Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of Self Editing blog 2012

As the year ends, I’d like to share some of my favorite posts from 2012. 

But first, a quick update on Mom Freeze 2013:
  • After posting my original Mom Freeze blog last week, I had a moment of clarity and changed my 90-Day Mom Freeze to a 30-Day Mom Freeze. I know my limits on disorganization.
  • Second, I don’t know if it’s a fear of the Freeze or just a fear of what I might write about them, but yesterday, both my son and husband did a bang-up job of cleaning the house after our holiday houseguests left. I started by picking up and sweeping, and without being coaxed or asked, my husband started cleaning the kitchen and then the bathroom (!!) and my son stopped playing Wii and said, “Mom, is there anything I can do to help?” I almost fell over. I told him, yes, he needed to strip the sheets on all the beds and make his bunks up with new sheets. And he did. No whining or complaining.
  • If this is the kind of participation I can expect next month (and all the time)… this Mom Freeze is already worth the threat.
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Best of Self Editing blog 2012

I’ve compiled my best posts from each month in 2012. I hope you enjoy re-reading them, or if you’re new, enjoy them for the first time. SHAMELESS PLUG: My birthday was last week. As a b-day gift to me, if you enjoy this blog, please forward it to 5 friends (far and wide) and ask them to follow and/or subscribe to my blog. It's a 2013 goal to significantly grow my blog readership. THANKS!


February

March

April
I only posted once in April, and it was a link to a freelance article I wrote for CheapFlights.com…

May > June
I wrote nothing in May or June as my anxieties augmented leading up to my sixth annual mother-daughter trip in July.

July
NOTE: The Mother-Daughter Trip 6 posts were many (6 in all). If you haven’t read them before, settle in with a cup of chai tea and start from the beginning to read about:
August

September

October

Spoon Jackson: Poet, Writer, Inmate

When Your Mom Moves Away

November

Why I Decided NOT to Write a Memoir

 

December

MOM FAIL #4: I Told My 7-Year-Old Daughter to "Man Up"

Taking a Mom Sabbatical: Mom Freeze Begins 01/01/13 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Taking a Mom Sabbatical: Mom Freeze Begins 01/01/13

 Mama Kat posed the following writing prompt: After the holidays I call for a nation-wide parent vacation... where would you choose to go?
________________________________________________________________________________
Mamakat, I couldn’t agree more. But not just after the holidays. After 2012 in general . . . I need a vacation. And I need more than a three-day vacay. Like, a month more. But who can afford to take thirty days off work? Not me, lest our kids be ejected from their beloved private school and we live in our cars. I could, however, stay home and take a 30-day hiatus from specific parts of my life. I could:
  • Eat no meat for 30 days (too easy)
  • Drink no coca-cola for 30 days (too hard)
  • Have sex every day for 30 days (meh—who has the energy?)
  • Acquire no debt for 30 days (Bwahah hahaha—just peed my pants a little)
  • Make no eye contact for 30 days
  • Don’t use a car for 30 days
  • Don’t sweep the house for 30 days—EUREKA!
I spent a lot of 2012 burning the candle at both ends, working one or more full and part time jobs in addition to doing the lion's share of the housework, childcare, event coordination and errand running, much of it while my husband was out of the country kicking off his new business.

It is exhausting to work all day then come home to cook, clean, homework-help, play both good cop and bad cop to our children and dogs, and generally be a single mother ensuring that everything at home is as it should be. It is also mentally and emotionally depleting to appear to keep it all together and hide the frustration in front of friends and co-workers (a regular fail). 

As the year progressed and my husband's business trips got longer, I started to feel overworked and underappreciated. My grumbling began, my smiles become fewer and farther between and now I don't recognize myself in the mirror.

Mama’s burnt out.

My husband does try to help, bless his heart, and I do appreciate his efforts both when he’s home, and when he’s away trying to make our lives better by building a business from the ground up. Still, until he travels less or makes enough for me to hire some help while he's gone, I can’t help but feel like a 12-year-old whining, “It’s not fair!”

My husband will argue that his business trips are not fun and that he's working very hard the whole time, which I'm sure is true, but it doesn't make my reality any easier. The fact is, while I’m struggling at home alone, he gets seven or so weeks each year when he does not have to be a husband or a parent or do one single thing on anyone's timeline but his own. He gets seven weeks each year when he can take a poop without someone walking in on him. A seven-week sabbatical of my own would be quid pro quo, but unfortunately it's not possible. Or is it?

More than once in 2012 when I was pushed to my limits, I threatened to stop being a mom. “I will just live here and you all can cook your own meals and wash your own clothes and dishes and remember your own social calendars.” I always wondered how long they would tolerate the mess and the hunger before they started doing things for themselves, but I never stuck to it and thus never found out.

The time is nigh!

A vacation from the motherly duties and refrains that made me grumble, worry and yell in 2012 might be just what I need. After some quick research I found I am not the first mom to think of this. This mom went on a cleaning strike against her three slobby daughters for one week, and these Mom Sabbatical retreats are a real thing (or at least promote "the sabbatical mindset").

Could I take an in-home parenting sabbatical and not be the "bad cop" for 30 days? I may become mute if I removed well-worn phrases like, "Hurry up and brush your teeth, we're late!" and "No TV until you finish your homework," and “No, you cannot have root beer in your Cinnamon Toast Crunch.” Or . . . I may become happy!

Could I really refuse pick up after my kids for 30 days? I get itchy when even one paper or unclaimed tidbit is left on our kitchen counter top. When a lone flip-flop is orphaned out of the shoe basket by the front door I am afflicted. Where is it's mate? Stop everything! It must be found immediately! But no, I will restrain myself. It will take herculean discipline, but I will look past the tumbleweeds of dog hair in the hallways, the cheese stick wrappers around the couch in the den, the balled up socks in the bathroom that no one but me seems to notice. I will do this. I must do this. If not for me, than for Everymom.

30-DAY MOM FREEZE STARTS JANUARY 1, 2013.  

Perhaps this is what the Mayans predicted when they saw the end of the world.” I am anxious to see if letting go of my mom-sponsibilities for a while and finding myself (and my smile) will extinguish my worry and minimize the yelling, or if it will drive me to a new level of insanity. Will I be able to blur my attention to detail around the house? Will I be able to keep my mouth shut when my child is still not ready for bed at 9:20 on a school night and my husband does not notice or get the bedtime ball rolling because he's caught up in a game of Words with Friends? I will have to, for the purpose of this challenge.

Give me a “whoop whoop” in the comments if you feel me. I’m gonna need it. This is going to be painful. For those of you who are my friends:
  • If you visit me during the 30-Day Mom Freeze, please do not judge my home. I can assure you, it will be a shit hole of epic proportions.
  • If my children come to school exhausted and without homework or clean underwear, do not judge me. Applaud me for sticking to my guns by teaching them these valuable lessons of responsibility and consequences.
  • If my child misses a social occasion with your child because I am no longer managing our family calendar, mea culpa. We still love you. It’s just part of the project.
NOTE:  As children and husbands go, I must acknowledge that I have some pretty good ones. My husband does do dishes and fold clothes regularly, and will sweep floors when nagged. My kids occasionally do their chores on their own, but mostly when reminded multiple times by a raised voice. The point is to get to a place where my children notice and remedy their own messes and responsibilities before I have to remind them, nag them or do it for them.

2nd NOTE:  I will not commit to this project to the detriment of my children’s safety. I will continue to be a mom for the important things like reminding my son that matches are not to be used as toothpicks, requiring my daughter to wear a bike helmet, and purchasing groceries so there is food in the house (even if I don't cook it for them). But other than health or safety-related issues, on January 1 I’m done momming for thirty days in the hopes that Value with a capital V will be placed on the hard, often-thankless work done day in and day out by moms everywhere. At the very least I hope to provide a much-needed laugh or I-feel-ya nod for other moms along the way.

Monday, December 3, 2012

MOM FAIL #4: I Told My 7-Year-Old Daughter to "Man Up"

My husband travels frequently for business. This past year his business trips have been longer and closer together, much like contractions. He should be giving birth to our drastic change in quality of life any minute now.

In the meantime, the kids and I struggle through the weeks alone; me, at my full time job juggling all the things single working mothers around the world juggle every day, and the kids, at their full time jobs of trouble-making. Am I being dramatic? You be the judge. Let's take a look at my list of 2012 Misfortunes That Occurred While My Husband Was Out of Town. This year's travails included, but were not limited to:
  • My daughter Jackson Pollack'ing an entire bottle of hot pink nail polish in the kitchen (walls, cabinets and floors) just as we're walking out the door to school (full story and photos here in MOM FAIL #2)
  • Both children, and eventually me, getting lice
  • Our alarm system malfunctioning so that we got 3 false alarms in 3 consecutive days and I had to leave work each day to run home, see if our house was empty and deal with irritated policemen
  • A leaking, dripping dining room ceiling coinciding with 5 days of nonstop torrential rain
  • A hair clog in the shower drain so lethal and decayed that I was certain something had died in the pipes (hired someone to dredge it out)
  • Busted sprinkler heads causing reclaimed water geysers at our doorstep (ew--poopy water)
  • My daughter slamming her finger in a door at school; fingernail detached and fell off 2 weeks later
  • And now here we are... Dad is gone again, and yesterday my 10-year-old son sprained his ankle at his football team holiday party
Luckily (??) I sprained my ankle earlier this summer, so I had crutches and ace bandages on hand to lend him. The problem wasn't really him, it was his sister, a girl so hungry for approval (hmm, wonder where she gets that?) that she couldn't stand that I was giving my injured son attention by wrapping his foot in a bandage and getting him a glass of water.

"You don't love me. You wouldn't do that for me if I was hurt," she cried. "I'm going to sleep on the floor tonight with my head on a plastic box because I don't matter." Cue the Oscar nomination.

I wanted to remind her about her finger just weeks before and how I coddled her for days and brushed her teeth for her (even though her other hand was perfectly fine). But we were on day 9 of my single parenthood, and my blood alcohol level was zero so... I snapped.

"You wanna sleep on the floor? Go ahead! This is NOT what I need from you right now. You gotta 'man up' sister!"
"But I'm not a man, I'm a girl!"
"Then you gotta 'cowgirl up'! Do you understand what that means?"
"No ~wimper wimper~."
"It means you gotta be tough, chick. Now quit yer crying. I don't have time for it, I have dishes to do and garbage to take out and dogs to walk. HE needs me now, and you should be asking how you can help me help him... not acting like this. You're better than this. Now get a tissue and wrap it up! This ends now."

Good parenting, eh?

I would like to say that I inspired my daughter to be tougher and more independent and more self aware that day.

I would like to say that she came to her senses and realized that she should be a compassionate sister and show concern for an injured family member.

I am ashamed to say that all she probably got out of that "man up" exchange was that her mom is a short-fused crazy woman with a misunderstanding about cowgirls.

Regardless, for the next 2 days I couldn't get the "Man Up" song from The Book of Mormon out of my head, and decided I should take a dose of my own medicine and man up about the 48 measly days I spent as a single parent this year. Women with far less make do for far longer, many with no return date marked on their calendars. I get it. Message received, Universe.

Giddy'up, Cowgirls!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

MOM FAIL #3: 5 Never-Before-Thought-Of Mommy Daughter Dates


During a recent Pinterest marathon, I came across a pin that led me to a blog post titled “20 Mommy Daughter Dates.” Right up my alley, I thought. But no. These ideas were neither in my alley nor in my neighborhood.

Among the 20 date suggestions were the not-so-unique:
  • Go to the park
  • Go to a movie
  • Go to a children’s museum
  • Get frozen yogurt
The sexist:
  • Bake something
  • Mani/pedis
  • Go to the mall
And the offensive:
  • Go to the American Girl store

Oh hell no.

For those moms out there who might like to share a different kind of moment with their daughters, here is an alternative pin-able list of Mommy Daughter Dates Your Little Angel Won’t Soon Forget.

1. Clean a Public Restroom Together. If your daughter is shorter than 3’ tall and hasn’t yet mastered the Public Toilet Squat, an uncomfortable amount of time together in a community loo should do the trick. Nothing bonds two generations of women like a pinky’s-up, one-ply TP-wipe-down of a Home Depot toilet. No, not the new ones on display; the urine-dappled ones in the restroom behind the Electrical aisle that smell like chili dogs and fertilizer.  LIFE LESSON: Cleanliness.

2. Have a Good Cry Together. From her first D- on a test to the first time the pretty girl wears the same dress she did, it’s important to let your baby know that both The Four Seasons and Fergie were wrong. Big girls do cry, and that’s OK. LIFE LESSON: Crying helps you lose water weight, so do it with abandon.  

3. Fill Up the Car With Gas. I’ve actually done this one with my son as well. Read about it here. LIFE LESSON: Know when to let go. Of the gas pump.

4. Do a Craft Together. I might suggest crocheting a coozy to keep Nana’s happy juice cold. What? Yes, it is! Alright, fine. The happy juice isn’t Nana’s. It’s mine. But she’s the one who drives me to drink it. Does that count? LIFE LESSON: If you don’t know how to knit, you should at least know how to pour Mommy the perfect cucumber gimlet. Now that’s crafty!

5. Start a Business Together. Come up with a great product or idea together--like a roadside guinea pig grooming business--then disagree about the details, mismanage money and post the whole experience on YouTube. This will lead to a segment on the Today Show which will lead to a reality show on a major cable network. LIFE LESSON: In today's world, you can be famous and rich without the burden of talent or hard work.

For anyone who read to the bottom of this blog hoping for real or redeeming ideas, here's one: turn off your computer and hug your daughter. Tell her she is smart and funny and your greatest accomplishment. Get up and do this now. Seriously. I'll wait here. . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

5 Fictional Friends I'd Want in Real Life

This post is inspired by

Share 5 Fictional Friends You'd Want In Real Life.

This writing prompt, though intriguing, turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. I mainly read non-fiction, and the fiction rolodex in my memory consists mainly of books I was forced to read in middle and high school, most of which involved depressing tales of old white men or sad, weak women. Luckily, I did recall the five characters below, all of whom I would be proud to call my friend.

Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.
I love this essay by Ann Hood where she discussed how she “Fredo’ed” people. You know, like in The Godfather II when Michael Corleone decides he won’t have anything to do with his brother Fredo because Fredo has betrayed him. Inigo and I feel the same way. Trust is like a fresh piece of paper. Flawless. But like paper, once you crush it, it can never be made perfect again. Monty (that's what I call him) and I can both hold a grudge with unwavering stamina. I’m not necessarily proud of that fact because it certainly shows a level of immaturity, not enlightenment. But a friend like Inigo Montoya can fully appreciate a merciless desire to mortally wound or kill someone. Some days I have people who fall onto that list. Monty could help me cross them off.

Walter Mitty, from James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Walter is my polar opposite. I am a classic Type A, organized, hyper-analytical list maker. But opposites attract, and it would be great to have someone like Walter in my life to remind me to be a dreamer, get distracted and escape reality once in a while. What else is it in my life that allows me to get distracted and escape reality… Oh! I just thought of a great name for my new honey-whiskey cocktail:  The Walter Mitty!

Dory from Finding Nemo.
Everyone needs a comic sidekick, someone who can make you laugh until you pee just enough in your underpants that you have to run to the bathroom with your knees pressed together and your vagina in a semi-Kegel lest you have a full on Depends-variety “accident." Or is that just me? Dory would be that person, er, fish for me. As I have explained to my husband many times before, when I’m crabby it’s best not to try to fix it or talk me out of it. Just make me laugh. Then, all things are right again and I can “just keep swimming . . .”

The sinners from the Inner Ring of the 7th Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.
I first read this book in my tenth grade literature class. It had such an impression on me that I still own that same copy today. Here's why. Our teacher asked us to volunteer to choose a ring (outer, middle, inner) from a corresponding circle of hell and present an oral report on it as if you were a person from that level. I raised my hand for the inner ring of the seventh circle of hell because, upon scanning the circles looking for something easy, I saw the word Blasphemer in that ring. I don’t really believe in god so I thought, I can relate to and report on Blasphemers. No problem. What I didn’t see was the second sinner also banished to this inner circle:  the Sodomites.

This report was given long before the Internet, and my parents were not the types to ever help me with schoolwork. When I looked up sodomite in the dictionary the definition was vague, so I decided to focus most of my report on the blessed Blasphemers. When it was my turn to present I held a poster in front of the class depicting the Blasphemers, with a small section showing a group of wanderers in the corner with an arrow pointing to them labeled "The Sodomites." When my report was finished my teacher asked me—in front of the entire class—
“Heather, do you know what sodomy is?” 
I stared at her blankly.   
She said, “They are the masturbators of the world. They are the folks who have same-sex intercourse or intercourse with animals.”
I answered, “Right. I didn’t know how to draw that on my poster, so I just left it out,” then shuffled back to my seat, face ablaze.

I got a B+.

As Billy Joel once said, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than die with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”

Harold from Harold & the Purple Crayon.
Being the good friend that he is, Harold would have drawn my ass right out of the above situation.
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Which fictional character would you befriend?

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Monday, July 23, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Day 4

Before reading on, if you haven't already, first read
and
and
and
This is Thrillerfest - Day 3:  All you need to know about publishing a novel

Now for the (sort of) gripping conclusion of Mother-Daughter Trip 6 . . .

For our final day in the city, which happened to be Bastille Day, I was anxious to cross "Walk the Chelsea High Line" off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. My three glorious days with my knee scooter were up, so I did walk--not scoot--the High Line, and I highly recommend you do it too. The Chelsea High Line is representative of everything that is great about New York City:  it is about reinvention, it's full of unexpected surprises and pops of color, it's creative, it is a gorgeous amalgamation of both old and new, industry and nature, and it's open to the public. Here is the High Line through my eyes . . .
Someone's apartment rooftop "zoo"
An interracial gay couple taking engagement photos

As we walked the High Line my mother and I didn't talk much except when we'd pass the odd art installation (like the one pictured above) about which she would say, "I just don't get it, I'm sorry. That does nothing for me." Her exclamation reminded me of Bastille Day 2011 when my husband, children and I visited my mother in London for two weeks. (She stayed in a flat there for the entire summer to research the book she is writing about Wimbledon). We rode the London Eye together (read about that here) and then walked to the Tate Modern museum. After viewing one installation of what appeared to be a female Roman statue standing in front of a pile of laundry (see photo below) Mom said, "This is just stupid. Do you mind if I head home?" And she did.
Years before, on Bastille Day 1997, Mom and I vacationed in Tahiti, French Polynesia, where we viewed the more traditional art of Paul Gauguin. She did enjoy his works, but mostly because "it's nice to see someone appreciate full-figured women."

Bastille Day celebrates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress and the beginning of the French Revolution. It is a symbol of the uprising of a modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French in the constitutional monarchy. Kind of funny that historically, my mother and I have so often vacationed together on Bastille Day, examining art, declaring our opposing opinions and enacting our own uprisings and reconciliations, as they were (which are inevitable because as everyone knows, fish and family go bad after three vacation days).

From the High Line we walked to the Chelsea Market where my mother enjoyed a caramel eclair from Ruthy's, and I enjoyed a cheddar and fig ciabatta sandwich from Lucy's Whey. Our bellies (mostly) full, we walked only a block or so more before we spotted the gorgeous outdoor seating at the Standard Grill. Tres chic.
More specifically, we spotted the GIANT punch bowl from which these two girls where drinking.
We somehow got a table right next to those girls (here's our view)
and watched every tourist stop to take pictures and ask about their $55 gin "punch bowl" cocktail. The Standard should always offer a free gin punch bowl to someone at those front tables to draw a crowd. It's brilliant marketing. When people stepped close enough to ask the girls about the drink, they would then spot the English bulldog puppy sleeping under the table and ask to pet or hold her. Simply precious.


*  *  *

We had tickets to see War Horse that evening (No, really! Mom had triple-checked the date this time), so after eating (again), we caught a cab back to the hotel and went our separate ways to nap/read/relax/pack/whatever. It's nice to travel with someone who doesn't have to talk to you nonstop or spend every second with you. I like to take a dose of perspective when I travel, and it's easier to swallow alone.

I threw back my perspective two blocks up from our hotel at the New York Public Library, yet another place to cross off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. There I found the most gorgeous public bathroom door I've ever seen, aged and patina'd to perfection:

On the way back from the restroom I passed a woman manning an information booth who looked like New York personified. I asked her, "Do you mind if I take your photo?" and she answered with thick sarcasm and a New York smoker's accent, just as her character should, "I don't know why you'd want to." Then she struck this million dollar smile:
I loved how the wave in her jacket mimicked the wave in her Conan-inspired updo, and I applauded her for snubbing her occupational environment and wearing the Boca Raton sunglasses--even indoors--for the sake of fashion. WORK, cover girl!  I thanked her and she said, "I wanted to tell you that your necklace is very pretty too. I noticed it when you walked by a minute ago." I wished I could invite her to (a third) lunch just so I could hear her back story.
People always ask my mom, "Where do you get ideas for your characters?" Just open your eyes, people! They are EVERYWHERE. These are the moments and images that excite me. A casual exchange between two people who will likely never meet again. How we are all so different and all so the same, all putting on smiles for each other or calling each other liars or getting engagement photos taken or apologizing for something.
Thank you, New York, for inspiring me as you always do. Thank you, Mom, for surprising me as you always do. I'm re-energized now, and ready to FINISH THE BOOK.


This is Thrillerfest! - Day 3: All you need to know about publishing a novel.

We are in New York for this sixth mother-daughter trip because of my mother's obligations to speak at the back-to-back writing conferences, Craftfest and Thrillerfest. In honor of this, I'm going to give all you author hopefuls the FREE CLIFF NOTES VERSION of "take aways" you will receive at any writing conference.

Disclosure:  I am not a published author, but I have lived with a published author (of 53 novels!) all my life, so I can say with confidence that I understand firsthand the world of a successful career writer--writing, publishing, editing, deadlines, contracts, agents, platforms, fans--all of it. I have also attended enough writing conferences of my own (everything from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference to the Writer's in Paradise workshop at Eckerd College) to know this much is true:  Becoming a traditionally published author or a bestselling e-published author is a crap shoot.

Here's why . . .
If you ever attend a conference on the craft of writing, you'll undoubtedly learn in one session all the hard and fast rules of writing for this genre or that. You'll learn the proper way to outline and structure your book, to build tension and develop your characters. Then in the very next session, you will hear an expert say, "Yes, you have to do all these things and follow all these rules, but the books that are being bought today are written by people who bucked these rules. And it just works for them because they have an amazing voice.” 

Unpublished authors get really caught up in "voice," but it's not complicated at all, really. Either you have one or you don’t. And if you don’t, you can stop writing now. Well, don’t stop writing, but do stop hoping to be published traditionally.

Basically, what the industry experts repeat in these conferences--and what Lee Child so succinctly stated in one of his sessions--is that anyone can learn grammar and the elements of style and story, but at the end of the day great writing cannot be taught. It’s instinctual. What's worse, even if your writing is phenomenal that still may not be enough. The success of your writing career is hinged on one person’s opinion of your voice.

Perfect examples:
1) The keynote speaker at the Craftfest luncheon on Thursday was Jamie Raab, Senior VP and Publisher at Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). In her speech she listed her favorite thriller/suspense books of all time. She said that these books, which included Marathon Man and Silence of the Lambs, are like the new ones she bids on now and hopes to purchase, in that they make her literally shake with excitement.

2) During an expert panel the following day, an author hopeful asked Mitch Hoffman, Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, “What makes you want to purchase a manuscript?” The answer was simply, “I just have to be able to walk down the hall to my publisher and say without a shadow of a doubt, ‘I love this book. I have to have it.’”

So basically, all your hopes and dreams are pinned on one gatekeeper's taste, which is predetermined by his or her upbringing, eating preferences, whether they like wide wale or thin corduroy pants and a million other factors which you cannot possibly know or write to. So here's the deal:  If you finish your book and send it out to a couple agents and get a couple rejections, Don't. Give. Up. Publisher Jamie Raab's fireplace kindling may be agent Dan Conaway's next bestseller.

That said, if you've heard repeatedly from critique groups, professional editors and agents at conference pitch sessions that your story and/or writing style is bunk, there is a consensus there, and you can safely assume it's not just that you haven't found the right person to appreciate your voice. Your voice is weak. Start over or give up. If you're a real writer, you will not pick the latter.

And much as it pains them all to admit it, I have recently heard conference experts reveal that, unfortunately, even if you are not a real writer, and you have no interest in taking the time to develop your writing chops but plenty of interest in making money, you still have options. With the exciting, uncharted world of e-publishing, you can skip over all the agents, editors and publishing houses and self-publish your crappy, no-voice-having e-book and watch it turn into fifty shades of million dollar bills.  Just don't bank on becoming the next E.L. James. Her success was a perfect, arbitrary storm that illustrates the importance of platform and timing in book purchasing today. Here's a woman who blogged fan fiction in the right genre at the right time touching an unspanked... er, um, untapped market of 40-something housewives hungry for stand-in angsty lust in between Twilight movie releases. She showed publishing houses an undeniable fan base (which = cha-ching!) and THEN they wanted to buy her. It would appear then, that you have not only your story, your writing and your voice to sell to the gatekeepers. You also have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you can sell hundreds of thousands of books (and note this in your query letter: "I have been #2 on Amazon's Kindle Top 100 list for 38 weeks!") before an agent will accept your manuscript.

Sound like an eagle's nest of contradictions? It is.

OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic (but not really). Here is all you really need to know about writing and getting published in 2012:  FIRST, finish your book. From there, just as in any crap shoot, all things are possible because the game is always changing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Night 2


Before reading on, if you haven't already, first read
and

All caught up now? Good. Let's continue.

As The Book of Mormon ticket-taker peered closer at our $350-apiece tickets he licked the sweat off his upper lip, and I knew he was about to tell us news that would push my mother over the sanity cliff.

"Um, I'm sorry, but these tickets are for JUNE 13. Not July 11. These are for last month."

My mom looked at me with hysteria in her eyes. 

"Oh my god. This can't be happening," she said. She pushed her way to the ticket counter as I stepped into a long line next to a sign that read CANCELLATIONS, just in case. I could see the back of my mother's head jerking and I knew she was letting her anger for the cab drive out on this poor theater worker bee. I watched her throw her hands up and then back down as she slapped the ticket counter. The bee behind the glass just kept shaking his head.

Mom turned around and walked toward me in a death march. "There's nothing we can do," she said, with what looked like tears in her eyes. "I don't know what to say. I've been so busy and so tired and I never opened the ticket envelope before tonight to look at them. They must've sent me the wrong tickets. Or maybe I clicked the wrong dates when I booked them online? I don't know. Oh, Heather, I know The Book of Mormon was the one thing you wanted to see while we were here, and I messed it up. I'm so sorry."

"It's fine. It was an honest mistake," I said.

I felt guilty. She wouldn't be feeling so awful if I just wouldn't ask for things. She suggested we see Porgy and Bess instead, but I didn't want to see anything else and repeated, "It's fine. Let's just go back to the hotel. I don't want you to spend any more money." Honestly, after scooting through Brooklyn in the heat and the Garden Scurry and the maniac cabbie "liar" accusations, I just wanted to curl up in my hotel bed and reboot.

"It's not fine. Wait here." She walked outside and somehow found a man scalping one ticket. Through the window of the theater lobby I saw her open her purse and I ran toward her to stop her, but it was done. 

"You're going to see this play," she said as she pressed the ticket into my hand and pushed me into the Eugene O'Neill theater. "Go on. Go. It's starting. Can you get home OK after the show?"

"Yes, but Mom. . ."
"Don't worry about it. I'll see you later at the hotel." And she was gone down the street.

In his Craftfest session earlier that morning titled PLAYING GOD: Creating Memorable Characters, Robert Dugoni said, "Forgiveness and self-sacrifice are two great character abilities. A character who is willing to forgive someone? That is a powerful strength. And someone who is willing to sacrifice themselves for someone else? Think Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond or Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. . .we root for those people."  

BEST: Here we were, each the embodiment of great character attributes. At the end of the day--both literally and figuratively--I would always forgive my mother, and she would ultimately sacrifice herself to see me happy. And happy I was, because The Book of Mormon was the Best. Show. Ever. I enjoyed every single second of that musical.
WORST: My mom couldn't be there to see it with me.

Though I had told her yes, after the play I realized I didn't have any money to get a cab ride home. I didn't have my scooter either because we had just intended to go from hotel to cab to theater and back, and in that scenario there weren't enough steps to justify the scooter.  

I Googled the hotel, and it was 1.5 miles from the theater. I could walk it if I went slow. So like a powder-nosed late '80s Robert Downey Jr., I inhaled deeply the vibrancy of this city with each slothful step.

High off the Mormons and my mother's largess, I documented my emotion . . .
Outside the TODAY Show studios:
 Across from Rockafeller Plaza:
The house that will one day publish my memoir:
Grand Central Station and the stunning, art deco Chrysler building:

Marilyn Monroe once said, "Little girls should should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them." Without a doubt, I do. Thank you for this gift tonight, Mom. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This is Thrillerfest Day 2

I know you all (all three of you!) have been sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how I ever made it through the Big Apple with a sprained ankle. Well, my friends, I shall tell you. I did it on a knee scooter. And I ROCKED that f'ing knee scooter up and down Manhattan's ass!

For those of you who do not have a leg injury, I recommend the knee scooter anyway, as a means of general transportation. It's just plain fun. You can ride it on the downhills, you can sit on it while waiting for anything or anyone, and you can pretty much go to the front of any line by just pointing down to your leg brace, pursing your lips and shrugging as if to say, "What's a girl with a knee scooter gotta do to get a bathroom stall around here?" People get out of the way. It's magical.

I found the knee scooter via an email link my friend in Florida sent me (Big Apple Mobility) and I rented the it for three days, enough to give my ankle some more healing time. They delivered it to our hotel and picked it up there afterward. Easy peasy.

But the whole trip was not so easy peasy, dear readers. No, it was not. However, though I would love to give you the down and dirty on all the mother-daughter caterwauling that went on, I cannot. On the flight over, my mother turned herself to face me (as much as one can turn in a coach airplane seat these days) and said, "Alright, no mean blogging about me this time, OK?" What? As IF I would ever . . . OK. No mean blogging.

Instead, I will share with you the best--and worst--of all that happened on a Wednesday in the city that never sleeps.

BEST: Knee walker. Nuff said.
WORST: Carrying the knee walker up and down the subway stairs to get to Brooklyn. Honestly, how do handicapped people get around the city? Or mothers with strollers for that matter?

BEST: Finally getting to Grimaldi's famous Brooklyn pizzeria.

WORST: The service was slow and the pizza was... meh.

BEST: Looking forward to visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
WORST: Walking/scootering for 40 minutes on shadeless, ninety-eight-degree streets before flagging down a cab to drive us the rest of the 2.6 miles to the Garden. By the time we got there, we were so hot and sweaty we went straight to the Cafe, drank an iced tea and then mom said, "OK, we've got 20 minutes before we have to head back to the hotel to get ready for The Book of Mormon."

Wha? Huh? A garden, by definition, is a place to stroll, not to race. But race we did.

BEST: As we dashed through this large plot of gorgeous mid-city flora and fauna, we saw (in a blur) all of this:
WORST: When we exited the Garden on the other end, it turns out there was a subway entrance RIGHT NEXT TO THE GARDEN that we could've gone right to and saved ourselves all that wasted time and perspiration.

BEST: On what I now refer to as our "Garden scurry" I open up and share with my mom (this is a relationship-building trip, after all) that I find it excruciatingly difficult to cope with her need to control every situation and to always insist--no matter the topic--that she is right. I encourage her to let go, trust me to be in control in sometime, and if in the end she is right and I am wrong, to find the fun in mistakes and unplanned moments.
WORST: Time and time again, mom is right.

BEST: Mom graciously insists that she alone will fully fund our amazing annual mother-daughter trips.
WORST: Mom also fully reveals to me the cost of each and every purchase she makes on these trips (from the airport limo to the hotel to the restaurants, shows, and morning coffees) as if she's keeping an audible running tab of how much our relationship-building is costing her and that, given the economy today, I had better be grateful she's making the effort. Which I am. Immensely. Just wish the gratefulness and guilt for all the expenses could be mutually exclusive.

BEST: I'm finally going to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway!
WORST: On the way to the show our cab driver had a language/accent barrier that resulted in a miscommunication about our final destination. My mom is always right (see above) and though she told our cabbie "We're going to the theater on 8th and 49th," he unfortunately heard, "We're blee blabba blu ba 8th." When our cabbie started heading downtown, mom (who, I repeat, is always right) said to him with an anxious and terse tongue, "You're going the wrong way. This is away from the theater. Why are you going this way?" To which he responded, "Eighth, yes? This is way! I have been driving cab for twenty years. I know way to go."

With a sigh and a huff mom pulled out the tickets and shoved them through the plexiglass window into the front seat saying, "NO! This is NOT the way. We're going to the Eugene O'Neill Theater! We're going to the THE-A-TER."

The cabbie grabbed the tickets, studied them for a New York minute and the next 120 seconds went like this:
CABBIE: "WHY DIDN'T YOU SHOW ME THIS BEFORE? YOU NEVER SAID YOU WERE GOING TO THEATER! YOU DID NOT SHOW ME THIS!"

MOM: "YES, I DID tell you this. I said 8th! 8th!"

CABBIE: "You didn't say 8th AVENUE, did you? No. NO!"

MOM: "No, but I said the theater. We're going to the Eugene O'Neill THEATER. If you've been driving a cab for 20 years, you know where the Theater district is, don't you?"

CABBIE: "That is NOT true. NO! You are a LIAR. YOU LIE. YOU ARE LIARRRR!"

The screaming continued--both their neck veins bulging--her saying, "I DID tell you where to go," and him saying, "You are a LIAR!" all in slow motion as we navigated New York during rush hour while thousands of passersby watched me through the window of my bright yellow, air conditioned hell.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I growled at them both, like a lioness at her bickering cubs, "ENOUGH! Seriously, Mom, do you think this guy has ANY respect for women or humans when you're his CUSTOMER and he's repeatedly calling you a LIAR? Do you think if you yell loud and long enough he will change his mind and say, 'Oh, sorry m'am, you are correct, I remember now. You are no longer a liar!'?" No. He is not going to change his mind about you and you are not going to win this. Just get us to the freaking theater. That's all."

The cabbie continued mumbling up front about liars and Americans at which point I yelled, "We're not getting out of this cab. Just get us to the theater. Do you understand where we need to go now? Good. Then stop calling my mother a liar and drive."

The rest of the ride was pretty quiet. All I could think was, this is how wars start. It begins by placing someone like my mom who has high blood pressure, low blood sugar, an anxiety about arriving early to any destination and an intense predilection for women's rights in a small space with a man who cannot hear properly from a culture with little respect for women, who probably just this morning had it out with his boss or found out someone in his family has a terminal disease.

Blend the above with summer heat and rush-hour-tourist-jaywalkers and you've got a war on your hands. Like any war, it's just one person taking out his or her anxieties and insecurities on the other who unfortunately has no understanding of those anxieties or insecurities and really, nothing to do with them. Perhaps if they met under different circumstances on a different day, they might have held the door open for each other at a coffee shop and said, "Lovely to have met you!" But not on this day. Dooms Day.

BEST: We finally get to the Eugene O'Neill Theater.
WORST: When the ticket-taker scans the tickets (which my mom has informed me several times over the months leading up to this trip were $350 a piece), he pauses and says, "Wait. Let me see those tickets again?"

To be continued. . .
(hey, I'm getting the hang of this suspense stuff!)