Archives for posts with tag: writing
barbie-careers
Okay, so this is my rant for the day…
People have been ragging on Barbie since I can remember for all kinds of thing. People are acting like it’s news that she’s not anatomically proportional, but I’ve got news for you: I learned that as a kid. And now, people are protesting and petitioning the Girl Scouts to end their partnership with Barbie/Matel because of unrealistic body image issues.
I’m sorry, but enough is enough.
Have you SEEEEEEEEN the other dolls out there? If you haven’t, go image search Bratz, Monster High, Fairy Tale High, or any of the others and tell me how they’re anatomically correct. (Not to mention some of the scandalous outfits and completely anti-girl-power messages I’ve seen on some of the boxes.)
And yes, as a girl was it a sad day when I realized I would never grow Barbie’s Class A rack? Lol, sure, but if it wasn’t Barbie it would have been something else. I hit puberty in the 90s – The Land of Silicone. While I realize that some girls do get some body image issues from Barbie, I would argue that with everything else out there, a lot of those girls were probably going to get those issues anyway. The point is that they GET OVER them. Get stronger. And move on.
Which brings me to the last point of my little rant. Barbie taught me to be strong and do what I want with my life. Sure, every year you’re going to get the newest Swimsuit Barbie out, and sure, some of them are only there to fill cross-promotions with things like Spongebob or Troll dolls (back in the day), but Barbie also does a TON of other things. Growing up I watched Barbie be a teacher, lawyer, equestrian, paratrooper, ambassador, firefighter, astronaut, chef, photographer, politician, screenwriter, cheerleader, and of course, princess. She did all kinds of amazing jobs that weren’t just “girl jobs” and taught me that I could be those things, too. When I wanted to be a zoologist, I remember seeing Barbie be one. Now that I’m working on becoming a published author, I can think back on those days I played with Barbie and two dozen of her friends with my sister and our friend A.J. Just ask Rachel – we did NOT play normal games. Barbie to Ken ration in our house was like 5 to 1, so Ken usually played twins or triplets, with all sorts of awkward misunderstandings in between. There were earthquakes, floods, relationship dramas, friendships, and (my favorite) bridges going out and leaving the hot pink limo suspended so that everyone had to climb across the car to safety. (Not everyone made it on those times. We had many casualties!) Looking back now I can safely say that some of my best training for creativity that has lasted into adulthood was not just the books my mom was constantly buying for us, but sitting secluded in our shared room, working out amazing (if completely unrealistic and drama-filled) stories for our Barbies to go through. While I have no problem with the desire for the existence of a more realistic-looking doll, I don’t think that pressuring the Girl Scouts into NOT joining with Barbie to yes, cross promote, but also encourage girls into a completely worthwhile organization is the way to fix anything. (And yes, I was a Girl Scout, too. All the way up to 4th grade.)
Thus concludes my rant. Thank you for your time 🙂
barbie

 

IMG_3893

When my family moved from our home in base housing in Nebraska to a tiny, old town on the edge of the Texas/Oklahoma border, I was not the happiest kid.  Though military family are known for for their constant moves across the country and even across the world, my family had lived in the yellow duplex for over four years, and moving from a place of vibrant seasons and ridiculous snowfalls to a place of pale greens and browns and ice storms was not my ideal.  But over the years, I’ve definitely changed my mind, and I love to call the South my home.yes4

There are any number of reasons I can list for you as to why I love the south.  Southern cooking, warmer winters (usually), Southern hospitality (which can also border on nosiness), and believe it or not, I even love the hot, humid summers! (As long as you have A/C to retreat into!)

But the other day I was reminded of something else I love about living in Texas: Southern black women.  More specifically, older Southern black women.  Here’s what happened:

We’d made a stop at B&N for Black Friday to pick up The 5th Wave (for less than $10!!) and I had to run and make a bathroom stop.  While taking care of business, I heard the following conversation between and younger woman (whom I never actually saw) and an awesome older black woman (who I did see upon leaving):

Young Woman(sounding very flustered): Oh!  I’m sorry!  So sorry!

Awesome Older Black Woman: That’s all right, sweetie!

YW: I’m sorry, I just needed to come in here to check myself.  I’m really nervous!

AOBW(sympathetically):Why?

YW(sounding terrified): It’s my first date, and I’m really nervous about it!

AOBW: Oh, honey, don’t be nervous!  You look great!

YW(a little more relieved):  Thanks.  It’s just…it’s my first date…ever.  This is the first date I’ve ever been on I’m really scared about it!

AOBW(amazed): Don’t be scared!  You’re gonna do great!

YW(reapeatedly): Thank you, thank you…

AOBW: There ain’t nothing to be worried about honey!  You look good and you’re going to have a great time!  Don’t worry about a thing, baby!

YW(sounding much more confident than when she entered):Thank you so much!  Seriously. Thank you.

By the time I got out to wash my hands, Date Girl was already gone and the AOBW was there, smiling away at me.  I won’t lie, I had a little bit of tears in my eyes.  And yes, I do tear up at the most minute of things sometimes (you do NOT want to see me watching the end of Meet the Robinsons or Lilo & Stitch!), but really this little act of kindness made my Black Friday a little brighter and sweeter, even though this didn’t happen to me.  I left saying a small prayer for that poor nervous girl luck, that her first date ever might go better than most, even if nothing ever comes of it.  I’ll never know her name or what she looked like, but I hope everything went okay for her.

One day, about ten years ago, this AOBW that I worked with at the mall, suggested the radical idea to me that maybe I didn’t have to focus just on Biology as a major, and that since I had an interest in writing, I should probably pursue that, too.  Now at the time, I was thinking more along the lines of Journalism – I didn’t think I had the creative skill or dedication to do fictional writing.  Now here I am, working out the story for my 3rd (unpublished) novel, shopping for agents for the first, and waiting on the 2nd to finish marinating in its first-draftiness so that I can pull it back out and work on the next round.  I volunteer with the local library’s Night Owls Teen Writing Group, helping teenagers to explore the joy of creative writing, and really learning scads from them on how not to put limits on your own creativity, that when you get a “create your own fictional religion” assignment, it’s much more fun to think up an epic, heavenly battle between the Waffle God and the rebellious Pancakes than the idea I came up with.

Whenever I think of that AOBW I worked with, who helped set me on the right path more than she will ever know, I say a little prayer for her, too.  Like so many coworkers of days gone by, I cannot remember her name, but I’m grateful to her and her Southern Hospitality, and that little bit of pushiness to convince me to get over my own insecurities and just enjoys things instead.  So to all the Awesome, Older, Southern Black Women out there, I say you rock, and God bless 🙂

IMAG0240

OCTOBER
14 Sheldon: Why are you crying?
Penny: Because I’m stupid!
Sheldon: That’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.
The Big Bang Theory

14 penny-is-stuck-with-sheldon_418x279
OCTOBER
15 Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.
J.K. Rowling

14 image_65836_4
OCTOBER
16 There is no greater injustice than having to attend your safety school. I was devastated when I had to go to Dartmouth instead of my first choice, Hogwarts.
Stephen Colbert

kermit
OCTOBER
17 It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
E.E. Cummings

14 ee cummings
OCTOBER
18 When I grow up, I want to be a principal or a caterpillar.
Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons

14 ralph wiggum
OCTOBER
19-20 What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.      Richard Bach

14 richard-bach

So in my writing group a few weeks ago we discussed how you go about choosing and then writing the ethnicity of your characters.  I was a little late to the group, but jumped right in with the conversation.  I felt like I had somewhat of a handle on the topic – I’d faced it when writing this first book.

Race can be very important in certain characters, and in this book certain characters’ ethnicities  play a very important role in defining who they are.  Others could be mentally recast by the reader and it wouldn’t make a difference.  Though sometimes being a Caucasian writer, it can be hard (at least for me) to figure out just how to let on that a character is “non-white”.  Just look at the foolishness that happened when The Hunger Games movie released.  With Rue described as having dark skin and brown hair, people still seemed floored when she wasn’t white.  Without having to go through all that drama all over again, I will say this: not everyone who believed she wasn’t white thought she was black.   I had one friend who thought that making her black and from the agricultural District was meant to symbolize that the Capitol had reinstituted slavery.  Then I had another that though that it was a reference to migrant workers and that Rue had been Hispanic.  Both valid answers.  But only one turned out to be correct as to the author’s intent.

So what else is there to do, then?  Never mention race?  Dance around it until I’m halfway through reading a 500 pg book before I realize that one of the two main characters is black??? Because I tell you what, that is super distracting.  We all cast the movies of the books we read in our own heads, and it’s really jarring to realize after 250 pages that you’ve been wrong the whole time.   Though I do understand the problem.  I had a minor character in this book who was black, with an African accent, and an African-themed name.  I think she’s awesome and strong and beautiful, but there is that fear that I’ll somehow been seen as racist unless I danced around the issue and implied rather than told you what she looked like.  Then, during about the one millionth rewrite I realized: just tell your audience what she looks like and move on.  She’s a black girl.  Deal with it.  I also have characters with Gypsy, Irish, Hispanic, Elvish, animal, and all kinds of other origins.  It helps define who they are, though admittedly to varying degrees.

And so it was when my writing group then asked, “If you changed the race of your main character, would it change your story,” I answered “Absolutely!”  My characters are half-Hispanic, half-Caucasian.  Take a couple of black kids, or Korean kids, European kids…whatever, and throw them in the same situation, they’d all react differently.  Because even if they were raised in the exact same location their entire lives, the way people perceive us changes how we view ourselves, for good or for bad.  ESPECIALLY in our teen years.

That said, I think I just hit a breakthrough in my next book.  I need my anti-girl-next-door character to be strong, sexy, NOT BLONDE, and vicious, but in a calm, understated sort of way.  I kept picturing this gorgeous Hispanic girl filling the role, but somehow could just not wrap my head around her without a lot of outward fire in her personality.  Then, while searching for clothing inspiration online, I figured it out: I needed to make her Japanese.  Same strong, sexy, viscous non-blonde I imagined, but now with a self-control that comes from centuries of culture and tradition.  She just fits better now.

In the moments I allow myself to think about the days when I might actually get published, I do worry sometimes how people will take things like what I’ve just said here and if I’ll end up getting boycotted because I’m so offensive.  And the answer is…probably.  Authors get boycotted all the time for all different kinds of things.  So if the worse thing I did was diversify my cast of characters and use their backgrounds to enrich and enhance them and make them more real to both me and my readers, then so be it.  We need more diversity in YA anyway.

 

P.S. There was a really cool YouTube video I wanted to include that was about The Hunger Games and racial diversity in YA, but I couldn’t find it.  It’s 3 minutes long, and discusses things like the racebending.com study that discovered that in 775 YA novels surveyed, only 2% had African Americans on the cover.  Check out the artical (fascinating!) and let me know if you happen to find that video!

So, despite having the flu for half of last week, I’ve finally finished the first draft of my synopsis and…it’s terrible.  I know that without even looking back over it yet.  But it’s done, so that’s something, right?

I know I needed to do one for a couple of the agents I want to submit to, but I just really didn’t want to do it.   Which always makes writing that much harder – especially when writing about my own writing.

So now it’s 5 pages instead of the requested 2, has no quotes in it, and sucks.  BUT, that’s a starting place!  Especially considering I was out of commission for so much of last week!  (Seriously, I think I ate about 12 bananas in 3 days…)

So, now it’s on to tweaking the query letter and then back to fixing the synopsis.  The goal is to have this thing sent out by the end of the week.  Wish me luck!

P.S. Lizzie is 33 lbs!  Also, Dyson still doesn’t like her…

So…what’s new?  On the puppy front, Lizzie got her umbilical hernia repaired, and it’s finally starting to look better…

IMAG1978Trust me, it used to look way worse than that…

Also, she’s beginning to hit another Terrible…whatever stage.  Seriously, she’s gone to the kennel like 4 times today because she CANNOT QUIT BITING THINGS!  And by things, I mean everything.  Including me.  Hence the kennel to calm her down.

Also, remember when my little girl looked like this:

IMAG1894Well now she looks like this…

IMAG1985 IMAG2085And yes, that is her trying to stop me from doing my morning workout because she thinks the yoga mat is hers.  Seriously.  She freaks out if she’s in the kennel and I pull it out without her.  Little weirdo…

Also, she’s now 28 pounds.  That’s right, 28 LBS!!!!!  I don’t know how she keeps growing so freaking fast!  She’s only 4 1/2 mo old!  At this rate she’ll be bigger than Dyson!  Maybe we should stop feeding her….

Although speaking of Lizzie, I better go make sure she isn’t digging holes in the back yard right now….

 

So I’ve finally finished my novel.  It came in at right around 106k, which yes, is big, but hopefully not so big that it’ll scare the right kind of agents away.  I really am willing to cut things down, but at this point I need someone professional to tell me what those things are.  I’ve cut over 100k words from this stinking thing.  I’m so tired of it I can’t see straight.  But now I have to write up a query letter (yeah) and start sending it out…. yeah?

It’s not that I don’t want to send this thing out.  Believe me, I do.  But each new step in this process can be daunting, and while I feel I have the synopsis section of my query letter done, I’ve still got to throw in a bio and where I met these agents (I’m starting with the ones I met at DFWCON).   At least I feel like I have something to put in the bio, especially since I’ve been volunteering with the library kids for most of the year now.

Oh that reminds me, wanna see some pics?

Here’s the theater kids…

IMAG1668IMAG1672  IMAG1677 IMAG1679 IMAG1939 IMAG1949 IMAG1954 IMAG1957 IMAG1959 IMAG1960 IMAG1963

Aren’t they adorable?  The first batch are from last semester with the homeschool kids.  The second batch is from the summer musical, Gold Dust or Bust.  The kids had a blast!

Oh, and I don’t have lots of pics of my writing kids, but here they are getting drunk of jumbo Pixie Stix and Push Pops…

IMAG2083 IMAG2082 IMAG2081

 

I have to say, I love all my kids.  Sure, there’s the occasional one that starts to wear on your nerves, but the great part is that with most of those kids, being an adult lets you see them differently and realize that a lot of the “annoying” ones actually have other issues they’re managing.  Like the one of the kids in the homeschool group who could not seem to let things go!!!  We finally talked to his mom, and it turns out he has epilepsy.  She’s pretty sure that it affects him being able to move on from certain subjects that interest him, and she gave us some great tips in managing him.  Huge difference.

Have to say, I feel very fortunate for the chance to work with these guys.  They’re awesome!

So that’s about it for the day.  About to go start some dinner.  Maybe seeing Percy Jackson tomorrow.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t suck as much as the first one!!

 

Okay, okay, I know.  I posted anything other than the calendar for a couple of weeks, but I’m doing it now, all right?  Sheesh!

🙂

So, update on the puppy front.  Lizzie B just had surgery to fix her umbilical hernia on Tuesday.  This is her recovering the day after surgery…

lizzieI know, she looks like a giant beast there, but it’s only the angle of the picture.  She’s at 17.5 lbs now, and still growing fast.  It was a big debate today whether or not to take her to the park to play with the nieces and nephews that are in town.  I definitely don’t want her busting something back open, but then again, Dyson wasn’t socialized well enough at this age because of a surgery, and I don’t want to duplicate the same issues.  So in the end I just tired her out a lot before taking her, and then rinsed her off afterwards. (She’d rolled around in the dirt pretty well…)  It’s really funny because even when she’s momentarily afraid of a grown person, she has absolutely zero fear of kids.  That’s a good sign, right?

Other than that, life is going pretty smoothly.  I’ve gotten down to 107k word count for my book, which I know, sounds like a lot, but  consider this: I started at 207k after my second draft.  That’s right, 207 THOUSAND WORDS!!!  So I’ve got a smidge more work to do, and then it’s off to formatting and tweaking up the ol’ query letter and crossing my fingers.  Wish me luck!

Anyway…I keep thinking that with all these writing prompts I do with the Teen Writing Club at the Arlington Public Library, I should start posting my stuff on here.  I volunteer with the group, and they’re some super awesome kids.  Seriously.  If you want to start a very interesting writing war, just bring up the pancakes vs. waffles debate and watch them go.  (P.S. Pancakes RULE!  GO IHOP!  PANCAKE REVOLUTION!!!)

Where was I?…Oh yes.  My writing.  So, here’s the writing prompt for the day…

dragon writing promptNow, as far as I’m aware, this came from Big Universe, but if it originated somewhere else, someone let me know!

Anyway, here’s my piece!  Hope you enjoy!  Leave comments! 🙂

IN THE TIME OF DRAGONS

    “Dragons stalk the streets, puffing out smoke and clattering their mechanical wings.”
I laugh and shake my head at the clumsy graffiti as I wait for the light to change.  Just what this city needs: more myths about Dragons.
The light changes, and we push our way across the road.  Over a hundred people, all pushing and shoving—low numbers for a Wednesday.  A chill wind kicks down 9th Avenue, and I pull my collar up around my neck.
Today is going to be a long day.
I pass by the food line, careful not to make eye contact with any of the Unfortunates waiting for their handouts.  It may seem cruel to ignore them, but everyone else around me does the same.  Look at them too long and you might start wishing for Dragons, too.  But I have a job, and don’t have time for wishing.
Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I love my job or anything.  Corpse Dismemberment Specialist is actually less glamorous than it sounds, but until someone finds a cure for the Rage, there’ll always be a need for it.
Nothing like job security.
The Rage is what caused the Dragon rumors in the first place.  People saying the government started the virus.  Saying that it was God’s will.  Saying whatever you say to help you sleep at night when there’s an incurable disease right outside your door.  Had I been alive during the Onslaught, I might have listened to stories of men exchanging their body parts for metal, exchanging their humanity for a chance to fly off, high above the Infected.  It might have been nice to believe that when Tommy’d disappeared six years ago—that the Dragons had Snatched him and forced him to join.  But Tommy is dead and I’m too old to believe in fairytales.
As I reach 13th, I see a commotion.  Edging my way into the crowd, I spot the problem.  A body truck full to the brim has stalled in the intersection, and no one dares to move around it.  Perfect.  The only one here forced to touch rotting corpses everyday, and I can’t even make it around these stiffs to get to my own.
I hang a left and duck behind Charlie’s Bar, hoping the alleyway is clear this early in the morning.  I can’t afford to be late.
The alley is clear but dark, overshadowed by the monoliths surrounding it.  If I were a Believer, I’d be scared of getting Snatched right about now.  But I’m not, and Mr. Time Clock isn’t going to accept “scared” as an excuse.
I pass behind Charlie’s and Hong’s Chinese Restaurant beside it.  Next to a trash bin that reeks of stale mushu and rotting fortunes, I see a kid, about my age, tatted all over, and in no way Chinese.  He leans against the wall, a smoldering cigarette dangling from his lips.  I didn’t think anyone used those things anymore.  He makes eye contact, and I give him the obligatory head nod.  He doesn’t return it, but takes a long drag, and sends out a puff of curling smoke.  I turn my collar up again and move faster down the alley.  The sooner I can get to work the better.
Wow.  Never thought I’d say that one.
I can see the traffic now at the end of the alley, but before I can take another step, something loud and metal crashes behind me.  Against my better judgment I turn and look back at the kid, only he isn’t there.  I look back the other way, as if he might have somehow ducked past me without me noticing.
Nothing.
Whatever.  Maybe his last name is Hong.  Maybe he ducked back into work.  I’m about to escape the weirdness of this alley when I hear a metal clanging again, this time from above.
I can feel my pulse racing as my imagination begins to run wild.
Snap out of it!
The overhead metal clangs again, only this time, it’s got friends.
My heart is pounding now, pushing through my chest.  As my hands start to shake and my body goes numb, I take a deep breath, and look up.

First of all, can I just say that I am going to see Much Ado tomorrow and that I’m super excited?  Yeah for Joss Whedon and yeah for him always bringing back the actors we love.  Smiles! 🙂

la_ca_0522_much_ado_about_nothing

So, as I have mentioned before, I do some volunteer work with the library, specifically with the library’s teen programs – the theater group and the writing group.  Now usually when I go to the writing group I try and participate with whatever the challenge is because I think it’s good practice, and if someone needs help I can better relate because hey, I had to write from the weirdo/difficult/magical prompt, too!  So we write for about 20-30 minutes and then the teens all share.  (I generally don’t just because it really is supposed to be a group about them, not me.  Also, on the weeks when we have like 15 students, we really don’t have the time.)  But!  In the last couple weeks I’ve really enjoyed the prompts we’ve had and since I haven’t gotten to share my results with the group, I figured I’d share them with you nice people 🙂

So…here’s the prompt from last night…

And here is my story….

BEING HUMAN

Pedro sighed.  Being human wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

From the day he’d hatched he’d never been like the other birds.  While they flew and chirped and caught bugs, Pedro hung out downtown and watched the humans.  Sure, there were other pigeons there, and sure, they’d eat whatever human food fell their way, but when night came and the streetlights flickered to life, the others all went home.

But not Pedro.

Pedro was fascinated by humans: the way they walked, their hands, their cars and clothes.  All he ever wanted to do was be a human.

And so, each night, Pedro visited the windows of the local hospital, peering in at the sick and newborn and dying, and wishing for just a piece of their hidden lives.

That was how he’d first met Frank.

Frank was pushing 40 and hopelessly miserable about his life.  Confined to a bed in the psych ward after his 3rd failed suicide attempt, Frank spent his days staring out the window and dreaming.

Pedro liked Frank.  He had fun hair that looked like a nest, and he always kept his TV on at night, illuminating the room and giving Pedro a window within a window to spy on countless human experiences.

So Pedro came by often.

At first the staff had discouraged Pedro’s visits, setting out poisons and banging on windows.  But once they saw the effect Pedro had on Frank, that Frank had taken an interest in something, they encouraged Pedro’s visits, and even allowed Frank to leave bits of bread and seeds on his windowsill.

Then came the day Frank had been dreading: the day when Frank would have to leave his bed, and Pedro, and go back home to his nothing life and his nothing apartment.

He didn’t want to go.

As he sat with Pedro, shoving bits of stale cornbread through the opening in his window, he wished he had the freedom of a bird, to just fly away and never come back.

If only he could just go.

Little did he know that at that same moment Pedro, the human-obsessed pigeon, was making the exact opposite wish, just has he did every night he visited Frank.

The thing that happened next almost kept Frank, or at least his body, from leaving the psych ward for a very, very long time.  Luckily for Pedro, he’d retained enough of Frank’s memories to play off his initial freakout as a bad reaction to a crazy dream.

And oh what a dream it had been.

At first.

Pedro didn’t understand these humans.  Not like he’d thought he did.  They didn’t like it when you went through their trash, to help spruce up your home.  They called the authorities when you followed them home, just to watch what they did at night.  They gave you strange looks when you snatched fallen food from the ground, even if they weren’t going to eat it themselves.

Pedro sat now, alone on the bench, watching a lone pigeon peck the ground at his feet.  Could that be Frank? he wondered, as he did every time he saw one of his former brethren.  A tear fell behind the reflective sunshield of his brand-new space suit.  He’d thought it’d make him friends.  The astronauts on TV always looked so interesting.  Plus they got to fly.  Pedro missed that more than he’d expected.

He thought he understood now Frank’s depression, and why he’d wanted to leave this life behind.  He wondered if he’d have the courage to do it himself.  He doubted it.

Pedro took a shuddering breath and prepared himself to go.

Just then, a frazzled mother passed, dragging a sticky toddler behind her.  As the mother stopped to answer her phone, the rosy-cheeked tot stopped and stared at Pedro.

Pedro braced himself.  He’d gotten used to the judgmental taunts and stares.

“I like your shiny helmet.  It’s pretty.”

Pedro sat up, his head darting from side to side.  Had she just said something nice to him?  His human memories told him she had.

“Here,” said the girl, handing him her half-eaten sucker.  “You want some?”

Pedro nodded, his face beaming behind the mask of his shiny helmet.

The mother finished her call, and yanked the toddler behind her once again.  “Bye-bye, Mr. Space Man,” the child called as she disappeared around the corner, her tiny fingers waving.  Pedro had just enough time to raise his hand before she vanished out of sight.

Pedro started back towards home, the stick of his watermelon lollipop bumping against the inside of his helmet.  Maybe, he thought, I could get the hang of the human thing after all.

Tadaaaaa!  Hope you enjoyed it!  I really considered letting this one end on a negative note, but I just couldn’t do that to poor, miserable Pedro.  He just seemed so sad!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a puppy update, Dyson and Lizzie are getting along better and better, though they’re still nowhere close to being best friends.  Lizzie’s just to full of squiggles for Dyson to tolerate for long.  But hey!  I’ll take all the baby steps I can get!

It’s a good thing I accepted my nerdiness a long time ago.  Otherwise having to force myself to stop watching The Guild so that I can work on my young adult fantasy novel might have been a painful wake-up call today 🙂

So, this weekend I attended the DFW Writers Conference.  I’ve never done a writing conference before, so this was something totally new for me.  When I was walking in (all by myself) I spotted some girls in front of me and decided to duck in behind them.   Amazingly one of them turns around and recognizes me from the Arlington Library event when Rosemary Clemet-Moore visited our Teen Writing Group.  Hooray!  Two of the girls had actually been there, so luckily I was able to leech onto them whenever possible so that I could not feel like such a loner.

The first class I took was on pitching practice and tips, which was great because I had my pitch scheduled about an hour after the class.   Besides, while I kept trying to convince myself that I had my pitch down, every time someone asked me about my book (before the conference) I would inevitably fumble through the explanation, sounding like an idiot the whole time.  So after the tips they let you do practice pitches with the authors on the panel.  The first one I did majorly pointed out that all I had in the pitch was plot and no inner character development.  So I sat down, rewrote the pitch about 3x, and then ducked into a second line where things went a little better.  I actually wasn’t that nervous when I did the real pitch, and when the agent asked, “What makes your characters jump off the page?” I had a much better answer for her because of that class!

Also, by lunchtime I found that making friends and connecting with people got to be a lot easier.  Everyone’s there with a book, whether they’re ready to pitch or not, and so at minimum you can ask every person there, “So what’s yours about?”

Also, I think the two best bits of advice I got this weekend were these:

1. Just because you had pages requested, don’t be in a rush to send them.  You can wait as long as you need, and still put in the subject line that the agent requested you to query them.  This was great new for me, because as you know, my book is waaaaaaaay too long for a first time author.  I’m needing to be ruthless now in my cutting, but I’m praying that just makes my pacing that much more rock solid.

2. Apparently my book did not fall into the category I thought it did.  I’ve been walking around this whole time believing I had a YA novel on my hands, when it turns out, it’s probably more along the lines of an upper middle grade instead.  (Even though one not-as-pleasant agent berated me for ever thinking it was anything other than a strait middle grade.)  One thing to remember: when the fourth person tells you that your book is better served in another category, it’s time to listen.

Overall I have to say that DFWCON was a success.  At least for me personally.  I feel like I made some new friends, met some agents and an editor or two, and learned TONS.  Now to just put it in practice so I can feel comfortable sending this bad boy out!!!

And hope to one day be as awesome as Felicia Day 🙂

felicia day

Sorry I haven’t written any updates in a while, but I’ve got the DFW Writers’ Conference coming up, and I’m trying to massively cut down the word count in my book.  By how much you ask?  By at least 30,000 words.

Yes, I know, that sounds like a lot, but when you consider my novel started this process at about 207,000 words, you’ll understand the need for the cutting.

It’s going well so far.  I’m about to start Chapter 23 of 45 and I’ve cut approx. 17,000 words so far.   Hopefully that means I can not only make my goal, but surpass it.  I would love to be able to get to 170,000 words or less.  Yes, it’s still long enough to frighten some potential agents or editors away, but I feel it’s much more realistic than a book at 200,000+.

The only problem is at this point my brain is shutting down.  I’m forcing myself to read, to clean, to do other things, so that I can keep thinking clearly.  You can only work on one project for so many hours a day, and for so many days in a row, before you hit a meltdown.  And that, I just can’t afford right now.

So I stick to it, working and hacking away, and maybe, just maybe, I might have something real to show for it at the end of this conference.

Fingers crossed!