Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bart The Cat your Life

Have you heard of Bart the Cat, the zombie cat that came back from the dead? After being hit by a car, then buried by the owner's neighbor, and spending five days in the dirt, Bart the Cat suddenly returned to life. It's a miracle that the poor, abused and believed-dead animal was able to claw his way back to life.
That's what he did! Bart fought to live.
(Picture found on

When I heard of Bart's plight, I called my friend Elana Johnson. Sure the news story is gut-wrenching, if not a little disturbing, but it is also inspiring. 

Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up? Throw in the towel? Bury that dream you've been chasing for so long? 

I have! Holy Bart The Cat, I have. 

The first time I sat down to write a novel, I thought I was God's gift to writing. My book was about a girl that lived sometimes in this world and sometimes in a creepy elfin world, changing location whenever I felt like the writing needed a little spice. I threw in a dash of romance with a hot guy, danger from scary bad guys, and a lot of internal musing.

So why didn't it get published? Clearly it was a masterpiece. 

Well, it was a masterpiece of something, that's for sure. Something that smelled more like my dog's excrement (see former Poo post here). 

The manuscript was bad. As in Bad News Bears kind of awful. 

If I've taught my kids anything, it's that Summerills are winners. Which means we can't be quitters when the going gets rough and tough and too wordy. I buckled down and set my sights on one day acquiring an agent who would sell my book to a publisher. (Cue angels singing).

I wrote 6 more novels. 

The last one was my best. My YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED, was one that I sunk my heart and sole and my kidney into (More about the kidney, see here.) With encouragement from my fellow writer friends, I started querying and looking for an agent. 

A couple months passed and no agents were interested. 
Honestly, I was sort of devastated. I'd had enough bitter rejection. My manuscript had already been revised, revised, revised, edited, and then revised some more. When agents weren't blowing up my phone, it killed a little piece of my heart. I decided to give up. 
Ya'll, I done went and buried that son-of-a-gun manuscript, EVER THE HUNTED.

I let a month pass. Then another.
I decided to dig that manuscript out and revise once more. Even though I was pulling it out of the grave, I believed in this story. I cleaned it up and sent it out to more Beta readers, and when I'd revised once more, I queried again.

You know how the story ends. (See agent post here) In the late fall, I signed with Josh Adams, of Adams Literary and recently it was announced on Publisher's Weekly that I signed a 2 book deal with HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 

If I had given up and let the book sit in the bottom of that shallow grave, I would never have signed with Josh Adams, agent MegaAwesome. And I certainly wouldn't have ever been offered a two book deal from HMH! Which, can I just say that even now, as I write this, still blows my mind and makes me cry. 

The thing of it is, you can't give up. Never ever let go of your dreams. You have to Bart The Cat it all the way till the end. Even when it feels like your done, you've been buried alive, you have to fight for it. 
Now go Bart The Cat your life!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lessons learned from half-marathon training

Three years ago, Jessie convinced me to run the Surf City Half-Marathon.

I've never been much of a runner. Running is one of those activities that I pretty much hate. Like cycling, and swimming, and pretty much any sport that includes eye-hand coordination.
But because Jessie can talk me into nearly anything, I agreed.

Thanks to the Nike app, I was able to see my snail's pace morph into something faster. Eventually I was running six, eight, and even ten mile distances. Which honestly wasn't fun at all, but when I finished those long runs, I felt like a champion for 3.5 seconds before I collapsed onto the La-Z-boy.

Before the race day, Jessie and I met in Huntington Beach to run part of the race route in preparation. By this point, I was feeling confident. We ran together for six miles, and the whole time I was chirping positive encouragement...ya know, because that's what friends do.

At the top of mile seven, Jessie fell behind. So I jogged in place and shouted out encouraging words as she shuffled up the hill. When she finally reached my side, I fell into place beside her. The sun heated our backs while we ran along the beach, drawing in the salty air. It was perfect. And actually kind of fun for running.
That is, until she said, "go ahead of me."
I refused. Friends don't let friends sweat it out alone.
"No, really," she insisted. "Run on without me."
"But why? We can run together. This is so much fun. And you're doing sooooooo good." I grinned at her. I might have done a jumping jack with the unusual amount of energy that was zipping through me.
Jessie jerked her chin towards me, making her blonde pony tail snap behind her like a whip. If I remember right, I think she growled. "Get out of my face!"

I think I stumbled. Maybe jogged in place for a bit. Maybe frowned. I know for certain that I argued with her. She didn't know what she was saying. She didn't want me to leave, right?
I was wrong. She did, in fact, want me to go. Apparently my exuberance was too much for geriatric-running-Jessie.

At first I was angry. I wanted to tackle her to the ground. But I didn't because I learned a lesson from Jessie that day.
The thing of it is--see post below for proper grammar usage--Jessie needed me to leave so she could focus and finish the long, hard run. Despite that I was putting out some pretty awesome and positive and over-abundant vibes, she just needed some quiet to think and pull her thoughts together...and make a plan to finish the last few miles.

I get why she needed her space. The lesson is that sometimes we all need a break. Sometimes we need to step back from all the noise so we can clear our thoughts and focus.

I took a break from Facebook a couple weeks ago and I loved the break. I loved the silence. It's nice not knowing what annoyed my neighbor at Walmart, or which friend of mine is now selling oils that will undoubtedly change my life, or who is my perfect celebrity match.

My January advice for reaching your goals, is to take some time for yourself. Pull back for a bit and see if you like the quiet.  It's time for you to say:

"Get out of my face." 
Take your break, and get the clarity that you need. 

That's all for now, folks. Britta and Bubba will see you out. They're two friends of mine who don't seem to understand a thing I'm saying when I try to use the advice above.

Love, erin


Monday, January 12, 2015

Be the BEST

When my oldest son was in kindergarten, his teacher, Mrs. Saizon, taught the class this phrase:
To be the best that I can be the choice will always be up to me.

Every morning the kids would sit on the mat at the front of the classroom and recite those words.My chubby-cheeked 6-year-old stumbled over the sentence. But I thought it was clever and cute.

Now those words have become a motto for our family. Before my kids walk out the door in the morning, they call out the same phrase Mrs. Siazon taught to my oldest son. It’s a reminder to them…to me. To us all. That we are what we choose to be.

Today was kind of a rough day in the Summerill house--on the tail end of a rough weekend. It was one of those crap-shoot cluster of days that we all have now and then. Even though it was Monday morning, I felt utterly unprepared. I kind of wanted to lie in bed and do nothing. Ever feel that way?

I heard my oldest stirring downstairs, getting ready while I hibernated in my dark bedroom cave. I considered how I’d feel if I missed his morning send off statement. And then I sort of felt like a piece of crap.

Clothes on and teeth brushed, I barely made it in time to hug him before his junior high carpool came. Yeah, I’m up for mom of the year award. I know.

The horn honked.
Then my boy was running to the door. “Bye, Mom.”
“I love you,” I shouted, making up for my slow morning.

He looked back. “Luvyouto,” he mumbled, surprising me. Then he added. “To be the best that I can be the choice will always be up to me.”

His words helped me get up and get going today. They reminded me that every day I have a choice to be successful. To be the best. It’s always a choice.

It's Your choice.

Be the best that you can be.
luv, erin

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Thing of it Is

There was a man in my neighborhood who proudly wore a graying mullet and started every other sentence with the phrase "The thing of it is...". 

I never actually knew what It was, but somehow his ramblings sort of made sense. And that folks is what I hope you get from this blog post--sense for the new year. 

I'm not much for writing new year's goals. The thing of it is, I stopped a few years ago because I never actually completed most of my resolutions. Why start something you won't finish, right? I was in a bad mood slump. I was a negative Nancy.

My crazy-arse bestie, Jessie convinced me to cut up a few magazines and then paste the remnants on a board. A vision board, she called it. (Cue Yoda voice)
I took the board home, shoved it in my closet just above my wall of shoes. Every now and then I looked at it and saw my meshed list. If anyone else came across it they'd probably think it was really silly. But I never threw it away. It was a daily reminder of where I wanted to be. Of where I could be if I kept moving forward a little bit at a time.

Over the last year, half of what I pasted on that board happened.

1. I had a successful photography year, having traveled to 7 different states to capture wedding and family photography. 

2. My first non-fiction photography book was released in December!!! Check it out! CLICKOLOGIE

3. I signed with mega-awesome literary agent, Josh Adams. 

4. I've been healthy and happy since slipping my dad the old kidney. 

5. My kids are perfect in every way and they never fight or stink....ok, so this is a bit of a stretch.

THE THING OF IT IS I'm here to testify, ya'll, that cut-and-paste wishes really do come true. For 2015 you should pull out all your old and new magazines and start cutting away. Paste those pics down to a board or a box or a wall or a door and start visualizing your way to success and happiness. Everything we do starts with our thoughts. Positive thoughts move us forward. What you want to happen can happen. 

If anything, my message is to be positive. 
Always know how much you can accomplish and you WILL accomplish. 
Everything else will follow. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Big Announcement: I Have An Agent!

Hey all! I have some awesome news. But let's start at the beginning:

I wrote a manuscript. It took 5 months to write, and 10 months to edit. It wasn't my first attempt at writing a novel. Not by a long shot. I'd written 6 others. But I was hopeful and I believed in my story.

A few months ago, my friends encouraged me to get over my fears and start querying. And so commences my post in Friends gifs:

Fulls were requested and I was ecstatic. But then a few responses came back which were incredibly nice, but not exactly what I was looking for:

I got stressed out. Mass loads of Coke Zero and Hot Tamales were ingested. When I wasn't pickling my insides, I spent hours pruning my skin in the tub. That's how I deal with stress:

I don't like rejection. At all. I wanted to quit. But my supportive and nagging friends, Katie Purdie, Jessie Humphries, Elana Johnson, and Peggy Eddleman wouldn't let me quit.

So I revised my manuscript and kept on querying. It didn't happen over night. I spent the summer sending out a few queries at a time. And then one day, one magnificent day, an email popped up in my inbox from a fantastic agent.

Her interest led to offers from four more agents.

I didn't know what to do with myself. Never in a million years did I expect to have multiple offers! After all the years I've spent writing manuscripts, the offers were a dream come true. I didn't want to make the wrong decision. And so I had a minor freakout (or a series of major panic attacks.)

All the interested agents were fantastic, and my writing career would have done well with any of them, but my decision was made after considering who I clicked with the best (and a lot of prayer).
In the end it was clear that Josh Adams, agent extraordinaire, was the one for me.

Now that I'm "represented by Josh Adams" and part of the Adams Literary posse, all my dreams have come true...well, almost. I know submission to publishers is the next step in my writing career. Undoubtedly, the submission process will inspire new Friends Gif blog post possibilities. So stay tuned and I'll start blogging more than twice a year!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Oh Crap! Another Hilarious Story from my Tragic Life.

Apparently I only update this blog when something truly horrific or disgusting happens in my life.

Enough said, you've been fairly warned. 

(Disclaimer: While reading this post, should you feel a need to gag, wretch, or lose control of any bodily functions, you're absolutely on your own to clean that mess up. I take no responsibility for your business.)

Today I woke up late.
That was my first mistake.

I had twenty minutes to push my oldest off to junior high, move my next two boys through their morning teeth-brushing and hair combing routine, and drag a decent outfit (minimal stains, mildly wrinkled) on my sleepy girl's body. Then after pulling her hair into something less worthy of a homeless person and whipping up breakfast (an oatmeal packet), I cleaned last night's mascara off my face and dressed in exercise garb. After dropping the boys off at school, because I moonlight as a taxi service, I had ten minutes to rush to the gym where I teach a step aerobics class. (And no, step didn't die in the 90s.)

I was making good time! So I decided, hey why not live a little and go to the bathroom? (Yes, yes I did just take the story there.)

"Henry," I called down the stairs. "It's your turn to watch the dogs. Make sure to take Britta out if she barks. I'm gonna run to the bathroom real quick. Ok?"

"K, Mom."

Mistake #2. How silly of me to think I could go to the bathroom and all hell wouldn't break loose. Just as I relaxed into my business (Yes again, yes I did just go there.), Britta, my cute, cute, cute--gotta keep reminding myself she's cute--four month old goldendoodle, barked. And barked. And barked. And whined.

"Henry! Take out the dog." I'm a pretty good yeller from the bathroom when the situation calls for it.

More barking. A shuffle or two. Then--



"Momma, Britta pooped in the house. A lot."

A lot? What does a lot entail? I was up, hands washed, and down the stairs in record time.

And, holy




By the door, Britta dropped four piles of steaming, stinky poop. My three uber-helpful kids stared at the stench scene screaming about how disgusting it was.
Like I didn't know.

"Don't just stand there, you need to clean it up," I told Henry as I rushed for cleansing supplies.

"Why me?"

"Because you were the one watching her and she barked and whined to go out. What were you doing?"

"Uh," he glanced away. "I was walking around."

"Walking around? Is that code for playing?" I asked. I didn't pop him outta my lady parts yesterday and I'm keen on his evasive maneuvers.
He nodded and so, his chore began. Armed with paper towels and a bag, he started cleaning up the doggie doodoo.

Mistake #3. Kid+Pooptastrophe = Worst. Day. Of. My. Life.

2.5 piles later Henry heaved and heaved and then puked on the poop, and then making a bee-line for the door to finish vomiting, he walked right though the mess like Moses parting the poop sea. Except there was no parting. Only lots and lots of squishing under his shoe.

Right then I wanted to run screaming down the road, but I hunkered down, and cleaned the poop-puke fiasco, scrubbing the floor and base boards and walls (because my kids excel in projectile purging). At that point the boys were 20 minutes late to school, and I had minutes to get to the gym. I grabbed my purse and rushed the kids to the van, and turned the key . . .

And when the van revved once and then died, and the clock on the dash glared 9:22 am, I knew two things: I wasn't going to make it on time for work, and I should've just stayed in bed today.

I hope your day isn't nearly as craptastic as mine!

For the record, I'm taking the rest of the day off. 

Do you have a funny story you want to share? I could use your comments or humor to brighten my day!

Monday, November 18, 2013

McDonalds - A True Horror Story

Really, this post should be labeled: Why Do I Keep Going There? (Bangs Head Against Wall). Regardless, you'll understand why both titles are appropriate soon enough.

A few years ago I had a fast food coming to Jesus moment when I watched Super Size Me. You remember that lovely little flick starring Morgan Spurlock. The guy ate McDonalds and only McDonalds for a month. By the end of the harrowing ordeal, I swear I was watching an extended version of Fear Factor for all the wretching and belching packed into the 90 minute show.

After that, I severely cut back on my fast food addiction.

However, every now and then, the Devil himself worms into my soccer-mom brain. And on a busy night like tonight (after running four kiddos to their various practices and games), I don't have time to make dinner. Heck, if I had a chance to use the bathroom without my five year old banging on the door, I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself.

Tonight I went to McDonalds. MISTAKE #1.

My kids were moaning like Katniss starving for Peeta's bread as we waited in the drive-thru. If I didn't get them fed immediately, Hunger Games MMXIII was gonna go down in the Mini (minivan).
I ordered two hamburgers, a box of chicken wings, a BBQ ranch burger, drinks and fries. After paying, I pulled forward and accepted my food from the employee.

Because this ain't my first time at the rodeo, I DID NOT pull away. No, I've been shorted by enough McDonald's establishments to know you hand out food to each of your kids before leaving. (Mark that down as a life tip.)

I handed out fries, drinks, chicken wings and two burgers. But hold up! There was no BBQ ranch burger.

I turned back to the window and waited. After three long minutes while my second oldest boy was dying of hunger pains (or so he complained), I knocked on the window.

"Yeah?" the girl said when she opened the slider. Always nice to see customer service at it's best.
"I didn't get the BBQ ranch burger."
She gave me a look--same look I give my kids when I know they're full of it.
"Really," I insisted. "I didn't get it." After listing what I did get, and then pointing to my one unfed son, the girl left for a moment and returned with a bag that contained my son's burger.

Grateful, I passed the bag to my son, and pulled away from the drive-thru. MISTAKE #2. 

We were exiting the parking lot when my son said, "Uh Mom, what's this?"

I looked over. Blinked twice.
He held two buns that contained a whopping load of ranch-type-mayo-sauce, four Fritos, and a piece of cheese. No burger. Seriously, no burger.

I went to the drive-thru again.

"My son didn't get any burger with his BBQ burger."

"Yeah, it's supposed to have the burger," the girl said.

Um. Really?

"Ok, could he get another BBQ burger?"

She took the patty-less buns with the wrapper from me. I watched as she went to the assembly table and said to another guy, "Hey, you forgot the meat. Can you put a piece of meat on this?"

My jaw dropped.

Sixty seconds later she returned with the same burger I'd just handed her, now with a piece of meat on it. Gag. Really, I gagged.

"Uh, I was hoping we could get a new one," I said, trying to politely not point out that her hands had just been all over the bun and had broken the piece of cheese.

She scowled at me. "You want another one?"

What was I thinking, expecting a new sandwich after someone else has manhandled and fondled the thing? Call me crazy. 

"Yes," I said. MISTAKE #3. 

She rolled her eyes and marched to the assembly line. "The lady wants another one," she told the other employee. Then she left us to wait for 8 minutes. I didn't realize making a BBQ burger would take so long, but in an effort to remain positive, I figured they had to grill another patty. Maybe that's what was taking 8 whole minutes.
The girl returned and handed me a burger wrapped in paper that looked crumpled and barely holding itself together. I looked at the creased paper, then at the cold burger inside that held a bent piece of cheese, a slathering of ranch-mayo-concoction and FOUR Fritos.

"You just gave me back The. Same. Burger!" I was shocked. And a little ready to throw down. Don't mess with a momma bear when her baby cubs are hungry!

She pursed her lips and crossed her arms. "How do you know?"

Oh yeah, that's what she said. I looked around for the candid camera crew. Or Jamie Kennedy. They were no where to be found.

"It's cold." I pointed to the broken cheese. "This is where you bent the cheese when you examined it. And I'm pretty sure it's not standard to only put four Fritos on your BBQ burger."

"So, what do you want me to do?"

I'm gonna let my original thought to her question slide because this is a family blog. What I ended up saying was: "Can you make me a new one, for real this time?"

"There are other people in line, Mam. If you want to go through the drive through again . . ."

"Alright," I said, losing it. "Just get me your manager."

The girl left and her manager replaced her. I explained the entire story to the lady. It was at the end of my rant that I realized she didn't understand everything I was saying. I don't fault her for this, because English as a second language can be a trial. So I explained it once more, hoping it made sense. And when I was done, she said:

"What do you want me to do about it?"

Well, this was one of those moments when you realize, you're fighting a lost cause. When you have to walk away and just accept nobody's perfect. And that customer service is a dying form. (At least at the McDonalds on 1600 North and State Street in Orem, Utah.)

Next time, I'll have to remember Morgan Spurlock's sage advice and steer clear of McDonald's because if it isn't the food that'll kill you, it'll be the customer service.