Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #10 - How to Write a Query Letter

Made you look. I don't actually know how to write a successful query letter. If I did, I'd have an agent and be one rung up from where I am. BUT I do need to figure out how to write a query letter - I have 10 days to write a good one -  I figured we could learn together.

As to why I have 10 days to write one, that's because I'm a coward. Last year when I went to the Pennwriter's conference, I didn't do any agent pitches or anything where I was compelled to speak to humans. This year, I'm trying to do a little better. I signed up for networking lunches, cocktails, crits etc. But as for pitching to a flesh and blood agent, I quailed, dear reader. I chose the one agent who was doing a crit of a query letter and the first 10 pages of ms. instead of a pitch. I'm a slowly recovering coward.

At the bottom of this post are a bunch of links to resources for query letters. There's a ton out there, which is the good news. The bad news is that each query letter is so individual, so much a mix of a business letter and a personal plea that there's no formulaic way to write one* You have to craft the bugger.

First you have to figure out what the thing wot you wrote is about. Good luck with that. It's not always as easy as you think it is, and it's not always what you thought you were writing. To get myself to the nugget of what BookEnd is about, I snowflaked it. This is a method that you can use to outline your story before you write, or to get to the essentials of what your story is afterwards. I found it really useful after the fact, but not that useful before writing. Your results will vary, obviously.

Secondly, I've decided to leave the 'personalizing' part of the query letter last. Not that this isn't important. I understand that you need to have done research on the agent you are sending the query to, that you have to know why you are querying them and not every other agent on Robo-querying is not the way to go. But I want to concentrate on the message of my query, since a query is essentially a pitch written down.

So, here's my first go - please please please throw me some suggestions, I need all the help I can get. I know that the letter should probably be longer. What more should I tell about the story?

The bold type is what I've changed, the rest is TK.

Dear [Agent name],
I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

Finial Smith is a teenager living in world where book characters, called QRs (Quasi-Reals), come to die or be recycled. But then Fin meets Anne, a QR who is more alive and real than anyone he's ever met. Now Fin has to decide to stand with his family and let Anne be destroyed, or to endanger everyone he loves to save her.  Knowing Anne will forever change how Fin sees his world and teach him what it means to be Real. 

BookEnd is a 70,000 word Young Adult novel. This is my first novel. 
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Best wishes,

*Well, of course there is a formula. You can find one from Nathan Bransford here. But when you're done with it, it shouldn't feel formulaic.

Query Letter Writing Resources
Agent Query
Nathan Bransford
Query Shark - sometimes brutal but always effective advice by example - what works and what doesn't. check out her 'wins'
Writer's Digest
Pub Rants - Agent Kristin has a list of her client's queries that have (obviously) worked for her - and more importantly, how they worked.
Pimp My Novel also has an interesting (non agent) take on queries

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday! 3.30.11

Mixed bag of linkage today, friends:

Big Bad (and not so bad) Agents
I'm going to my first three day conference in a month so I'm trying to gather advice for conference season - here's a piece on the Philly Liar's Club site on how to pitch an agent at a conference.

And from agent Vickie Motter more tips on 'speed dating' an agent.

Continuing on the agent theme, GalleyCat has a listing of the best agents on twitter.

Carolina Valdez-Miller has a cool contest to go along with the cool news that she got herself an agent - YEE-HA!

I know I mentioned this yesterday, but it's such a cool idea, looking at the first 101 words of your WIP closely. Hop over to Lesser Apricots and submit your first 101 for the chance to win a one page critique and lots of other goodies.

And under the topic of Authors Doing (sometimes strange) Things When Not Writing:

Laura Miller over at Salon ponders what would have become of reclusive authors of yore if they'd been compelled to do the kind of 'author platform building' and self-selling that is expected these days. As it is it's a miracle Edgar Allen Poe got published, but if he'd had to show up, sober and social, to a book signing? Nevermore.

As Nick the Stripper says, Flame ON! A tweet from Neil Gaiman shared a link to BigAl's Books and Pals and entreated all to NOT DO THIS. 'This' turned out to be a flaming war between reviewer, commenters and an author of several e-books. Salon rounds up and 'splains the shenanigans.

John Le Carre has turned down being nominated for the Man Booker International prize. Why? He doesn't compete for literary awards. Does he, perhaps, compete while playing darts or while Morris Dancing? Is this a fickle muse thing? What do you think about authors who take themselves out of the running for awards?

Lastly, but not leastly, there's an experiment on twitter. I call it an experiment because I can't figure out how it would work, but more power to them. It's a murder mystery on the Twitter. I will try to figure it out and follow. Starts tonight at 7pm EST and goes on for 3 hours.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The First 101 Words

Perri at Lesser Apricots has a neat contest for readers of her blog to celebrate her 101 follower (which, in the days since that post, she's surpassed). It's a simple contest - just post the first 101 words of your WIP and she'll randomly pick a winner by April 12. The prizes include lots of lovely yarn, and a one page critique and some other goodies. I'm all for contests, especially small, intimate ones like this that are really a 'getting to know you' community builder. Go check out the contest and the blog.

While getting my 101 words ready, something unexpected happen. I'm on word 69,000 or so of my WIP - so close to the end that I've written about being on the road to Damascus before - I can see the finish line but I can't get there. Going back to the very first 101 words was illuminating. 

First I selected word count from tools (this is on MS Word) and figured out what 101 words looked like. It came out to a short paragraph. I looked at the paragraph hard, squinting at it, even. I found lazy words in there - words that were just standing around doing nothing. Then I found words that were confused - that I'd meant to be doing one thing, but were actually doing something different. There were even a few words that didn't make sense, like those clean cut crazies on the subway that look fine until you realize they're mumbling the black mass under their breath.

All these words came out. A very few words came back in. the process didn't take too long, it wasn't about agonizing about each word. It was just tightening up, making the words as aerodynamic and as serviceable as they could be. I'm proud of the results, that was the unexpected part. Just revising this concentrated small bit of my WIP made me feel positive, eager to get back in the fray. Revision is a terrible, terrible thing. But it can be beautiful.

So, if you are interested,read the first 101 words of BookEnd after the jump.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Genre a Dirty Word?

I've got something to say about the much maligned term 'genre'. Stephen King has talked about it. Michael Chabon has talked about it, and dollars to donuts they are both smarter than me. What I want to add is my personal story about how I stopped worrying and learned to love genre.

My parents are immigrants so the whole concept of Advanced Placement in High School was foreign (pun intended) to them. If they'd cottoned on to the fact that I could get college credit (as in $$ they didn't have to fork out) by attending harder classes in high school, they would have marched me in to those cauldrons of geek tout de suite.

But instead, I geeked myself out and, especially in English Literature and Art, put myself in AP. I loved it and it opened my mind to works of literature I wouldn't have found on my own. I still remember reading Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and my mouth dropping open because I felt just like Stephen Dedalus. But AP also set the bar too high for me, making me suddenly ashamed of reading anything that wasn't high art.

The summer of Junior year I sat in summer school after failing religion (at an all girl's catholic school - idiot!) and tried to read and understand The Stranger. My teacher commented on how advanced my reading choices were and I  was smugly pleased. I mean, come on! I was in summer school for failing religion. I was reading Camus. How cool was I?

Not that cool at all. If you'd gone into  my army supply store satchel (the one with the Joy Division pins all over it) and dug around the debris and the black nail polish, you would have found the forbidden library books. Mostly by Jude Deveraux, but maybe a Catherine Coulter or Laura Kinsale thrown in there. The Stranger I was reading because I had to prove to myself I could. The romance novels I was reading because I wanted too.

I learned all about the taboo of being a smart girl and reading genre books pretty damn early in life. I knew that being caught reading some things would make me a laughing stock but being caught reading other things would make me look intelligent, interesting. Ugh. Politicized reading sucks. I would tuck romance, horror, fantasy and comic books within the pages of some worthy tome as I rode the Path train to college at School of Visual Arts, like it was my version of a tatty Playboy. I wouldn't let friends into my car if an offending genre title was going to be visible. I had a  reading double life.

Eventually I stopped caring. I started reading what I wanted to read, which is what I've been doing in the last ten years or so since I've gravitated to Young Adult. Now, this trend started with the Harry Potter books (though I never outgrew Narnia, and never will) and kept going with His Dark Materials and the Garth Nix Abhorsen and Keys to the Kingdom books. I like fantasy, and I like adventure stories. For some reasons, it's always the Young Adults who are having adventures (and when I say adventure stories, I don't mean finding love. Different kind of adventure.)

I'd been reading YA for years and had already written an (adult) novel when, this past November, I started writing a book for NaNoWriMo. It was about a boy. A teenager. It never occurred to me that this was a YA book, until it was half way finished. So I started poking around the YA communities online, looking to educate myself. And there it was again. Shame and scandal if an adult reads a YA book. And some YA books are more loaded down with scorn and judgement than others - I'm looking at you, Team Edward.

There's an interesting piece on YA Book Shelf about the Devaluation of the YA Genre. I don't know why I was surprised to see that this existed. I hadn't experienced it in so long. There's a lovely benefit of getting past your 20's (and most of your 30's) -  shame over stupid things is harder to muster. Still, I guess I thought that with 'literary' writer's coming out on the side of genre that this kind of squabbly nonsense was mostly over. But no.

So, what do you think? Is there a genuine quality divide between genre and literary work? Is there such a thing as high and low art? Or is there just good and bad writing? I know what I think, but I'd love to hear what you think, especially a (non sneering) opposing view. Is YA (or any genre) somehow substandard by definition?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Because You're Good at It, Doesn't Mean You Should Do It.

I planned an executed a detailed fairy treasure hunt (there were keys, poems and double clues involved.) I made tea sandwiches and cupcakes, I made mini pizzas. I made 'fairy fizz'; I decorated with light up lanterns and I coordinated table cloth, napkins and shell pink cutlery. I bought fairy themed movies and I made up a playlist of fairy-inspired music, burned them onto discs, had my husband design CD covers (including tray card) and inserted that into an already bulging gift bag.

Yes, my seven year old's friends got swag.

I don't have to do it. I'm not sure my daughter's birthday wouldn't have been just as enjoyable if I'd gone the dreaded Chuck E Cheese route. But I'm an event planner and I'm good at it. What's more, when I do it, I usually get paid for it, today being the exception unless you count sticky kisses.

This was a major stumbling block to trying to create a sustainable writing life. I already had a sustainable life, thank you very much. It was sustaining my ass in new shoes, vacations and grocery shopping at Whole Foods, for chrissakes. It was so daunting giving up something I was good at and had proof that I was good at (years of promotions, experience, cute business cards) for something that I didn't know if I'd be good at. And, worse, I didn't know if I'd ever find out if I was good at it.

When I was a kid it confused me that I was good at more than one thing. The phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" was drilled into my head at an early age. So I knew that, even when I was a good dancer, a good artist, good at singing, good at acting that I could only pick one to master. At the time, mastering something seemed very important. Having a 'calling' was big in our house, having a (singular) talent. I was Art and my Sister was science and everything else was just a hobby. So I went to art school, then art grad school, then got a job as a tea lady, I was so effing confused. I didn't know that just because I was good at something didn't mean that wasn't necessarily what I should do. I didn't know that the 'Jack of all trades master of none' saying is essentially bullshit and that people, all people, have tremendous, nearly ridiculous capacity for achievement.

I do know that now, kind of. I know it in my head. I'm just trying to learn it in my... Jeez. I don't want to say heart, it's so corny. You know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday! 3.23.11

I was trying to figure out, yet again, what to call this wednesday segment of links and the phrase 'Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp' popped into my head. I never watched it but my friend Joyce would always bring it up in high school during lunch. That was a time in my life when my brain was very sticky and I'd pretty much remember anything. So, for that reason, Lancelot Link Secret Chimp is taking up valuable, ever dwindling space in my head. And now, I bequeath it to you.

First, he pisses Oprah off, now James Frey's going to bring down the wrath of God. Jesus wept!

I think this is a cool idea, I just wish I'd heard of it on March first instead of a week before it ends. I need NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month), I just don't think I can squeeze any editing into a week. But maybe you can? Good luck!

Finally, Laura Miller over on Salon talks about the new Bradley Cooper movie Limitless and how it relates to concepts of writer's block and the creative impulse. This is good because it makes the movie seem less stupid and fluffy, though it undoubtably is. When I take myself over to the Regal Cinema to see it, I will be telling myself I'm watching for contemporary portrayals of writer's in Hollywood. Or, wow, Bradley Cooper looks like a younger Ralph Fiennes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Muse and the Wall

I've been trying to do more than write in the last year and a half since I moved away from NYC, away from board meetings, away from Pret A Manger. I've been trying to build for myself a sustainable writing life. I don't want this to be a flash in the pan. I don't want you or my mother or my neighbor to check in here a year from now to find that I've taken up pig farming or pottery. I'm not starting a hobby, I tell myself, I'm building a life.

There are countless pros and cons to the writing life and you see mention of them everywhere, especially the cons. They range from lack of funds to working so hard at building an author platform that writing time dwindles.

But for me there's only one pro and one con to actual writing. The Muse and the Wall.

The Muse
In 1996 Nick Cave sent a letter to MTV Europe, thanking them for nominating him for an award, but basically telling them to withdraw his nomination. Why? He thought that participating in competative awards could offend his muse ("She might spook!")

I don't think he's being funny, though he's a strange lad, it's always hard to tell. I think he sincerely believes in his muse and is not taking any chances. I don't believe in muses per se, the grecian goddesses who bestow inspiration onto artists of all kinds. But I guess that's as good a term as any for what I sometimes experience. I call it being poleaxed because I stiffen up, I feel frozen for a second or two. An idea suddenly appears and starts to unroll in my head. It feels like it comes from somewhere else because it arrives so entirely where nothing was there before. Not all creative ideas are like this, but the ones that are make time seem to slow. It's a physical sensation too, a numbness that travels down my arms to my finger tips.

You can explain this as creative intuition, the subconscious breaking through to the conscious, but it feels a hell of a lot like divine intervention. When this happens to me, I feel amazing, excited and transported. This feeling is the best thing about being creative, about writing, regardless of what I make of that first seed of an idea. I keep writing because of that feeling.

The Wall
Okay, I'm cheating a little. There are two, different walls. The first is the wall you stumble into while you're writing, the one that wasn't there a minute ago and suddenly is there. It's too tall to scale and it goes on, left and right, forever. It's writer's block. Usually I can feel somewhat positive about the wall because I can look at it as a challenge. But sometimes it truly feels insurmountable and I'm cast into deep doldrums. I hate that feeling because even though recent history shows that I can get through it, it always threatens to derail me. I'm afraid, one day, the derailment will be permanent.

The other wall is really a curtain. See, I'm backstage with the pulleys, the wires, the trap doors and the grease paint. And everyone else is in the audience. Whether the audience likes my words or not doesn't matter, they get to experience them in a way I never can. Francine Prose talks about this in her excellent book Reading Like a Writer. I'm always at a distance from my writing, I'll never discover it like a reader will. That makes me a little sad and a little crazy. Lots of writers say they want to write the kind of books they want to read - but our own books are never really for us.

So, what one pro and one con of writing for you - what are they?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #9 - Follow the Sock

This is my mother's sock. The sock she left at my house when she visited a year ago from Uruguay. I don't sleep with the sock under my pillow, weeping that my mom isn't with me. No fear. I can't throw the sock away because it doesn't belong to me. But I never remember to mention the sock when I skype with my mom. So what does the sock do? It gets washed.

I have seen this sock do the laundry cycle for a year and I've just let it. I don't know I'm putting it into the wash over and over again, at least, I didn't until I started thinking about it. But when I found it in the wash again last night I did the math: No one has worn this sock for more than a year. I've seen this sock in the laundry basket several times. Ergo I'm just washing the sucker again and again because I don't know what else to do with it.

I started to think about how incredibly weird a mother's sock in the wash for a year is. It's pretty weird. It's the kind of detail, real and bizarre that is perfect for a story.

In my case, it represents crazed home life and an unattractive tendency to let things go (I mean, I washed it for a year...) But it could represent an unwillingness to let a loved one go, it could represent a sinister reminder of family dysfunction. It could be a humorous quirk of a character that makes space for inanimate objects instead of people, ala Lars and the Real Girl. A sock could be a red herring in a mystery. A sock is never just a sock for a writer.

What I'm saying is that you can turn around, pick up whatever happens to be behind you and have a lot to write about. Nothing is truly banal, nothing unimportant, nothing is beneath the writer's notice. You could build a story on a sock. You can certainly build a blog post.

Support Doctors Without Borders

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday! 3.16.11

Support Doctors Without Borders

A mixed bag of links today, mostly making no sense and being vaguely interesting. I'm not in the mood. With what's happening in Japan and in Libya all I've got in my head is a refrain of 'oh those poor people' over and over again. If, like in Wings of Desire, angels can be invisible and near people who are troubled, easing their pain, or if just by my thinking and hoping that things get better - but that's ridiculous, I know. I can only say, it can't hurt, right?

The guardian has an article on Angela Carter's lost poems - she's my favorite author and her lost grocery list scrawled on the back of an electricity bill would be of interest.

Monday (3/13) was International Pi Day
Also, NPR did a story about a math geek who wrote what's essentially a love song to Pi using, well Pi.

So, are ebooks the end of publishers as we know it? The EU suspects there might be something rotten in the state of Denmark.

Over at YA Highway, the writing commandment 'Write Every Day!' is debunked.

Finally, got to give a shout out to my comrade Laura for putting one of the funniest lego videos of Eddie Izzard I've ever seen on her blog. Death or Cake is truly awesome. Hop on to Laura's blog posting and check it out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Day After and the Day After That

Support Doctors Without Borders

I am as much of an ass as the next person, when it comes right down to it. I give to charity, but I spend money on countless doohickies that I don't need at the Target. I have more than one rain coat and enough shoes to outfit a centipede. I want to do good, but not too much, not so much that it's uncomfortable. I've heard the saying give until it hurts, and I talk a good game about charity to my six year old, but I'm average at best. I'm lazy.

I was eleven when the Day After mini-series, about life after nuclear war, came on TV but I wasn't allowed to watch it. I was shooed upstairs repeatedly until my parents, too engrossed in imagining the Russians at our doorstep, didn't hear my tread down the steps. I sat on the third step down from the top, so I had to crouch and look through the slats of the banister to see the TV. I don't know how long I watched for, but I only remember one scene. There's a woman and she's sitting in a chair. Maybe she's crying, I don't know, but she's wearing a white skirt. Suddenly, her skirt turns red, a blossom of blood leaking through her clothes. I ran upstairs and huddled in my bed, afraid and strangely ashamed.

What's happening in Japan now is horrific and what could happen is catastrophic, but from working in the non profit world, I know that disaster-fatigue is a real thing. People can't be horrified, shocked, saddened, appalled and galvanized into action over and over again. But that's what our world is demanding. Bad shit keeps on happening, to people just like us, no better no worse.

I need to remember that. I have to pull my head out of the apathetic hole it's lodged in - the equivalent to sticking my fingers in my ears - and do something.

We do that something with the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Whatever it is that you can do, do it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

TBR Challenge - REVIEW - Fool

I am listening to: Maurine by Say Hi To Your Mom.

"Here's the Cliff Notes you wished you'd had for King Lear—the mad royal, his devious daughters, rhyming ghosts and a castle full of hot intrigue—in a cheeky and ribald romp that both channels and chides the Bard and all Fate's bastards. It's 1288, and the king's fool, Pocket, and his dimwit apprentice, Drool, set out to clean up the mess Lear has made of his kingdom, his family and his fortune—only to discover the truth about their own heritage. There's more murder, mayhem, mistaken identities and scene changes than you can remember, but bestselling Moore (You Suck) turns things on their head with an edgy 21st-century perspective that makes the story line as sharp, surly and slick as a game of Grand Theft Auto. Moore confesses he borrows from at least a dozen of the Bard's plays for this buffet of tragedy, comedy and medieval porn action. It's a manic, masterly mix—winning, wild and something today's groundlings will applaud." From Publishers Weekly - Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
What's not to love about the majestic tragedy of King Lear with extra naughty bits thrown in? If you're a purist, stay away from Christopher Moore's anachronistic re-telling of Shakespear's King Lear. In fact, if you are a purist, stay away from any Christopher Moore book because the man is a mash-up artist. There are references wrapped up in references, jokes and one-liners that go by so quickly that you sometimes have to say, wait a minute, did he just say that Goneril likes to be spanked, or am I imagining it?
Moore's humor is earthy and loose and silly and very very funny. Along the lines of Douglas Adams or Terry Prachett, or Tom Robbins, highly absurd and irreverent. I first started reading Moore when I came across A Dirty Job, still my favorite book by him. And that's where my one complaint about Fool comes in. A Dirty Job had boobs and knobs and all sorts of blood and guts, but it had heart, something I thought was a little lacking in the story of Pocket, the court jester in Lear's disintegrating kingdom. There are glimpses of it, but ultimately, though a fun, witty romp, it left me a little - watch out kids, this is a literary term used in the high echelons of academia - meh.

Here's my system on reviewing, based on the old nursery rhyme about magpies:

One for sorrow (DON'T BOTHER)
Two for joy (NOT BAD, NOT GREAT)
Five for silver (BUY IT BUY IT BUY IT)

Fool - Three Magpies

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #8 - Conference Season

Today's tip is simple in the extreme: It's writing conference season. GO. Shaw's guide does a state by state listing of conferences. Promise yourself you'll go to even a one day experience this year. Why? Because, for a newbie at least, it can be painful, embarrassing and scarring. Duh, of course you need to do it, even if you only do it once to find out it's not for you. What you'll learn about yourself, the kind of writer you are, will be invaluable.

I went to my first writing conference last year, just for one day, and felt like a total fraud. It was as if I'd shown up to a plumber or a plastic surgeon's convention and expected to talk u-bends or fascia with expertise. I did not feel comfortable and I didn't want to be there. 

I'd like to say that at the end of it, I felt welcomed and that I belonged, but I think you probably know me better than that. I felt exhausted, bolstered up by the positive things I'd heard, downcast at the criticism, though it was definitely constructive and professionally given. I was an emotional mess. And I still felt like a fraud. But at least I was an educated fraud. I had an idea of what to expect, I had talked to people who felt exactly like I did and I'd met people who'd been doing the writing thing for decades and though still not published were determined not to give up. I met doctors and house wives and teachers. Everyone told me about their lives and their stories, like they were practicing for their pitch sessions. I thought they all sounded dreadful and really wonderful at the same time. I guess that's because ideas are really dreadful and wonderful at the same time, depending on who's writing it, who's reading it and how the wind blows.

My intensive workshop from that day was really invaluable, but I know I only scratched the surface of the conference world. This year, I'm going in again and I'm going whole-piggy. Three days, lord help me, not to mention a five hour drive to Pittsburgh. I'm lucky because a member of our writing group is going too, so at least there's someone I can get drunk with if Read & Critique gets too gruesome. I'm excited, the way you are excited to do something really hard that you have to do, that's good for you and that will improve your writing, but you know you will feel nauseous. Does that even make sense?

Have you attended any/many writing conferences? And do you have any advice for a fraidy cat like me?
(Other than shut up and suck it up, which, kindly, I've already told myself.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday! 3.9.11

The Mid Week Wrap ? Nah, that's not very zingy...OK, we continue with the uninspired name of Wednesday! until I figure it out...

I never miss living in london (and I miss it almost every day) more than when something abso-fucking-lutely amazing happens. World Book Night was one of these times. Nick Cave and Margaret Atwood? Has someone been reading my diary?

Slushpile has great coverage of the event. If they make it an annual event, by crook or by hook, I'll make it next year.

Nathan, Nathan. Is it wrong to have a crush on you? The Amazing Mr. Bransford does the breakdown on 99Cent ebooks and what they can mean to publishing, but more than that, he paints a picture of how the industry is and how it might be. Sigh.

A writing conference you don't have to get a sitter for, travel for, eat bad canapes for, get dressed for. Sounds like heaven. While I don't know what an online conference would be like I'm all for trying it. They already have some good agents on board. Check it out.

Daniel Craig In a Dress! That's was pretty much the entire scope of the entertainment news reports in the states on this thought provoking video on gender inequality. For the rest of the world, International Women's Day is big while here in America it's non existent. That must be because there's no such thing as gender inequality here, right? Just like the race issue has been settled. Yeah right. This video was made by Sam Taylor Wood and narrated by Judi Dench. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What to Get the Writer Who Has Everything

I told everyone not to bother getting me anything for my birthday. The thought of another blouse or scarf or book nearly sent me into a fit - not that I don't like blouses or scarves or books, I do. But I have so much stuff that I'm feeling like a closet hoarder lately. 

My sister gave me lunch and an afternoon at the Philadelphia Art Museum, and since her birthday is two days before mine, I got her the same thing. 

My mother-in-law brought me red velvet cupcakes and a gift certificate to Prancing Peacock Yoga, the cupcake and the downward dog melding into a yin-yang balanced day. My eldest daughter gave me the first Harry Potter book which I'm reading to her before bed, a chapter a night and it's quickly becoming my favorite part of the day. My youngest daughter sang me happy birthday, throwing in 'cha cha chas' when I least expected it and making me snort.

It was a wonderful birthday until my husband made me cry. He gave me a three day pass to the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh. He booked my hotel. He brooked no argument, though it means that I'm away for three days and that I'm spending money we don't exactly have.

He also got me a fridge magnet:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Community of Writers and Un Cortado Save the Day

You may know I have a friend in Tylenol PM. I've been having trouble sleeping for about two years, on and off. That's right, just at the time when I left gainful employment and decided raising kids and writing books would somehow make me feel all right.

Because it's so hard for me to sleep, I shun caffeine, the sleep destroyer. I drink decaf or tea or I drink juice. I don't do leaded. Unless it's a cortado. A cortado is a dreamy coffee beverage that's espresso 'cut' with foamy milk. I know Starbucks and Italians have other names for it, but in Uruguay, where I first encountered them, ordering un cortado and un sandwiche caliente at La Pasiva is a recipe for happiness.

Yesterday I met with my friends for Uruguayan Pizza, faina and cortados. Last night I paid for it by staring at the blinking time read-out on my cable box as it crept through the early morning.

But then the advice I'd gotten from my writing pals (when I whined and sniveled about not knowing what the heck to do with Fin now that I'd gotten him on the road to the END) started to reverb in my head, round and round, especially Lyra's advice (jump out of sequence and write the scene you do know) and Laura's advice (write Fin the way you want him to be, then go back and make him that way). Though this advice seems pretty simple on the surface, it was seismic to me. And last night, or rather this morning, I wrote 1000 words, three earlier scenes and a scene of huge conflict. Now that I see that I'm 'there' I'm not afraid anymore about how I'm going to get there.

Thanks girls!

What gets you under, over or through the writing 'Wall'?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday! 3.2.11

Firstly, Happy Birthday dear sister. You share your birthday with Dr. Seuss, Bon Jovi and Karl Marx. Need I say more? I love you more every year, which seems ridiculous since we spent the late seventies and early eighties hating each other. You rock, sister.

On to business.

Today is Wednesday, where I put things of interest on the page - as opposed to other days when I put things of utter disinterst on the page as an exercise in dadaist absurdism.

1) READ THIS AND DO IT. From the sainted Nathan Bransford (Is he even real?) comes clear cut instructions on how to make Facebook the author's best friend. 

2) Laura Miller over at Salon has what might be controversial advice for newbie authors - Skip the descriptions of the scenery. Writing teachers often egg starting writers on to describing the weather, the sights, smells, feel of the world we're creating in greater detail. When is it too much? I admit, there are times that, no matter how beautiful the description, I'll skip down, sometimes for paragraphs, until I find the 'thread' of the story again. Ayelet Waldman wrote on a similar tangent - beautiful but useless prose - what she calls 'bore-geous' prose - here.

3) If you love the Twilight Saga and/or you hate the Twilight Saga, this Onion video is for you. Nearly peed myself.

Al-Qaeda Calls Off Attack On Nation's Capitol To Spare Life Of 'Twilight' Author

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Count Back From 100....Exploratory Surgery for a WIP

Instead of writing during the four minutes my youngest was attentively watching Mr. Noodle attempt to tie his shoes, I  read Chuck Lorre's vanity card page. It's funnier and not as sad as Charlie Sheen.

I promise I won't digress into CS territory again unless either Chuck produces either the Holy Grail or Jimmy Hoffa. Sorry.

So, in an effort to jump start my writing again, I'm going to dissect it. That's not to say it's dead and needs a post mortem. I guess I could say I'll be doing exploratory surgery instead, but I don't have enough anesthesia for that. Get double gloved and start up the Stryker saw, here we go:

Problem: I'm standing with my protagonist, Fin, on the Road to Damascus. We're literally on the road. I mean, we're walking toward the Big Effing Climax. All will be revealed, except what won't and Fin will or won't accomplish what he needs to. This is IT.

Only, he's not moving. And I can't make him move. I've tried to put him on a horse, I've tried having him go on his own and with others. I've had people talk to him while (I swear this is true) he's peeing against a tree, angrily telling him that he's just not getting it, man. All of this I've deleted, which leaves Fin where we started more than a week ago. On the Road to Damascus, or more accurately, on the road to the Village.

Possible Reasons for Fin's immovability:
1) I'm scared. Now that the 'set up' is over, now that all possibilities lead to one road, I'm drying up, afraid I've made the wrong choices.

2) I don't know what Fin will do so he doesn't do anything. This isn't as daft as it sounds. If I haven't developed him deeply enough, even I might be unsure of what he will do.

2b) Subset of above, I have made Fin too much of a waffler - meaning, he himself hasn't come to terms with the world he's in and he's not achieved that moment of resolve, that moment of determination that enables the hero to GO.

3) I haven't developed the rebellion enough. I've alluded to it and explained it, but have I shown it? Is it making itself felt to the reader, or does it seem tacked on? If it isn't felt, then what Fin is walking towards won't feel like the 'big' moment.

Of course, I suspect that all of the above are true, which I guess is better than not knowing what ails you, but CRUMBS, I don't want to go back before I've finished. It feels like when you leave your house and walk down the street and remember that you've left something you need behind and you have to go back the way you came. Wait. Does that not freak anyone else out but me? I always try to go back home a different way...Anyway...

How do you know when pushing through is the right answer or if stopping and going back is the right answer? Hurry up with the answers, please. The patient is on the table and I've got him open from chin to chops!
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