Friday, May 30, 2008

Could it be a Peach?

We need lots of good vibes and prayers. DH got the call and he has an on-campus interview at a small college in Georgia! At this point it is hard to know what to wish for. I don't know what the pay will be, and it's a huge move. But...DH would still be a professor, which really is his true calling. We told DS that this might be a possibility. He got teary and expressed himself so clearly. He would really rather not move, but he wants his daddy to have the kind of job he likes. And that's actually a big deal to DS. He has seen us work and embrace our jobs (even my Waldorf insanity) and he has come to value that sense of truly enjoying your work. He knows that there are financial considerations, but our little guy is a remarkable, thoughtful soul who has always been "spiritually" in tune. He gets the idea that money isn't everything.

So, our task now is to learn as much about the area as possible. I've checked out the school system in the town itself-- I'll wait to comment on that one. Housing prices are decent. DH is learning as much about the college as he can and figuring out what he will talk about in his "scholarly presentation." In the meantime, he is still chasing down non-academic job possibilities.

We love it in PA, but Georgia could be grand as well. It would certainly be better for my RA-ravaged bod. But I want my DH to be happy. If he's not happy, none of us will be. I can write from anywhere. So there it is. Please pray that the right answer will come...whatever that may be. (And pray that it hurries!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In a word: STRESS

I hate that word, especially when it comes to my kids. My son is 11 years old today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUDDY!) It just kills me that he came home from school yesterday, his face drawn tight with tension, and his big brown eyes sitting in a shallow pool of unshed tears. "I'm just so stressed, Mama."

It seems both his personality and the merciless tack of the NCLB crap are taking their toll on my not-so-little guy's self-esteem. He explained that a lot of work has just "gotten away from him" and he is so afraid of ending the year with a bad report card. Like is father, DS can be a bit scatter-brained and disorganized. That's how assignments slip through the cracks. He is also in the gifted program, which is a pull-out program, and that means he has to initiate requests for work that he may have missed. Okay, we can work on that. But the pressure that is generated by the whole "gotta pass the test, gotta excel on that damn PSSA..." above all else (including learning). That is crap! Plain and simple.

I know that he as arrived at that age when things like grades and success matter in more tangible ways. I know that I cannot protect him from stress and pressure and all that comes with growing up, especially the oncoming train wreck known as adolescence. We had a great talk about things and came up with a plan for handling the end of the school year, but I deeply resent the extra pressure that NCLB has created for the kids. Even more, I loath the attitude that so many administrators are taking--"Gotta save my ass so these kids had better perform!" I won't even go into the hell my kindergardener went through last year--when a 5 year old stresses out about an 89% on a math test?!!!! What 5-year-old should even know what a math test is, let alone and 89%?! I mean, come 5 years old, she can barely count to 20!

Sorry about the rant...just had to blow off a little steam. It's just that DS is such a laid-back guy, so when I see the stress actually get to him, it tears my heart out. He has a lot to deal with right now--potentially moving to a new state, changing schools, moving away from friends...And no clear plan yet. Oh yeah, and we just had the sex talk, too! Poor kid...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Query Weary...

By now, I think I've finally figured out what the query is about. That doesn't mean I write them any better, but I think I'm getting closer to the underlying element that has been so elusive. Be ME. Yep. It's that simple. The last two that I wrote were genuinely Ghost Girl queries, full of my real voice and experience. Now whether that will attract an agent and/or publisher has yet to be determined. But I feel better about my query, as if I truly own it.

So how did I finally get here?

First, I did my research. As you've already guessed, I surf the blogosphere not only regularly, but passionately. And I have two excellent launching pads: QueryTracker and AgentQuery. Here, you sort through the agents that "do your thing," whether that be historical fiction, chick lit, urban fantasy...whatever. Then you can get profiles on each agent and find out if they are open to queries, email or otherwise. Read their links and blogs. You might be surprised to find that agents are actual people--with real life experiences, predilections, and opinions of their own. (Don't forget to check The Blue Boards for updates on response times and other info).

Next, I found myself and put it on the page. The more you learn about an agent, the more you see that there is a good fit and a not so good fit. Which one will mesh with your personality, not just handle books like yours? When you figure that out, it's easier to let yourself spill across the page and relate to your agent professionally but also personally. I've spent so much time worrying about making the right impression that I forgot that I have to represent myself as well as my work, especially to an agent, the person who will be your advocate, your support, your biggest cheerleader out there in the market. He/she should know you. Afterall, you are embarking upon a partnership, and with any luck, one that will last a long time.

So, I have just sent out a query to probably the best match I've found so far. I hope she thinks so too. And so the wait begins yet again. Here's hoping...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blue Boarders Rule!

Hurray! For all of you fabulous Children's writers and illustrators out there, support Verla Kay's website and discussion board--haven for all of us who bash our heads on our keyboards every day, trying to write or illustrate something wonderful for kids--go to Cafe Press and order your magnet or button today!

Verla has built one of the friendliest, most informative forums for kid-litters, full of supportive colleagues, stimulating discussion, and spot-on industry info that has helped me in more ways than I can name. It's more than a discussion board; it's a community. She also has some great articles and tips for writers and artists, links and info for teachers and for kids, too. And she's done this all on her own dime. So give a little back and show off your blue!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Taste for Tea

Anyone who knows even a little bit about me knows that I am a huge tea drinker. Winter, spring, summer...doesn't matter. I pretty much always have a hot cuppa nearby, especially if I'm writing. As some of you may also know, I often have a certain buddy nearby as well. But who would have guessed that my fuzzy little muse liked English Breakfast Tea as well? (Decaf, of course) As you can see, she more than likes it. Poor little thing, though. She didn't expect the mug warmer action. When she hopped off my cup and put her tiny foot on that black pad...Ouch! It doesn't stop her from hopping back in my tea, though. Stinker! Perhaps I should take one of Maisie's dainty tea cups and pour a wee bit for Ruthie. A tea party!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

My DH's Latest Contribution to Cultural Studies

Yes, it is on its way. Set to be released in September, The Porning of America, my husband's razor-sharp assessment of the state of America in a Porn-inflicted society, will soon be on the shelves. And what other timely example could punctuate his and co-author Carmine Sarracino's keen observations than the whole Miley Cyrus/Vanity Fair issue? (I'll leave you to google that one.)

Yes, the topic came up in Kevin's literature classes, and he unflinchingly embraced the conversation which yielded even more interesting perspectives from a young audience. Dare we tread on the wholesome image of a Disney diva? We don't have to. Yet another youngster treads that tightrope between innocent pop icon and wannabe more than a teen queen. How do child stars navigate the tricky, often salacious minefield of childhood stardom, especially a 15-year-old girl, if they want to find work after they turn 18? I'll leave that discussion to my husband. If you click on today's blog title, you will see his blog on the Beacon Press site, outlining some general reactions to the Miley Cyrus debacle.

While it is not a diatribe or a didactic treatise on the evils of pornography, their book paints a crisp picture of the pervasive influence of porn in our society...right down to how it stalks not only us, but in its most subtle (or not so subtle) forms, our children. Is there a difference between erotica and porn? Absolutely. But where is the line and is it always clear?

This may seem like a strange and antithetical relationship--the guy who writes about porn and the chick who writes books for kids. I write books for children. Not sexy books. Not "edgy" books. Compelling books. (at least I hope I do). But the argument Kevin makes is not completely divorced from my world of YA fiction. Or from our roles as the parents of two young children. Just think about how porn connects with mainstream childhood the next time you pick up that Bratz doll or the latest Mary Kate and Ashley fashions at Walmart...

Monday, May 05, 2008

My Preview Audience...

I know I've blogged about Ruthie in the past, my erstwhile sidekick who shares my writing desk...and my bookshelf! She's pretty selective about her reading, and very interested in education research...

Sadly, I have neglected two very important members of my literary audience who see me through my mad re-enactments of the most dramatic (okay...sometimes inane) scenes in my WIP. So meet Whitman (yes, he's named after the poet). He has a bad habit of chewing up my daughter's plastic toys--the basement is a sea of FP Little People amputees--so he is not allowed to come all the way down into the basement.

Despite his banishment from the lower depths of my "office"/playroom, he sits sweetly on the step at just about eye level while I work. On occasion he snores or sighs, but he's good company when the house is really quiet. He's fairly opinionated, too. That's how I developed my thick skin against rejections.

My other buddy, Daisy. A true pound puppy, we adopted her from the human society in Indianapolis more than 7 years ago. She's the sensitive one. I can always count on her to laugh or cry at the right time in my manuscript. I don't know what I would without these little guys. Tea party guests, Halloween costume pals, roll on the floor and love 'em up buddies, they are such a part of the family and my literary critics circle. Just a small tribute to these three incredible companions. If you don't have a furry critique partner, I highly recommend it!