Thursday, September 13, 2012

So I thought I could write…

Last year this time, I was just another writer. I say writer because you’re not officially an author until you sign on the dotted line. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t write. I learned at an early age that writing could be a weapon, a way to cope with pain, a reward or a vacation to any place in the world. Writing can be anything and I could be anyone. If I thought it, I could write it.

When you walk through my house, you will see quotes all over the walls (even the bathrooms!). Everyday these are my constant reminders that anything is possible.

I wanted to be many things when I grew up. I still haven’t grown up (do we ever really?) but in between wanting to be an architect, auto designer, actor, engineer, John Taylor from Duran Duran’s wife, one thing remained constant. I wanted to write…and I wrote.

And sometimes my words got me into a whole heap of trouble, and other times I was revered. For me, the freedom that comes with writing is like that of an eagle, soaring high into the clouds. Nothing can stand in my way.

Two years ago, I heard about Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest. I looked at it, thought about it, did nothing. I was a member of RWA and a whole slew of others writer organizations, but I still backed away from submitting.

Last year, I was flitting around Twitter when I saw the contest was rolling around again. My Double Trouble manuscript had been sitting in a drawer for 7 years. It needed to be tweaked a bit…okay, it needed a complete rewrite, which is why when Harlequin asked me to submit it 7 years ago, I never did. I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t ready.

For those of you not familiar with Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, imagine American Idol for romance writers. With two weeks until the deadline, I made a decision to enter. And in the middle of my rewrite, I came down with the flu. I had a fever for over a week, but I’d be damned if I was going to let that stop me. I can remember staying up until 5am, writing and rewriting in bed, on a netbook, with a thermometer hanging out of my mouth. I even remember hallucinating a few times, thanks to the wicked reaction I had to NyQuil.

That quote right there says it all and it's my all-time favorite. It sits in a tiny 2x3 frame and I look at it every single day. Whenever I think I can’t do something, I read it and then I get my butt in gear and just do it.

I submitted my manuscript – yep, last year’s contest meant submitting your entire manuscript. I worked hard, met the deadline and waited…and waited. When the winner was announced, I didn’t get upset. I don’t think I ever expected to win because I never looked at it as a contest. For me, it was an opportunity to get my manuscript in front of an editor by jumping over the slush pile. They said they were contacting other entrants with offers and I figured I was one of them.

As the days ticked by, I dreamt one night that I got “the call”. I phoned my mom the next morning, telling her how real it felt. I was more than confident. I was 100% positive. Not being offered a contract wasn't an option. In fact, the thought honestly never crossed my mind. Until the day they announced all follow-ups were completed.

I was devastated. I think I cried for 5 days straight. But I didn’t stop writing. I tore the manuscript apart and started over – Obviously, it needed edits since it wasn’t chosen, and I wasn’t quitting.

Then on March 13th, my mobile rang and the word TORONTO appeared on the caller ID. I knew who it was. Harlequin is in Toronto. Small problem though…I was frozen in place. I swear I answered the phone a split second before it went to voice mail. It was Kathleen Scheibling, senior editor for Harlequin American Romance.

Kathleen began by explaining my manuscript had been sitting on her desk and she would have called sooner, but she was really busy (understatement of the year – the woman has an amazingly full schedule!) and she offered me a contract.

For the first time in my life, I was speechless. Mute and drooling, I nodded my head as if she could see me. I was also typing short email bursts to my best friend, Kelli, filling her in. My vocabulary range eventually grew into 5 or 6 words. I was so embarrassed afterwards, I sent Kathleen a follow up email apologizing for my complete loss of the English language.

And then I hung up the phone, screamed, cried and jumped up and down - and quickly put my manuscript back together!

So I thought I could write…and I was right! 

Now it’s time for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write 2012 – A global event where your dreams can become a reality.

I’m not going to tell you how to format your submission or how to write that winning manuscript. Harlequin and So You Think You Can Write will guide you with their community forums and an online conference. I’m here, sitting on your shoulder with a pitchfork (I’m no angel), jabbing at you until you enter this contest.

If you want to write for Harlequin, what is stopping you? Only one thing…you. Don’t blame your day job, your spouse, the kids, the “I don’t have time…blah, blah, blah”. I don’t want to hear it and I won’t sugar coat things either. No excuses – you can do this! We create our own destiny and there is nothing you can’t do.

A fool once told me I was a dreamer. When I said he would see my name on a book one day, he said “Ha! You can’t even write your name in the snow.” My response? “The hell I can’t! I just have to move around really fast, that’s all.” Bottom line, there are always obstacles in life. Sometimes you have to change course a bit in order to clear them.

So You Think You Can Write is an amazing opportunity – How many publishers hold your hand and walk you through the craft of writing and submitting? None that I know of.

On Monday, September 17th, So You Think You Can Write kicks off a free, 24/7 online conference. You have an opportunity to spend an entire week with 50 editors, from three countries, all from the comfort of your own living room! You can even wear your Betty Boop pajamas and pink fuzzy bunny slippers if you want to. This boot camp will help you prepare your submission for the So You Think You Can Write contest.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has changed since 10:02 AM on March 13, 2012. Double Trouble became BETTING ON TEXAS, and two days ago, it became available for pre-order. It’s been 6 months since I received my call and I will never forget a single moment of it.

So You Think You Can Write is lighting the path and leading the way. Come join me and cross over to the Harlequin author side.

I’ll leave you with one last photo from my house…

Start Dreaming, Doing, Achieving 
The End Is Just A New Beginning
Live Life, There Is No Take Two

So I think YOU can write… 

Amanda Renee 
Betting on Texas (March 2013)


Tammy Yenalavitch said...

Hi Amanda,

I really enjoyed your story - funny with a happy ending. I have no desire to write, but I do love to read.

Melissa Cutler said...

What a great story, Amanda. You're such an inspiration!



Amanda Renée said...

Tammy - Thank you for supporting our blog every month! It's readers like you that make the hard work worth while.

Amanda Renée said...

Melissa - You were not only the first person to congratulate and “follow me” after SYTYCW announced my contract, you were the one who explained it all to me! I remember bombarding you with contract questions and you were so patient. I am forever grateful.

Leigh Duncan said...

Fantastic, inspiring story, Amanda! Congratulations on your first sale, and the many I'm sure that are to follow.

Amanda Renée said...

Thank you, Leigh! My fellow American Romance authors inspire me every day.

mtrybak said...

Hello my friend! I knew parts of this story but not all of it. I guess that's why you have jump drives every where! So when you tear up your manuscript you still have a million other jump drives including in your purse. I saw your book on Amazon and will e-mail you later. As always I have a story to tell you. Congrats on your book Amanda. My house is full of quotes like that too.

Amanda Renée said...

Michele! It's wonderful to hear from you. I'll be looking for your email. Thank you for stopping by :)

mtrybak said...

I'm writing it as I speak!

Anonymous said...

I just have to move around really fast. LMAO. Love you. Thanks for the name drop LOL.

Amanda Renée said...

LOL...even from miles away, you were the first to know. Love ya, Chica. Bra tossing on cop cars and all!

Birgit Davis-Todd said...

Hi Amanda,
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. I was one of several editors who read your contest submission last year after the initial winner, Kat Cantrell, was announced. We loved the story and were equally thrilled when Kathleen contracted the book for HAR.

Our 2012 SYTYCW event launches next week with a five day online conference so we hope many aspiring authors will join us. Web site:



Amanda Renée said...

Birgit, thank you for stopping in and for the kind words. It's an honor to be a part of the Harlequin team.

CJ Carmichael said...

Amanda, it's great to get to know you a little better through this blog. Congratulations on your success and may the book contracts keep coming!

Amanda Renée said...

Thank you, CJ! It's surreal to be among some of my favorite authors. I think I've read everyone on of your Super Romance books and Colton is next on my list :)

Linda Warren said...

What a wonderful story. Love all your quotes. I feel like I know you now.

Amanda Renée said...

Thank you, Linda! I was just thinking about you. I was stuck on a certain paragraph in my current WIP and asked myself, "Now what would Linda do?" I flipped through a few of your books (you're on my keeper shelf) and I managed to get past my manuscript road block. Your personal story has been so inspirational to me, I know anything is possible. Thanks again!

Spring Stevens said...

I have been sitting here...pondering whether or not to enter the contest this year and I happened to find and read your blog. A wonderful story and such inspiring words. There are only a few weeks left before entries are to be submitted and after reading this, I think I am going to take the leap and at very least, give it my best. Thank you for the inspiration!

Amanda Renée said...

Spring, thank you. That is the greatest compliment! I am here if you need anything. You can always reach me at So You Think You Can Write is an amazing opportunity.

Amanda Renée said...

Everyone...all links are active in the above blog. If you want to jot the website down, it's or just click on one of the many highlighted links above. Now get out there and write your Harlequin tails off!

Keisha Washington said...

I needed this. I'm entering this year, I've doubted myself for far too long. Your story is inspiring and your responses to everyone's comments are just the kick in the rear I needed.

Amanda Renée said...

Keisha, I happy to hear you're entering. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask. So You Think You Can Write is an amazing experience.

Brenda said...

Your blog post was so inspiring! As an as-yet-unpublished writer, I know I wonder "but what if I'm not good enough? What if I spend all this time getting my story from my head to my computer, and no one wants to read it?" But your story has encouraged me. I WILL finally finish this manuscript!! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

Amanda Renée said...

Brenda, I am honored to offer you some encouragment. You can do this! Good luck in the competition!