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Monday, December 20, 2010

Made Up Word of the Day--Meewyowl


meewyowl

--verb
1. to meewyowl, in a long, geriatric cat specific howl with the intention of getting your owner out of bed at 3:27 am to crack open a can of Friskies Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Dinner because you are a 17 year old cat who is awake and bored.

--sentence
1. Daisy, my cat, meewyowls at my side of the bed every morning between the hours of 3:00 am and 4:30 am. When her initial attempts at getting me out of bed are unsuccessful, she decides to play hardball and  proceeds to saunter her old bony body across the hall to meewyowl in my kids' rooms. At which point, I leap out of bed to give her what she wants.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Switching Gears


So, apparently, my worry in my last post regarding the revisions I sent off to Wonderful Agent was for nothing. I did, in fact, write them in English and she said they were good...now we're into round 2.

As I've lurked and read about many of you writers/bloggers out there, I realize that it's a pretty mixed bag with regards to those who have a job other than writing and those who stay home and write full time (and just so you know, being a stay at home mother or father is another job in my book.) It has me wondering what that experience is like for you, balancing work and writing or having the freedom to write all day (whichever side of the fence you live on.)

Personally, I find it incredibly difficult to write and work (I'm a school psychologist) at the same time. My job requires me to be in the moment, fully present, and quite analytical...everything I'm not when I'm writing. When I'm writing, it's like reading for me--my mind launches into outer space.  I still write when we're in school, but I find it mentally difficult to switch back and forth. It's almost as if I can feel myself physically leaping the divide between my right and left brain. I get most of my writing done over breaks (i.e., summer, Christmas, Spring Break.)

But I remember that, before I went back to work outside the home, sometimes the more time I had to write, the more time I wasted not writing. For me, I think having less time to do this thing I love sort of forces me to do it as often as I can.

But don't get me wrong...I still fantasize about doing this full time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

End of Year Creep!


I have been walking around with looming dread. It started yesterday morning with the inability to force myself out of the bed, I just kept looking at he clock and rolling away from it, then freaking out because it was getting later and later but I wasn't getting up. I gave myself a pep talk,

"Becky, the coffee is downstairs and you have that new super cool machine that makes you a lovely hot cup of motivation in less than a minute. If you get your lazy butt out of bed right now, I promise you can have as many cups as you need this morning. You can even pour half a cup of French Vanilla Coffee Mate in every one and I promise not to judge. But please, get up now!"

And still, it took me another twenty-five minutes and a full bladder to pry myself out of bed at which point I am flat out ignoring the clock because there is just no way anyone is getting anywhere on time today. But I'm up and figuring how I'm going to cram forty-five minutes of morning prep work into the fifteen available when my darling daughter walks in sleepy and rubbing her eyes, "Mom, I'm supposed to dress up like Little House on the Prairie today." I take a very long sip of coffee and nod my head, "Well of course you are. That makes perfect sense. Now let me see...where did I leave that wand?"

This is, of course, all my fault. But I'm wondering, what is the problem?

Never mind it's almost Christmas break and the kids at school are practically crawling the walls. That I have purchased all of three Christmas presents for the twenty-five on my list. My own kids suddenly have a flood of activities at their school that require me to Mama Up and make unscheduled trips to stores, dig out glue guns, and schedule time to make appearances so they don't become some other family's adopted third wheel at the annual Holiday Breakfast for Students and Their Families! I have sent off revisions to Wonderful Agent but I keep obsessing and worrying that they weren't right, or good enough, or written in English. My house is a mess, library books are overdue and all the plants need water!

Blaaah!

Yes folks, it's that time of year...the holidays. I would probably be completely bald from stress if it wasn't for the knowledge that in nine more days, I will be spending a solid two weeks in nothing but slippers and fluffy, fleece pjs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Query Tracker Interview



When I started sending out queries for Ascendant, I used Query Tracker to help keep all the submissions straight and keep myself sane. I loved using it because all I had to do was point and click buttons for which agents I queried and when and it automagically provided reports on submission response times as well as comment threads from other writers also submitting to the same agents. Truly, this is THE TOOL for the obsessive querying writer. 

Since I was offered representation, the folks at Query Tracker were kind enough to ask about how it all happened:
 
QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
BT: What a perfect opportunity to use the bar pitch I came up with at one of those “How to Land an Agent!” writers’ conference sessions. Okay here it is: It’s about a sixteen year-old girl exploring her family’s Gothic English manor. She’s looking for clues to her mother’s disappearance and trying to elude the man she thinks is responsible—her mother’s childhood love. 

As a side note—I have never actually used this sentence for anything (other than this interview, of course.)

QT: How long have you been writing?
BT: My first story was of the oral tradition when I was 3. It was about a princess who, “just had too many shoes and just didn’t know what to do!” My mother published it for me on our eight-track recorder. She still has it in the garage—somewhere. But writing for publication? I started my first novel (fiction aimed at the adult market) in 2002 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I queried over seventy agents with various responses but never THE ONE response I needed. I ended up self-publishing that book, A Better Life, under my maiden name, Rebecca Burgess, in 2008. 

QT: How long have you been working on this book?
BT: Since December of 2009

QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
BT: I have “given up” many, many times. I eventually get over feeling sorry for myself and go sit back down in front of my computer.

QT: Is this your first book?
BT: No (see above.)

QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
BT: No. I have read many, many books, blogs and websites about writing. Any “training” I’ve had would predominately come from being a lifelong book reader. I got hooked on books in second grade and I haven’t been able to stop. I guess some of the writing stuff just sank in.

QT: Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
BT: When I’m on a roll, I get up around four and write until my kids wake up or until it’s time for me to go wake them up to get them ready for school and me ready for work. Word count can vary but when I’m working on the first draft I shoot for at least one thousand words per days. I will write on my lunch break and after the kids go to bed—so sometimes the writing is broken up throughout the day. With my schedule, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for “The moment” to strike. I write when I can as often as I can but never when it means sacrificing the order of my priorities—kids first.

QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
BT: That’s hard to say. A lot of the re-writes happened while I was actually writing. Oh, and with this book I had started out with about fifty pages that I wasn’t crazy about. I ended up scrapping those and starting over. I’m actually still editing and revising now—with Emma’s help. 

QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
BT: Yes, my mom and my husband where the two people who read the whole thing before I started querying agents. I also belong to a writers group and we (sometimes) meet every two weeks. The thing about a writer’s group is that it can be a slow process, especially if you write faster than the group meets. So they had gotten through about sixty pages of it before Emma offered representation. It’s helpful if you have a few “friends” who are willing to read it start to finish.

QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
BT: I do both. The feeling around for the characters tends to be more from the hip. But once I start to get where we are heading, I plan out chapters, story arc and conflicts. Characters will take on lives of their own, but certain things must also happen. I have this posted on my monitor “Keep Moving Forward!” So either the story or the characters must be developing at all times. No random sidetracks. Oh, I also like “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swi…” I steal a lot of motivational blurbs from Disney movies. Very positive folks they have working there.

QT: How long have you been querying for this book?  Other books?
BT: I started querying in October for this book, Emma Patterson with Wendy Weil offered in November. With my first book I sent out queries for over a year before deciding to self-publish.

QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
BT: I sent out 21 queries.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
BT: I queried agencies and agents who had represented books I liked along with agents who stated they were actively looking to build their YA list.

QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
BT: Not unless I had read something they had represented and/or met the agent before. Aside from that, I sent the same query to every agent.

QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
BT: Keep trying. Educate yourself as much as possible by reading industry books, blogs and websites. Be honest with yourself about the quality of your current work. Do you enjoy reading your own book? Are there parts you skip over because the writing is boring? Are there things happening in your book that just don’t make any sense? If you don’t like reading it, no one else will either. You can’t just send it out hoping someone (i.e., an agent) will help you fix all this. Yes, it does need to be near perfect before you start sending it out, there are just too many of us out there competing for space.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Miss LOST


I miss LOST. I loved that show. Does anyone know of a good substitute? I'm never up on the latest "best new series" until at least a season or two in, but LOST was one that had me at hello. I miss our Wednesday nights, LOST. The kids were always in bed on time so I could curl up on the couch with a Cabernet and a blanket. Remember how we almost killed Husband because of his incessant questions?

Husband: "Now, who's that guy?"
Me: (eye roll) "If you're not going to watch every episode than don't ask me questions!"
Husband: "You don't know, do you."
Me: (silent ignoring) 
Husband: "What's the significance of the numbers?"
Me: (glaring, pointing to show that has not yet paused for commercial) "Shhh!"
Husband: "This show is stupid."
Me: (reaching for the embroidered throw pillow to smother him with)
 
I don't have cable. I don't have a dish, or TiVo...we do have two ears that nearly touch the ceiling that are attached to a knob that has to be fine tuned every time you change the channel. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a "You'll rot your brain!" kind of mom, but I have found that since we got rid of our 300++ channels a few years ago, we all watch significantly less tube.  Computer man husband has us hooked up to Netflix so we can watch streaming things on the TV...very handy. And I'm currently waiting on the latest seasons of Mad Men (love, love, love this show) and Californication (like this show) to release onto DVD, but in the mean time,

I miss LOST.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Day!

Tuesday before Thanksgiving Break! One day and then five glorious, wonderful, stay in bed days in a row.

In a row!

I was laughing the other day with a teacher at the school where I work--remember when you were in school as a kid and you practically died strapped to your desk, eyes glued to the clock, waiting for a holiday. It makes me laugh because it never, ever occurred to me that teachers felt the same way.

Almost every teacher I work with loves their kids, even the really tough ones (especially the tough ones) but let me tell you, when it comes to waiting for a break, their staring at that clock.

They are just highly covert about it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Agent!


Well it's official. I now have an agent! (happy dance, happy dance, handstand, back fli...aagh! Note to self, you are not eleven anymore.) Emma Patterson with Wendy Weil offered representation and we spoke over the phone last Thursday. She sent me her notes (which I thought were spot on) with her ideas for how we could make Ascendant (working title) stronger and I got to work right away (well, after the family ski trip) making changes.

I am thrilled, happy and still over the moon. So over the next couple of weeks I'll be working on (more) revising and editing. If we are fortunate enough to find a publishing house in the coming months I will be working on (even more) revising and editing I'm sure. And once I finish (ahem, start) the next book, it will eventually need a boatload of, all together now, revising and editing.

It makes a person wonder why it's called writing, it should be reediting because that's how you spend the bulk amount of time on a piece.

Feeling: Fortunate

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Keystone Skiing

So much fun up at Keystone yesterday. We've been skiing with the kids for the last 3 years and it's amazing how good they are! Here is my oldest getting ready to plunge down the next run. She kept asking to find a blue run. Unfortunately, for her, her mother needs to work up to such things and won't be ready to tackle that until at least mid December. I did manage to eventually coax her off the mountain, this second pic is from out dining table at Parrot Eyes, but we didn't sit long. She headed right back up to join her dad who was still skiing with the youngest at the top. Alas, with the exception of the occasional pity run my kids and husband throw me, I'm afraid mom's going to be skiing by herself in a couple more years.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Breaking Up?

 I started a blog here a couple of months ago while finishing my first young adult novel and beginning the search for representation...but it never felt quite right. I don't know why, plenty of people have perfectly wonderful LiveJournal accounts and blogs. But I found I kept messing with the template and design. One day dressing it up in a simplistic midnight blue the next in a tri column autumn, another day I was back to the simple design but with a dark red header--nothing felt right or "me" and quite frankly it felt like I was having some kind of blog sphere schizophrenic identity crisis.

And then, one day (today in fact) I thought, It's not me...it's you!

 That's right. I think it's you LiveJournal with your blockish feel and mandatory ads ( I'm not willing to pay for my blog!) It's you with your limitations and your insistence on posting my avatar picture on every single entry! (in truth, this could just be operator error...I'm a writer not a web designer, geesh!)

So, I've decided. I'm breaking up with you LiveJournal! (maybe) That's right, I'm moving in with Blogger! (we're going to see how things work out.) Blogger is easier on the eyes (there, I said it) he's flexible and knows how to treat a woman who majored in Liberal Arts instead of Computer Science.

(I'm going to continue to see them both temporarily. After all, LiveJournal and I have history, however brief, and I could just be having yet another schizophrenic blog moment.)

Sigh.