Monday, January 29, 2018

This time, last year, Beth Turley was a workshop participant. Now she's a #1st5pages success story.

We were so excited to hear the news that 1st5pages alumni, Beth Turley, sold her debut novel IF THIS WERE A STORY. She stopped by to answer questions about her workshop experience and her path to publication.

Beth, how long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was in kindergarten. It’s called “The Cat and the Dog” and my parents framed it for me as a gift last year. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. When I found out I could actually get degrees in that field, I knew that nothing else was going to make me feel more complete, and that’s how I ended up with an MFA in Writing.

When did you participate in the 1st5pages?

I participated in February 2017. It’s hard to believe it was almost a year ago, because it was such an essential part of my journey that it feels like it happened yesterday. My debut novel started in a different place when I entered the workshop. Because of feedback I received from my mentors and fellow participants, the novel now starts in a different place. That advice was so, so spot on and important.

How long did you query after the workshop before signing with your agent?

This workshop really gave me the confidence and technical advice to query my book, and I signed with my agent, Zoe Sandler at ICM, about a month after participating in the workshop. (Query her, she’s wonderful).

And how long were you on submission before getting your deal?

I was on submission for about a month. I am extremely grateful for my short submission process, but I don’t think any amount of time on submission is better than another. I’m a big believer that things happen the way they’re meant to happen.

What is your writing routine like? Do you write at home or in a coffee shop? Listen to music?

Late 2017/ early 2018 has been the time of routine for me. I sit at my desk, put on “Instrumental Chill” Pandora, and write. I am an adjunct instructor/ university employee which has been a great balance to my writing routine. I might end up with 400 words in a day, or 2,000. I’m happy with getting a single word on the page per day.

Was there an AHA moment on your road to publication when felt like something suddenly sank in
and you felt like you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

My AHA moment was coming to the realization that pretty sentences do not make a book. I’ve always had a serious love for beautiful prose, but it took some time to realize that beautiful prose was not everything. That’s when I learned about plot and craft and dialogue and theme and all those other details that make a book a book.

What would you like to pass along to other new writers?

Don’t give up. No querying process is without its share of sadness. I know how badly every writer wants their dreams to come true. Even now, months from my debut, I can tap into that feeling so vividly. I would want to tell every writer that there is always a new story to be written, other happiness to fill in the gaps, and some way to persevere.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a draft of my new middle-grade project, and am at work on a third. I’m always planning or drafting or revising in some way, but right now the focus is on my second book. Book #2 syndrome is a real thing, but I’m fighting it.

Thanks for answering our questions, Beth. We're super excited to announce that Beth will be joining us as a 1st5pages mentor next month!

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