Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How A Zebra Landed Me in the Golden Heart® Contest…



Honestly YA is pleased to welcome Sheri Adkins, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist, so she can tell us a little bit about her book and her ideas.  Take it away, Sheri!

Okay, what's with the zebra?   


It’s funny how seemingly unrelated things can connect events in our lives.  Several years ago I was listening to the radio in my car.  Being the mom of teenagers, I rarely get to choose what is blaring through the speakers and often I’m too distracted by the million things running through my head to really listen anyway.  But this particular day a story came on the radio news about a massive wreck near San Francisco.  A zebra had escaped a local zoo and made its way onto a highway there, resulting in a massive pile–up.  Though, of course, that isn’t funny in the least, I couldn’t help but think about how odd that would be…and yes, in my warped mind, a bit funny too.  Imagine, driving along on your normal route to work or school or wherever you were headed and—POW!—out of nowhere a zebra trots across the road. 
The captured zebra...

I knew I had to put that in a book somewhere!



            I’d been wanting to write a Young Adult Romance with the flavor of the John Hughes movies I had loved so much as a teen. I’d tried and tried to think of a quirky, all-in-one-day plot that would still have enough meat to it that it would sustain through an entire novel. I’d been struggling to come up with anything. Until this fateful day when I heard about the zebra. What if it were a teen driving?  I thought to myself, “Hmmm… what would be the absolute worst time for a teen to have an accident?”  Well, when she’s taken her parents’ car without asking, of course. And what would make that even worse? If the car was really expensive and difficult to repair, like a rare, classic car. So then I had to think, “What would compel this teen to take her parents’ car, knowing she would get in more trouble than she can imagine if she’s caught.”  And it had to be funny too, in that John Hughes way…

            And so the premise for my Golden Heart manuscript was born.  From a zebra.

            MIRANDA PERRY’S IMPORTED PROM DATE is about a type-A senior who has spent her entire high school life trying to reach perfection: class president, National Honor Society, Valedictorian—any distinction she can claim on a college app, she has garnered.  But when her boyfriend (and all-around god of the school) breaks up with her a week before prom, she is devastated, bested, defeated.  But she’d never let him know that. When he walks into the library with his new date on his arm, Miranda inadvertently claims she has a date that’s way better than him anyway.  Which would have felt great…if it wasn’t a lie.  Long story short: she turns to her best friend, Baxter, for help and ends up “importing” the gorgeous Italian guy that Baxter had stayed with as an exchange student.  But when Miranda wakes up on Prom Day to find her car is dead in the driveway—and her parents are out of town on business that couldn’t be cancelled—she has no choice but to take her dad’s classic convertible to the airport to pick up her prom date.

Insert Zebra.  Hijinks ensue. Happily Ever After looms in the distance. 

I was thrilled and honored to get the fateful call telling me that this story had finaled in  one of the most prestigious contest for unpublished writers, the GOLDEN HEART®.  (For a list of all finalists, go to http://www.rwa.org/p/bl/et/blogid=20&blogaid=364 and scroll down to the Golden Heart Finalists®) Thank you to RWA® for hosting the contest each year. I can’t tell you how excited I was that morning to learn that I was a finalist once again, especially since I adore this story so very much.  I had a wonderful time writing it and I truly hope I was able to capture the fun, witty, zany feel of the Hughes movies.  Not that anyone could ever touch his true genius, but if I even came close to the essence of what those movies meant to me, then I am happy.
John Hughes


By the way, the day I heard that odd tale of the zebra-escape on the radio, I came home and Googled it to get the facts straight.  Turns out, this happens about once a year somewhere in America… so not as rare an occurrence as one might think.  Zebras must be as determined as my pets!

            So, what about you?  Do you have a particular favorite movie of John Hughes? If you’re a writer, do you ever have stories born out of a quirky fact you happened to hear in passing? Or, best of all, what’s the strangest thing to ever run out in front of you while driving—anyone ever swerve to miss an escaped zoo animal???

(Please post! Even if it’s only to say Hi! I am just desperate enough to beg for bloggers to make me feel better about myself…)

Sheri Adkins, represented by Cori Deyoe at
3 Seas Literary












38 comments:

Pintip said...

Sheri, that is hilarious. I CANNOT believe this happens once a year. I hope the poor zebra in your story gets rescued safely! This story sounds like so much fun. I'm looking forward to reading it someday! Big congratulations on your final!

Kimberly said...

Sheri,
As I read the first part, I can tell Pintip that it's hilarious in your book, too! :-) But even better than the shenanigans that go on in the story is the best-friend-turns-boyfriend thing. That's always, ALWAYS my favorite. So, I hope it works out for the zebra. I hope it works out for Miranda and Baxter. And I hope this book works out to be a big hit because teen readers deserve it! And so do you!

Darcy said...

Sheri!!! This is the second time I've had the thrill of being a GH YA sister with you, and I must say, it does NOT get old :)

I LOVE your premise and quirky zebra hijinks and John Hugh's influence. So brilliant! I just know great things are coming for you and i'm too dang excited to watch it all unfold. CONGRATS, SIS!!!

Ok, so, weird but true. Some of you may know I was in the military. What you may not know is that I was in an aviation unit. One day I was manning the tiny airfield's radio tower and had to stop the pilots from landing. Why? Because there was a herd of elephants loose on the airfield. ELEPHANTS. I was in Germany--not South Africa!!! But the circus was in town and camped a short distance from the airfield, so that was how the elephants came to stage their freedom run ;)

Kimberly said...

Darcy! That is hysterical about the elephants staging their freedom run. Coffee just came out of my nose! Did you at least help them? Maybe pack their trunks???

Amy said...

I had the pleasure of reading Sheri's partial of this, and Sheri, you know how much I loved it. It really does capture the feel of those great movies I watched over and over as a teen. I think my favorite was Pretty in Pink, though I'm a big fan of Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller and even Weird Science. I'm so happy for your success with this and can't wait for the day it's published! We can put on some 80's music videos and have a dance party!

Lorie Langdon said...

Big hugs and congrats on the GH nomination, Sheri!!! I *heart* John Hughes films too, so I can't wait to get my hands on MIRANDA PERRY’S IMPORTED PROM DATE!!! So, so happy for you!!!
We're going to HAVE to schedule that lunch soon! =)

Sheri Adkins said...

Pintip... Thanks so much! Yes, the zebra in my story walks away unscathed, but sadly the zebra in the San Fransico pile-up did not. Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

Sheri Adkins said...

Kim...

Yes, indeed, the zebra is a minor part of the story, but it's funny to me that hearing that one anecdote on the radio became the kernel of inspiration that became Baxter and Miranda's love story. I also love a friendshi-turned-romance story. I hope everyone loves it as much as you have--you're such a good cheerleader! Thanks so much for all your support!

Best,
Sheri

Sheri Adkins said...

Darcy---
Right back at ch'ya GH Sis! I can't wait for good things to happen for you as well. And your ms certainly seems to be on fire, so I know it won't be long for you!!! So, so happy for you!

Elephants, really? On an air strip in Germany... WOW! How crazy is that? Sometimes we just don't get how crazy life can be for real! If you put that in a book, so many people would not believe it. Just like the zebra thing--I've had a few people say, "Well, I get that your story is supposed to be zany, so maybe readers will believe it." But it actally happens! Truth really is stranger than fiction more often than we think! Thanks so much for sharing your elephant story... and your good wishes!

Sheri

Sheri Adkins said...

Thanks, Amy! You're so sweet! And since I've read chapter one of your FAB ms, I'll say "right back at ch'ya" to you too!!! Here's hoping good things for all of us!

My agent is actually pitching this book to editors as "Pretty in Pink" meets "The Hangover." Though the antics don't go anywhere as crazy as The Hangover, obviously, since it's meant for teens, but it does have the flavor of both of those movies...

Can't wait to party '80's style with all my gal-pals to celebrate someday! *crosses fingers*

Best,
Sheri

Sheri Adkins said...

Lorie... Thanks so much! That means a lot to me!!! Yes, yes, let's actually schedule that lunch we keep talking about. Then maybe we can come back to my place for an afternoon of Ferris Bueller and The Breakfat Club! LOL!

Best,
Sheri

Oberon Wonch said...

Waving at my Firebird sister! What a fun post, Sheri! I wondered how a zebra led you to a book, and now I know. I hope you find a home for that story because I definitely want to read it.

Sheri Adkins said...

Thanks, Obe! From your mouth to God's ears (or, if God is too busy with much more important matters, then to an editor's ears at least!)

BEST,
Sheri

Stephsco said...

Thanks for sharing how you came to the idea of this story. It's always so interesting to me to hear how a story originates and what the influences are.

My favorite John Hughes movie is Ferris Buehler's Day Off. I just love the fun aspect of it, and how universal the themes are even 25 years later. I love Jennifer Gray and Charlie Sheen's scene in the police station.

Congratualations on the GH nomination. I can't wait to read this in print some day.

Susan Gee Heino said...

I love this and can't wait to see it in print. A zebra, huh? That's brilliant! I don't have any fun zebra story, but I did used to work at the Louisvile zoo and one day I was cleaning out the gemsbok (antelope with huge, spearlike horns) barn when an escaped elephant appeared in the rear doorway to steal soiled hay out of my honey wagon. I was trapped between a herd of disgruntled gemsbok and a snacking pachyderm until his keeper finally located him and convinced him to go back to his area. A zebra would have been the icing on the cake. Or maybe a hot Italian dude! Love your story, Sheri, and congrats on the huge GH finl. Good luck!

Holly Bodger said...

"Oh, well, he’s very popular, Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, the geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude."

Oh, I LOVE Ferris!!!

Shoshana said...

Sheri!!! Congrats again on your GH final.

My favorite JH movies are The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Never had any exotic animals run into the road in front of me...which is a good thing, because I'm already distracted enough by the random stories I'm making up in my head while driving. The perils of being a writer...

Bonnie Staring said...

Great post, Sheri!

I absolutely love how a strange-but-true incident inspired you. My fave John Hughes movie is The Breakfast Club because it was so much fun watching the geek, the jock, the princess, the delinquent and the weirdo connect, party and understand each other.

Can't wait to meet you in Atlanta!

Melissa Landers said...

LOVE your story concept, Sheri! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for visiting us today! :)

Sandy Owens said...

Sheri,

What a fun story of how the idea for AMANDA PERRY'S IMPORTED PROM DATE came to you. It's proof that you never know what might spark those creative juices and next thing you know, you're a Golden Heart finalist.

As for my favorite John Hughes movie, so hard to choose, but maybe Farris Bueller's Day Off.

See you in Atlanta!

Sandra

Sonali Dev said...

Love it, Sheri! Isn't it amazing how these bizarre radio stories just unleash the flying fingers?

Your story sounds hilarious and I can't wait to read it.

My brother in law's car got hit by a moose in Alaska. For real. We were driving right behind them and it's a moment I'll never forget. The moose waddled off, the car had a dent the size of Alaska and we bought my BIL a teeshirt that said 'I got hit by a moose in Alaska'. LOL.

Good Luck and Congratulations!

Sonali

Nan Dixon said...

Sherri - your story sounds like a blast!
God, I always want to write funny -- I even think of weird things for my story -- mostly when I'm driving. Then when I sit down to write, I end up going angsty. Giving people addictions, cancer, having them be attacked. Apparently I'm not a humor writer. I so envy you!
See you in Atlanta!

Sharon Wray said...

I am so happy to say to a Firebird and Lucky 13 sister!
I loved the John Hughes movies when I was a teenager and recently watched Pretty in Pink with my 13-year old twins. And, not surprisingly, they hated it. When the kids asked me, a few minutes into the movie, why no one had cell phones, I knew all was lost.
And since my daughter also wears a scoliosis brace (although not one that comes up to her chin), she didn't find that part funny at all. To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about that part.
But I know they'd love a story about a zebra--especially if it could text! LOL!

Sonya said...

Reminds me of the news story I read about the drunk man who took his pet zebra for a ride. Seriously. LOL. You can Google it.

Your YA story sounds like a fantastic read.

Talia Quinn Daniels said...

Isn't it funny what triggers a full on plot attack? Zebra as catalyst is delicious. And your story sounds totally delightful! Sell it so I can read it, please? (Because, of course, that's the only reason, ha.) I loved John Hughes movies. Light and fun but threaded with darker tones and honesty.

I remember a few years ago, there was a story about a bear who got loose (from a zoo? I think?) and was wandering around suburban New Jersey, quite near where I lived at the time. Was he caught by the diligent rangers? By the police? No and no. A cat treed him. A CAT.

Brenda Maxfield said...

Sheri, I love your story! And I love your thinking process to get to it. Thanks for sharing!

Brenda Maxfield

Margaret said...

OMG! Who knew Zebras escape with such regularity. The things you learn every day. I loved the Breakfast Club (yes, I was the weird girl) and seriously, who didn't dream of having a sick day like Ferris Beuller? MIRANDA PERRY’S IMPORTED PROM DATE sounds like a must read! You must let us all know when it sells.

Margs

Anonymous said...

Kari said...
Great story, Sheri! I've not seen anything on the roadside other than the usual suspects -- could be I'm oblivious, but something like a zebra or an elephant would be hard to miss. I have seen a lot of John Hughes movies though, and can't say which is my favorite. So many good ones to chose from. From what I've read of Miranda Perry's Imported Prom Date, you have captured his essence brilliantly. I am anxious to read the rest!

Best,
Kari

Lynn Lovegreen said...

What a great story! I'll have to go look for it! My fav: Sixteen Candles. :-)

Sheri Adkins said...

Sorry everyone for being MIA for a few hours. (Had an unexpected sick kid at school, then had to get to the Dr's office, then to the pharm, then dinner, etc--ah, the glamorous life of a writer, huh?!)

So, long group reply:

Thanks, Steph... Ferris Bueller is one of my absolute FAVES too! In fact it may be my fave, but it's just so hard to pick! It would definitely be up there with Breakfast Club, 16 Candles and She's Having a Baby...followed closely for second with Pretty in Pink and Weird Science. SO hard to pick. All great movies! Thanks for stopping by and for your well wishes!

Susan... WOW!~ How scary! Were you freaking out by being trapped between an elephant and pack of gemlockies or whatever they were??? I would have been so SCARED! Thanks for sharing and for your best wishes for my book!

Holly--Thanks for the Ferris quote (and for stopping by!). My friends and I used to have a game (sort of) that we often slipped movie quotes into every day conversations and if anyone could recognise it and name the movie, they got points (though it was too hard to keep the running tally straight so eventually it just became a thing we did.)

Shoshana--Great to *see* you! Yep, as mentioned above, those are 2 of my faves too! Thanks for the kudos on my story (but don't forget our deal! I'm not kidding about the end of year deadline! *G*)

Melissa--thanks to you guys for having me. :)

Sandra--thanks for popping by! Isn't this a great blog?! Yep, it is funny what sparks the creative juices flowing. Espeically when it really is a small tid-bit of your story, but it was enough to get it going and sometimes that's all you need! Can't wait to meet you in Atlanta!

Sonali--OMG, a MOOSE!?! Wow, that would be super scary... those things are HUGE! My goodness. So, lesson learned, be careful while driving in Alaska! Thanks for sharing. :) And for commenting!!

Nan... the thing is, I'm not I've successfully written funny! LOL! people used to tell me I *should* write funny, but my first several books weren't--they were Regency Historicals. They I got an idea for a YA and funny seemed to work it's way in. My first YA wasn't overtly funny, but this one is much more. We'll see if it works well enough to find a home. :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Sharon--isn't it funny how kids can't imagine life without a cell phone??? I'm sorry your daughter was upset by the scholiosis brace (are you sure that wasn't 16 Candles-I don't remember one in Pretty in Pink, but there was one in 16 Candles--the Joan Cuisac character) though that was insensitive. Oh, and FYI, I didn't correct this earlier because I thought it didn't matter all that much, but just to be clear... I'm so sorry to say that I am not a Firebird. I had many, many friends who were so in some weird ways I feel like a psuedo-Firebird, but I was a Starcatcher (2011) and now a Lucky 13! Wish I could claim Firebird too, but sadly, no...

Sheri Adkins said...

Okay, more of the group replies (though I thought that last one was getting way too long!)

Sonya--Thanks so much for your kind compliments! And I have no doubt that a drunk man would try to ride his donkey! LOL! The truth really is stranger than ficiton...

Talia--I love that term full-on-plot-attack! I'm going to start calling them FOPAs. They never happen at convenient times, but I've learned that when they do happen to harness them for all they're worth! Also love that bear story... treed by a cat, too funny! Its bear buddies will never let him live that down!!!

Thanks Margs! And yes, I'm that girl too. I would say that Breakfast Club is the one I've seen the most. When I was 16, I could practically do a one-person rendition of the movie word-for-word. But then Ferris Bueller came out and that one was just as awesome! Such good movies. Those two seem to be the ones that stood the test of time the best too. :) Thanks for your compliments and your comments! Really appreciate you stopping by!

Kari---Awwwww... You are so sweet! Anyone who thinks I've come close to hitting that mark really makes me smile! You're the best!

Lynn... thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope you will be able to look for it in the future. Right now it's looking for a home at a publisher, but I will certainly keep you posted here at Honestly YA when/if I hit a homerun with this one. :)

Thanks to everyone who has come by and posted so far today! I truly appreiate the love and well wishes! And Thanks SO MUCH to the Honestly YA team for letting me blog with you guys today!! Such a fun place to hang out!!!

Brinda said...

I'd love to read this book. It sounds hilarious. Congrats!

Sheri Adkins said...

Thanks Brinda... Hopefully someday you will be able to! Thanks for stopping by!
Sheri

Jacqui Nelson said...

When I saw your title I was dying to know what your book was about, Sheri. It sounds even better than I could have imagined! And oh what classic movie your story would make!! Hope to one day read your story and then watch it in the theaters.

CareyCorp said...

Sheri - Can't wait to read this! I LOVE John Hughes-esque hijinks!

Sheri Adkins said...

Awww.. thanks Jacqui! I do hope that *if* this one sells, I get to keep my title. :) And I love your plan, first the book, then a MOVIE! Keep those good thoughts comeing! Thanks for stopping by...

Carey... Thanks so much! I can't wait for you to read it either. *G* But more than that, I can't wait to read DOON!

Thanks again for having me as a guest at Honestly YA. I HONESTLY loved it!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous post, Sheri and how wonderful that you've turned it into a great-sounding story.

Apart from dodging numerous kangaroos, I have had an emu run into the side of a car I was travelling in. They may look soft and fluffy, but boy, do they hit HARD!!

Congratulations on your Golden Heart final. Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta.

Cheers
Chris Taylor

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