I use twig-words to build my nest. Inside it I place my plot, characters, theme and voice, being careful not to crush their fragile shells. I nurture them until they have hatched and sprouted strong wings.* The fledglings fly from the nest - a small flock ready to make its way in the wide world.
*Ugly Fact: weaklings may be ejected from the nest.
As some of you know, I've been querying TENDRIL. I was trying to approach the whole process cautiously and scientifically. By that I mean entering pitch contests to get feedback and help on my query, querying in batches, testing the waters with various incarnations of my query letter, and not blanketing AgentLand all at once with a desperate cry for representation.
Rather unexpectedly I got a request from an agent for a phone call.
I can't go into details, and this isn't a THE CALL post. Though, I would LOVE to be doing one of those...
This is more about a deer in the headlights experience.
Based on her email, I thought we would be discussing her suggested revisions-and we did.
I hoped she would tell me what she liked about TENDRIL-and she did.
I was worried that I would have technical difficulties using Skype-which I didn't.
I was worried that I would involuntarily start imitating her accent, because I sometimes do that when I'm talking to someone whose accent isn't like mine-but I didn't, THANK GOD.
Unfortunately I was not prepared for her to ask me why I queried her specifically.
I mean, I had reasons, but I didn't explain them eloquently. AT ALL. It was more like...
"Um, well, I saw you on Twitter. And then I went to your site. And your bio said stuff that seemed as though TENDRIL would be right up your alley..."
See what I mean? Sounds more like a lame Match.com convo.
Perhaps even more tragically, I was not expecting her to ask me how I came to write the story, what INSPIRED me (here's the tie in to Thursday's Children) to write it.
I, who have been spending nearly a dozen Thursdays rambling about inspiration, drew a complete and utter blank. Damn pathetic.
What I came up with was something along these lines...
"Uh, er, I have always liked fairy tales, and I liked the movie Tangled a lot, but of course because I wanted to write for a YA audience, and not copy anyone else's work, I had to make it different. So, uh, I..."
Well, I'll spare you the rest. It was lame. And not even true. Because what really inspired TENDRIL was my love of old cemeteries. That's what got me started. Thinking about a girl who discovered she could communicate with the lost souls in a graveyard. I didn't even realize I was writing a retelling until I was a good halfway through the first draft.
Hopefully you've gotten a laugh at my expense, and if an agent wants to discuss revisions with you, bear in mind that he/she might also want to discuss INSPIRATION and other matters.
Thankfully for me she was still expressing interest by the end of our chat.
If it all ends up going nowhere, at least I'll be ready next time.
Yes, combining Inspiration and Gratitude makes perfect sense.
I am devoting this post to Writer-Mentors.
The ones throwing contests and clinics, holding out a hand to those traveling behind them.
Even though they are also writing, editing, revising, parenting, "spousing", teaching, and a million other things.
After writing three books I finally decided to work on my "Social Media Platform". Twitter, Facebook, and blogging connected me to other writers. Through them, I learned about the world of Contests and Clinics and Blog Hops. Oh, my.
I entered GUTGAA. Boy, did that make my head spin! Although I didn't make it to the agent round, I learned a lot and met some fabulous people. And I won a critique.
I still have NO idea how Deana Barnhartpulled off something that HUGE and COMPLICATED with such patience and grace. Clearly she's an organizational genius. Not to mention, a saint.
Then there was Hook, Line and Sinker. I didn't make it past the first round there. But it was still fun.
Dee Romito at Writes For Applesnot only knows about all the contests that are going on, she's involved in most of them, not only H,L&S, but also... Agent Trick or Treat.
Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake (more on her later) were also part of Trick or Treat. Because of their spirit of generosity, the original twelve slots became THIRTEEN. And I squeaked in and got a request for a partial because of it. Yay!
and another one from Oasis for YAwhich got me a crit of TENDRIL's first 250 words
And here are two more contests I'm looking forward to-
PitchWars -Brenda Drakestrikes again! And brings a whole posse of helpful writers, editors, and agency interns along with her. Thirty-one awesome volunteers to be exact. Check her blog to see who they are.
And yeah, The Thanksgiving Blog Hop was Brenda's idea too. Clearly the woman NEVER sleeps. I call her Bionic Brenda. She doesn't know that though.
Also coming up is #PitchMas Feaky Snucker 's Brainchild. I don't know what Feaky's real name is. I think she might be in some kind of Librarian Protection Program.
The best parts of all these contests? (aside from the occasional ms request)
New friendships, mentoring, helpful feedback.
If I'm ever in a position to extend the same kind of helping hand to fledgling writers, believe me, I will.
THANK YOU WRITER-GIVERS!
You are MY inspiration!
If you'd like to join Thursday's Children this week here's the Linky List
What do Thursday's Children and Thanksgiving have in common?
They both happen on Thursdays, of course,
And they both have themes of family (one a family of writer-friends, one the more traditional view of family),
but also...this week they have a Love-Child Blog Post.
(November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)
I know, I know, Louisa May Alcott and "love-child" are really awkward together.
But I am both inspired by and thankful for Louisa, who wrote about family (see there's a connection).
Why is she inspirational?
Well, of course she was a strong, creative spirit who didn't let 19th century conventions, poverty,
or a wing-nut father (who preached "the sweetness of self-denial") slow her down.
She was a feminist and an abolitionist, in addition to being a hard-working, prolific and successful author.
She hobnobbed with rock-stars.
Well, the 19th century New England equivalent anyway - Thoreau, Hawthorne, Emerson.
But mostly because Little Women was the first "YA" book I read that made me cry.
And cry. And cry. I simply COULD NOT BELIEVE Beth died.
I knew her. I loved her. How could she be dead? This is a book I will not reread as an adult.
I'm afraid it would be uncomfortable.
There's a pretty good chance I'd find Little Women maudlin, and I might laugh at my fragile child-self for having loved it so much. And then all the magic would be gone.
I still have the book of course. That's it above. It is OLD. The cloth binding is all frayed and the pages are yellowed. This book had seen some hard times long before I ever held it in my hands. God knows how many girls had sobbed over it. All those tears, sighs, and whispers make it smell wonderful.
Although I admired Jo, she intimidated me the way field hockey girls did (no offense to any field hockey players who might be reading this). Amy was the character who was most like me. Modeled after Louisa's real sister May, she was the youngest in the family, she was artistic, and okay, yes, she was a bit spoiled. Interesting for me personally, Louisa took in May's daughter after May died of childbed fever. Her name was Lulu (also my daughter's name). I didn't know that until I did some research for this post.
The town in Massachusetts where I grew up is not far from Concord, where the Alcotts lived. Here is a photo of Orchard House. It was built in 1690.
My favorite part was the graffiti. Yes! May/Amy drew on the woodwork.
Such a minx!
Those very real drawings made me feel connected to both the story and its author almost as much as crying buckets over Beth. They held so much more immediacy for me than the carefully cosseted artifacts in the rest of the house.
Orchard House has its own Blog if you're curious to learn more about it.
When I was twelve I had my first fangirl crush on an author.
I read everything Louisa wrote, and when I'd read all her books, I read them all over again.
But none of them touched me like Little Women. I can't even remember how many times I read it.
Thank you for making me cry Louisa, and showing me the awesome power of literature. And when one of my CPs said my book made her cry no less than three times-I was thrilled (even if she cries easily). It's the litmus test for me.
And yes, one of these days I will write something about current authors who inspire me. Promise.
If you'd like to join our weekly Thursday's Children Blog Hop, grab a spot on the Linky List.
Today's post is about my best friend, who also happens to be my husband.
We met in art school, two of four students who actually showed up to Art History class in a blizzard. Apparently he spent the hour writing a note to his friend in New Hampshire about the cute girl in his class. *blushing*
Here I am at the time.
He was really preppy, I think he might even have been wearing a bow tie. I politely ignored him. Unfortunately I don't have a "Before" picture of him.
But below you can see the result of my, um, influence. His family was none too pleased.
These are photos of our passport photos, taken just before we went to the U.K.
Yes, it is a bit of a twist on the Pygmalion and Galatea story...because I did eventually fall in love with him.
In those days my creativity was channeled through hair gel and painting. He always cheered me on in art school, and told me my realistic portraits were great, even if everyone else was doing angry abstracts and conceptual work. And after some rough class critiques he cheered me up (I cheered him up too, of course).
We got married and had a decorative painting business together for a couple of years - murals, faux finishes, that sort of thing. Our company was called Nymph & Satyr Designs. We never got sick of each other, even spending EVERY waking moment together.
But, I really want to talk about my husband and writing.
My very first attempt at a novel remains unfinished, but he read what I'd written and said I should keep writing, that I was good at it. He still thinks I should finish that book.
It's called THE ISLANDS OF PENOBSCOT BAY. Look for it on bookstore shelves in 2030 or so.
He was the first person to read all three of my finished books. He read the first one at least three times, because I changed it repeatedly based on agent feedback.
He helps keep me sane during the roller-coaster ride of querying, rejections, requests, more rejections, R&Rs, and so on.
He keeps telling me "it will happen-don't give up" and I like to think he's right. We're even making a BIG move, in part so that I can keep writing and not have to go back to work full-time.
I'll always remember the moment he came into the kitchen, hugged me, quoted a line from my most recent book TENDRIL, and said "No matter what, keep writing. You are too damn good not to make it."
That made me cry. Hopefully one of these days his faith in me will be rewarded.
p.s. In case you're wondering, neither of us has a mohawk now.
Bloggers will be posting about whatever makes them thankful.
1. I am thankful for Brenda Drake, whose spirit of generosity towards unpublished/unagented writers is LEGENDARY.
2. I am grateful for being laid off exactly four years ago.
At the time it was traumatizing. As I sat in a mandatory seminar for the "dehired" I saw duplicates of my own shell-shocked face. Diligent, conscientious Lisa Simpson-type workers who'd always gotten good reviews, often put work before family and self, agonized over taking a sick day, got to work early and stayed late without pay, etc. All for what?
Being part of a "down-sizing" pushed me off the hamster wheel.
Made me think about what I'd done in my life so far and what I wanted to do with whatever is left of it. Thanks to unemployment benefits I had some time to breathe, and to try something different. Something I'd always wanted to do. Write a novel. I've now written three. Maybe some day one or more will even be published.
3. I am grateful that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.
No matter what job titles I hold in the future, they won't define me the way they have in the past. I'm a writer now. First. Always. No matter what. And no, I don't use a vintage typewriter, but it's cool looking, isn't it?
Guess I'm in a bit of a nostalgic mood this week. Or maybe trick or treating reminded me of childhood days... I've already blogged about George S. MacDonald who was one of my favorite childhood authors. Mary Norton (1903-1992) was another.
She wrote THE BORROWERS series in the 1950s and 60s.
I had long been obsessed with the idea of wee folk (pixies, brownies, faeries, and so on). But Mary's characters were different.
They were much more like us-with names ALMOST like ours. Take the Clock family for example: Homily. Pod. Arriety. Mary was brilliant.
They had no wings or magical powers. In fact, Borrowers were terrified of us, "human beans". Being "seen" by one of us was an event that could, and did, have catastrophic consequences.
They lived with us-only we didn't know it.Again, brilliant.
They "borrowed" food, and other things too. Paper clips to use as grappling hooks, wooden spools to sit on, cigar boxes for beds. Arriety had to do her lessons with an ENORMOUS pencil.
For years I left items I thought might be useful beside a small hole in the hallway floor of our house.
Miniature marshmallows, safety pins, bits of yarn.
They were always gone in the morning (thanks, Mom!).
THE BORROWERS had everything a wonderful (children's) book should have-
Great characters who are funny, lovable, interesting, scary
Enough danger and adventure to make "that's all for tonight" the worst words in the world
Series potential-although I have to say none of the books was as good as the first
A world the reader wants to be part of - and here the parallel world, in miniature, is such a great hook
It had great illustrations too, which were like doodles, and rewarded careful scrutiny.
This is Pod paying a visit to Aunt Sophy, also known as "Her". She had a penchant for Madeira which made her believe Pod was a hallucination. When she was all liquored up, Pod could "borrow" whatever he liked, and not even worry about being "seen". Love the chamber pot under the bed.
THE BORROWERS was also responsible for my first bad boy crush.
Spiller was the type of Borrower who lived outside, which was akin to living on the wrong side of the tracks. He was wild, and made his own rules.
He and Arriety had a bit of an adversarial relationship-but I think she liked the way he challenged her and persuaded her try new adventures.
Below is Robert Sheehan, who played Spiller in the movie version. If I'd been fourteen year old Arriety I would have totally gone for him. Note to Self: Inspired by Bad Boys. Future Thursday's Children post.
And speaking of the movie version-the one with John Goodman. Though unlike the book in significant ways. I enjoyed it anyway, but as its own thing.
It did provide a line that I'm quite fond of, (it was Pod's originally, his response to Arriety's plea to go "borrowing" with him).
Said with an English accent, à la Jim Broadbent, "No. No. And again. NO." Here's our Theme Song...
What better way to start November than with a Blog Award?
This one was given to me by my friend Dean Pace-French
If memory serves, we met during the GUTGAA craziness.
Or was it WriteOnCon? It's all kind of a blur...
I'll be answering 8 questions, then passing the Sunshine Award on to ten, make that eleven, more writer-bloggers.
1. What is your Favorite Christmas/Festive movie? A Christmas Carol. The George C. Scott version. I loved him as Rochester in Jane Eyre too.
2. What is your Favorite Flower? I can't pick just one. Peony (so showy, with so little effort) and Wisteria (poetry by Nature).
3. What is your Favorite Non-Alcoholic Beverage?
Coffee. Hot or Cold. Any time of day. Any time of year. Yeah, I have a little problem.
4. What is your Passion? Writing. Of course.
5. What is your Favorite Time of Year?
Autumn. Best weather. Best holidays. Best food.
6. What is your Favorite Time of Day?
Morning. After the doggies have their walk, and I sit down to write, revise, and alright, I confess, SOMETIMES even let myself be distracted by Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
7. What is your Favorite Physical Activity?
Walking. On the beach. In the Woods. Wherever there's something beautiful to look at.
8. What is your Favorite Vacation Spot? Paris. The most magical city I've visited, at least so far.
And my Nominees are...oops, let me get my reading glasses.
There, that's MUCH better.
*If you're doing NaNoWriMo or have some other "big thing" in the works, please feel free to pick up your award at your convenience.
But let me know when you've got your post up, so I can check out your answers.