Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still in the Closet?

I am a writer, because to me the pen is therapeutic, it is expressive, and it is powerful. I hope both of my children are writers. I relate to other writers, and I feel happy just being a part of the writing community. Yes, I am a writer.

I've been known to quickly jot an idea down on a paper towel using my kid's crayon. I have played hooky from work to sit crammed in my small car with my netbook on my lap, happily writing. When I'm not actively writing, I sometimes mentally plot or edit my work in progress.
I do these things, because I am a writer.

Funny thing, though, is that very, very few people know that I am a writer. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of my friends who know I write. So okay, I'm a closeted writer.
This week, I "came out" as a writer to a friend I've known for nearly ten years. When I did, the most amazing thing happened. She came out too! She's not only been writing for a major publication for some time now, she's a member of the freakin' Associated Press!

We both had the same question for one another: Why didn't you tell me?

And we both had the same answer: I don't tell people, because I don't feel like a real writer yet. That struck me as odd. Her byline is seen globally. Yet, just like little ol' unpublished me, she too is hiding away, writing in the closet, not ready to tell anyone of her passion.

Waiting for someone else to deem us worthy of the title of real writer? It definitely gives me something to think about.

On another note, I have good news. I placed 6th in the 79th Annual Writer's Digest Contest in the Mainstream/Literary category for my short story "Deathbed Confessions." All the top 10 winners are printed in the November/December issue of Writer's Digest, available on newsstands now. You can also check out their website for more info on contests. Okay, so I'm still not published. But to have placed out of over 12,000 entries made me feel proud. And hey, now that I've been paid for my work, I guess you could say that makes me a real writer now, huh?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Validation is good for the soul

Isn't if funny how a bit of validation can not only reinforce your belief in your talent, but also give a much-needed boost to bang out more chapters in one day than you have in months?

That's what I got this week, and the feeling is indescribable. The feeling that says "I AM a real writer. I can do this."

That's all for now. I've got a neglected WIP waiting for me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Well, that was fun!

Okay, the fireworks are over, the barbecue is eaten up, and the guests we've hosted the last couple of weeks are gone.

Now it's back to business.

1) WIP - I am fortunate enough to have two entire kid-free days to devote to my current project. I've outlined, plotted, and planned for several weeks, so I'm looking forward to knocking out several chapters. I'm very excited about this one.

2) RWA Conference - Can't wait!!

Much to do, much to do...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm Crushing On

Here are some things I'm just loving right now:

1) Toy Story 3. If you haven't seen it yet, run - do not walk - to the theater. You won't be sorry.

2) The backyard. Having a pool when it's over 100 degrees outside is just heavenly.

3) Jennifer Weiner. Already a fab author, but she's also hosting a fab contest. Check it out here.

Summertime is in full-effect. So far, so good. Let's see how much work I get done with such fab distractions.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'd Like To Thank The Academy...


I was just given this super-cool award. Isn't it lovely? Thank you, Amparo Ortiz!
In accepting this award, I must divulge 7 little-known facts about myself. In no particular order, here are 7 factoids:
1) My name is pronounced he-LEE-nuh, but no matter how badly someone butchers it, I never correct them.
2) I'm plotting my next dog adoption without my husband's knowledge.
3) My written Spanish is much better than my spoken Spanish.
4) I've already started saving money to attend the 2011 RWA Conference in NYC.
5) My favorite place in the world is Disneyland.
6) I'd rather drive somewhere than fly, even if it takes me two days to get there.
7) I've installed no fewer than ten nightlights around the house, because I'm afraid of the dark.
And there you have it. More than you'd care to know about lil' ol' me.
And now, I'd like to pass this delightful award on to a few other bloggers who I frequent. Please check out their blogs:
Megan Rebekah

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Students of Life

"You learn something new every day," the old adage goes. A few words easily dismissed as cliche; all but forgotten until we hear it again.

I know this to be true for myself. It is only 9:30 in the morning, yet today I have already learned lessons in 1) Human disasters, 2) Human kindness, and 3) Humorous humans.

1) Some of my family spent ten days in Pensacola, Florida. They enjoyed the beautiful beaches, photographed the dolphins and stingrays near shore, and frolicked in the ocean waves. Just after they left early yesterday morning, the unfortunate news hit - the oil from the BP spill had made its way to Pensacola. I learned of the disaster, and find it hard to measure that news against the bright, beautiful photos they've shared on Facebook. No doubt Mother Nature routinely causes disasters all her own, but I've learned I find it all the more troubling when devastation is man-made.

2) I came across an article about an organization called Back On My Feet. It's a cause devoted to the homeless population in a way I'd never even fathomed before. The ingenuity of the idea, and the kindness of random strangers never ceases to amaze (or uplift) me. Homelessness is a cause near and dear to my own heart, and learning of BOMF was like being wrapped in a warm hug. I learned the human spirit is incredible. I learned there's always more I can do for others.

3) I learned what Gerber Graduates Lil' Crunchies taste like. Okay, maybe it's not the most profound discovery, except for the manner of my taste-test. My one year old was eating them in his high chair when I leaned in to squeal "Si! Si! Si!" in the silly way that makes him laugh so hard. That's when he sneezed. And the contents of his mouth shot into mine. After I gagged, spit, and rinsed, I had to laugh. I learned laughter is and will always be the best way to soothe my nerves and anxieties.

We do learn something new each and every glorious day we're given. I think as writers, we have to open ourselves to these things. It's our job to note the way our bodies react to situations, to better describe them on the page. We must be keenly aware of sights, sounds, feelings, etc., to bring them to life for others.

I have a notebook with me pretty much at all times. One of the more important purposes of keeping one on hand is to record emotions. Think of the happiest times you've had, the saddest, the most disappointing...do you remember exactly how and where your body trembled? Your cheeks hurting from smiling so hard? Your throat tightening painfully from the struggle not to cry?

The next time you open your mailbox or inbox and find a rejection, take a moment to write down exactly what it is you're feeling. Whether you cry, get angry, are still just as hopeful, write it down. Because I guarantee you incorporate your own emotions into your writing, and I believe the authenticity of the author's emotions ring true in the writing.

Remember that every new event you experience, with all the lessons you learn daily, you're not only growing as a person, you're growing as a writer. I don't want to miss a thing. I try to remain an apt pupil as a student of life.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fitting it all in

So many of us have different jobs, obligations, and duties that must be fulfilled before we can write. There are children to care for, parents to care for, favors we dole out to our friends, volunteer work, and oh yeah - the 9-5 that keeps the roof over our head.


Yet we still write.


The road to being a published author is rocky, and let's face it - the odds are long, but we keep at it.


We toil away at the computer long after the kids are in bed and we're at it again before they wake. Perhaps you sit outside on your lunch break with a sandwich in one hand and your pen in the other. Maybe you carry a notebook with you everywhere, for you never know when inspiration will strike. You hope your books will one day be in bookstores, but even before that dream comes true, even now, it feels good just to write.


Sometimes after particularly trying days I wish I had more time. Often I'm writing during time I've chosen to spend at the computer over time I should be sleeping. I've jotted ideas or sentences down on a paper towel with my daughter's crayon. In the past, I've played hooky from work a time or two when I am cruising along in my WIP. I'm not published or paid yet, but I'm still at it.


I do believe the time I take to write pays off. Even if the pay is only the release I feel after I've finished something I can be proud of, it pays off. I also believe many great writers will never be published for the simple reason that they gave up.


Keep at it, friends. Find time to write. No, make time to write. And know that with every page, you have improved. Know that every word you write will pay off. In one way or another.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Storytelling

Hello there. Happy Thursday. Glad to see you.

Can I interest you in a story?

Please do get comfy. This might take a bit. I hope you like my little story of Maude and her beloved daughter, Marilee.

Happy reading, and if I don't see you before then, let me wish you a happy Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Okay, I lied

After careful consideration, detailed mapping, and collecting loose change from the couch cushions, I've decided to attend the RWA Conference in Orlando instead of the Midwest Writers in Indiana.

I've paid my registration, reserved my hotel room, and roped Mom into riding shotgun. I'm looking forward to learning a lot in the workshops, meeting like-minded friends, and spending a few days in sunny Florida. YAY!

Confession: I'm also mildly terrified. (Nervous laughter...)

If anyone else is planning to attend the RWA Conference, please let me know. I'd love to meet my blog buddies face-to-face. I should be easy to spot. (Think back to junior high...the girl tightly gripping her lunch tray, slowly roaming the rows of tables, casting her eyes around the cafeteria in a desperate search for an offer of a seat.) Yeah, I'll probably look something like that.
Except older. And without the lunch tray. And slightly better at faking confidence nowadays.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My poor neglected blog!

This week has been a blur. I'm cruising along on my current WIP, trying to check in on my fave blogs, researching conferences (RWA is where I want to go, but Midwest Writers is where I'll likely go for practical purposes), and oh yeah - still being a good mommy to my two babies.

In doing so, I've neglected my dear blog. My bright, sunshine-y pink blog that's been like a Dear Diary BFF to me. I'm so sorry, Bloggie. Here, let me brush that cobweb off...
*coughs through the dust*
There. That's better.

I promise to try to be a better blogger.
*hug and make up*

Anyhoo, where was I? Oh, yeah. For the above-mentioned reasons, I'll keep this post short. I do want to point out a great blog by a really talented YA author, Janice Hardy. Despite her own busy schedule, she's taking time out to answer readers' questions about their current WIP. (Think Query Shark for mss, without the bite.) For those of us still too timid to put our WIP out there for a critique group/or partner, she provides great insight and offers a perspective that perhaps you wouldn't have considered before. I'd highly recommend it.

Ta-ta for now!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

For the love of words

I fell in love with reading after I finished my first Judy Blume book in fourth grade. I remember the house we lived in at the time. I recall the room I was in when I finished that book, and I can even picture what the weather was like that day in Kansas City.

I don't know if that picture is so vividly ingrained in my mind more because Judy Blume is such a gifted author, or because the book really hit home with me.

The book was called "Blubber." I wasn't overweight as a kid, but I was bi-racial, dirt-poor, and the new kid in school, so I could relate to the bullying the protagonist endured. We were allies.

Other than the personal connection, I also felt like I'd found my calling. I'd written stories before then, but after "Blubber," I tried to emulate what Judy Blume did. I tried to write with purpose. To make people feel something. To move them emotionally. And that's what I still try to do.

The struggle to get an agent, to get a novel on the shelves, and to get your name and words out there is tough. You're isolated while working, waiting to feel validated as a "real" writer, and (please, God) hoping to earn a paycheck.

Along the path to publication, I am constantly seeking out sources of inspiration and motivation. I force myself to dig a little deeper when doubt seeps in. I also have to keep reminding myself why I started writing and why I continue writing:

1) For me writing is an escape, and I find it therapeutic, just as it was in elementary school.
2) I am blessed with two babies. Two beautiful minds I can help shape, and hopefully instill a love of words. A love that I already see in my 3 year-old. Whether we're reading "Rexerella" or the back of a cereal box, reading and writing makes her happy. That makes me happy.

So for anyone in need of a little inspiration, or motivation, please check out this link by T.H. Mafi. I've read it too many times to count and I hope you'll love it just as much as I do. Also, please check this post out from Cheryl Angst.

What about you? What spurs you onward?


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All kinds of awesome

Last week I mentioned two charity auctions. One is in support of diabetes research, and the other is in support of the victims of the devastating Nashville floods.

I'm in on both of them. Yay!

Both are fantastic causes, and both offer amazing items up for bid. Unfortunately, I was outbid on everything writer-related on Brenda Novak's site, ($700 to read a partial? I slumped away in defeat.) but I've still got bids in for ARCs and signed books - the fun stuff - so I still feel happy to contribute something.

While I'm glad to help, I've also been careful to keep my bidding in check, not going too crazy with the funds.

Then along comes Suzie Townsend into Do The Right Thing For Nashville. She offered to not only 1) evaluate a full manuscript, 2) provide notes of her evaluation, and 3) spend 1/2 an hour on the phone to answer any additional questions the winner may have. What the?! (Who does that? Only the coolest of the cool, that's who.)

Right away, I lost my mind. $750! I bid the first time. I was outbid shortly after. Not cool for me. Super-cool for Nashville.

The bidding went up and up. I waited, watched, debated...

I researched Suzie and some of her clients. I remembered the flooding in recent years that has destroyed so many lives here in my own neck of the woods. I also wondered just how angry hubby would be if I kept bidding.

I paced the floor and went through all of the options and scenarios with my kids. (Okay, it was a one-sided conversation. I talked to the top of my daughter's head while she hunched over her coloring book. But I could've swore my infant son cooed his approval - he wanted me to go for it!)

Long after I'd put the kids in bed, I crept to the computer. I peeked over my shoulder to ensure hubby wasn't watching, cracked my knuckles, typed in my final bid, and re-holstered my wallet. Whew! There. I did it. At that point, the auction was only open for about another 20 minutes, so I went to bed, hopeful I would be the winner.

I woke up bright & early the next morning, checked the ol' iPod, and my heart fell. I was outbid by 2 other people. Waahh!

Imagine my super-duper delight as I checked the auction later that day, and found out Suzie had agreed to accept the top 4 bids - mine being one of them! How sweet is she?!

Okay, so maybe I won't be able to go to the RWA conference now. (I still might, just not 100%.) Maybe I still haven't quite-exactly told hubby just...yet...exactly... And maybe Suzie Townsend will tell me I've sent her the worst manuscript she's seen in all her agenting days. Who knows?

But at the end of the day, I still feel proud to have, in some small way, helped my neighbors to the south. And I haven't felt even a millisecond of buyer's remorse. No matter what, I'm happy with my decision.

I'll keep you posted on what happens from here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mothers Day!

Okay, Mom. I’m sorry. After a spin around Karmatown, I want to apologize for all the trouble I caused as a kid. I hope my heartfelt contrition (and rightful fear) will minimize my comeuppance from your vigilant friend, Payback.

I am ready to eat a giant hunk of humble pie and declare that I.O.U. (I Officially Understand.)

Yesterday my own little princess, bless her heart, threw herself screaming to the floor in Target after I refused to buy Play-Doh. The retail powers-that-be display lots of tempting toys in the checkout lane, right at toddler eye-level. Isn’t that sweet?

I struggled against her flailing legs and re-seated her in the cart. My face burned red while I pretended not to notice the stares and glares of other shoppers. Suddenly I was smacked with the memory of my own record-breaking public fits as a kid.

Wow, Mom, what goes around really does come back around! Isn’t that something? (Digging my toe in the ground here.) I apologize, Mom. Please consider me duly chastised by fate, and know that I.O.U.

Mom, I confess, head drooped in shame, to calling all those (900) numbers in 1988 that cost you a fortune. Yep, it was me – seduced by false hope of talking to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. I’m sorry. (I should also apologize to my older brother who actually got blamed for it. I’m sure he deserved the punishment for some other offense he got away with, but I digress.) Surely this admission of guilt offers me some preemptive reprieve from my own children’s future acts of mischief, right?

And Mom, can we please forget all the criticism I dished on your appearance? Only now can I fully understand the bare face and perpetual bun you wore in your hair. These days I don’t even get thirty seconds in the bathroom to pee without a child clinging to my leg – thirty minutes to primp is out of the question. Please know that I.O.U.

B.C. (Before Children) I was a fit 135 pounds, I enjoyed Saturdays at the salon, and I had no gray hair. I vowed not to be the mom who left the house with matted hair and milk-stained sweats. After all, Sephora was like a BFF to me. We were so close, I nicknamed her Sephie, and she called me Spendy.

Nowadays I have lots of grays. I only noticed because after I gave birth, my hair fell out in clumps. The irony of losing the hair on my head was that I’d sprouted new hair in less attractive places, like under my chin. Despite the beard, I wasn’t fully aware I’d morphed into Shrek until the fateful morning my armpit hair got caught in the ball of my roll-on deodorant. Then I realized I hadn’t showered in days, or shaved in weeks. I hadn’t seen my beloved Sephie in well over a year! The only cosmetic I use now is Chapstick. And guess what? On most days I’m rockin’ that same bun. Mom, I.O.U.

B.C., I got up at 5:00 every morning to work out, but that’s ancient history. I’ve yet to lose thirty pregnancy pounds, and naturally, I avoid all the “skinny” trends. Skinny jeans, Skinny Cow, skinny dipping, and even skinny lattes are no friends of mine. Who cares if I don’t fit into any of my old clothes? (Or my wedding ring.) Sure I could buy bigger clothes. But wouldn’t that be like conceding defeat to the extra pounds? No, I won’t surrender! I’ll just continue to squeeze myself into the same elastic-waist pants, and start my diet Monday. This time I mean it. Anyway, Mom, what’s important here is that I’m done harping on you.

Mom, you know I’ve had my nipples bitten while nursing my babies. I’ve been pooped on, peed on and puked on. I haven’t watched a sitcom in two years, yet I haven’t missed an episode of (heaven help me), “Yo Gabba Gabba.” I’ve fished dog kibble from tiny mouths and plucked turds from bath water.

I get it, Mom, and I.O.U. Can we consider my punishment served?

Now I know why you cried when I was the one being bullied as a kid. B.C., I never imagined staring down a five year-old for throwing rocks at my child. I never knew a love strong enough to transform me from passive to ferocious in an instant. But I get it now.

Mom, I.O.U. for teaching me love so powerful it is easy to forego my selfish cravings for unnecessary splurges on clothes. (And sleep…and sex...)

Okay, so I’m no glam mom and I’ve lost touch with Sephie. But when my daughter crawls onto my lap, softly touches my face and says, “Mommy, I’m so pretty ‘cause I look just like you,” I feel as gorgeous as any supermodel ever could.

And when that beautiful moment is killed by her farting in my lap, what can I do?
Yes, Mom. I Officially Understand.

So please, tell karma to back off. I will repent. I will grovel. I will do whatever it takes. (By the way, did you get the check I sent? It says “Serendipity” on the memo line, but it’s actually for those phone calls.)

I get it now, Mom. And yes, I really do owe you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Drumming Up Ideas

I love Jennifer Weiner. Not only is she my favorite author, but she's also cemented herself at the top of my list of girl-crushes. I also heart Leah Remini, Queen Latifah, Sandra Bullock, Dolly Parton, Shakira, and Betty White, but I digress. Where was I going with this? Ah, yes...

Jennifer Weiner's website has a section for writers where she offers up tips and tricks. One bit of advice she offers up is to get out of your comfort zone. And that, my friends, is what I've decided to do.

I'd love for you to join me.

Imagine the storytelling ideas that await after a first time riding (or driving) a motorcycle, or taking a road trip to a state you've never been before, or skydiving, or riding a roller coaster. Anything that feels exciting, terrifying, and new.

Think of it as a sort of bucket list for writers. Real-life experiences that will only enrich our stories with details and imagery from authentic adventures. Stories only you could accurately tell afterward.

I haven't completed my full list yet, but I've decided I'm going to do 5 things before summer's end that will take me out of my comfort zone, and I'll document my exploits here on my blog.

Maybe I'll do something crazy, like run a marathon...or something downright dangerous, like take all five of my sister's kids to the zoo by myself. I'm a rebel, I know.

I don't think you have to do anything death-defying to go outside your comfort zone, but I do think it has to be something scary, in some form or another. Jennifer Weiner is a Princeton graduate with over 11 million books in print. Maybe the girl's onto something.

What would YOU consider outside of the comfort zone?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tennessee

I've been thinking a lot about this Romance Writers of America conference. I have researched the conference, read blogs of other writers who have attended, and the bios of some of the people who will be conducting workshops. "I'm going to do it!" I proudly declared to my 3 year-old who couldn't care less.
I emailed the organizers, emailed my reservation request for lodging, and, perhaps most awesome, I talked my mom and dad into coming with me.
I received an email later in the day from the RWA organizers that the conference is now in limbo, due to severe flooding in Tennessee. I read the email and was completely floored. Flooding?
Of course, I went online to see what in the world they were talking about, and oh my gosh was I devastated.
Before you start thinking, What kind of moron didn't know about the flooding in Tennessee? please let me explain my ignorance. I have a 1 year-old son, and a 3 year-old daughter. When the TV is on in our house, it's typically on Nick Jr. The only time that changes is for Playhouse Disney.
We have other channels, of course, but I find that even when something completely innocuous is on, like say, the old sitcom "Yes, Dear," the commercials sometimes advertise a scary movie that will terrify my daughter. (Or a lingerie commercial that will terrify me into doing something I really don't want to do, like exercising.)
My point is, I play it safe as far as TV is concerned. The downside to this, of course, is I don't hear about the bomb scare in New York, the baby killed by his mother, and the flooding in Tennessee. The upside to this, of course, is I don't hear about the bomb scare in New York, the baby killed by his mother, and the flooding in Tennessee.
I never used to be this way. Four years ago, I was addicted to America's Most Wanted, and I was a bit of a news junkie. That all changed after I had kids, because the threat was made more real to me. How will I protect them from all of the evil and misfortune?
I know I can't shield my babies from all of life's tragedies, but I would rather live in a self-imposed bubble than have my daughter ask me questions I don't yet know how to answer.
It also makes me feel completely idiotic that I can get bummed out over an agent's rejection when there are thousands of people who were just made homeless in an instant. Lives that have been lost, and babies that are displaced make me realize just how insignificant my minor disappointments are.
I don't know if the conference will still be held this year. I don't know if I'll go. I don't know for sure if I'll ever sell my novel. But here's what I do know: My family is healthy. Despite two tornadoes here last week, my house is intact. And I have 3 followers on my blog who have made me feel really, truly special. We've never spoken, but I feel like we're friends, writers together in the trenches.
For all of these blessings and many more, I am incredibly lucky and very grateful just to be here.
While it's true that tomorrow isn't promised, I still have today. And I intend to make the most of it. Back to work! :)
***UPDATE: I've found a website with a few different ways to help out in Nashville. If anyone is interested, please click here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Charity Auctions

Last month I held my mom's hand as the endocrinologist confirmed what we already suspected: Mom has diabetes. She's now on two different insulins and a whole new diet.

The bright spot is that she exercises every day now and she's lost weight - Yay!

When I opened this month's issue of the Writer's Digest, the first page I saw promoted an auction being held by best-seller Brenda Novak. The auction began a few years ago in honor of her son who was diagnosed with diabetes at five years old. She has raised nearly $800,000 in support of finding a cure.

My husband lost his mother to diabetes when he was just fifteen years old, and it still profoundly affects him today. So with Mother's Day approaching, I decided to participate in the auction in honor of both of our moms.

The auction opened yesterday, and some of the items up for bid are so incredible, I wanted to post some of the info here. In addition to autographed books, gift baskets, and ARCs, there are amazing opportunities for writers. Some of these include readings/critiques of full or partial manuscripts by agents, editors, and bestselling authors; conference registration fees; and publicity packages.

Some of the items have already reached a bidding price of well over $300. That's too much for a lot of us, (I know I can't go that high) but I think there are some things to consider here.

1) It's for a great cause. Even a purchase of the eight dollar keychain would help.
2) Initially I questioned the agents' ethics. At first I thought, If you're paying money for an evaluation, isn't that kind of like paying an agent to read your work? But it's not, because they don't receive the money. They're generously donating their time and insider knowledge, and the proceeds go to diabetes research.
3) The last thing I wanted to point out is that nobody is guaranteeing agent representation or the sale of a manuscript, but Janet Reid posted yesterday on her blog that she found one person through an auction. So the chance of getting a big break through a charity auction is a small, but real one.

If anyone is interested, it's definitely worth a look around. Click here to check it out.

Good luck and happy bidding!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Conferences

I'm wondering about conferences. I've gotten materials for 3: Willamette in Oregon, Writer's Digest in NYC, and Romance Writers of America in Nashville.

I've read the websites and pamphlets, I've looked through the photos of conferences past, and I've heard the success stories of some of them. But for me, a kind-of shy person with zero publishing credentials to boast of, would that be the right step for me?

I'm most interested in the RWA conference, because it's closest to where I live, and I like the workshops they're offering. I'm intrigued, and the thought of being around other like-minded people, even just for a few days, makes me feel hopeful. Unfortunately, here's the way I envision it playing out: I enter, trembling. I smile at everyone, speak to no one. I sit as far in the back as possible, afraid to approach anyone for fear of the first question directed at me being, "So what have you been published in?"

After the cost of the conference, travel expenses, hotel...that's near $1,000. Decisions, decisions...

Has anyone else ever been to a writer's conference? Any intention to go anytime soon?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Worth a Second Look

Mood: Down but not out

Okay, so I was cruising through a superfab chick lit blog I found yesterday, and in that blog I found not one novel, but four novels (by successful authors) who had themes very similar to the novel I just started. Not cool.
While I know each one had a different twist, voice, characters, etc. to differentiate them from my own, it was still disheartening to see my ideas executed by far better writers. It isn't the first time I've gotten that unpleasant shocker, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
I don't blame lack of creativity on anyone's part, or copycatting someone else's work, so what is it that causes several people who have never met to have similar ideas, thoughts, and words we think we've invented? (Words I think I've invented: humilified, boobear, zipstick-now I know that to be a flash drive. I even have what I think is my own line of curse words; dickass and jerkass are my faves.)
I have read on other blogs where a commenter posts that they finished a novel only to submit it and be told there is already another similar novel on the shelves. I know it's not just me.
I'm left with one conclusion, and it is this: Great minds think alike. :)
On the bright side, I have started down another path. After making this discovery of similar novels to my own, I decided to go back to some of the novels I've written in the last ten years or so. I popped in an old "zipstick" this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised. I've already got the skeleton for one novel I think can be great. It needs some work, of course, but the foundation is there, and that is a huge chunk of work that is done. Yay! (Yes, I've browsed around online to be sure my idea is as original as I believed it to be, and Eureka! it is, as far as I can see.)
So now I will spend the next several weeks rewriting, re-reading, and polishing for Novel 2. Wish me luck....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Day of Distractions

I had today all mapped out. I was determined to write two chapters of the new novel and still have time left over to spend with the hubby and kids.
Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Between the unplanned visit from family, the foot injury hubby suffered, and the time wasted on Facebook, I didn't even write two words, much less two chapters. Oh, and I shouldn't neglect to mention, the baby found a bottle of red food coloring, God-knows-where. Suffice it to say the living room looked like a crime scene after his paint job.
Okay, so I didn't get much accomplished as far as the novel goes, but all was not lost. I got more time with the kids (even if much of that time was spent scrubbing tiny red hands), and I have more ammo stashed away in my arsenal of material for future stories.
And the icing on the cake was, well, cake. Yeah, I may have baked a cake today. All in all, I'd have to say today was a very good day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

To Outline, or Not to Outline?

I love writing novels. Creating lives and circumstances (and being able to ensure happy endings) is such a fun way to spend my time. But the part I love most is right at the beginning.
That's when I have a spanking-new, shiny idea, and I'm excited about what I'm hoping to create. Usually by the time the book is finished, I'm frustrated, anxious, worried, and wondering if I should add more pages, or cut more pages; but the opening pages are carefree, and I am happy to type away.
I already know what my next novel is going to be about. I know how I want it to begin, some of the stuff in the middle, and how I want it to end. But this time I'm going to try something different, and not use an outline.
I'm a rebel, I know.
Between the time I've started a book and the time I've finished, I've usually changed a thousand things anyway - characters' names, ages, jobs, locations, and family lives have all been overhauled somewhere along the way, despite my best outlined intentions. I figure a lot will change regardless.
So I'm just going to wing it and see how it goes.
And for my next trick, finishing the book without gaining another ten pounds. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Healthy Helena

This morning when I offered my 3 year-old a chocolate chip muffin, she politely declined. She said, "No, thank you. How about something even more delicious, like bell peppers!"
Hmm. When given the choice of a chocolate chip muffin or a bell pepper, I don't think I would make the same smart decision.
Reality check! I think it's quite a humbling (and embarrassing) thing, getting shown the error of my ways by a toddler.
So I had to do without my own muffin, and, following her lead, I ate Egg Beaters and a side of red peppers for breakfast today. Hey, I could stand to lose a few anyway.
I guess I'll watch her for even more cues on taking better care of myself. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow she'll be leading a spin class or something.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wow! TGIF, indeed

Today was great. I got to see my baby sister, and spend the day with my babies and hubby, and to add the icing, we finished the day with chocolate chip muffins.
Of course this isn't to say the last 24 hours have been pure bliss - they haven't. But what I'm working on, and what I think I've been pretty great at, is focusing on the bright spots in my life. I have a small network of people who really love me, and who I dearly love. In that sense, I'm successful, and rich.
Every time I get down on myself, or even when I don't feel all that well, I have to remember that all in all, I've actually got it pretty darn good.
And everything is coming up roses. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Bigger Picture

Yesterday I got the email I was hoping for from the agent I queried - they requested sample pages of my manuscript - Yay! I wanted to show how ready I was, so I quickly sent what they'd requested.
I went back later in the day to re-read what I'd sent, and - Oops! - I found three things I really wished I'd have changed prior to sending it off. I spent the rest of the day kicking myself for being so sloppy.
This morning, however, I was briefly visited by someone on their way to the children's hospital for a major surgery being done on her toddler. Not cool.
It kind of puts things into perspective in a big way. Did I mess up in the manuscript I let go out? Yep. Is it the end of the world? Heavens to Mergatroid No!
I wasted too much time fretting over my error yesterday. Today I promised myself to brush it off and keep it movin'.
After all, I have much to be grateful for and a million reasons to be happy and hopeful. Here's to a very promising start...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Muchisimas gracias

I spend many of my waking hours writing nowadays. I feel like I have this small window of time to get my short stories, freelance articles, and of course, my novels, written, so I'm going for it.
I write when I wake up, I write until I go to bed around midnight. I write while my babies are sleeping, eating, or sometimes, while both are on my lap. A little obsessive, maybe, but I'm on a mission. I may never get this opportunity again, so I'm working really hard to make this dream of mine come to fruition.
I can't do it alone, of course. That is why I count myself incredibly lucky to have the husband I do. He's quick to run outside with the babies to give me time to write, or to take them downstairs to watch tv or play, or to cook, clean, whatever - in support of my dream.
I have not yet made a dollar off of my writing, but there he is, reading my work and encouraging me on. He works full days at his 9-5, then comes home to run the house and let me wander off to my computer.
Even on days we're struggling, I have to admit, I really lucked out with my Amor.
Now, back to work...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How'd she do that?

Novel is finished. Whew! So I can read a quick novel or two from real-live, published authors before I dive into my next one. Though I have a few new books I should read, I started my break with a book I've already read twice.
Why? Well, because the author is Jennifer Weiner, my fave. I wish I had an English degree, but I don't. So the next best thing is to pick up what I can from the best. I read and re-read all kinds of books, trying to glean what, exactly it is they do.
Today, I'll admit, was not a good time to pick up "In Her Shoes." After I finally wrapped up my first novel, I was overjoyed - I did it! Then cracking open Jennifer Weiner's work made me feel about as astute as a third-grader. Her writing flows so seamlessly, her eye for detail is unparallel, and where does she come up with all those perfect metaphors??
I've decided against reading any other novels for now. Instead I'll re-read my books about writing, and I'll continue writing (and hopefully improving), and I'll inevitably scratch my head when I think of Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin, and Ally Carter, because their work, to me, is the best. I close their books wishing they didn't have to end, and wishing I could give readers the same feeling.
Leaves me wondering, How'd they do that?

Monday, April 5, 2010

The fear of "No."

So now that my novel is 99% finished, it's about that time. The agent search. After several weeks of research, I have the gal in mind who I think would be perfect for me.
She's funny, she seems to genuinely care for writers, and perhaps most awesome is that she's a fellow Midwesterner.
She'll actually be in Chesterfield next week, but sadly, I cannot attend the conference. Curse you, empty bank account!
So I get one shot, via an emailed query, to make Cora interesting enough for her to request a few pages of the book. If she passes on it, I will (with a heavy heart) send simultaneous submissions to the next few people on my list.
I know the gist of what I want to say, but I haven't yet typed a single word of my query to K.
Fear of rejection is a powerful thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steadfast dreamers

I'm happy to be so close to finishing my first novel. Thisclose to the peak of that arduos, rocky mountain I've been climbing; and after years of plotting, writing, and editing, I am nearly ready to submit it. The odds of me being signed by an agent and that book selling are slightly better than my odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.

Two people I love are now thisclose to realizing their own dreams. Their aspirations are much different than mine, but the same in that they've been planning, saving, and budgeting over the course of several years. Years of hoping and waiting for their dream to come true.

Some days I'd rather be sleeping than writing. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking time for myself to write instead of spending it with my babies. Every now and then I even question the real worth of my work at the computer, wondering if I'll ever be a novelist.

Times like that, there is one thing that keeps me going, and it's as simple as a resolute belief that I can do more, have more, be more, for my family.

If I leave my children with one lesson, I'd like them to spend their lives learning, searching, and reaching. Whether they aspire to be teachers, singers, writers, or to live out their days traveling the country in an RV, I will teach them to always hold steadfast to their dreams. Because no matter who you are or what you want, sometimes that is all we need; just an unwavering faith in our dreams.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ready, set, go!

Today was a gorgeous 70-degree day. Fabulous, considering it's March in St. Louis. As I watched the dog sunbathing out on the deck, it made me anxious for summer, and most of all, the swimming pool.
I love swimming, but it seems the worst part is always that initial jump in. I'll usually dip a toe in, or a foot in, to test the waters first. Of course, the water is usually cold, so that makes me all the more hesitant to jump.
That's kind of how I feel about the internet. I'm old-fashioned, a pen & paper kinda gal. I finally started a Facebook page (long after my mom did!), though I still don't understand Twitter. I can surf the internet with the best of 'em, but I've never actually put myself out there. Until now.
After much thought, worry, and hesitation, I've decided to pull my toes from the water, plug my nose, and dive right in. So here I am, happily blogging. I may not swim the fastest, but I took the plunge. And now that I'm in, I have to admit, the water's just fine.