Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wait. What? Are you telling me... summer? Now?

Summer used to start on June 21, did it not? 

Now I got these smartypants kids who tell me, no, it’s actually June 20 this year because of the blah, blah, blah and the effects of an additional minute added thrice quarterly, take into account the tilt of the earth, and carry the one. 

Anyway, apparently whoever is in charge of these things just up and decided when the solstice is and TODAY is the first day of summer, not tomorrow. What is this crap, I ask you?

On a related note, I woke up in a panic this morning.

I’m a full-time mom of four and for all intents and purposes, a full-time writer, and every year the summer arrives and I stand before its gaping maw and announce tremulously, “We’re going to have the best summer ever, kids!”

Which is sort of like announcing that this phase of the war in Afghanistan is going to go especially smoothly, for sure, uh-huh. *high five* 

Because high fives make everything seem possible, do they not?

So, yeah, summer comes, and I make plans to keep everyone busy, myself included, but of course me and the kids are working at cross purposes as far as that goes. And inevitably, despite my best efforts, things turn into mushy whining and squabbling and by late-August—often far sooner—the household falls under the spell of grumpy torpor that makes a prison cell in Guantanamo Bay seem cheerful by comparison. 

By August 31, absolutely EVERYTHING will be lame, and even my suggestion that the kids "go steal some cars and see if you can outrun the Smokies like me and your uncle used to do back in the day" will fall on ears made deaf by sheer boredom.

But that’s NOT going to happen this summer. No, this year will be different. I’m so sure of it!

Give my muse Ivan some skin, folks.
Hell to the yeah! 

*high five*

And what are your outlandishly optimistic summer plans, writing or otherwise?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Going Long

I don’t write short stories.

Make that can’t write short stories.

My first-ever GIF on the blog!
OK, maybe if I really worked at it and went off on a spiritual quest and spent 40 days in the desert covered in dried mud, channeling my animal spirit guide, and then came home and did a lot of core muscle training with one of those exercise ball thingies…MAYBE I could learn to write a halfway decent short story. But I don’t see myself doing that at this late stage in the game. And I detest doing sit-ups, so really it’s a non-starter.

I’m going to tell you an extremely embarrassing thing about my first YA manuscript, and you are going to howl with derisive laughter, and then I’m going to pout because it’s not nice to do that to someone who’s in confession mode. But I’m going to tell you anyway because I need to get it off my chest.

My first YA manuscript was 185,000 words long.

And I queried that mutha with a straight face.

Yes. OK. I totally deserved that buwahahahaha. Time for a musical interlude. Please watch this while you get control of yourself.   

Writing short or even shortish is hard work for me. (See previous post on being an overthinkerer.) I think I would have done well in the 19th century. When real men wrote manly books, and by God, girth counted for something! People didn’t mind a few digressions on whaling and such back then. No, they did not.

Nowadays? No. Writing long is not a bonus. I’m sure that not being able to write short is the reason I bombed out as a journalist.

Each of us has a natural writing distance that’s most comfortable. Some people are pithy as heck. Their tweets are funny and meaningful; they sound like Mark Twain writing fortune cookie fortunes. Other people write hilarious blog posts that hit just the right spot lengthwise and make people inclined to visit again and again.

Not me.

If left unchecked, I would specialize in bloat.

So, yeah, I’m doing my best to keep things brief, and blogging has helped me get the verbiage under control, but I recognize that there’s a level of shortness beyond which I cannot hope to go. Short stories will never be an area of writing strength for me. Frankly, I can hardly even sign a check without adding a footnote. 

Anyone else out there like me, pressing acres of words down into a single bottle of prose? I’m thinking there must be a vitamin supplement that can help me. Maybe a vaccine. Something like that?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thanks, Babe!

The hubs and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary, and I thought this would be a good time to re-run a post I did awhile back and remind you all to hug the people who keep you sane on this epic writing ...

Journey. Again.

I want to take a moment to tell you about a group called Networked Spouses and Partners of Writers (NSPOW), a support group designed to help those unsung heroes who, through no fault of their own, are being dragged along on the perilous road to publication in much the same way criminals were once tied behind horses and dragged to the place of their death.

Yes, life with a writer is nothing if not challenging and through workshops, publications, and its annual meeting, NSPOW reaches out to those downtrodden boyfriends, girlfriends, husband, wives, and soon to be ex-husbands and wives who live the writing life day in and day out, wringing the tears out of the handkerchiefs for their WPs (writer partners) and pointing out that the neighbors might be watching when their WPs have sworn off writing (again) and are lying on the front lawn half-dressed and weeping.

This year NSPOW's annual meeting theme will be, "The Nuts and Bolts of Living with Writers: Jesus, They’re Driving Me Up the Friggin’ Wall.”

Here are some session highlights:

1) Going Above and Beyond ‘SMILE and NOD’: The Non-Writers Guide to Talking about Writing:
Without question, the most important tool in the NSPOW toolbox is “feigning interest.” Many of you are already masters at this or you wouldn’t still be involved with/married to your WP after so many years, but some newcomers could benefit from the experiences of veteran feigners. Workshop leaders will go beyond the tried and true “smile and nod” method and teach you skills to help you navigate through the mine field that is any discussion of your WP’s work. In this hands-on seminar you’ll learn: extremely sympathetic nodding; advanced earnestness; effective brow-knitting; how to cover when you forget what she was just talking about; and enough writerly jargon to bluff your way through a conversation without sounding as if you really couldn’t care less.

2) Enthusiasm 101:
Do you have adequate enthusiasm for your WP’s work? No? Well, sugar, you better get some and quick if you want this relationship to last once your WPs antidepressants run out. Some key phrases we’ll teach you is this break-out session:
  • “I absolutely loved it!” 
  • “It was the best thing I've read in a long time. Seriously, hon. No, really, I'm not just saying that.” 
  • “I don’t know what the heck those editors are talking about? Your ms isn't totally derivative and flat! Not even a little bit! What are they, crazy?”
  • and of course, “You’re gonna make it! I believe in you!”
This year we're also including the mini-course on meaningful gesticulations and facial expressions that show you're not just BS-ing them.

3) Obsessive Behavior in Writers: Why Slapping Won’t Help (Though, Sure, Go Ahead and Give It a Try If You Want). 
Are you living with an “Inbox Addict”? Has your WP been restricted by court order to stay 100 feet back from publishing executives and agents? We can help you through this. You’ll learn why you should never, ever say, “Would you freaking relax already?” or “Look, just try not to think about it, OK?” These sorts of comments will only aggravate the condition and cause your WP to lash out at you or accuse you of not understanding them. And once you get caught in that loop, my friend, you are in for a long night. We’ll teach you how to distract your WP so effectively, they may be able to talk to you about something besides writing for up to thirty minutes EVERY DAY! Imagine the possibilities! (We’re pleased once again this year to present two lucky workshop attendees with all-expense paid trips to Northern Canada, courtesy of the Manitoba Visitors Bureau. Thank you, Manitoba, for helping us to isolate our WPs from social media outlets like nobody else!)

4) Setting Boundaries with Your WP: Tips and Success Stories:
Have you ever found yourself in this uncomfortable position? Your WP has just finished a story/novel and has asked you to read it, but there’s nothing you want to do less. Of course you must respond with “I’d love to.” Because you have to say that or they’ll freak out or withhold conjugal affection from you.We can help you set up boundaries within your relationship so you can read on your own terms with no deadline hanging over your head. Our workshop leaders can even teach you how to effectively fake a stroke to stave your reading off almost indefinitely!

5) How to Help Your WP Handle Years Upon Years of Painful Rejection:
This workshop was so over-enrolled last year, we’ve added four concurrent sessions that run the entire last day of the conference, although really, people, as we said over and over last year, there’s honestly nothing for it. Just hunker down with a bottle of your favorite liquor, two shots glasses, and ride it out. The crying will stop eventually.

Remember, everyone, as hard as it may be at times to live with your WP, if you hang in there, you will earn that sought-after book dedication and the satisfaction of knowing that you helped a promising writer along in his/her career! Good luck and as we say at NSPOW, “Happy feigning!”