choosing sides for volleyball and other curious forms of torture

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I pick you!

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Reason #10 I love going to writers’ conferences: never having to choose sides for volleyball (or softball or basketball . . . ). You see, I possess no eye/hand coordination. Zippo. My left hand is only there to make me look symmetrical. Strictly window dressing. It’s a wonder I can type. So, it’s a real load off not having to demonstrate my athletic ineptitude for the astonishment of my fellow writers. Oh, sure, authors can be strong athletes, but I’m confident a lot of us were picked last (or next to last on a good day) when choosing teams in gym class. We were out of our element and there was no competing with the real sports people.

Of course, that doesn’t mean authors don’t engage in our own kind of competition. I’m not talking about contests. It’s more about the weird competitive dynamic among writers…

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help you help me

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Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting (and waiting and waiting . . . )

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Every writer I know is a “waiter.” We wait for our muses to return from Rome. We wait for feedback from critique partners. We wait for emails from editors and agents. We wait for books to launch and reviews to post. For those of us who are pre-published, we wait (and wait and wait) for our first big break into print. Given that waiting is a given no matter where we are in the waiting room, it’s wise to find ways to use the time, well, wisely. Otherwise we’re time-twiddlers in danger of becoming solitary sadsacks. And yeesh, don’t even get me started on those pricey catered pity parties. What’s that? How do I know about pity parties? Well, uh, [insert awkward silence so long you would take a nap in it here], let’s move on.

And so, my little twice baked potatoes, to help each other whilst…

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are you lucky?

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Welcome to Frog on a Dime

dreamy frog

Recently, on an ordinary Thursday afternoon, a perceptive friend said something that gave me pause. “You’re lucky to have a dream,” she said. Hmm. I’d never thought about that before, but she was absolutely right. “I am lucky,” I said to my friend. “Having a dream is a burden, but it’s a burden I’d miss if it went away.”

By now, you know my dream is to become a children’s author. I’m working the steps, logging some encouraging signs of progress, practicing my craft and doing my part to make that happen. Still, unlike failure, which is a snap, there are no guarantees of success. That’s not an easy reality to embrace, but the thought of living dreamless would be much more difficult. My dream gives me a nudge, a sense of purpose and a life infused with a sense of expectation. Why would I disconnect from that?

A zillion.5…

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You May Need Professional Help, Part I

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clouds

It’s not a fun thing to admit:

I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Novel writing, I mean.  (See there? I can’t even form a complete sentence.)

No, no. I’m not looking for consolation. I’m simply being transparent about what’s what.

Given that time is lapping me like an Olympian, something must be done now if I’m ever going to achieve my dream.

Somethings I’ve tried, include, but are not limited to:

  • Attending writing-focused workshops, retreats and conferences
  • Completing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature and the UCLA Writing Extension
  • Reading books on writing (if you’d like recommendations, please ask)
  • Paying for critiques from editors and authors
  • Studying novels written by award-winning authors in my genre
  • Participating in a critique group
  • Seeking one-on-one advice from a trusted fellow writer
  • Eating a library’s weight in cookies

To be crystal, I am not saying I’ve tried all of these somethings and they were a waste. Not. At. All. I value these experiences and will return to them again going forward (particularly the last one).

But now, this is the time to try a shiny, new something.

But what?

I made of list of everything from reading a new self-help book to applying to grad school and nothing seemed quite right–either not personalized or too pricey or impractical given my day job.

That’s when a friend suggested I get some professional help.

Now, that’s a true friend!

My friend suggested I contact an editorial service–a business that provides copy edits, developmental editing and coaching.

Eureka! (Time for a celebratory cookie!)

I investigated the particular service she recommended and loved what I learned. So much so that I spoke with the owner, sent in a writing sample, picked my editor, signed on the dotted line, attached my manuscript and mailed my check this week. In about three weeks, I will receive my detailed editorial letter.

Be aware, my little apricot tarts, quality editorial services are not cheap. Nor should they be. But when I compare the cost of a full-manuscript edit to a fly-away weekend workshop, much less graduate level courses, the price is much more manageable. Plus, I will be learning transferable skills I can apply to past and future manuscripts. I also anticipate having this level of personalized help will speed along the process a bit rather than meandering without aim through a writers’ wilderness (aka per usual).

Is there some wink-wink magic hidden door wink-wink connected to such services? In other words, if you use an editorial service, will your work somehow become cover to cover catnip to publishers because the service itself will help you on your way? Mmm. No. It’s still about you and your writing. But because your writing will be stronger, there’s hope your chances for publication are stronger too.

Next time, I’ll tell you what it was like to get the letter and a bit about what I learned and how I’ll use the editor’s input to shape my work in progress.

For now, I feel excited, empowered and energized. And that’s mighty fine by me.

If you think you could use some professional help, let’s connect on my contact page. I’ll be glad to share more with you.

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. ~ Napoleon Hill

 

 

12 Ways 2 B 5 Minutes Closer to Your Dream

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Do something every day to get you closer to your dream. That was one of the first and best pieces of advice I received when I was just packing my bags to begin my writing journey. (Thank you, Ann Purmell.)

Of course, “do something” leaves ample room for personalization. Assuming you agree with the concept, you’re probably wondering how you’d find time to do something every day.

Well, in 2015 I heard Newbery winner Kathi Appelt talk about a time in her life when she was frustrated over finding writing time. A friend challenged her to write every day. Kathi said she’d try for 30 minutes daily, but her friend protested. She wanted Kathi to aim for a mere five minutes a day. Kathi was confident she could commitment to that!

No surprise, Kathi oftentimes exceeds her five minute allotment, but regardless of the minutes, the important thing is, she is doing something every day–creating momentum, a worthy habit, a dream-supporting discipline.

Being the smart little snicker doodles you are, you knew I’d challenge you next, didn’t you. I want to give you a dozen options to spend five or ten minutes each day to bring your dreams closer to reality.

  1. Interview one character from your work in progress.
  2. Order a new book on writing technique – may I suggest Kendra Levin’s The Hero is You.
  3. Compile a list of names—first or last or both together–for future characters.
  4. Read a blog post by an editor or author you admire.
  5. Send someone you appreciate a quick thank you email. It could be a fellow writer, an editor or maybe a conference speaker who encouraged you.
  6. Write one scene.
  7. Register for a retreat or conference.
  8. Read two pages of your WIP out loud or ask someone to read them to you.
  9. Tidy your desk top (either your computer desk top or your actual desk).
  10. Research a publishing house for a future submission.
  11. Type out the text of one of your favorite picture books so you can study it.
  12. Do a Find/Replace in one chapter (or five pages) to weed out your “crutch words,” e.g. just, actually, started or to root out passive voice.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes

Where’s Your Scary?

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The road is longclouds

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

Do these lyrics remind you of your journey toward publication?

How about words like wandering, wilderness, what-if-it-never-materializes, wondering what’s next?

I hear you.

More important, I feel you.

This journey is tough. At least it is for me. And it’s so much longer than I ever imagined it would be.

You too?

Lately, I’ve recognized one of the things that is making it feel even longer–I’ve tripped into a rut.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Now my journey is as dry as winter elbows.

Know what’s missing?

Scary.

For me, Scary equates to doing something new, putting myself out there for an unpredictable payback and feeling my heart stampede.

Now I’m on the hunt for the right kind of Scary.

You too?

These ideas to inject an element of Scary back into our Writing Life–

  • Enroll in a writing course
  • Apply to an MFA program or another form of formal education
  • Register for a workshop, retreat or conference
  • Send three chapters to a willing beta reader
  • Enter a contest
  • Read at an open mic

I’m going for it. Look out Scary. Here I come.

You comin’?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~ Helen Keller

Lyrics by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott

“Rung” in the New Year

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frog-and-toad-and-the-cookies

From “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Lobel

When you’re up high, let’s say on a tall ladder, people always tell you–Don’t look down! But do me a favor, will you? Take a minute to glance over your shoulder. That’s right, look down the ladder the today. Here’s why . . .

When your sole focus is looking up the publishing ladder as you clutch each rung, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never reach the top. But let me encourage you to hold the rung a second.

Pause.

Even for a moment.

Stop craning your neck upward.

Look back down that ladder.

You began at the bottom.

Now, see how far you’ve come!

Today, before you uncork some bubbly or sing that silly “Auld Lang Syne,” make a list. Nope, not a mental list. Compile a REAL list on paper or screen–of all you’ve accomplished this year toward your writing goals. You have so much to be proud of. (I know, I should have said, You have so much of which to be proud, but that sounds kind of snooty for my purposes, and using proper grammar wasn’t one of my goals for 2016 anyway.)

Sure, there’s a lot more you want to do (same here), but treat yourself to a moment to appreciate how high you’ve already climbed. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the view!

What’s that? You say you submitted your work this year, but only have a stack of rejection letters to show for it? Well, that’s VERY rung-list worthy. (Honest. I’m not just saying that to give you something to put on your list.) You submitted your work. (It’s virtually impossible to receive a letter of rejection otherwise.) You wrote, revised, researched publishers and took the leap to share your work for consideration. Okay, so you didn’t get the desired response–this time–but you’re now ready to narrow your search and target other houses for submission in the new year. That’s great. Rung it up!

Happy New Year, my little sticky buns! Let’s “rung” it in together.

Umquam porro. Ever forward, Friends. Ever forward. Rung by rung.

A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~ Edmond de Goncourt