Mentorships, Grants, and Fellowships

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No, not that fellowship. I’m talking about the one you apply for, to get some sort of assistance for your writing. I’ve applied for all three over the years, and paid for a mentorship through Highlights Foundation last summer- conveniently called Summer Camp. That experience was amazing, and I’d love to do it again.

That’s not what this post is all about, though. It’s about applying. There’s a poetry fellowship I’ve been wanting to apply for, and finally did last night. But I did something so unwriterly that I had to make up a word for it (it’s back there- unwriterly). What did I do?

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Well, I wrote it, checked for spelling and grammar mistakes, and sent it in. As is. Was I happy with what I sent? Yes! I wrote with heart and humor, something I want all my writing to show. Okay, if you’ve read my ooolllddd IG posts, you know my poetry doesn’t really have humor, but it does have heart- even if it’s dark.

I loved what I wrote. I researched the fellowship. I read and reread the information about it from the hosts. How I wrote it was how they wrote their informational post. Humorous, but with heart.

I don’t do that for each of the grants, fellowships, and mentorships I’ve applied for. I do make sure they have heart and humor, but I don’t just write and go- I take my time with them, edit, choose my words carefully. I’ll be curious to see how it goes. I have a mentorship I’m applying for as well, but those questions have been ruminating in my head for a while, and will come out carefully.

But, I make sure I don’t lose myself.

Have you applied for any grants, fellowships, or mentorships? How do you write for them?

Rip Van Winkle

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Geez, has it been 20 years already? I didn’t think it’d been that long since I last posted. Now, my beard is even better than Dumbledore’s ever was!

Okay, so neither were true. It’s just felt like 20 years, and I can’t grow a beard past a few months because, well, itchy.

I flat out haven’t posted because the motivation hasn’t been there to write posts. Or write. I’ve been doing some minor tweaking of things, but no major overhauls.

I did get a revise and resubmit (my second ever!) and a really positive rejection back in April. I did resubmit, plus submitting the MS to a couple agents as well. I’m still in the waiting game, but it may be time to put this MS on the shelf for a while, despite the positives I’ve gotten on it from many. Maybe it’s just not good enough. I have been submitting it since the end of Highlights Foundation Summer Camp last year. I think a year of rejections may be enough for one MS for a while.

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Now to figure out what to work on next…

Trunkers

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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). 

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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?  

Revise and Resubmit

Within a few weeks of each other, I got the best rejection ever from a small press and a revise and resubmit from an editor!

 

Both had negative comments about the same thing.  Luckily, I’d started working on it after the rejection, and had some ideas by the time I met with the editor at a conference at The Highlights Foundation.

 

The meeting with the editor was part of a paid critique for the Eastern PA SCBWI conference a couple weeks ago. We spent the meeting time discussing what to do, what it needs, and it’s strengths.  I was asked a few more times during the conference if I’m going to resubmit- I took that as a HUGE positive! 

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 And now, as each day passes, even though I got a response thanking me for following up, and being swamped, I have doubts.  Did I send it too soon? Did I not have enough eyes on it? 


Those doubts creep in, like the darkness as a campfire slowly extinguishes.

I checked my phone often- did I get an e-mail yet? Now? Now?

So, what do I do? What should you do?

Get back to work on the next story, and wait. Patiently or not, you wait. (GIF)

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CONFERENCE TIME!!

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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.

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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).

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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!