Monday, September 20, 2010

Word Love


So, how was your weekend? On Saturday, I attended a writing conference in Salt Lake City. It had a great question and answer panel and author John Gilstrap delivered a wonderful keynote address. My interview with Blair Hewes was another rewarding experience. She was very gracious and helpful. (I ended up giving her a package of plain M&M's!)

If you could schedule anyone to speak at your writing conference, who would you choose?

Okay, on to word love. Two experiences have contributed to my recent appreciation of words.

My seven-year-old has a difficult time reading. When I tell him he has to read for a happy, successful life, he says "I don't want to graduate, Mom. I want to live at home forever!" (I'm sure he doesn't mean it.) Thankfully, we're now reading Robin Hood, and he's beginning to catch on. How awful it would be to live in a world where no one read. What are your favorite books?

Language is beautiful. I listened to German hip-hop the other day. Sounded so cool. I liked it even before my daughter translated the words into English. I also enjoy Italian and
French. I think I am a frustrated linguist.

What languages do you speak? Which do you want to learn?

Buona Sera. Au Revoir . . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh, the Irony of Karma.


Breathing, breathing, breathing. Breathing is good, right? I tend to hyperventilate when I'm nervous. Can you tell I'm nervous? Am I babbling on-line? I think I am. Do you think I am? Anyway, I woke up this morning and went to my computer~just minding my own business and checking the email~when a message came out of the blue.

Back story time. I'm attending a writer's conference this weekend, you see, and there was a reminder for me from the master scheduler of the event. It was all very standard . . . Except for the bit about me having a pitch session with an agent! And Blair Hewes, no less. 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Huh? Can you run that by me again?! I didn't sign up for a pitch session! (Look at me, going all italics on you. A clear indicator of stress.) Where did this appointment come from? I don't know.


Soooo~ what to do? However it happened, I am signed up to speak with a great agent. Do I have a book to pitch? Yes, I have two actually. And who am I to refuse a serendipitous gift?

Tell me what you would do.

Breathing, breathing, breathing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Revision-Ninja


Daniel Craig keeps giving me pep talks. Being my muse, he's very conscientious that way. His hair is spiky and he's barely half-awake. But that doesn't stop Dan! Get your mug of Red Zinger, he says. Forget the left-over lasagna in the fridge. Take out your red Sharpie and repeat to yourself--the difference between good writing and bad? Revision, revision, revision.

Thank you, Mr. Muse, for that timely reminder. Today, I will wield my pen like a wordsmithing warrior. I'll cut and add until this damn thing shines.

I am the Revision-Ninja! (If I say this enough, will it be true?)

Good luck on those revisions, bloggers. How are they going?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pitch Imperfect


Yesterday, I was thinking of my first, in-person manuscript pitch. Sad, sad, sad, people.

It took place at a writing conference last year, and I paid $25.00 for a ten minute slot. I worried and worried about selling my story. I practiced in the mirror, meditated, and did good deeds for my neighbors hoping good karma would kick in. I visualized the pitch as a rare, perfect rose in a garden of daisies. (For the record, I like both roses and daisies equally. My preference was merely for effect.)

And? The big moment never happened.

I left my afternoon class at the conference and made a quick trip to the bathroom, mumbling a synopsis of my novel the entire time. Then, I arrived at the appointed pitch-spot. I quietly waited for the editor/industry insider and her current appointment to finish up. Hold on, I said to myself as I recognized the girl ahead of me. She had sat at my table at lunch a few hours earlier and pitched me her book the entire time. Didn't take a bite of the mediocre chicken salad, didn't ask anyone else about themselves. In fact, I'm not even sure I saw this woman breathe during the whole hour. Her detailed description led me through every nuance of her story, and although I found our conversation a little overwhelming, I had to give her some credit. She showed genuine enthusiasm for her work.

The scheduled time for my pitch came and went. It was uncomfortable waiting for the girl in the pitching chair to finish. One minute went by, and then two. Five minutes passed. I tried to make eye contact with the editor, but she kept looking at her watch and the floor. With 2 minutes to spare, my predecessor finally left, and I took the seat. The next writer was already waiting behind me for her turn. Nervous and slightly sick, I made eye contact with my literary lifeline and smiled. Then, I fit my entire story into 60 seconds. Obviously, since I'm still unpublished, it wasn't effective. Like I said, sad, sad, sad.

This debacle did teach me something. I learned that I need to grow a spine, and stand up for myself and my story. Nobody loves it like I do, and it's my job to pitch it well. Self-confidence. Awareness of my tale's unique qualities. Concise communication from my head to another's ear.

It'll come with time and practice. Just like every other good thing in life. To borrow and alter a phrase from AC/DC . . .

To those who are about to pitch, I salute you.


How have your pitches gone? Tell me about the agony and the ecstasy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dream State





Had I the heaven' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats

I quoted this months ago, but here I am doing it again. I love, love, love it. Yeats gave his dreams and his heart to Maud Gonne, the woman for whom he wrote this poem. It was the best he had to offer.

Writers are certainly dreamers, and I'd like to think we put our hearts into our stories. Just like Yeats.

What are your dreams for your writing? I'd love to hear, blogging buddies.

If you haven't dropped by lovely Lola's blog, Sharp Pen/Dull Sword, please do so. It's definitely dreamy and one of the best blogs around.

I found this handsome man online in the Neiman Marcus suit shop. (I like to shop vicariously;) He reminds me of the bad-boy-lawyer-later-redeemed-by-love-protagonist in my women's fiction novel, Charm Bracelet. He's pretty dreamy, too, eh?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eureka


The past, present, and future all combine when you teach your child to drive. Time winds down for a moment and your perspective becomes clear. This young person that you've loved so well and so long is crossing the threshold toward adulthood and independence, just as you did. It isn't difficult to remember being his age and taking that first step.

Of course, every education costs something, and this one is no exception. With speed and traffic and teenage enthusiasm involved, driving instruction is not for the faint of heart. In a sense, it's ironic. You've held this child's future safely in your hands for years, and now, as he takes to the road, he holds yours. (Although I am not Catholic, each time I get in the car with my kid, I want to cross myself.) Not only do I see my life flash before my eyes, but his as well. I see the little person who watched me wide-eyed in the hospital the first night we met, I see the fine, responsible boy he is now, and the man he will become.

On Sunday, my sixteen-year-old son and I drove an hour through the desert back roads to the town of Eureka. It isn't easy getting there. The drive can be down right scary with its winding curves through steep sage covered mountains. Yet, we survived with little more than a nervous twitch by my right eye. Eureka is an old place that time has left alone. There are abandoned, pioneer-era store fronts which have charming historic details despite the broken windows. A post office, several churches, two schools, and little else complete this tiny mining town. My son and I loved visiting.

I could make many comparisons between the trip to Eureka and writing. The journey to the end of a good story often has many unexpected twists and turns. We sometimes wonder as writers if it's even worth the effort. Long or short, that period of futility or doubt is forgotten when we crest the hill and arrive at our destination. Once the process of writing a book is over and we've done it well, the reward is always worth the price.

The dictionary defines the word Eureka as "a cry of joy or satisfaction when one finds or discovers something valuable."

It's a good name, isn't it?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Procrastination

Ah, quiet! The kids are at school, and for the first time in 16 years, I have six hours in a row all to myself. I will definitely revise that novel. Definitely.

But first, I think I'll mow the lawn. Our grass is too long, and it will only take a few minutes. I open the front door and walk around the house to the garage, only to see a newspaper on my driveway. I keep meaning to read that newspaper. I really enjoy feeling informed.

I'll just nip back inside and glance through it at the kitchen table. Pushing a place mat out of my way, I notice a cereal bowl near my elbow. My mother-senses are tingling! Rice Crispies and milk are drying in that bowl. Once that happens, the rice glues itself with near cement hardness to my ceramic ware, and it takes repeated soaking and scrubbing to remove it. No way can I read a paper with that happening. Not on my watch!

I get up and begin sluicing down the bowls and dishes like a maniac. After loading the dish washer, I return to the paper. My brain instantly reminds me of the pile of laundry in the basement. I'll just throw a load of towels in so they can be washing while I'm reading that darn paper.

On my way to the laundry room, I make a few beds and mentally note that it's bathroom clean-up day for the boys. I put the dirty stuff in the washer, dump the soap in and slam the machine door shut. Back on the main floor, the air feels stuffy and warm. It's going to be another hot one in an hour or two. I should go mow the lawn while it's relatively cool outside. I glance at the newspaper, at the computer just visible through the door of our home office.

I'll definitely revise my novel today . . . Or tomorrow.

Definitely.

Okay. Now you know I have the attention span of a border collie. But do you ever find yourself doing this sort of thing? Do you procrastinate, writing buddies?