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.