Sunday, December 31, 2006

Post-Submission Depression

Today's Mood: Strangely let down. Music: n.a. Writing: Article for Inklings about this blog. Quote:

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an
illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it. -David Sedaris


Saturday morning I mailed out my manuscript to the Delacorte Press Contest for a First YA Novel. I should have been dancing. After all, I had spent the last three days in a writing induced coma. Grandpa and Nana had the kids, so I wrote non-stop, either skipping meals or eating leftover lasagna (it was an Italian Christmas on the Sirianni side) at my computer.

But instead of the expected elation, I felt (and still feel--although now it may be the ugh weather) strangely let down. The day was already Saturday--almost the last day of 2006. Things were growing in my refrigerator. The piles of laundry almost obscurred my desk (which is conveniently located between the cat literboxes and the washer and dryer). The children wanted my attention when I got them home--and needed to be fed meals, and bathed, and have their fights referred so that no one got bit or squeezed. It all seemed... anticlimactic.

Now, however, as I sit writing this (the laundry washed, the moldy items thrown out, the children quiet--which probably means a big mess is forming somewhere) I realize that this is the normal way of things. I labored and delivered, but that's not the end. The book (kind of like a child sent off to college) will come back to me (one way or another--although I'm hoping it's in a positive We want to publish this way!) and in the meantime, another story has been growing in me, waiting for the right time to be born. It's getting close, I've already been feeling a few twinges--names, descriptions, a few scenes....

So, as the end of the year rapidly approaches, I make the resolution to accept the labor of writing as on-going. I will never be done. I look forward to another year of writing (even more than in 2006--if I can manage to get out of bed on time!), and submitting, and marketing. Best of all, I go into the new year with a fresh reminder of how wonderful it is to be part of such a great writing community. Thank you so much to all the Peninsula Writers who have labored alongside me, giving me advice, encouragement, and support.

Keep writing!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Post Holiday

Today's Mood: Merry. Music: Christmas carols. Writing: This is it. Quote: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to jot a quick note since it's been a week since I last posted. I'm on my Mac and for some reason there are not as many options (centering, size, color....) as there are on Windows. Generally I don't mind going back and forth between the two platforms, but I do find that each one has its quirks. Just recently I moved my whole manuscript from Appleworks into Word for Mac. I like it. Again, it seems to have a few more options (or at least I know how to use a few more options).

Does anyone use another type of writing software? I've seen different ones offered, but wonder if they would help or hinder when it came to writing.

Anyway, I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas (or like in my case--several wonderful Christmas parties that I am glad are now finished.) and that you are writing. I've missed it and look forward to having some time to write in the next few days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Balancing Act

Today's mood: high-strung. Music: Tori Amos--Tales of a Librarian. Writing: stared at chapter 16 for a half hour before deciding I need to read chapters 14 through 17 to see how I can fix the time problem. Quote:
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. -Dylan Thomas

I'm in a quandary. Do I work my keister off trying to get the revisions done on this second MS in time for the Delacorte Press contest, or do I bag it and mess with the structure of the first MS to make it fit the page limit? Or should I skip both for that matter? What first looked like minor changes to the second MS has snowballed into some major rewriting--funny how that happens! But I so want to finish this revision while I'm immersed in it. I just don't have enough time!

I was talking with a co-worker about how to balance writing and life--you know, motherhood, job, cleaning the house enough to not have it declared condemned, even cooking well-balanced meals occasionally. Oh, and then of course this time of year you can add Christmas shopping, wrapping, and cleaning up the talcum powder that my four-year-old spread all over her carpet to make it look like snow. (We need snow for Christmas--that was her reasoning.) Top all that off with dealing with colds and the resulting crankiness, and it's enough to drive a sane woman mad--and I'm not totally sure I qualify for sane on a normal day!

Does everyone struggle this much to find a balance between writing and everything else? I'm starting to think I might just be neurotic. My sister told me I need to prioritize--decide what I really want to do and then make time for that. The problem is that I want to do it all. I want to be a good mom. I don't want to live in a total pit. I do want my kids to remember the joy and wonder of Christmas (okay, maybe not the snow part--but the rest) and I still want to write. Every day. Lots. How do I do that?

On my Christmas list I asked for more time. Do you think Santa will give it to me? So okay, my quote of the day. Dylan Thomas was exhorting his father to fight against dying. I'm way more shallow than that. I just rage, rage against the children waking in the night or against dirty laundry that's in sight, or against the dress that is now too tight, or against the children that do fight..... you get the picture. It's all about the struggle to balance life as a mom, woman, wife, human being--and the life of a writer.

Friday, December 8, 2006

The benefits of taking a shower

Today's Mood: Exhilarated. Music: Alan Parson's Project: Vulture Culture. Writing: revising Katie's notes to self (each chapter starts with one). Quote:
The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot
wrong questions. --Anthony Jay

If I could take 5 or 6 showers a day I would be so much more creative. For some reason, I get my very best ideas in the shower. Maybe the warm water unclogs my brain cells or something. Heather Sellers in her book Page After Page talks about doing some task like driving your car that keeps the monkey in your mind busy but allows you to think--like taking a shower! You should try it if you get stuck.

So last night I'm taking my shower and I get this cool idea of how I want to do the chapter headers--for lack of a better word. Each chapter starts with a note from Katie to herself--sort of a what she learns from the events in the following chapter kind of thing. Anyway, my readers thought I should make those stand out somehow--distinguish them from the regular chapter. So I got this great idea (or at least it seemed so in all the steam of the shower) to have those notes to self appear on lined paper with a hand-writing type font. That way they look like real notes.

For awhile I thought I was going to have to do the old fashioned get a piece of notebook paper, write the note, tape it on the page, then photocopy it. But fortunantly, I found out it could all be done on the computer. Find an image of notebook paper, insert that in word, put a tranparent text box on it and pick a hand-writing like font. How cool is that?

I still have to see what my small group says about it, but I was pretty psyched this morning--even got out of bed without hitting snooze! (that's big for me)

I also have an exciting idea for something I want to do in my next book--but I can't tell you about it now. It has to perk awhile (like a good batch of soup.) So, I'm going into the weekend jazzed up and hoping to sneak some time to write--although I only have 17 days left to buy the rest of the Christmas presents.

Online shopping here I come!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Swimming hard just to stay afloat.

Today's Mood: Industrious. Music: Train-My Private Nation. Writing: revising chapter nine. Quote:

It is just as well that it came to an end. The endless cohabitation with
these imaginary people had begun to make me not a little nervous. Henrik
Ibsen (1828-1906)


Hey-ho, check out the new links list! If you have a blog, or cool--even useful--website that you think should be on this blog, let me know and I'll add it. I check both the comments and my email so you can reach me either way. The Gliffy site I added because I've used it to make a floorplan of my MC's dorm room--I get a better picture of it in my head that way. After all, I can't have them doing something that would take twenty feet when they only have ten. (plus my memory isn't swell, so if I design a floorplan, then when I get to chapter thirty, I'll remember how the room was arranged in chapter twelve)

Okay, this is the fourth time I try to publish this post. Each time I do it cuts half of it out--not that I don't need editing, but hey! I don't want some computer editing me. Anyway. I tried to send a link to this video clip called Vision 2020 but it seems to screw things up, so I'll try putting it in the links on the side. Vision 2020 is a hypothetical commencement speech in the year 2020 and it looks at how education, technology and the world has changed in the last 15 years. Frankly, I find it both frightening and exhilarating. I'm not a technophobe, but often I feel like I'm swimming just to stay afloat. The thought of how to keep my kids not only floating but swimming in the changing future scares me. Yet the possibility of unilateral access to information appeals to me. Take a look (if I can get it working). It's about 16 minutes long.

On the home front we have managed to recover from the stomach bug AND get the christmas tree up and decorated. Not bad for the weekend. However, Friday's snowday meant that I played catch-up all Monday and therefore did no revising at all. So today I got up in the dark, freezing cold to come to work early and revise. The ONLY thing that got my little butt out of bed that early--THE DEADLINE. Seriously, what a great motivator! December 31 lurks closer and closer and fear of not finishing the revision works as effectively as a cattle prod for getting me out of my nice warm bed and off to work. This particular deadline is for the Delacorte Press first Young Adult Novel Contest. 25 more days to revise 22 1/2 chapters--and no, my math isn't that bad. Dec. 31 is a Sunday so I have to send it out on the 30th. Can she do it? Yes she can! (see, television isn't all bad!)

How's your writing going? Writing every day--even if it's only ten minutes? Is there any contest you can enter to create a deadline for you? (I'll make one up if it helps)

Oh, one last thing. About the quote, I'm been in Katie's head so long that I'm regressing back to adolescence--and it sure the hell isn't comfortable this time either!

Saturday, December 2, 2006

December Already!

Mood: Relaxed. Music: Robert Pollard, From a Compound Eye. Writing: finished revising (rewriting) chapter eight. Today's quote: "I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter." -Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), "Lettres provinciales", letter 16, 1657

Winter was right on cue this time. December 1 and we had a snow day. This is the view out the window by my desk. Unfortunantly, I didn't get a whole lot of revising done because my daughter got sick--stomach flu. Ugh.(How Murphy's law is that?) But things are looking good today and we are going to bag our christmas tree. It is our tradition to go hunt down and kill (cut down) our own tree, so this is more of an expedition rather than just an outing. After spending 3 hours driving around last year--lots of whining from the kids and a spilled coke on the car seat--we found Stibitz, a christmas tree farm up in Whitehall. They have lots of great trees, goats to feed, chickens to chase, and coffee and hot chocolate. Plus they shake and bundle the tree. How cool is that!? We are heading up there again this year (and feeding the kids BEFORE we go this time)

I wanted to point out a couple of new features on this blog--the links to other blogs of interest and the links to other websites of interest. If you have one you want me to add, just let me know via email or add it in a comment on one of my posts--I do check them.

All this snow--great reason to stay inside and write!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Day Jobs

Mood: Slumpy. Music: Um, what did I listen to? Oh, yeah, Alison Moyet--Alf (it's great stuff, really. It's just that I was so tired this morning. Book Club ran late last night.)Writing: more revision (rewriting) chapter 7 (lots of dialogue and it's killing me) Todays Quote:
"go! little novelist, go!" -Justine Larbalestier

I love my job as a Librarian (Library Media Specialist for those of you who are in the current re-name old jobs to make them sound more techie phase), I mean, what could be better than telling kids about absolutely great YA books? And I need my job too--pays for the dentist (who's going to pull two of my daugther's teeth later today), puts food on the table (pretty much just turkey and ham lately. The turkey was frozen Thanksgiving morning, so we ran to the store and bought a ham. Now we have both.), and pays for my book habit (although, it still doesn't quite cover a bigger house which is rapidly becoming necessary given all the books I buy). But occassionally the dream of being able to write all day creeps into even my waking thoughts. Getting up in the morning, fetching a hot cup of cappucino and then booting up my trusty Mac and start writing (or rewriting as the case may be) Maybe napping or taking a shower when I get stuck, but being able to go back to it and finish my thought, finish the chapter.

Unfortunantly, I'm not willing to give anything up--job, family, reading time--so this is just a pointless rant. But there you go.

It hasn't helped that I've been reading Justine Larbalestier's blog (and her husband Scott Westerfeld's blog as well). They are the know. In the writer's life. I'm sure they go to the grocery store and bathroom and all that mundane stuff just like the rest of us. But it's their JOB to write, not something they sneak away to do when everyone is sleeping or when they are really supposed to be helping some student look up B.F. Skinner in the biographical encyclopedia. (Oh, I didn't know I was supposed to look under the last name!)

Part of the problem is I'm in a slumpy mood about my writing. Depressed and sure that it's all crap and I should start over but even if I do it will never be quite as good as [insert famous author's name here]--which means writing will never be my JOB, just something that "mom" or "my wife" does for the fun of it. (yeah, kind of like people go through childbirth for the fun of it.)

This is the point where--if he were here--my husband would tell me I need some sleep. And he'd be right. But instead I'd better get out there and help those seventh graders figure out where to find information (in actual books and not JUST on the internet) about their scientists.

Day job, can't pay the bills without it. Writing, can't live without it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Humorous Dialogue

Mood: Playful. Music: Dixie Chicks--Taking the Long Way. Writing: Revising chapter seven (actually, re-writing it is more accurate) Today's Quote: (inspired by RyterNRezdence's post Putting Pen to Paper (Metaphorically Speaking) )

"And yet." Those are my two favorite words, applicable to every situation,
be it happy or bleak. The sun is rising? And yet it will set. A night of
anguish? And yet, it, too, will pass. The important thing is to shun
resignation, to refuse to wallow in sterile fatalism." --Elie Wiesel

How does a writer make a character and his/her dialogue funny when the writer is not a particularly funny person? I mean, I'm funny sometimes, but usually it's by accident. I have a good sense of humor, but I'm not witty. Yet at least one of my characters is--and I'm having difficulties (think tickling laughs out of the dry, blank page) writing dialogue that shows this part of his personality. I've tried asking my husband what he'd say in certain situations--because he is a witty person--but if I don't explain what I'm doing, he thinks I'm nuts. And if I explain (he still thinks I'm nuts), it kind of ruins that spontaneous comeback I'm going for. Still, I have to admit I'm having fun playing with that sort of tongue-in-cheek dialogue.

I'm also playing with cliches and folk sayings in this MS (manuscript). The MC's (main character's) mother is forever quoting some saying or another (All mothers do, don't they? I caught myself saying "Someone is gonna end up crying," to my daughters just yesterday!). I wonder about putting a glossary or appendix at the end of the book with the general meaning and origin of all the sayings/cliches used in the book. I don't know if that's a good idea or not--but it is pretty interesting to see where these common well-known phrases come from.

Anyway, I hope you are writing. And yet, there is always tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Form Rejections

Mood: plodding. Music: Tori Amos--Beekeeper. Writing: nothing today. Today's Quotes: "I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top."  ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University. "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."  ~Author Unknown, commonly misattributed to Samuel Johnson


So okay, given those quotes, maybe form rejections aren't all bad. In fact, the first one I received made me feel pretty good because it was addressed: Dear Author. They called me an author! Pretty heady stuff. But after 6 or 7 of those letters, it no longer has the same effect. When a publishing company responded to my query letter by requesting my manuscript, a big part of me was pretty sure I'd still get rejected. But there was that small part. The part called hope that dies hard. So it wasn't that I didn't expect rejection--it was that it was a form letter that told me nothing--taught me nothing. I'm a teacher, and so I'm always looking for that teachable moment. I have to continually remind myself that editors and publishing companies are not in the teaching business. It's poor comfort.

The biggest comfort came from friends who are writers--who have been there, done that. Just having another writer (a more experienced writer) say, "Form rejections suck," helped me feel better. I'm not the only one who has had to endure this. And it does suck, but there it is. And then I had another writer (published at that) tell me she has heard editors say that if they have no intention of publishing a MS, they don't want to make comments that might be taken by the author for revision. They feel any comments should be left for an editor who is interested in publishing the manuscript. That made me feel better too. At least I can see the logic in it.

Form rejections still suck, but my writing group gave me good suggestions for revisions on my second manuscript, and other writing friends encouraged me to keep writing, to believe, to trust. And even though that's hard for me right now, it's okay, because they are willing to trust and believe for me. And I'll pick it up again soon. After all, Alfred Kazin said (Think, Feb. 1963), "The writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratification, is a curious anticlimax."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Putting Pen to Paper (Metaphorically Speaking)


Yesterday I fulfilled my promise and I actually got about half of one of my articles written. The other half, and another whole article, are due soon and I need to wrestle them to the mat (I've recently realized my conversational speech is cliche-riddled).

Part of the problem is that these are two of the most difficult articles I have yet to write. The subject is community, and the good things that are happening in it. The problem is, the community I'm writing about covers a huge geographic area in south GR, and within that area are many different social factions (race, economy, poverty) that don't come together easily. I'm supposed to report on the renewal happening in the southeast neighborhoods, and, while not ignoring the "downers," not making an issue of them, either.

The problem, as I have discovered too late, is that the geographic region is simply too large. We should have made it smaller (which my editor DID do after a conversation about my concerns, but it should have been shaved even more). As I said, too late.

So. Because the task is hard, because putting the pieces together is brain-challenging and time-consuming, because I'm afraid of being a failure at it (which, intellectually, I KNOW I won't be), and because I often set myself up to be a victim (Oh, gee, I tried to write it, but it was just too overwhelming, blah blah blah), the articles are still hanging over my head, and I'm stressed and unhappy.

And yet.

I have control over it, and could have dispensed with the writing a week ago and it would now be behind me and I could look forward to a long holiday weekend with family. But no. That's not how I operate.

Well, the jig is up. Tonight I finish article one, even though I'm only just getting ready to start on it and it's 10:15 PM. And before the day is done tomorrow, article two will be, too. (Thank goodness, our Turkey day was last Sunday). That means, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I will be free to be with family. That's my promise to myself. No more setting me up. No more setting the work down.

Life's too short, and I'm in it for the long haul.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Check Out the Accidental Blogger

Hi All,

When trying to figure out how to blog on the PWWriter blog, I accidentally created my own blog site, thinking that was what I was supposed to do.

So, I now have my own blog site. Accidentally.

Another excuse not to write--I won't have time. I'll be too busy keeping my blogs up to date!

Keep smiling!

Life in the Not-so-fast Writing Lane

Well, after all my good intentions to write a story that's due for the magazine, I carted my ancient laptop to the coffeehouse, got my soy latte, got everything plugged in (because my battery is ancient and all dried up), signed on and...did nothing but research. Yes, it was research for the article (finishing up some small details I hadn't yet gathered), and yes, it was productive. But no, it wasn't writing.

I continually amaze myself at my ability to procrastinate. And it's not just procrastination, per se, that's so slack-jaw-ably mind-blowing; it's the danged hanging back, hanging around, hanging on a dream that keeps me from doing the one thing I really want to do (write) and leaves me scratching my head, saying "Where'd the time go?"

So, the day is now done, and the writing is yet to be done. The time to be with family is here, the time to write has flown, and tomorrow, I promise, tomorrow I shall transpose the phrases a-swirl in my head into straight, neat lines on the monitor screen.

Either that, or I'll use my creative talents to conjure up more excuses.


Mood: business-like. Music: Sarah McLachlan--Fumbling toward Ecstasy. Writing: Finished revising chapter 5. Today's Quote:
No one keeps up his enthusiasm automatically. Enthusiasm must be nourished with
new actions, new aspirations, new efforts, new vision. It is one's own fault if
his enthusiasm is gone; he has failed to feed it. ROBERT BELANGER

I love quotes. I subscribe to this little periodical called Good Stuff that is published every four weeks and is all quotes. (800-220-8600) And one of my feeds is a quote of the day site Today the first quote is: "Of course the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you--if you don't play, you can't win." by Robert Heinlein Isn't that a great quote? Sometimes I just need to be reminded of those kind of things.
It's almost obscence, but I have to admit that it felt good to get up at 5:45 and come in to work to write. I love sleeping in on the weekends, but writing--well, there isn't anything else like it! (except maybe really good sex) My psyche--my soul misses that time of being totally focused. Studies show that we only use a small portion of our brain. I like to think that when I'm writing, I use a bit more than usual. (which may not say much for me, but there you go.)
Anyway, feed your passion. Write something today!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Writing in the Woods

I'm on!!!
Finally had time to go through the steps after baking about 10 dozen cookies this morning. I did manage to go for a walk in the woods early this morning and sat a couple of times with my notepad to write. Not much, but something to take to small group next week perhaps. I love the silence. I just wish I had more of it.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Today's mood: Busy but relaxed (TGIF) Today's music: Alison Moyet: Alf (awesome smoky voice) Today's writing: finished revising ch. 4

I am an obsessive rewriter, doing one draft and then another and another,
usually five. In a way, I have nothing to say but a great deal to add. GORE VIDAL (1925- )

I both love revising and hate revising. In many ways I find it much easier than creating from scratch, but there is always the niggling thought that I might actually be making it worse instead of better. Of course, that's what small groups and readers are for, right?

Yesterday I sat in the Surgery waiting room at Hackley hospital and revised chapter three and started on chapter four, laptop balanced on my knee. What would I do without my laptop? I've gotten so used to it that I only use my journals for ideas, quotes, and unsticking my mind. (Okay, sometimes for venting as well.)

So how's the writing going for you?

By the way, several of you received an invitation to be an author on this blog. If you didn't and would like to be, let me know what email address you want me to put in.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Hello writers!

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function
achieved, which a cow enjoys on giving milk. H.L. Mencken
Peninsula Writers' Conferences are great. I always come back from them physically worn out, but creatively, mentally, and emotionally charged up and ready to keep writing. The trick for me is maintaining that energy--that charge--throughout the year. Yes, writing is a solitary pursuit. Butt in chair as Heather Sellers says. But being able to say, I wrote 47 words today, to someone who understands what an accomplishment that can be, is the difference between getting up the next day sufficiently to write, or giving up the next day.

I hope this blog is one way that we can stay connected as a writing community--whether it is to celebrate the writing life, or gripe about technology that fails, words that won't come, or form rejections. It's all part of being a writer--a very tender part that needs lots of nurturing or it cries like a baby before giving up and going into fetal position.

Since this blog thing is new to me, you'll have to be patient and promise not to write me into one of your stories--unless it's as some sexy woman who is a great writer and publishes many books. On second thought--just leave me out of it altogether.

Anyway, I hope to hear from you, and if you want to be put on as an author--meaning you can add a post rather than just comment on a post--let me know. (I don't think there is a limit to how many people can be listed as author.)

So...butt in chair and get writing. (even if it is only to comment on this post.)