Just a day

My baby is two. Not really a baby any more, but she still lets me hold her, still wraps her little self around me and sticks her thumb in her mouth, a perfect sense of comfort and trust.

I will never have another child as tiny as she is today. She will only continue to pull away, to establish herself, independent from her mother who, two years ago, held her for the very first time.

She’s only two. She has no great expectations for her birthday. Her brother told her there would be cake, and there will be. Maybe some pasta for dinner because that is her favorite. Today every birthday surprise is a completely new experience for her. She doesn’t know she gets presents. She doesn’t know that it’s her special day. When her brother and I came into her room singing today her face lit up like the sunshine with unabashed delight.

Every birthday is bittersweet when you become a mom. The pride of beholding your beautiful growing child, the relief of adding another years maturity after tantrums and diapers have worn your down, the anticipation of all the great things your child has to experience in the coming year for the first time, these things swell up in your chest, bursting wit joy and love, and yet those tiny fingers can now hold a crayon, write a name, paint a landscape, rewire a toaster, and then one day they are the same size as your own fingers, or even enclose your whole hand in theirs.

I am not a baby person. Babies scare the hell out of me. But my babies, as terrifying as they were, are sorely missed. They way they slept on my chest, the laughs, the soft skin.

I read a quote a while back on the internet that stuck to my heart like a briar. I’m paraphrasing it here.

“One day your parents put you down and never picked you up again.”

My son is a big boy, just DSCN6963.JPGturned five, but since reading that I try not to groan and beg off when he asks me to pick him up so he can look into the sauce pan to see what’s for dinner. When he scraped his knee the other week I picked him up and carried him the rest of the walk home. He’s so big, it should be awkward, but it isn’t yet. There’s so little time left, but I can still pick him up, still hold him on my hip for a minute.

And my daughter, well she wants to “walk walk walk!” as she screams when I carry her across a busy parking lot. But she still comes to me, particularly when I am in the middle of cleaning or cooking or just extremely exhausted and reaches her little hands up to me and says, “Mommy, I need you!”

She doesn’t say “Pick me up, although that is what she means.”

Mommy, I need you.

It won’t always be to be held, but please let her and my son always need me, just a little bit.

Because I will always need them.

 

Happy Birthday to my September babies.

What’s harder than writing a novel? Writing a speech for your brother’s wedding.

My brother’s wedding date has been set for 9 months. I’ve had 9 months where ideas for what I wanted to say have rattled around in my head. I’ve written a novel, two short stories, and countless blog posts since then. But not a wedding speech. Not until this morning, the day of his wedding.

My heart is so full today and words just want to spew out in a big jumbled mess. I could wing it, but that would probably just look like a weepy pile of goo with a few vaguely insulting jokes that came out wrong.

But damn this is hard. In a novel I have setting, mood, inner monologues and 200+ pages to get the sentiment just right. And someone my characters are so much more eloquent than I am. They always know the right thing to say, the right way to say it. They say things that are very profound and moving.

So far my best line is “I can’t express how happy I am to be here today.” WTF is that? Such a cliche.

So wish me luck today friends. My little brother is marrying one of the best women I have ever met, and I can’t express how happy I am to be there.

Some writer I am. 🙂

*UPDATE: Nailed it. Managed to even make the staff cry.

Fail like a M*F* boss

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I finally heard back from an agent who had my manuscript. Rejected. The bottle of Moet and Chandon must wait for another day to be popped.

But the truth is, I am kinda relieved. Not because I didn’t want her as an agent I would have loved to have worked with her, but because I have been SO STAGNANT the last two months waiting. All my queries and samples have been rejected or timed out except for this one and now I can call this round a failure.

Yes. This has been a glorious failure.

And that is totally freaking okay.

You see, I love this manuscript. LOVE IT. And I have worked my ass off on it. But something about it just isn’t quite right yet. So I failed at getting an agent this time around.

So?

So now I can move on. I can shred it up and cry if I want. Or I can wave my fist and curse the heavens. But what I think I’ll do instead is plot my next move with this manuscript that I love.

When I say fail like a boss I don’t mean some middle management A-hole who shifts blame onto the people who report to him and makes excuses about lack of resources. I mean the CEO who is ceaselessly looking for ways to improve quality and efficiency, cut costs and raise morale. The boss who is allowed to fail because in her failures she reveals the holes in the ship before it starts to sink.

It’s a funny double standard we have that we constantly roll our eyes and tell dreamers to be practical, not to quit their day job, to let go of their pipe dreams, but then applaud those who succeed by refusing to do just that. And the truth is that the majority of those who do succeed in a big way have ignored that kind of advice for years, after every defeat and every failure.

So I am not wiping my tears with my manuscript. I am looking for where it is losing water and getting my welding torch ready to patch that bitch up stronger than ever.

Failure is inevitable. If you don’t want what you are failing at than by all means, give up. If you do want it, Really want it, than it is worth every single defeat to reach that victory.

And that is worth cracking open a bottle of Verdi at least.

Twitter for writers

Currently participating in another twitter contest #PitchSlam and thought this would be a good time to revisit this article. There are a bunch more coming up. To check them all out follow Writing Events Guru who awesomely collects all writing related things on twitter.

L.C.W. Allingham

If you haven’t joined twitter with a writing account, you are missing out. While twitter can seem intimidating and difficult to navigate initially, it is invaluable for writers in all stages of their career.

Here are a few things twitter can offer:

GIANT writing community

Indie writers, unpublished writers, bloggers, traditionally published writers, pretty much everyone is on twitter supporting each others. Under hashtags #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying you can connect with other writers in the same stage as you. There are also weekly challenges such as #1linewed where you share a line from your work in progress and #Sundayblogshare where bloggers share their work. The more you explore, the more you will find to connect you with others who support share your passions.

Pitch Contests

Run by editors, agencies, and other writers (Shout out to Brenda Drake) pitch contests give writers an opportunity to connect with agents and editors…

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Withholding too much: Opinions Wanted!

I am starting to think  about maybe getting around to considering the second round of edits on my newest manuscript. So far the crits in my writing groups have been pretty good, most readers says they are intrigued and would read on from the first few chapters but one thing has been driving each and every one of them a little crazy.

Too much information is withheld.

A while back I wrote a post about how much I loved backstory and tended to overshare.

It seems I have swung to the completely other side of the spectrum and I’m leaving my readers guess about just about everything in the first chapters.

The problem is, I kinda love it.

When a story is full of mysteries, foreshadowing, allusions to a deeper story I get drawn in really quick and start making up my own theories. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is when some of those theories turn out to be correct, especially if they author is vague and remains in the POV of the character (side note, when it’s obvious and the character can’t figure this crap out for themselves its actually infuriating instead).

That doesn’t mean I am not willing to concede. I believe that writing is for the writer, editing is for the reader.

So the the first four chapters of “Summer’s Circle” only offer questions. And there are alot of them.

-What’s the dynamic between Danica and Summer? Why is Summer telling her the story?

-Is Joviah actually magic or a con artist? And why is Summer still talking to him?

-Did Chris actually humiliate Summer in front of her peers?

-Is Summer crazy?

-Is Summer a heartless bitch or is there something we don’t know about her past with her family?

-Why the hell does this phrase keep showing up?

-What is up with Summer deciding one thing and then immediately doing something else?

If I promise you it all will be revealed some very quickly and some of it drawn out in a slow dawning realization that makes you feel as trapped and horrified as the the MC does as she comes to understand the truth, would you be okay with all these questions at the beginning?

Or, like my crit readers have suggested (having access only to the first five chapters) should I clear up a few things early on? Do you like to make theories and see how they unfold? Do you like to be surprised? Or is too much uncertainty in your reading frustrating or anxiety inducing?

Your feedback is most welcomed!!

End of Summer Review

At points I feel like I am stagnant. Nothing seems to be changing, nothing seems to be moving. During these times it’s a good practice to do a review of everything that’s happened the past season.

As I am currently not writing anything and still in a holding pattern with agents and editors, I need to look back and remind myself how much has gone on since the beginning of the summer.

I had a serious surgery the day after Memorial Day. I got so much work done during that month while i recovered. I researched and queried tons of agents, I did a first draft edit and I got really comfortable with rejection. I got my first request for a partial. That was all June.

July I was cleared to drive and lift my children again and getting back into the swing of that was challenging, especially because I was still sore and adjusting to the after affects of the surgery, and my kids were home full time with no school so it was immediate chaos. I went to a wedding across the state, I actually managed to forget all about the queries I had out for a while and when more rejections came in, I was completely able to move on. The amount of queries I sent out trickled down but I got a request for a full. Yay.

August was literally too busy to do much. Birthdays, vacations, super awesome drama (not) and more time with visiting family. I did get back to my writing group and met some totally awesome new people and got some great feedback on my new manuscript. Actually, that was pretty huge. My writing group went from being monthly to weekly so I am able to meet up with other writers once a week and talk writing and that always feels kinda awesome. I may collaborate with one of the authors in the group in the future and I am close to collecting enough feedback on “Summer’s Circle” that I could be ready to start second round edits soon.

Do I have a book deal? Not yet. But I have been logging the hours and doing the work and I’d have to say, in retrospect, this summer has been really productive!

How to be ripped to shreds with grace (writing reviews)

In college, peer writing reviews never went very well. Either people were too nice or too mean or too vague. And no one wanted to hear it. Usually professors wouldn’t allow us to talk and defend our work, so we didn’t have the option of yelling at our reviewers. Sometimes people couldn’t help it.

I remember a classmate walking out of class after a heated argument with the professor about a point made on his poem. I recall a girl muttering “whatever. Whatever. Uh huh. Whatever,” as another student tried to carefully pick flaws out of her article.

Now, when I am in a peer review group there are no restrictions on who can speak and how or when they can. What have I learned? Adults take constructive criticism even harder than college kids sometimes.

Any why shouldn’t they? As an adult there is more at stake in your work than part of a grade. It isn’t just an assignment you knocked out at 2am that morning after you got home from a kegger. It’s personal. It’s important. It’s the culmination of your expertise, your talent and your hard work.

And someone is telling you things are wrong with it!

But as I have said before, if you want to get better, you have to put your ego aside. We all know this, but damn it is hard when someone is telling you your favorite part of you story should be cut out, or your character who you so painstakingly crafted is acting out of character.

So, if we rationally know that in order for our work and ourselves to get better, we need to let people tear it apart, but we also know we are more than a little sensitive about our work how do we withstand a peer review, a writing critic group, or a creative writing class where we have to endure our baby (manuscript) being picked apart to our faces? And maybe still get something out of it.

I am so glad you asked. Because that is what this article is all about.

Shut up and listen

These two steps are half the battle, and also the hardest to master. You not only have to shut up, that means no arguments no lengthy explanations as to why they don’t understand and no snorts, sighs, or cursing. Mouth shut.

And then…. you have to listen too. You have to endure this awful decimation of your beautiful manuscript by someone who obviously doesn’t know what they are reading.

Why?

because they are your reader.

Yes. Your reader. That jerk face across the table who does not get you is your reader, right now, before your book deal and your movie deal and your hbo deal, they are the one who is reading your story and they are telling you, not only why it isn’t working for them, but why.

You can wait for your agent or publisher to tell you, but you don’t have one yet. And you might not ever if you don’t listen to jerkface over there.

Make notes

yes. You should write down what that turd is telling you. But in your own words. Because you’re the writer. So he says he thinks you’re plot point is stupid, you note “confusing plot in certain areas”. She hates your lead character and your story line you write “Twenty two year olds with bad dye jobs who write Disney fan fiction are not my target audience”. Good things to know. And writing will help you keep shutting up.

Ask Pointed Questions when they are done

I don’t mean about their moral compass or their face. Ask questions about why things didn’t work for them. They don’t like your lead character when she is supposed to be very likable. What is it about her that is putting them off? Would clarifying that she got her super powers from a traumatic encounter with a space bat make her easier to relate to?

If you are submitting chapter by chapter this is especially important. Ask them if they would keep reading to the point where you cleared up some of their questions or if they were so put off that they would put down the book if they were reading for pleasure. Ask what they would do.

Ask them because you really want to know, not because you want to fight with them. And accept their answer. It might be helpful and it might not. But now you know and maybe you even have a solution.

Thank them

Thank the godless cretin who tore apart my work?

Yes. Because they didn’t have to read it at all. They didn’t have to give you feedback. They didn’t have to help you out. So even if their opinion really is not helpful to you, they gave you their expertise, their talent and their time to help you be a better writer.

Show them how it’s done

Someone in your writing group really doesn’t get how to do a proper review? Show them. Give them a respectful, honest, and carefully worded review of their work. They will appreciate the consideration and they will try to model their own critiques from you in the future.

or they will throw a tantrum because you didn’t tell them it was perfect and never come back to the group again.

Either way you win.

*Disclaimer, I currently happen to be part of a very awesome and extremely helpful and respectful writing group who helped me see how it should be done.