Saturday, January 30, 2010
And now I have to admit to something stupid I did. Really stupid.
My husband needed to use *my* laptop last night to stream a movie from Netflix. I'm not really into movies or TV. I'll watch something occasionally, but last night he was going to watch Stuart Little 3 with the kids. Since that didn't appeal to me, I emailed myself my WIP and planned to work on the desktop in the office.
I clicked open my WIP (everything going well), worked long and hard on it (got three great scenes written -- totally excited!), pressed Save, and closed.
I had done this once before with a friend's book I was critiquing, so I almost immediately realized my mistake. I'd forgotten to Download the file when I opened it, so when I saved it, it didn't actually save. (Which I think is weird that Word doesn't have a pop-up to warn you about that when you think you're saving it, but oh well.)
My husband spent 20 minutes searching for my updated-version WIP in temp folders and other places on the computer that only he knows about (because he's tech savvy and I'm not). But, in the end I had to come to terms with my three great scenes being gone.
I went to bed, beating myself up that I'd wasted so much time and lost so much work.
As I lay there, half-asleep and percolating, I realized something. The first two scenes were good, but the third -- the third and probably the longest scene -- was not where I needed the story to go. A new scene popped into my mind instead, something better. Something amazing. I'm so excited to write it down today.
So, here's the moral to the story: Sometimes bad things happen. We make mistakes. But in this life, which seems to be a mixture of failure and grace, even the crappy parts can work out for good. I'm inexpressibly thankful for that.
Friday, January 29, 2010
If you have always *dreamed* (like me) of having a book published, read this first. Ms. Butler discusses the changing shape of the publishing industry and what it looks like right now. (And just a warning: it's a little scary.)
There's also a part two, which you can find here.
Forge on, ye faithful writers! And if you're feeling a little down after that link (especially the statistic that there are 200,000 books published each year), here's the view from the deck of my new house. This is what I see when I'm washing dishes in the morning and getting the kids' breakfast ready. Take a deep breath and enjoy. I know I do.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
And tonight at dinner, it was as if an analogy dropped from the sky, right into my lap, in the form of a screaming, kicking one-year-old.
She was flailing all available appendages, arching her back, screaming her tonsils out. I was trying to stuff noodles in my mouth with one hand and hold onto her with the other.
"Sophie!" I cried out in exasperation. "What do you want? What do you need? Do you want to get down?" I put her down. (Nope. She threw herself down and bonked her head on the slate.) "Okay, do you want to sit in my lap?" Picked her up again. (Nope. More back-arching. More screaming.) "Are you hungry?" I fed her a noodle. (Nope. Noodle spit on the floor.) "Are you thirsty?" Handed her the sippy cup. (Sippy cup went flying UFO-style across the kitchen.)
Okay. I was out of ideas.
"Can't you just say one word to tell me what you want?"
Sophie can say words, single words that indicate certain things. She can. But, in this case, she wouldn't.
She was doing all she could to show me she was unhappy, and that's not bad when you're a sixteen-month-old. A lot of times, showing is the only way to get a busy mom's attention. But in this case, I needed just a little telling. Just one word would have sufficed. Because I was out of ideas.
And there it was, the epiphany. Sophie needed to do what I need to do more of in my writing. There are many times when just a word will do. Or a sentence. Or a paragraph. I don't think it takes much to bring the reader up to speed. I'd taken previous advice ("Show! Don't tell!") to an extreme. I was all show, no tell whatsoever. But that was at the risk of confusing the reader -- leaving them in a new world without any bearings.
I'm going to try to blend the two a bit more now. I'll try it out in my next short story, work on it in my WIP and try to improve. And I'll always have the visual of Sophie trying to poke my eye out with a chopstick to remind me that it's okay to tell every once in awhile.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I asked agent Kristin Nelson (who blogs at Pub Rants) a question about showing vs. telling in first pages, and she gave me a great answer.* Click here to read it.
In this series Ms. Nelson has been giving examples of first pages that caught her attention and led to her offering representation. It's a great series, so if you're an aspiring writer not already following it, I'd take a look.
*And I won't even hold it against her that she spelled my last name wrong. *wink* The name my husband gave me is long and complex and throws even the most seasoned telemarketer into seizures of terror.
*Ding, ding, ding!* I'm past the half-way mark in my WIP Back. I've really been flying through it lately. I think it's coming so easily because I have lots of percolation time in between writing binges. You know, while folding laundry I can think, think, think about my characters, about what they'd do and how they'd act. I'm having a ball.
This last Monday I went to my first Writer's Workshop at our local library. I met five other ladies in our community who either have started to write a book or are interested in writing one. It's fun to sit down with other wanna-be authors face-to-face. When we lived in China, all I could manage for critique groups (with the exception of one brief moment of sunshine when my friend Cheryl Ward and I met to read each other's first chapters) were online ones. Now, I can sit in a room with real live people. We did a writing prompts exercise. Mine turned out weird. As usual. For some reason writing prompts always make me write strange things.
And finally, I am so happy about this new challenge I've made for myself, writing a short story a week for a year. I'm still going to be working on my novel, but this should keep the creative soup bubbling. And my novels will hopefully be better because of it. Plus, I think after writing the story I posted yesterday, I'm realizing one of my shortcomings is that I'm too impulsive. I wander away from what I have planned much, much too easily. This challenge might teach me how to focus, because I'll have lots of opportunities to write beginnings, middles, and ends. Lots of opportunities. I'll be posting stories every Tuesday, not because I'm necessarily looking for critique and/or feedback, but just to keep myself accountable.
Thanks to the two brave souls who have agreed to do the challenge with me: B. Michael Swanson and Nicole Moscou. You guys rock!
Now, on to cooking dinner so I can look domestic when the husband walks through the door. Ciao!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
For this particular story, I decided to use the first sentence I entered in a first lines contest on The New Literary Agents blog, just because I thought it was a fun sentence because it could go in so many directions. This story sprang in one of those directions. And I think over the next few weeks -- just for fun -- I'm going to start every one of my stories with the same sentence, just to see how many different directions it can take before I get bored.
So here is my first (probably terrible) story. Read it if you want. Comment on it if you want. I'm writing and posting it only for my own edification and to keep myself accountable for the challenge. (And if you're wondering what the challenge is, click the link to find out.)
She sucked the air in through her nostrils, lifted her sternum the way she'd learned to in ballet, decided to clear her mind of the particular things she was thinking about, and stepped out. He was the first thing she saw, sitting on a rainbow-colored beach towel waving a white napkin in the air to get her attention. The white looked like the sail of a ship against the bright blue water and sky. It was whiter than the sand under her feet.
Funny that he would wave his napkin that way. Like a lover in black-and-white movie. He was different, so different from anyone she had ever met.
He had the picnic laid out already, she saw as she approached. Lifting her knees to the rhythm of “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” because the sand scorched the soles of her feet. The brightness of the sun and sea burned into the sand, making it hot as fire.
She landed on the towel and she looked down at the fried chicken and coleslaw he had unpacked.
“Edward, you outdid yourself,” she said.
“Margaret, for you—” He paused. “Anything.”
She smiled. He was so different, so different from anyone she had ever met.
“Did you make all this yourself?” She draped across her lap the napkin he handed her. It helped to cover certain parts of her body she was worried about. For instance, the tummy that bulged just slightly over the lip of her swimming skirt.
He had a leg in his mouth, the breaded leg of a chicken. “Mmm,” he said, nodding.
“Where did you learn to cook?”
He chewed. After awhile: “I went to culinary school.”
“Did you?” She shouldn’t have been surprised. He was so different, so different from anyone she had ever met. “Where?”
“Paris,” he replied.
“And in Paris,” she laughed, “you learned to make fried chicken?”
Edward wagged his head, laughing along. “No, no. My mother taught me that.”
She sat up straighter. The napkin covered her tummy, but she was still aware of the bulging. She should have worn her other bathing suit. The one-piece.
The waves rolled in and out behind him, slipping up onto the beach, sliding back, clean as silk. They broke far out. She could hear their crashing.
“So, go ahead, dig in,” he said, motioning at the food.
She obediently took a paper plate and looked around for a fork.
“I forgot the forks,” he said.
“Then how should I—” She thought of the coleslaw, of scooping it up with her fingers and shoving it in her mouth. She thought of hands covered in slimy mayonnaise. “No, I – I couldn’t.”
“Margaret,” he said. Her name was a rebuke. “Live a little.”
She stiffened. “Perhaps I’ll just eat a bit of chicken.”
“If that makes you feel more comfortable.”
“Yes. It does.” She sucked in her tummy. More crunches with her personal trainer tomorrow. She would insist upon it.
She picked up a piece of chicken. A thigh. It was golden and crumbly and when she brought it to her lips it tasted like … Kentucky Fried Chicken.
She chewed. “Mmm,” she said, trying to keep the grease from squirting out the sides of her mouth. The bite had been too big.
“Good?” he asked.
“Mmm,” she repeated. Neither a yes nor a no, but hopefully he’d take it as a yes. It was greasy. She wasn’t entirely fond of grease.
“Mama’s recipe. She brought it with her when she moved up from down south.”
Margaret swallowed. “How interesting.” She dabbed the corners of her mouth with the napkin, then quickly draped it over her stomach again. “And your mother – is she still living?”
“Oh yes.” He waved away a fly that landed on the coleslaw. “She and my step-father live in Florida in a retirement community. I visit them once a year.”
“Lovely,” she said.
“No,” he said. “Not really. Boring is what it is. Lots of sitting around playing bingo because neither of them can walk. And both are going a little senile and all they do is fight.”
“But, you know. She’s my mother.”
“Yes, of course.”
“So, you know. Duty.”
“Duty,” she said. “I understand.”
“Are your parents still living?”
“Oh no,” she said. “Long dead, long dead.”
“I’m sorry.” He did look very sorry, his face creased into a frown. Or was he squinting in the sunshine? No, it was definitely a frown. He reached out and patted her knee to console her. Thank God she had shaved her legs.
“Oh no, I barely remember them. My aunt, she’s like a parent to me. She raised me almost completely. Wonderful lady. Absolutely remarkable.”
“And is she still living?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, she is.” She took another small bite of fried chicken. Just to be polite. She finished chewing and swallowed it before she said, “She lives quite near you actually. In Arbor Vida. In that large house on the hill.”
“The purple one,” he said, trance-like. He really was so different, so different from anyone she had met before.
“You know it!” she cried.
“Well, I should.” His eyes snapped back onto her face. “She broke three of my windows last year with those darn golf balls she lobs from her back yard.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Well, it’s not your fault.” He had been reclining, but now he sat up and pulled his knees up to his chest. She noticed how thin his legs were, sticking out of his swim trunks. He looked like a little boy.
“She likes golf,” she tried to explain. “It’s just that she can’t make it to the greens anymore, now that she’s older.”
“I guess not,” he said, his eyebrows a dark ridge across his crumpled forehead.
“I’m sure if she realized she was breaking your windows, she would pay for them.”
She was alarmed. He looked so angry. “Perhaps, perhaps I should take you to visit and you can explain – gently, of course, because she is very old – the damage she’s doing and she could … stop.”
He glared at her. “She won’t stop.”
“She – won’t – stop?”
“Well, how do you know?”
“Because … Because….” He was agitated, his leg of chicken quite forgotten on the napkin next to his left foot. “Because she’s the nuttiest old woman I’ve ever met! Don’t you think I haven’t tried to go over there and ask her to stop at least a dozen times?”
“Well, I’m sorry, but—”
“And all she does is scream at me. Scream at me! Tells me I’m a fraud and a liar and a swindler and that she’s never broken windows in her life!”
“She is a bit – forgetful,” she said.
“Forgetful, my foot!” he cried. “She’s a cheat! She’s a window-breaker!”
“Well….” He really did look quite attractive when he was angry. Those red splashes of color in his cheeks. Those intense brown eyes. She felt herself swooning, but caught herself. Tummy tucked and back straight, she clawed around inside herself for words. He was so different, so different from anyone she had ever met. “Well, if I pay for your windows, would that help you to—?”
“No, no!” He scowled, but at least he remembered his chicken and picked it up again. “I won’t take money from you. It’s not your fault.” He ripped a big chunk of it off with his teeth.
“But I hate to see you upset, Edward.” Not really, though. He was so powerful when he was upset. So different from the napkin-waving man he’d been only minutes before. A man with so many dimensions.
He looked at his watch and muttered something about the time. “Sorry to cut our outing short.”
“But we were having such a lovely time!” she cried, but he was already packing the basket, throwing the chicken into the Tupperware container any which way. She scrambled to her feet. The napkin fell onto the rainbow-colored towel. “But we were going to swim!”
“I know,” he said. “But I just remembered I have a meeting at four o’clock. With a client.”
She followed him to his Lexus, sternum lifted just as she’d learned in ballet. Still in her bathing suit, she wondered how her thighs would appear when gravity worked to accentuate the flabbiness of them against the leather seats of his car.
“May I borrow your towel?” she asked as he unlocked the door. The towel was draped over his shoulder like part of a toga costume.
“Of course,” he said, and tossed it to her.
He walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. “After you, Margaret.”
She dipped her head to thank him, but he was not smiling, nor was he looking at her. Lifting her chin, she sat down and pulled the towel very quickly over her legs before he could see.
Edward slammed the door and came around to the driver’s side. He turned the key in the ignition and cranked up the radio volume. Nineteen-eighties butt rock. Electric guitar solos. She could almost envision the mullets, the tight jeans. It reminded her of her twenties when she was young and all the men flocked to be near her….
She calmly surrendered herself to loving him. After all, he was so different, so different from anyone she had ever met.
Monday, January 25, 2010
In 1952, when I first began writing seriously, Bradbury advised me to turn out a new short story every week. "Then, at the end of the year," Ray told me, "you'll have fifty-two bad stories. You'll have purged your system of all the awful stuff. Until you get rid of the bad ones, you won't be able to reach the good ones. And when you make that breakthrough into quality work, you'll know the difference immediately."
Nolan's account inspired me. Therefore, I would like to propose that we writers -- all of us who are online, who have set out on the journey, who write blogs, who diligently pump out their novels and send out their query letters, anybody who wants to become a better writer -- band together to get better. Let's commit to writing a short story a week for a year.
Here are the rules. They're pretty simple:
- If you'd like to participate, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write A Story A Week in the subject line. In the body of the email include a link to your website or blog. I'll put up a blog roll on my blog of everyone who wants to be involved.
- Write a short story every week. (How long is a short story?
Well, for our purposes we'll make it anything between 1,000 and 7,500 words.Update: I realize now that this word count may be too long for blog-posted stories. Make the story as long or as short as you like! Mine have tended to be 500-1,000 words.)
- Every week, post your short story on your own blog or website. Should we pick a common day to post? Nah, I'll leave that up to you.
It will be fun to watch our stories get better. So, I'm in, obviously. Anyone want to join me? There's only one point to this. Not to add another something to your plate. Not to give you a guilt trip if you miss a week. Just to become better writers by doing the only thing that will truly make us better writers. Writing.
Let's get those bad stories out of the way and get to the good stuff!
The books I highlight in my I Recommend posts are usually picture books. Why? Because my kids are at the age where they're reading a lot of picture books. (Correction: I'm reading a lot of picture books to them.)
And it's wonderful. I stumble upon gems sometimes, books I would actually walk into a bookstore and pay my husband's hard-earned money for. These are the books that I Recommend.
Fanny, as a girl and as a book, is delightful. I think I fell in love with her as a character just as much as I fell in love with author Holly Hobbie's illustrations and the story itself.
I guess I can relate to Fanny's dilemma. And I'm sure my kids can too. See, Fanny wants a Connie doll. Connies are high fashion celebrity dolls with big hair and even bigger lips. But Fanny's mother won't budge. She is not getting a Connie for Fanny. Ever.
So, Fanny does what any creative, ingenious, talented, motivated child would do ... and makes her own Connie doll out of bits and pieces. But when she's done, it's not a Connie doll. Her name is Annabelle instead. And instantly, Fanny falls in love.
But when the peer pressure starts and Fanny's best friends won't accept Annabelle into their Connie doll circle, Fanny stuffs Annabelle in a drawer, ashamed. After awhile, though, she does what any creative, ingenious, talented, motivated child would do ... and doesn't listen to her friends. She made Annabelle, she loves her, and she refuses to be ashamed of her.
If you haven't read Fanny, I'd check for her at your local library. You won't be disappointed and your daughters will love you for introducing them to her.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
An inner voice tells me
Go make the bed!
I know I should
Go make the bed!
Just one more blog post
Go make the bed!
Let me type one more word
Go make the bed!
I'm feeling creative
Go make the bed!
I'm networking here
Go make the bed!
Is that a Facebook message?
Go make the bed!
Is that the phone I hear?
Go make the bed!
Might be an agent calling
Go make the bed!
Got a message in the box
Go make the bed!
Just one more query
Go make the bed!
She might like it a lot
Go make the bed!
I'm not quite to a thousand
Go make the bed!
And you know that's my goal
Go make the bed!
Alright, alright, I'm going
Go make the bed!
But I was on such a roll....
*Can be replaced with almost anything. For example: Go wash the dishes, Go mop the floor, Go change the diaper, Time to go to work, etc....
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Or maybe I subconsciously chose to forget Wednesday because the news I had to share needed to sink in a little bit. I had to mull it over. Twirl it on my tongue like a piece of hard candy.
So, here it is Friday and I have good news. I also have bad news. I'll start with the bad news because then I can end on a positive note rather than a negative one. Also, the good news won't make much sense until you know the bad news.
I got an email from the agent who had requested my full manuscript.
When I saw it in the inbox, my spirits sank because I knew it was going to be a rejection. (If someone has your full and they want to represent you, they use the phone, not email.)
So, I went and checked to see if I had any phone messages -- just in case.
Nothing. (Well, technically, there was something, but it was my contractor telling me when he was going to come to seal my backsplash tile. Not an agent offering representation. Poop.)
Back to the computer I went, dragging my feet a little bit. I didn't even want to open the email. Too sad.
But open it I finally did. And ... it was a rejection. Of course. But it didn't feel as bad as I was expecting.
For one, I appreciated her getting back to me so quickly. Some people have to wait months going on years for agents to get back to them about their full submissions. So, this agent gets kudos for quickness.
For another, she had nice things to say about my book. She liked the characterizations. If anything, she felt like it had too much going on, seemed to be heading in too many directions, which, as a critique is totally fair. (There are a lot of threads. Maybe something I have to work on is simplifying.... But, I digress.) That's why she said she was passing. Too much going on.
But then there was a good news at the end. She said she'd be happy to look at other manuscripts of mine.
Now, maybe I'm reading into this too much, but I'm choosing to take that invitation as meaning she likes my writing. This one wasn't good for her, but maybe the next one will be and she'd like to read it.
I don't think that's failure. It means that when I finish Back I can include in my query to this agent something like, "You requested the full for my last project, V-Day, and in your response mentioned that I could submit future projects to you." And hopefully she'll remember, "Oh yeah, I liked that girl's writing ... I think I'd like to see more."
You'd better believe after I closed that email, I opened up Word and hammered away at my WIP, Back, for at least an hour. (An hour I really couldn't afford because it made me late starting on the lasagna I was making for dinner. That's okay, though. Writing was therapy at that point.)
Not that I'm giving up on V-Day. Not yet. I haven't even reached my goal of half of the agents I want to query, so I'm not considering it a lost cause (though I have to admit, some days I'm tempted). I'm sure there's an agent out there who likes complicated stories with lots of story threads and a big twist at the end ... Maybe?
But even if there isn't an agent out there who goes ga-ga over V-Day, I know I'm making progress. Honestly, even getting a full request is progress as far as I'm concerned. And, as I've said lots of times before, progress has to be my goal in this business.
Otherwise, I won't stay sane.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
You will be so surprised!
I would win every prize,
I wouldn't lose a single one!
But remember never cheat
To be more beautiful or more sweet.
Dress up in a blue costume,
Be yourself because when you try
To be like your friends
You hate yourself.
So be thankful who you are,
Even in November.
Eight-year-old Olivia wrote this just now for her homework. I love it for its sweet honesty. I think she might have a gift, but I'm not biased or anything. *grin*
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Pulling it straight with tweezers and hacking it off with a pair of baby nail scissors.
This from a girl who can't even pop a zit. Who starts hyperventilating if she gets a tack in her foot.
It was gruesome. There was blood. I had to close my eyes when I snipped because I was so sure it was going to hurt. Terrible, horrible, nerve-splicing pain.
And -- confession time -- I had to snip twice.
Actually, it didn't hurt. It did bleed, but I held a tissue on it for fifteen minutes and that was over.
Now I just have a nice little scab.
And no more skin tag on my nose. That thing people kept thinking was a bit of tissue or a booger. Well-meaning people would pull me gently aside and say, "You have something on your nose."
"I know. It's a skin tag. It's a genetic thing. I get them every once in a while." This is the first one I'd had on my nose. It was next to my left nostril.
I love that it's gone. I was actually avoiding talking to people I felt so self-conscious about it. Isn't that stupid? Or I'd talk to them with the left half of my face turned away.
For example, today when I was at gymnastics with Anna, I was talking to a very nice lady who also has her daugher in gymnastics and I actually, consciously thought, "Boy, I'm glad I'm sitting with the left side of my face turned away from her so she can't see my skin tag!"
On the way out the door, I considered that thought. Am I horribly conceited? Or does it just mean this skin tag is hanging between me and a normal life?
I decided on the latter, went home, held my breath and ... snip!
I just hope it doesn't grow back.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Mexican WhiteBoy is no less sensational. In fact, I think this has become one of my favorite books ever.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The subtitle for today's post is: "Why do people think my daughter is a boy?"
Today two different people thought Sophie was a boy.
Granted, she's fifteen months old. Boys and girls don't look very different when they're this age. And she does have a mullet. Not by choice, mind you.
In China, babies of all ages walk/ride around in split pants so their private parts show. That's how you tell if the child is a boy or a girl. The clothes the children wear don't tell you much.
For instance, a little boy could be wearing a frilly pink shirt and a white lacy bonnet, but you look at the gap in the split pants and you see, nope, it's a boy.
A little girl could be wearing a baseball cap and a shirt that says (in English), "I'm the little brother," but you look at the gap in the split pants and you see, nope, it's a girl.
Because my kids didn't wear split pants, my Chinese neighbors were often confused. Even if my baby daughter was in a pink dress with frilly socks and Mary Jane shiny shoes, they still asked me if she was a boy or a girl.
Actually, I take that back. They'd call her a boy and let me correct them. That's the polite thing to do. Assume boy, that way you don't offend anyone (because girls are, well, second best, right?)
I thought I was leaving all that behind when we left China.
It's true, I did leave most of it behind: the split pants and the overt sexism. But today, in America, I was surprised.
To help you understand, I'll describe Sophie's outfit. She was wearing a red long-sleeved shirt that said "Sweetie" on it. On the shirt was the picture of a gingerbread girl with little sparkly bows and a dress. Sophie was also wearing jeans, red socks and little brown shoes. When she was outside she wore a red coat with a fur-lined hood.
Twice, people referred to her as either "my son" or "Gabe's baby brother."
I guess they didn't see the "Sweetie" or the sparkles. I guess little boys often wear red coats with fur-lined hoods. Maybe I need to incorporate more barrettes into her outfit. Apply makeup, jewellery, a wig, maybe?
Do people just assume that if a baby is wearing jeans, she's a boy?
I'm seriously considering getting out a pair of split pants so that if people call her a boy I can lift her up to their eye level and say, "She's a girl. See?"
Actually, I don't think I'll try that. Child Protective Services would be all over me like cheap cologne. And I don't want my new carpets to be soiled with baby pee either. I seriously doubt Sophie would be able to tell me at her age if she had to "go." And I never learned to whistle like Chinese care-providers. They use the whistle to train their babies to urinate on command. That's how they keep their clothes, floors and sheets kind of/sort of urine-free when their two-month-olds wear split pants.
I guess I need to do more to feminize my daughter. Or else, I could just decide not to let it bother me.
After all, it doesn't bother her.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
There are lots of things in life worse than waiting. Earthquakes in Haiti, for instance. Invisible children in Uganda. I think I have my head screwed on straight enough that I haven't lost perspective that the hoops I have to jump through as a fledgling, wanna-be writer living in America are pretty easy ones.
But, just so you know, when you're querying literary agents with a project, there's a lot of waiting. You email your query letter, personalizing it for several carefully-chosen agents, and for the next seventy-two hours you're just positive they're all going to get back to you. So you refresh your email inbox about eight hundred times a day.
After day four you kind of realize you're being ridiculous and you stop refreshing so much.
Now, it's true, there are several agents who don't waste any time. They get those form rejections back to you pronto. You press the send button on your email, go to Querytracker.net to log your submission, and by the time you get back ... there it is. And you know it's a form letter rejection. It has to be. Because this agent obviously didn't have time to read the writing sample in two minutes. S/he can't be salivating for the next chapter already.
But that's fine. The premise didn't interest them. That's absolutely fine. We all have different tastes in literature. That's why there are so many books in the world. (Thank goodness!) It's like when I'm walking through Barnes and Noble and I pick a book off the shelf. Say I like the cover. I flip it over and read the description on the back. Usually I don't have to read more than a couple sentences to know if I'm interested or not. I'm not paying $20 for that! Set it back on the shelf. Customer rejection.
It's the same with agents, reading through thousands of query letters. They're human beings. They have tastes too. Many people loved the book I glanced at in Barnes and Noble. They loved it enough to publish it. And probably many people in the world are interested in reading it. Just not me.
But, besides those rare agents who are speed demons with their rejections, many are not. And that's okay too. See, agents are busy people. They don't get to spend all day just reading queries. They actually have to make money. And making money for an agent means spending a lot of time with the clients they already have. They have to sell their books. The massive job of reading queries is really just on the side, when they have a few minutes to spare.
So, I wait. Very patiently. And it's not so bad. Because there's always that element of the unknown when you're waiting. That excitement when you wake up in the morning, that maybe he or she will get back to me today and it will be great news. See, you never know.
I sometimes wonder if I can tell by just looking at an email sitting in my inbox if it's going to be a rejection or a request. There's this feeling: kind of a lightness when someone's asking for more, kind of a heaviness when I know he or she is not. Probably it's just my imagination.
But this week, I did make a little progress. I got my first request for a full (translation: an agent who wanted to read the whole thing), which puts me way up in outerspace orbiting the earth, doing a fox trot with the moon.
I'll land someday. Hopefully it won't be a crash landing. But no, I won't let it be. I'm going to stay realistic about this process, keep reminding myself that I don't want to be published until I'm the best I can be. And I'm going to keep writing because I love it. That's all.
And, of course, if I'm going to keep writing, I might as well keep querying.
And if I'm going to keep querying, I'd better get used to waiting.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Our GIGANTIC, gorgeous Tommy Bahama bed frame. I swear, it's so much larger than life, I practically need a ladder to climb into it -- and I'm not even short!
The kids saw it and their eyes lit up like they were at Disneyland. Anna looks like she's mountain climbing getting into it. She gets on her tiptoes, grabs a handful of sheets and hoists herself up. And then the natural thing to do is stand on top of the thing and start jumping. Problem is, if there are any spills off the sides, we'll have broken necks for sure.
So, no little monkeys jumping on the bed.
I don't know if it's the bed delivery that's done it, or if it's the cleaning I did in my bedroom before the delivery men got there, or if it's just being in our house for several weeks, but...
...I'm starting to feel a tiny bit organized.
For the first time in many, many months. I'm actually starting to find a place for everything. The piles on the counter are shrinking. And with little children there's still a good amount of mess, but I'm dealing with it. I don't walk into their rooms and feel like I'm going to have a conniption fit when I look around.
All the clothes are starting to fit in their closets and drawers. There are places for the dress up clothes. There are designated areas for toys.
We still have to work on the books that are scattered everywhere, but Aaron's planning to build bookshelves, so we're making progress.
Tonight as I write, I feel peaceful inside. It might be gone tomorrow, especially if the toilet clogs again or the contractor arrives (as he should, eventually) to seal all our backsplash tile in the kitchen. I'm sure he'll stack all his tools on my dining room table.
But tonight I'm going to enjoy Peace. I'll sleep in my new bed. I'll enjoy feeling like a domestic goddess with a place for everything.
I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I went to a concert last night. It's been a long time since I've been to a concert, especially one this totally rockin'.
This particular band is new on the music scene, but I think they have a ton of potential. Watch the clip below and see if you agree with me.
The lead singer kind of has a U2 charisma that, in my opinion, could easily rival Bono. I was really impressed with the guitarist's instrument, fashioned out of Kinex. His bum-wiggle sort of reminded me of Slash, without the long curly hair, of course, or the cigarette. And the drummer's drum set is very state-of-the-art. Totally unique, cutting edge stuff here. Talent oozing out everywhere.
There's still some division in the group about what their name should be. One member, who shall remain unnamed, said it should be called "Olivia's *something* Trio" -- I guess because she hasn't thought of what that middle word should be. Another member, also anonymous, thinks the name should be "Anna's studio." The third member doesn't seem to have an opinion.
I'll keep you posted on this band's development. They're working on some new songs. One I heard this morning went something like this:
Sister love is a very good thing. Sister love. Sister love is a very good thing. Sister love.
Another song (more like a rap, actually), goes like this:
I want a Wii, I want a PSP, I want a XBox 360. Huh!
And on that note, I'll leave you.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Beige, cream, brown, black, muted orange, gray, peach, white and mocha.
When you look at it close-up, it has depth. Some stones are translucent, shaped like tiny diamonds, burrowed deep into the quartz. Others are opaque, flat-looking. Other colors are splashed on, seeped in. Together they create one highly polished slab. Indestructable.
Problem is, you cannot see when this countertop is dirty. The diversity of its design hides everything. You only know by touch if that smear of refried beans is really there.
So I ask you: Is this a good thing for a mother with four small, sloppy children? Or not?
Monday, January 4, 2010
We're back to real life. No more vacation around here.Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Steve (a.k.a. Uncle Dini) leave tomorrow. *sniff* The kids are back at school, the hubby's back at work, and ballet lessons have officially begun.
Olivia has ballet twice a week for a total of three hours. She's hard core. Anna has both gymnastics and ballet once a week for half an hour. She's also hard core (for a three year old). I have ballet once a week for an hour. For a thirty-two year old, that's not hard core. For a mom who hasn't exercised in six months, maybe it is.
Olivia and I both had our first ballet classes today. Olivia will wake up tomorrow feeling great. I guarantee I'll wake up in pain.
Gabe is not doing any extra-curricular activities (except Awana) and I think he's happy with that arrangement, homebody that he is. We'll wait a few more years before we force him to play football. We've got to get him ready to be the next Kellen Moore, after all. *evil laugh*
But between ballet classes and school and baby's naps, Mondays are going to be a little harry. Now that we live up on the hill I have to drive the kids to school and pick them up afterward. No more walking home to Grandma's house for them. Then it's back and forth to ballet classes until dinner time. (Horrors! I might actually have to get organized!)
I'm living the real American life now: packing the four kids with me everywhere I go, operating on overdrive most of the time. How did I get here? On an airplane, I guess, technically. An airplane from China where I had a housekeeper and a fleet of taxi drivers at my command. But untechnically, I guess I'm in this soccer-mom state because it's all part of getting involved in a community, getting out there and challenging myself and my kids, being willing to be a little busy (hopefully not too busy) to enrich my children's lives by letting them do something they desperately want to do.
Hopefully I won't regret it. Time is already going by so quickly. Busyness makes the clock tick faster. Sophie's already saying words. She nods her head "Yes" or shakes her head "No" when I ask her a question. She eats out of a bowl with a spoon all by herself. I've gotta be careful not to miss any of that.
But then I see my girls dance and realize it'll be okay. For now, it'll be okay. And when it's not okay anymore, we'll stop. And that'll be okay too.
Friday, January 1, 2010
In honor of it being 2010, I gave my blog a face lift/name change. So no, you're not in the wrong place. If you came looking for me, I'm still here!
A big THANK YOU to my sister, Michelle Pardini, who carved the lino-print of the bathtub for me. Michelle is amazing and you can check out her brand new website/business by going to http://www.owlily.com/.
In case you're wondering, I decided on the theme of a green bathtub because ... because ... well, I don't have a great reason. I liked the sound of it. And once I came up with the tag line to go with it, it made sense. Because under everything else, I am a procrastinator. And the thing on which I procrastinate most is the cleaning of my house.
Thankfully my husband doesn't mind and my children don't know any different.
But here's the rub:
When we lived in China I had a housekeeper. She came twice a week and did various chores. One of them was cleaning my bathtub.
Now that I've moved to America, I no longer have a housekeeper. If you've been following this blog at all, you'll know we just moved into our own home after living six months with my in-laws. So, not only do I not have a housekeeper anymore, but I don't have a mother-in-law either.
At this moment in time, I am being spoiled rotten because my parents are visiting me. Still, there's less than a week left before they are going home.
And then I'll finally be expected to take care of my own home. In its entirety. All by myself.
There might be a learning curve.
So, back to the green bathtub. It could be that as I procrastinate on housework, our bathtub does develop a greenish, algae-tinted sheen. Hopefully I'll notice. And when I notice, hopefully I'll clean it in between cooking meals and making beds and folding laundry and wiping snotty noses and vacuuming and writing the next great American novel and reading all the books on my list of books to read in five years and helping children with homework and reading bedtime stories and washing dishes and grocery shopping and running little girls to ballet class and potty training.
It'll all fit somehow. And if it doesn't, the bathtub will suffer.