The deadline.

9 May

I miss my grandma. She was a sassy, secure chatty cathy, and I loved her dearly. The daughter of a Polish immigrant, she always had fascinating, and sometimes priceless, insights to share.

This little slice stuck with me the most. “Oprah says try different jobs. Experiment with what you want to do professionally, but by the time you’re thirty, you should be on track to what you want to do.”

Man, did she love herself some Oprah. She also told me she would leave my grandfather for Paul Newman as soon as he came for her and that a woman can never be too tall, too thin, or wear too much beige.

But back to the Oprah advice.

Thirty. It’s a checkpoint where you are supposed to evaluate what you’ve done so far and judge yourself accordingly. The day you turn thirty, you can suddenly look back at your twenties and define the decade. If I had to define my twenties in one word it would be wrinkle-free. Just kidding (and technically that’s two words, hyphenated).

But my twenties were certainly an adventure. The journey kind of looked like the Candy Land game board. I lived in eight different cities full of ups and downs and twists and turns. I also spent a lot of time at the career buffet (what, you don’t remember that spot in Candy Land?). I tried this and that. Sometimes, things seemed good in a small serving, but not so much as the entire meal. I’m not very adept at understanding things until I try them out for myself (which is all well and fine until you feel like a grown ass woman who thinks she wants to be an astronaut one week and an opera singer the next). For those of you whose first sentence was, “I want to be a (insert lawyer, doctor here) when I grow up,” and now, you are actually (that thing), this may not be making a lot of sense to you…

This Sex and the City quote is a nice punctuation to this piece. (it also makes me feel better about myself and probably dates me).

“Maybe mistakes are what make our fate…without them what would shape our lives? Maybe if we never veered off course we wouldn’t fall in love, have babies, or be who we are.” – Carrie Bradshaw

Most importantly, Grandma, I hope you know that I want to be a writer and that’s what I’m doing! I made the deadline. 😉

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Conference/Life lessons.

1 May

I attended my first writing conference this weekend!

…and I AM RE-ENERGIZED!!

What can I say, I am easily motivated. 🙂

This weekend really brought about the positive writing vibes, and I think it was largely because of the nice reminder that other writers are out there. Writers who have good days and bad days. Writers who get writers block. Writers who are going through the same thing I am. I have a pretty strong need to connect with others, so it was exciting to talk the talk with people who speak my language.

And believe me, there are plenty of writers out there. I heard a statistic from who knows where that hundreds of thousands of people query literary agents each year. What does that mean? Well, that means that aside from all the established authors already out there, 100,000+ new ones reach out and say, please help me publish my book. And of course, this doesn’t include the thousands and thousands who are self-published. Does this sound scary? I guess if I really sit and think about it, it does. But what will that do? Provide ammo for the “it’s too hard to even try” outlook? To be honest, the competition doesn’t deter me. It kind of makes me hungrier for it. Maybe I’m delusional, but MAYBE I’ve finally found my calling. Let’s just go with the second one.

Overall, I learned a lot at this conference, but I also felt like I was on the right track, which, I have to admit, was validating.

My Conference Lessons that can double as Life Lessons:

The first two sentences in my book better kick ass = First impressions are important. 

We had three agents reading the first 4-5 pages of manuscripts at random. As soon as they would have stopped reading “in real life” and moved to the next, they raised their hand. Let’s just say the hands went up quickly. But, let’s be real. They don’t know you. They have no vested interest in you. This is their only impression of you, so make it good! The same really can be said for many of your daily interactions.

Be authentic = (yeah, this one pretty much directly translates) Be authentic.

We had a great speaker who was, you guessed it, authentic to herself. You should be authentic in your writing and authentic in your life. Guess what, you aren’t someone else, so stop trying to be. I’m glad this has become much clearer to me in more recent years.

An agent should do more than just sell your book = Use the principles of marriage for business partnerships (see below for clarification).

After this weekend, I have a much better understanding as to the partnership a writer should have with an agent. I want someone who can manage my career and be in it for the long haul. I just keep thinking about finding someone I will connect with, who “gets” me, and who will be with me for the whole journey, and that makes me think of my husband. I obviously don’t completely equate the two, I just see some crossover, come on…

If it sound like writing, re-write = If your gut tells you something is off, listen.

There are sentences in my book that just don’t feel right. If they take me out of the story, that’s not good. If I’m too focused on the words themselves, that’s not good. I think this is pretty applicable to real life. It’s like, “This milk smells funny. I probably shouldn’t drink it. But maybe I should still try it, just in case.” NO! DON’T DO IT!

I will need to use some psychology to survive the publishing journey = You can also use psychology to survive life! 

I attended a session all about the ups and down of the publishing journey, including, but not limited to rejections and bad reviews. It was taught by a clinical psychologist who talked about methods to deal with rejection from literary agents and publishers and scathing reviews on the interwebs. I am a big proponent of therapy, so I think this is also a useful tool in life. Asking yourself questions like, “Am I thinking about this in an all or nothing way?” “Am I only paying attention to the negative?” “And am I about to verbally attack a reviewer online?” Yes, this happens. You should Google ‘Authors Behaving Badly.’

When querying, it can help to describe your work as “blank” meets “blank” = Do you want your life to be like “blank” meets “blank?”

I’ve heard this advice before, but when querying your novel, it can help to tell the agent, my novel is Romeo and Juliet meets Paranormal Activity. Not my novel and not a great example, but it gave me a funny visual. I pretty much want my life to be Clueless meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I mean, how fun does that sound??

The almighty conference.

23 Apr

I’ve been a deadbeat blogger as of late.

But let me rationalize. My first writing conference is this weekend and I’ve been consumed by preparation. I am exceptionally excited about attending this conference, but my snarky side can’t help itself, and it’s already making some assumptions as to what’s in store.

**Disclaimer** I have been to my share of conferences. I’ve also helped plan and execute my share of conferences, so I know that blood (well, let’s hope not too much blood, maybe from paper cuts?), sweat, and tears go into pulling off a conference, regardless of the subject matter. So, to be clear, these are my observations of conferences in general, not any one conference in particular. Did I cover myself? Apparently, I think that I am opening myself up for a lawsuit or something…

Now, I’m not a betting woman. Seriously. My roommate and I used to host ladies poker night where we attempted Texas hold ’em, mostly drank wine and Googled things like “ante in.” Anyhow, like I said, I’m not a betting woman, but I will wager on a few occurrences at this conference. I will even go as far as to say that at least three of the following will happen.

1. Someone will have technical difficulties and say, “I swear I tested this out before and it worked just fine!”

Now, I’ve been this person, so I sympathize. These phrases can also be substituted: “What the hell is this cord for?” and “I don’t know what that means! (to IT guy). Gotta love technology! (to audience).”

2. Someone will monopolize a workshop.

I hope this isn’t me since I am feeling like a little sponge wanting to soak everything in. But seriously people, this isn’t your private therapy session/one-on-one tutoring lesson.

3. Someone will be sleeping during a presentation.

Man, I hope this one doesn’t happen as I assume most people are paying for this conference themselves and not being sent for work. But then again, I saw plenty of people sleep in college and grad school, and I’m sure some of them were paying their own way.

4. Someone will argue with a presenter.

This one is always like a car accident. At first, it’s exciting, but then you realize it is just terrible for everyone involved.

5. Someone will get too drunk.

I hope someone gets too drunk and agrees to publish my book. Fingers crossed. 😉

If you can relate or if you have a good conference story, feel free to share!

Boston.

16 Apr

I couldn’t bring myself to blog today about anything aside from what happened in Boston yesterday.

When I first heard there was an explosion at the Boston Marathon, my initial thought was not terrorism. Granted, at that point I didn’t know much about the story, but in retrospect, I am pleased that even in this post-9/11 world, I can say I have not been completely consumed by fear. Things have changed, and yet our American way of life prevails.

Of course, the more I learned, the more I realized this was some kind of act of terror, regardless if the “mastermind” is a lone nut or an organized group. As information flooded my computer, phone, and television, 9/11 entered my thoughts. What if this kind of instant access to media had existed in 2001? Is it even possible there was once a time before Facebook and Twitter? But our increased technology since then ensured that when this happened, 99% of those Boston Marathon spectators had video and photos on their phones. Thousands of pieces of near instant evidence. Of course, all this technology has some negative impact. Opinions and half-truths become fact as the train speeds by and it becomes impossible to check everything, to decipher true and false.

The marathon, or any running race for that matter, embodies the triumphant human spirit. The environment is charged with positive energy and camaraderie. I have been both a participant and spectator at many running events and I have always left feeling better, even if my body left in pain. I ran a half marathon here in St. Louis last weekend and like thousands of races across the country, it was chock-full of volunteers, cheering us on, when they could have been sleeping in that Sunday morning.

And guess what? That is not going anywhere. Yes, security will be tightened. Yes, we will all be more vigilant. But after yesterday, I felt more inspired to attempt the Boston Marathon than ever before. Terror was incited, but only to breed resolve and unity.

So, what can we all do?

1. Show respect for those affected.

2. Tell your loved ones that you LOVE them.

3. Educate yourself on what is going on.

4. Pray.

5. Sign up for a running race.

You can also find ways to help victims here: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/04/boston-marathon-victims-how-to-help-find-information/

Count your blessings.

Book club.

10 Apr

Let’s talk book club.

I will do whatever it takes to get my book into the book club circuits (sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?). Of course, this is a little premature as the book is not even finished yet, but life is all about thinking ahead, isn’t it?

So, what makes a good book club book? The obvious answer is a “good” book, right?

I’ve found the best book club books aren’t just well written books. They are books that create discussion and ask open-ended questions. Books with the ability to compel a group of ladies, cheeks pink from wine, to put down the cheese and crackers long enough to ask themselves, “What would I do in this situation?”

Mmmmmm, cheese and crackers…

When I lived in LA, my book club should have been re-named ‘Eat, eat, eat, eat, oh yeah, there was a book’ club. And cheese and crackers were for amateurs. We are talking macaroni and cheese bar, make-your-own homemade pizzas, and brunch for dinner. Side note – I need to hurry this blog along so I can go eat lunch. And now that I’m in a book club in St. Louis, I’ve brought the “food is as important as the book” sentiment with me. We just read the Omnivore’s Dilemma and everyone had to bring something local or organic. Though the content was interesting, I think I might have enjoyed the Missouri tomatoes more than the book.

I also think this post might be more about food than books. Maybe I should have written a cookbook.

On that note, any good book recommendations? And let’s be real here, recipe recommendations? Extra points for a book and matching recipe.

 

Simplicity.

2 Apr

I have ADD. Well, not really. But my mind can be distracted quite easily. I’d like to think that my brain just works too quickly for my own good, but I’m guessing that little ‘self-diagnosis’ is not really the case.

There are times I just want to tell my brain to hold still, quit running around. And like a toddler, it listens for a few minutes before chasing shiny objects again.

This is why I love simplicity. This does not mean that I always choose simplicity. I mean I have at least six tabs open in my browser right now.

My husband and I went grocery shopping on Saturday. It was the same store we often go to, but a different location. As we were perusing the aisles, I said, “I like this store better.” “Why?” He asked. “I don’t know. It seems nicer. There are more options.” Cut to fifteen minutes later. We’re hungry. We haven’t gotten half the items on our list. I’m yelling, “Look how many types of wheat thins there are!!”

I want options and yet they overwhelm me.

I think this is why my blog entries tend towards the shorter side. These blogs are off the cuff, so while they might be mildly entertaining, we’re not talking exceptional devotion to the craft here. I’m not sitting down to write a novel just as you aren’t sitting down to read one. When I read a blog, I don’t really care to read 37 paragraphs, and I sure as hell don’t want to write 37 paragraphs. I like to keep things simple. This doesn’t need to drag on in complication and confusion. I’d like to think of my blog as original flavor, not low-sodium spicy buffalo.

Also, I should point out that in the middle of writing this, I checked my email, clicked on a link in the email, which reminded me of something I needed to do, so I looked it up and then remembered I was in the middle of blogging. Sigh.

 

 

Keyboards vs. Pens

27 Mar

I’ve heard that they don’t teach handwriting in elementary school anymore.

This makes some sense. We all use computers. Even when I was in school, they stopped teaching cursive after the fourth grade, so my cursive has been preserved just as I last used it, which I learned when attempting to address wedding invitations last year.

However, there are times in life when you still have to write something on a piece of paper that someone else is supposed to read. Who am I? Some kind of handwriting expert? I just want to figure out your email address, not solve some kind of hieroglyphics puzzle. How hard is it to make an “a” look like an “a”?

A question remains. Do you think better through a pen or a keyboard?

It took me a long time to think through a keyboard. In college, I actually used to write all my papers out by hand and retype them. At some point I realized that my oh-so-efficient methods needed to be revamped. I had to train my brain to think through keys. I didn’t come up with a program or anything. The world just became more key-centric. Somewhere through work emails and social media and graduate school, it just happened.

I’m still not the fastest typist out there. I’ve gotten better over the years, but sometimes I still want to think through a pen. I printed out half of my manuscript so I can go through page by page and edit. There is something about seeing a physical page, not on a computer screen, and writing on it.

What do you think? Does anyone still think through pens (or pencils)?

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