Sunday, January 30, 2011

This and That (and Them and Those)

"You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts...but you cannot deny he's got style..." (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling)

This and That

First, I’d like to thank Donna Weaver from Weaving A Tale or Two for the Stylish Blogger Award. As a stressed out writer I give a whole new meaning to the world stylish. In case you’ve ever wondered what goes into writer style (only speaking for myself here), let me enlighten you:

1. footwear: cushy slippers are my choice of footwear and in this photo they are accompanied by snowman socks (tis the season, right?)

2. pants: sweats are perfect for this time of the year – warm with an expandable waistband for snacking during those long stretches when butt is glued to chair.

3. top: Generally, I’m cold all year round. Winter weather can run from mid-November through March in the Northeast. Once summer hits, my family usually outnumbers me when it comes to what constitutes a comfortable temp in the house. And so the central air is blowing which = me wearing a hoodie all summer long. However, my favorite comfort wear is my nearly 20 year old J. Crew thin, gray, wool cardigan. It is SO warm, like a security blanket, that I will hold onto it until it unravels.

4. coffee or tea mug and snack

5. reading glasses – even more fashionable if they tend to slide down your nose like mine

6. Oh! And I almost forgot...a blog about writerly stuff or stuff about this particular writer (and her stylish footwear)

Them and Those

I keep a folder on my PC of Literary Agencies and Agents that I’d like to query some day when I’m ready. I’ve worked hard collecting info about agents, what genres they’re interested in, likes/dislikes, clients, etc. This weekend I started updating that info since it had been months since I last looked at it.

When I began this time consuming project, one of the first places I found nearly 90% of my info was at Casey McCormick’s must read blog, Literary Rambles. She has the most comprehensive collection of Agent Spotlights & Interviews, complete with short bios, agent interests, submission info, plus links to online interviews. And she selflessly does this as a service to fellow writers.

Another great source I’ve found is Krista V’s blog, Mother. Write. (Repeat.) I can so relate to that title! Nearly every week she features an interview (sometimes interactive) with agents, primarily in children’s lit. I’ve been going through her list and have added a few agents that I didn’t already have on my list. Thanks, Krista!

Both of these sites have been so useful as I’ve collected info for querying in the future. Check them out, you won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Peek Inside the Mind of a Paranoid Writer

A peek inside the paranoid brain of a wanna be published writer: Yeah there are 3 voices inside my head. How many are in yours?

BigMouthPessimist = BMP
EverCheerfulOptimist = ECO
Me = Me

Me: Crap! What was I thinking? What have I done?
The BMP: You made a total fool out of yourself, that’s what you've done.
ECO: Now, don’t you go listening to him.
The BMP: She’d be able to salvage an ounce of dignity if she did.
ECO: Your piece was tight, light and just right! Rah! Rah!! Rah!!!
The BNP: Not unlike your cheerleader get up.
ECO: *waves pompoms*
Me: Maybe I should have waited until next year.
ECO: Well, honey, you’re not exactly getting younger you know. There’s no time like the present.
The BMP: *snickers* Ain’t that the truth. Hey, your stripe is showing! Made you look!
Me: Ugh. I feel ill.
The BMP: Is it because anyone in the entire world can click on Nathan’s contest, read your entry and judge it for the drivel that it is?
Me: I know! *buries head in hands*
ECO: Think of it as putting your heart and soul on stage for the whole world to enjoy. A symphony of words like they’ve never read before!
Me: Is that supposed to make me feel better?
The BMP: Did you hear that? It was the whole world snoring.
Me: Was it that bad?
The BMP: *whispers* delete, delete, delete
ECO: Don’t listen to that windbag. How would he know the mind of a teenage girl?
Me: I do like this WiP.
ECO: As you should! You’ve worked hard. You deserve a chance like everyone else.
The BMP: It stinks.
ECO: This coming from someone who needs a shower and a shave.
The BMP: Kiss my butt.
Me: Whatever happens I’m glad I entered. I’ll never know unless I try, right?
ECO: That's the spirit! I feel a cheer coming on...
Me and ECO: When you know you’ve done your best, keep your chin up, you’ll pass the test!
The BMP: I’m outta here.
ECO: I knew we could chase His Royal Crankypants out of here.
Me: Who needs him, right?
ECO: Your paragraph will rock Nathan’s socks off!
Me: Ugh. What have I done!
ECO: All you need is a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of tea, hun.

Yes, it’s true. In a moment of giddy weakness, I submitted my paragraph. It’s #915 (January 25, 6:23 pm).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Monday, everyone!

It's been frigid in the Northeastern part of the U.S. I woke to -4 degrees F (with a -15 windchill). Since then the temperature has risen to a balmy 8 F. So to combat the cold, I'm wearing my warmest fleece pullover, sipping Barry's tea, and eating leftover chocolate birthday cake. How's that for self comfort?

I'd like to give a shoutout to Becky Taylor who is running a contest over at her blog. She's giving away an ARC of Delirium by Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall. Here's the catch: you only have until 3:00pm mountain time to hop on over to her blog and post a comment if you'd like to win. So click on over now, and then come back for news on another cool contest.

Welcome back. Did you know that current author/former literary agent Nathan Bransford is having a first paragraph contest? Follow this link, read his contest rules and post your first paragraph of a current WiP. First prize is to have your partial manuscript read and considered by Nathan's agent, Catherine Drayton of Inkwell. You have from now until Thursday, January 27 4:00pm pacific time to enter. I'm thinking of entering mine but haven't quite decided yet. I have the jitters just thinking about it! My plan is to reread and polish it and then if I think it's ready, I'll swallow hard, close my eyes, and hit Publish. I've never entered a contest like this before so this would be a big first step.

I think I need another slice of chocolate cake.

How about you? Have you ever entered any first line, first paragraph, first page contests and what was your experience? And do you need to think about it over a slice of chocolate cake?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pass the Lip Balm, Please

Winter. Prime season for chapped lips. Unless you live in Australia like my friend, Donna H, or in any other country in the southern hemisphere, and are experiencing the lovely warmth of the sun’s rays shining down, (and of which I’m not in the least bit jealous because I adore when my back aches from shoveling and the nosebleeds from the constant back and forth from dry heat to cold air.) But I digress. Of course, it’s possible to get chapped lips in the summer, too, if you’ve been lying on the beach in the hot sun – not that I’d wish that on any of my friends who don’t have to wear winter coats, boots and mittens this time of the year.

The other place where chapped lips seem to abound? YA novels.

Did you ever notice that there’s an awful lot of lip biting in young adult novels? Maybe I just have a weird ability to narrow in on an obscure detail until it irritates me. Sometimes when I'm reading a YA novel, I see how long it takes before the protagonist bites her lip. Call me crazy but it seems like any time there’s an indecisive moment or anxiety, someone (and 9 ¾ times out of 10 it’s a teenage girl) is biting her lips! Bella Swan is a notorious lip biter. I suppose it makes sense that kissing cold, hard vampires brings about dry lips (along with the sensation of passing out). Melinda Sordino from Speak bites her lips, but I have to give her a pass – she needed some sort of an outlet since she was unable to communicate her secret to anyone.

I’m talking about the protagonist who pauses before speaking, who is unsure what to do or say, or is afraid she might get in trouble. And the thing is, how many of us in real life bite our lip when we’re frightened, confused, sad? I suppose somebody must bite their lip or the image would never appear in writing. The only time I do it is when I’m trying to stop myself from laughing at an inappropriate time. Or if I’m trying to bite the dry dead skin off my lips (sorry, that’s a gross image).

I think that biting one's lip is an easy and sometimes lazy way to show how our MC feels. If we’re not careful it can be overused, a cliche, and our poor character will have to run for the lip balm. So far I have one instance in which my MC Felicity bites her inside lip to stop herself from crying. Since it’s one of my pet peeves, I’ve been trying use other ways of showing her emotions rather than given her swollen lips.

That leads me to The Bookshelf Muse, a blog which is a great resource for writers. The muses, Angela and Becca, have created lists (and oh, how I love lists) of different ways to describe emotions, colors, etc. If you find your MC’s lips need a break why not see if there’s another way to express what she’s feeling? Perhaps she could fidget, hold her breath, or clench her fists.

Or you could just make sure she’s carrying a tube of lip balm in her pocket.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can I Get Away With This?

When the original idea for my WiP came to me, I thought it would best suit MG readers. The central conflict targeted that age group or so I thought. As the story unfolded, that original conflict shifted and became more of a side conflict. Another stronger conflict emerged as I began to develop my 2 main characters. The story has taken on an unexpected direction and I like it a lot. I did develop an outline but I've only been referring to it when my chapter ideas dry out. So far this method has worked for me and I'm about halfway through the novel.

So here's my dilemma. I'm not sure if this is a MG or YA novel and it's becoming a distraction. My original MG storyline is leaning much closer to a YA. I've included flirting, teasing w/ some crude comments in dialogue, and some mild language. I've been calling it Upper MG because it's definitely on the older end of MG but I'm not sure if it crosses into YA territory.

What I'm wondering is if I can use certain words in this category. There aren't many but I do use the word "slut" (in a joking way rather than someone calling someone else this word), "damn," and there's a strong sexual inuendo in a teasing scene. The thing is I wouldn't expect to read these words/phrases in a MG novel, but middle schoolers (7th and 8th grade) would definitely use this language. 1) I've heard them use it (but thankfully not from my own kids) and 2) I remember my own middle school years when it was cool to sprinkle our conversation with a few choice words and all boys seemed to think about was our - ahem - changing bodies.

I know it's early and I still have half a book to write, but I can't help but think it's never too early to know the category my book falls into. I think I'll stick with Upper MG for now and see how the rest of the novel unfolds.

Any thoughts? Do I need to pick MG or YA or can I call it Tween or Upper MG?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Here in New England, we’re getting 18 inches of snow dumped on us right now, which means...


Of course, that means no school for the kids too, so I don’t have the house to myself *pout* but still...


I can stay in my p.j.s til noon, drinking coffee, watching news reporters outside in the blowing snow repeatedly describing how treacherous it is outside while I sit wrapped in a blanket on my couch!!!


I could take some pretty pics of the snow to share with you on my blog, put the rest of my Christmas decorations away (please don’t remind me we’re in double digit days in January; I’m a little behind), and work on my WiP.

Guess what I chose to do?

What would you choose to do on an unexpected day off?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Old Moments

My oldest daughter passed her iPod down to her little sister after receiving an iTouch for Christmas. She was so excited to have her own like her big sisters and brother. After helping her choose some appropriate songs from our library, I bought her a few more that I thought she might enjoy. She loves “Our Lips Our Sealed,” by the Go Gos so I bought “We Got the Beat” and also a couple of B-52s songs ("Rock Lobster" and "Cosmic Thing"). These were fun songs when I was a teen and in my early 20s.

Of course, I felt it mandatory to teach her the “Rock Lobster” dance that my friends and I used to do at school dances back in junior high (aka middle school). We'd pretty much just jump up and down in place, waving our arms wherever, shaking our heads back and forth until the “Down....down...down...” where we would slowly descend to the floor until the beat picked up and we’d jump up and down again. Lots of fun because there were no specific “dance moves” (I suck at line dances or anything that requires sophistication like ballroom, jitterbug, or swing) We didn’t care how crazy we looked because, well, that was the point.

Now because she’s 7, my little one totally got into dancing with me. Not so with the 11 and 14 year olds. They stood outside the doorway, afraid to come into the room, wearing a “What is this???” and "What are you doing???" look on their faces.

Then I had an old moment. I couldn’t stop the words “we used to have a blast (more indication that I’m old by using the word "blast") dancing to this song when I was a teen” from coming out of my mouth. And then I had a flashback: driving in the car with my parents as they made me listen to 50s music on “Oldies Night," saying the same exact thing.

When you have kids, especially teens, old moments are common. They're when your head and heart feel the same as you did when you were a teen or younger but your words and body don’t quite match. My head and heart were 15 while I was dancing with L even though my poor out-of-breath body couldn't “Rock Lobster” past 5 minutes (I had forgotten how long that song is! The video below is a shortened version).

So my point – which you probably didn’t think I’d ever get to [didn’t I make a resolution about shorter posts and I’m already blowing it <--gah! another old expression!] – is that even though I may be bit older than others pursuing children's lit publication, I'm okay with that. I can recall like it was yesterday, the emotions, struggles, joys, uncertainty, loneliness, and the goofiness that go along with being a teen and feel confident that I can represent that age group (or even younger) in my writing. Those years are still fresh and raw and...there, you know?

In fact that's why I must write for teens. I'm still so very connected to that girl. If I wasn't I wouldn't even attempt it. And if I ever sound like an adult trying to sound like a teen in my writing, I have 2 teens, 1 tween and a 7 year old (and their friends) to remind me and get me back on track.

Now stand up, find some space, click "play" below, and ROCK LOBSTER! You know you want to and I won't tell :P

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello 2011!

Thank you for walking down memory lane with me in my last post. This one will be about the R word. You know the one...resolutions. It’s a scary word, isn’t it? This is how I approach resolutions.

Resolutions = reflection, goal-setting, (sometimes) failure, perseverance. Not so bad, right?


Okay, then. Let’s look at these one at a time, shall we?

This means stopping. Putting down the laundry basket, pushing the bills aside (temporarily), shutting off the TV, yes, even closing that book, whatever my distraction is at the moment and just spending time with my thoughts. Maybe by taking a walk or a drive. Maybe by sitting in a comfortable armchair with my eyes closed. Asking myself questions, thinking about where I've been and where I’d like to be.

After reflecting, I'm in the frame of mind to set goals. They can be big or small, but they most certainly will be life changing. I firmly believe that no goal is too small if it makes me a better person.

The spark turns to an idea, a paragraph, a chapter – if we’re lucky – a novel. Sometimes it sucks and we start over. Sometimes we adore it and think others will too. Sometimes we’re asked for a partial or even a full. We may even be offered representation and go on submission. And sometimes it all ends with rejection.

But failure, my friends, is what either breaks us or makes us stronger. It forces us to either throw in the towel or to realize that our desire is greater than rock bottom. Sometimes it takes some recovery time to get up again – weeks, months, maybe longer - but that’s okay. I don’t fear failure (yet) or I never would try pursuing publication. I accept that a big part of this process is failing and trying again.

Yesterday I watched the rerun of Oprah’s interview with J.K. Rowling and Jo said, “Failure is the foundation on which I rebuilt my life (not exact words). Using failure often leads to the greatest success.” She said that it was when she hit rock bottom (having nothing left lose) that she could build her foundation from there. If you haven’t seen this interview yet, I’d encourage you to check it out on Youtube. It’s excellent.

When the going gets tough, the more chocolate, cry, throw pens, mutter obscenities under their breath, wallow, cry some more, fill in the ( ___). Yes we do these things, but eventually we come back to the computer or notebook. Maybe it's another spark for a new idea or we read an encouraging blog post or suddenly we figure out how to fix a plot jam. Writing is a part of us that we can’t just forget or put aside.

Last year two of my resolutions were to finish Nitpicky and to start a blog. I was successful at one of those. I failed to finish that first draft but 2011 is a new year.

So here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. joining SCBWI (I’m a little behind on that, I know)
2. blogging regularly and hopefully w/ shorter posts; I do tend to ramble
3. finishing the first draft of Nitpicky
4. revising *gulp*
5. looking for critique partners and if everything falls into place, querying