Monday, December 30, 2013

Good Riddance 2013. You Weren't All Bad.

Cheep, cheep!

Time for my end of the year, round-up blog. Sadly, I have not made a complete transition from anonymity to book deal, but I have kept my publishing goals in check and seen some success. Woot!

I received my first request for a partial. This is huge for anyone who is unfamiliar with the process. This means that someone liked my query. Whew... The partial was read, but a there was no immediate request for a full. I did, however, get fantastic feedback from the author who requested the partial (it was Megan Whitmer , btw).  Impartial feedback has been the one thing I have craved so much since starting this process. My mom, friends and other readers are just too kind to offer analysis, or they can’t really pinpoint what it is that they dislike in particular. Megan’s critique offered specific advice on how to improve the story keeping the genre and audience in mind. She also told me what was good about the work which is the type of thing that keeps me going. Thank you, Megan!

Cluck, Cluck!

My request for the partial came from a contest hosted by Brenda Drake. My participation resulted in more helpful query and page critiques from Natalie Knaub and Monica Bustamante, Stephanie Funk. Thanks, thanks, and thanks! If you are a writer, this contest is invaluable for newbies. You can build your Twitter crew, find support and learn, learn, learn. It’ll come around again, so check it out!

Balk, balk!  

Now, I suppose it’s time to set my goals for 2014. I have always been quite good at fulfilling my goals, but truthfully they have never been very bold and are usually easy to achieve with only the slightest amount of commitment and time. Weight loss is never on the list. Still isn’t… So, ha!

Last year, my goal was to query agents. I have done that, and done that, and done that. I’m not ready to replace my nail of rejections with a spike like Stephen King, but it’s only because I’ve only sent around 15 queries. I should have sent out more. I’ve learned a mega-ton since I sent out my first queries in April, and I wish I had known then what I know now.  I learned so much via trial, and for me this is the best way. I’m a hands-on, learn from my flops, kind of girl.

For anyone curious about the publishing process for new writers, I saw this fantastic diagram floating around Twitter this morning. I’m 3/4ths of the way down the chart. Progress!

My goals for 2014 need to be bold, if not a little risky.   
  •          I will revise my novel.
  •          I will complete another WIP.
  •          I will find representation. I used to think that landing an agent was largely out of my hands due to the subjective nature of the industry, but now I see that there is more I can do to facilitate this process with revisions and self promotion.
You may argue that goals aren’t risky if there is no consequence for failure other than self-loathing. I have set a very risky goal for this year but it’s not blogable.

Other non-risky goals:
  • ·            Buy more fancy cheese and buy less wine.
  • ·            Get better at saying “no.”
  • ·            Be a little selfish.
  • ·            Discover a new insect species in my backyard.
  • ·            Snake proof my kitchen. (for real)
  • ·            Oh and chickens!!! I will get chickens this year! Now that I’ve written the goal, I’m certain to have a backyard gaggle of fat friendly hens. My strategy involves first destroying husband’s trust of grocery store eggs.  Muahahahaaaaa!

Doodle doo! (I won’ t be getting a rooster).

I tried to make my kids to write New Year’s Eve haikus but they refused chanting, “You can’t make me!” Boo to them!

So, while I plug away at next year’s goals, enjoy this picture of something that really happened in my kitchen 2013.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fundraiser for Bridget

Today would have been Bridget's 38th birthday, but she inexplicably died of lung cancer last February. It’s still hard to fathom how this could have happened to one of my very best friends because she was so healthy and vibrant until a couple of months before she passed away. Bridget’s sister Laura has started a yoga-thon team in her honor and I have joined the fundraising team. Please consider donating on the fundraising page to help researchers figure out how this could happen to someone who never smoked and to find a cure.

Free to Breath Yoga-thon

Bridget and I after our alligator cruise in New Orleans, just before I ate some alligator tail. Bridget didn't try the alligator because it would have been a violation of her vow to not eat anything that had parents.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Synopsis Hope and Help

I just wanted to take a moment to give another shout out to one who has been tremendously supportive and helpful. David Rozansky of Flying Pen Press just guided me through the process of writing a synopsis, live on Twitter. He even waited, with patience, while I attended to a needy child.

Visit hashtags #AskEditor #AskPub on Twitter to see the details. Other writers participated as well, and I think we all benefited from his advice and expertise.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dignity: Have a Care

The first time I chaperoned a high school dance, I wanted to go home and wash my eyes out with bleach. I won't specifically discuss the things I saw, but needless to say, the event was short on dignity. This is coming from someone who always looks at celebrity wardrobe malfunctions and laughs at anything penis-shaped. I am no prude but man that dancing was dirty, and I don't mean Baby and Johnny dirty... waaaay dirtier.

After the dance, I joked that maybe we could have a contest, one that would be sure to get me fired, a Dignity Contest. At the start of the dance, all students would be given dignity pins. If a student did something that made a chaperone feel icky all over, the chaperone could seize that student's dignity pin. Any student who still had their dignity at the end of the night would be entered into a drawing for a really fantastic prize, like an ipad or something equally awesome.

When a dance is over, most kids can return to their age-appropriately dignified selves. The chaperones' opinions of those students are forever altered, but as long as that student isn't hoping for a recommendation from said adult, their opinions probably don't matter. 

If the momentary loss of dignity was limited to the dance floor, most students recover damage free. Now, thanks to social media, students, recent grads and adults are losing their dignity and leaving bad impressions on people who are important like employers and other relations.

After reading some ridiculous tweets about a recent grad's relationship status that's on/off in five minute intervals and a vague whiny post by an adult complaining about life (in middle class suburbia) being hard,* I felt compelled to actually do something that makes me feel better, even if it doesn't change anyone's behavior.

I have drafted a new, relevant and practical standard of learning for VA high school seniors and anyone over the age of 18.
SOL 12.9 The student will maintain self dignity on social media sites.

12.9 a. study examples of job loss as a result of melodrama, explicit photos, or crude language

12.9 b. evaluate relationship deterioration as a result of melodrama and public airing of dirty laundry
12.9 c. find contentment without constant, vague sympathy baiting
12.9 d. accept that once something is online, it is not private and it will always be online, even if it has been deleted
12.9 e. discontinue griping about rights to privacy on free social media sites. Analyze the definition of social and media

Truly, the worst offenders are adults because they should friggin' know better, but I see this crap every time I'm online.

I will absolutely post these in my classroom.

Should I add this one?
12.9 f. expect creepy, deranged rants to be used against you in court by prosecutors as evidence or to demonstrate lack of character

...and now I'll hop off the soapbox and stop ranting ('cause it's not dignified behavior..)

*I'm not heartless to the suffering of others. I know people who seem to have it all can have a bad day, but constant whining for attention and still not revealing the cause of your anguish after several people ask "what's wrong?" is just narcissistic behavior and extremely undignified. Back to the relevance of language arts: Ask yourself... would Scarlett O'Hara tweet this? No, she would not, nor would Harry Potter, Thor, Iron Man, Spawn, Thorin Oakenshield or any other fictitional character you might admire. Bilbo Baggins might... yes, he might sympathy bait a little.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Query Revision

Revising has been harder. sigh...

BTW...  they are measured in milometers and I simply just pushed on their little tummies until the teeny gonads popped out. I was only bitten twice and this was all for science, I swear.

Newest query.... is here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Query Ripped by Michelle Hauck

The query for my novel is being ripped apart, and I appreciate the critiques so much.
Visit Mandy Hauck, and see it for yourself. You can also add a word of advice to her blog entry, if you wish. I'll be reading them and editing!

Thanks y'all,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Patience is a virtue? is the ability to proofread without missing anything the first time through.

Crap on a stick! I lack both.

I once had a professor who said something like this  “we fall in love with our own words and can not see errors.”

That was not an exact quote, and he may have been quoting someone else. I don’t know, but I do pass this quote on to my students when they write for me. I remind them that they need to write and then put the document away, for at least a day, before returning to it for proofreading. Do they heed this magnificent advice? No, but neither do I.  They don’t wait to proofread because most of them have written the paper 30 minutes before it was due, even though I gave them ample time to complete the work, in class, two days before. I don’t wait to proofread because I can’t wait to put my words out there. Really. It’s like I have a condition that prevents me from sitting on text for a day or even an hour.

I blame the ENFP in me for three things:
1. my lack of patience
2. my tendency to not return to a project if I do not complete it in one sitting
3. my distracted brain

Unfortunately, I do not see errors in my writing right away. I suspect this is because my brain thinks faster than I read. I know what the line should say (because I just friggin’ wrote it) and my brain magically sees the text just the way it aught to be.

As a teacher, this can be a problem because I have to respond to parents, coworkers, students, etc… in a timely manner. I don’t have the luxury of sitting on an email for a day. I have to force myself to practically read emails aloud before sending them to parents. The worst thing ever is when a parent notices an error and calls me on it. This has only happened twice, but I worry, and I mean I really fret. My favorite of the two was the parent who told me my “grammer” (sic) was wrong because I asked a question but ended the sentence in a period. Hehe
I am no grammar, spelling or punctuation tyrant because people make mistakes and I am usually of those people. I am that teacher who will not lower a grade for a typo or two so long as the problems are not due to blatant recklessness or apathy to the work.

As a writer the problem has presented itself in the form of query letters, the one place a writer should not allow a typo to slip by.  I missed one last week. I haven’t heard from the agent, but I can’t believe that she won’t notice. Waaaaah! I saw it in the first paragraph, the day after I sent the query, when I opened it to customize for a different agent.

I wish I could send dynamic emails that could be changed the moment I realized I sent an error.
I also wish Twitter allowed edits to tweets. Maybe I could get my husband, or some techie friend, to work on that.

Wish, wish, wish….

So, this first draft will be pushed live to the blog after a very careful read-through. Still, I’ll look at it tomorrow and gasp at all the errors.

What are some of your quick proofreading tips?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Agent Pet Peeve Violation

I recently read a blurb on What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents.” The article was not a list of the “The Top Ten,”  or even a "Most Common Complaints" but simply a list of individuals' pet peeves. It was informative and reassuring until I saw.. screeech... my intro… my opening line… the words I’ve loved since the inception of this novel... seem to fall into one category. 

My line:
My name is Carys Barbour, and I’ve just stubbed my toe on the corner of the most peculiar birthday present a girl could receive from her friends and family.

Pet Peeve:
“I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly. There are far better ways in Chapter 1 to establish an instant connection between narrator and reader.”
- Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

Ahhhhh! Is my opening line a clear sign of amateur writing, or is this simply an annoyance to one agent who submitted a response?
Here’s the thing, I’m not at all opposed to changing my writing for an agent or editor who thinks different words would better suit, even if it hurts my feelings. My title, for instance, is underwhelming. I welcome the inevitable title suggestions. I’ll blog that later.
Should I rewrite the opening lines before submitting my sample chapters or write the story I want and then change it, should the suggestion be made? I just don’t want to turn people off to the rest of the writing, right away. Any advice would be appreciated.

I promise the rest of my blog posts will not be insecure ramblings of a newb. 

Sambuchino, Chuck. "Writer Unboxed » What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents." Writer Unboxed. Writer Unboxed, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 June 2013.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Warning: This blog will be full of cliché statements and things that have been said before…


…because, you know what? They fit the bill.

One of my best friends, since childhood, passed away in February due to a surprising diagnosis of lung cancer; surprising because she was a strong, healthy, young woman who never smoked and lectured anyone who did. The time between her diagnosis and passing was less than three months. It was horrible, and I won’t discuss it anymore except to say that the loss has inspired a sort of mid-life ass-kicking crisis with what I hope will result in a positive outcome.

Until now, I have lived in an invincibility bubble coexisting with so many of my high school students, who think nothing can ever go wrong and that we have “until forever” to get things done.  We don’t.
I don’t want to waste a moment. I may need to change my blog title.

Recently, I have finished the edits on my first YA novel (finished except for every time I open the MS and change something else).  I have sent queries and received my first rejections.  I have begun edits on my second YA novel, and I have written the intro and outlined my first NA novel. I have a bit of fire under my rear, and I’ve welcomed it. Even now, I sit at the kids’ swim practice typing this blog post because I refuse to spend the next 1.5 hours staring into space.

The downside of this obsessive work ethic is that I feel guilty simply sitting,  napping, social networking, or even just pleasure reading. I’m also irrationally bothered when I see others sitting idle. I realize I need to mind my own beeswax and deal with this baggage soon because everyone deserves a break, but I don’t have time for that today.

Why fire up the Procrastination Station blog? I left it because I realized nobody, besides my mother, even cared about the blog. Seriously, no one read it. I came to this conclusion when I read other personal blogs and found them to be rather tedious unless I had a connection to the writer, or he or she was fantastically hilarious. I wondered why people put their personal diaries online when no one really cared. I’m saying that very matter-of-fact. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. If a post is not relevant or impactful to the rest of the world, why blog it?  So, I stopped.

The blog is now important again because YA and NA readers are NetGeners. Authors need to be accessible to readers and perspective agents. Do I have an online presence? Yes, but I’m all over the place on Deviant Art, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc... My next short-term goal is to create a website so that readers have one place to access all things related to my stories, and the site will be all about my stories because that is what most readers care about. Once they are sucked into my tales, they may want to peek into my personal life, and I may blog about it from time to time but probably not right away because do readers really want to know the funny thing my 9-year-old said at breakfast? Probably not. If so, they can follow me on Twitter.

My rather directionless blog now has a purpose, and I am using it again, as a business tool. Even if I am procrastinating, I will be supporting my goal to be published, which makes me feel like I’m not wasting any of the time I have.