On feeling grateful and giving thanks.

I think there’s another writer in my neighborhood. When I get up to walk in the morning, just after 4 AM, I see her through her front window as I’m finishing my return lap. She has her laptop open and glasses on with a steaming mug beside her. I haven’t seen her typing, only reading, but it’s nice to think there’s a kindred spirit close by.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so it seems more than appropriate that I take some time to be grateful and less self-centered. My coworkers are mostly remarkable; I was talking to one about my new weight loss endeavor and how I was disappointed by how long it takes me to walk a mile. It’s all about baby steps, I know – you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk and all that – but I feel like I can go faster and that doing so would help me make more progress faster (I’ve always been impatient). I didn’t think anything of the conversation and assumed we were both just shooting the shit in front of the mailboxes waiting to either heat up our lunches or use the constantly occupied bathroom.

A couple of days later, the coworker gave me an interval timer. This person was out and about in the world, living life as best any of us can in these strange times, and thought of me. How sweet is that? I was touched and plan on starting to use the thoughtful, surprising gift after Thanksgiving – I like giving myself specific start times for things. Is that anxiety?

Then last week, three of my students in my Creative Writing class surprised me with cupcakes to celebrate the publisher requesting a full manuscript. They had candles and lit them and had me blow them out. How precious is that?

For some of us, nothing really feels okay right now. Nothing feels solid. In times like this, I hold to love. I dig my fingernails in and cling for dear life because love is the reason for everything. Love really and truly is all that matters. If there’s love, everything else will fall into place.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Spread the love ❤

On big fat good things.

So I lost four pounds so far on Noom. I gained one of those pounds back when I weighed myself Monday morning, but when I weighed myself on Tuesday, most of that mystery pound had vanished. Using the app has definitely helped me be successful, but I need to get moving again. I haven’t been walking like I usually do, and I’ve been blaming it on the lack of sleep, which is probably accurate. But I should also mention I’ve abandoned my evening bedtime routine. I’ve fallen back into the rut I was trying to escape in a desperate scramble because it’s easier than making real change.

But I will not give up. I will persevere. And I owe this determination to the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It came on just as I was starting to make dinner and as I’d already seen it, I left it on in the background for white noise. At one point, Toula says something like dreams don’t do any good because nothing ever changes.

Naturally, she says this just before the love of her life, perfectly played by John Corbett, strolls into her life.

Currently, there are no Greek coffee shops open for me to be employed at to charm a vegetarian school teacher. My mouth would be covered with a mask even if there were, so conversation would be difficult. Logistics aside, it’s still a nice dream to dream that there’s someone for everyone, even frumpy thirty-somethings with big, loud, obnoxious families.

The other aspect of the film that makes it so damn good, other than being adorable and wholesome and all the good stuff that films should be made of, is the story behind it. Nia Vardalos, who plays the lead Toula, wrote it and starred in it as a one-woman play. It gained traction – Rita Wilson saw it and made her husband Tom Hanks see it – and earned attention from big studios. But those studios wanted to abandon Vardalos’s vision and change the ethnicity of the family to Hispanic, cast a known actress like Maria Tomei in the lead instead of Vardalos, and changing the plot. Vardalos refused the changes. Rather than give in for a substantial payday, she maintained the integrity of her art, her creation – the story is based on her real life, after all – and went with a smaller studio.

And the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time. So what can be learned here? That love exists for everyone and that a woman writer can tell her story the way she wants to and still be wildly successful. And those are all good things.

Those are all big fat good things.

Keep dreaming ❤

On Noom.

I’m planning on studying abroad in Ireland next year. It could be the adventure of a lifetime, so I want to be at my best: mentally, physically, and emotionally. Physically, there’s two things about my appearance I’d love to change. One is my front tooth that has a dying root because I chipped it in childhood and never got it fixed. The other is my weight.

I know I’ve written about my struggle with my weight on this blog before. I was losing some weight two years ago through straight diet and exercise. I was making progress but then I stopped for any number of reasons that just seem like excuses more than anything else. So randomly, a little over two weeks ago, I decided to download the Noom app.

And I am L O V I N G it.

I’ve logged into the app nearly every day. I’ve weighed myself pretty regularly. I put my starting weight 15 pounds lighter than what I really was, and that was eye-opening. When did I gain that 15 pounds? How hadn’t I noticed? Noom has you weigh-in everyday. I’ve thought for years that doing so was bad and could cause depression and wreck motivation, but that’s not true. And Noom has the science to back it up.

Everyday, I have between 9-12 minutes of articles (or “courses”) to read that educate me on all sorts of different topics related to health and weight loss. Today, it was all about removing processed food from my diet because processed foods are essentially the worst. Yesterday, I learned about how portion sizes have doubled over the last twenty years and that even the dinnerware we buy for our own homes has increased in size. Noom has made me aware of the science and sociology of weight loss, and it’s major goal is to help with the psychology side of it, too. That’s what appeals to me most about the program because it readily acknowledges a person is not just a number on a scale. It’s an inclusive approach and I’ve been successful. When I weighed myself this morning, I discovered I’d lost two pounds.

I weigh myself everyday. I log my meals everyday, or at least I try to. This is the one aspect I still struggle with. Sometimes I’m just lazy, but other times I’m ashamed to admit I went over my calorie limit and if I don’t log it, then it’s like it never happened. I try and pass my steps goal everyday. I read the articles everyday. I message my coach and have been messaging my group. I have a friend at work who’s also using the app. It’s supportive and wonderful and I highly recommend it.

A healthy body supports a healthy mind, and no matter the lies pop culture tries to sell, a healthy mind is a creative mind.

On good news in trying times.

It’s been said time and time again that 2020 has been an awful year. Lately, I’ve noticed more of my friends and followers on social media posting memes asserting that 2020 should be seen as a year of growth, that we should acknowledge how we’ve survived and proven we can adapt to adverse situations. I like to be positive, and I love that sentiment, so rather than harp on anxieties and rehash a litany of complaints, I thought I’d share some good news.

GenZ Publishing has requested a full manuscript!

GenZ Publishing had liked one of my Instagram posts, which excited me because it meant all the posting seemed to be paying off. I decided to check out their website. I was impressed by the website; it was sleek and professional, and had all the information a reputable publisher, independent though it may be, should have. When I look for publishers, I A L W A Y S check the website for professionalism, information, and S U B M I S S I O N G U I D E L I N E S. I make sure the publisher is accepting submissions and that the publisher is interested in my genre. GenZ Publishing was a match for both of those requirements, so I decided to send a query that fit their specific guidelines and the first two chapters of Moody Blue.

I’ve had success querying in the past. Aside from the publication of my first novel eight years ago, I’ve had multiple full manuscript requests based on queries I’ve sent out for Moody Blue. And when I’ve pitched the novel in face-to-face meetings and conversations with agents, all except two have requested material. I’m telling you all this to let you know I’m very confident in my query letter, and I’m telling you this because I’m going to share it with you, via this video.

Now, GenZ Publishing was particular about that query letter. Typically, my query letters look more like this:

Ms. Caroline Eisenmann
Frances Goldin Literary Agency, Inc.
214 W. 29th Street, Suite 410
New York, NY 10001 —–> even though it’s an electronic query, I still want to be as formal as possible and write out the mailing address for the publisher and/or agent

Good morning Ms. Caroline Eisenmann: —–> I always include a formal greeting with the full name; professionalism is the name of the game!

I hope this message finds both you and yours doing well (it always helps to be polite and friendly). My 70,700-word novel, Moody Blue, is a devastating study of relationships affected by mental instability in the tradition of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins (agents and publishers are both primarily interested in books that sell, so if you can compare your story or even your writing story to an author or specific book that’s selling, do so! Just make sure it’s a timely reference). My novel will appeal to fans of psychological thrillers that withhold information to develop a surprise sociopath character. Novels that offer a refreshingly realistic glance into the turbulent human heart and study the inexplicable elements of human nature have garnered high interest among readers lately, particularly with authors such as those mentioned above and Ruth Ware.  MOODY BLUE is arguably cut from the same cloth, but with more of an edge that would welcome a more inclusive readership.

The novel follows the lives of Adam Petersen, a troubled man trying to reclaim his sanity after suddenly losing his fiancée, and Claudia Taylor, a young woman who embarrassingly admits to being normal.  When the two attend a writers’ workshop for survivors of traumatic events, Adam reveals that he discovered his fiancée dead in their bedroom.  The police categorized the death as a suicide, but Adam is convinced it was homicide, and is desperate for empathy and support. Claudia, young and dumb and afflicted with a flair for the dramatic, readily accepts the role.  She soon discovers that she is woefully unprepared as getting to know Adam becomes more and more dangerous. As their relationship evolves and more is revealed about who they truly are, one moves closer to sanity while the other spirals into an unsettling state of delusion.  The aftermath is devastating and both are left broken, bruised and unsure of what comes next.

This work examines the riotous excursions of the human heart in different ways.  I believe my talent (if I may be so bold) and tenacity will be a perfect fit with your agency. My first novel, Her Beautiful Monster, was published by Martin Sisters Publishing in October of 2012, and has received positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads alike. My short story, “Cover Me,” was published online via the Cynic Online Magazine. I also have attended the Algonkian Writers’ Conference, The Writer’s Hotel, and the Frank McCourt Summer School of Creative Writing.

As per the guidelines, the first ten pages are included with this query, copied and pasted below.

I’m hoping you’ll take a chance on a young writer. I want to sincerely thank you for your patience, your interest, and thank you for your valuable time, and for considering Moody Blue. 

Sincerely, 
Mandi Bean
PO Box 1010
Ocean Gate, NJ 08740
Bean91888@gmail.com

And then once you’ve sent your query letter, it’s a waiting game. BUT NEVER STOP WRITING WHILE YOU WAIT! Some published and agents are fine with simultaneous submissions, so keep sending queries and material to interested parties. I also try to work on the next project when waiting for a response, as some can take up to three months. Sometimes, you’ll get an instantaneous reply back with the response time clarified. GenZ Publishing sent me the following reply:

Hello,

Thank you for contacting GenZ and Zenith Publishing. If this is a query, we will evaluate the work for style, characterization, credibility, marketing, and more and respond within six weeks. At this time, we are unable to offer detailed responses to works we will not be publishing. We will only review one unsolicited work from one author at a time. 

Thank you, and happy writing!

GenZ Publishing

Six weeks; I imagined I’d hear from them around Thanksgiving. I’d been rejected a lot lately so if I’m being honest, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic. But then, just over two weeks later:

Good afternoon, 

Thank you so much for your patience while we reviewed your query. At this time, we ask that you send us a full copy of your manuscript. Please do so by November 15th if you are still interested in potentially working with us. 


Best, 


Emily Oliver

Operations Manager  

And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since – working on tightening up a full copy of my manuscript. I’d like to send it in before the deadline to subtly communicate that I’m eager to work with them and grateful for the opportunity. So we’ll see what happens 🙂