Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post: Rita Arens — A Writer’s Pub Journey By the Numbers

 Today I’m pleased to welcome Rita Arens, author of THE OBVIOUS GAME. Her contemporary, realistic young adult novel set in small town Iowa in 1990 releases tomorrow (February 7th). This “moving, sometimes heart-breaking story about one girl’s attempt to control the uncontrollable” is available NOW on Amazon.

You might know Rita Arens from her position of senior editor of or as the blogger behind Surrender, Dorothy. She edited the award-winning parenting anthology SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK (Chicago Review Press, 2008). THE OBVIOUS GAME is her first young adult novel. She is at work on her second. She lives with her husband and daughter in Kansas City.

Rita graciously (and bravely) agreed to answer some questions about her path to publication. As an aspiring novelist myself, I find the real stories of those who have succeeded both reassuring and inspiring. It’s an arduous journey; writers face challenges and heartbreak at every bend. But the payoff, the thrill of seeing your words in print, the honor of touching others with your story, is worth the struggle. Rita’s journey, by the numbers:

I want to preface this by saying I really debated sharing these numbers, because I always assume I’m the only one who has as much rejection as I have had. However, as I was going through this experience, a New York Times bestselling author shared her numbers with me, and they were way higher than I thought they would be, so I hope this helps aspiring writers to not give up. Don’t forget that agents and editors love books, but they also have to eat, so their decisions are business decisions, not decisions entirely of the heart. Listen to what they say if they offer specific feedback about your book and don’t get defensive. Revise, revise, revise, and just keep moving forward. Always have the ms out to someone. I would send out three queries a week, and I researched the agents before I queried. It’s a ton of work, but you have to be willing to do the research or it’s a pointless venture.

By the Numbers

# of agents queried — 192

# of partials/fulls requested and passes/rejections– 41 requests/109 rejections

# of months between landing an agent and your pub date — 13

# of Godiva bars devoured/glasses of wine drunk/miles run (or whatever your stress coping ‘drug’ of choice may be) during your pub journey — I burned off a lot of bottles of wine in three years.

#1 surprise on your path to publication — How much other authors propped me up and were willing to take a minute to offer encouragement when I needed it. Authors are awesome people.

#1 piece of advice for aspiring novelists — As evidenced by my numbers above, don’t give up and don’t stop revising. I started sending out my ms before it was ready. I mean, I thought it was ready, but it wasn’t. I probably could’ve halved the number of agents who rejected my full manuscripts had I gotten more beta readers’ feedback and made my revisions before I sent it out.

This was my first novel, and thus I’m not beating myself up too hard for learning that lesson the hard way, but I can’t emphasize enough enlisting beta readers and revising before sending out the manuscript. Every time I got a rejection with any sort of specificity, I revised to course-correct. The novel now looks very, very different from the novel I sent to the first agent on my list.

In other news, my agent didn’t sell THE OBVIOUS GAME, I did. He’s a fabulous agent and got me in front of many Big Six publishers, but in the end I went indie. There are many indie presses that will look at unagented submissions. I hope to give my agent my next novel to sell in less time than it took me to get this one together!

Thank you, Rita, for sharing your journey!

Make sure to check out my full review of  THE OBVIOUS GAME later this week. 

For more info about Rita and her novel:

Rita’s Website/blog/Twitter/Facebook/BlogHer

Around the Bonfire – DIY S’mores Fire Pot

Bonfire is our theme of the day. Why? Because I am guest posting over at Kludgy Mom for Gigi’s fabulous Around the Bonfire series.

Over there I’m spilling the challenges of parenting an elementary-aged kiddo (it gets much more complicated than picking the proper pacier, trust me). I thought I’d spill a lighter secret here and share an easy hack the whole family will love: a DIY s’mores fire pot.

Our little family escaped to the beach for a few nights over Labor Day weekend. We had no set agenda, no drama, no obligations — with the exception of s’mores on the beach. I’d been a slacker mom: my kiddo had yet to feel the ooze of melted white sugar goo sticking to his fingers or yelp in awe as he made a marshmallow torch. There is a technique to making a proper s’more, and though I’d camped for years during my own childhood, I’d yet to share the tradition.

I owed this kid some kick-ass s’mores.

One teeny problem: bonfires were not permitted on our beach.

But. . .though it is as crowded as the interstate during rush hour come noon, at night the powered sands are deserted. The beach patrol may cruise by and the neighbors can be tattle-tales with itchy fingers, but save for teenagers hanging out, lovebirds strolling along the dunes, or a group of insane shark fisherman carrying their poles and kayak towards the jetty (did I mention our beach is The Shark Bite Capital of the World?)—there aren’t many poeple.

It was worth the risk, even if we couldn’t do a REAL fire. So we’d make our campfire portable—and easy to extinguish and run. 

Pin It

All you need:

  • an unglazed terra cotta pot
  • heavy duty aluminum foil
  • charcoal
  • lighter fluid & lighter
  • S’mores supplies 

I used a 10-inch orchid pot—just what I had empty in the garage. Line the pot with foil. If the pot will be exposed to wind or a heavy breeze (like our beach gusts) leave enough foil to pull up to shield the coals from the wind.  Fill it about halfway with charcoal and douse with lighter fluid. Light and watch that baby glow.

*You can go old school and use whittled sticks or pick up some of the nifty extendable s’mores roasting forks (I found at Target) or 30″ wooden roasting sticks (from Christmas Tree Shop).

*Instead of the traditional Hershey’s bars I used these Moser Roth dark chocolate bars from Aldi. They fit on the graham crackers nicely, were far cheaper, and, well, dark chocolate makes me swoon.

Did I mention it was the weekend of the blue moon? Only when the moon appeared over the roaring waves it shone like a crimson fireball — more like a solar eclipse from a sci-fy tale than a silvery globe. Either way, it was brilliant and bold as the little flowerpot flames seemed to lick at it’s trail.

And the s’mores were pretty damn perfect, too.

Some nights are just made for memories.
Some nights you just have to live in the moment. 
And break a few rules.

Pin It

Remember to head over to Kludgy Mom and check out her Around the Bonfire series and her other words of wisdom!

Flippant Friend Friday: Things I Can’t Say

Today I’m hanging over at the sweet and sassy Shell’s Things I Can’t Say.  You all have been by her blog, I know, whether it’s for her heartfelt Pour Your Heart Out Wednesdays or some of her uber popular and fun memes such as Rockin the Bump.  And if you haven’t been by, you need to go there right now.

Things I Can't Say

Things I probably shouldn’t say (or write): I hate children’s birthday parties. Being trapped in a melee of screaming kids running around with pinata bats or priate swords while on a massive sugar-high is bad enough. But having to host my own beloved Kiddo’s party nearly gives me a panic attack.

Make sure you head over to Things I Can’t Say to read all about how I am Martha Stewart’s worst nightmare. Maybe you can relate. Or maybe you really are the hostess with the mostess and thrive in a throng of kids. Chime in on the conversation.


Now, as a little sidebar, I have to share a MAJOR DISCOVERY that may change your world.

Aldi sells their own version of Girl Scout Cookies.


You no longer have to wait for the cookie booths to appear in the spring or your coworker to hit you up at work to buy some of her daughter’s cookies. You can get them anytime.  Well, at least a generic version of Thin Mints and Samoas (or Caramel Delights, depending on where you live).

This is NOT going to be good for my waistline. Or hips. Or self-control.

I’ll admit…I haven’t tested them out yet…I’m afraid once I take a bite I’ll go back and buy a case. But I do feel it is my responsibility to let you know if they are any good, so I’ll keep you updated.

I’m A Scary Mommy

Today I’ve officially become a Member of the Scary Mommy Society.   I am absolutely thrilled to have the honor.


When I told a friend this day was coming (as the good friend that she is) she tried to sympathize and said Uh Oh…it’s one of THOSE days… At which point I had to correct her and fill her in about one of the most awesome blogs out there: Scary Mommy--An Honest Take on Motherhood; the Good, the Bad, and the Scary.

And today I am the guest blogger.  I feel like the prom queen.

The (in)famous blog, written by the multi-talented Jill Smokler, is a daily must read.   Her loyal following of readers rely on her for a daily dose of confessional honesty, social media maven tips, and posts so ripe with her trademark humor you will snarf coffee out your nose if you’re not careful.  And this month she is brave enough to team up with Target and facebook to allow us to dress her each and every day.  It’s like a real life paper doll.  Utter fun and fabulousness.

So head on over and check out my post  Swimsuit shopping.   Do it.  Now.  Please.