Trunkers

FullSizeRender.jpg

Those manuscripts that are so bad you want to destroy them.  I have several, some of which I want to work on again, but know they are so bad, they’ll take more time than I really want to give them at this point. Both are hanging out of the trunk, begging for help, begging for lap time on my iPad to break out of the smelly ole steamer trunk in the basement (yup, we own one- I refurbished that $25 trunk about 18 years ago). 

IMG_0389.JPG

 

What’s wrong with them? Well, they suck. No plot, no story development, no character development.  Basically, they’re just a string of words thrown together that don’t do anything except take up space in the trunk. Below the pillows and blankets.  

Eventually they’ll make their way out.  But not yet. Not quite. They keep poking away at my brain, like Ralph’s finger. 

 

Do you have stories like that? They suck so much they make you doubt you have any intelligence whatsoever, but they keep poking away at your conscience?  

CONFERENCE TIME!!

IMG_0380.GIF

Yes, it’s that time of year- it’s time for the Eastern PA SCBWI Conference at The Highlights Foundation in the Poconos!  It’s only one week away, and I. Can’t. Wait!

The fooooood.

The sessions. 

The people! 

The chance to be around other writers and illustrators for an entire weekend.

There’ll be a couple keynotes, five different sessions to attend, and, best of all, I signed up to get two critiques from industry professionals! Oh! I’m also part of the Critique-A-Thon: A round table event where I have my picture book manuscript critiqued by three other writers, and I have a critique for each of their stories, too!

I’m also branching out a bit and running the silent auction.  I didn’t think I’d have to talk since, you know, it’s silent, but I guess I have to people it up! Thank god the beer’s free. 

I’ll be posting pictures when the conference is over, but I’m really excited about it! Can you tell?!?!? 

Keep Going

You love writing.  

I love writing. 

I love creating stories, their characters, their worlds, whether they’ll ever get read by anyone else or not. 

I have so many ideas swirling around my head, so many more spewed out onto digital paper, both for children, and adults.

Picture books are my absolute favorite. 

        No matter how many rejections you get, keep going. 

        No matter how many rejections you get, keep going. 

They’re where I want my writing to be focused, and where my writing is focused. 

I recently sent out my polished PB MS to another half dozen agents a couple days ago, already getting one form rejection. I wasn’t disheartened.  It was actually kinda nice to get a response, positive or negative, considering half of my ‘No’ responses from agents and small publishers to this MS are because of time, rather than an actual response, even with a friendly nudge after four months. 

But this means more overall. Once it hits a certain number, I wonder if it’s the MS, and that it needs some new eyes on it.

Enter Eastern Pennsylvania Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (hereforth called EPA SCBWI- I’m hoping why is obvious).

We have our annual conference coming up in April, from the 12th to the 14th. Part of the experience is being able to submit a manuscript/ first pages/ portfolio for critiquing for a lower than usual price something like this would cost. 

                    You know you can’t stop chasing.

                    You know you can’t stop chasing.

I have two that I love, that I think are ready to submit- one that I have submitted many times, and one tht has gone out only a few times. It was time to get new eyes on Number One, but I thought why not get another pair of eyes on Number Two, while sending Number Three in for addition to the critique group option. Number Three is the next one I want to have submission ready should One or Two garner interest and an agent/ editor ask for more submission ready work.

Despite the No responses, and feeling like I have two manuscripts submission ready, and a third close-ish, you need to keep going.  If this is something you LOVE to do, then you can’t stop. If you have a dream, any dream, you have to chase it. That’s what life is for. Chasing your dreams- no, achieving your dreams.

So, no matter what it is, whatever it is you want to do, chase after it, keep going.

                                                          This one, just because it’s funny. 

                                                          This one, just because it’s funny. 

#50PreciousWords Entry

This is an annual contest run by the amazing Vivian Kirkfield. Head over to her site to check it out!  There’s a TON of amazing stories up so far. The contest is in honor of Dr. Seuss, and his accepting of a challenge, and writing Green Eggs and Ham with only 50 different words.  The twist to Vivian’s #50PreciousWords is that your word count has a MAXIMUM of 50 words. So, give it a shot! Just make every word count!

My entry came from a story that I wrote in 2014, but never really did much with.  I did have to cut out around 120 words, but I like where it finished. So, here it is:

Hunting Dragons

I’m bored. Woof.

Let’s pretend Duke’s a dragon!

Get the dragon!

Into the forest!

He soared over the swamp!

He flew up the mountain!

There he is!

He’s too strong!

Run!  Woof!

Down the mountain!

Through the swamp!

Into the castle!

Stand our ground!

Hurray!

Hunting dragons is hard!  Woof!

Failing

A big part of being a writer is rejection. You have to have a thick skin to take rejection for your entire career.  I haven’t experienced the lousy ratings part of rejection from book reviewers as I haven’t had anything published outside of two self-published books (no longer available). I didn’t have any negative ratings on them, which was nice, but also only had a handful on each. 

The rejection I want to write about is having manuscripts rejected...again, and again, and again... 

I have these stories that I’ve worked on for years- literally for two of them- three years for one, five years for the other. I have them at a point where readers and critique partners have said, “They’re ready.” Two words I’ve wanted to hear for years, and in a span of two months, I heard it twice for two different manuscripts. 

The next step is sending it out to the world- agents and publishing companies that accept unsolicited submission. That’s what I’ve been doing since August. 

I’ve sent then out to twenty-three agents and small presses over that time.  Some are still within the time frame of auto rejection based on time passed. But, thirteen were a ‘no’ because of outright rejection, or because of hearing nothing but crickets, even after a friendly poke.

I’ve been doing okay with them. One made me laugh because I got rejected within hours, and another within four days, including Christmas.

But a recent one got me more that the others. 

It wasn’t an agent, and it wasn’t a publisher. This one was for a contest that would have helped improve a third manuscript that is ‘close’ to being ready to send off to the world. There were sixteen mentors, and 500 people submitted to them. I thought my chances were good, I thought I would be one of the winners this time.

But I wasn’t. 

It hit me harder than I thought. And I feel like I’m failing.  Are my stories not good enough? Am I getting too old to start? 

That’s where I’m at.  

I’m happy as hell for those who won, and I can’t wait to hear about their journeys. But I’m jealous, too. 

Am I a failure? No. Just rejected.  Rejection is temporary.  And rejection is a stepping stone to lift yourself higher, to boost you to work harder, and pushes you to get yourself out there even more.  Find more critique partners, send to more agents and publishers, write more. 

Failure is only permanent when you give up. That, I will not do. 

The Write Spot

                 Bandit as he chirps at me

                 Bandit as he chirps at me

I’m sitting in a red, high backed chair, trying to write in my Brain Toilet, as my cat claws at the wall, puts his paws on the chair, meows, lays on his back, and cries.  All directed at me.  Why?

I’M IN HIS SPOT!

Now, this chair was NOT purchased ($20 on FB Marketplace!) for him.  It was purchased for me, for a quiet place to sit and read or write while my wife works on her Doctorate (she’s not in yet, but any program that would reject her is idiotic). 

That got me thinking...

Do you have ‘your’ writing spot?

So, that’s MY chair on the right, and Jane’s on the left... 

So, that’s MY chair on the right, and Jane’s on the left... 

Do you need a spot?

I used to think I did.  I have a desk set up perfectly- old lap top, typewriter, writing utensils, journals, sticky notes-anything you can think of!

But, what do I do? I sit in a recliner and write, I head to coffee shops, sometimes I’ll write in bed, or even in my classroom - if an idea pops up I’ll jot down some quick notes. Now, I have this red chair (aka Bandit’s Chair). Pretty much ANYWHERE other than my desk...in the basement...with the XBox, and the pool table (aka teen dungeon).  So, it’s not always quiet, and it’s somewhat dank (teen fumes).  It’s really not an inspiring place. It is a nice place to have as a home base for all my writing stuff, and a lot of books...okay, and lego figures. I love lego figures. Oh, my old Milenium Falcon, with a few old Star Wars figures, too! And a partially finished dragon puzzle. Yeah, not an ideal place to plop down and write, but a great place to keep things organized (even though it may not sound like it).

My writing spot is wherever I am. Especially with my iPad- that’s my main writing utensil. I used to be a journal hog, and I still do love using journals, but not as much as I used to.  I can write as fast, and even neater, by typing.  Especially with autocorrect.

Do you have a spot?

Let us know in the comments!

Waiting Sucks

Waiting sucks.

IMG_0346.JPG

No like waiting for a roller coaster ride, or waiting for the dentist- those are fun!

I’m talking about waiting to hear back from a curated list of prospective agents you’ve submitted your manuscript to; a manuscript you’ve worked on for years.

You’ve taken care of this baby, raised it, groomed it, edited the crap out of it, until, finally, it’s ready to hit the inboxes of agents you think it’s right for. 

You wait. 

And you wait. 

And you wait. 

(sometimes, after a couple years, even after you aren’t waiting for a response anymore, you get one).

IMG_0347.JPG

Oh My God.  It’s been 5 minutes!  Why haven’t they realized my genius! This is the perfect story for ANYONE!

Okay, maybe not five minutes, but five weeks. ANd the wait time can be up to a few months. So, what do you do? 

Well, there’s always things like Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm to keep you busy in January, writing another story, reading, drinking coffee. But, there’s only so much your brain can take. You still want that answer!

So, here’s a list of my...

TOP TEN THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING FOR A RESPOSNE

10. That to do home improvement list? Time to get a couple things done! 

9. Sleep- not a nap, I’m talking give me that poison apple, knock me out for a few months sleep. 

I’ve got so many more if this fuzz, and big fluff, too. 

I’ve got so many more if this fuzz, and big fluff, too. 

8. Take thousands of pictures of your cats, and post THEM ALL on-line, cuz, you know, EVERYONE needs to see you awesome your cats are.

7. Make a bunch of nonsensical Top Ten Lists for people to read.

6. Paint every room in your house!

5. Train for a marathon.

4. Those new things you always wanted to learn to do? Well, time to pick up a few of them for a couple weeks, and then promptly stop doing them.

3. Refinish your floors.

2. Check your e-mail every fifteen minutes.

And, the Number One Thing To Do When Waiting For A Response...

1. ...Binge watch Netflix!

From Idea to Story

IMG_0332.JPG

You got this story idea.  You’ve written it down, now what? 

Write it! 

That’s the basic idea of Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm

During the month of January, you write down 30 picture book ideas in 31 days. 

Now, you’ve got this great stack of ideas for picture books. So, what’s next? 

Go through those ideas, and put them into four categories (at least, that’s what works for me). Category 1 means it’s a great idea, category 2 is an okay idea, but needs some help, category 3 is not that great but not trash worthy, and category 4 is not that good- don’t trash it, you never know when that 4 might turn into a 3, or even be sued to help a 2 become a 1.  

Now you’re gettin’ somewhere! 

Go through those 1’s, pick one, and then write it. After all, these are the ideas that are ready to be written! Put those words to keyboard, or paper, and don’t stop until it’s done.  That’s it!  Really.  Of course, there’s tons of editing, but that’s for future posts. 

As of now, I have eleven ideas from StoryStorm, and have turned two into manuscripts as they really want to end up in Scrivener.  One sucks.  I mean, it’s horrific.  This thing’s going to the trunk (that’s another post, too!). The other? Well, it’s a second manuscript for a manuscript that I’ve been shopping around a bit that I consider “ready”.  It was okay.  Much editing will come.

IMG_0339.JPG

  Editing makes me do this                                        Copyright TeeTurtle.  Their tees rock! 

Running and Writing

Running and writing have so many things in common.

1. They both hurt.

2. They both really suck at the beginning, but get better the more you do it.

3. They’re both fulfilling.

4. I love them both.

5. They both help me drink more coffee. I’m not sure how that works with running, but any excuse to drink more coffee is a good one.

6. They’re both (for the most part) calming.

7. I hate them both (at times- coffee helps me love them).

                        Proof I ran today :) 

                        Proof I ran today :) 

I was hoping to get to 10, but 7’s good, too.

I used to run a lot, before writing.  Not being able to run (hip/ knee surgeries, and lack of knee being able to recover) led to more writing. How? I’ll explain.

I had hip and knee surgery, couldn’t run, so I started writing.

The end.

I had wheels, but then one fell off.  That’s me on the right, with the runners 15 years younger than me.

I had wheels, but then one fell off.  That’s me on the right, with the runners 15 years younger than me.

That was six years ago or so.  My hip has been great, but my knee did not recover so well.  I tried on and off for a couple years, but the constant recurring pain became frustrating, and I gave up on it for a few years, until last Spring when I ran a few times (about a quarter to a half mile) after HIIT class.  I had no pain, but I didn’t continue like I should have.  Fast forward 8 months, to the past couple weeks, and I’ve run four times, for about a mile to a mile and a half and have had NO pain at all!

In fact, I am sitting here, with a coffee in my Tinker Bell mug, of course, writing after a run. It was cold, rainy, and I loved every single step of it.  And so did my knee.

Besides writing, what else do you do?