ABOUT TODAY’S POST:
To my normal readers: This post might seem a little strange, so let me explain. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of querying for an agent to represent the publishing efforts of my YA novel, In My Shoes. Through the wonderful efforts of Brenda Drake, a contest has opened up allowing non-agented authors the unique experience of teaming with a professional mentor in the publishing field to help polish their manuscripts to better appeal to publishing agents. The problem is that there are only about 100 spots and about 5,000 authors wanting those mentors! Come hell or high water (yes, that was a cliché) I intend to be one. Today’s post, then, is all about why my favorite mentors should select me.
My name is Cathie Armstrong and I publish under the name of C.H. Armstrong. My first novel, The Edge of Nowhere, is a work of Historical Fiction and is expected to release this January through Penner Publishing. With that said, I’m still unagented and am dying for the perfect PitchWars mentor to help me find a home for my YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction Novel. So, first things first: I’m looking for a YA mentor!
I’M NOT GOOD AT GIFS
Sorry mentors. I know that other mentees are making their bios really pretty with funny GIFs to entice you to choose them, but I’m just not good at that for the most part. I’m (for better or worse) a take me as I am kinda person. I’m straightforward and direct. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE seeing all the GIFs on the mentors and mentee bio pages, but I’d feel like a fake if I tried to make my bio all about the GIFs. This is the only GIF you’re gonna get from me today.
I always hate this section. What can one really say about one’s self? I’m a voracious reader. I’ll read anything except Science Fiction and I’m not overly fond of non-fiction, though I’ve caught myself finding some really great non-fiction reads (i.e. The Glass Castle, for example). My favorite all-time novel is To Kill a Mockingbird, so it should come as no surprise that my novel, In My Shoes, contains direct themes related to the ideas of not judging others until you’ve had a chance to experience some of what they’re going through.
I’m the 4th of five children (three of whom are boys), so I enjoy sarcasm and bantering, and I’m thick-skinned. That doesn’t mean I don’t get my feelings hurt when people are deliberately mean (i.e. Holy buckets! Have you gained weight?) but sarcastic comments made in fun are my speciality. I can dish it as hard as I can take it. So come at me! 🙂
I think anyone who knows me or who has beta read for me will tell you that I embrace honest feedback and criticism of my work. I’m not saying it’s easy to swallow; just that I know I’m not perfect and I rely on critique partners and beta readers to tell me what’s not working. When I wrote my first novel, I sent the first three pages to a friend who is a very successful published author. She literally ripped those pages to shreds and it stung. But I knew she was right, so I made the changes she suggested and sent it back. Then she made further suggestions, but — in spite of the sting — I followed her advice. It now barely resembles the first draft, but I’m so much happier for having set aside my pride and followed her direction.
So I embrace honest and forthright criticism in the interest of a better manuscript. My mentor doesn’t have to tiptoe around and wonder how to mention changes without hurting my feelings. I prefer a straight-forward approach (i.e. This should be cut, and I’m not buying this section…).
THE PERFECT MENTOR FOR ME
The perfect mentor for me is straight-forward and doesn’t hem and haw about how to tell me I need to make changes. Trust me: you will NOT hurt my feelings. If you do hurt my feelings, you’ll never know because that’s my problem to deal with. I’ll suck it up and move on. I can’t make a better novel if I don’t have honest criticism. Really.
My perfect mentor is one who prefers realistic fiction about real-world problems. My main character is homeless. She hasn’t run away, she’s not a problem kid, she doesn’t hate her parents…her family has just fallen on hard times. So I need a mentor who wants to deal with real-world issues that our kids are dealing with.
My mentor should have a soft-spot for blended families. The main character’s family includes her mother, stepfather, and half-sister (hate that world “half”). They are a seamlessly blended family who loves and relies on each other. I’m so sick of hearing about how kids hate their stepparents or that the stepparents are villains. You won’t find that in this novel. You’ll find a stepdad who loves his stepdaughter as his own and she knows it.
Romance is included in this novel, but it’s not the main theme. The main theme is focused on a high school senior trying to be as normal as possible while living with her family in the homeless community. So, while the main character does meet a very swoon-worthy young man and I think you’ll completely fall in love with him and want them to be together, you’ll be rooting more for the main character receiving better opportunities in life. So, if a strong romantic element is crucial to my mentor, then this probably isn’t the right manuscript. But, if a little romance is enough, then this might be perfect.
My mentor needs to appreciate diverse characters, specifically LGBT. The best friend of the main character is gay. I don’t spend a lot of time on this and the novel isn’t devoted to his being gay; rather, it’s presented as it being just a part of who he is, like having blonde hair or blue eyes. His sexuality isn’t a focus of the book, yet it is important to his character overall as this character attempts suicide as a result of a situation related to his sexuality.
My mentor should have both a great sense of humor and a soft heart. If you don’t mind laughing on one page and crying on the next, then this would be a great fit for you!
My ideal mentor LOVES To Kill a Mockingbird. I can’t stress enough how much I love this book and that the themes of this novel have shaped who I am as a person and how I see the world. My novel is built largely on the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. The ideals of standing up for what’s right, not judging those around us when we know nothing about their experiences, etc. If you LOVED To Kill a Mockingbird, I WANT YOU FOR MY MENTOR!!!!
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MY NOVEL
While this novel is completely fiction, it was inspired by an actual family I met when I wrote a story about a local “soup kitchen” run by an amazing woman named Linda Curtis. This soup kitchen is actually its own character in this book because it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before; so, when you read about this soup kitchen, its benefactor, and some of the people who benefit from it, you’re reading about how I saw this place the first time I visited. I was (and still am) awestruck. If you’re interested the place that inspired my novel, you can follow THIS LINK and page over to page 15/60 for the article.
But back to the family who inspired the main characters. I met a wonderful blended family with a teenage daughter. Even writing this brings tears to my eyes because I couldn’t get her out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about what life might be like for her. The teen years are hard enough without adding homelessness to the mix, and yet she handled it with grace.
I’ve met this family a couple of times since that initial meeting. At one point, this family was given some blankets that had been donated. I will never forget the stepfather saying, “Take only what you need. There is always someone who needs more than we do.” His words resonated with me, and the stepfather in my novel is based loosely on this wonderful man.
The title of this novel, In My Shoes, is taken from an actual student-run presentation at a local high school. This presentation – like the presentation in the novel – is directed at making the students aware of the hardships of others and focuses on issues like depression, teen suicide, self harm, etc. I didn’t know this when I wrote the novel, but one of my beta readers inspired and organized this first presentation. She was touched that I’d named my novel after her presentation, and I was thrilled that she loved what I’d done.
AND THAT’S ALL FOLKS!
So there you have it. I hope I’ve covered all bases. You can learn more about me by checking out my Twitter account and Facebook Author Page. If you’d like to know more about my quirky sense of humor, check out the FAMILY category on this website.