Saturday, January 26, 2008

If I were a Tea Kettle, I'd be whistling by now!

Pressure! It's maddening at this point. We are still waiting to hear about a job for DH, fighting depression in the face of true joblessness at any moment. Waiting on the ever interminable submission process to supply an answer, in particular, a big fat "yes, we love it, gotta have it!" How do you keep from chewing your fingertips off at times like this?

On the plus side, I know that my latest manuscript is top-notch and has a really good shot at a contract, if not with the current editor, with another one. It's my best work--period. I feel good about my first novel, too, which is still under consideration, but it is my first and could use a little more work (which I see so much more clearly now that I've had some distance).

The hardest thing is managing the financial worries as well as issues of morale when it comes to my DH's job search. Worrying about more than just a job, his career. This whole thing has been pretty devastating for him, and I'm trying to keep the positive vibes flowing. But it's tough some days. Worrying about what if we have to move...can we sell our house? Will we be in a position to buy in our new city? Will it be a good move for the kids?

I know...more fuel for writing, right? If I could just concentrate. I have research to do so I can spark that plan for the next book, but I just haven't been able to find the focus.

Okay...enough venting. I'll keep drinking in those fantasies about that fabulous book contract and the eventual book signings, with lines out the door...(dream big, I say! Hey...throw in a movie deal, too!). And I'll nibble at a few daydreams about the perfect job for DH, too.

Okay, now I'll blow that steam off the top and breathe...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

It's a Friday night. My DH is late (not unusual), I have to get going to meet a friend for dinner and a movie. Ah Snap! I'm almost out of gas. So I wheel into my favorite gas station. Duh! It's Friday at rush hour. Yep, every bay is full--except one. So I pull carefully around and position myself to slide into that bay with my gas tank on the correct side. The truck behind me missed something in translation and pulled in from the other side just before I got there. Drat!

Fortunately another bay opened up at the other end of the island and I managed to get there before anyone else. Of course, I cursed under my breath as I slid my debit card through the reader. "Remove Nozzle" comes up on the screen--before the request for my PIN. What's up with that? I push the DEBIT/PAY OUTSIDE button. "PrePaid $25.00" flashes across the screen. HUH?

From behind me, walking from the direction of the cashier/shop, a man comes towards me with his hand out in a conciliatory gesture. "I just wanted to apologize for bumping you out of that bay. I didn't realize you meant to pull in there. So...Sorry." Then he scurried over to his truck. Meanwhile, my little rig is gratefully drinking $25.00 worth of gas, gas that I'm pretty sure is not coming out of my debit account.

I'm dazed and unsure and in a hurry to eat. (I get crazy when I don't eat!). So I hop in my car and drive away, still picking through the details of the little scenario that had just played out at my favorite gas station. Holy Cow! Did that man just buy me $25.00 worth of gas because he misread my parking maneuvers? And at a time when my bank account in is a coma! I'm stunned. Flat out stunned.

You just never know what good can come. Have faith that there are people out there who care about how their actions affect other people, even if it's only a misunderstanding. So I stuff those curses back in my mouth and swallow hard. Now it's my turn to offer a random act of kindness.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fantasies...What Are Yours?

Okay, this is a clean post, I promise. Have you ever been driving along, perhaps hauling your cherubs up to school, and suddenly realize you took the wrong exit, or worse, you have no idea how you got from your house to the school? For me, it's usually because I was daydreaming...playing those fabulous fantasy flicks in my head. A little scary considering my sweeties are in the back seat and who knows if I stayed on the road!

So, I have a few fantasies that play over and over on that screen that flickers behind my eyeballs:

1. The Big Book Deal--Yes, like all aspiring, and established, writers, I often lose myself in thoughts of that perfect book deal that gives me a huge advance, lots of good editorial support, and supreme marketing. Okay, throw in a Newbery or a Printz, too! Well, let's just fill the pot and dream about the whole career!

2. Finally having that perfect writing room--The little room upstairs, lit by at least one hearty bank of windows. Of course there's plenty of room for bookshelves on the other three walls, and a comfy reading chair or couch as well as that perfectly molded desk chair pulled up to the exquisite cherry desk cut to just the right height for my short little bod. A door--that I can actually close and keep the cherubs out when Mama needs to work with her other muses. We'll add a little wall space for my favorite treasures, like my Irish National Championship ribbons from my equestrian days (though they're not over yet!).

3. Speaking of my equestrian days, since I had to sell my horse 6 years ago (and my farm and everything else), I dream about having that little 2 or 3-stall barn set on 5-10 acres, a sturdy hunter for me and a solid little pony for the kids (yes, I had that once and it's gone :-( ) Somedays I can still smell horse hair and sawdust. Oh how I miss it!

4. A time when my kids can attend the school they need and enough financial security to make it possible and comfortable. I don't need to be rich, just not scraping all the time.

5. Health--I try to remember what it felt like when I didn't have RA. What it's like to actually have the energy to make it through the day and do things that normal people do. Don't get me wrong, for the most part I am lucky enough to function fairly normally and without pain, but the fatigue is a killer. Thank heavens my fingers work--keep typing those YAs, gals! Mama needs a horse!

So, those are my most pressing daydreams that sometimes put everyone on Highway 286 at peril and have taught my children the fine art of yelling, "Mama! Mama! Did you hear me?", not to mention daily bouts of amnesia. "Did I really get off the highway 3 exits early?" Hm!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday at the ALA

Well, the awards were announced this morning, and you can find out more HERE
Congratulations to all the winners!

Though I was not on the floor for the big announcements, I did spend Saturday at the ALA with some of my SCBWI-EPA cohorts, wandering through all the fabulous booths, snapping up a few ARCs and proofs here and there, as well as a mountain of catalogues. Our own SCBWI-EPA chapter had a booth this year, where many of our esteemed authors were signing their books and spreading the love. I got to see some familiar faces, editors with whom I was so fortunate to work and play at the Chautauqua Writers Workshop in 2006. And Congratulations Stephen Roxburgh and author Judith Clarke on Front Street's win for One Whole and Perfect Day!

It was so wonderful to soak it all in and get a glimpse at what's coming up in the next few months. Of course I spent half my time fantasizing about my own work being displayed on one of those tables. I also learned an important lesson about book signings--don't talk too much! One very amusing and generous author was signing his books, but he could not help but share a lengthy anecdote with each person who came up for an autograph. The line grew...and grew...and grew, and a lot of patience grew thin. Don't get me wrong, I love the personal touch and the enthusiasm, but it was endless. And when you've got 60 lbs of books hanging from your shoulder, you tend to get a little cranky.

Despite my inevitable chiropractor bill and the 18 extra hours of sleep I'm going to have to squeeze in sometime over the next 3 days, I would love to make this a yearly event. We were lucky that this year's meeting was in our own back yard, but I would love to travel and check this out every year. Thanks to Marilyn, Laurie, Diane, Lindsey, Pat, and the rest of the EPA crowd--it was great to catch up with all of you!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Agent or No Agent?

Well it finally happened! I got word that the junior editor is recommending my book to the senior editor (who already knows me and how I work). OOOO, pinch me! I'm trying to keep my head on straight and my feet on the ground, knowing that the final answer could still be a "no," but things are definitely looking up.

So, do I really need an agent or not? A very dear friend got an agent after she started working with a publisher who was definitely interested. She's so glad she did because not only did the agent negotiate a slightly bigger advance (commission aside), but she ironed out the trickier issues of foreign rights, media rights, awards clauses, etc. She loves her agent and feels she earned every penny of her percentage. (By the way, my friend is a lawyer who is already pretty savvy.)

I'd be curious to know how many writers out there got an agent before they signed their first contract. Are there any driving reasons not to get an agent. How would an agent respond to what would seem to be an "urgent" query? How do you compose such a query?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Three Cheers for the Stinky Cheese Man!!

If you haven't heard, Stinky Cheese Man author, Jon Scieszka has been named the National Ambassador for Children's Books by the library of congress. Check it out

What a fabulous idea! Kudos to the Library of Congress, too!

I love what Jon has to say about demonizing television (and why we should be careful about that) and about what kids should be allowed to read. As a teacher, I have fielded that question many times. If a kid wants to read Captain Underpants, let him. He's reading! A child will have lots of time to read stuff because he has to. Let him start by reading stuff because he wants to. If we make it a chore, it will always be a chore. If we are solid, loving, nurturing parents with a decent moral compass of our own, odds are pretty good our kids will have that too.

We recently had a stink at our school about the Philip Pullman books. My son loves the first one, and I will let him read all of them. We have given him a firm grounding in faith essentials and trust him to come to his own thoughtful conclusions. But that's another topic for another day.

Big congratulations to Jon Scieska. May you stink up the country and put a million more books in the hands of children! Check out more of his wonderful work HERE