Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Get by with a little help from some feathers

So, I recently bought myself in a winter coat in which I’m pretty sure I look a little like an over-roasted sta-puffed marshmallow woman (the coat’s black after all).  I’m undecided about whether purchasing such a coat, weather rated to -45 degrees, means that I have finally conquered winter or that it’s actually bested me.  At the end of the day, I don’t care because the dang thing makes me feel like I might possibly survive another year living in Frozen Land (which wouldn’t be so bad if it were like Disney and had talking snowmen and singing trolls).

The thing is, I’m not sure why I held out so long buying a ginormous coat.  Seriously, the thing comes below my knees, and I’m 5’ so it’s kind of comical.  Ask anyone and they will tell you, it’s not like I put on a brave winter face or feel the need to be “tough” about it. I whine and complain ALL THE DANG TIME about how cold I am.  Why wouldn’t I have sought out better ways to manage it sooner?

The more I think about it, the more I realize how often I see people taking the same approach on other things in life.

“I have a headache.”  Did you take anything?  “No.” 

“I’m not sure how to write this paper.”  Did you read the instructions?  Have you gone to the tutoring center?”  “No.”

There are probably a million different reasons why we don’t seek the right support or utilize resources available to us when faced with a problem.  Maybe we’re lazy.  Maybe we don’t care enough.  Maybe we’re afraid to admit we can’t do something alone.

My coat and I are here to say that’s probably not the best way.  I can’t believe how much it has lifted my mood to get in the car and not feel like my entire body was going to turn into an icicle and then break into a million pieces.  Being able to find the right tool to support me has lifted a burden in a way. 

It’s also served as a reminder that we all sometimes need a little help.  Maybe from friends and family.  Maybe from co-workers. Maybe from fellow-writers.  Maybe from a therapist. Maybe from 600 fill-power down insulation.

Whatever you need, maybe it’s time to accept a little help.    

Friday, November 7, 2014

Be a tree.

Every once a great long while, I write a little letter to one of my kids and save it.  I had always intended for it to be this great volume that they'd get to read on graduation or something.  All kinds of life wisdom imparted as well as a general sense of knowing how loved they were through the busyness of life.  Well, my volume is pretty thin as I seem to remember about once a year, if that.  I managed to set some words to paper last week, and I came across this nugget for several years back written for Grace.


“Sometimes it’s good to be the tree.”

The other night, we read The Giving Tree. As usual I cried.  I’m not sure I have ever read that story without tears streaming down my face.  I don’t think I’d read it since becoming a parent though.  Bill looked at me and suddenly said, “Oh he wrote that book about his mom, didn’t he?”  It made so much sense. 

Later, we put you to bed.  You were fighting it, as always.  At one point, you grabbed my head and pulled me close so my head was resting on your face.  I admit, I wasn’t very comfortable.  I looked over at Bill, and said, “Sometimes it’s good to be the tree.” 

Some people get mad when they read The Giving Tree.  It's easy to focus on how much the boy takes the tree for granted.  And I know as a parent, I sure empathize with that sentiment.  But at least in the month of Thanksgiving as we move into what I hope is a reflective and joyous time of year, I am going to focus on being grateful for the trees in my life.  A mom who never declines a request to pick up my kids and folds about 90% of my laundry.  A husband who puts up with all the ways I add "busy" to our lives. Friends who are always willing help with the kid shuffle.  Without support none of us would grow into strong trees ourselves.  To be there for our kids and friends and other family members when they need us.  As strange as it sounds, at least today, I'm also going to appreciate the opportunity to be taken for granted.  

I like being a tree. 

And if we are all trees, then we become a forest. 

"And the tree was happy."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How NaNoWriMo is like Life.

I'm back!  This year, I'm serving as Interim Associate Dean, so my writing life has been fairly limited, but I'm preparing for that to come to an end in December, so I'm trying to put my mind back into writing mode.  As everyone gears up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in a few days, I reflected on my own Nano experiences.  The goal is simple:  Write at least 50,000 words of a novel in a month.  Ultimately, all three of my completed novels were largely composed during either NaNoWriMo or a Camp NaNo. So, I came up with three "tips" for successfully NaNo'ing that also apply to everyday 

1. Just write.  Don’t think.  It’s counter intuitive to many writers because it’s hard to imagine not editing as you go, but sometimes it really is good to get it all down on paper.  There will be times when are sure that everything you’re writing is pure crap, and you’re certain there will be no way to salvage it.  In fact, I felt that way EVERY time.  But it’s worth it just to get those words on paper.  So many of them.  50,000 of them!  It’s something to work with.

That’s the day to day of life isn’t it?  Just get busy doing instead of planning and second guessing.  You’ll make dumb mistakes but there will likely be more good than bad by the time you’re done.

2.  Take time before you review. Agents say they get bombarded with folks who submit their novels in December, clearly not having been through any editing.  I actually suggest not editing that novel right away.  Give it a few weeks (I usually wait up to 6 months before opening a Nano novel).  I’m too close to it after that intense writing.  I wouldn’t be able to see the forest for the trees. 

We’re so quick to want to critique/correct that we don’t always give ourselves time to just bask in the accomplishment, to let things settle. Sometimes, we do things that me might immediately regret, but time may alter our perception.

3.  Support each other.  The very best part of NaNo is that we're all in it together.  From Twitter (#NaNoWriMo) or #nano) to Facebook groups to official NaNoWriMo forums to local writing groups, there are like-minded people everywhere who are struggling.  They will be your cheerleaders!  You can sprint together and whine together and celebrate the end together.  You may find some of those same people become part of your general writing circle when it's over.  So, be sure to cheer them on, too.

Life is not a solo adventure either.  Find people to join on the journey who support you and lift you up.  Let go of those who don't.  But don't forget that you need to be there for others, too. 

Happy writing, happy living! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Call for Papers: Contributions to Lost Girls and Teen Dreams: Constructions of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Texts: EXTENDED DEADLINE!

I know I've got YA readers out there, and I'm sure there some academics too, so I thought I'd share.  And bonus points in the comments if can identify the source of all six symbols!

Tricia Clasen (contributor to Bitten By Twilight and Heroines in Comics and Literature) and Holly Hassel (Contributor to Of Bread, Blood and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy and co-author of The Critical Companion to JK Rowling) call for proposals for essays to be included in an upcoming anthology focused on gender in young adult literature and popular culture. We have an interested publisher but require a full prospectus for a confirmed contract.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's not you; it's me.

"It's not you; it's me."  Class break-up line right? Maybe even cringe-worthy.  

We tend to think of it as an excuse when people don't know what else to say, but maybe that's a bit harsh because it's often true.  It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with either of you; you're just not necessarily right for each other. 

What about this one?  "If I'd just met you sooner…"  or "I'd totally marry you in ten years". Yeah, it doesn't feel any better, but think house hunting.  Maybe this particularly house would be great in five years, but it doesn't work for you today because of some circumstance--proximity to a school or an infant that needs a room close to a master bedroom.  Ultimately people's needs change. 

That brings me to Query Lesson #3. Whether we're searching for a house, a job, a friend, love, or an agent, sometimes, two things drive the match:  "fit" and "timing."  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rejection is good.

I know I said I learned three lessons in the query process, but it's shaping up to be four.  As always, my writing experiences can be applied to so many aspects of life.  I'm in awe of the ways we, as humans, continue to learn the same lessons over and over again just in different contexts.  I suppose it could depress me.  I mean, really, how dense can we be?  Instead, I choose to think maybe it's all reinforcement.  So, the next lesson isn't really new, but I appreciated the reminder.

Lesson #2:  Rejection can be a good thing.

So listen, rejection sucks.  I think I've covered that.  It hurts.  It's personal.  It's a hit to the self-esteem.  That's true whether we're talking about a job, a guy at a bar, a friend who stops calling, or when only a few people "like" the Facebook status you thought was a masterpiece.  Your throat clogs up, and your chest gets tight, and suddenly you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.  Okay, fine, maybe you don't have as visceral a reaction to rejection as I do, but just check out these Reddit users' stories of rejection if you want to know how crappy it feels.

Rejection is important, though.  I'm sure I could find a million and one clichĂ©s to illustrate my point, but we have to face rejection in order to improve.  We have to face rejection to know that we needed to improve in the first place.  At the same time, we have to be willing to hear what the rejector is saying in order to change. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slow Down!

I'm just going to pretend it hasn't been months since I blogged.  I'd appreciate it if you'd play along in my denial.

Moat of you already know that I started out the year by accepting Jen Linnan's offer of representation. I'm still waiting for that to sink in or for fireworks to go off every time I even think about it.  Despite imagining it happening for three years, the whole thing still feels surreal.  I love reading "how I got my agent" stories, so I'm going to share mine, along with some additional lessons I learned in the query process, but I'll break it up into three parts. 

I've completed and queried three middle-grade novels.   By the time I was ready to query novel #3, I certainly felt like a failure.  My social networking circle is heavily populated with other queriers.  It seemed as if everyone was signing, publishing, and becoming best-sellers (or moving on to self-publishing, but I'll save that topic). I tried to take comfort in what I'd learned and how much I'd grown as a writer.  Sometimes, it worked, but sometimes, I wallowed.

Lesson #1: Go slow

Impatience is my middle name. I do not do slow well.  I'm only 5' feet tall, but if you take a walk down the hall with me, you may need running shoes to keep up.  I go fast.  Not surprisingly, then, I failed on this one the first time around.