3 S.R. Johannes: August 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Revising Insanity

At conference, I always heard talk of "writers needing to be open to revising."

I'll say now - I never quite understood that. I mean do writers NOT want to revise? How could that be - I mean who wants dangling participles anyway!

A couple weeks ago - I joined a class to "revise" my first 3 chapters.

Last week, I got my comments back from the editor.

And, now I get it.

Revising is not just tweaking, or grammar corrections, or line edits.

Now I realize revising means major rewrites, story changes, and replotting.

Revising is like cutting your hair and then someone telling you to try again. Even if you know it looks crappy. You can't just tape it back on and then recut.

Creating a new character is like going out and looking for the right guy when you are already married to one. Which I am :) Oh, I digress...

Changing your main character is like trying to re-do the past. You can't just erase a part of your history. It's just you!

My conclusion - this is not revising! This is chopping, slautering, a unjust demise.

So - what do I do?

I question. Who is this editor anyway? I mean he's only been in the biz for 25 years. I mean, what does he know anyway?

I procrastinate! This was the EZ part.

I ignore!

I justify! I'm good at this.

I cuss! This is not a surprise for those who know me?

I tell myself 'I'll just wait to see what "resonates". Yeah right what a crock!

Let me mention - the last time, my manuscript was "edited", I shelved it. And it is still there, collecting dust begging to be nurtured again.

But then?

I breathe.

I read the comments.

I keep an open mind. ok semi-open, but no one's perfect.

I have an ephiphany.

He's right.

So I go back to the drawing board. I redo outline, I re plot, I move stuff around, and I cut and paste. aahhhh!

And now?

My book is better. If I do say so myself.

Although, I think I am much more insane.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Flying the Coop

When does Empty Nest Syndrome start?

Is it possible to have "empty nest" syndrome when your kids are under the age of 4?

I always assumed that "syndrome" came at 18 when kids left for school.

But I think I am going through it a bit.

Next week - my daughter (4.5) starts her pre k program 5 days week and my son (18 months) starts his new mommy's day out program 3 days a week.

I am ok with my daughter going back. I am more anxious about the looming Kindergarden move next year. This is my last year with her where I am still the coolest thing in her world. She is growing up so fast. I mean this morning I am watching her and amazed at this little person who is so much like me. She says the most grown-up things:

Me: Honey, you need to stop getting so big. I want you to stay my baby."
Madelyn: "Mommmmmy, it's part of life. I'll always be your baby but I'm goingto miss you when I am an adult."

Say What?????

I am more freaked out by my little one. Even though he is only going 3 days a week/48 hrs a months/720 minutes a day (and to think I suck at math), I feel guilty and I realize he is not a baby anymore.

Here is what I came up with:
In each week - here are 168 hrs.Most young one sleep about 14 hrs a day = 98 hrs.

Leaving 85 waking hrs.
He will be in school 12 hrs.
So I will be with him 73 out of 85 hrs.

Since I do not have plans to have another - I am realizing my baby years are almost gone.

Now, I'm left with semi-empty nest syndrome. The house will be quieter (definately not used to that) and I am going to have a period of time when my "mom brain" get to shut off. A brain that has been on overdrive for almost 5 years.

Don't get me wrong - I am looking forward to the 12 hrs my son will be in school b/c now I get to learn how to write during daylight hrs (dont even know if I can do it? Used to 10 - 2am).

I am just sad about my babies flying the coop. Even if they fly back in a few hrs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Terrific T

I love shirts with messages on them.

I have about 5. Peace, be kind etc.

I don't wear them to preach to others, I wear them for myself. To remind me.

One of my favorite ones is a chocolate brown shirt that says "live mindfully".

I wore it today and went to Borders for my writing group. As I was waiting for my "galz", a lady walks up to me and says: "excuse me where did you get your shirt."

Me: "I'm sorry, what?" I am baffled thinking "this is kinda random", let alone unusual.

LADY: "Your shirt. Where did you get it?

I look down, forgetful of the garb I threw on in the 2 inutes I had to myself as Thomas the Train once again keeps my kids occupied so I can pee and dress in peace. "I think at my yoga place."

LADY: "Can I check your tag?"

Me: "Uh, sure I guess." What do you say to that? Can you say no? I mean, I really just wanted to enjoy my coffee and muffin.

LADY: She finishes checking my tag and says "I love it."

Me: "Thanks, I have a few. I like them alot. Keeps me in check."

LADY: "I really need to live midfully."

Me I think (thanks for sharing) but say "you just did."

LADY: "What do you know? I'll be thinking of that today" and walks away.

Boom - I touch someone's life.

Isn't it amazing how we can touch people in the simplest ways? Makes me wonder of all the ways we touch lives in larger ways and don't even know it. Woudn't it be cool to know those things. Who you touch positively and who you touch negatively. I think I would want to know.

To think my fashion sense (stemmed from my need to be casual, yet comfy.) touched one person today. I didn't even plan it.

Isnt the world cool?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Finding Your Inner "her"o

I heard a talk to today about heroes. (and no not the tv show! though it is fantastic!)

What is a hero?

I think along time ago - heroes wore capes and had crusades. No one knew their real identity, they just valued their fight to crime.

Really - I always found them disturbing and had many questions:

First of all - Do they REALLY make people feel safe? Call me crazy - but if I saw someone in a mask and cape running down the streets pf Atlanta in colored tights, I would definitely NOT feel safe and more importantly, I would question their sanity.

Secondly - Is there identity really not known or are those towns just stupid? I don't know about you all but I could ALWAYS and EASILY tell that Clark Kent was Superman, that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and that Tobie was Spiderman. Come on people! Are we really to believe that a small eye mask covers up a true identity?

But most importantly, I used to always wonder why did people feel the need to believe in fake heroes? Real heroes walk around every day among us and we don't take 1 minute to say hello.

The "Official Definition
Beyond the cape and super powers. Here's what I found:

1) A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.
2) the male character in a story, play, film, etc (MALE?! Why not female?)
3) an object of extreme admiration and devotion.
4) the bread or roll used in making a hero sandwich. (Ha, this was just to be sure you were paying attention :)

I have to mention this - not to be feminist - but why are most of the definitions about men?

I mean the root word of hero is "her" - am I right ladies? ;)

Who are my heroes?

Well - I can say - they do not wear a cape. They do not stop crime. They do not have superpowers. And, they do not hide behind masks.

Here are a few that popped into my mind this morning: (Don't worry I am not going to say Oprah or Mother Theresa - though I think they are fabulous!)

Likely Heroes

  • Al Gore - not the political Al Gore, the noble peace prize Al Gore. I am an independent so this is not a political statement, but I admire the work he has done to bring attention to the environment. I mean a few years ago - this VP was kind of a joke, right?. But now - he is the one of the few people making a difference environmentally and in our awareness.

Lesson - We as humans are unconsciously wasteful and unaware.

  • Randy Pausch - Most of you may know him as the "Last Lecturer". He recently past away from a long battle with Pancreatic cancer. Here you have a man who's No. 1 priority is to leave a big legacy so that his kids remember him and his family is taken care of. For years, he was faced with knowing he was going to die, yet he sucked up his pain and fear and sorrow everyday to be sure he gave his absolute best to his family - he laughed, played with his kids, and lived him life with total unselfish grace (which is more than most people do when they are healthy.)

Lesson - live your childhood dreams and celebrate life as opposed to just getting by. Also - don't let the flu get you down.

  • Ingrid Betancourt - To be taken hostage, away from your kids, and stuck in a jungle for 6 years fighting abuse, famine, disease, and sorrow. Then when rescued, she still manages to come home full or love, strength, spunk, and gratitude? Amazing.

Lesson - the human spirit is an amazing thing.

  • Dali Lama - a little cliched but again not a religion statement. But - to me - he totally represents peace, he lives peacefully, and gives his life to helps others be peaceful. And, he just makes me smile whenever I see or hear him. He's just so cute!

Lesson - You cannot have true peace (in the world or in your heart) if you value your ego more.

Unlikely Heroes

  • My mom - who drops everything to help me when my dog dies, my hubby is out of town, i get a rejection, or I have the flu.

Lesson - A mother's love is special.

  • My hubby - who gives me time to write, believes in me (with no actual proof), lets me sleep in on sat mornings (as late as I want), goes out late to buy me MMs when I am writing, and still tells me I am beautiful (even when I am at my worse, like 10 min after a c-section!)

Lesson - a hubby's love can be unconditional!

  • The ladies who do my hair and mani/pedis - for hiding things I will not mention and making me feel human - woman again.

Lesson - Behind every woman is a team of people!

  • My friends - who tell me the truth no matter what which helps me be a better person. Also for listening to my rants and raves when I am in "a mood".

Lesson - friends show you the lessons

  • My kids - for showing me the beautiful things in life, giggles, worms, rainbows, snuggles. And always managing to put a smile on my face.

Lesson - Life can be simple.

So - what about my own "inner 'HER'o"?

I certainly have not been feeling that inner "HER"o lately with my writing. But I came across a quote that touched me:

"It is overcoming surmounting difficulties that makes us all heroes."

Well then.... I guess I am on my way!

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Personal Muses

Can I say how much I LOVE my critique group? Oops sorry - I mean - my support group.



But still - the honest-to-god truth.

"The Calliope Circle" has really revived my writing career. We chose to name ourselves this because
Calliope means "beautiful words" and was the Greek "muse of writing".

Until March, I had pretty much given up on writing. I had my first book rejected and edited (actually chopped to pieces) the previous year and had not written much since. Then I went to Springmingle (SCBWI Spring Conference) and was lucky enough to meet a few women - all pretty much strangers. I can't explain it. We immediately clicked in an natural way and decided in that moment to get together. We all just clicked and committed to each other.

Now, meeting with them forces me to write. It pushes me to bring something. It pushes me forward. Before there were days, even weeks that would go by (without me even realizing it) where i hadn't written one word.

It's so wonderful to have people around you that understand the writing process, the ups and downs, the struggles and that care about you and your own writing. I think that's very hard to find. Before this group, I didn't have anoyone in my life that wrote. I only had the Southern Breeze (SCBWI) conferences (which are fabulous and I love them all too) and they were only 2ce a year! Other than that - it was pretty much begging my hubby, friends, and family to read through my stuff. Only to get back a "good job" or I didn't quiet finish.

I've been a part of critique groups in the past, but I guess something just never clicked for me. Either I did not connect with the people, or I was not ready, or their feedback did not resonate with me. Whatever reason, I had been completely turned off by them.

This group is so different. Almost cosmic in a sense. Great energy, great writing, great gals, and great fun. We all have similar struggles all being young moms that stay home with young kids, but even when we all can't be there - everyone still manages to read the posts, send helpful comments, and spout words for encouragement.

When I was rejected by American Girl, these girls were the first ones I called. They knew what it was like. They understood the sense of failure, the loss of hope, and my threatened dreams. They also helped me find the positive (that I was in the top 2 books considered for AG's list of 2009!) and pushed me to send my book back out.

The best part is that we truly want each other to succeed and wholeheartedly believe each one of will succeed. We are all great writers with great hearts.

Now, I write more. Now, I write better. Now I have people with which I can talk, obsess, cry, rejoice, curse laugh about writing.

I didn't really expect it to happen let alone to last. But to this day, The Calliope Circle is still going strong. I've learned so much from them and plan to hold on to this group as long as it is available to me. (without sounding obsessed or staker-ish :)

So to all you who doubt critique groups or have had bad experiences. If you take your time and find a good one - they can make all the difference in the world. Not just in your writing or in your book. But in your world.

You can find your own personal muse.

The Calliope Circle is mine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is My Small Window Closing?

I'm talking to my hubby last night about ...finances. Yuk!

newsflash: writers never like to talk about finances unless they have them. Finances and writing - an oxymoron. Notice the root word - MORON

And he says the words I have kinda been expecting but silently rejecting, "sweetie, you may have to go back to work if things don't change".

My first thought was "what do you think I'm doing? Eating Bon Bons? I am working in the 10 hrs I have during the week where I don't have kids!!!!"

My next thought was - "Why is it some people don't see writing as working?"

Reality kicks in with the answer "Uh, WHEN YOU DON"T GET PAID FOR IT!?" Duh!

So what do I do? I'm left in fear, feeling like my "window of opportunity" to be a real writer, let me clarify a published writer, is closing. With two small kids not in school yet and only a few hrs to myself - what do I do?

Do I give up? If not - how long do I give and give and make my family give before I give up if nothing happens?

I am scared. Scared of never breaking thorough. Scared of going back to a corporate job. Scared of what it will do to my spirit.

Let me backtrack - A couple years ago, I walked away from a corporate job - a REALLY high paying corporate job - and decided to leave the Corporate world for good to write. I knew my family would suffer, but hubby and I worked through it. He supports me and knows how much I gave up to write. Don't get me wrong - I have pulled my weight. My freelance copywriting has pulled in a large share really until recently. Since Spring, I admit I've slacked off a bit to write. I cut back, turned down work, so I could write. I had not written much in a very long time. I found my critique group at Springmingle and took off from there.

But now, 6 months later - the money I had set aside has dwindled and I am at a crossoroad.

I've realized that it is not enough to believe in yourself - you have to get your family and friends to believe in you too. Because they support your whacky dreams and they suffer with you. So how do you do that without getting published? And how long do you expect THEM to wait.

So I am left with where do I go from here?

I know that when a door closes, a window opens. But what happens if that window breaks or slams shut? Maybe someone nails it shut without you knowing. Then what happens? Does another door open - the back door, basement door, maybe a vent ? Or are you then completely trapped? Do I have to saw an opening myself?

The thought of going back to what I was and had before - even for the money - is frightening. Worse than never going forward, worse than staying in the same place. It's like leaving a toxic relationship, growing, finding someone great and then going back to what you had - with the knowledge that it was not good for you - but having no choice. Once you've left something toxic for something that fills your soul, how do you go back? How do you let go? Can you let go?

So what do I do? I've contacted my old clients, I've posted for freelance writing positions, and I've prayed for "financial freedom" so I can write. Is that enough? How do you know when to keep swimming upstream for something you feel will happen? How do you keep others believing in you when you doubt it everyday?

How do I keep this window - that blows a fresh breeze into my heart every day - open?

Because if it closes, I don't know if I will ever be the same.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shoot for the Milky Way

I have not blogged in a while (cough - over a year?! ) But I am back on the horse and I plan to stay on it this time. I have re-committed myself to Writers Rehab and am going to stay in - even longer than Britney Spears! Wow, I am committed!

You are probably wondering: "Why? I've been so inspired all of a sudden?" Good question!

My good answer:
  • An instructor recently told me not to settle for less than what I think I deserve. That I was born to write.
  • A fellow SCBWI member just got a 3 book deal with Hyperion. She got an agent in March and sold her book in a "good" deal by Aug. Best news is she has 2 kids - the same age as mine - and started her book a couple years ago. There is hope for us moms that juggle diapers, pacis, and keypads (really its computers but pens sounded better).
  • I have a hunch. I know this is the path to my purpose. How I don't know - but I just do. I have no excuses anymore. My 4 year old is in PreK and my 16 month old starts a mommy day-out program. Or as I now call it - mommy-day-write.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

So - now I need a plan right? Ok, plan #99 - hopefully #99 is a charm!

I call it The "Get off my Ass" Plan - creative, clear, yet catchy. I am going to reach beyond the stars for my dream. I'm shooting far and I am shooting high.

I'm shooting for the Milky Way!

So here it is!

1 - Finish my YA Thriller, "Grace under Fire" - CHECK.

SIDE NOTE: Ok so I've already done this. I just wanted something to check off something so I felt I was moving forward. Is that cheating? Come on you all do it to - create a "to-do" list of the things you have already done - just so you can feel like you have achieved something in your busy day. Fess up!

SIDE NOTE Squared: Actually I have finished 1 YA, 1 MG (which is shelved due to editing complications), 1 PB series, 1 holiday PB, and 2 PBs. But who is counting? Actually my husband probably is and most likely my parents. And I know my bank account is!

Question of the day:

How many books can you write and still be unpublished? Answer - Ill tell you as soon as I find out. Stay tuned!

2 - Review Plot thoroughly - CHECK, CHECK. I am working through my manuscript with my amazing critique group to revise each chapter.

SIDE NOTE: Actually it is not a critique group, it is a support group called The Calliope Circle. Kinda like "Alcoholics Anon" but without the booze. Ok, ok so there MAY be a little booze - not with them that's just coffee and snacks, but maybe when I'm writing or trying to write.

SIDE NOTE Squared: Speaking of support groups - is there a "Writers Anon" out there and if so - did someone sign me up without my consent? It sure feels like it.

SIDE NOTE cubed: And if there is a Writers Anon- who would sign up? Doesn't every writer want to be known? Maybe not.

3 - Remove my name from the Writers Anon list!

SIDE NOTE: Does anyone know who owns the list or is that a dumb question?

4 - Revise, revise, revise - CHECK. If I knew WHAT to revise it would not be an issue. The issue is figuring out how to find out, who to believe, and when its done!

SIDE NOTE - I am already working with a great editor, Harold Underdown, in a class that spends the next 6 weeks revising and re-revising (is that a word?) my first 3 chapters, synopsis, and query letter. I have worked with him before and I like him. Be wary though - he cuts to the chase . His services may even come with a disclaimer - "Not for the soft-hearted". But as my dad always said: No pain no gain." I am starting to believe him.

5 - Focus on literary agents.

SIDE NOTE: For my first MG book, "On Tattered Wings" I queried mostly publishers.

SIDE NOTE Squared: Status? 19 form rejections, 5 personal rejections with comments, 3 "we would like to see it"s, and 1 editorial letter who ended up not taking it after I did all the edits (that is a whole nother story and yes I am a little bitter about it.) So 18 rejections and 1,000 cliches later - I shelved it. Then there is my NonFiction book that was in the top 2 books being considered by American Girl but was REJECTED :( Some see it as me winning the Silver. ONly no metal - just a piece of polite paper. At least it had my name on it.)

6 - Research Agents - This year (or what is left of the remaining 33%) I am going to focus on getting a clean query packet out to 10 - 15 agents that really fit me and my style. I'm shooting for November. Doable - right? Write!

You all probably know the rest but Ill quickly recap.....

7 - land a 3 book deal with 6 figures

8 - get my book on shelves in all major and independent book store.

9 - receive great reviews form top publications - maybe even an award or two.

10 - hit the bestseller list and stay there.

11 - sign a movie deal.

12 - Walk the red carpet and accept my well-deserved Oscar for "Best script/screenplay"

13 - hit the big time - The Big O (Oprah)

14 - help other struggling authors :)

Ok so I have my plan - now I just need some goals for the remaining 33% of the year

  • Finish going through book by end of Sept
  • Edit - no wait - PERFECT query packet by Oct 1
  • Send packet out to 10-15 agents that I hand chose by end of Oct.
  • Perfect book with a great line edit (oh Harold!)
  • Wait for all 15 to come back screaming "YES WE WILL TAKE IT!"
  • That's it - easy as pie!

So as you can see I am shooting past the stars because the stars are not far enough for me...

I'm shooting for the Milky Way!

Now, who's the Space Cadet? :)