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Those Three Little Words: Rue The Day

How do I love Thee (my Writer Friends)? Let me count the ways…

“I love thee to the length and breadth… and way past the depth of stupidity of all those critics/agents/editors who do not INSTANTLY see and recognize your BRILLIANCE….” These are words every good Writer Friend should know and say, with some frequency, to her friends who are submitting their work. It’s in the job description!
(You know what I’m talking about. We writers have different “friend jobs,” different kinds of love we must show to our colleagues who are going through the fire with us. Read the manual.)

I hear a lot of talk about the necessity of being honest with one another, cutting through the BS, laying it all out there in critique and making sure our friends’ manuscripts are PERFECT and WORKS OF ART before they send them out to those editors/agents/contests.

Yes, yes, friends. We all must be cruel and honest with one another. But we also must be ready, willing, and able to share these three little words with one another: Rue the day.

As in, “Don’t worry, they’ll get theirs. They will RUE THE DAY they rejected your masterpiece. You’ll be the next Kate di Camillo, the next Jerry Spinelli, the next Nan Marino (did you know I LOVE her? Check out her blog) and then they’ll be DEVASTATED they made such a horrible, career-limiting mistake. *apply chocolate now; lather, rinse, repeat*

Okay, okay. We all know this talk may not be 100% honest. But the sentiment is, or should be. If it’s not appearing for you on your worst days, you need new Writer Friends — the kind who call you out of the blue (the best Writer Friends are slightly psychic) and say those three magic words.
I hope you have that kind of friend – I know I do! And I’ve needed them, even though my path has been way more sunlight than shadows for the last year or two.

If you do have those Friends? Make sure you show them all the love you can – and love them like a Mama Bear, even if their manuscripts seem like the runts of the litter from time to time. Who knows? Those runts sometimes grow up to be Wrinkles in Time.
And then those shortsighted people who rejected them? They will rue the freakin’ day.

End of sermon.

Note: One of my Very Best Writer Friends – Lindsey Scheibe –  who will be famous very soon, and then will blurb my books (also in the Friend contract), just signed with the lovely and insightful Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary. Hooray for Lindsey! And congratulations, Mandy. You must have a good picker.;) *throws virtual confetti*

If You Starve a Blog, Does it Die?

The answer, it seems, is no. Or this one would have perished weeks ago.

I didn’t mean to leave my Writer Friends hanging. It’s just that I’ve been busy revising novels, writing short pieces, and living a life.

Yes, one of those. I went on a road trip with the kids, and we had a blast. Was it bad that I kept thinking “I’m getting so much MATERIAL here!”every time we stopped somewhere cool? Come on, the World’s Biggest Pistachio? Enormous cave structures (Speleothems, or somesuch) shaped precisely like giant boobies? (According to my 10 year old son, naturally, who giggled his way through Carlsbad Caverns. You’ve never seen the ninth wonder of the world until you’ve seen it with a little boy who keeps whispering “nipples!’ every few minutes To be fair, I was thinking the same thing.)

We saw petroglyphs – which have already made an appearance in a short fiction piece this week — and sledded down the dunes at White Sands. We took pictures of badger tracks, and kangaroo rat tracks, and all sorts of other tracks in the early morning, and watched an evening storm that rolled in all around us, flooding the mountains, while we stood on the dry, silent dunes. Gorgeous.

My favorite moment was watching the “Dance of the Pour” at the bronze foundry in Shidoni, outside Santa Fe. A giant cauldron of molten metal splahing like lava all around? You know that’s going into something I write… someday.

So, that’s what I did on my summer vacation. Now, I’ll spend a few weeks revising some manuscripts I’ve got ready to polish, and send out a thousand small subs so I can get those little ego boo moments every now and again (to offset any possible rejections) and I’ll try to blog a bit more frequently. But who knows when life will start happening all around me again, and I’ll need to put down the keyboard and go build the moments that actually make books wonderful?

So… what did YOU do on your summer vacation?

White_Sands-101

Pickled Pig Feet

Writer Friends, I need your help. I signed up for a humor writing workshop led by Mary Jo Pehl for this coming Saturday. The only requirement she had for all of the attendees was that we do something new, something we had never done before, in advance. And, of course, take notes.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lived a full life. If I wanted to do it — or thought I might — I went ahead. So, while I have no regrets over missed chances, there’s also not a lot left to try. (Well, not a lot that I’m *willing* to try.) But last year, I was writing a novel that had a character doing something I had never done – something I could do. I didn’t do it, but I could have. It wasn’t a big deal. What was it, you ask? Simple. Eat a pickled pig’s foot.

So… that’s why I quit writing that book. I just couldn’t stomach the research angle. But I figured I could do it this year, for the workshop. I’m a big girl, right? I can handle a little bit of bright pink, hacked-off stringy, brined pork with a hoof for a handle.

Sorry. My inner vegetarian is NOT letting me do this horrible thing. So I have to come up with something, anything, else. Fast.

The only other thing I can come up with – that doesn’t involve possible jail time or a need for a blood test —  is skinny-dipping at the infamous Austin nude beach, Hippie Hollow.

Please don’t make me show my dimples to a bunch of old freaks this week. Help me come up with something new to do.

Suggestions?

I Smell A Unicorn

So, you write the next Great American Children’s Novel. You’re so proud of it, you can’t wait to show it to everyone – your family, friends, agent, check-out guy at the grocery. Just one more quick read, you think, and it will be ready to start winning Newbery prizes and making you J. K. Rolling-in-Dough. Just one more quick read… wait! What’s that? Why is there a funny smell coming from Chapter Three? What the heck? There it is – the tell-tale stain of a fairy tale creature who’s been clumsily foreshadowed all over your manuscript. That’s going to take hours to clean up! Who let that thing in here? The author, you say? It’s a magical world, sure, but a strictly defined one, where the magic is limited so the rest of the world seems normal, which makes it all plausible, and creepy, and… oh, no. I think I saw a unicorn behind the next page.  A freakin’ unicorn.

Crap. Get the delete key out, boys. We’re going to be revising for a while longer.

Once more, Writer Friends, into the breach. Hold my trembling, unicorn-free hand? I have to go grind some very small, child-sized bones to make my bread.

*sniffle*

NB: Thank you to Sam, who when I was angsting about how I was writing “too dark” for children, reminded me of the Hunger Games.

What Do I Want? More Yummy Demons

I am hip-deep in revisions on the current WIP, thanks to my amazing Beta Reader Lori (who shall heretofore be called The Ultimate Authority, To Be Obeyed At All Costs), and spending the rest of my time volunteering at Cub Scout Camp*with Cama Rama Ding Dong and The Drewber. (Okay, they ticked me off, so I get to spread their pet nicknames online. Petty, I know. But I do feel better now.)

The problem with being so busy, and knowing I need to crank out an awesome manuscript SOON, is that I can’t start reading a new book. If I do, The Novel Progress Express will jump the tracks and land on a beach with a ten-foot-tall TBR stack and a bunch of mojitos. So, instead, I’ve been allowing myself tasty little bite-size fictional treats.

You have to try this one! My agent-sister, Lisa DesRochers, has a book coming out in September, and sh’es posting sneak peek chapters on Tuesdays. Perfect! Check these chapters out for Knowledge On How To Write YA Openings With Mucho Sexual Tension. (Make sure you go back to June 15 for chapter one.)

Glad I don’t write YA; I would probably get depressed. As it is, I’m loving her yummy MC. Mmmmmmm.

*Camp Hell-On-Earth, populated by screaming fifth graders who think squirting me in the butt with a water pistol is nifty. I don’t even mind, because the temperature has been approximately 97 bazillion degrees in our all-outdoor-mostly-unshaded camp site. Ugh. So why am I still having fun doing it? Masochism?

No Room for My Books

The day has come at last. I have no more room for books in my house, and must therefore permanently suspend the acquisition of any and all new titles.

Bwa ha ha ha ha haahahahaha!!!

Yeah, like that’s going to happen. What’s really happening is that I’m planning to reward the completion and first revision of my WIP by buying a bookshelf or two to house all those gorgeous, colorful, fresh-paged lovelies that keep falling into my arms. (It was the latest poetry book that arrived today in the mail – thank you, book fairy! – that made up my mind.)

So, any suggestions? I’m thinking Ikea. I’m also dreaming about shelves like this.

Mmmm. It makes me feel dirty just looking at all those hardbacks.

Quote for the day: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” –  Marcus Tullius Cicero

Write well, friends!

Truth with a Capital T

I’m back from Disney World, ready to… well, nap, actually. Have you ever gone to Disney with your kids? It’s exhausting. But don’t worry. After a few more days of sleep, and some therapy sessions to remove the soundtrack to It’s A Small World that’s stuck in my brain like a Wrath of Khan maggot, I’ll be back to writing.

That is, if reading books like my friend Bethany Hegedus’ Truth with a Capital T doesn’t make me give it up entirely.

I took three books on the plane for altitude reading. A couple of cruddy romance/mysteries, and one precious, loaned ARC of Bethany’s.

It’s a good thing I like her so darn much, so I can be happy for her rather than just pea-green envious of her skillz. I spent most of the time in the air being pulled straight through this middle-grade novel about a girl named Maebelle working to uncover a family mystery, make friends in her grandparent’s new town, and find a way to feel special in a family chock-full of talent. It was touching, fun, funny, and loaded with those little pieces of small-town Southern life that made it perfectly real.

What amazed me most is Bethany’s fearlessness – she throws her characters into thorny situations, tackling topics like mixed-race families and the different responses those kids face in the North and South, and pulls it all off. She’s written one of those wonders: a book that would be good for kids to read, that they would WANT to read. Not an easy task.

Now, if I can stop all the fan-girl gushing, I have a book of my own to finish. And a local SCBWI meeting to attend in the morning! Fun:)

Poetry and Pole-dancing

Let’s just get this out of the way: I won a poetry contest – with prizes! being sent to me! yay! –  this week. The spring poetry contest, to be specific, over on Absolute Write, the best place on the web for both disgruntled and gruntled writers to hang, chill, vent, and post their work. (I first saw Kody Keplinger‘s query and pages for The DUFF there – blew me away, even back then. And now look at her! A star on the rise.)

And then today, I taught my booty-shaking Zumba class, and went to have coffee with my writer friend Bethany Hegedus who has a new book coming out, and because she is so awesome and generous, loaned me one of her precious few ARCs to read. The book? Truth with a Capital T. It’s amazing so far. I’ll post more later. 😉

At coffee/lunch, I mentioned I’d been writing and submitting my poetry (along with all that other stuff I write) and Bethany admitted that she writes poetry, but she never sends it out.

As it turns out, I have a LOT of Writer Friends who are the same! Fearless in their writing, and in their subbing of fiction and non-fiction, but hiding Dickinsonian trunks of unseen verse in virtual trunks at the feet of their e-beds. Like they’re ashamed of it. Or like it’s too private to show to anyone. Too personal, maybe,  to expose to the gimlet eyes of editors? Or even the loving, generous eyes of Writer Friends?

I understand this. Years ago, I hid all my poetry. (Um, this was actually a wise move. It was very angsty, and passionate, and terribly, terribly bad.) What happened? When did I decide to trot my poetry out onto the stage, dress it up in spangles and paste, and see how many dollar bills the guys and gals in the Editor’s Airport Lounge would stuff into my verbal G-string?

Does it cheapen my poetry to sign it up for all those Wet T-shirt Contests with prizes of a few dollars and the possibility of long-lasting humiliation and a Poets Gone Wild video that will haunt me – oh, wait, poems aren’t videotaped. Whew! Still, you get my drift.

Or, in that questionable argument the  post-feminist feminists constructed, where literal pole-dancing was re-visioned as a way to take back one’s own sexual/physical power, does my willingness to show it all strengthen me – and my work – somehow?

Okay, okay, I’m laughing my butt off as I type this. Taking it all too seriously, I know, and stretching the metaphor for giggles. Still… I am almost certain, from what I know of Bethany’s and my other poetry-hiding Writer Friends, that their verse would kick my verse’s feeble butt, if they decided to bring it out. And that would be a good thing. The world needs more poems. Hot, sexy tightly-written poems… and also slightly overweight poems, with stretchmarks, freckles, and wrinkles on their butts.

So… you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

My poems, that is. Nobody sees the butt wrinkles.

Other News: Off to Disney in two days! So, no blog posts for a bit. Nice addition to the vacation is that I get to meet up with Writer Friends who inhabit Orlando: Lisa Iriarte and Larissa Hardesty. Cool.

Embarrassing Yourself (And Your Kids)

Happy Monday! It’s Overshare Day on Nikki’s Blog, so settle back in your comfy chairs and get ready to learn things you never wanted to know about me. Don’t worry, I have an actual reason for the information. Not a great reason, but a reason. So here goes.

One of the joys in my sad, pathetic housewife life is embarrassing my children. I do it as regularly and publicly as I can. (Just yesterday, I sang and danced Lady Gaga’s song Telephone (while on Grandma’s boat on Lake Austin – sound travels better over water) to my two boys and their 10 year-old cousin Josh. They all hid under beach towels, but that did not deter me. No! I made it all the way through to the Beyonce part of the video. Now that’s dedication.) I was deemed the most embarrassing mom in the  universe. Score!

I also do embarrassing things at home, too. And you know what? The boys don’t mind that so much, as long as no one else can hear me. Like, for two or three months last year, as soon as the kids arrived home from school, I got out my guitar and played a made-up song about farting called Bust a Grumpy while the boys danced on the bed.* The refrain was plebeian but, Oh, the verses! Full of all sorts of details describing flatulence. (I am, you know, a published poet. You got mad word skillz, ya use ’em. LOL)

I digress.Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Willing to embarass yourself… and those you love. As a writer, you gotta do it. Come on, it takes a pretty thick ego to call yourself a writer, and a thicker one to write a novel that you send out into the cold, hard world. It’s even harder to do something novel with your novel, or whatever you’re writing. To take a risk, to do something not quite like what everyone else is doing? Terrifying. Potentially excruciatingly embarrassing. Build up that ego; you’re going to need it.

There are going to be plenty of people who will tell you that your novel in verse/picture book in emails/YA paranormal romance about sentient cheeses is the worst idea they’ve ever heard. (Hopefully not your beta readers.) But write it anyway. Will it get published? Probably not. Most things don’t. But will you experience an almost transcendent joy in the creation of that thing that your uncool heart/imagination/Dork-Muse called forth into being? Yes, you will. And that’s the real payoff.

When I daydream, I hear children laughing. Sometimes it’s my real kids laughing about the bedtime story I made up for them that night. (Talk about payoff. All my bedtime stories hit the bestseller lists. 😉

Someday I hope it will be the children reading my work. It could be that they’ll laugh at me, instead of with me. So what? I stopped trying to be cool long ago, and I never was very good at it anyway. What I want to be good at is telling my stories in a new way. Even if that means making myself look like an idiot. Even if it means mortifying all those associated with me.

It probably will. Hey, I have a whole lot of kids, family members, and beta reader friends to embarrass. I am so blessed.

Do you ever find yourself worried about what others will think of your work? Do you ever censor yourself to avoid embarrassment… or even hide your manuscripts in a drawer/your light under a bushel to avoid being laughed at/rejected? Don’t we all know writers who do that? Let’s not be that kind of writer, Friends.

Write well, and bravely. Have fun with your work!

News: An editor of a literary journal nominated a short story of mine for an award/competition thingy. I’ll give more details later, if anything comes of it. For now, I’m just feeling all warm and fuzzy knowing he thought my little story was good enough to be sent on!

* They made me swear never to tell anyone about this. What can I say? I’m a fiction writer. I lie all the time.

Are We There Yet?

This is the summer of the road trip. Last year, My mom and I took the boyz on a glorious, fun-filled, action-packed 36-hour (thank Heaven for in-car DVD players) road trip up to Ohio to visit my brother and his family. It was fun, even if my mom did insist on taking her two-pound toothless chihuahua (aptly named Booger) and even though I had to drive every single mile of the way in Stepdad’s truck, hauling a caravan. We stopped a lot (the joy of not taking a grown man with you on a road trip is you never have to apologize for needing a pit stop every 75 miles) and had a blast.

Dave got jealous, since he had to stay home and work. To make up for it, this summer, Dave and I are taking the boys on a 10 day fun-filled journey through Fort Davis, Texas, to White Sands, New Mexico, Santa Fe, and back through Carlsbad Caverns. (Also, we’ll hit Taos, and some other places, natch). I can’t wait. And no, I’m not kidding. Some of my most amazing memories are from the road trips my parents took with me and the sibs when we were little. Of course, for them, that was the only vacation option, since money was an issue. We roughed it. (New topic beginning next week: Why I Hate Camping, the First Installment in a Fifty-Part Series.) Dave and I will be staying in hotels every night. Ah, showers and beds. Bliss.

Anyway, I was thinking about road trips and writing novels, and how they’re pretty similar for me. I mean, when I let myself, I enjoy the writing process – even the tricky parts – as much or more than getting to the end. You know, that “Eureka!” feeling? When I realize that where your subconscious (ah, clever, precious subconscious Nikki, how I love you) has taken the plot, is so much cooler than where you might have steered it? It’s the same feeling you get when you look out the window and see a triple rainbow arching over the flat West Texas plains. Holy cow! What a surprise. What a blessing.

And, of course, there are all those moments when you’re slogging along – driving through the metaphorical rain of the manuscript – when all you can think is “Are we there yet?” Even the flat tires (cardboard characters!), and busted timing belts (pacing issues!) turn into really funny stories, um, ten years later or so. I hope.

All this to say, I think I’m there. I just got Blessing in Disguise back from my last beta reader. (Betas are like triple rainbows, too, infinitely precious. Mwa!) I think it’s time to pack this one up. Just one more read-aloud, a few more miles… tomorrow I have to hop back on the Gingerbread Express, and see if I can finish yet another first draft before June! I hope revising that one is as rewarding as the last one has been.

Any fun vacation plans, Friends? Or even long-winded metaphors about writing and traveling? LOL

Write well!