Tag Archives: gardner

Haiku Contest – a followup……

Some time ago, many of you voted for me – thank you again – and I won Rachelle Gardner’s Haiku contest which earned me a free 30-minute consult and review of my first five pages with a real-live literary agent at Books & Such.

The only thing was, uhm, I didn’t really have five whole pages written. Yet, that is. Ooopps.

image from clipart.com

When I won the contest, I shot off an email explaining the “project” that I had in my mind to Rachelle. I had planned to share my blog about living in India with her with the hope of eventually turning that blog into a memoir about personal growth and gratitude.

Her response?

“Remember, you get 5 pages and 30 minutes. Be very careful with what you send me.”

Fair enough.

The truth is/was that, while I have a boat load of material written about India and I believe that a lot of it is pretty good, writing about India isn’t that appealing to me right now.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my stories about India published on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog in the Life Changing Moments Series. The story was longish, so he split it into two parts. I was thrilled. I was going to appear twice on his blog. Yeah!

Part I got positive feedback and quite a few people clicked over to my blog after reading the first entry. That was really great.

Part II – not so much.

Part II got zero comments.

Part I was all about the adventure – fun with girlfriends, pretty jewelry, temples, and laughter. Part II was about how I saw myself as an indulgent tourist in a world where so many suffered.

It was heavy on the heavy.

And, after Rachelle’s caution, I thought, “yea, maybe people just don’t want to hear it.”

After that revelation, along with some encouragement from my writers group, I decided it might be time to actually take on writing a novel.

I asked Rachelle for some extra time and began writing The Alligator Purse.

Last week, I met with Rachelle on Skype. It was an exciting experience. And, I was nervous as hell.

But I learned A LOT.

I had never met with an agent before – a fact that I am sure was crystal clear to her. And I am so glad that first agent meeting is behind me.It was like going to the principal’s office.Only worse, really. It was like being called to the principal and being asked to explain how the world began and why it mattered. All while wearing your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

A large part of the problem was that my manuscript is not finished. Heck, it’s barely started – I am in the middle of Chapter 4. So, when she asked me the plot, I stammered.

I know how I want the story to go  and I actually have most of it plotted out – however, I have never really articulated or defended it.

No time like the present, huh?

The truth of the matter is that if you are going to ask an agent to represent your story – you better be able to articulate and defend/explain it. You should also probably have a good handle on the storyline.

Yes, that probably would have been fabulous to realize before hand.

You also need to really understand these terms:

Theme – the impact of the story or what the message of the book is. Some examples of theme are: racism, family secrets, unrequited love, etc. The theme is what people will talk about when the book is back on the shelf. It is why the reader will care.

Plot – the major events in the story. It is how you tell the readers why they should care. It’s what happens to whom.

I wasn’t sure that I should tell the whole story to Rachelle.Maybe she should be surprised along the way.

Rookie Mistake.

She wanted to know the details. She said you keep secrets on a book jacket but not in a query.

As you have very likely gathered, I made a lot of mistakes in that meeting. But all to my benefit. I learned so much.

And eventually, quite accidentally, I explained my plot and defined my theme.

Rachelle was quite generous and spent nearly a full hour with me. At the end of our conversation, she answered a slew of questions – including some on the synopsis I am writing for another agent.

I don’t feel like I was a total failure. Rachelle had a lot of nice things to say about my writing and my voice and she has no doubt that I will write a novel and that it will be good. Realistically, it was highly unlikely that Rachelle was going to ask to be my agent – at least not in the light of day, when I wasn’t dreaming it  – so I really had nothing to lose in our interaction. It was a teachable moment for me.

So, learn from my mistakes, dear blog reader. Wait until you are ready to query. My best advice would be to at least have a synopsis written before you contact anyone. That way you will have articulated the plot on paper and will have thought it out thoroughly. And do not wear your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

Oh yea, and practice answering your skype call at least 6 times. Because apparently 5 practice tries might not be enough. And you might leave an agent, who is willing to donate an hour of her time to your unfinished manuscript, waiting.  For at least 10 minutes. Of course, I would never do that – I just want to caution you against the possibility of it all.

And none of this is to say at all that I regret entering that contest. It was an amazing experience.

First of all I won. So there. (and if you voted for me – thank you again)

Second of all, it got me moving on writing an actual novel and I am thrilled about that!

And, finally, when I am ready, I will start querying but I will have done (all of ) my homework first. 😎

PS. I just found another great website – Novel Writing Help.

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Asking for your votes…..

This week I entered a poetry contest. The prize being a 20 minute consult with Rachelle Gardner – who I mentioned just the other day. She seems so fabulous.

We had to write a haiku about St. Patrick’s Day or about writing.

I wrote this one

Why do I have to
Write a haiku to talk with
you? Can’t I just call?

There were over 250 entries and I made the finalists list.

If you are so inclined (insert my begging, pleading voice here), you can go here and vote for it. Names are not attached to the polling box, so you have to find it by the wording (see above 😎  )

Voting ends at 11:59p on Saturday, March 24th – so please hurry. And thanks!

UPDATE – I won, I really did! Yeah for me and thanks for voting!

On a (blog)roll……

It’s about time I updated my blogroll – that little list over to the right that shares my favorite places on the blog-o-sphere.

I hate to do it, but I am removing a couple of blogs – and not because I don’t love them dearly – they simply don’t write any more. boo. hiss. ** Imagine me throwing broken pencils at them for stopping. ** Oh, how I get it, though. This writing thing ain’t so easy to maintain.

The good news is there are quite a few additions – and they put fingers to keyboard just about all the time. 😎 Yeah!

I’ll give you a quick rundown…

My Name is Not Bob
Robert Lee Brewer writes about writing, poetry, and parenting. What’s not to love? And on Wednesday, March 21, he is going to feature one of my essays about living in India in the Life Changing Moments Series on his blog. (Part One of the essay appears Wednesday and Part Two will appear on Friday.) Yes. SQUEEAA!

He also blogs at Writer’s Digest about poetry. His blog is called Poetic Asides.

Writer UnBoxed
Also a blog about writing with a ton ‘o knowledgeable people contributing their thoughts and ideas. And on Friday, March 23rd, Writer UnBoxed will feature another essay from little ole me – it’s about my thoughts on believing in your writing.  Squeeeeeaaaa indeed!

Rachelle Gardner
Just so you don’t think you have to feature one of my essays on your blog to make my blogroll (although, Rachelle, if you’re listening 😉 ), this is another blog I read every. single. day. Rachelle is a literary agent with Books & Such. She is honest (balanced with kindness) about what agents do and don’t want. She has a ton of writing and publishing advice on her blog.

Seth Godin
Seth writes about everything. His posts are short and he always gives us something to think about.

Obscura Journal
This is a photography-slash-writing website. They post a monthly contest called Bridge the Gap. They show two photographs and you have to create a story in under 1,000 words to bridge the two pictures. It’s great fun and you can enter without paying a reading fee. Schweeet! This isn’t really a blog – but it is a tres coolio site.

So check them out – I heart them all and maybe you will too!