Book Review – Wintergirls

bc-wintergirlsI love Laurie Halse Anderson. She is a fearless author who writes emotion so beautifully. I first read her novel SPEAK years ago and I still can’t get that book out of my head. I heard Anderson speak for the first time last summer at the SCBWI LA conference and got to tell her how awesome she was in person. Her keynote speech was one of the best of the conference and I was so inspired by her, I can’t even tell you. On top of that, she writes this story like she herself suffered through anorexia and had the words of a poet to make the reader know exactly what it feels like to be at war with your own body and to not be able to see yourself as you truly are. She has woven eating disorder pathology and effortless character voice masterfully into a story you just can’t put down.

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.

“Tell us your secrets,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.

I am that girl.

I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.

I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia’s mother is busy saving other people’s lives. Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way – thin, thinner, thinnest – maybe she’ll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl’s chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

In her books like SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS, Anderson writes about scary topics and has her characters say out loud things that teens are thinking way down deep inside. She gives voice to the nightmares and the rages we may all have experienced and then helps her characters (and readers) see a way through to the other side. I could keep fangirling like mad or just let her words speak for themselves. Here’s a passage from the very beginning of WINTERGIRLS, on the morning Lia learns her former best friend is dead  – body found in a motel room, alone:

...When I was a real girl, with two parents and one house and no blades flashing, breakfast was granola topped with fresh strawberries, always eaten while reading a book propped up on the fruit bowl. At Cassie’s house we’d eat waffles with thin syrup that came from maple trees, not the fake corn syrup stuff, and we’d read the funny pages…

No. I can’t go there. I won’t think. I won’t look.

I won’t pollute my insides with Bluberridazzlepops or muffins or scritchscratchy shards of toast, either. Yesterday’s dirt and mistakes have moved through me. I am shiny and pink inside, clean. Empty is good. Empty is strong.

But I have to drive.

…I drove last year, windows down, music cranked, first Saturday in October, flying to the SATs. I drove so Cassie could put the top coat on her nails. We were secret sisters with a plan for world domination, potential bubbling around us like champagne. Cassie laughed.I laughed. We were perfection.

Did I eat breakfast? Of course not. Did I eat dinner the night before, or lunch, or anything?

The car in front of us braked as the traffic light turned yellow, then red. My flip-flop hovered above the pedal. My edges blurred. Black squiggle tingles curled up my spine and wrapped around my eyes like a silk scarf. The car in front of us disappeared. The steering wheel, the dashboard, vanished. There was no Cassie, no traffic light. How was I supposed to stop this thing?

Cassie screamed in slow motion.

::Marshmallow/air/explosion/bag::

When I woke up, the emt-person and a cop were frowning. The driver whose car I smashed into was screaming into his cell phone.

My blood pressure was that of a cold snake. My heart was tired. My lungs wanted a nap. They stuck me with a needle, inflated me like a state-fair balloon, and shipped me off to a hospital with steel-eyed nurses who wrote down every bad number, In pen. Busted me.

Mom and Dad rushed in, side by side for a change, happy that I was not dead. A nurse handed my chart to my mother. She read through it and explained the disaster to my father and then they fought, a mudslide of an argument that spewed across the antiseptic sheets and out into the hall. I was stressed/overscheduled/manic/no-depressed/no-in need of attention/no-in need of discipline/in need of rest/in need/your fault/your fault/fault/fault. They branded their war on this tiny skin-bag of a girl.

Phone calls were made. My parents force-marched me into hell on the hill New Seasons…

Cassie escaped, as usual. Not a scratch. Insurance more than covered the damage, so she wound up with a fixed car and new speakers. Our mothers had a little talk, but really all girls go through these things and what are you going to do? Cassie rescheduled for the next test and got her nails done at a salon, Enchanted Blue, while they locked me up and dripped sugar water into my empty veins…

Lesson learned. Driving requires fuel.

This is such a phenomenal and important book. It will move you; it will change you.

Learn more about Laurie Halse Anderson here.

Follow Laurie on Twitter here.

Follow Laurie on Tumblr here.

Why You Should Support Laurie Halse Anderson and her #Speak4RAINN Campaign

April is a popular month for causes. Maybe it’s because spring time brings a sense of hope with it, a renewed sense of purpose for those of us who spend the dark days of winter hibernating in our pajamas, feeling empty of all inspiration and will to live, like a used tube of toothpaste squeezed dry. The warmer, sunny days of spring fuel our ambitious natures once again and we remember that life is good.

Or maybe it’s just me and I’m part bear.

bc-speakHere we are with another cause that is close to my heart. So close to me in fact that I wrote a book about the subject – my current YA manuscript that’s out with agents now, Institutionalized; I’m not Crazy – but I digress.

This month is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote a fantastic book about it, too. Since hers has already been published and since she has put her voice and extraordinary talents behind a campaign to help survivors of abuse, we should talk about her. I first read her book, Speak, about five years ago. What an emotionally gut-wrenching little tome that was.

Here’s an introduction to the plot:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

What the summary doesn’t tell you is that Melinda is unable to tell her friends why she called the cops. She cannot verbalize what happened to her. She then decides it’s safer to stop talking altogether to keep her world from completely falling apart. She instead begins to express herself through her art projects and diary entries. We as the readers can only watch her suffering from afar and wish that someone else knew her pain and was able to help her.

It’s a poignant and beautifully told story that every young woman (and dare I say it, even every young man) should read. And every parent should encourage a dialogue with their child about this subject so that they know that they don’t have to accept any unwanted violation of their own bodies and that they can report it and their parents will support them.

To learn more about RAINN (the Rape Abuse Incest National Network), visit their website here.

Laurie Halse Anderson is running a fund-raising campaign for this organization right now through April 29th, and her publisher Macmillan will match any donation up to a total of $10,000. You can’t beat that. I made a donation and you can, too. Even $10 will help someone through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-HOPE. To support Laurie’s #Speak 4RAINN campaign, follow this link here. You can follow the discussion about the campaign on Twitter at the hashtag, #Speak4RAINN.

I hope you’ll join us and speak up for those who can’t find their voice.

Learn more about Laurie Halse Anderson here.

Follow Laurie on Twitter here.

Happy Autism Awareness Month! Or for me, this is my life, every day…

I was down with a pretty nasty migraine, yesterday, so I missed World Autism Awareness Day and Light it Up Blue, but that’s okay.  In my more RSR2013logocolorlucid moments, I was with you all in spirit. I appreciate all of my friends who spoke out for me. And I have the rest of the month to make up for it, since April is Autism Awareness month. Our whole family will be running/walking to support our local autism center, The Autism Center of Tulsa in their big fund-raiser, the 7th annual Ready…Set…Run! 5K and Fun Run on April 27th.

We always turn this into a major event and get very creative with our team names. We love that our team has grown bigger every year, too! Last year, we were The Companions of Trevor (my son’s name) with a Dr. Who theme – complete with customized t-shirts for team members! This year, we’re going with a Walking Dead theme. Trevor has a favorite stuffed elephant named Fred, so we’re calling ourselves Trevor and the Walking Freds. Not too bad, eh? We’re inviting friends and family to come “zombie out” and be Walkers with us to help us raise money for a very worthy cause. If you feel like joining us or donating to our team, click here.

Some pics from last year’s walk:

Companions of Trevor 1Companions of Trevor 2Companions of Trevor 3Companions of Trevor 4

I’ve been told recently that I don’t talk much about what life is like with my son. I think sometimes it’s because I find it hard to explain what life with Trevor is like. I usually start by giving some lame generic definition of autism, explaining that it is a neurological disorder that affects 1 in 88 children, with deficits in social and communication skills, like that tells you anything about him. I guess I’m too close to it; autism has become so ingrained in my life that I can’t separate it. The adaptations I’ve made have become automatic. It affects every facet of my life – every decision I make, I have to think about how it will affect my son and his schedule. It’s like separating out your entire nervous system and explaining what it means to your body.

My son is a senior in high school this year. He still watches Sesame Street and The Wonder Pets. He reads at a third grade level. He needs supervision to do his daily chores and to complete activities of daily living. He has difficulty expressing his basic needs, especially when he’s angry, so he may become physically aggressive when frustrated. He can become fixated on one thought and ask you the same question over and over all day long. It can be exhausting just getting through a typical day, let alone a bad day. He is also very loving and caring. He hates to see anyone upset – even strangers, and especially babies. He doesn’t like it when anyone of us in the family are sad and always tries to cheer us up. I must get at least twenty hugs a day – not many mothers of teenagers can say the same.

There will be no going off to college next year for him. Instead, he will be working with some fantastic job coaches at A New Leaf and living at home. We will continue to help him to be as independent as possible. I know my son has a very different path set in front of him than his neurotypical peers and a very different time line for meeting certain goals – some goals may even be out of reach. But we won’t know unless we try. He has surprised us more than once on what he can do.

I love my friends to death, but sometimes all of their good news about their children’s bright futures is hard to stomach, especially when I’m just happy my son’s starting to socialize better and is no longer being combative with the school staff. My husband and I try to keep our perspective on him alone, his own personal timeline, but then there are those pivotal moments that sneak up on you – a child your child’s age does something that you know your child will never do. It can’t help but break your heart. We are human and we are allowed those moments of grief as much as we are allowed to find joy in those other moments when our children do something that for them is extraordinary that other parents would find mundane. There is a balance in there somewhere, we just have to find it.

It is very easy to feel overwhelmed and depressed about our son’s future, but he is happy, so to me, that is just wasted energy. Besides, my son has helped me appreciate life in a very unique way and I’m much more patient now than I ever thought I could be. If that’s not a clear picture of autism, maybe that’s helped you become more aware. For more information on all things autism-related, check out these helpful websites: Autism Speaks and Autism Society of America.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Stops By

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Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you’ll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to fellow author, Michelle Pierce, for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following links to learn more about her at The Barenaked Critic.

In this blog hop, my fellow authors and I, in our respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our current book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write–the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

Institutionalized: I’m not Crazy

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

While in college, I worked as a mental health tech with adolescents at a psychiatric treatment center. Once there was this young girl who came in, very calm and poised, from a local small town where her father was an important business man. She claimed from day one that she didn’t need to be there – that there was nothing wrong with her. Well, she seemed so sincere and she wasn’t violent or defiant with her peers or any of the staff; nothing on the surface pointed to her needing to be there. It really made some of us wonder if maybe she was telling the truth…at least for the first few days. Then the honeymoon was over. It still got me thinking about what it would be like for someone to be locked up inside who didn’t need to be there. Apparently that thought stuck with me.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Contemporary Young Adult

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

Ugh! This is always such a difficult thing for me to even wrap my head around. I ‘d have to lean toward Jennifer Lawrence playing the main Winters Bonecharacter, Sara, but not so much for her role in the Hunger Game – although she looks more the part in that one, physically. I thought she was great in that, don’t get me wrong, but she was just stunning and raw in Winter’s Bone.

I don’t even want to talk about what a mortifying thing it was trying to do a search for images of a male lead to play Matt, the love interest – yes, there can be love in the psych ward. Every option I even considered, when I’d look closer at them, I’d say, “Geez, he’s so much older than I thought” – don’t know what that says about me or our culture, not in the mood to tackle it. I decided to settle on a more busted version of Zac Effron, one who’s lived a little more, had life beat him up a bit. He’s just too damn…I don’t know, Disney?

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

Sara Peterson, a 16 year-old girl admitted to Whispering Sands under false pretenses, has to navigate the unfamiliar and often violent world of true deviants and sociopaths by pretending to be one so she can get back home in time to save her sister from the real psycho in the family.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I hope to have my book represented by an agency. It is currently with an agent who requested the full manuscript at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference last August.

*fingers crossed*

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

It took about a year and a half to get a complete draft, although the book was mostly finished long before that. I just couldn’t stop editing as I went along. From the very beginning idea – to writing those first ten pages to this last revision – it’s been about three years.

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

There are some great books set within an institutional setting that I would recommend, although mine obviously has that different slant with the sane person trapped inside. (I won’t mention the ones that got things so wrong they were laughable.) 

Funny StoryI enjoyed It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. His book is about Craig, a high-school junior in the gifted program whose infatuated with his best friend’s girl. When he realizes he’s suicidal, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital, thinking they’ll do an observation, help him, and send him home in time for school the next day. Once in, however, he must stay for a week; the juvenile ward is being renovated, so he’s in with adults as well as a few youths. (Plot summary from IMDb.) Vizzini gives Craig a much calmer, less violent experience when he lets him stay on the adult unit, but his inner struggles and pain experienced in the book are no less complicated.impulseCvr

Another great book is Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. Impulse is about is the story of three young people whose lives intersect in a psych hospital, after separate attempted suicides. It is about the things that brought them there, but more about the bond that forms between them. (summary from author’s website.) Hopkins always has such a great connection with characters and emotion. I love her. I also think that you must read her books in hardcopy. The way her poems are laid out add to her work and it just doesn’t translate well in electronic form.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have some very personal reasons for writing this story. It really had to be told. Seriously. The main character actually started shouting in my head – interrupting a perfectly good story I was already working on – demanding that I start telling her story instead.

So I did.

There were so many girls who came through the doors of the treatment center that broke my heart and toughened my skin to what this world sometimes holds for us, even for the young. I’ve thought about many of them over the years and hoped they made it through okay, although the odds were not in their favor.

And though this story is NOT about any of them directly, it was definitely inspired by many of them and by others closer to me.

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

Maybe a sample of the first few pages? These are new and no one except my family – not even my critique group – has seen them. 

CAUTION: There is some strong language – this is a young adult excerpt, after all.

Before

“I am so going to that dance! Could Dad be any more controlling?” I stormed into my sister’s room. She had better lighting and a bigger closet to raid. I headed into its depths to hunt down the most rebellious dress I could find.

“C’mon, Sara, do you have to do this?” Sam’s voice came muffled and weak from behind. “You know he’s going to be pissed.”

I popped my head out and smiled. “Only if he finds out and you’re going to cover for me.”

“Uhhh…”

“It’ll be easy.” I flipped through the hangers; all of the colors smashed together, everything smelling like Sam’s vanilla body spray. “You just tell him I’ve gone to bed early, pouting and not talking to him because he’s such an asshole –.”

“Sara!”

“Okay, you don’t have to tell him those exact words. You always know what to say to him. He listens to you. Me, not so much.” I held up a red, low cut dress. Sam shook her head.

“That would fall right off you and it’s the wrong color,” she said.

“Ouch.” I tossed the dress at her and dove back into the closet. “Wrong color”. I muttered under my breath wiped sweat off my upper lip. Like Sam ever had to worry about anything being the wrong color or falling off her perfect form. Sometimes it was hard being the lanky, athletic one. I dug deeper, passing the long-sleeved conservative numbers. Sam had to have something that would fit me and make me look just a bit dangerous. This was my one night of breaking the rules; I wanted to go all the way.

“Maybe…maybe you shouldn’t go,” Sam said. She was standing right behind me in the closet, rubbing her arms like it was cold. “Do you even know this Dylan kid?”

 “Ha! You sound just like Dad. Wait …you didn’t say anything –.”

“I-I didn’t. It’s just…”

“Jesus, Sam. You’re always telling me to be strong, independent, to stand up for myself – to everyone but Dad.”

“You know how he is – very stubborn, like someone else I know.” Sam handed me a delicate lavender dress with fluffy toile, not dangerous, but pretty. “Try this one.”

“Umm, thanks.”

 “Hey, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something.” Sam was sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Yeah?” I stood in front of her full-length mirror, holding up the dress. I hated to say it, but it looked really nice. I twisted and piled my wavy black hair on my head with my free hand, imagining it an up-do sculpture of fabulousness and not it’s usual tangled mess. “Hand me some bobby pins.” I reached my hand out.

She tossed me some bobby pins and then sat back down. “I, uh…shit.” Her hands twisted in her lap.

“Jesus, it’s not about using condoms again, is it? I told you if you kept bringing that crap up – slipping them in my purse, demoing proper use on the bananas, can’t eat them for breakfast without laughing, thanks! – I was going to become a lesbian.”

 “Shut up!” Sam threw several pillows at me, laughing.

I tossed the dress aside and retaliated. Then dismissed the fluffy pillows in favor of my favorite Sam torture and grabbed her just above the knee – the most ticklish spot.

“Damn it, Sara, quit!” Man, could she buck and fight when she wanted to. Elbow to the jaw, pow! I shook my head.

“Who’s the strongest?” I grabbed for her knee again.

“Oh, my God, you are Miss Psychopath, now get off!” Sam went limp.

Victory.

“Ugh, it’s freakin hot.” I turned on her ceiling fan and flopped down on the bed next to Sam. Sweat ran down through my hairline and into my eyebrows. I’d have to take another shower before the dance. “Here, let me share.” I ran my hand across my forehead and then wiped the sweat on Sam’s leg.

“Gah! You’re so nasty.” She threw her arm over me and squished me into a Sam hug. I missed this closeness. No one ever hugged me when she was gone, forget snuggling. Sam nudged my shoulder.

“Just…take care of yourself when I’m at school, okay?”

So there you have it! Half of the first chapter of Institutionalized: I’m not Crazy.

Let me know what you think! And be sure to visit my fellow blog hoppers next week.

And now to pass on the gauntlet.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me virtually, via blog, next Wednesday. Please be sure to bookmark their sites, and add them to your calendars for updates on their upcoming books!

Happy Writing and Reading!

Stephanie Theban is one of my fantastic critique partners and she has a lovely blog at stories. read em. write em.

William Sells is a brand new writer friend who has a blog on his Goodreads author page.

And a late addition to the blog hop, but no less important, the ever fantastic Ms Cricket Muse! Please make sure you check out her site as well.

I can’t wait to see what these fantastic folks have to share with us next week.

With a Little Help from my Friends (It’s Getting Better)

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.

How Bad Am I Sucking at Keeping Up with My Goals? (a #writemotivation weekly check-in)

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?

May is here and #writemotivation is back – I gotta have goals to score.

♫♪ You gotta have gooooaaals! ♪♫

Okay, I don’t sing well in front of others, so I should stop now. I don’t know about you, but I do better when I set writing goals, especially goals with deadlines, and tell others about them. Otherwise I can’t be trusted. It’s like asking me to give up eating chocolate and then leaving me unsupervised with a bag of peanut M&Ms. I’d find myself in the nearest broom closet scarfing down half the bag as soon as everyone’s back was turned. Besides, that’s a terrible goal. Who can live without chocolate?

K.T. Hanna is once again calling on us to shout out our goals for all to hear and then support our fellow #writemotivation participants as we valiantly leap forward and work our butts off to reach our May goals. Feel free to join in on our twitter chat at #writemotivation as we cheer each other on in our successes and help each other get through the harder times.

Here are the goals I hope to achieve this month:

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

2. Research prospective agents to whom I want to submit my completed YA manuscript.

3. Once items one and two have been successfully achieved, submit to at least three agents at a time.

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.

I should add that I will need to keep my pantry stocked with emergency stress-reducing aids to make it through this process. Chocolate is the number one survival aid and wine has also been recently suggested, although with my tendency to get migraines, I think a collection of fine beers will have to substitute.  Are there any other stress-reducing suggestions out there? Let me hear them. This is going to be a long month.

#writemotiovation check in – where did spring break go? or how do you entertain the caged teenager?

Somehow I thought I’d already posted this. I blame the chaotic air of spring break on my scatterbrainedness.

Life can sometimes be unfair for our two children – not only because the lottery draw of life gave them to me and my equally insane husband. No, this week, when they finally got a chance to take a break from school, recharge their batteries, enjoy the lives of sloths and do what they pleased, Mother Nature threw them a curveball; four days of torrential downpours and gloomy, depressing skies. One can only watch so much crappy TV and soak up so much  Twitter and Facebook feeds – with breaks for reading one’s favorite books, of course! – before one’s brain goes numb. Two teens cooped up with only their mother for company? UGH!  And then the unpredictable spurts of energy and hormonal surges can make captivity even more unbearable. Inevitably every few minutes one of them would come pester me – during prime writing time – for something to do. Hard to concentrate under those conditions. Eventually I threw them outside in the rain and let them jump on the trampoline to exorcise their inner teen demons – who cares if they get soaked and the trampoline cuts trenches in the lawn if I can have a few moments of quiet? They came back in shivering and sated, if not just a little bit calmer. There were other moments of pure insanity brought on by the cabin fever that I cannot even mention as my daughter would die of embarrassment if I revealed them.

When I escaped in the middle of the week for my critique group, I pointed at my kids and said to my husband, “You’ve got to do something with them before they blow a gasket. Good luck.” Then I bolted. Hey, sometimes, it’s survival of the fittest, even in the family group. I knew my husband was strong enough, besides, he’d escaped most of the week at work. He’d been around other fairly normal adults and had somewhat intelligent conversations. I NEEDED TO GET OUT, DO YOU HEAR ME?  In the end, he had a brilliant idea of turning the house into a thumping rave party. He wore the kids out by cranking up the stereo and making everyone dance till they dropped. I’m sure the neighbors loved it. Everyone was worn out when I returned, so that’s all that mattered.

Today, all that’s left in our pantry are the last bits of granola bars, aging blueberries, some leftover stir-fry, and the rest of the (eeew!) healthy snacks – everything else was scarfed up days ago; no one wanted to venture out for more provisions. The dogs are getting wary of us. Finally, this morning the rain has stopped, the sun blinding our weak eyes. We are preparing to leave this place that has become too cramped and go anywhere else but here. Just in time. I think we might survive.

Under these conditions, I did not make as much progress toward my goals as I had hoped. Next week should be much more productive, and much more peaceful.

Goals for March:

  • Complete my novel revision – Closing in on the halfway mark at page 149 out of 325. Really need to pick up the pace in the final week! 
  • Post two blog entries each week – Goal met! At least one out of three still made, not ideal, but I’ll take it.
  • Update my journal project and keep it current – Not even close. No progress made on this goal at all. Notes in my head don’t count.

How are you doing on your writing goals?