Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Power of Pixie Dust

Riders and Friends of Riders, meet Lizbeth Selvig, winner of RWA's 2010 Golden Heart for single title contemporary romance. For the past two years Liz has been serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, the Twin Cities chapter of Romance Writers of America. She's a terrific writer and a good friend. Heeere's Liz!

Thank you, Kathleen, for inviting me, it’s such an honor to be here. RWTTD is hosted by my favorite authors, many of whom also happen to be MFW chapter mates. To be asked to guest blog with people I’ve admired for such a long time is like getting invited to play for a day in the major leagues. It’s more than cool. It’s a little bit of a magical moment.

And magic is my topic today.

When I first got serious about writing, I read that success in this business takes 10 percent talent, 80 percent perseverance, and 10 percent pixie dust. “Isn’t that just the cutest sound bite to trot out when I’m richer than Nora?” I thought.

I didn’t believe the formula. I was a journalist, darn it. I’d been paid to write. Paid to edit. Not that I had delusions writing a novel would be easy—I had that much lack of arrogance. But surely my skill would wow editors and agents without the help of Tinkerbell or her pouch full of pixie dust.

Well, clap your hands for Tink with me, because I’m no longer that stuck-up, I-can-do-this-without-magic-thank-you-very-much writer. After this summer, I believe with all my heart in pixie dust.

The first sprinkling of it fell last November. It was a crazy month, and I didn’t get to half my planned writing projects. But, somehow, I got a Golden Heart entry ready and hauled it to the post office on time. That was miracle enough, but some of the dust must have wafted into my attitude. “This is a good story. This one could final.” That’s honestly all I kept thinking.

Which was seriously not like me. I’m that kind of backward-thinking self preservationist who always prepares for disappointment—as if imagining the worst will make it sting less if it happens. But not this time! This time, I was a model of highly un-Minnesotan-like optimism. The trade off for this positive attitude was that I was a pathetic wreck the two days before GH finalists were announced. I’m embarrassed now I was so loony, but (cue the tinkling chimes) pixie dust sprinkled over my silly self and, I was a Golden Heart finalist.

One new Website and two local paper interviews later, the RWA convention introduced me to my 60+ fellow finalists. It’s not just being nice to say I believed any one of us deserved a GH win. I sat at my banquet table on Awards Night without a speech ready (preparing for disappointment) until, at the last minute, something made me give myself a lecture: “Listen you, you could win and you’d better know what to say.” I’d barely finished writing seven bullet points on a paper scrap when they called my name!

I went home with a Golden Heart necklace for my book “Songbird,” six requests for queries and/or partials, and my sense of optimism intact. Interviews with two A-list agents had gone perfectly. One said she was looking for exactly what I was writing. When I queried her, she replied with, “This reminds me of (insert NYT author here).” I was convinced the magic dust had done its job.

But the pixies weren’t finished throwing stuff quite yet. I received an unusual e-mail I didn’t believe at first was real. Ostensibly from a senior agent at an established NY agency, most of her sig line was missing, and hers was not the sender’s e-mail. Needless to say, I went into research mode. To my astonishment and delight, she was not only legitimate, but had found and contacted me through my Website—after her own search.

All my A-list agents from Orlando, including the one who’d compared me to a NYT bestseller, declined offers of representation. But, my “accidental agent,” the delightful Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh & Otis,—who also happens to be named Liz, also loves dogs, also was slightly disappointed that I’d taken two doggy characters from my GH book, and also loves to talk on the phone—said she would be thrilled work with me.

You tell me. Perseverance? Or Pixie Dust?

The Golden Heart contest has changed my life. My 10 percent talent gave me the courage to write a book. My 80 percent perseverance got me to polish and send it in. But without that pixie dust, would I have gotten a set of judges that liked the story? Would my new agent (!) have found my Website? Would I be in the midst of awesome revisions and feel confident I’m on the right road to publication?

I don’t think so.

You might call it luck. Or guardian angels. Or kismet, karma, or the power of positive thinking. The pixie dust used on me was, I think, a combo of all those ingredients. I also believe I helped create my own magic. I made the Website, I sent the entry in ... I just don’t know who mixed everything together or who started sprinkling it last November.

What I do know is it’s super powerful stuff!

So--when have you felt the power of what could only be pixie dust in your life? What do you do to help make your own magic?


Maxine Mansfield said...

Sooooooooooooo true, and so sooooo deserve the success.

Maxine Mansfield said...

lol and You so deserve the success :) (It's still early here)

LizbethSelvig said...

Hello Maxine, one of my biggest fans! Thank you -- and thanks for posting; it's an honor considering you pick your blog comments very carefully! You rock!

Lynda Bailey said...

Yo, Accidental Roomie~
Was it coincidence or destiny that you bunked with me that first night in Orlando? Or was it Tink doing her thang, considering we'd actually met several years before at the Emerald City Conference in Seattle? I don't know and frankly don't care. I only care that you're now part of my world. Am so incredibly happy and proud to call you my sista!
Love ya!

LizbethSelvig said...

Oh, how I miss ya sista! Thank you for stopping by -- you're such a special part of my "magic journey." It was definitely Tink, my dear. I certainly couldn't have picked a better way to start a friendship on my own!
Thanks-I'll talk atcha soon!

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Liz!!!! Congrats again on the GH win and welcome today. It's great to have you.

Love your post. There is no doubt that "dust" playing an influence in this whole process. I wouldn't have sold without it.

These days I'm just working my butt off trying to make magic. That 80% perseverance thing always plays a part.

Did you finish with your revisions?

Helen Brenna said...

Btw, Kathy just called to let me know her power is out, so she won't be able to post at all today.

To all the non-MN folks - we had horrible, horrible wind storms here last night that knocked down trees and power lines all over the city. I wouldn't be surprised if Kathy isn't the only Rider who impacted by power outages.

Hope everyone is fine

Cat Schield said...

Yeah Liz! Love the post. I think there is magic afoot in the world. Ya just gotta believe.

Congrats on the win and the agent. I know as soon as you're ready that book contract will "magically" appear.

Boone Brux said...

It was magical getting to be a part of your Golden Heart win. You deserve it. Put it out there and let the universe do the rest. I'd love to think it was that easy:)


Michele Hauf said...

You've been dusted, Liz! I love hearing stories like this. And your positive attitude is probably what keeps you surrounded by 'dust'. Here's to selling that story!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Helen,
Thanks for being my hostess today--it's so much fun to be here! I know how hard you work to make the magic in your writing and how much you share your insight with the rest of us. Good luck on all your projects--your magic shines in all your stories! As for my revisions--they are getting done. I have a November 15 deadline I'm determined to make. My 80% perseverance is up to 90% but I still need The Dust to help me get it all finished!

LizbethSelvig said...

You are definitely one my biggest inspirations when it comes to believing in The Power! You've had an awesome summer too -- I'm so happy to be in your company! Thanks for coming by with such good wishes!

Keri Ford said...


Perseverance and positive thought makes the power of pixie dust! I watch Wizards of Waverly Place and there’s this episode where Alex says something to the effect of, “if I believe it’s going to happen and pretend like it is happening, it usually works in my favor.”

I wrote a line in a story in which the hero is a bit down. the heroine tells him, "maybe you just haven't reached your happily ever after yet and you should keep trying."

^ I try to live by those best I can.

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Boone!!
It was definitely magical having you THERE as part of the experience. Thanks for coming by. But I need to tell the world that your turn is coming soon -- You have the talent and perseverance parts of the formula so nailed!!! The dust is starting to fall.

LizbethSelvig said...

Thanks so much for being such a big part of my journey. You are ALWAYS around with inspiration and great advice. If I learn to work a fraction of how hard you do to be a good writer and a good mentor, I know the book's as good as gold!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Keri!
That was a wonderful comment, thank you! I'm only beginning to learn the lessons about thinking positively and believing in myself. I'm going to write your lines down and read them daily--your advice is spot on! Thanks so much for stopping by!! Oh, and, I love Wizards of Waverly Place when I get a chance to watch it! (Along with Phineas and Ferb-the ultimate "believe in yourselfers").

Donnell said...

Oh, absolutely it was Pixie dust... and then perseverance and absolutely throw in talent. The combination was magical and I'm so excited that great things are happening for you!

amy kennedy said...

Oh Liz -- I fell the magic every time I think of your GH and agent journey. I truly believe in magic -- I do believe in pixies, IdoIdo -- and strive to constantly feel and see it all around me.

Keri, I also watch Wizards -- Alex is my fave character, because, she doesn't strive to be good. But that quote is exactly how I live my life.

amy kennedy said...

er, I don't "fell" the magic, I feel it.

LizbethSelvig said...

Donnell, you were/are absolute pixie dust in my life. I'm still preening over the help you gave me and I'm taking credit for :-) You are a GREAT GH sister to have and a very talented fairy!! Thanks for coming by.

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Amy!
Boy, can I see that philosophy work in your life. I think you spread way more pixie dust than you take from anyone--you're a gem! I really always appreciate your presence in my life!

Morgan O'Reilly said...

Don't forget you also have a vial of pixie dust you've been carrying around for a few years ;)

Seriously, I'm so happy for you my heart sings. Looking forward to holding Songbird in my hands as a printed book!

Hugs to you.


lois greiman said...

Hey Liz, thanks for joining us and sharing your story.

I do believe in pixie dust, but I also believe its main ingredient might be perspiration. So kudos to you. You're a great pres, and I'm sure you're a great author. Congrats.

LizbethSelvig said...

Hello Morgan my Dahlink Darling!
You're so right. If I'd had much more space on this blog I'd have started with the falling pixie dust in Alaska--where I first learned how to live a writer's lifestyle. And where I got my actual, physical vial of green pixie dust :-) And where an awful lot of my favorite fairies live. Thanks for being a fabulous friend and partner -- and for coming here to visit!!!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Lois!
I miss you and your wonderful enthusiasm and sense of humor! You are right about a main ingredient of magic being perspiration--that's a perfect way to put it. I might believe in pixie dust -- but I KNOW it doesn't act alone! Hope all is well with you my friend!! Thanks for the nice words--they mean a lot.

KylieBrant said...

Welcome to the convertible, Liz! Yours is a wonderfully uplifting story and will stand you in good stead many years down the road when you are encouraging aspiring writers ;0

LizbethSelvig said...

Thanks so much - that's such a fabulous goal to have. Thanks for putting the idea in my head :-) It's been great to be in the convertible-thanks for having me.

Alison H. said...

Hi Liz!
I stopped by this morning and your post wasn't up yet - so glad to read it now. I'm a firm believer in perseverance and pixie dust, too! Good luck with those revisions. I'm sure you'll have more good news soon.

Christie Ridgway said...

Liz: Congrats on your award and the magic in your life. And also thanks for riding with us today!

When my sons were small, I used to have them sprinkle fairy dust onto each manuscript I put in the Fedex box (they rubbed the imaginary stuff through their fingers onto the package). I know it helped!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Christie,
Thanks so much for the wonderful comments. And what a fantastic story about your sons - I think that's awesome and what a great memory to have with them. I'm sure it's still helping!!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Alison!
Thanks so much for taking time to come back! It's really great to have you stop by on launch week for your book -- I'm so thrilled for you. And I hope one day to follow in your footsteps! Good luck to you--here's to lots and lots of pixie dust!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks for visiting with us, Liz!

LizbethSelvig said...

Absolutely my pleasure, Helen. Thanks!

Lauri J Owen said...

What a great article! We need to hear more about magic!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

What a great story, and congratulations on the agent! I love your writing and hope to see it in print soon.

I recently got a job I love, after applying for many others and being turned down. Some of my friends say it was meant to be, so maybe I got a little fairy dust non that. Who knows, but it's great when it happens!