Monday, August 31, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #17

As kids across the country are getting reacquainted with their classrooms, let's hope they're learning more than these people did.

So are you smarter than a fourth/sixth/eighth grader? Where did you rank? I hope it's good news!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Falling in Love

The road to publication for writer's, or so I've been told, is long and bumpy.

For the last month, I haven't really been making any progress along that road. At the end of July, I submitted THE DINER ON THIRD young adult manuscript to several agents. And although the response has been mostly positive, I feel like my car's broken down, and I'm waiting on the side of the road for one of the agents to call with the report of whether I'll get moving again.

This is not a good place to be.

After I submitted my manuscript, I knew the best thing for me to do was forget about it (in other words, don't sit in front of my computer, hitting refresh on my email 24/7, waiting for agent responses) and get to work on another project.

I reviewed my list of ideas for future books. There were a few good ones and a few that I had absolutely no idea what I was thinking when I wrote them down. After having lunch with a dear friend, I took her advice to combine two of the ideas into one.

I got excited about it and started writing the opening chapters. I considered character profiles. What are my characters' mottos, motivations, desires, etc? Who's the villain? Who cannot be trusted?

As I got deeper into the "whats" and "whys" the story began to form and became richer, but it wasn't until yesterday that I really fell in love with the idea.

That's really the beauty of writing. When that one detail pops into your head that you have to search for anything resembling paper and any writing utensil (pencil, crayon, eyeliner, or lipstick) to scratch down a few words - that's when you know you're in love.

Then, it happens again.

And again.

Soon, the lipstick details are adding layers, subplots, conflict, and the desire in you to tell the story is impossible to ignore. You lay awake in bed weighing plot points, writing dialogue in your head, and it's a beautiful thing.

Falling in love again feels good. It reminds me of how I fell in love with THE DINER ON THIRD. I hope the agents reading it are falling in love as well, but there's never a guarantee.

When it comes down to it, though, I got that beat up car on the shoulder of the road to publication running again on my own by working to create something new, something better.

With the new book on my mind, at the very least, I can stop hitting refresh in my email. I can walk away from the addictions of Facebook and Twitter. And I can experience the love of telling a story again, spending time with characters that are more like friends, and dreaming of teen readers holding copies of the book in their hands, loving it as much as I do.

"I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #16

Here's something to make you smile every Monday for the next few months, particularly if you're a parent of school-aged children. I'm not, but I still find it pretty entertaining.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Rejection


Deep sigh.

It's part of the journey for sure. If you don't believe me, look at the two emails in my inbox in the last 24 hours that begin with "Thank you for allowing me the chance to view your manuscript. Unfortunately..."

Of course I knew it was the way of the world in publishing.

It's happened before. It will likely happen again.

In one of the Yahoo loops of which I'm a member, a writer recently said she received a rejection and was going to take the day to be miserable and then get back in there. Another writer in the group, one I admire dearly - Lauren Baratz-Logsted - responded to give nothing more than five minutes of sadness to any rejection.

I think it might take me longer than that to write this blog (which I'm offering as a sacrifice to the rejection gods in hopes they might be satisfied and leave me alone for a bit).

I've heard several writers and agents refer to an agent-author relationship as a marriage. If that's the case, I suppose I'm in the phase where I'm still looking for "the one." Now, I know what my unmarried friends are frustrated about!

If shopping around my manuscript to agents is parallel to premarital dating, then I'm in essence standing on the top of a building alongside I-95, completely naked, asking someone to take a chance on me.

Maybe not exactly.

And maybe that's not an image you anticipated when you started reading this post. My apologies.

As the rejections pile up, I'm holding onto hope. There are still several other agents reviewing my work right now. That said, if they all come back with "Thanks, but..." responses, I'm hoping my five minutes of depression goes slowly.

Heck, in five minutes, you can barely drink a glass of wine, let alone an entire bottle!

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.” - Barbara Kingsolver

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Neglect

For the past week or so, I've been mulling over plans to write a string of blog posts on the writer's journey. However, what I've done is neglected my blog completely.

At first this frustrated me. Then I realized, it's definitely part of the writer's journey.

As a unpublished author, I have no one waiting for my work - no agent on my back nor publishing deadline to meet. In that situation, it's easy to take my time on a project or more likely let something else occupy my attention.

This week, Westmoreland County Community College is occupying my attention. Classes start Thursday, and although I was originally assigned late start classes that don't begin until Sept. 17, my assignment was changed and now my syllabus and lesson plans have to be ready by - tomorrow.

It's a legitimate reason to neglect my writing-in-progress. Yet, I wonder. Is it? Really?

Even with the confusion of how to turn my lectures into podcasts, couldn't I find fifteen minutes or potentially an hour in the day to write?

Am I behaving just like the students I'm about to teach in procrastinating my writing assignments until the very last minute? And why do students do that?

They tell me it's because they don't know what they want to write about. That's a nicer way of admitting they can't commit to something to write about.

Kind of how I can't commit to a controlling idea for my next book and how that's holding me back.

Other reasons?

They work better under pressure.

Hmmn. Is this ever really true? What are the chances this excuse is simply one that makes people feel better about themselves? It's admirable to be good under pressure. But what if it's not the pressure of the deadline (although I give in to the fact that helps)? What if the reason the writing got done is because the student did what so many writers insist others do?

Put your butt in the chair and just write.

Kind of how I didn't think I was going to write this blog when I opened Internet Explorer, but I just started writing, and voila - a simple blog post worth the Pulitzer!

The final reason I get from students rationalizing their last minute writing might be the most telling of all.

"Professor Girardi, I'm just not a good writer. I never was."

Deep breath.

What if it's true?

I thought I was the only writer who felt she could never put another worthwhile sentence together. Then I listened to published writers talk about the feeling after they sell a book.

The fear they might never be able to do it again.

Maybe as I face new students for the first time tomorrow, this lesson might be a good one to share with them. The insecurities with writing never completely go away. Building confidence is certainly necessary, but there will be times they question themselves.

The only thing they can do is learn how to deal with the insecurities because the essays, reports, proposals, memos, and releases will have to be written with or without confidence.

Maybe it's true that the greatest writing advice of all is to put your backside in the chair and just start writing.

"You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless - there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing." -Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1929

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Football Season!

Until they come out with the new version, which will include the line "Six-time Super Bowl Champs, this will have to do...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #16

On a Rainy Day, there's nothing better than hanging out with old Friends.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #15

I feel kind of bad posting this week's Rainy Days and Mondays video, but it's pretty funny. Besides, I think if this homemade dance video had gone according to the plan, it would not have attracted as many hits.

Since we're hanging with Beyonce today, if you haven't seen Justin Timberlake on SNL dancing to her song, check out this video too. I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #14

It's been hot and sticky out there. Stay hydrated, and Happy Monday!