Salchows and Semicolons by Isabel Bandeira
About ten years ago, I was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon which meant I hadn’t been able to walk for months and I was going stir-crazy. So, being the very logical engineer I am, I decided it was the perfect time to try figure skating, even though the thought of strapping blades to my feet and stepping on ice terrified me. I found an adult learn-to-skate class, bought a pair of skates, and stepped into the weird but wonderful world of twizzles and salchows and spins.
About five years ago, I went to a book signing for a favorite author and the experience of meeting her and listening to her talk about her publishing journey made my fingers itch to write my own story. So, being the very logical engineer I am, I decided that I was going to write a book, even though bad advice from a famous author I met in high school made me abandon my dreams for over a decade. I bought a new laptop, outlined my story, and stepped into the incredibly weird and sometimes incomprehensible world of publishing.
It’s funny how much this skating journey teaches me about my writing journey and how easily the little tidbits of advice my skating coaches give me adapt to the writing world.
“You have to find a coach that fits your learning style. Not every coach is right for every student.”
I know that when my coach says “I know you can do it. I’d never tell you to do something if I thought you would fail,” the scary new jump or spin will be okay because I trust her one hundred percent (and she’s right every time).
One of the harder parts of the writing journey was finding critique partners who clicked with me. I remember trading chapters of my (admittedly cringe-worthy) first manuscript with other very talented writers to see if we were a good fit. It didn’t always work out—in fact, there were more bad fits (from personality to critiquing style) than good. Once we found each other, I felt comfortable taking critiques and advice from them. Because we fit, I was able to trust them when they said my book looked ready to query.
Later, when querying agents, this popped into my head again. It was easy to get frustrated when I’d get months of “just not for me” rejections, but I had to remember that I was looking for the right fit and so were the agents. When offers of representation came in and I had to choose between two equally wonderful agents, I had to figure out who clicked best with me and whose plan for my career fit best with my goals. Luckily, Carrie Howland was that person.
My book deal was similarly all about clicking with my editors and press—I already loved the books Spencer Hill had been publishing and found out on my call that Patricia and Asja, my editors, had edited some of my favorites from the press. When we talked about their vision of revisions for Bookishly, I knew they were a perfect fit for me. It was easy to accept their offer.
You can’t control the judges, only your skating. So just skate the best you can and skate for yourself. If you place, even better.
Getting up after a bad fall and skating again already puts you a step ahead of those who are too afraid to try again.
Totally self-explanatory when it relates to querying or being on submission.
The easier it looks, the harder it probably is.
One of the newest banes of my skating existence are cross-rolls, which, when done right, look really easy, like a flirty walk on the ice. It took years of work on my edges and balance to get to this point. When I started writing, I knew I had to put in the work and invest in the tools I needed to “make it look easy.” My personal toolbox is filled with years of Eastern PA SCBWI Poconos Retreats and writing workshops teaching me about plot and characters. Because writing is harder than it looks, it was invaluable to have a community other writers on the same journey to talk to, commiserate over rejections, and celebrate successes. I call Bookishly Ever After my Poconos book for good reason—three retreats touched it, from sparking the idea to building to plot, to revising the final manuscript. The faculty and fellow writers at those retreats, along with my critique partners and editors, helped me shape this book into the best book it could be.
Sometimes, if your body wants to move a certain way, you just have to go with it.
There’s no point in fighting what comes naturally, and I’ve learned that some of my most beautiful spin positions come from mistakes where my arms or legs didn’t quite follow directions. When I try to force myself to write something that’s not me, it’s stiff and uncomfortable compared to when I let go and write what my brain wants to write. I wrote Bookishly Ever After for myself and for fun to pass the time while I was querying another manuscript. Because I let myself write “my” way, it was such a wonderful experience compared to when I was writing in a genre and style that wasn’t me. I hope that joy comes across in the text.
Enjoy the flight
Once in a while, when everything clicks and Coach can see I have a perfect take-off on a jump, she tells me to “enjoy the flight.” There can be a lot of frustrations and falls along the way, but when everything clicks and the words fall together, it’s magic. We are word alchemists. We make gold out of nothing, and that’s an incredible gift that we have as writers. Enjoy the flight.
Growing up, Isabel Bandeira split her time between summers surrounded by cathedrals, castles, and ancient tombs in Portugal and the rest of the year hanging around the lakes and trees of Southern New Jersey, which only fed her fairy-tale and nature obsessions. Even though she’s a Mechanical Engineer and tones down her love of all things glittery while designing medical devices during the day, it all comes out in her writing. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the dance studio or at the rink, working on her jumps and sit spin.
Isabel lives in South Jersey with her little black cat, too many books, too much yarn, and a closetful of vintage hats. You can find her online at http://www.isabelbandeira.com or on Twitter @emberchyld.
Giveaway Info (from Stacey):
This giveaway is an autographed copy of Bookishly Ever After. For a chance to win this copy Isabel’s book, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, June 4th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. We’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names will be announced at the bottom of this post, by Monday, June 6th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, Isabel will sign your copy of her book and will ship it out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) If you are the winner one of the books, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING — BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post. Nikki Evans’s commenter number was selected using a random number generator so she’ll win the copy of Isabel’s book.