Friday, September 30, 2011

The One With The Summer '11 Reads

Oh Summer! I miss you with your days so sweltering I was forced to lay by the pool and read. Sigh.
Hello Fall. I don't like you fall, you're just the schizophrenic cousin of summer who can't make up her mind whether she's hot or cold or mild. You try to make up for this fact by bringing me flowers. By the way, those are weeds and I'm allergic. Thanks anyway.
But as you know, I digress.

This is how I spent my summer by the pool:

I was very well entertained!
Uh-oh! Now that I really look at the picture, I think one of the books got caught off. No worries; I'm going to begin reviewing the books that I've read over the summer and link (I hope!) to the reviews section of this site. I've never done a review of a book before so I hope I do OK. I want to be complimentary, yet honest; entice a future reader, yet not give out spoilers. This will take practice, I'm sure!

I've also decided to lump series together. I mean, let's face it. It's not like I keep up with this blog very well :)

First up will be the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The One With The Divorce Story

[This post is in response to Laurel Snyder author of the forthcoming Bigger than a Breadbox. (September 27!)]

Bigger than a Breadbox addresses divorce and a daughter trying to adjust to her new life. And I’ve heard there’s a touch of magic! Isn’t the cover beautifully intriguing?

Here’s a link to her blog:

Laurel asked people to tell her a story. We owe it to her. She shares wonderful stories with us.

So here’s mine.

In fifth grade all my friends’ parents were getting divorced. Actually, it seemed like every kid I knew had parents who were divorcing. Except me.
Did I feel lucky?
Did I feel relieved?
Was I scared my parents would be next?
I was scared my parents wouldn’t be next.
You see, I wanted my mom and dad to get divorced.
Many of my friends knew of the strange desire I had to see my parents split up. My friend Mindy put it best: “What’s your problem? Do you just want two of everything? Two bedrooms, two of all the holidays and stuff like that?”
That wasn’t it. The problem was I didn’t know exactly why I wanted my parents to live separate lives.
Did they yell?
Did they fight?
Were they mean to one another?
So, what was my problem?
I didn’t know the answer to that question. The problem was that my parents didn’t fight, they didn’t yell, and they weren’t mean to each other. Sound weird? Well…
In both my extended families everyone yells to communicate. This isn’t because we are a certain nationality, I know this stereotypical of a few; it’s just how we talk. I think by the time I was ten, I had noticed that my parents spoke quietly to one another. It just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like family.
Same thing with the fighting. My parents never fought; not about money, not about us kids, nothing. Again, I refer back to my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Whew! I’m not sure there has ever been one holiday where someone didn’t lock themselves into a bathroom crying due to something someone else said. (I’ve never been the one in the bathroom, thank you very much.) Everything is usually ironed out by the time the night’s over, though. (Oddly enough when a fight lasts beyond one day, the two family members give each other the silent treatment. Go figure.)
Personally, if I don’t fight with you, or at least openly disagree, then you don’t mean enough for me to even bother with you. Note: I don’t go around picking fights. I haven’t had the opportunity to oppose everyone on the planet…yet! And I believe I inherited this from both my parents.
Ok, am I about to say my family members are all mean to each other? A little bit. It’s not so much mean, but we all pick on each other. (This is what usually leads to those previously mentioned bathroom scenes.) Do I pick on people? Only if they pick on me first! (Two wrongs make a right, right?) Anyway, my parents didn’t pick on each other. They weren’t playful with one another. They didn’t take a second to rib the other to show they were paying attention.
Can you see how all this might be a noticeable problem to a kid? Some couples say they forgot to make time for each other or they forgot how to date one another. I think my parents forgot to challenge each other and their complacency led to boredom and resentment.
So I noticed all these things and wanted my parents to get a divorce. Fine. But what did I need? What was I missing?
(Again, I was ten. Cut me some slack. I just couldn’t figure out that part. I’m not sure I was aware that I had a need not being met.)
And then I was twenty, almost twenty-one. (Exactly ten years later. Wow. That’s actually just a little over ten years from right now. Holy Smokes!)
Anyway, I had to take my car in to the shop for some body work and my dad met me at the mechanic’s. Right there on one of the busiest streets in town, my dad told that he left my mom and they were getting a divorce. In my little ten year old voice I asked why. He said something about it coming for a long time. He wasn’t kidding.
(You know how the camera pans to all the crying girls at rock concerts and they look dumb? Well, I was at an NSync concert once and out of nowhere the stage came right for me putting me within six feet of the guys. The only thing I could think to do was-sigh-cry and wave.)
Minus the wave and rock star fun, that same kind of cry happened to me again. It was a kind of mixture of so many emotions that I couldn’t express them appropriately or even at all. The only thing my body could do was expel all these different feelings through tears. Of course my dad took this as sadness and hugged me, only the second time he’s hugged me in my life. (Which is exactly two more than my mom. We’re not huggers, we’re yellers. And in fairness, they may have hugged me as a baby and I don’t remember it.)
So, there I am crying on a busy street in my college town with my non-hugging dad embracing me. Geeze.
In my head I spoke to that ten year old: “Suck it up little girl. Smile. You finally got what you wanted.”
At twenty, I wanted, no craved, stability. This wasn’t stability.
(By the way, exactly six months after this nineteen Al-Qaeda terrorists commandeered four United States airplanes and…well I haven’t been able to locate stability since.
So my parents divorced and now my dad is remarried. I now have a step mother, brother, and sister as well as a step sister-in-law (that I graduated from high school with) and a step niece and nephew. In my early thirties it’s a unique challenge to fit into a step family. With my mom, she puts me in the middle of her and my dad; it’s frustrating and childish. I don’t know how I would have dealt with that as a child. It wouldn’t have been pretty. Everyone gets along and I’m thankful for that.
And I finally figured out what I was missing! I wanted and needed to see a healthy adult relationship. I needed to see what two people in love looked like. (I was in the gifted classes in school so I was smart enough to know that Young and the Restless and Dallas “love” wasn’t real.) I needed to around that kind of thing, immersed in it, living it.
How did I figure that one out?
Well, let’s put it this way: I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost twelve years and have no desire to get married. We’ve lived together for eleven years. I know how to be a girlfriend; but I don’t know how to be a wife.
So this is my story, and it’s ongoing.
I’m simply a WIP. (work in progress)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The One With The Explanation

(WARNING: This post has almost nothing to do with writing!)

When I started this blog I was all, "I'm going to update this every day!" That didn't happen. I'll be better this upcoming week, though.
You see, life gets in the way sometimes. We all know this. But there are certain times that life super sucks and to say that it "gets in the way" is an enormous understatement.
On Sunday, July 24, 2011, one of my best friend's daughters passed away. Abigail Marie Jensen was five and half years old and took her last breath in her father's arms. We all knew the end was quickly approaching; Abby was diagnosed just about a year ago with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Although such a little girl, she showed incredible dignity and grace throughout her journey. The only thing I wrote for the week (except Twitter posts to take my mind off things) was on her father's facebook account after she had passed to tell him that Abby had passed from one father's arms to another father's arms and probably never felt safer. I really believe this is true.
Although my faith wasn't wavering or faltering, Princess Abby certainly strengthened it forever. She was very excited to be going to meet Jesus. Her mom and dad believe that families are forever, and they're right.
So why do I write about it here? As an excuse why I wasn't blogging? Absolutely not.
I certainly wasn't inspired to write this last week; but that's change.
Abby's Make-A-Wish wish was to meet and get a kiss from a real prince; she got to do this when her family took a trip to Walt Disney World.
She also wanted to grow up and have babies.
Well, I won't address specifics in the second part of her wish. But I am going to interpret it.
Abby wished for a happy future she could look forward to.
[Please note she wanted BABIES not BABY. She didn't want an easy future! Abby was willing to work!]
But, stop a minute and think. Are you going through the motions of life? Or are you actually working toward a happy future? To that end, are you enjoying every day of your life?
Something to think about, huh?
One of the reasons I resigned from my job was that I going through the motions of life. One night I went to sleep and I was twenty-four; the next day I woke up and I was thirty!
I was no longer creative and I couldn't come up with anything I actually liked doing anymore. Pair that with a slew of friends/acquaintances taking their own lives and I realized I had to make some major changes. Fast.
I am extremely fortunate that I can take a year or two off to try my hand at this writing "thing" and see if I can do anything with it. If I can't, I've got a lot of education behind me to do something else. But I'm not going to worry about it right now.
Right now I'm going to continue to pray for my friend's family and I'm going to find the old Kelly. She laughed a lot. She was always painting and gluing stuff to other stuff. The old Kelly (which is also the younger Kelly, hmm) read a lot, gardened, and was more active. She also did more laundry.
That Kelly was never much of a traveler, so she she's got to be around here somewhere!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The One Where I Confess My Literary Sins

This will not be a Madonna-esque diatribe of all my wrong doings. Not even close. What I will be confessing on the blog today is the absence of literature in my teenage years. Ahem, ALL of my teenage years. That's right, if I remember correctly the last book I read as a kid was when I was twelve and in the seventh grade. It was R. L. Stine's Prom Queen. I didn't read another full book until...well...Twilight.
*slaps palm to forehead* The shame!
How did I get through junior high, high school, college as an undergrad, and then two rounds of grad school (master's degree and specialist's degree) without reading the classics you ask? Well, we had textbooks in junior high and high school that provided excerepts of novels such as Of Mice and Men, The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, etc. Someone decided these bits and pieces were the most important parts.
Thanks genius.
(Side note: When it came time to buy a new reading series at the school I taught at, I pushed crazy hard for novel sets instead of texts.)
As far as college, if I was assigned a novel to read I would probably just rent the movie. What? I had sorority functions to get to! During my grad school years I was working full time.
(I'd like to take this opportunity to say I devoured magazines like jelly beans. I didn't simply NOT read, I just chose small, quick, fare.)
Moving on...
When I became a teacher, I did skim some of the Mark Twain award nominees so that I knew
enough about them to recommend them to my students. But that's it.
And then I read Rules by Cynthia Lord. (This was a Mark Twain nominee in...2007, I think. I'll have to look that up and amend) This book made me want to start reading again! (Thank you Ms.
Lord!) But I'm a girl who really likes a series; and I couldn't really find anything. Also, I don't really like adult books with all the gratitious sex. I'd always been a fan of Jackie Kennedy, so I read everything I could get my hands on about the Kennedy family.
Then Twilight...
It fit the bill: no gratuitous sex (no matter how hard Bella tried), it was a series, and I loved it! But, alas, it came to an end and I was lost without all my vampire and wrewolf friends. I had to find something else to read.
But this time things were different. My life was different.
I was a fifth grade teacher and reading books wasnt just about my own entertainment anymore. As I said, I wanted to read middle grade books (like Lord's Rules) so that I could make recommendations to my students and reluctant readers. I fell in love with this genre of fiction! In middle grade (by the way, that's where the title of the blog comes from) there is a life lesson, a happy ending, and a bunch of series!
The more I read the more I thought, "Um, I soo could do this." Not long after that thought, an entire story began to form in my mind. I waited until summer vacation to pound out my manuscript.
It took me about six weeks.
Because it didn't take me very long, I figured my MS was crap. So I shelved it for two years before letting anyone read it. Only in the last four or five months have I let anyone read it. Surprisingly, I've gotten a lot of positive feedback, and I asked people who I knew wouldn't mind being ruthless :)
Unfortunately, I'm now trying to write a query letter for it (thanks Becky for your help!!), research on agents, the authors those agents represent, oh! and by the way, I have five works in progress.
And my face is breaking out.
I think that's related.
Truthfully, I believe if I was at least querying agents on my finished MS, I would feel...better? I'll say this now and probably regret it later, but even if I get rejected by each and every middle grade agent out there, I think I'll feel better that at least I took that next step.
I predict that this will be like when I used to take gymnastics and was learning to do back handsprings. My first one was super awkward, but at least I worked up to it and got it done. Each back handspring after that was better than the one before...
Until one time I landed on my neck.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The One Where I Didn't Get My Act Together

So, I didn't get my act together.
This is NOT the story of my life. I'm typically very organized and ready for what may come. Except when it comes to this writing "thing". No one I know does this or has even attempted this type of career. There is absolutely NOBODY I can call on the phone and ask a quick question or shoot off a text or email when something pops up. Authors and agents on Twitter say it's ok to email them with questions, but I'm not too sure. I mean, they're busy people they don't need my whiny questions and low self-esteem issues.
Except, despite my childhood, I'm one of the most confident people you'll ever meet. If ever given the pleasure ;-}
Anyway, I didn't get my act together. I have this query letter. Its terrible! Or maybe it's not. The problem is I don't know. The even bigger problem is that one of my Twitter friends (wait, that's Facebook); one of my twits, twitterers, tweeps, whatever, offered on her blog a critique of query letters, manuscripts, etc. Why didn't I enter this contest, you ask?
1) I'm a little sensitive about the dumb query being posted in the comments section. (but that's not really it)
2) The deadline was July 19th and I only found out about it July 18th (although she'd started the contest a week prior. I've got some pretty intense personal issues going on right now and I haven't been tweeting consistently)
3) The reminder came at 10:00pm on the 19th and with my narcolepsy once I'm almost out, that's it. She was nice enough (and really, soo nice) to say that I had a little more time, but medically speaking, I could no longer get back up and go to the computer to retrieve said letter. (I had been viewing Twitter on my iPad)
4) I'm not real sure I did the query letter right anyway.
But this wonderful and generous person could have told me that, or at least pointed me in the right direction! To top it all off, she is represented by one of my top five dream agents!
To sum it up, I didn't have my act together.
But what lesson can be learned here?
1) I have learned that for me (and my brain that runs a mile a minute) I need to write a query letter BEFORE I write the manuscript. Before I get so involved with the characters and their backgrounds that I want to put too many details in the query that I end up glossing over everything and writing a 65 word letter. (slight exaggeration)
2) Always take an author or agent up on a critique. ALWAYS. Duh.
3) Whether I know what I'm doing or not (not), if I want to make this happen for myself, I have to figure it out. Which means I'm going to have to stick my neck out and take a chance. It'll mean so much more to me when things finally start to happen.
So don't be checking your inboxes for an invitation to my pity party. It won't be there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The One Where I Begin Blogging

So, this actually isnt my first blog. I began one several years ago that was to chronicle my animal rescuing excursions. But, like most of my paper and binding diaries, I didn't keep up with it and eventually lost it. Like, lost it, lost it. I can't remember the web address, couldn't figure out the password if my life depended on it. Good thing it doesn't!
I will, however, be keeping up with this one. First of all, if anyone notices (although I don't believe anyone will actually read this) I'm totally ripping off the titling of the FRIENDS series. Every episode, except the pilot, began like this: The one with... I think it will make it easier and less frightening for me to keep coming back here.
My purpose for this blog is to keep myself writing even on the days I don't feel like working on any of my works in progress. And believe me, there are several. I am also in query letter hades. I have a query letter...I think its terrible. I think it's holding me back, I also think I'm holding myself back. Right now I'm overwhelmingly frustrated and frustratingly overwhelmed. I'm reading books authored by clients of certain dream agents for research and to be able to personalize my craptastic query letter. I think this is really important. At the same time, I hate the idea of my manuscript just sitting around colleting dust when I keep reading middle grade stand alones are being sought after. (Whatever. I've read that a couple places.) I also know I need someone "in the know" to tell me if my query letter is terrible or just needs a little tweaking. Where is this person? In the midst of all this, about six or seven ideas for books come to me A DAY! I'm not talking small ideas here like a silly little junk mail postcard arriving in your mailbox proclaiming the wonder of cash advance companies. Oh no; I'm getting ideas that are delivered in enormous boxes complete with major and minor characters, settings, quirkiness, plot twists and turns, outlines for sequels...oy.
So what do I do first? This a total chicken/egg thing. (You know, which came first...)
Im other words, I'm attempting to begin a writing career...and probably going about it all wrong.
And this is where I'm going to gripe about it. :~]
Not really; since I don't think anyone will be dropping by, this will be more a writing exercise for me. And keep me accountable daily.
I also intend to document for posterity the fabulous books that I'm reading in my research. There have been some really terrific ones and honestly, not one bad one.
Which means the competition is fierce.
Game on.