Saturday
Apr032010

Getting My Hopes Up

All my life, time and time again, I've gotten the impression that getting my hopes up isn't a good thing.  I mean, on the one hand, I want to say that I'm a bubbly, uberoptimistic kind of girl, and I am.  But I also believe that the universe is bigger than me, and has a crazy plan, and I'm positive there is a plan beneath all the madness.

So, either the universe thinks I'm a complete jackass and that all my plans are meant to be undone, or getting your hopes up is the surest way to see that the complete opposite happens.

But how can that work?  I mean, surely there are things that we want that we can actually achieve, right? Or more specifically, I would really appreciate it if there are things that I want that I can get.  I do get my hopes up!  Hope against hope, wish against wish, I always get my hopes up, and I just can't quit it.

But everytime, I also worry that it's instantly sabotaging myself.

Think of it like the Anti-Secret.  You attract whatever you don't expect and can't possibly see coming.  I mean, the troublesome thing is that part of me LOVES THAT.  It's the stuff you never see coming that feels magical, incredible, enlightening and thrilling.  It's that part that makes me feel like there is this universal plan, and I'm part of it and protected by it, that I make foolish or shortsighted plans for myself and eventually, I'm delighted to be proved wrong.

But somethings you just never want to pass you by.  I want to be published, and I want to be published in a big way.  I'm willing to wait for it, I've BEEN waiting for it, but I want to be a career novelist, and I want stupid things, like a decently working car that has been manufactured sometime less than the past thirteen years, like some steady money, like more things that I don't want to admit I want because, well, that would be getting my hopes up.

Yeah.

Is this crazy?  I feel a little crazy and superstitious sometimes, and a little overly concerned that my tiny little thought might effect my life in an overblown way.  So let's put it this way: this post is missing everything I don't dare to hope for.
Thursday
Mar252010

One (small) Dream Comes True

Okay, so it's not The Big Dream--or really, the First Phase of the Big Dream--that's come true, but rather a Smaller Dream that I've mentioned here on the blog before: I'm getting published in a magazine!  It's only a small article about baking soda appearing in Dollar Stretcher Magazine, but yay!  I'm getting into magazines, which was what I wanted to do for a while now.  I don't know at this point (I just got a full time job!) how much freelance writing I'll be doing in the next couple months, but I'm psyched that I have a magazine credit to my name.

WHOO!

I definitely think that the universe likes to chuckle at my plans.  Just when I'm in a position to get OUT of freelance writing is when I've had the success I've really been waiting for.  Still, I'm pretty excited to move into a full time job and just be set for a while, not scrounge to pay bills and really stress about finding work and keeping work and all this craziness.  I want steady and I want security--well, at least for now!  I'm enough of a water sign to know that very little in this life is really secure, but you just have to ride the tide and see where it bears you.

Here's to riding the tide.  ;-)
Monday
Mar222010

Writing, Workshops and Gender

It's about time women ruled the roost!

Okay, as a light feminist and a attendee of two all girls schools, I'm generally pretty concerned with how women are represented.  One of my favorite bones to pick is how women all like to complain that we don't get the opportunities men do, but we also tend to tear each other down instead of wildly promoting each other (a la old boys clubs).

This weekend, however, I noticed something almost counter intuitive, and I want to muse.  So, in the children's writing field, the following are true:

1.  Agent blogs I read comment that the vast majority of queries are from women.  Kristin Nelson went so far as to say that men's queries get more attention because they stand out, and that statistically speaking, there are less men looking for representation.

2.  Statistically, in children's lit, men win WAY more awards than women.

3.  At conferences and retreats I've been to, the ratio is roughly 25:1 female:male.

What conclusions can we draw from this?  The immediate thought that comes to mind after reading #1 and #3 is that men must not write as much children's fiction as women do, but obviously #2 invalidates that.  Men are in the game in a big, big way.

What else?  Perhaps that women are more social creatures, more likely to gather at events than to write as solitary figures.  This would surely explain #3, but not so much #1.  #1 has nothing to do with the social nature of women and still represents a great divide.

Worryingly, I've developed another theory. Women in these conferences and retreats are unbelievably supportive, in a way that I've never known women to be, especially not at Mount Holyoke, where women were cutthroat, knowing that there was a limited number of spaces for their success in the world, and cutting down your competitor meant drawing closer to your goal.

This made me think of that cutthroat instinct.  It's not there in children's writing, and while I think that's partially because there's a sense of kindred fun and imagination that isn't conducive to backstabbing in children's lit, I think it does suggest something else as well that intersected with another thought at the retreat:

I don't think women take writing seriously.

I'm not kidding, either.  A huge theme of the weekend was how ragged we get because people are always knocking writers down; "you should be watching the kids", or "that's not a real career".   We seek validation from many different sources, and when it's not offered, we're devastated.  I think that's because secretly, we don't validate ourselves.  You only need validation and permission if you don't feel those things innately within yourself.

I think men and especially male writers trust themselves.  They trust their calling, their vocation, their career.

Women don't.

It's like antiempowerment!  Women are finding their voice only to lose their power and confidence.  What the hell is that?  For a long time I've thought that women need to spend more time writing so they can trust that inner voice and learn to develop what they want into what they need. But obviously this is only half the problem, and frankly, I don't know how to validate women.  I feel pretty validated--a little stagnant at the moment, because it just takes a while to get this tough career started, but I have always felt sure and serious that I will make a career of writing.  I will make my passion my business. Period.

So what's standing in the way, ladies?  What can we do?  What do we need to give ourselves permission to chase our dreams?


Thursday
Mar182010

Real Resources to Getting Rep'd

Alright, so I've been thinking about writing this post since I signed with an agent (HOLLA!) and have been talking with a friend about the road to getting representation.  So, basically, without any dilly dally, here's what I've found useful while I was seeking representation.  FYI, I was looking for a literary agent that represents YA fiction across a variety of genres, and had a finished YA historical fiction manuscript of 55,000 words.

  • How much word count matters. Find out more about this here. The link includes info on non-YA writing as well.

  • Follow #askagent. Not kidding!  This topic on Twitter is one of the most outrageously helpful things I've ever encountered in all the publishing-advice world.  You also get to ask random questions in the vain hope that when an agent replies to you they will suddenly become deeply interested in you and offer you representation.  NOT what happened to me, but I did follow up questions with queries and got interest.

  • Read agents' blogs. My faves are Nathan Bransford (though it's WAY popular so the comments are super overwhelming and I don't even bother), and Kristin Nelson.

  • Back it up by reading MORE! Like reading about the editing side, such as Editorial Ass, Editorial Anonymous, and more about authors in your genre (for me this would include Enchanted Inkpot, Mitali Perkins, Angie Frazier, the Five Randoms and Sarah Rees Brennan)

  • And don't forget the Agents themselves. For this, I use agentquery.com and then Google the crap out of them.  This includes double checking Preditors and Editors, for starters.

  • Finally, remember that there are rules, but there are no rules. You are and you are absolutely not special.  On the one hand, yes, you are one of thousands of blind queries in a large, faceless stack.  But on the other hand, all these agents and editors say that when a manuscript works, it works, and when it speaks to them, they'll move heaven and earth to get it published.  So, yeah--there are rules, and there are no rules.


Honestly, a big part of me feels like it's dumb luck that I ever got an agent, and an awesome one at that.  Here's hoping dumb luck carries me through a publishing contract, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get to keep on writing!

Off to a writing retreat for the weekend.  Not sure at ALL what I'm going to be working on yet, but we'll see.

kiss kiss!
Friday
Mar122010

Kick Ass Dying Words

That's one of the top search engine results that leads to my blog.  Seriously?  What does that say about my blog?

I have work to do today, so instead of doing it like a good little girl, I'm going to procrastinate, talk about American Idol, and vent a little bit.  This is my blinking flashing warning--this post has no redeeming informational value.  Sorry.

First, a quick vent.  I'm stressing so hard over jobs/positions/fellowships for next year.  OBviously I want to get an outrageously amazing job with virtually no income as a paid writer in a fellowship, but those, despite being very low paying, are very competitive, and I'm hoping against hope, but I know I can't plan on anything.  I just want to HEAR! Can't they just give me a specific date to hear by? I remember one said "March", but now looking back over websites I can't see where I read that.  And the other is MAY!  MAY!!  I applied in December.  And I'm only getting worked up about it because I don't have a real job either--one that, if I don't get any of these, I can happily do for the next year or so.

Problematic.

::Sigh::

In other events, this is my first season EVER of watching American Idol.  A newbie!  And though there are some things I just don't get about the show (why have them sing again after America decided we like them the LEAST?  And couldn't you tell us who got the most votes?  Just for fun?) I find it very addicting.  Especially this whole, three nights a week, take over your life thing they have going on.  Very engrossing.   The judges are fine--Simon is harsh but fair, Kara is strangely fickle, Ellen is why I started watching it this season, and Randy is a ridiculous caricature that I have NO idea how he's been on there so long.  Dog.

And I really empathize with the contestants.  As someone who is getting my first taste of Ohmygodthismightbeit's, it's like sucking in this hard breath and you're trying so hard but you don't know whether to be super confident or super tentative or just flat out pray on a daily basis.  Or all of the above.  Because you're close, but you know how easy it is just to fall right off and start at the beginning.

But last night!  OMG, Lilly!  First of all, I never ever liked you.  You're weird looking and when you sing a big note you look like a five year old trying to poop.

Come on, you know she does. And these people think she bears resemblance to a Princess Bride character, and not the one she hopes, I'm sure...

And then when she was kicked off, she looked at little Katie Stevens like "WHAT THE HELL?!?!" She did not believe she'd be voted off, and she didn't take it very gracefully when she was. She was all, "I KNOW I have an audience. And fans. So what the hell?" (...not an exact quote).

Lilly, get over yourself. You may well have an audience (you have a good voice) but you're not super commercial. I happen to really like commercial, and bubblegum pop and cheesy frothy goodness. That's what I want. More than anything else, I want to see you be graceful and grateful, because I'm sure this is such crazy exposure for you that you'll get picked up one way or the other.

And Lee Dewyze, I want you to win. Mostly because I want to hear your voice on the radio all day everyday.