Wednesday, November 7, 2012

29 WOW Wednesday: Sheri Larsen on Getting Out of the Box

Today's WOW guest, Sheri Larsen, is one of the first people I remember meeting when Marissa and I started blogging. She's a tireless cheerleader for everyone in the online writing community, and a positive role model in the art of being positive. I'm so pleased to be able to share the story of her journey with you!

In addition to being a writer, Sheri is a dancer, ice hockey fanatic, and lover of the misunderstood teen/tween. Her debut YA paranormal fantasy, MARKED BEAUTY, about a girl possessing heightened sensitivity to auras and emotions, has received multiple offers which are currently being considered as well as still being subbed. She lives in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and LL Bean with her husband of twenty years, their four children, and a playful bich-poo named Gracie. She is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary. Find her on her blog, Writer's Alley, her WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter @SA_Larsen.

Heart Out of the Box

By Sheri Larsen

Picture a box, linear with boundaries set to a uniformed scale. The design has purpose and function meant to simplify yet promote as much productivity as possible. The publishing world is set up in a similar fashion. Structure is a big part of the spark, passion, and drive of delivering marketable literature and becoming a respected author.

Let’s call this publishing etiquette.

When I decided, a short three years ago, to devote myself to the creation of young adult and children’s stories, I was awkwardly naïve; ignorance permeated off me like steam whistling from a tea kettle. But anyone who knew me knew that would never deter my goal. I’m a fighter by nature, one who challenges the norm, a heart out of the box.

But this writing world is big and intimidating, so researching the art of writing, fiction, and the publishing industry was where my initiation began. And I found a box, as I’m sure most of you have—golden rules, helpful formulas, shivering taboos, and major No Nos. The two year old with a spongy brain within me flared to life, soaking up information, wanting to be a part of this amazing arena. Query and synopsis outlines kept me up at night. Stalking the internet for agents and literary agencies had me practically graphing their individual guidelines like a mathematician gone mad. My world gained even more geometric perimeters when blogging lured me into its lair.

More etiquette. There was a way to go about writing posts, commenting, and connecting with other writers. Forums and logins and accounts blossomed all around me. Understanding and respecting the workings of the publishing business was a must for me, as should be for any writer. But something didn’t feel right, kept nagging me, like part of myself forged forward, while the rest of me lingered behind. I ignored it and continued to climb the ladder.

I listened to industry wisdom, which led me to writing contests, blog giveaways, and agents offering up critiques; I even won a few of those and made wonderful contacts and connections. Expanding my social media outlets and networking became a passion. Wrote some freelance. All of this came while my fingers tapped the keys of my laptop, creating my manuscripts.

Those graphs I’d created of agent submission guidelines were ready for use. I followed each to the T, not veering off course, even querying only a small number of agents to start with as the industry advised. Though that first subbing experience was positive, I was also introduced to the ugly face of form rejections or no response at all. Despite understanding how chaotic the industry must be, it stung, and that stirring inside me gained strength.

My eyes were now opened to the long, hard, and discouraging avenue the submission process can take. I took the Revise & Resubmits a few agents had offered, all while remaining inside that box. Positive praises were for the most part the responses I received. But for reasons more due to the market at the time and not me, I still gained no takers. Stumped was where I was at.

After great council from critique partners and writing friends, the wet noddle my rebellious side had been lashing me with finally gained the attention it deserved. I had always been true to myself, even if it wasn’t popular, and I wasn’t being.

The time had come to tear out of that box and set my creative heart free. I began submitting to smaller publishers and presses. It was a risk, but sometimes a risk will bring about a spark. In my case, it did. Over the course of those first two weeks, I received requests for the full manuscript, which eventually lead to multiple offers of publication from some wonderful publishers. From there, I shared the news of offers with a few agents in the hope that one would find my passion vibrant enough to work with.

Within two hours of emailing Paula, I received a response asking if we could chat. Our phone conversation happened two days later, resulting in an offer of representation and many tears from me. Happy tears.

I’d broken out of the mold, not just the norm to publication, but the walls I had allowed to fence in my creative side. Don’t mistake my personal journey as a spat on the publishing world. It’s a wonderful establishment and the setup has worked for many. But there’s nothing wrong with forward thinking and peeling back layers to see where and how you fit in.

Here are a few suggestions on how to give your creative juices a break during your search for an agent or publisher:


  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Don’t become so stringent about the way it should be done, you miss the way that suits you best.
  3. Though wisdom is a precious commodity to share, realize it comes from another’s personal experience and may apply differently to you. What works for one might not work for another.
  4. Forge ahead boldly, believing in who you are. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you?
  5. Embrace the norm, but know that it can be tweaked to fit you more personally.
  6. Fear not that others will lose interest in your ideas. If you’ve found value in that work, someone else will too.


During your journey to agenthood and publication, keep in sight what inspired you to start. The spark of an idea, passion to develop it, and drive to share your words came from your heart. Don’t let it be boxed in.

29 comments:

  1. Awesome advice Sheri to embrace the norm but to follow your own path if you find it's a different path. So excited for all your good news.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I only hope this encourages and inspires others to keep at keeping at it...

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  2. Those are great tips and an inspiring story. I'm so glad you pushed on and didn't sway from the path.

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  3. lovely post, Sheri! You are gracious and wonderful and I'm so glad to call you one of my Oasis Sisters. ((hugs))

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  4. Sheri, I love this. It is the inspiration I need. You are wonderful. I hope one day I can be in the publishing world as a published author. I must stay true to myself and believe in me. It shows. Thank you so much.

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  5. Thanks for the great post, Sheri. I've been thinking about moving out of the box. Thanks for the little push. :)

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  6. What a wonderful story and great advice. Thanks for sharing it with us, Sheri.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your story and the great advice!

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  8. Your journey inspires. Thank you for sharing it here.

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  9. Excellent advice, Sheri!
    Happy to say I've found the way all of that suits me best.

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  10. Aw, gave me tingles.

    So great to hear it coming from someone who's worked so hard and rightfully earned her spot! More great things to come from you are surely on the horizon. :D

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  11. Great advice, Sheri! I hope to be ready to make some decisions about my story in the new year. I'll take your advice and experience to heart! :)

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  12. Great advice for those venturing into the publication game for the first time...especially #3 and 5.

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  13. All great stuff! There's no "right" way of doing things, as you've proven. And there's NOTHING wrong with smaller presses! Thanks, Sheri!!

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  14. Flexibility is key, so that is a special thing to keep in mind :-)

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  15. Wonderful advice, thanks for sharing!

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  16. It's always wonderful to see hard work paying off for a wonderful perosn like Sheri!

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  17. I'm such a rule follower. This post is a real wake up call. Thank you so much.

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  18. Fantastic, inspirational post. Thank you for sharing your journey and advice with us.

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  19. This is very inspiring SA! Thank you for sharing and good luck :)

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  20. I love the post, Sheri, and wish you much success wherever your journey takes you. (The "two year old with a spongy brain" cracked me up!) I'm definitely taking your advice and getting out of the box. Thanks! :-)

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  21. Sheri is always an inspiration, and this post is no exception. Thanks, ladies!

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    1. Aw...you are so sweet, Julie! Thank you. Just hope it helps others.

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  22. Oh! These are such great important lessons you're sharing here! I love all six of them, but the three that stood out to me most of all were #2-5... Experience can apply differently to everyone, and Don’t become so stringent about the way it should be done, you miss the way that suits you best. Good stuff~ <3

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