Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nominate (Me)

Surprises are mostly good. Like when you're walking into a dim and dreary place, but find a corner lit by the face of a dear friend. When, while doing laundry, you find forgotten money in the pocket of your husband's jeans. (Yes. Yes, I spent it.) Or when someone nominates your blog for the 2010 Author Blog Awards. I got the e-mail Monday!

Me? Something She Wrote? How neat is that surprise?

Here are the deets: A blogger (me) first needs lots and lots of nominations to make the shortlist, which will be announced April 5th. (Nominations are open until April 2nd. Just two more days!) Then, from those who make it to the next round, overall winners will be chosen by vote.
But, bonus! You yourself could win from lots and lots of prizes just by visiting the site and nominating someone (me).
Look at this face. *weilds big brown eyes* (nominate me)
Help a girl out?
ETA: Many are saying it's not the easiest nomination method. I understand if it's something you don't have time for, or just plain don't want to do. Your ongoing support and encouragement are plenty enough!
Sincerest thanks to whomever nominated me initially. It was a great pick-me-up.
Disclaimer: Subliminal messages should be taken uber seriously. Yep.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meeting of the (Writerly) Minds

While in Florida this last week, I met with Terri Tiffany and Jessica Nelson for dinner (that's the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in the background). It was our second time having done such, and I think we're all agreed in making it an annual sort of thing.

I'm so pleased to know these two women writers. While in real life they're grounded and personable, along writerly veins, they're knowledgeable and encouraging. I very much enjoy talking with them. Above all that, I consider them friends.

If you're not familiar with either woman, visit the blogs linked above. Terri's site is full of inspiration and love, and she always has a lesson tucked away somewhere. Jessica shares her experiences with craft in creative and applicable ways, and she has such an interest in others.

And, of course, you can find a little living at each place, too.

Have you ever met blogging or online friends in person? How'd it go?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We Interrupt This Break...

So we're in Florida. Our vacation plans were timely; I needed the escape, and the disconnect.

Yesterday we went to Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It was the perfect day with the perfect crowd. Prime people-watching, you know.

Near night's end, we rode It's a Small World After All. And by rode, I mean braved. Because it's a long, repetitive horror of a ride. But you do it for the kids.

Which is why I was intrigued by the woman who sat in front of us. She was in, I'd say, her mid-fifties. And she rode with no one but herself. Naturally, I was curious about her circumstance. Had she come to the amusement park by herself? Or separated from her family or friends for just a few minutes, to cruise the ride no one else dared go on?

I concocted a whole story, of course: She was a writer, on the premises for research. To see, to feel, to listen with intensity. Because she was writing the next big scene in her novel--where say, a child goes missing from the ride's line, or a man, romantically frozen for years, proposes to his girlfriend in the least likely of places--and she needed to build her reservoir of experience.

Because I do that. Put myself somewhere for the sake of the craft. To build on my experiences, to write about or pull from later. Have you done that?

What have you done to build your writer's (or life's) reservoir?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

It's time for a break, for a little gettin' away.

I may pop in over the next ten days, may not. I'll be gone until something needs writing about.

Be well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

I've Joined the Army...

of Ermas!

This is Erma Bombeck, writer, humorist, wife and mother extraordinaire (RIP). She's inspired many who dream to follow in her funny footsteps.
She was my own first inspiration. I can't tell you how I became acquainted with her; whether it was with a book my mom owned, something from the library, or something entirely random. But oh, was I taken with her insight, her honesty, and her sense of humor.
It was writing like hers I first tried to emulate, back when I began taking the craft seriously. I was a young married mom, looking for a creative outlet. And I wanted to pen casual essays and personal anecdotes, much like any found in her famous titles: If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?; Family - The Ties That Bind... and Gag!; The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. Those books are where I got my fledgling start, tested the writing waters. My first paid and published essay was in the vein of her kind of writing.
Now, years later, several women writers have banded together to form An Army of Ermas. And I'm one of 'em!
Visit our new blog, linked above, to see what we're about. Please read my debut post, Gimme a Break (up today!), and leave a comment if so inclined. It's a different side to my writing, so different from my women's fiction, and I'd love your thoughts.
Three cheers for (and many thanks to) Erma!
*photo from Erma's website

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Word Book

I got a fantastic old school book, My Word Book, from an antiques store. Dubbed a "modern language arts program," and published in 1959, it was too neat to pass up.

I imagine it was for fourth or fifth graders. It has a dictionary at its back, vocabulary challenges throughout, and tricks and tips for usage of words. I thought it an awesome little thing to sit and brainstorm with.

What I thought fun were exercises in which you complete the sentences with an appropriate word. Try these:

1) The elephant seems awkward because of its _______.

2) The woman _______ carefully to avoid the mud puddle.

3) Are you willing to _______ the prisoner?

4) George does not like to eat _______.

5) An engine needs _______ to make it run.

6) The actress made a dramatic _______.

Leave your answers in comments. I'm thinking silly, like Mad Libs. It's fun Friday entertainment! All from a little, smelly (albeit neat) book.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Random Question #1

I'm starting a new line of every-so-often posts. Because I'm curious, that's just how I do.

Because stuff such as this, random, insignificant in most ways, stores up as valuable fodder. They're details I can recall on whim.

And so here's the first, to kick us off. Be as vague or as detailed as you like.

How often do you change the sheets from your bed?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Desk Space Doodads

My little desk space is filled with inspirations and knick knacks. I've got the craft books, of course, and a name plate engraved with my first and last, and that term author, too. Someone had given it to me after I finished my first novel, saying, "You'll look at it and remember who you are, and who you want to be."

I've got a small pencil cup that has one word on the front; it beseeches me to inspire. And one of those stones to carry or rub for good measure; imbedded in it is the reminder to create.
Over the weekend I added a distraction to the mix. Spell Cube.

It's a game. A plastic die. You give it a roll, and when the letters inside have come to rest, you spell as many words with them as you can. There's a points system, and you can time yourself, but I just like it because I'm a word nerd. And I think it'll come in handy for those inherent moments of procrastination.

What sorts of doodads and things are near your desk space?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Q&A with Author Kathryn Magendie

Meet Kathryn Magendie. An unpretentious, eclectic soul with depth of heart, she is one who shares the beauty and peace of her Smoky Mountain home and its inspirations. This woman's worth knowing, just for those things alone. But there's so much more.

Kathryn, a writer, is co-editor/publisher for Rose & Thorn Literary Journal, where her expertise in craft is put to creative and directorial use. She's also chasing (and catching!) a longtime dream, making her way in the written world as a novelist.

Her debut title, Tender Graces, was released in spring 2009 and has been embraced by both readers and writers alike. Her raw and unique writing brings a fresh voice to literature, while lending relevance and relatability to her protagonist, Virginia Kate.

Today Kathryn takes a break from Virginia Kate's sequel, Secret Graces (coming soon!), to offer us advice and publication insights. Please welcome her with warmth!

Kathryn says:

I thought I’d answer some most-often-asked questions about the publishing side of things, instead of specifically about Virginia Kate. If you have anything you’d like to know (about the book business, or about Virginia Kate), ask me in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer!

How did you find your publishers?

December 2008, while half-watching a Christmas show in front of the fire, on impulse I googled “Southern Publishers.” Bellebooks’s motto “Southern Fried Fiction” caught my eye. After reading their submission guidelines, I thought, “Aw, they won’t want what I have . . .” but instead of giving up and passing them by, I queried them on the spot. By the end of that December, I had a contract with their imprint Bell Bridge Books, and by April of 2009, Tender Graces was in my hands. Sometimes impulsive actions work out!

Do you have an agent/Do you need an agent?

I didn’t need an agent to query Bellebooks. However, agent representation can (maybe) open other doors that smaller publishers may not be able to open, which is why I may consider querying for agent representation at some point.

The answer to the question “Do you need an agent?” is really one writers have to answer for themselves. You don’t have to have an agent to be traditionally published; I am an example of that. However, having an agent may, and I say may, open bigger doors, or more doors. Just remember: There are no guarantees in this business.

I hate/love/somewhere-in-between your cover(s)/title(s). Do you get to pick your covers and your title?

My publishers titled Tender Graces; we both then came up with Secret Graces. Both covers are Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books cover ideas. Most of the time authors have no control over their titles or covers. Publishers study the market and make decisions based on what they think will capture attention for the author’s books. Covers and titles, for the author and for the reader, are very personal, and the publishers need to look at it from a “not personal” business point of view.

Will you read my manuscript and tell me what you think?

As much as love supporting writers, I now have to say “no.” I used to edit manuscripts for a fee; and as well, I used to read a bit here and there and give my opinion for free. However, now I have deadlines to meet, and I have to promote and market and this and that. It’s hard enough finding time to write my own words. I will, however, help and offer encouragement in other ways. I believe we should support each other.

Can I have a free book?

Writers have to pay for many things out of their own pockets, and giving away books or other promo items is one of them. I can’t tell you what I’ve spent on give-aways, because I’m afraid to add it up. *laughing* (Bellebooks/Bell Bridge books does their own part in promo/marketing, too, but that is separate from what the author does.)

When an author’s books first go to print, we do receive some free copies from the publisher (and Bellebooks is generous compared to many publishers), however, once those complimentary copies are gone, we pay for all our books plus any shipping costs to us and then to the receiver of the book, so that’s double shipping costs for the author!

Please, help out us poor writers and buy our books if you are interested—we do so appreciate it! This is one business where people want or expect free things because they don’t understand the costs to the writer, so it’s: write for free, edit for free, give away books and et cetera for free. Imagine asking your doctor for a free physical, or for free haircuts, free groceries, free handmade soap and jewelry, free manicure, free art, free meals at your favorite restaurant—this book business is still a business, even if it doesn’t always seem so. Just something to think about, okay? *smiling*

Once I’m published, I can quit my job while the money rolls in, right?

See above. *laugh*

Bellebooks pays a small advance, and their royalty rates are the industry standard, but know that some small/independent publishers may not pay any advance at all and only royalties. And folks, you should never have to pay your publishers for anything other than books you purchase from them!—if you pay fees this is self or vanity publishing. Be sure to do your research. Be knowledgeable, savvy, and aware!

On average, traditionally published authors receive less than a dollar a book in royalties. Yes, that’s right. Therefore, unless you are on Oprah, a best seller’s list, or have a movie made based on your book, the money trickles in instead of floods in.

It has to be about more than the money or else most writers would not be in this business. It has to be about love—of writing, of words, of language, of holding the published book(s) in your hands, of knowing people are reading your words you constructed with love and care and a bit of insanity (laugh). You just have to be a little bit crazy in love with this business, and expect to have an empty wallet, or else you should look into something else, perhaps? Or find a way to get on those best seller’s lists and stay there!

Thank you, Janna, for inviting me to your blog for my blog tour! Thanks everyone!

And thank you, Kat, for sharing your wisdom! Your answers were wonderful.

Don't forget to leave any questions you may have in the comments section. Kat will be by to check in.

This just in: Kat has some very exciting news today! Visit her blog for the details.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Little Self-Deprecation Goes a Long Way

1) Last Sunday I was so happy with my hair. The natural curl behaved. It pinned back just the way I like. I felt put-together, maybe a little classy. Until after church, when I went into the bathroom, into the really good light, and a forest of gray hairs waved from up top. Like this.
2) Every writer knows one never leaves the house without a notebook. Ever. But I like to keep mine stacked next to my desk.
3) I have to keep my snort-laugh in check, because my daughter likes to tell people about it. (This probably means I should work harder to be discreet when I'm gassy...)
4) Look at this word right here: typewriter. It was brought to my attention two weeks ago that I pronounce it typ-eh-writer. What's up with that?
5) I asked my husband for help, to tell me something quirky I could share with you. He said, "You drool and snore while you sleep. At the same time." If that's not endearing, I don't know what is.
6) Every once in a while, I love me a 45-cent Banquet beef pot pie.
7) It takes talent to trip over something tee eensy weensy and wind up on the floor or against the wall. I ooze that talent.
8) I cannot type possibilities correctly until I've made at least three typo-filled attempts. Can you?
9) I've rewritten the words to Adele's Chasing Pavements to be a parody on writing. I'm building nerve, and when the timing's right, I'll record myself singing it and share the video. Someday.
10) Sometimes, my ideas for stories are so very big, I have to pull out my so very big pencil to get them down. Talk about writer's cramp, though.
These things were brought to you by the letter Q, Banquet beef pot pies, and Roz Morris, who gifted me with the Sugar Doll blogger award. (Thanks, Roz!) Accepting the award meant I agreed to share ten somethings about myself. I had more fun with it than was necessary, really.
You guys know I don't usually forward awards here. Not because I'm stingy, or because I don't support other bloggers and networking, but because it's difficult to highlight just a handful of people and their blogs when I value so many.
Still... I want to pass this award on to one person, as a means to introduce you. Her name is Deb, and she can be found over at Catbird Scout. Deb is a gentle spirit and honest memoirist who looks for the truth in every space. She's open with her life journey, as well as its past. I'm forever inspired by her words, and I think everyone needs to know her.
Here's to you, Deb. And thanks again, Roz!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reality TV: Written

Do you watch reality tv?

It's okay. You can admit it here and feel no shame.

I watch the Bachelor (or its counterpart). Most seasons, anyway. While there's always too much drama, too much superficial content, I get caught up in character study, and the layer of personalities. How humans are with one another. It's a people-watcher's (and writer's) dream, really.

I love the documentary-type stuff. A&E's Intervention is gripping, fascinating, raw, hopeful, redemptive. Love that one. American Idol can be good, too.

But there's one I haven't seen on tv, and I'd like to. Here's my idea...

Several aspiring writers are selected from dozens, all of whom "auditioned" by submitting a completed manuscript. After a respected and revered team of industry professionals have determined these competitors, based on raw talent, skill, potential, genre, the writers arrive to a secluded location (a beach house, a mountain cabin, a provincial chalet, etc.), ready to create.

Each week a prompt is given: a photo, video clip, paragraph, a string of words. The contestants are then sent off to brainstorm, to plot, write, edit, polish. To make something grand from the little they were given. A word quantity has to be met. Time is limited. It's a deadline thing, y' know?

When time is up, they return with their piece... and present it to the team of judges. One is a bestselling novelist. Another is a national columnist. The third? Well, of course, he or she would be an editor from a large publishing house... Anyway, they read. They confer. Rip things apart, lift things up. Make a decision as to whose writing is the best. And whose is unworthy. Each week, they send one writer home.

That means, at the end of the competition? There's one writer left. That writer wins. A book contract!

Gosh. Is your heart palpitatin' like mine? I would SO geek out over a show like this.

Call me, Book TV. *wink*


Thanks so much, everyone, for the prayers and well wishes. I did have a severe case of strep throat, and it was bad enough that had it gotten worse, I'd have had to visit the ER. But I know your prayers worked, the medicine still is, and I'm back on my feet again. Feeling good, and thanking you.