Sunday, February 28, 2010

Your Head Would Spin

Have a platform. But don't have it unless you make it something new and interesting.

Have a blog. Let them know about you. But if it's about you, then don't have a blog.

Have a website. But it should be about something. Something other than facts that advertise your work and your writing. And several pages of it.

If you read all the suggestions out there for platforms and blogs telling a writer what to do to get noticed, your head would spin.

Mine did. I think it almost turned backward.

I thought...huh??? A website? Screaming that I DON'T have anything of significance published, and that I live so far away any agent/writer/publisher relationship would be destined to middle of the night incoherent conversations.

And a blog? To blend in with the six thousand other unpublished writers who have blogs trying to give writing advice to other unpublished authors. Not to mention the book reviewer blogs...the make connections blogs...the whine and complain blogs... and the please just give me a hug blogs.

I'm not saying these things don't have value, I'm saying I don't need to start ANOTHER one.

Because the truth is...if you're doing the work, making your book as good as it should be...the writing will stand out above the rest. If you don't have the skills that come with having done multiple drafts of your work to identify your voice, your weakness for poor vowel choices or bland dialogue, the holes in your plot, the moments that are perfection...then you are not ready to have a platform.

A platform can't stand up if it doesn't have any legs to begin with.

So my blog is really for a very small audience, and I know this. But I think my time is better spent writing.

At least while I still have my head.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Writer

When you examine your life there will be truths…things you are, and things you are not. I am a mom and wife. I am a runner. I am not a smoker. I am a writer.

Calling myself a writer, however, has not always come easy. The definition is tied to a measuring stick of publication…some tangible acknowledgement by the outside world that you do, indeed, write. “What have you published?” is the first question out of nearly every person’s mouth once I admit my passion for creating stories.

But the truth is...I know many good writers that aren’t published. They are working through the same steps taken by nearly every other writer before them. They write a first draft. They write a second draft. They provide and receive feedback from writing groups. They rework a sixth…seventh…eighth draft, striving to make their story the best it can be.

They spend hours searching and researching agents to determine who might be a good advocate for their book. Once they find that agent, they contact publishers to find another home. They develop creative platforms to attract attention and increase sales of the book they spent so many hours perfecting, in the hopes that a reader will pick up their story and fall in love with it the way the author did at the beginning.

They were a writer long before they ever reached the shelf at the bookstore.

So, while I have yet to reach that final goal which prompts everyone else in the world to accept my prowess with words, I am, and always will be, a writer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was walking my dog today and I realized that the things I've done best in my life are the things I took my time on...worked my butt off...and kept going.

My kids.
My marriage.
My book Michelangelo Lives Forever.
My play Muddy Boots.
Running a marathon.
Graduate school.

I am not a gambler. Not one who wins anyway. I play one roll of nickle slots and then watch people throw their money away.

That doesn't mean I don't have the urges to do stupid things.

But it means that I'm starting to recognize my strengths and the way I work, which is something I need to know before finding a home for my writing.

And before I gamble all my nickels away.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bit of Princess

I realize that someone reading my blog might think I'm the wartiest toad in the bunch when it comes to writers they want to choose to work with.

And in some ways, I might be.

But I hate sales pitches angled around false pretenses. I hate words that are twisted to make something look better than what it is. I hate that sort of dishonesty in relationships.

Because I'm looking for an agent or publisher who is willing to accept me, warts and all, to make something good become great. I can't do that if I'm too busy trying to pretend to be something I'm not.

So what you read here is me. Maybe in a 'funny so I don't take myself too seriously' sort of way, but it is the most honest way I know to recognize my failures and celebrate my accomplishments.

Because even though I'm more comfortable focusing on the warts...and I don't like to admit it...I do have a bit of princess underneath.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stupid Thing Number 3,914

Let's say we do 1,000 stupid things every 10 years...which makes 100 stupid things every year...which makes 1 stupid thing every 3.65 days.

I actually do more than that, but go with me here.

I was mad into building to the climax of my second middle grade novel, which is a time when I am utterly immersed in my writing and my responses to questions or requests from my family are nothing more than half nods and 'uh huhs,' and I had a sudden idea.

A brilliant idea. Something that could revolutionize the world of Children's Books into a fit and frenzy where everyone would fall on their knees holding their hands to their hearts and call me a genius. And, me being me, I whipped this idea into a succint email and shipped it off to an agent.

An agent that I think I actually like...and might have sought for representation... and might have the chance to meet when I go to Bologna, Italy at the end of March for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Symposium.

Stupid Thing Number 3,914.

I rounded up. It came early.

He, of course, very politely wrote back with "uhhh...ok...this is probably not for me. And please don't try to find me with your boiling bunny in Bologna." Ok, he didn't actually say that, but my interpretation of his response is such.

So now I'm praying. I'm praying that he is NOT one of the people who are critiquing my two manuscripts while I'm at the conference, because I would probably mutter something unintelligible that would age me ten years in the Stupid Things count.

Though at this point, I'm not sure I can get too much older in that department.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Setting a deadline

I've started it. Officially. I'm dedicating one more year of my life towards making writing part of my career path. And if, by the end of that year, I don't have something...some positive step such as an agent or a book being considered by a publisher...then I will have to be done.

The good thing is, it has motivated me to do things I wouldn't have done before. I started a blog. I'm nearly finished with my second middle grade novel and I've started a third. I'm starting a new play. I actively enter contests. I critique online and have my book critiqued in turn. I'm financially investing in two conferences. I search out and submit to agents. I contact publishing companies.

I spend as much time as possible, even time I should be spending with my family, or time I should be watching the burning chicken, trying to make it work.

People at conferences, in blogs, in critique groups, etc. say...keep trying...keep working...keep submitting. And I am. I have won some very nice awards and received some very nice letters detailing my skills as a writer.

But the truth is my kids need to go to college.

And I can't do everything...the kids, the career, the dog, and writing, with a deployed husband.

So I have a deadline.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's all my Mother's fault

I recently realized I can blame all of my struggles and frustrations about finding an agent on my Mother.

If it weren't for her influence, I could write some very commercial, very fluffy teenage alien fallen angel vampire romance that agents would snap up and publishers would fight over at auction because it would make everybody millions. But I can't.

While growing up there were plenty of romance novels floating around to temper our teenage hormones, but they were bedtime reading. Something to fall asleep with that didn't require thinking. The reading equivalent of TV's The Bachelor.

Don't get me wrong. I fell asleep to many a romance novel plucked from the free box at the front of the library. But they had nothing on C.S. Lewis, E.L. Konigsburg, A.A. Milne, Dr. Seuss or Madeleine L'Engle. Those were the books Mom bought and kept on the shelves. Those were the ones that had me at hello.

Those and the small puberty books, with simple diagrams, which also found their way onto our bookshelves and substituted for my Mother's sex talk.

So I can't write fluff (or be Fluffy). I write stories that matter to me. So that I think, and laugh, and sometimes even cry.

And it's all my Mother's fault.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oh. Thank. God.

I received another rejection today. This time a form letter, albeit a very nice encouraging form letter, and my response was:

Oh. Thank. God.

I kid you not. I said that out loud.

See, I knew this agent wasn't right for me but I sent a query anyway in my frustration and impatience while trying to FIND one.

Because while my many wrinkles and emerging grey hairs might make you think I am almost 40, I'm really still 10, waiting for Mom to hand me 50 cents in allowance so I can blow it on candy at the ShopEZ.

I wanted to write back to the agent to admit that I recognize just how bad a fit we would be and to thank her, because I really am smarter in my relationships than that choice of query reflects. But, for oh so many reasons, I didn't.

Let's just say I pocketed 50 cents.

Because I'll probably need it for some hair dye shortly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Kick in the...

Today I received my first rejection from an agent. I don't mean a form 'we're not interested because you suck' letter. I mean a real letter...full of very nice compliments telling me I am a good writer...and it was because of her, not me, that the relationship could not continue.

I wrote back and called her a soul crusher.

All in good fun, of course, and it was very clear that I was joking.

Though I was not joking when I first received the rejection and shared it with my family. I said I was fine. No really, I'm fine.

But my husband rubbed my shoulders and snuggled up while my kids tiptoed around, preparing to do battle with that agent person, only to be surprised by how nice she looked in her picture on the website.

My Dad would call it a Good Kick in the A$$, which was something he firmly believed in when we were out of line as kids.

And though I would not have agreed with him while I stared morosely at the computer for two hours losing at Spider Solitaire, today I would say he was right. Because I spent the day searching for agents that would be a good fit for me...knowing that I'm probably going to get many more Good Kicks in the A$$...but also still believing in the stories and plays that I write.

Which is good, I suppose, since right now I'm the only one reading them.