away, I think it’s about time.

 We are moving back to Washington.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

2021 Recap

I know I’ve been posting very infrequently on here lately. These last few months have been filled with reflection, planning, and asking questions. Where are we headed and what are we doing? I’ve been quiet on all social media as we try to find our footing and take our next steps, but I knew I needed to put together one last recap video to commemorate our final year on the boat. If you want to watch them all in order, here is 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. 2021 marked 5 years with our beloved Story Time, and it astounds me to see how much we accomplished and the life we built together.

There will be some new developments and projects in store for 2022. I’m excited for them, even though they are not boat related. I’m hoping for career pivots and fresh challenges, so stay tuned. I’ll post more in the new year, and much more often from now on! Thanks, guys.

We hope 2022 brings hope and joy to you all.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

Cold Feet

When I last updated, everything was going swimmingly. But when has boat life ever been uncomplicated? Our contract fell through, and SV Story Time is back on the market.

After an awesome sea trial, survey, and haul out, the potential buyers got cold feet and backed out. In hindsight, there were some red flags about them that we chose to overlook. They were also very nervous first-time buyers and didn’t seem to be able to fully commit.

It just sucks. The boat was off the market for 6 weeks while we waited for the surveyor that they insisted upon (who found no major issues with the boat, btw), we lost out on the five other calls that came in about her, we had to pay slip fees and insurance for all these extra months, and now we are solidly into hurricane season. On the bright side, the survey report found no surprises and we KNOW Story Time is in good shape. I just hope we find a new family for her soon!

A general family update: I have spent the last three weeks holed up at my desk finishing my next novel. It is DONE! I’ve also had some outpatient leg surgeries done to repair my veins that blew out due to pregnancies (thanks, kids!) so I am trying to make the most of this waiting time. We are just stuck in limbo right now with things that are out of our control, but it feels good to make progress in other areas.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R

The Two Happiest Days

They say that the two happiest days of a sailors life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it. We will find out if that’s true this week! SV Story Time is ours for only a few more days as we head into the sea trial and survey on Thursday.

I do remember being happy when we bought the boat, but it was just one emotion buried underneath the rest. When I look back on that day, I remember a lot of other things. Mostly I was overwhelmed. Nervous. Excited. Naïve. Nauseous (9 weeks pregnant). Terrified. Oddly content. Yeah, that last one surprised me, too. I was content because it felt right. Right place, right time, right boat. We were on the right path and finally DOING IT.

I’ll probably cry when it comes time to sign the papers, no matter what the adage says. I am thankful how quickly the boat sold and not having to worry about it during another hurricane season. No more time troubleshooting issues and the never-ending maintenance that boat ownership entails. Relief to be done. Sadness at saying goodbye. Gratitude toward the boat for housing my family and our memories. Excitement at the next adventure to come. And yes, contentment, because I know that this is the right choice.

The next owners are lovely people. This boat likes to pick her family and seems to attract first-time boat owners just like us. They plan to teach their twin grandsons how to sail and while I don’t think they will be liveaboards, the boat will be utilized and cared for. They have a lot of sailing and racing experience and belong to a yacht club up north. They have been waiting to finally buy their dream boat, and this week it will become a reality! I am so happy for them.

So maybe I will be happy the day we sell the boat.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and R