Monday, April 30, 2012

Worth a couple of laughs a week

I've been too busy to compose an inaugural post of any worth, so I'm going to share a link to one of my favorite publishing-related websites:  This unidentified agent has surely seen letters from at least one of us (Writers 1, 2, and 4), since we have each tried a comprehensive query approach.  Let's be proud NOT to be on this list!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Unlike one of my more prolific colleagues (Writer 1 to be specific), I have no problem setting aside the computer, kicking back and seeking out tranquil, serene, soul energizing activities such as a recent lengthy visit to a luxurious spa, complete with massages, purifying bath rituals, heated infinity pools and...eavesdropping.  Yes, I admit it, I'm an avid eavesdropper.  Not a malicious one, mind you, the likes of which might mirror Mrs. O'Brien of Downton Abbey fame, but a purist.  One who practices this form of observation merely as a means to artistic enhancement.  More specifically, eavesdropping provides great fodder for writing.  So, I say to my lovable Writer 1 that I AM actually working on my novel - I call it research.  You see, Writer 1 keeps me on my toes, doesn't allow me to get lazy, and when I'm finally feeling guilty enough, I'll actually satisfy her basic requirement of completing a minimum of 250 words/day.  But, as they say, I digress - back to eavesdropping.  Oh the pleasure of listening to other people as I lounge in the scented hot tubs or feign napping while awaiting the massage therapist's call in the meditation room.  From self-righteous political arguments to the preferred color of a manicure, bragging of the Iron Man participant as he prepares his body in the ice bath, the chubby couple discussing the merits of their latest weight-loss regimen, and the tsk..tsk of the avid reader annoyed by the subdued hum of these conversations.  Different sizes, shapes and colors.  Different life stories, challenges, accomplishments, celebrations and sorrows.  So much life to draw from when developing a character - and all from the practice of eavesdropping.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Don't Love It

"I don't love it as much as I thought I would." I got this response to a submission. And it's not the first time either, so I'm going to have to rant.  What does this sentence convey to you?  If you are like most people, it conveys nothing.  It hints that there is some indefinable problem with the work, but doesn't provide even a clue as to what that might be.  As a writer, it is a death sentence.  We live, breathe and gluttonously consume constructive criticism.  We sign up for conferences, pay for editorial services and make family, friends and random strangers read our work.  Are we masochists?  Yes.  But we are also dreamers, searching for that Xanadu of feedback.  It is a noble quest.  Yet many search and few receive.  Instead, we get responses like the one above.

So, I'm thinking of changing the main character's name from Robert to Bob because it seems more approachable.  Is that enough to make you love it as much as you thought you would?  Or how about I add in some extraneous sex scenes.  They don't advance the plot and they're not well written, but who doesn't like a good sex scene?  Or I could stick in a boy wizard and add a thousand pages.  And maybe a smoldering vampire.  Or a girl who likes archery and is too smart to kill.  That's it!  And I'll set it in Mississippi in the 1960's and England in the 1980's, skipping forward on the same day each year.  Or perhaps I'll throw them all together with a passel of erudite witches.  And then, when I've massacred the style, and beat the plot into submission and changed every character into something resembling a character in a book that has sold millions, I'm sure you'll love it as much as you thought you would.

No, thanks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Boogieing Through Volunteer Overload

This was my Thursday last week: At 8:30 a.m., I was in the kitchen still wearing the same sweaty outfit from a spin class before sunrise. Hoping to be possessed by Martha Stewart, I stared at the open pages of my daughter’s Dragonology book and searched for inspiration to decorate a dragon cake. I did it to myself. I volunteered to enter a cake decorating contest at the medieval-themed carnival at my older daughter’s school. This was after I had already volunteered to make hot lunch and snack for my younger daughter’s preschool and supervise 4 and 5-year olds during their rehearsal and concert that evening. So how’s a self-respectin’ attorney-turned-stay-at-home-mom-slash-yoga-teacher-who-came-of-age-in-the-early-80’s to cope? Put on some Michael Jackson, of course! While I cut the shape of the dragon out of 2 sponge cakes, I boogied my behind off to Off The Wall (When the world is on your shoulder/Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down) and Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Keep on with the force don't stop/Don’t stop ‘til you get enough). The answer to all life’s problems from this era was to ‘boogie.’ When you think about it, it’s a damn good philosophy.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Cake decorating is creative enough to be fun but not so creative to be completely absorbing. I thought about character development and plot while shaping chocolate frosting into scales. Also, did I mention I’m the non-writer in this writing group and a master procrastinator? I once joked we should call ourselves “3 writers and a reader” because while my prolific companions cranked out novels like fettucine through a pasta machine, I read anything and everything. Recently, however, I’ve turned a corner (I hope)…stay tuned.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The origin of No,Thanks

There is strength in numbers. Particularly for writers who face constant and unremitting rejection of every sort. We banded together to talk, write, commiserate and laugh at the current publishing environment. What other business can get people to compete with each other to spend countless time and energy on preparation of a product, which will make the producer little or no money? If you look at it from a certain angle, it is brilliant. Machiavelli would be proud. But it is what it is, so there you have it. If you didn't laugh you would cry. The title of this blog comes from a particularly succinct rejection one of us received that spawned a heated and yet ridiculous discussion of just what the agent meant by placing a comma in the middle of 'no' and 'thanks'. It became the catch phrase for all of the angst and humor of our little group and so seems a fitting title for this blog. Life is absurd so you might as well write about it.