Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My New Now

"Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon 

Much like the famous quote by John Lennon, I've been delayed in updating my post from July because life has a way of taking you on new and unexpected journeys. I won't call where I'm at now my new normal because...Well, my life has never, ever been what I would call "normal." So instead I'm thinking about all the recent changes as my new now.

First though, a quick follow-up to my July post about the Midwest Writers conference. The most amazing and wonderful thing happened when I pitched to the NY literary agent at the conference. The agent asked to see the first HALF of my book! Just because I was so humbled and thrilled, I'll say it again: The agent asked to see the first HALF of my book! 

Most people left their pitch sessions disappointed (if not a little wiser) or with offers to submit a query and their first three chapters. So I was stunned by her request! I'm still riding that emotional high even a little bit now even though I still have yet to send it to her. I hope she doesn't forget who I am when I send it off to her within the next few weeks!!! So I promise to post an update about where my journey goes with my book...even if that journey results in a dead end. Of course, I'm hoping for a much more exciting trip down the road of representation and then onto publication :)

So...the reason why I haven't been able to polish up that first half of my manuscript before sending it off to the literary agents is because of major changes happening in my professional life (a.k.a. my day job.)

After working in marketing and communications at Ball State University for over seven years, I decided this summer that I couldn't pass up an exciting job opportunity to work at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology as their senior director of interactive marketing. My new job means I'm the cheif web architect, and I'll lead the institute's strategic interactive marketing efforts including social media.

My new and exciting job at Rose-Hulman comes with several logistical challenges, the biggest being that the campus is about 3 hours away from my home, my husband, my kids, and our dog. Since my family isn't moving here, at least not anytime soon, I'm renting an apartment where I'm living during the week. Then on weekends I'm going home. So instead of getting that book manuscript squeaky clean, I spent most of my "spare" time this summer following the writer's conference getting things ready for my move to my new apartment to start my new job in a new city. My husband and I have only owned our house for barely two years, so leaving that world behind during the week has been very challenging. So far though, I really love my new job!

Then another amazing thing happened after I was making the transition to my new job, I was invited to be the keynote communications track speaker at the CASE Indiana conference. Again, thrilling news but it has become one more thing I've needed to work on in my "spare" time to make sure my presentation goes well. Here's the blurb for my topic:

Your Social Media Isn't Getting Any Younger - It's Time for a Checkup!
Julie Tuttle Davis, Senior Director of Interactive Marketing, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Conducting a social media audit will help you determine what’s working well, what isn’t, and where adjustments can be made to help it work better. Whether you manage a departmental account or your school’s main institutional accounts, keeping content relevant and fresh can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Is your content engaging your audience? What do all these analytics figures really mean? Can you make a case for getting more help and resources to manage your social media? In addition to accessing your own social media accounts, do you know what other departments on campus are posting? These are all questions that an audit can help you to answer.

Now I must be getting back to my new now where the roads are winding and sometimes steep, but it is always an interesting ride!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reaching for the Stars

"Until you write that story in your heart, you'll never be at peace." 
- Dorothy Hamilton, founder of Midwest Writers Workshop

I've been attending the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana this week from July 25-27. This is my first time attending a writing/publishing conference, so I'm not sure how similar conferences compare to this one. However, I do know this conference has met and exceeded all my expectations so far. And there is still more to come tomorrow when I pitch to a literary agent!

Last year I saw the caliber of instructors and literary agents that were attending this conference, and I decided that in 2013 I had to be there. Midwest Writers, which is celebrating its 40th year, happens right near where I live and work. No excuses. I needed to do this. If I was ever going to get these stories out of head and onto tablets and bookshelves, I would need to attend this conference.

Most of my first day was spent in an intensive manuscript makeover. The instructors, Holly Miller and Denis Hensley, are wonderful instructors. Before the session I had submitted the first 10 pages of my manuscript for them to edit and critique. Their feedback along with advice and tips during the session has been so helpful and inspiring. I've already started making changes and edits to my science fiction novel based on their advice.

As part of that manuscript session we were to write a short bio about ourselves. I wrote a light-hearted and slightly silly one:
Julie Tuttle Davis lives in a small town in Indiana with her husband, two sons, and fur-kid dog named Ray. She enjoys science, summer, traveling, and comfort foods. You can occasionally find her visiting NASA and hanging out with astronauts. She’s never seen an alien (as far as she knows) but hopes to one day.
Since this blog originally started out as a way to chronicle my NASA adventures, I can't help but include a photo of me hanging out with astronauts Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano, and Fyodor Yurchikhin from earlier this year in Houston, Texas. Right now all three of them are on the International Space Station.
Ok, so even though I've had some amazing NASA adventures, I must admit that it has been a bit intimidating and surreal to see literary agents in-person at this conference that I've followed from afar on Twitter. Tomorrow I have a pitch with one of those agents, and a different agent is giving me feedback on the first five pages of my novel. I'm not sure if either of them will request to see my work, but I'm eager for the experience. What I've loved about this conference is gaining more knowledge. No matter the outcome with the agents, I'm feeling lucky just to get more insights and feedback on my work from these experts.

I've also found it so great to meet and talk with other writers during this conference, and I hope to keep in contact with them.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wins and Losses - A Year in Review

I've been quiet on this blog during this last year, but it wasn't for lack of things happening in my life.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you've already seen some of the highlights. Some of the events that happened last year were fun and inspiring. However, one event was a such a painful loss that it has taken me a full year to decide how to even express my feelings about it in such a public place.

Last year there were literal wins like when I was picked to attend a taping of the Conan O'Brien show when they visited Chicago in June 2012 (see for more.) I was selected for the June 11 taping which had Jack McBrayer as a guest. I'd always wanted to see a taping of Conan, and it was a great time. I'm glad I was able to share it with my husband. We spent the weekend at The Wit hotel, and we also did some fun tourist things like eat Chicago style pizza, visit the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, and take a sunset cruise on the river and lake.

I didn't attend any other NASA events in 2012, but I am always keeping up with NASA. Even while I was on a trip in the Bahamas with my husband and kids, I was keeping tabs on the Curiosity rover as it was landing on Mars. The trip to Nassau, Bahamas was my first time outside of the country. I had wanted to use my passport to travel outside the U.S. (and not just Canada) before I turned 40. And I did! One of these days I'll have to write up a separate post on all the adventures we had in the Bahamas or as my kids called it, Booney Island.

Then at the end of August, I turned 40. A pretty big year with just those things. However, in March of last year, I thought even bigger and better changes were awaiting us in 2012. I was wrong.

Immediately after my husband and I came back from our NASA trip to the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, I found out I was pregnant. We were excited, nervous, but mostly happy. I have two sons from my previous marriage. My husband doesn't have any children of his own. This would have been his first, our first together. Neither of us were getting any younger, so we were thrilled that we had conceived so quickly. My due date was calculated to be November 11, our first wedding anniversary.

Then at 7, almost 8 weeks, I started to have what the ER diagnosed as a threatened miscarriage. I had never experienced complications with my previous two pregnancies. And even though I knew a miscarriage was always a possibility, nothing could have ever prepared me for the emotional depths of such distressing news. We got an ultrasound of our "little bean" still hanging on...It is all we have from the life that wasn't meant to join our family.

What seemed like endless doctor visits and blood draws, came to an abrupt end on April 4, 2012. A year ago, I was rushed into emergency surgery for a suspected ectopic pregnancy. At the time, I was 8 weeks, almost 9 weeks, pregnant. Time enough for me, my husband, and a few close family members to have formed dreams, plans, and love for a new person we would never get to meet or bring home to join our family. I was also told by the doctors that they would likely have to remove at least one of my ovaries.

Only because I had such wonderful doctors am I able to say I still have both of my ovaries. An analysis of the contents from my D&C confirmed the pregnancy had been only vaginal. I was just experiencing a miscarriage and not an ectopic pregnancy. The doctor could have taken my ovaries to be safe, but he went the extra steps to save them. He sent blue dye into both of my ovaries and realized that their suspected ectopic pregnancy wasn't there at all. For that, I am very thankful. Even though recovering from the surgery was physically exhausting and emotionally challenging, I still had my ovaries...just in case.

It has been a year now. The emotions aren't nearly as raw, but the pain of the loss is still very much there. When I see pictures of babies on Facebook from all my friends who had babies last year and this year, sometimes the tears still flow. We haven't tried again. We aren't sure if we will. Perhaps our time has passed, and we waited too long to try.

I am blessed to have two beautiful sons, a loving and devoted husband, and our doggie fur-kid, Ray. I'm not sure what the future holds for us, but I am thankful to have them in my life.

In a way, it feels like things have come full circle this last year. On March 19, 2013 my husband and I both got to attend a NASA Social to Go Behind the Scenes of the International Space Station in Houston, Texas at the Johnson Space Center. I will definitely have a new blog post soon about that wonderful adventure!

I may also start using this blog to discuss my adventures in fiction writing. One reason I'm blogging less is because I've been focused more on writing for my novel. I am planning to attend the Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, and maybe one day soon I'll have another win when I'm a published novelist :)