Archive for May, 2012

Douglas Adams, picture courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky

While I don’t claim to know the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams sure enjoyed taking us on a whimsical journey in his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series where he told us all that in the end, it’s not the answer that’s important – SPOILERS! it’s 42 – but the question.

Every year, fans of Adams celebrate his genius and his life by spreading the word and carrying a towel – for obvious reasons. So, DON”T PANIC! and join the celebration. Find out more about Towel Day here.

Me and my daughter ready to head out for lunch on Towel Day 2012

Where is everyone today? Yikes! I almost forgot! It’s time for the Writer’s Voice Twitter Pitch! No wonder it’s been so quiet! If you don’t know what it is, for a few hours TODAY ONLY!!!! you get to post a twitter pitch of your COMPLETED manuscript where a select group of agents will be watching. That’s right! You thought it was hard to convey the essence of your novel down to 250 words in a query, try 140 characters! It’s quite exhilarating! Besides, what have you got to lose! Follow this link to Monica B.W.’s blog and see the details. Follow the action at #WVTP.

Oh! And just for fun, Here’s my Twitter pitch:

Stuck in treatment, labeled a drunk runaway Sara’s pleas of sanity go unheard. She must act crazy & break rules to survive life inside.#WVTP

That #WTVP feed was moving like lightning – so hard to follow! I’m sure I missed some really great pitches. I saw plenty of others and a fellow writer actually documented all of the winning pitches. Check out GB Skye’s list here. Also, if you weren’t able to make it to the twitter pitch, or if you’d like help honing your own pitch, Becca C  is keeping her very helpful Building Your Own Twitter Pitch post open. It’s an excellent place for writers to help each other. You’ll get great feedback there. I saw many pitches in the feed that had really improved after they’d received feedback from her post.

I have inherited many things from my dad that I am grateful for, but my appalling eyesight is not one of them. A friend was once commenting on the actual prescriptions for my glasses versus my husband’s. He said without our glasses on, “If you want to sneak up on Tim, just walk up on his left side.”  Then when asked about me, he said, “Oh you can just come straight at her, she won’t even see you until it’s too late.”

Nice.

So you’d think my husband would remember that he can’t do things like rearrange the contents of the shower because he’s basically married to a blind woman. (Unless he thinks it’s funny to watch me hold the bottles mere centimeters away while water and bubbles careen down my face, further obscuring my field of vision – ha ha ha. Are you laughing right outside the shower where I can’t see you? That is supremely stupid. You know I am a vengeful woman!) On most days, I give him the benefit of the doubt, because I can understand his confusion as I do I wear contacts part of the time and he does have ADHD, so minor things like my safety slip through the cogs of his memory wheel.

Unfortunately, this morning’s incident I should not blame on my distractable husband. My alarm went off way before I was ready to wake up – as it often does – so I was trying to track it down to hit the world’s greatest invention, the snooze button. The problem was, I couldn’t find it. I could definitely hear the incessant beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep, and my roaming hand was desperately knocking over all of the stacks of books next my bed in search of the offending sound. At last I found it and gained that glorious ten extra minutes. All it cost me was the loss of my sight.

Ten minutes later, when the final alarm went off, I couldn’t find my glasses. At first, I blamed the poor ADHD riddled husband. “You can’t hide a blind woman’s glasses! What’s wrong with you?” He mumbled something incoherent from the shower – completely useless, not coming to my rescue. *sigh* I had to get down on all fours and put my face two inches from the carpet to hunt for my prosthetic eyes. Finally my hands closed over the familiar shape. I yelled out to the shower, “You are so lucky I found them!” Even though I’d figured out by this point what had happened, and that I shouldn’t blame him, I decided in that state that I was going to anyway. I slumped over in relief. Those few seconds of desperate groping are always so panicky for me. I hate not being able to see. I would definitely rather be deaf than blind any day, although I would miss music something awful, so I’m greedy and I’d rather keep them both, thanks all the same.

So how is your week going?

Oh yes! The #writemotivation goal check. Here goes:

1. Revise the query for my completed YA manuscript until it’s tight enough to bounce a quarter off the sucker. Progress was made! Check.

2. Research prospective agents to whom I want to submit my completed YA manuscript. Progress made here as well! Check. I added a few more agents to my submit list.

3. Once items one and two have been successfully achieved, submit to at least three agents at a time. YES! Giant double check. I submitted to three more agents last week and received one very positive response with a partial request and one form rejection. I’m still waiting to hear on the other four.

4. Get cracking on the next YA manuscript I have planned so I don’t check my inbox every thirty minutes awaiting responses to my submissions. This is the only goal I didn’t make any progress on last week. I want to put more energy into it this week as I have some definite plans for it coming up. I just signed up for the SCBWI LA Conference and I want something new for my critique submission. The deadline is in three weeks so I better get cracking! Anyone else going to the LA conference? I’d love to meet you there.

I was really surprised by the response to my last post. I really appreciated all of the responses and felt less alone in my momentary darkened slump, however, I did feel that I must have hit a nerve about the lives of writers and how we all seem prone to fits of depression. Then I read several more posts from other writers about the same topic and I thought, “what is this, some sort of dark epidemic?”

No, not really.

My fantabulous father, ever the magnanimous therapist, even in retirement, put his mind to the problem and sent me some words of wisdom that not only made a world of sense, but calmed me right down. I thought I would share them. They came from a post from Elizabeth Moon, a science fiction/fantasy writer, see full post here.

One enduring myth is that creative genius and depression go together, and thus a writer who tampers with endogenous depression is going to damage her creativity. “I don’t want to be drugged into a numb state where I can’t feel anything,” says the suffering writer.

The facts are otherwise. Yes, writers do suffer from depression at a higher rate than the rest of the population. No, it doesn’t do their writing any good. Writers suffer from depression for all the usual reasons (innate biochemical susceptibility, early life experiences, etc.) but they also live lives full of contributing factors. Isolation, introspection, lack of physical exercise, irregular hours, less than perfect diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight–all may cause a depression, or worsen one. So also do financial and professional uncertainty–the lack of control of events which writers experience in every aspect of their work. To these, some writers add alcohol or drug addiction (yup, these do contribute to depression); others are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs which enhance any tendency to depression.

In fact, if you wanted to make a cheery person with no predisposition to depression depressed, you could stick him in front of a typewriter or computer for hours a day–feed him a typical writer’s diet–forbid him to exercise, isolate him from friends, and convince him that his personal worth depended on his “numbers.” Make him live the writer’s life, in other words, and watch him sag.

Sound familiar?

She goes on the recommend a book on cognitive therapy by David Burn called Feeling Good, which my dad said he used all the time and he highly endorses as well – can’t beat that. Since so many of you shared your feelings with me, I thought i should share this with you. Let’s all make an effort to get away from the isolation this week, maybe get out into the sunlight a bit.

For my part, I’ll  be out in the sun plenty today, slathered in SPF 1000, with a whole team of people walking for my son to raise money and

Our Team Last Year Ready to Race

awareness for autism in the 6th annual Ready, Set, Run Event – GO COMPANIONS OF TREVOR! Let me know how you plan on combating your writer’s depression.

I reached a state of immobility during this past week. I found myself frozen, unable to even begin anything, let alone make any positive progress . I sometimes have these moments of self-doubt that are overwhelming and cause a complete halt in activity. i withdrawal from everything, tuning out the phone, internet, etc., and envelope myself in a world of ice cream and self-loathing. I tend to think it’s linked to some sense of fear – fear of succeeding, perhaps.  Just when things seem to be going really well –  receiving awards, wining contests, hearing great feedback on my manuscript – then this little voice creeps in and asks, “Are you sure you’re up for this? Can you handle what comes next?”

That’s when my brain screams out, “No! My story is crap and I am a monumental fraud. Soon everyone will see it!” right before I curl up in a fetal position with my blanky and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. It takes a great deal of effort to push past this wall of negativity, put away the frozen chocolate delights, reconnect with my confident self, and start working again.

I am recovering faster than I used to – I was mentally comatose for  just a few days this time – but still I hate that it happens at all. Gotta focus on baby steps of progress, one day at a time; that’s the only way I make it back from the edge of the depressive abyss. One thing that’s helped me move forward is getting excited about my critique group meeting this week. Maybe a dose of  “me time” with my fellow writers is the solution to my paralytic funk. And taking a shower might help, too.

So just for the hell of it, let’s review my #writemotivation goals:

1. Revise the query for my completed YA manuscript until it’s tight enough to bounce a quarter off the sucker.  A little more progress made – revised a couple more chapters. Would like to make a lot more progress this next week.

2. Research prospective agents to whom I want to submit my completed YA manuscript. Okay, I actually made some progress on this, too. I’ve added a few more potential targets to my attack list.

3. Once items one and two have been successfully achieved, submit to at least three agents at a time. Nope. No progress here. I didn’t send out anymore submissions. I did, however, check my mailbox several times a day like a crack addict waiting for my fix of rejections. So far, nada. At least I haven’t had any immediate rejections – holding on to the positive here.

4. Get cracking on the next YA manuscript I have planned so I don’t check my inbox every thirty minutes awaiting responses to my submissions. While I have done some mental writing and introspective reflecting on this project, little actual word count has surfaced.

Some minute progress made! Who knew? My suckage level isn’t as high as I thought; I feel better already. Here’s counting on a much more productive week coming up. How is everyone else doing?

Two awards in one week? How exciting! Well, somebody out there knew I needed a confidence boost. Thank you to Laura Stanfill for the Sunshine Award nomination and thank you to Paula of the stuff i tell my sister blog for the Versatile Blogger Award nomination. You are both too kind. I’ve often thought of myself as full of something, why not sunshine? And despite what my children think, I CAN be versatile. I will do my best to live up to the honor of both awards.

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

Include the award logo in the post.
Link back and thank those that nominated me.
Answer 10 random questions about myself and/or tell seven random facts.
Nominate 10 other bloggers and link them to the award in their comments section.

Laura provided some questions of her own for me to answer. Sooooo much easier than digging around in my brain for interesting facts. I’ve known me all my life; I don’t really know what other people will find interesting about me.

Here are Laura’s questions:

  1. What’s one of your favorite books from childhood? The Chronicles of Narnia. I read them all many times.
  2. What are you reading right now? Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and Shine by Lauren Myracle. (I rarely read just one book at a time.)
  3. What’s a go-to meal you make on busy weeknights? Okay, I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not a fantastic cook, but there are a few things I can stumble through without burning down the kitchen. Spaghetti Carbonara is one of them.
  4. Favorite thing to do in your free time? Besides reading? Hmmm, I don’t get that much free time. Maybe having in-depth conversations with open-minded adults that challenge me to think about something in a new way. Yeah, I love that – and it happens so rarely.
  5. Favorite season? Sprummer? I love late spring and early summer the best. All of the rushing around to get the kids to their numerous activities has slowed down to a trickle and we can start sleeping in on the weekends. Also, the temperature hasn’t broken the 100 degree mark and yet it’s high enough that walking into the sunshine feels good, not shivery.
  6. Favorite magazine? Not a big magazine person. I did love Interview magazine before Andy Warhol died and they made a variety unsavory changes. I used to make some funky collages from the artwork in those pages. I still have one of them.
  7. Favorite author? Unfair question to ask a writer; too many to even begin narrowing the list down to one. I love just about everything the following writers have published: John Green, Libba Bray, AS King, Rachel Cohn, David Levithan, JK Rowling, and tons more.
  8. Favorite teacher (and why)? Mrs. Franklin. She was one of my GT teachers that I had for a couple of years in high school. We were a tight-knit group in the GT program as we had a lot of our classes together in a block. She was an outstanding teacher of history and taught us more than the dry facts, she got us involved and that made it come alive. She also cared enough to ask questions when someone was lagging behind or, in my case, not showing up.
  9. AP Style, Chicago Style, neither, or a mix of both? I actually prefer NY style pizza. Blech. Hate this question. Moving on.
  10. Do you prefer reading short stories or novels? I’ll read anything. I prefer quality writing in any form.

Although I know many bloggers that exude sunshine, there’s no way I can come up with 10 unique nominees. Here are my nominees for the Sunshine Award:  A. E. Welch, Mike Reverb, Papasense, Paul Robert Adams of The Haunt, and Cheyenne Hill of A Leap in the Dark.

For the Versatile Blogger Award, the rules are slightly different:

Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy. (I love instructions that remind you of good manners, don’t you?)
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly that are excellent.
Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award. (Fifteen? There’s just no way. I don’t follow enough blogs, yet. I’m working on it!)
Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself. (Dang it! I  still have to come up with random facts.)

  1. I love olives. I once parked myself in front of a giant bowl of black olives at one of my cousin’s weddings when I was about 11 and proceeded to eat myself sick. Best. Wedding. Ever!
  2. I love driving a stick shift better than an automatic. My first car was a little blue Honda Civic. I learned to drive a standard in that car one afternoon with only my brother sort of guiding me because I was too impatient to drive my new car to wait for proper instruction. It was years before I stopped jerking that poor car along. I’m now very adept at smooth transitions and you can go so much faster in a standard! Maybe I have control issues and want to shift gears when I’m ready, not the car telling me when it is proper to do so.
  3. I hate commercials. Of any kind. We DVR most of our shows and I zip through the commercial breaks as fast as possible. If I want to watch something not already recorded, I’ll put it on pause for awhile so I can still skip the commercials. My husband likes to take his time and check for commercials he might like. Whenever he does this, I sigh heavily. If that doesn’t work, I mime pushing the fast forward button repeatedly. When that doesn’t work (yes, using your words is important!) I tell him to get moving or give me the remote. (Yeah, that does sound like control issues…)
  4. I was once serenaded in a bikini. We were on vacation in Hawaii when I was about six years old on the top of some hotel that had its pool area on the roof. There was a little three-piece Hawaiian band playing songs and we were sitting down at a table eating, I think. They started singing about my “Itty Bitty Teeny Weeny Blue and White Checked Bikini” because that’s what my swimsuit looked like. (Gingham prints were so the thing back then.) My mom nudged me and told me that they were singing to me. I was too busy swinging my feet and staring off into space to notice – probably wondering when we were going back into the pool.
  5. I was once hit by a drunk driver on my bike. It was the summer before ninth grade and I was delivery sprouts to a local restaurant – totally another story for another time – and I was in a hurry to get home so I could go swimming with my best friend. I’d tried to talk my brother into doing it for me, but for once, my powers of persuasion failed. I thought at first that the accident was my fault because I turned left on a yellow light. I remember thinking “I’m going to get hit” right before the truck slammed into me and sent me sailing. This was downtown Enid, Oklahoma, on a busy afternoon. A crowd of people gathered around me quickly – probably because I was screaming bloody murder. One slurring voice that reeked of alcohol pushed into the gathered crowd and apologized for hitting me. Luckily, the sprouts in my backpack saved my head – this was before bike helmets – and I only ended up with a clean break in my left leg. At the time, when I was lying on the hot asphalt surrounded by people debating whether or not to move me – ( I tried to tell them that was not a great idea, but I was going into shock and my words were getting mixed up.) –  I didn’t feel so lucky.
  6. I had my first job when I was thirteen. It was at the local Mad Calf Drive-In two blocks from my junior high school. As most jobs required you to be sixteen, my dad had to give permission for me to have this job. I only made $1 an hour during my training and then got bumped up to a whopping $1.25 after that. That was below minimum wage, but I think the whole thing was off the books anyway. I would put a Sprite and a frozen Snickers bar on my tab for the walk home every night – probably spending a good third of my earnings. Frankly, he could have paid me in frozen snickers back then and I’d have been thrilled.
  7. I once was a vegetarian. It  was a little weird to be a vegetarian in a small Oklahoma town, but my best friend had been a vegetarian all of his life and in high school, I started questioning all sorts of things. I thought I should start being more conscious of what I ate. I decided that if I couldn’t bring myself to kill animals, then I shouldn’t eat them. Simple. I didn’t care what others did, although it always seemed to make people feel uncomfortable to eat meat in front of me. What was so hilarious – or maybe not – my dad never could remember this decision, so anytime I came home to visit, he’d always try to feed me meat. Thanksgiving was always fun. i ate a lot of green beans and mashed potatoes. I also ate a lot of cheese, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches at family cookouts – everything but the hamburger. Then when I was pregnant with my second child, I started craving chicken wings – seriously craving them. I gave in and sated my palate’s desires. It all went downhill from there, although it was still about ten more years before I ate red meat.

That’s enough about me. To wrap things up, I had a hard time finding favorite blogs that hadn’t already received this award, so again, I’m only choosing these fab five for the Versatile Blogger Award: Becca Weston of Peculiar Light, Lisa the Word Nerd, Stephanie Carmichael of Misprinted Pages, Jo Hart of The Graceful Doe, and Leila Gaskin of Write Am I.

I thought I’d leave you with a catchy pop song from the eighties to reflect my mood. This song always reminds me of my best friend, David, whom I would nominate a thousand times over, if only he had a blog. Once this song gets into your brain, you have to extract it with lasers. Love the awful eighties styles in this video, and you’d think a song about sunshine wouldn’t be shot on a chilly, overcast England day, but maybe they were trying to be ironic.

Have a Sunshiny day filled with Versatility!

There are no words for the sad news of losing Maurice Sendak who died today, except that deep inside, my childhood is weeping.

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