Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A NOVICE TO WATCH: Meet Anne Barton!!!

Welcome to the second edition of my new series, "A Novice To Watch"!!

I'd been toying with this idea for awhile and finally made the plunge when I met Anne this last fall. Well, I didn't actually "meet" her. I cyber-hunted her (ok, hubby-man would say I stalked her- but ignore him- I do. lol)

Why would I google Anne? What did the poor woman do to deserve my snooping?

Um, her entry, HOW TO REFORM A RAKE, took FIRST PLACE in the Historical category of the 2009 Southern Heat Contest. I pulled up her website and was dazzled! Literally dazzled! AND I knew you would be, too!

So, without further narrative, let me introduce you to the very talented ANNE BARTON- aka the lady whose entry gave mine the smack down! *wink wink*

1) If you were a book, what would your blurb be?

Anne lives a charmed life. Her days are filled with spelling bees, multiplication tables, and book reports . . . while her evenings are filled with lavish balls, house parties, and carriage rides. Oh, and devastatingly handsome heroes. Of course, real life occasionally intrudes--in the form of malfunctioning kitchen appliances, unruly children (some of whom are actually her own), and, all too often, a rather shocking number on the bathroom scale.

2) Using three words, describe your voice.

Witty, fresh, provocative.

3) How long have you been chasing the dream of publication? What have you found to be the biggest road blocks?

I started writing my first romance novel in 2006 and finished it a few months later. I'd always imagined writing a book would be really hard, and it was. But I had no idea that it would be so much fun. I was hooked. When my next story finaled in the Golden Heart, I attended my first RWA National Conference in San Francisco. I was star struck at the huge literacy signing, and when I saw one of my favorite authors in line at the hotel's Starbucks, I hyperventilated. To be honest, the size of the conference was overwhelming. As you know, though, romance writers are some of the most generous, talented, and kind people you could ever meet. I made wonderful writing friends, and they've helped make the journey even more fun.

Fortunately, I haven't faced too many road blocks. I try to focus on what's under my control. If self-doubt starts to creep in or I get impatient, I know I need to get back to the joy of writing.

4) You have finaled and collected tons of accolades from contests. Is there a strategy to how you enter? Do you have any advice for contest newbies on how to make the most of a contest- good or bad?

I cut my writing teeth on contests, and judges taught me the basics of dialogue, point of view, and pacing. They pointed me in the right direction (i.e., books on craft, critique partners, etc.). Now, I like to enter a couple of contests when I have a new project to see how the story will be received. Some of my stories have done well and others so-so. It's hard to say what makes a certain story click with readers, and I sure wish I knew the secret.

I don't have any earth-shattering strategies for submitting to contests. I try to show a likeable heroine in a tough spot, introduce a hot hero whose goal is at odds with hers, and end with a big hook. In 25 pages or less.

My advice to someone thinking about entering their first contest . . . go for it! Contests are a lot of fun, and a great way to get feedback. Just don't forget to keep writing, finish that story, and then start another.

5) With winning comes getting your entry in front of some of the industry's top editors and agents. From their comments and advice, what did you find the most helpful?

That's a tough one. The comments I've received from final round judges have been encouraging but pretty general. Requests are nice, though! They give me hope that the editor or agent not only likes the story, but might believe it’s also commercially viable.

6) Give us an idea of your writing schedule? Are you structured? Or are you a pantser? Do you use any charts or worksheets/books?

I write in the evenings and on weekends--any time I can work it in. I belong to a weekly online goals group that really helps keep me on track. If I'm writing new material, I average 20 to 25 pages a week. If I'm revising, I shoot for three chapters a week. I start a story with a good idea of my characters and their goals, motivations, and conflicts. I usually write a rough synopsis that includes the three major turning points of the story . . . and that's it. The rest, I fill in as I go.

I like to try different strategies or tools, depending on the need. Sometimes I use a plotting board filled with colorful sticky notes (usually after I finish a draft) to check for any sagging parts of the story. I also use the framework of The Hero's 2 Journeys, by Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler, as a way to make sure my characters are growing and behaving, well, heroically.

7) Let's talk game plan. What are your goals for 2010?

This is what I posted for my goals group. It’s probably way more detail than you wanted, but, hopefully, sharing it with you will keep me honest.

1st Quarter:
--Revise WIP from beginning to end.
--Begin outlining my next story, the first in a Regency trilogy.
--Act as category coordinator for my chapter's contest.

2nd Quarter:
--Work with my agent to prepare project for submission.
--Draft the first 3 chapters and synopsis of a new book.
--Redesign my website.

3rd & 4th Quarters:
--Complete a draft of the new book.

--Work with and support my critique partners.
--Enter and judge at least 2 RWA contests.
--Attend at least 4 chapter meetings/workshops.
--Read at least 4 books on craft.
--Attend one conference.

Congrats on all your success, Anne! Thanks for letting me grill you. I'm looking forward to following your journey!

It was fun! Thanks for having me, Sarah, and I look forward to hearing great news about your journey as well. Happy (early) Valentine’s Day to you!

Right back at ya, Anne! I'm sure we'll be "seeing each other" soon since the contest season is getting ready to kick off! lol Best wishes and thanks for being an inspiration!

Ok, TLN'ers! You just met a rising star! Keep Anne Barton on your radar! I know we'll be seeing her name on book shelves soon! Feel free to scope out her beautiful website, just be prepared to be seriously amazed!

Thanks for hanging out with us today! To cheer those the snow left housebound, how about a beach song? (don't worry, there's hunkie-dunkie included!) Here's


Keli Gwyn said...

Sarah, I guess all that experience chasing toddlers around the house has paid off because you're able to track down serious talent in cyberspace. Anne is awesome! I know, cuz I'm privileged to be one of her CPs who gets to read her super stories before the general public. :)

I love the clever questions you asked Anne. Since she and I email several times a week, I wasn't surprised by her great answers. I could tell you lots more wonderful things about her, though, such as the fact that she took top honors in The Golden Rose for earning the highest overall score out of 173 entrants, that she finaled in the Golden Heart in 2008 AND 2009, and that she was invited to give a presentation about romance writing in her community this weekend.

Anne, I loved your "book blurb." Fun! Meeting you at Nationals in 2008 was a high point of the conference for me.

Now, surely I can come up with a question for you, one for which I don't know the answer. Hmm. Ah! Yes. Of all your heroines, which one is most like you, and why?

Micole Black said...

Hi Sarah. Hi Anne. I am so excited to see your plan worked out by the quarters. It gives a great visual. I am looking forward to seeing your books on the shelves soon! :) Good luck and Happy Writing. Heading over to check out your site right now. Thanks Sarah for once again bringing such great information!!!


Micole Black

Anne Barton said...

Sarah, you are so sweet, and you have a fantastic blog here! I enjoyed reading through all the wonderful interviews you've done. How do you keep up with all of this AND your kids? BTW, I love the Kenny song . . . and I'm definitely missing the sun!

Hi Keli! Wow, thanks for tooting my horn. I'm going to tell my mom she needs to step up the bragging if she's going to compete with you! ;) Having you as a CP is the best!

Which one of my heroines am I most like? Amelia. Because she was a late bloomer, likes to read People magazine (or the Regency equivalent), and her weight fluctuates. Nice question!

Hey, Micole! Planning by quarters allows a little more wiggle room for when the unexpected happens. I'm having to shift things around already, and it's only what, February? Ack. Thanks for dropping by and good luck with your writing goals. :)

Between The Lines & More said...

Wonderful interview, Ladies. I really enjoyed reading this and am going to snitch the concept of planning by the quarter. I've tried the year, the month, and the week with no real success. The quarter approach might just do the trick. Best of success to both of you.

Anne Barton said...

Thanks, BTL! I hope the quarterly planning works out. One reason I like it is that my writing cycle sort of follows the seasons. I seem to start a new story every summer, finish it in the late fall, revise in the spring, and start over . . . I hope to have real deadlines one day, though. :) Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

Kaye Manro said...

Sarah, this is a fab idea for a new series!

As always, great questions and answers to both of you!

Anna-- what a wonderful sounding book! Congrats and good luck!

Anne Barton said...

Kaye, I agree that Sarah has a knack asking great questions! Thank you for the good wishes, and all the best to you too!

Rebecca J Vickery said...

HI Anne and Sarah,
It was really interesting finding out about you, Anne. Congrats on the contests and best wishes on the writing.
I am loving this new series, Sarah.

Sarah Simas said...

Hi Anne!

Thanks for being here. lol I've been driving hither and yon all morning. What a great surpise to pop in and see you've got quite the party going on here! Too cool!

Sarah Simas said...

Hi Keli!

You sound like a truly wonderful CP! :) Loved the stats, too. Anne id definitely dazzling with her accomplishments. I'm betting we'll be seeing her name a lot this year. :)

Ha! Oh, Micole- you're on my list, lady. Better get prepped for my Hot Seat. LOL

Hi BTL- aka- Lynda!,
I was very impressed with the quarter system too. Makes goals look very attainable, huh? I'm so glad you stopped by! :)

Kaye! I thought it would be fun to give some of the spotlight to novices and debut authors. I enjoy meeting new people, too. Plus, it's inspiring hanging out with motivated writers. Ha! Goodness knows I need all the help I can get! lol

It's always a pleasure to see you! I have you to thank- you're one of the people who taught me about paying it forward! :)

Anne Barton said...

Rebecca, thanks for visiting! Your profile picture is making me long for the beach.

Sarah, is this a new background for your blog? You find the cutest stuff.

Sarah Simas said...

I just love to decorate! :)

I go to The Cutest Blog on the Block and another one called Sugar and Spice. I always find holiday and seasonal backgrounds and best part is they are f-r-e-e!

The site owner from Sugar and Spice designed my title graphic. I'd love to learn how to make my own backgrounds and graphics! *heehee* I'd decorate with beef cakes. LOL (just kidding . . . or not.) *wink wink*

Cari Quinn said...

Sarah, the blog looks gorgeous! I love coming here...it's such a happy, informative place. :)

Anne, I loved your goals...I really need to break my own down like that, in concrete manageable steps. Great interview, ladies, and best of luck!

Anne Barton said...

Sarah, how fun! And decorating one's blog is way cheaper than decorating the house. Or buying new outfits. I should try that. :)

Thanks, Cari! And I agree--TLN is a happy, happening place.