Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dance marathon

One show last night, two today. Jingle, jingle, jingle.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Something for my collection...

Purple crab!

Sioux City Journal

Thank you for dedicating Sunday's front page to an anti-bullying editorial.

Don't Panic!

So it seems I need to revisit that wonderful evil book, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and re-read those comforting words, "Don't Panic!" With changes at work and an ever-squeezing pinch on writing time, I've started to do just that and I'm stressing, and I've caught my third virus this year. Worrying over the best way to manage my time and still get somewhere on the publishing front, still get writing done, still spend time with family and friends, still take care of myself. Time to take a breather, sit back, have some cake (and decaf) and stop panicking.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Round and round we go

I sent out a round of queries after graduating from my MFA program and got what I think is a fairly positive response: Fifteen queries, four requests for full manuscript. Two rejections with fairly extensive comments. Two just... waiting. From what I can glean from various forums, an inordinately long time. And I'm afraid to say, hey, just checking back on that? Because I'm afraid they'll just say, oh, right, sorry -- no thanks. I think it would be far better to go back to them and say, hey, I got an offer for representation, are you still interested? So that means back to querying. Which makes me despair. It's not just a matter of sending out a bunch of letters, it's research. It's time. It's sitting at my desk on the weekends when I've sit at my desk all week. It's spending at least a couple of hours on each prospective agent, honing each pitch to appeal to that particular agent's tastes. Maybe they'll answer, maybe not. And how do I know I'm picking the right ones simply based on their interests? Who are they, really? The worst part: More time away from actually writing. It's an investment when you know it will pay off in the end -- but that's the big question. Books are getting published, we know this. But the window of opportunity feels barely cracked open. It all seems so nebulous. A roundabout in the fog.

Must-have "books" for every evil nerdbrarian

Loved this story about fake evil books. (And there were plenty in the Buffy-verse too.) Funny they included the Hitchhiker's Guide but I guess I could see that -- it wasn't very helpful.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Winding road

Got a chance to see Oshkosh native Jess Riley last week during the Fox Cities Book Festival when she visited the Menasha Public Library on Tuesday night, answering questions from a curious and engaged crowd. I've read the opening of her funny and engaging book Driving Sideways to my fiction class as an example of how to draw readers in immediately (we listen to different examples of first pages and then fill up the whiteboard with what we know, what we don't know and why we feel interested to read more). She discussed the process of getting her novel published and what's going on in the publishing industry now -- some positive and some not so much, depending. Lots of changes. Everything tougher. Do-it-yourself is getting easier. E-book publishing is great. Her second book may in fact be published in this method alone ("So, it won't be a real book, then?" commented one joker.) YA is still getting published. So that's something. Good writing will still capture attention, but a first book is not a guarantee of a second book. (Poets & Writers recently had a piece by Kim Wright on post-publication blues -- that signing with an agent is often the highlight of a writer's journey and everything after can be a series of compromises and disappointments, particularly in this tenuous publishing climate. Whee! Things to look forward to.) But both Wright and Riley offered validation that continuing to write is key. That's what this is all about, why we're here in the first place.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Goodbye, Barnabas

Odd that just before we get to see Johnny Depp's version of Barnabas Collins that we lose the original, Jonathan Frid, (and on Friday the 13th, no less) who gave us one of the first broody romantic vampires in the weird late-60s daytime drama Dark Shadows. Not long ago a good friend pointed me toward the series (What? A soap opera with a vampire in it? From the sixties? What?) and though its glacial pace couldn't sustain me I recognize its offbeat appeal, its notable footprint in the ever-twisting pathway of pop culture.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Microfiction in microseconds

It's become a habit now, turning on the computer in the ridiculous hours of the morning to write, if only for ten minutes. Enough for a sentence or two, maybe. But I'm at that point in my new manuscript where that's how things are -- sentence by sentence, or as Anne Lamott might say, bird by bird. I hunt and peck for things that are not quite right, a little incongruous, not exactly the phrasing I meant. Somehow in the grogginess of the pre-coffee morning, that much is clear.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pulitzer none

No Pulitzer in fiction this year: A once-in-a-blue-moon rarity. But then, so is the collective talent of these three finalists.

Yes, really, what is it?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Storms struck the central plains today and some were killed, among them, children. That morbid joke about tornadoes and trailer parks is not funny. The vulnerable made more vulnerable, put at greater risk. Wisconsin is at the northern end of tornado alley -- 38 confirmed touchdowns last year. They do not strike as often as other places but they do strike, and there are vague warnings for tonight. In the Midwest we are accustomed to watching the sky. A black sky isn't good, a green sky isn't good, a black and green sky is definitely not good. The new urgently worded warnings (Unsurvivable! Catastrophic!) may work the first couple of times but people will eventually go back to judging for themselves. We watch for the moment when the leaves stop still and then suddenly whip into a frenzy; we know when the hail comes then there's a good chance something worse is following. We listen for the sirens but they can be sporadic or late or incorrect. Not hearing sirens can give a false sense of security. We turn on the TV weather guy but the power can go out and we must rely on our instincts and experience. We know when the sky just doesn't look right. Nighttime is harder but frequent lightning reveals blowing trees and fast-moving clouds. We hunker in basements, sometimes sleeping there just to be safe.


So this week I:

1. Was chosen to be my belly-dance instructor's flower girl at our recital during the thank-the-teacher portion of the program.
2. Got a promotion at work.*
3. Earned the top score during a game at a shooter training course. (Why yes, I do have wildly disparate interests. Thanks for noticing.)

And then my luck ran out. I had entered my manuscript in a contest sponsored by literary agent Janet Reid and knew the finalists would be announced this weekend. Not all have been announced, but they have each received a list of questions to respond to. I'd hoped to find something in my inbox tucked between the Kohl's coupons and forwards of adorable animals, but alas, nothing.

She tells us the judges had an extremely hard time choosing manuscripts. I'm among the remaining 400 or so entrants who are now sad-faced, and possibly like me pondering what exactly caused my work to be set aside. Something major? Minor? Arbitrary? Obvious? Did I make it to the final 16? 38? 91? How close did I get? Or a better question: How much farther do I need to go?

I've been watching her blog posts and learned a few things for submitting to agents/contests in the future, including that my page numbers were in the wrong place (mine were in the upper right, but they should be in the lower right. These issues were not disqualifiers to the contest, but noted for our benefit). At first I thought, really? We're worrying about things like that? But when most agents get bombarded by crap on a daily basis, you've got to stand out (in a good way). Point driven home when I got to be the one going through freelancers' resumes and encountered gems such as "Other than studying other people's work, I have very little experience as a writer/reporter." Okay. You're right. I see.

So. Fix it. Embrace the disappointment. Go do some dishes. Wrap a birthday gift. Come back to your desk, sit down and keep writing. Write some more. Are you writing? Yes, yes, yes.

Turns each day into a win.

*When I say "promotion" I mean extra title, more responsibility and no additional pay. So possibly this should not have been included on my list.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What happens to Easter bunnies after Easter

They are fed to the zombie and
their heads displayed as storefront
trophies. Didn't you know?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Language and love

Went to see Diane Ackerman Wednesday night as a part of the week-plus-long celebration of writing and literature, the Fox Cities Book Festival . Her book One Hundred Names for Love describes the journey of healing after her husband, the writer Paul West, suffered a stroke that left him with aphasia -- a particularly cruel fate for these lovers of language.

When therapy wasn't getting anywhere Ackerman reviewed his workbook problems: Can a bowl swim? Can pearls fly? Questions designed for the literal mind. So she took over his therapy. Among the challenges she posed to West, who lamented that he couldn't remember any of the pet names he had made up for her: Make up new ones. He did, every day for a hundred days.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More moderation

Cleaned out my truck since it was starting to resemble the vehicular version of Grey Gardens. Things falling out of open doors and such. Among empty water bottles and mapquest directions, a happy meal box or two. My not-so-secret shame. But really, better than a supersized monstrosity, and hey, you get apples*. Plus the fries come in an envelope that could barely contain a hotel key card. And then there's the toy. I always ask for the boy's toys since the girl toys are stupid. Then I save them and use them for stocking stuffers. One less thing to shop for.

*chemically enhanced

Thought I was kidding?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thrift stop

Wanted to get out of my dark little office for lunch so took a drive to St. Vinny's thrift store, a sometimes-favorite treasure hunting haunt. The parking lot was full, on a Monday, not a bag sale day or anything like that. This and yet another stock market drop shows things aren't all sunshine just yet. Families and couples picked through the bargains looking for clothes and home goods. I pushed through hangers of t-shirts, looking for quirkiness. One purple t-shirt held possibilities: U.S. Olympic Training Center, it said.

Warehouse of broken dreams.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Anti-social media

Was trying to read a story online when the "Share!" box popped up, giving me a dozen or so options for sending the thing through social media. Plus 322 more options not showing in the box. Really? And I couldn't get rid of the damn thing. I couldn't read the story because the box was in the way. I'm all for sharing (or else I wouldn't be blogging) but everything in moderation. I don't always want to frigging share the frigging story with every frigging person on the frigging planet. Sometimes I just want to read.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dark road

Darkness surrounds me, waiting to devour. Hard to navigate that narrow road of light.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


It's scarves one day and sandals the next. We watch carefully for firsts: first robins, first sandhill cranes, first dandelions. We make our own to celebrate: first t-shirt day, first driving-without-shoes day, first hang-your-laundry-on-the-line day. Last night, first storm. We watch and enjoy but know that maybe these things are coming a little too early, the storms coming on a little too strong.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not exactly Chicago

Where I spent the weekend of AWP, which for the first time closed registration because there are so many writers out there who want to write better or at least hobnob with other writers. So I did the next best thing -- I spent the weekend writing. Instead of 10,000 writers I had dead animals for company. Black bear, couple of deer heads, a jackalope, game fowl and one crazed-looking fox. Whoever stuffed the fox set the front paws up on a piece of wood so it looks like it's standing at a podium, running a meeting of evil genius foxes. Not exactly like watching Margaret Atwood give the keynote, but I'll take what I can get.