cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Conference Crumbs


image: wordsharpeners.files.wordpress.com

Recently I attended a writing conference and I will freely admit I attended primarily because I knew my time had arrived. Yes, this time I would be discovered. My critique editor would be so impressed with my submission that she would pat the chair next to her and state, “I’ve waited all day to finally meet you. I adore this * points to my pages* and we need to talk about contracts.”
This, of course, did not happen and I doubt it will. Or if it does I hope the actual moment will not be as corny as my version.

I didn’t always used to be conference goer. I used to be a conference nayer. “Pfft–I don’t need to spend money, drive miles, and sit and listen to people who have made it. I have my books and magazines to tell me what I need to know.” That’s me turning down a suggestion to attend a SCBWI conference. My critique group sagely retorted, “You go because it’s all about networking.” And she was right. Making connections is primary, and gaining knowledge is secondary for me.

When conference invites drop into my mailbox I first check the line up–who is going to be there? Getting to hear a favorite or well-known author or to glean industry insights from a respected editor, publisher, or agent might entice me to reach for the calendar. Yet, what gets me actually going to the conference is the critique, having the opportunity to learn and to receive an assessment of my writing from an industry professional. If I can get a renowned publisher, editor, or agent to look over my work and get their attention for 12 minutes, I’m all in. Critiques range in price and my pocketbook can handle the $60 variety, which translates to roughly $5.00 a minute . I consider this a good value since I willingly pay a dollar a minute for my ten minute chair massage at the farmer’s market. Both are invigorating focused sessions, yet only one is beneficial towards my career.
Once at the conference  I diligently sit through the various speakers, deftly mining worthy industry nuggets. Admittedly I’m only half tuned into the program because I keep glancing at my at my watch after continually rechecking my critique appointment slip. Bad form, really. It would be much better to relax and relish while waiting.

This year I did do just that.

My appointment was probably the last one of the day which meant I needed to pass the time. I actually decided to really listen to the speaker presentations and not just flick through the bin of offered treasure trove of advice but to really savor the meal before me. Yes,a muddle of metaphors.  As for the actual conference I had a productive meeting with a publisher of a respected, well-known publishing house. She liked my approach, style, and even appreciated my humorous bits in the manuscript. She had prepared an amazing critique page–the best organized I’ve ever received. No, she did not offer a contract. However, she did hand me her personal business card and invited me to send my proposal for another project to her directly *no slush pile*. And she said I could resubmit the piece she had critiqued. Better than six chair massages, I’d say.

So, if are on the fence about attending a writing conference I would give you a bit of a nudge and so “Zip out the credit card and go absorb and mingle and learn.”

Oh–I would appreciate some good thoughts towards the project I just emailed her.  Having just received a rejection for a manuscript, I wouldn’t mind some good news around the corner.

A Room Of My Own or a Writer In Woolf’s Clothing


image: amazon.com

While I’m not particularly a fan of Virginia Woolf, I do appreciate her unspoken contributions to women and writing. She once penned an essay discussing the need to have a room to create in, the desire to close out the responsibilities of mother and wife in order to be alone with self and creating. Rather a revolutionary idea in her time.
Though not so confined to the stove of domesticity these days, as a woman and a wife, mother, teacher, library trustee, GiGi–assorted other hat wearer, I too crave a room of my own. Carving out a space for personal creative endeavors has had its own set of challenges involving space and guilt.
We’ve tended on the small side of houses and squeezing out an area for a desk meant getting creative to find a creative corner. A door placed on top of filing cabinets worked for a time, but definitely cramped the bedroom and so we moved it out to the living room.  Still squishy. Ugly to boot.

When I switched to laptops, I got rid of the desk arrangement and I splurged, buying a loveseat the color of eggplant. I eked out a coveted thinking space in the bedroom, approximating nanoseconds of creative corner. The kids loved the idea that my office was purple.
Now, as an empty nester, I’ve commandeered one of the back bedrooms, I forget which progeny actually had it since they switched around so much. None of them can complain I’ve stolen their room. They know my standard reply anyway, “Your room? It was on loan for eighteen years.” My desk is an Ikea chair complimented by matching footstool to accommodate my two laptops (I still like my antiquated Dell, as I am trying to get used to my touch screen Lenovo). I have a rocking chair for when the MEPA wants to pop in and chat and a futon for the occasional overnight guest. This is where the guilt comes in: it feels a bit me-centric to devote one entire room towards my endeavors.

I know, I know–lots of people, lots of women have sewing rooms, craft corners, workshops, man caves and suffer not a twinge of remorse. I, on the other hand, do feel a bit bad about eradicating all traces of the progeny’s room. No beds, posters, old clothes, trophies remain; they truly are a guest when they visit.

Then again, I nudge away those nipping little guilts and conclude I should have no dilemmas about acquiring a room of my own. And this is where I have my moment of truth. Possessing a room of my own means I should make use of it, shouldn’t I? Then why am I writing this in the living room?

Pedestrian Thoughts


I do my best writing while out walking. There is something about the synced coordination of brain and body both exercising at the same time–I now understand the trend towards the new kinetic desks.

After an hour of sitting down at the laptop I get antsy and start moving around, tidying up, doing laundry, futzing and such. Writing in lock down mode doesn’t work well for me. Writers who state they sit down and work office hours have my admiration. This is why I appreciate Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian.”

Set in the future a man is out walking one night, his accustomed habit, when he is pulled over by the metro police–suspicious behavior since no one walks anymore, especially at night. The pedestrian ends up being taken in for “further questioning” when he reveals he is a writer–no one reads anymore either.
Fortunately, my walking habit is not deemed odd in our own days and times. Our little town has a refreshing diversity of walking paths and I do relish my times of walking briskly, revving up the muse and muscles. The exercise unknots plot stoppage, uncramps stiff dialogue passages, and opens up new avenues of thought, like blog posts. This one, matter of fact.

Home Again, Toto


 

Thomas Wolfe is credited with saying you can’t go home again. Of course there are multiple layers of meaning in that statement. I noticed at least one aspect of meaning, the one where home becomes more of a memory as time goes on, after a recent visit to see family.  I’ve learned that it isn’t always a good idea to revisit former places of our childhood and jotted down my reflections as I walked through old neighborhoods.
A garbage sack mocks the spot where Mom’s potted azalea graced the front step. A gated barrier replaces the hand-carved mahogany doors. Weeds gather in loud conversations supplanting Dad’s meticulous landscape.

The donut shop remains the same odd little shaked chalet busied by Toyotas and BMWs alike. It’s a strange little anachronism among the neon corporate stores surrounding it. As I pass by it a memory flickers on. I remember back to high school. My stern take-no-prisoners-driver’s ed teacher revealed a soft spot one day by instructing me to pull into the donut shop parking lot. She disappears inside and returns with sack of donut holes. No one at school would have believed us. A secret only to be dredged up someday at a reunion possibly.

The town: a grace of upscale suburbia, an old community, struggling to maintain its dignity as its unique shoppes and colonial clapboard frontage succumb to being slowly replaced by box stores and parking lots. The stylish luxury apartments converted into condominiums are showing their wear, much like wrinkles found in a linen skirt mark the evidence of use.

Childhood memories remain, yet become increasingly marred by these yearly trips home. Perhaps it’s true that you can’t really go home again because home is now relegated to the past, then again sometimes home presents itself in a sound bite: the speed boat chop on the lake reminds me of teen summer fun; the smudgy glance into favored memory flashes by as I drivepast an icon building, the steepled church where youth group met ever so long ago. Upscale Neighborhoods slip into weedy shabbiness, stretching sections from nice to nervous when walking through.

A hodge-podge of cultures, a grab bag of mixed socio-economic populace is startling while browsing for dinner ingredients at the local Safeway, and becomes a reminder that going home is a state of flux.

I concur with Dorothy–Kansas, metaphorically speaking, is not the same because it’s changed  and so have I.

Dorothy5 Dorothy, I know how you feel–there’s no place like home. Then again, home is sometimes just a memory or that special place in our heart. (photo: wizardofozpictures.com)

 

Of Entry Deadlines Whooshing By


Scrolling through my iPhone notes, I came across a bit of writing that I had good intentions of entering into a writing contest. Oops. That Vonnegut deadline whoosh went by me, but I like the piece so much I couldn’t resist sharing it. The contest required the telling of a story in dialogue only, without any tags. Challenge accepted, just not actualized. Here goes:
“Do you need some help?”
“Seems I’ve twisted my ankle.I’ll be all right. My friends are returning with the car.”
“I’m going in that direction. I’ll take you to when you’re staying.”
“That’s all right. They should be along shortly.”
“Those clouds indicate a change in the weather.”
“Yes, I think you’re right. Are you sure it’s no trouble?”
“None at all.”
“Thank you for your help.”
“You’re welcome. You’re American?”
“Yes, I’m visiting with friends. We’re on a hiking tour.”
“Yes, I’ve often hiked this area. You must have stepped in a rabbit hole.”
“Probably so. This is a bit awkward. I don’t quite know what to say.”
“Ah, we are addressing the elephant after all, then.”
“Oh, right. Yes, well…”
“I’m on holiday. There is no obligation.”
“Courtesy and good manners at least.
“And they say Americans are rude.”
“Not always.”
“How is the ankle?”
“Truthfully, I’ve forgotten about it. It doesn’t look like a bad sprain. I’ll recover.”
“Ice and elevation. I’m no physician, but I’ve dealt with a few twisted ankles. The men folk do their fair share of traipsing these hills on their hunts. Do you hunt?”
“Only with my camera.
“Much preferable, though I still appreciate the hunt. Tradition. It’s difficult to get away from tradition.”
“That’s my group. Up ahead, yes, over there by those trees. Looks like they’ve stopped for lunch.”
“Are you up to walking? I can set you closer to your camp.”
“Yes, well. The ankle is still a bit tender.”
“Then it’s best I drive you to your camp.”
“Only if it wouldn’t be an inconvenience. Thank you. That would be appreciated.”
“Is that it, by those cars?”
“Yes. Well, thank you once again.”
“Enjoy your stay and I hope you have a full recovery.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

 

 

 

Blog Spotlight: Mike Allegra


How can you not want to read a blog with this as its banner?

Mike Allegra

This is Mike Allegra, aka HeyLookAWriterFellow. Think of Steve Martin and Billy Crystal as children’s book writers. A little scary but Mike promises he keeps it clean. In fact he insists on it, even though he has been known to trot out some potty jokes now and then.  Besides writing an absolutely this-is-really-funny stuff blog, he is a very talented writer, doodler, and all around good guy. He loves to show off his cute kid, who I need to figure out how to bribe so he’ll pull my entry out of the next doodle hat round.

I don’t even know how I found Mike’s blog. I think we started frequenting the same blogs with our commentary and I popped in. Mike and I now banter until I get him to cry “uncle, already.” Yes, Mike, I am keeping score. But I should stay on his good side because I am really hoping to get a cow on a pogo stick doodle out of him one of these days. And, no–this is not a butter up attempt. There have been at least three blog spotlights prior to Mike (I’m going by who trades the most comments with me or who I’ve known the longest in the blogosphere).

So, if you are looking to connect with a talented published children’s author, or like witty writing, or hope to win a doodle (there is a batch of us petitioning for him to run his doodle drawings at least once a month) you need to pop in and visit Mike, who is more than just another writer fellow.

What We Say #10: of Chickens and Whistles


“George, do you think we can afford to go out to dinner and maybe take in a show? Will that be too expensive?”

“Why, Martha. The expense of going out on the town with my best girl is chicken feed. Grab your hat, darling, and let’s skeddadle downtown.”

George and Martha probably enjoyed their night out because more than likely George, being a generous fellow, had made his fortune and a spending money mattered no longer to him. In fact, a few dollars was a mere pittance, like tossing crumbs to the birds.

And that’s exactly where the expression “chicken feed” comes from–tossing small bits out at a time.  Chickens don’t have the capacity to chew up their food (ever see a chicken smile?) and must peck at small amounts. Apply that idea to money and chicken feed means a small amount of spending, not enough to worry or get choked up over.

image: thedo.gs not your average chicken

 

“Martha, are you going to be able to get that spot of gravy out of my tie? I have to look sharp for tomorrow’s presentation.”

“No worries, George. I’ll get it clean as a whistle.”

I doubt Martha was whistling was she worked on George’s tie.  Honestly, George, don’t you know gravy is just looking for the opp to drip on ties?

As for the expression “clean as whistle”, this one is pretty much as it sounds (sorry, the pun overcame the keyboard). About the time of Huck Finn and company, boys would find reeds and poke holes in them to make their whistles. The cleaner the reed, the cleaner or clearer the sound.

image: investitureachievement.org

Light and Eyrey


image:: pintrest.com Jane Eyre Silhouette Black and White Book Cover by Pendantmonium,

I am preparing myself early this year for when I announce we will be studying Jane Eyre.

“Do we have to?”

“Is that our only choice?”

“Isn’t that a chic lit selection?”

And that’s the question I shall endeavor to answer. Because the first two questions both can be answered with “no.” But we won’t go there for now.

So, is Charlotte Bronte’s famous classic novel of being true to oneself, of overcoming adversity, of embracing family over riches really a chic lit because it centers on a romance, intrigue, and a woman who is victimized more than once.

First off let’s look at a couple of definitions:

from http://www.chicklitbooks.com:

What is Chick Lit?

Chick lit is smart, fun fiction for and/or about women of all ages. Many of these books are written from a first-person viewpoint, making them a bit more personal and realistic. The plots can range from being very light and fast-paced to being extraordinarily deep, thought-provoking and/or moving.

Another perspective–from http://www.dictionaryreference.com:

chick lit

/lɪt/ Show Spelled [lit] Show IPA

noun

literature that appeals especially to women, usually having a romantic or sentimental theme.

At this point Jane Eyre could be considered smart, fun? probably not so much. First-person viewpoint–yes. Personal and realistic–maybe. The plot is not very light and could be considered deep, thought-provoking and moving. It does appeal to women and does contain a romantic theme. Perhaps it is chic lit. Then again, let’s explore “classic.”

Mark Twain’s definition is universally accepted: “A book which people praise and don’t read.” However, Jane Eyre is read evidenced by it still being in print, let alone being studied in AP courses. Plus, look at all the film versions of JE.

I put the question to the guy students in class and most said the novel held their interest. The language, the setting, the intrigue, the cousin plot, the bitter aunt, and of course that underplot of a possible vampire living upstairs–wait, that’s a different novel (or is it?)

The verdict? How about JE is a classy literary novel focusing on a woman who overcomes her unjust circumstances. Oh, yes, let’s not forget Mr. Rochester.

Any thoughts?

Did you dread reading Jane Eyre in high school and roll your eyes or embrace the story of a strong young woman who finds happiness after much travail? (yes, I am slanting the vote).

 

Oh the Wonderful World of Disney Classics


Writing about Reading Rainbow made me think how fortunate I am to have grown up with the real Disney. The one where Walt would step out from his desk and spin a little introduction relating to the feature presentation. Tom Hanks in Saving Mr. Banksgot it down pretty well.

Wwod open.jpg

image: wikipedia.org What a wonderful world

Sundays nights I would look forward to whatever presentation Uncle Walt had for us to watch.  There was always a variety ranging from live action movies with top actors of the day to mesmerizing and delightful animated shows (my favorite).

With the advent of packaged programming I was able to introduce my own kiddos to the Disney treasures through the thoughtful purchasing practices of our local library. Presented as Walt Disney Treasures, these are samples of Disney’s live action best. Even though the kiddos are grown up and gone, the MEPA and I don’t mind checking out one of the treasures for our nightly movie watch.  Disney didn’t cut corners on production. The acting and scripts were always prime and still hold up well after all these years.

Do you remember Disney? Better yet, anyone come across the re-released treasures?

A couple of Treasure favorites so far:

images: amazon.com


September is Library Card Drive


You do have a library card, right? I actually have around four: local, adjacent community, university, and former–I just might visit there someday. I have more library cards than credit cards, and I’m glad of that.
September is back to school and it makes sense to also designate the month as Library Card Month. As students get into the routine of going back to school, getting them into the routine of going to the library is just as important as having sharpened pencils and a dependable pen.
To twist an old selling point: “The Library Card. Don’t leave home without it.”

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: