Duly Represented

Congrats to heylookawriterfellow! Do go and visit his blog, he is hilarious!

Hey, Look! A Writer Fellow!

I sold my first (and only) picture book manuscript a few years ago. Upon learning the news of the sale, I was, of course, ecstatic.

I was also exhausted, for I braved about a jillion rejections before that long-coveted contract arrived. I soon began to wonder just how dogged I would need to be before I could hope to get a second contract. After all, I’m not as dogged as I used to be; I’m getting to an age where I need to start scheduling naptime.

So late last summer I did a little soul searching and decided that I needed help. I stopped relentlessly sending manuscripts to publishers and started relentlessly sending manuscripts to agents.

I am delighted to report that my efforts were not in vain. I just signed with the wonderful Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency!

I knew right from the start that Natalie…

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Simone de Beauvoir

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(pic from biography.com)

“The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.”
Simone de Beauvoir 
I love Google because it informs me of new things all the time. I am not going to lie, I had no idea who Simone de Beauvoir is. I don’t know if that is shame worthy or not, but after reading about her today I want to read her books. I probably would not have bothered to give them a second look if I passed them in the library. So thank you Google.

Now go find out more about her, lots of interesting stuff!

Life of Pi

Although Boredom is Good for You….

Bored people

It is shameful and I shouldn’t do it, but I can’t help it. I read Life of Pi some years back. And I had to force myself through it. I hang my head in shame. But hell it was boring. The only reason I forced myself through it was I kept hoping that somewhere along the line it would get interesting or my malfunctioning brain cells would start working and I would actually get the story. But I didn’t and at the end of the novel I felt quite cheated. Please forgive me, all you incredible critics who gave it rave reviews. I could never imagine it being turned into a movie. But watching the Oscars last night convinced me that Ang Lee and his team are capable of magic and yes I want to see the movie. No offence Yann Martel, I am just plain dumb and totally missed the entire point of the story if there was one. I like fast paced stories which have a beginning, middle and end. No hidden meanings that require the IQ of a rocket scientist to decipher. But I want to watch the movie, it deserved the Oscar for Cinematography and why is everyone trashing Seth Macfarlane? Because he sang out true well known facts? Well all those actresses should have thought about that before dumbly agreeing to do just anything on screen, good for you Jennifer Lawrence you just gained more respect. And you fall gracefully.

(Images from Google and the Guardian.co.uk)

Reading to Children

sarah gives thanks

I love reading to my children. Uhh..I loved it with kid 1 and 2. By kid 3 it was more the guilt and with 4 and 5 my life depends on it. They tie my hands and threaten to ingest large amounts of sugar and coffee if I don’t tell them a bedtime story.

We have a great collection of books and the kids love trips to the library for new ones. We got a new book in December. I sort of won a contest on a blog, not really won sort of won. So Mike Allegra, heylookawriterfellow, sent me  this beautiful book he wrote. Sarah Gives Thanks is a great book. The story is touching, informative and it teaches kids to never give up. It is inspiring and it is true. My kids loved it and I think every parent should add it to their kids’ collection.

Another tear jerker book I love is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. If you don’t have it or haven’t read it, get it and read it to your kids immediately. Besides these I adore the wacky ones, anything by Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss are must haves for your children’s book shelves. They are just so much fun to read.

Reading to young children helps turn them into readers for life and you can find many studies that link reading to success, so get bedtime stories into your schedule!

What do you enjoy reading to your kids? Which book do they love to hear over and over?

The Next Big Thing: Week 22

I am doing a blog hoppy thing. This is the first time.

I was tagged by two awesome writer people: Alexandra Tys O’Conner at Whispering Minds and Anne Woodman at Writing by the Numbers. You have to go and visit their great blogs. And read and comment and make new  writer people friends.

So here I go.

1- What is the working title of your book?

Miscegenation. Long uncommonly used words just fascinate me.

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I moved back to Canada after many  years I happily observed many mixed race couples. Also there is a lot of unrest in the other half of the world and I thought what if we just blew ourselves to bits while fighting and the survivors were extremists who decided no more inter racial marriages. They want a Pure Blood Society of the different races believing this is going to avoid all the genes from getting crazy and self destructive. I have a Master’s in Biochemistry and genetics really fascinates me.
3- What genre does your book fall under?

Science Fiction (YA)

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have absolutely no idea, but I think Johnny Depp should be in every movie. He just should.


5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This is the most painful question in the history of questions. This is the first sentence/hook/pitch from the query:

Welcome to Arya, where being different will kill you.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am hoping (read praying, begging, crying, moaning, struggling ) that it gets represented by an agency.


7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took one month.

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It is about a racist society. The only other YA I have heard about that deals with racism in a similar way is Vril: the Power of the Coming Race.

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?

There are so many paranormal type characters but I haven’t read one with a djinn in it yet. I wanted to write a novel with a djinn as one of the characters. So one of the races is of djinns.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A lot of action ( I love action movies/novels) some romance ( the one where they can’t live with each other and they can’t live without each other) science stuff for science stuff fans. Angry teenagers for emo kids and rebellious stuff in memory of James Dean.


Now check out these blogs: (you guys have one week! Try to post it on Nov 7!)
1. storiesbywilliams

2. Writerlious

3. Life behind the Pages

4. Cape Cod Scribe

5.  Life As We Show It

6. Mythbroakia

 

Guest post by a published author. Who is not snobby.

I had a day off today. So after sending all the kids to school I promptly went straight to my laptop? No I went straight back to bed. And continued to snooze blissfully till 12: 45. Now I am eating french toast and drinking hot tea and typing with sticky fingers because after you pass the three kids mark and 35 you no longer care about these things. Your biggest luxury is sleeping in and not being woken by five snarling monsters kids.

Mike Allegra is a published (non snobby) author.  He is also very, very funny. When I am feeling sad, mad or bad I go to his blog and have a good laugh. He also has great tips for writers, so you have to go and visit him here: heylookawriterfellow

Yes, now you know you have to visit. And his wife has a great way with animals. Definitely visit here.

His book  Sarah Gives Thanks is going into its second printing. Congrats! It is a touching story and has beautiful pictures.

I pestered him to do a guest post for my blog. And this is the first guest post here. So hurray for me. If you write then you are probably in some sort of critique group and you have probably come across some people who are ready to cruelly tear your work apart ( they have been published) or get violent when you give them honest suggestions( they will never be published). But Mike is a very nice, down to earth published author who does neither. Here is his entertaining and informative account of  critiquing.

Criticizing Critiques: A Critical Study ( Mike Allegra)

It was my turn to critique the manuscript and I wasn’t looking forward to it. It wasn’t because I didn’t like critiquing (because I do) or because I didn’t like the manuscript (although I didn’t) , it was because the critiquee – let’s say her name was Helen – was not interested in hearing anything but praise. No matter how I couched my constructive criticism, Helen’s response always hovered in the neighborhood of hostile.

Most of the other people in this writers’ circle had taken Helen’s cue long ago and used their time to offer up bland, non-specific kudos for her manuscripts. But I’m sort of stupid, I suppose. I just can’t say, “It’s good! Really good!” when I don’t think the manuscript is really good. I don’t see the value in doing so. I always try to critique others the way I want them to critique me.

I began Helen’s critique on a positive note. “I really like your idea,” I said. “It’s playful and fun. And I think the approach you took is dead on. It’s a perfect subject for a rhyming picture book.”

Helen beamed.

“But I noticed that some of your rhymes aren’t really rhymes.”

And Helen’s smile faded. It might have been my imagination, but her face seemed to suddenly fall into shadow. But I sallied forth, because, again, I’m stupid.

“For example: ‘pat’ and ‘path.’ Or ‘pane’ and ‘way.’ The words share the same vowel sounds, but they aren’t rhymes.”

I looked up from my notes to see if any of this was registering. Certainly none of the stuff I was saying could get her really angry this time. A rhyme is a rhyme, after all. There’s nothing subjective about a rhyme.

But, well, yikes. Was someone holding a flashlight under her chin?

“No one will care about that,” said Helen. Her tone announced, “How dare you care about that!”

Helen’s remark was followed by the squeak of half-dozen chairs as they, ever so slightly, pushed back from the table.

But I went on. Remember: I’m stupid.

“Also I noticed that the meter varies from line to line. Here you have 13 syllables and here you have 11. This one is 10.”

“It’s 11,” Helen said.

“No, it’s 10,” I said.

And that touched off a rather prolonged simmering discussion over what constitutes a syllable. Helen and I spent some quality time counting together.

Yep, it was 10. Helen didn’t acknowledge this fact as much as change her line of attack.

“No one will care about that either,” she said.

But that wasn’t true. I’m a someone and I cared.

Well, sort of.

I certainly didn’t care if Helen got published – which I doubted she ever would because she was an unpleasant, cantankerous crabby pants who didn’t know that “pat” and “path” didn’t rhyme – but I did care that my efforts were being treated so shabbily. Helen certainly didn’t have to accept anything I said – it was her manuscript and she could do what she wanted with it – but I took quite a lot of time to review her story, the least she could do was give my comments a little respectful consideration.

“Okay, I’m done,” I told Helen. I wasn’t really done with my critique. I was done with Helen and her rotten, dismissive attitude.

Of course, such dismissiveness doesn’t only have to be delivered by an ungrateful critiquee. I once heard a critique by a fellow I’ll call Don. On one fateful night he told an aspiring writer that her “characters were vague.”

Don didn’t elaborate beyond that, making his critique pretty vague as well. The aspiring writer, a bit of a doormat, I’m afraid, wrote down Don’s remark verbatim, as if she could later tease something of value out of it once she got home.

To her discredit, she didn’t ask for any examples of vagueness or any suggestions as to how to make the characters less vague. I would’ve asked such questions; I doubt, however, that Don would’ve been able to answer them. It’s hard to be specific when you don’t bother to read the story you’re critiquing.

Critique groups are essential to the writing process. They should be exploited for all they’re worth. But every group dynamic is different. A single Helen can suck the joy out of what should be a very supportive and constructive environment. A group that contains too many Dons can make the critiquing process almost useless.

I never returned to Helen’s group after she and I counted syllables together. Apparently I set off a chain reaction. The group disbanded a month later. As for Don’s group, (there were actually a few “Dons” in that group), I left that one too, and never looked back.

Eventually I found a good critique group that provided – and continues to provide – a thoughtful, constructive, and tough assessment of my work. Some comments I agree with, others I ignore, but I almost always drive home energized, eager to tackle another draft.

That’s what a writers’ group should be like.

Choose your group wisely. Stay in the group only if it helps. Leave when it doesn’t. Your writing deserves the best critiques you can find.

And please be sure to critique others the same way you want them to critique you.

Thanks so much Mike for doing the first guest post for me. And I swiped your wonderful doodles too:

Isn’t that great?

All images are from heylookawriterfellow except for snoring mom from Google Images.

Having Doubts

I was reading through ‘when in doubt’ quotes because I am in doubt. When I am not procrastinating, I am busy being in doubt. I found some enlightening advice and I thought you could use it.

“When in doubt, don’t.”  Benjamin Franklin

“When in doubt, do it.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“When in doubt or danger, run in circles, scream and shout.” Laurence J. Peter

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”
Cynthia Heimel

I found all this extremely helpful. Especially running around in circles and screaming, it relieves the tension and gives the kids a good laugh. And if you think you are making a fool of yourself, act like an intellectual so you seem ‘brilliantly creative’ to everyone else.

Seriously though doubt is so hard to deal with, all the advice says ‘just write’ and keep writing. As Dory would say “just keep swimming”.

 

But how do you convince yourself? Sometimes I just want to lock my laptop up and throw away the key. Just forget about the whole thing. Sometimes I just sit there and cry while I eat plenty of chocolate. I am not good enough, there are too many people already writing, I don’t have a Master’s degree in English Literature, I don’t post enough on my blog, I don’t have any articles or short stories published in any of the ‘big’ magazines, I am not a member of any affiliation for writers, I don’t have time, I do have time but I can’t do it, I have too much housework, I will end up not giving the kids enough time and they will end up disturbed juvenile delinquents, the kitchen floor needs to be mopped. The thing that is behind everything is doubt that I just can’t write at all. And I thought it was just me, but apparently even published writers have their doubts: How to Conquer Self Doubt and Just Write

And if that inspires you enough then you might want to try writing a short story for this competition: Young Adult Fiction Competition

They extended the deadline, so if you stop doubting and get writing you can make the dead line. Good luck.

(All Images from Google Images)

What To Say To A Literary Agent On The Phone

Phoning the Literary Agent.

Hi how are you? I hope you got the puppy I sent you. I read an interview you gave once, at least I think it was you, and I found out you like dogs. You don’t? Oh you’re a cat person! Sorry about that, I am sure you can find someone to give the puppy to. Anyways I have written this really cool book about a vampire that falls in love with a werewolf who was adopted by fairies when her pack was attacked by flesh-eating zombies.  Everyone who reads it tells me it would make a great movie. I think you should show the manuscript to Steven Spielberg I know he is gonna flip when he sees it. I know it would appeal to a very large audience, since it is really fast paced with lots of action as well as having a great love triangle; there is an alien who is also in love with the female werewolf. I can’t tell you about the aliens, it would ruin the suspense. You just need to hurry up and read the manuscript I had tied to the puppy’s collar. It nearly choked him? Aw poor little guy!  Yeah that is the one, with the scented orange paper. I know orange is your favorite color, you can tell I did my research huh? So when do you think you can get back to me? I am really busy, I have already started the fifth book in the series but I have three more to write. When you do contact Steven…you know, Steven Spielberg? I just told you about the movie based on my novel remember! Like I was saying, when you talk to Steven ask him to check and see if Tatum Channing is free to play the lead role. You don’t think they would be interested? Why? Well they’ll be sorry later when they read the headlines about the movie breaking all the records. I think Emma Stone would make a great werewolf, try her. So when do you think you will get back to me?  I was hoping the novel could be out by the fall, so work on the movie could start by the end of the year. What do you mean you only represent non-fiction?

(picture from Google Images)