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30 November 2009

Monday Musings

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
~ Ray Bradbury

[I hope you all had a marvelous Thanksgiving :)]
Jen

24 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All






I pray your Thanksgiving Day will be filled with laughter, feasting, family and friends. And may you take just a moment, between second and third helpings, to pause and remember all the reasons you have to be thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Love,
Jen
PS: I posted a little "tour" of the Manor over at my other blog. Wander on over and see what I've been up to besides editing and querying and editing and revising and editing and...

23 November 2009

Monday Musings

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

20 November 2009

It's a Funny Little Thing...

Every time I decide I'm going to begin querying my novel, every time I announce the hunt, enlist in encouragers, beg my husband to ask me daily "have you finished your agent list yet?", something inevitably comes up to change my mind.

Now, before you go accusing me of giving in to fear, let me explain. The first time, I decided it was time, I decided it best not to just send out a few queries and see what happened. I decided to do some in depth research, to hunt down agents and agencies that really believed in the genre in which I write. Thus I began my in depth agent research. While I was doing that, I realized my query was weak. Very weak and very...wordy. So I sliced and diced and deleted and rewrote until I came up with what is now what I believe a very good query indeed.

So what is it this time? Oh it's quite simple. The story isn't ready.

Can I tell you it pains me to type that? I've wrestled with it ever since I submitted a two line hook to a contest this past Sunday. If they pick mine and ask for more, so be it. I'll be excited. I entered the contest and it lit a fire under my fanny to enter all my pen and ink edits into the computer. Something I have not had the energy to do. (Have I mentioned my trilogy is loooooong?) Knowing if they chose my hook entry, I would have to have an edited manuscript ready should they ask, I started entering those edits. Getting up before the sun to put them in. Staying up late adding little things, taking away unnecessary apostrophes (I just love those things...), the usual.

This started Monday. I excitedly took out my whopper of an manuscript and began. I love my story. I believe in it. But something doesn't sit right with me about it. To be honest, I don't know what it is.

The first three books are written. Yes, there's more to the story. I have yet to begin writing the rest, but it's there, floating around in my head. And it's a good story (no really!). So what is preventing me from submitting the query in hopes of having an agent request a partial or a full peek at it?

I wish I knew. All I know is that I'm going to enter these edits. All three manuscripts have more marks than a well used Rand McNally Atlas. It's not the content, it's the feel. It doesn't feel right. Does that make sense? I can feel book two and book three. It's book one that's bothering me. Maybe I am afraid. Maybe I feel there's too much of what so many are saying you shouldn't put in. Maybe I should just put in those edits and let 'er fly. When I start thinking this way, however, I remember something I read a month or so ago: It's never too late to submit your work but it can be too early.

Should I risk sending my project out there too early? Risk having it turned down by everyone only to confirm the feeling in my gut? Risk being haunted by the "what ifs?" I get every time I see something vaguely similar on the shelves? Or should I stick to my gut and pick it apart, making it the best I know it can be. Should I keep at it until I can crack open that file and really feel the story. Really get into it. Really believe in my characters and the trouble they're in?

Honestly, I'd rather just let it go, send it out, see what happens. Seize the day and all that. But, again, there's a hitch in my heart that won't let me. My original plan was to research agencies and edit and send out queries after Thanksgiving. I'm now leaning more towards January.

And you know what? I'm ok with that. I'm ok with taking a little more time. I'm ok with sitting down with my manuscript one more time, reading with an open mind, a hungry heart, and let it sing to me. Because if it doesn't sing, it's not ready to be sent.

Happy weekend to you all!
Jen

19 November 2009

Thanks!!

One of my new dear bloggy friends just awarded me this little diddy:


You should really go check her out! Blondie has a simply fabulous blog and you can find her right here! Feel free to tell her I sent you :)

Now it seems I'm supposed to tell you seven things about myself and then pass this along to seven other deserving bloggers. Only seven!?!?! Sadness, but I shall prevail!

1. I have always wanted to get my pilot's license.
2. I would move to England tomorrow and live on a sheep farm. I would live in a thatched roof cottage, take classes on pottery, and build my own stone wall. Dear hubby would gladly wear the sweaters I would knit him (um...after I learn to knit) as he traipsed through the fields taking award winning shots of the countryside.
3. I have wanted a tattoo for years but only recently have I decided what I'd get. Now to save up the moolah!
4. I've been to Ireland and India. I have inadvertently started a trend of traveling to places that being with the letter "I". It's like an episode of Sesame Street! "This adventure is brought to you by the letter 'I'..."
5. My father and my writing mentor both died in November. Mixed feelings about this here old month.
6. I would love to own a vineyard.
7. If it was up to me, I'd always dress like an lady from old England. I'd travel the world with steamer trunks and cross India by elephant. I'd see the pyramids from the back of a camel while sipping syrupy sweet Moroccan tea. My porters would love me and I'd tip them handsomely. The sky would alternate between raining marshmallows and cocoa packets and books would grow in cultivated fields, their leather spines glimmering in the early morning mist. And I'd spend my days writing, crafting, and reading darn good poetry. At night I'd host dinner parties for Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickenson, C.S. Lewis and Ernest Hemingway. Oh the delicious debates we'd have!

And on to the distributing of the awards. Oh wait...I should change.

There. That's more like it!
And the award goes to:

1. Jody Hedlund (because she's fabulous and I appreciate her honesty)
2. DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom (because she makes me laugh when I desperately need it)
3. Lin at Duck with Wheel and String (because where would we be without Hobbes -or her?)
4. Elana Johnson (because she just signed with an agent...WOO HOO!!!)
5. Jermaine at French Kissed (because this blog is simply BEAUTIFUL!)
6. Mr. Toast over at Hot Toast and Jam (because a life without tea would be simply dreadful)
7. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm (because this woman knows how to get to the meat and potatoes of life, dish it up heavy, and leave you feeling as if you've been sitting on her back porch, listening to the crickets while the sun sets over her peaceful farm world)

Ok guys! Post the picture, tell us seven things about yourselves, and send it on. Or just post the picture and remain quietly in your happy corner of the world. Or do nothing but know that I find your place simply divine :) Whatever suits you best. No pressure here. I'm just passing it along because in my little world, awards seem like the thing to do today!

Waaahh! Can't I give everyone the award? There are too many beautiful blogs out there. Not fair, not fair (ok...my tantrum is finished.) Go see these guys, tell 'em I sent you, and enjoy :)

Sorry if this post is a little more hyper than usual. I've had two cups of tea and an eggnog latte and I've been up since 5am! Bring it on, baby, bring it on!
~Jen

Words, Balrogs, and other Curious Things


Gut wrenching or easy going? Sit down at the computer, fingers flitting two and fro, effortless in their pursuit of the next line? Or growling at the clock, wishing the second hand would move faster so you can log in your thirty minutes, knowing the only thing you've written was borrowed from a Gothic horror story: "It was a dark and stormy night".

I think we all experience both from time to time. I have had days when I woke up with a story in my bones, just aching to get out and dance across my notebook. Unfortunately, those days aren't the norm. I'm more of the drag myself to the table, coffee in one hand, reading glasses in the other. The words have to be pried from the crevices of my brain, my trusty crowbar jabbing and prodding as they scurry to darker corners. Then, when I do grasp them, they refuse to cooperate, smudging my paper, scampering from one corner to the next. Sometimes, out of sheer frustration, I swat at them, squashing them, smearing adjectives and adverbs unnecessarily between nouns and verbs. Jeez, what a mess.

I don't think writing comes easily for anyone all the time. Nor do I think it should. Writing is a hard business. I know many who would argue. So do you. Especially if you write for children or young adults. "I could write a children's book! No big deal." Grrr...don't even get me started with that one...

Personality quirks, bad hair days, the waxing and waning of the moon all affect us in varying ways. Some days I can wake up and be on top of the world. The very next, it's as if Pippin dropped a rock down the well and the Balrog awoke to storm the mines. On these days, my husband bravely plays the roll of Gandalf and I crack my fiery whip until I can no longer roar. If only every day could be fairies and unicorns and the goblins and trolls could stay under the bridges.

But would we grow if all were sunshine and daffodils? Would we learn more about our writing selves? Would we fully be able to grasp the depth and breadth of what we do if it were not for the dark places? I don't think so. As much as I love romping through the Elvin woods, there's something to be said for braving "the long dark of Moria".

All that matters is that we show up. Consistently. Faithfully. Whether we want to or not. Whether the Muse is sitting there, waiting for us, hot chocolate in hand or the demon sits on our chest and hisses all the reasons we should just stay in bed. We may pound out a sentence. We may produce a masterpiece. We may eek out a few feeble words or simply type over and over again, "I have nothing to say!!!" Regardless, get the words out. On the page. Be it computer or ball point pen, clacking old typewriter or a feather quill you carved yourself. It matters not how we feel. It matters not how the words come. What matters is that we're there to receive them when they do, come they by casual unveiling or ripping from the gut.
*image found here

16 November 2009

Monday Musings

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket."
~ Charles Pequy

13 November 2009

Sincere Thanks are Due


I just wanted to say THANK YOU to all of my readers. You guys are the best!! I sincerely appreciate all of your encouraging words. You make my writing here seem important and keep me going when I don't want to lift another pen. There are so many days when the low self esteem monster I've battled most of my life tells me my writing is worthless and I might as well pack it in. You guys (every single one of you) help me realize that's not true! Thanks for brightening my life :) I'd give you all a great, big hug if I could.

I apologize that I don't get to read and comment on your blogs every day. I want to, know that. I do follow up on your comments via a comment on the corresponding post. Please check back if you wish to read my response to your words. I appreciate the time and effort each comment takes. Time is precious and the least I can do is let you know I appreciate you spending a bit with me :)

Have a fantastic weekend, keep those pens (and keyboards) moving, and I'll see you all on Monday!

Most sincerely yours,
Jen

12 November 2009

The Voices in Your Head

I apologize for the delay in posting. Wasn't feeling quite up to par yesterday. It was all I could do to keep my head up while waiting on disgruntled customers to call and tell me their computer woes.

Is it possible to digress at the beginning?

The overwhelming response to the quote posted on Monday confirmed to me that we, as writers, do seem to hear things others don't (won't or can't). We live in a sort of in-between place, where this world and the world of imagination intersect, at random intervals, pulling us in. We have little control over when this happens. I've been sitting in a crowded movie theatre, watching the film, when inspiration stepped in front of me and smacked me in the jaw. Bookstores are notorious places for walking through mirrors. I'm a firm believer in bookstore goblins. They roam the shelves looking for an unsuspecting creative soul, ready to pounce, attach themselves to our brains, and regurgitate every particle of a quasi-great idea they've ever digested. That explains why I can't walk into a bookstore without getting the overwhelming sense that I'm not fulfilling my creative call and I must hasten to the cafe counter, order up a grande of liquid perseverance and crouch in a corner until my fingers are bleeding from paper cuts and pen jabs.

Our characters pop up and the most inopportune times. I've seen my characters walking down the street, driving cars, even in other people's films (seriously, Mr. Shayamalan, did you HAVE to get there first?!?). They sneak up on me, whispering places they wish to go, things they need to do, foes they need to slay. Really? And you need to do that now? I'm watching Murder, She Wrote!

The point of all this insanity *ahem* eccentricity is to get us all (myself included) to see our gift as something that isn't just a thing we do, but something that is a part of us. Writing is in my blood. My great grandfather was and my grandmother is a writer. But it goes deeper than that. For whatever reason, I was chosen for this gift. No matter how hard I try to hide it, how fast I try to run from it (which is futile as I've never been much of a runner), or how emphatic my "not now, I'm busy!" is, this gift will always, ALWAYS find me out.

What should we do when we wake in the wee hours of the morning, when the sky is dark, the floorboards are cold, and the bed is singing it's siren song, and the glimmer of an idea haunts our thoughts, urging us to pursue it on paper or screen? The easy answer is to roll over and chalk it up to a good dream (or too much rich food at dinner) and try to go back to sleep. But nothing worth doing was ever done by taking the easy way out. Coffee will work as well at three a.m. as it does at seven. I've tiptoed across cold floors many times to jot down a dream or story idea given to me in the night. Often, I've written it down on a paper towel by the light of my cell phone.

The point I'm trying to make is this: don't look at this writing life as something you do when you have a free moment, when you're good and ready to let the story take over. Look at it as a lifestyle, something that cannot be helped, that must be nurtured and allowed to run free. We all have daily obligations, we all have things we must attend to. We all must learn to balance our writing with the rest of our lives. But to separate it from our lives is to do ourselves damage. It is entwined with our breathing, linked to our souls. When it hits, even a scrap of napkin and a purple crayon can be enough to start our next project. Don't feel like you have to hide those urges or quiet those voices. Let them come, open yourself up to them. Keep a notebook with you always in case of character coups. Don't be afraid to pursue an idea when it first strikes you. And besides, what harm could really come from a sudden leap upon a table in a department store to recite the latest brilliant prose your villain has composed? The time alone in a padded cell would be more than enough to finish that novel ;)

Cheers!
Jen

10 November 2009

The Thrill of the Hunt

"There is a passion for hunting something deeply planted in the human breast."
~ Charles Dickens
(I apologize in for the lack of formatting. For some reason, my spaces between paragraphs did not come through.)
Odd for me to be posting here on a Tuesday, I know. But I wanted to share with you some very good information I have discovered in the past week. As most of you know, I'm in the "actively seeking agent" stage of my writing career. How long has it taken me to get here? Do you really want to know? Considering I started writing stories when I could simultaneously grasp pen and language, I'd say it's been a couple of decades. I've been writing seriously for fourteen years. I had one...two...three books under my belt by the age of twenty five. Trust me when I say they shall never see the light of day! I'm considering burying them in a personal time capsule only to be dug up upon the occasion of my death. About that time, I started toying with the idea of my current young adult fantasy series. I started, I stopped, I created worlds, I messed with character's lives! Then...then....then I found my story. On again, off again I worked on the beginning of a story that got more and more complicated as it progressed. There were weeks I didn't, couldn't write. There were days when the words flew off my fingers so fast I could barely keep up. Five years later, I have a completed trilogy, the first installment of a young adult fantasy adventure steeped heavily in ancient mythology.
That was the easy part. I finished editing back in July and for four months I've sat on it. Call it fear, loathing, extreme aggravation at a gaggle of characters who think they know their story better than I do. I, their creator! (um...right...) Inspiration was slow to come but it has finally won over fear, self doubt, threats issued by anonymous characters. The agent hunt is on, and boy oh boy is it a battle.
That being said, I have found two resources that are making my hunt easier than I could have hoped. If you are already aware of and utilizing their services, forgive my posting the obvious. You are free to roam the blogsphere at your leisure starting ... now! If you are, however, as I was, oblivious to the fact these two resources were out there, then read on pilgrim.
The blog Guide to Literary Agents has been on my blog roll for some time and I would casually glance at the articles, read up on ways to impress (or distress) a prospective agent, and ooh and ahh over the newly acquired author. What I didn't realize, until last Wednesday, was that they possess a data base chock full of agents, both new and seasoned! If you follow their blog, you'll see that once a week, they post a New Agent listing. It tells what they are seeking and how best to contact them. I went to the index on the right and scrolled down to the genre in which I right, clicked on it, and perused all the articles that talked about young adult agents. My list grew and grew until I had three pages (handwritten) of agents who I intend to further research online. Note: even though Guide to Literary Agents is current on their information, I would still go to the agent's website and get the pertinent information from there. When it comes to the future of your manuscript, it pays to do the extra leg work. Chuck Sambuchino has done a wonderful job of gathering as much information as an author can stand on the subjects of agents, query letters, and the dreaded synopsis. I highly recommend spending as much time as you need to gather the priceless information this site has.
My second ah-ha site has become Query Tracker. Their blog updates regularly and has great posts on the craft of writing, contests and a weekly Publishing Pulse which lists the recent goings on in the world o' publishing. Their website is the main site I want you to be aware of. Sign up (it's free!!!) and receive a monthly newsletter with info on the publishing world as well as agent listings. You can access their website without a free account. The site has a database which allows you to search for genre specific agents and agencies. I was able to ask it to search for "young adult" and "fantasy" and it brought up 65 listings. Granted, I will be looking them up online to check out their submission guidelines, etc. but this is a great first step to finding the agents that represent what you right.
I'm not posting this to hurry you. Hunting takes time, patience, resilience, and thick skin. It also requires that your manuscript be as ready as humanly possible. Once it's there, once you're absolutely (or at least 98% certain) it's as perfect as you can make it, take a breather. Go cycling, kayaking, spelunking. Then come back to it, give it one last read, take a deep breath and write that query. There's some excellent info on query writing on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Some of the best advice I've received for this stage of the writing journey was from Karen at Following the Whispers: "Take the action; let go of the result". So hard, but so very necessary. I'll add this: "Do your best, then let 'er fly!"
Happy hunting!
Jen

09 November 2009

Monday Musings

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." E.L. Doctorow

06 November 2009

A Brief Word

Sorry for the lack of inspired post to start off your weekend. Since yesterday afternoon I have been feverishly on the hunt for agencies that represent the type of book I have recently completed. I have been sitting on this since July. I have needed the separation, however, and it has been a wonderful respite. A time to put things in perspective and weight my priorities in the writing world.

I'll be spending my spare weekend hours, between preparing for a party and partaking in an annual Native American festival, seeking out agents, agencies, perfecting my query (for the 1,000th time) and beginning to write the dreaded synopsis. Gasp!

I signed up for NaNo this year, but decided this was a better way to spend my month of November. I'd much rather get this story aloft on it's own little wings than to start another of my twelve dozen projects I have strewn across the upstairs studio floor.

Here's to a great weekend! I hope you all enjoy yourselves. May the weather be wonderful wherever you are, take a quiet walk and breathe in the crisp, autumn air, and carve out some novel writing time for your own projects. There's no time like the present! Seize the Day and every other positive, forward moving affirmation you've ever been told to get your butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard!

Cheers!
Jen

05 November 2009

Emma Thompson did it better...


...but I had tons of fun pretending :) Yep, that's me playing dress up. I simply adore Emma Thompson's portrayal of the absent minded Professor Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter series.
Thanks to my brilliant husband for the use of his time, camera, and lighting.
I just realized, this is my 70th post! I see many long and prosperous years on blogger in my tea leaves, and yours too! Have a wonderful Thursday.

04 November 2009

It Takes a Little Heart...

...and a whole lot of soul to write anything. An article, a poem, a novel. You can tell when an author has put all of himself into his work. It's there, lying on the page, a beating pulse that can be felt through each word.

Everywhere you turn, authors and editors, agents and "those who know" admonish us to write what we know, to find our voice, to pour ourselves into our stories. It's so obvious and yet so hard to do. Why?

I think I have an answer. If I'm wrong (or way out in left field...it wouldn't be the first time that's happened!), please forgive me. I believe it's because we are conditioned to concern ourselves with what others think. The thought of rejection, the thought of "what if THEY don't like it", is enough to drive even the most talented artist into the underground.

I can remember being free. I remember as a child playing with abandon, writing stories that made sense to my five year old brain, stories where I could correctly spell "tyrannosaurus" but misspelled "island". I remember laughing, dreaming, scheming, telling jokes, making others laugh in class and choir practice.

Then something happened. I'm not sure if there's an actual date and time to it; I can look back and see several things that contributed. Something shifted and I was made to feel like my ideas were "wrong", "dumb", "punishable". Nothing horrible, mind you! I wasn't trying to sacrifice the neighbors goats or anything. Somewhere along the way, I lost the freedom to be myself and ever since then, I've been trapped behind a wall of "what ifs" and "no one will understand".

Art is subjective (at least that's what they told me). I've taken art classes as an adult and had "professionals" belittle my ideas and tell me they just don't "get it". I've watched people open their veins on stage, screen and page and marvel at their audacity, their bizarreness, their courage. Perhaps they never had that teacher put down their ideas. Perhaps they never were made to feel left out and betrayed. Or maybe...just maybe...they don't care.

What? Don't care? How callous! We're supposed to care. We (especially we women) are supposed to make everyone else comfortable, sacrificing our time, our dreams, our cares for those we love. Yes. And no. We are to put others first. We are to reach out and help. We are to go out of our way to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minster to the hurting, lonely and sick. But how can we do these things if we don't take care of ourselves first? A sick nurse is certainly not someone you want caring for you when you're ill.

This care and concern, while a noble and righteous thing, gets misconstrued in our modern society. It seems we teeter to one of two ends: care so much we shun ourselves and sacrifice our very health and well being in order to become a saint (or worse, a martyr). Or we guard ourselves so fiercely, let no one in, and alienate everyone in order to protect number one. Where's the balance? Simple. It's right there, in the middle, where your heart is aching for you to reside.

When i look at my stories, I see fantastic beasts, imagined lands, strong characters with even stronger flaws. I see mystery and murder, fantasy and magic. Do I dare see a message that someone may need? That someone has been longing to discover?

Inside all of us is a voice that is wanting to be heard. We push it, shove it, water it down. Why? No one will get it. It's not "the right way". It's too bizarre, too "out there". Of course, there are technical rules we must follow, grammatical dos and don'ts, regulations to follow in order to submit a query and grasp the attention of the right agent. Beyond that, however, the door is wide open. There's no filter. We are the ones who put on the blinders, get out the sieve and pour our hearts into them, discarding what we deem "odd", "unimportant" or "not recognizable".

Get out a pen and paper. Yes, yes, you know, those poor, sacrificed trees and ink filled piece of plastic. What's that voice inside telling you? You know. The tiny voice that's been so pushed away, crowded out by overstimulation and self-deprecation. Write what it tells you. It may be a few words. It may be a torrent of adjectives and nouns, verbs and run on sentences. Don't edit, don't filter, just write. When you're finished, you can pick through. You could find that you just needed to let our some pent up emotions, worries, fears. Then again, you may find that story that you've been dying to tell has finally come free of it's tethers. If that's the case, don't put it back in the box. Let it roam free. Let it take wings and soar around and around, higher and higher. Don't be afraid of where it's going. Let it lead. Don't try and direct it like a child on the beach tries to harness a kite. Allow your feet to be lifted off the sand and give in to the wild, tempestuous wind that is your brilliance. Frightening? You betcha. Necessary? More than you know.

02 November 2009

Monday Musings

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein."
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! We had an impromptu party at The Manor and I graced our guests dressed as Professor Trelawny of Hogwarts ... photo to come!

A happy November to everyone,
Jen