Thursday, April 28, 2011

There Are No Rules

Feel like you need HELP as an aspiring writer? Check out Jane Friedman's post on why people offer help to writers, what help writers really need, and where to get legitimate help.

There Are No Rules

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday Update

Here I am, having missed my Monday update on yet another week. It looks like working on Mondays and Tuesdays will have to call for a change in my blogging schedule...again. For now, that means updates on Wednesdays and something on Fridays. I'm far behind on my blog reading, so Friday's will probably feature more reflections and rambling and fewer blog roundups.

Yesterday saw the end of my second work "week" on my own at the paper. I still like the job, but it often feels like trying to drink from a fire hose. I arrive on Mondays around nine, usually to more than 100 emails. My first task is to filter through and find the actual news amid all the spam and junk. Then I spend the rest of the day editing that news.

Tuesday mornings hold my trip to the courthouse for their news, along with any leftover editing and interviews. Then I have the afternoon to lay out the editorial portion of the eight-page paper (that means I lay out everything but the ads and classifieds). I'd love to get a jump on layout, but it hasn't happened in the last two weeks.

That's why I haven't yet left the paper before six on a Tuesday. I walked out the door yesterday at 6:30, half an hour late for my rescheduled writers' group. Good thing I only have to walk a block.

I'm not complaining. (Fooled you, eh?) The work is exhilarating if stressful. I'm sure, though, that it will calm down once I get a better grasp on the routine. I may never leave at five, but I hope to make 6:30 a thing of the past very soon!

In other news, the past week contained a wicked cold from Wednesday on, followed by frantic Easter preparations on Saturday and, of course, church and our big family gathering on Sunday. Then back to work on Monday. I gave an excerpt from my NIP to the writers' group last week, and received good, positive feedback last night. I'm grateful for their support of someone who usually come late and leaves early! Now that Easter is out of the way and I'm over all but the last remnants of this cold, I'm trying to get a grasp on what I have to do for the rest of this week.

And the fire hose keeps pumping.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Connections -- Part 4

Finally, what you've all been waiting for: part 4 of my series on connections.

Connections in Writing

And what exactly do connections have to do with writing?

As writers, our strongest, most creative writing comes from the connections we bring to life through our words. Our characters can’t live in a bubble any more than we can. The more connections we give them, the richer and more meaningful our writing will be.

Yes, sometimes writers delve into lives that seem to have no connections. It’s never quite true, though. Look at some exceptions that prove the rule.

The boy who lived in a plastic bubble had no physical connections, but he had relationships, connections of the heart.

In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Ender had the lonely life of a leader, with no true connections. None except his sister, Valentine, who remained his anchoring connection to all that was good in the world.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes seemed to have no connections, living a life stripped of everything except revenge. Yet he did have connections…connections of pain and vengeance to the people of his past, connections of loyalty to those who served him, and a blossoming connection of love to Haydee.

Our characters and events can’t exist in a void. They must be connected. They must be connected to their worlds, to themselves and to each other. They must connect in some way to our hearts. When we succeed in that, we form one more connection..a connection with our reader.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Update -- 4/18/11

It's amazing how much two days can screw up an established schedule.

I had my first week of work at the newspaper two weeks ago. My trainer, Autumn, was great. She was patient and thorough. I still left week one with feelings of panic, as if I'd definitely bitten off more than I can chew.

I think I already posted my to-do list for the rest of that week. Wednesday--dentist. Thursday--ultrasound and five-hours of errand running. Friday I took a break to spend some time with my daughter, who hadn't been feeling well. That left me Saturday to be productive and "Git 'er done."

Saturday at 3:30 AM, Baby M woke with an ear infection.

It caught us off guard, without even the basics like children's Tylenol. Living in a small town, we had to wait until the grocery store opened at 7 in order to get Tylenol and OTC drops. Too bad they didn't work. Of course it happened on a Saturday; that meant a trip to the ER later that morning. That got it straightened out and Baby M on the road to recovery. It also left my husband and I feeling like we'd been used to wipe the floors.

Sunday was calm, a church and TV day, with Baby M recovering but still acting the part of a clinging vine.

Last Monday and Tuesday saw my second week of training at the paper. I left those days feeling nervous about taking over the job on my own. Absolute panic abated, though, and I feel confident I can do this with minimal screw-ups.

Wednesday saw the three of us (hubby, daughter and myself) on an all-day shopping trip. Looking back, it was a mistake to drag Baby M along. Guilt made us do it. The day seemed much longer than 8 hours.

Thursday was clear during the day. WOW! However, the evening was consumed by a 4-hour council meeting in the evening. Friday and Saturday were gelato-churning days. Sunday, Baby M was a monster in church. 'Nuff said.

Today will be my first day solo at the paper. By tomorrow, I'll have a better idea if I can edit and lay out an 8-page weekly on my own.

Sorry for the long, boring update. That's my last two weeks...full of activity and emergency, but with little progress in writing or publishing. That's what happens when you live life. Life gets messy. It gets sidetracked and makes you take crazy detours. When you see the sun shining on your two-year-old's hair, though, it somehow all becomes worth it.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Connections -- Part 3

Sorry I've missed almost two weeks on this blog. Part of that involves general busy-ness and part is due to a very sick toddler. I'll try to get out an update this coming Monday but, for now, here's the next installment of my "Connections" series.

Connections in Our Lives

Whether we choose to acknowledge our connections, we all have them. We have family, friends, coworkers, activities, or events that have touched us. Our lives are suspended in a series of relationships and interactions. Some are good and some are bad, but they all work together to form the reality we inhabit. It may sound egocentric to say it, but we all sit at the center of our own web of connections, the associations that tie us to the world.

We often don’t realize they’re there until we start looking for those lines of gentle tension that tie us to others. They are felt but not often seen. They are silk-thin but strong as steel. With enough work, we can sometimes sever connections. Like any good spider web, once broken they cannot be repaired; they can only be re-spun over time.

Most of all, we cannot live without connections. Some people might think they do. A sense of isolation may make those glistening threads invisible to us. If anything, though, they are negative connections that still bind us, sometimes adversely. They may be connections of pain, abuse or abandonment. Those are connections that are better off being severed and, if possible, re-spun in a different way.

No matter how painful our connections, though, we never exist in a void. A life truly without connections would be humanity misfired, a terrible aberration of what we are meant to be. Because we are meant to be connected.

Next week: Connections in Writing.

Currently Reading:

So far so good on this Biblical-archaeology novel. I'll let you know for sure when I'm finished!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Recently Read

I've decided to keep my followers up-to-date with my reading as well as my writing. First up: The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan.

I'll be honest; I found this book incredibly depressing. (Depressing? I went through reams of tissues every time one of Winnie's children died.) That's probably because I'm from the strictly escapist school of novel readers. Regardless, it was well-written. The voice fits the characters, telling the story with authenticity and occasional humor. The writing style is unique and intriguing, and the story is interesting (albeit depressing). I'd recommend The Kitchen God's Wife on the basis of the craftsmanship alone. If you like a dose of realism with your reading, though, you'll probably enjoy the story as well.

Monday Update -- 4/4/11

Yes, I'm a day early this week. In view of this Monday's crazy schedule, though, I thought I should get this out while I can.

An hour or two after posting last week's Monday update, I got a call from the newspaper where I'd dropped off my resume. After a short interview that afternoon, I left having been hired as the Heppner Gazette-Times' new part-time news editor. Tomorrow is my first day. How it goes will have to wait for next Monday's update.

According to the paper's owner, David Sykes, the position has less to do with writing than line editing and layout. That's fine, though. It gets me back in the workplace. I get to earn money and keep design skills I may otherwise have lost over time. Most importantly, the knowledge that I have to be away from home two days a week has already made me value my time at home more...both for freelance work and for spending time with my daughter.

Part of the proof of this is that I got off my duff and got my Woman's World short story in the mail. High time I got something else out there! Now I have to wait "one to six months" to see if I made the cut. It might be a bit much to expect my first time querying them, but it would sure be nice!

I didn't write much this week. I did manage a very short post for Lessons from the Shadowland in time for my April 1 deadline. I also did some editing and pulled an excerpt from my NIP to share with the writer's groups on Tuesday. That's if I get there. I went last week, but with Baby M in tow. She calmed down toward the end, but I don't think I'll try it again. No babysitter, no writer's group.

I also spent some time uncovering the desk in my office/toddler's room. While not directly related to writing, a cleaner writing space will surely be more conducive to productivity. The room needs more work, but I'm feeling proud of myself for finding the desktop.

Otherwise, I have a busy week ahead: Two days of work, one Bible study, writer's group, a dentist appointment, an ultrasound and, somewhere in there, a couple of visits with an old friend who's in town for the week. Writing? Hmmm...

I think that's it for this first Monday in April. Happy Monday and happy writing!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 4/2/11

Again, Friday has come too quickly. That's my reflection for the week. So, let's dive in.

I love this post by Mary over at It's funny, hard-hitting and inspirational... everything I needed for a swift kick in the pants Monday morning. Check it out and see if it affects you the same way.

Creative Confidence

Mary Glickman writes a guest post for the Guide to Literary Agents "How I Got My Agent" feature. Her tale of enduring 40 years of rejection before landing her first deal on her 7th novel... well it's inspiring, and makes my whining seem pretty insignificant.

How I Got My Agent -- Mary Glickman

Rachelle Gardner had a couple of wonderful posts on what a fiction editor looks for. They are not the posts I chose for this roundup. Instead, I honed in on a topic with which I can relate, the "quick no." If you've ever been discouraged about how quickly agents and editors say no--but how slowly they say yes--you may want to check it out.

Why "No" Comes Quickly...But "Yes" Seems to Take Forever

My husband and I self-published a book, but the sales have been... Well, let's not talk numbers. That's why Joel Friedlander's post on getting book reviews for self-published books caught my eye. Maybe it will catch yours, too.

How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books

Write with TLC has some beautiful insights into the power of words, as well as what happens when words and actions don't match. Of course, she also does an excellent job of applying that lesson to the writing life!

Beautiful Words Seduce, But Actions Commit

Finally, Michael Hyatt gives some tips for dealing with something every writer has experienced. Yes, he has 24 methods for getting out of a "funk."

24 Hacks for Getting Out of Your Funk

Happy Friday and happy writing!