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!