Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Recommendations and Awards

I've been reading The Storyqueen's blog for quite a while now and thought it was about time I checked out some of her picture books.  All three of my kiddos are into knights and dragons, so I figured they'd enjoy her books.  The first one I picked up was A COLD WINTER'S GOODNIGHT.  We giggled our way through it, and they asked me to read it over and over again.  My seven-year-old (who should be in bed) just brought me GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT  and GET WELL, GOOD KNIGHT because he saw I had A COLD WINTER'S GOODNIGHT out.  He and the wee tyrant are both begging for me to read the stories.

Story Intermission

Good Night, Good Knight (Easy-to-Read, Puffin)Get Well, Good Knight (Puffin Easy-to-Read)A Cold Winter's Good Knight

Okay, I read their stories.  We laughed.  They said their favorite funny lines with me.  And now, I'm hoping they'll stay in their beds.  But I highly recommend these books by Shelley Moore Thomas to anyone with little dragon lovers of their own.


Shannon Messenger gave me a couple of awards for a Christmas present (Thanks, Shannon!), so I'm passing them on.


I'm supposed to pass the award on to five uplifting blogs that make me find a silver lining on those gray days--which is easier said than done. All the blogs I follow do that.  However, I am going to pass it on to:


The way I see it, all bloggers are writers.  And all of the blogs I read have wonderful writers.  This award didn't come with any rules, so I'm just going to give it to one person.  I'm awarding this one to. . . 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The fam was listening to Christmas music while I was making dinner, and I went over to peek and saw this one in the sidebar.  

I love the song.  I had to sing a solo of it when I was in college.  And I love listening to Andrea Bocelli, but I don't usually like listening to him sing with women; the women tend to overpower his velvet purr.  The only exception I'd found before tonight was Sarah Brightman, but I thought Mary J. Blige pulled it off.  I've never heard of her.  Her voice is gorgeous, but then, so is Sarah Brightman's.  I think the first time I heard Sarah Brightman sing was with Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera.  Le Sigh.  Michael Crawford had the BEST PHANTOM VOICE EVER.

Here is my favorite of her singing with Andrea Bocelli.

I hope you are all having lovely holidays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Contracts and Rejections


(sung to this tune)

Don't you love how I'm subtle like that?  And modest.

Highlights sent me a contract for another poem!  I was very surprised.  Out of the five poems I've sold, I've only been really sure about one of them when I sent it off.  The lines came when I was in the shower (away from my darling children).  I wrote the poem as soon as I'd gotten out and knew I had something.  "The Letter O" is still my favorite of the poems I've sold, but most of my favorites have been rejected for being "too sophisticated" or because they might be confusing for small children.  Sometimes, I agree with the editor, and sometimes I don't.  Tell me I'm not the only one who has to exert extreme self-control not to throw a temper tantrum every time I get a rejection.  Rejections bite.  And it can take days for the teeth marks to fade.  

So, besides my lovely contract, I also got a rejection in the mail today from a different magazine.  I read "The Dusty Dragon" to my children to see if there were flaws I'd missed earlier, but I still love it.  I felt the same way about "The Bubble Gum Queen" last year.  Editors didn't say why they'd rejected either one, and I think they are the best children's poems I've written.  

My ratio for the year is currently at 18 rejections:2 contracts.  I only submitted 15 times this year versus 33 times last year.  I've spent more time this year focusing on finishing a novel, and, not only did I finish a rough draft, I'm hoping to finish my second draft by the end of this month.  Yet, this is the first year I've had two contracts for poems.  Cool.  But weird.  

This is also the first poem I've sold to my current editor.  When I first started submitting to Highlights, in 2006, I sent my submissions to Marileta Robinson (among many other things, Marileta writes The Timbertoes for Highlights).  I hadn't been submitting long before I realized Marileta was a gem among editors.  Even when she rejected my work (which was often), she wrote encouraging notes on my manuscripts.  Sometimes all she wrote was "Try us again!"  Sometimes she told me what she'd like to see or why she wasn't interested in what I'd sent or how excited she was about the artwork she'd seen for something of mine that was about to be published.  I have received a grand total of ONE written note from an editor who didn't work at Highlights.  An editor at a publishing house wrote a note to say she'd really liked the picture book I'd submitted, but she didn't have room for it.  Most editors send form letters.   They don't have time to encourage or guide people who submit their work.  I understand this.  And I really appreciate the time Marileta took to write all of those notes.  So when she wrote me a note in July, telling me she was retiring and to send my submissions to Kathleen Hayes, I worried a little.  I worried until I sent Kathleen my first submission, and she sent back a really nice letter--with her phone number--explaining why my submission wasn't right for them and telling me she was excited to work with me.  Exactly what I needed.  

This is getting long, so I'm going to leave you with a song:



Monday, December 7, 2009

you don't want to read this one

I was going to write about decorating the tree with my kids tonight, how the two-year-old kept sneaking candy canes off the tree and going off to eat them. It amazes me, how quickly she can unwrap and eat them.

And then, I started reading a book I picked up at the library this afternoon, a book I'd had to request and had been looking forward to for quite some time. I'd heard the writing was beautiful. It was. The story sucked me right in (even though I'd meant to do the dishes after I got the kids in bed) and even made me laugh out loud. Then, on page 17, I put the book down and almost didn't pick it up again. Some books ought to come with warnings.

It's my own fault. I don't like spoilers, so I avoid reading reviews that give anything important away. I've encountered situations I wished I hadn't before, but I've never had a story hit me like this. Actually, there were only a few little sentences, one in particular; the main character can't think about her mom "seeping." Her parents have just been killed in a car accident. Those sentences triggered memories, and the memories hit me in waves for the rest of the book. I did finish the book, and I'm not going to say which book it was. Reading is such a personal experience. I thought it would be better to finish the book than face the memories, but they won't leave me alone. So, I'm writing through them.

The paramedics said my mom should have been killed instantly, but her adrenaline kept her alive long enough for my dad and my brother to make it to the accident and talk to her. Almost as soon as she started talking though, she died. They didn't even get her to the ambulance.

I have three sisters, and my dad thought we should fix her hair and put on her make-up for the viewing. I could see his reasoning; we knew better than anyone how she wore her hair and make-up. But did he know what he was asking? I don't think so. We had to look at, to cover-up wounds I wouldn't have looked at otherwise. I had to sit down because I felt dizzy when the mortician described everything we were hiding from the people who would see her; her body was broken in so many places. I couldn't keep my hand steady when I lined her eyebrows, so Michelle did that while I covered up the bruises and "seeping" places.

I missed her. Of course I missed her. She hadn't wanted me to get married when I had because she thought 21 was too young, so I'd promised her I would finish school. I didn't know I'd get so sick with my pregnancies. We had our first baby about 10 months after our wedding, and I didn't go back to school until the month after Mom died. I threw my energy, my grief, and my anger into a creative writing course because writing has always been my answer to problems like this. A week or two into the class, we had to write about a personal experience with a turning point, and I wrote about a phone call from one of my sisters. She wanted to divide up Mom's stuff, and I didn't want to. I'm a very non-controversial person, and I argued with her. The next time we met for class, our professor said he wanted to read the assignments he'd liked best and discuss what made them stand out. I was very surprised when he read mine last and even more surprised when he cried in front of us.

I keep erasing sentences about this professor and his class because they are almost as hard to write about as my mother. I took his class nine and a half years ago. He took the time to point out my faults and encouraged me to keep writing. Months after the class was over, I received a phone call from an organization looking for film script writers because he'd recommended me. I didn't know anything about writing film scripts, so I declined, but his confidence in me boosted my confidence. Every time I saw him on campus, he asked me if I was writing. He would look me in the eye. "Write."

I finished my degree. It took me longer to get a bachelor's than it takes some people to get a doctorate, but I finished.

I didn't write this to convince anyone they shouldn't read the book I read or any other book. I love reading. I love how two people can read the same book and come away with two different stories. Grieving is the same, only it's a lot harder. One of my friends has been having a really hard time since her little girl died. It was very sudden. My friend's mom came up to me at the viewing and said I knew better than anyone what her daughter was going through. I disagree. I know that what she, what they are going through is hard, but I have never buried a daughter or a granddaughter. Even if I had, I wouldn't react the same way anymore than they have reacted in the same way. I think it is dangerous to assume you know what someone is going through because you've experienced something similar. And what good is my experience anyway? It isn't good for anything unless I can see past it to listen and validate someone else and what they are going through.

So, if you went ahead and read this post, thanks for listening. Writing it out helped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pulling My Hair Out

Evidently, last week--when everyone else was blogging about what they were thankful for--I was thankful for Weezer.  A little over 12 years ago, I went to one of their concerts with a hawt guy I'd been trying way too hard to just be friends with.  Our 12th wedding anniversary is in less than three weeks, and we're still listening to Weezer together.

And this morning, I pulled out my one white (not gray) hair again.  I only have one.  I don't have a problem with my hair changing color.  In fact, I think white hair is beautiful.  And I think this girl needs a nose.  Really.  

I wanted to bleach my hair white when I was 20, but my mom convinced me the reason the model in the picture had short hair was because she'd destroyed her hair.  So, I'm fine with my hair turning white.  The problem is I have one white hair growing right in the middle of the top of my head.  The white hair is always conspicuously shorter than the dark hairs surrounding it (couldn't have anything to do with my yanking it every three months or so), so it sticks out at weird angles.  It looks kind of like this, only whiter and without the bird.   

And it reminds me of the nursery rhyme: 

Once there was a girl with a curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good, 
she was very, very good.
And when she was bad,
she was horrid. 

You thought this post was going to be about my NaNoWriMo experience.  Didn't you?