Monday, January 28, 2013

Allow me to introduce myself...

Hi Everyone,

In the spirit of this great "Please allow me to reintroduce myself" blogfest I thought I would take a chance to introduce myself.  My name is Jill and my “Little Nut Tree” came from a seed planted earlier this year.  I am quite new to blogging, in comparison to many of you veterans, and it has been such fun to read your blogs and feel so warmly welcomed, (and constantly inspired).
I am a wife and mom of two first, on novel number three, (all here-to-for unpublished) and usually I squeak in my hidden moments of writing with an excuse of having to check the laundry or find a book for my three year old.  (Where has Mummy gone?  Why—on the computer of course, Darlings.) I compose my little “golden pears” usually to the sweet sounds of my children wrestling—I mean dancing above me in the living room, and often I fear they will come tumbling through the ceiling, or, preferably, my three year old hangs on my leg and whines about playing a video game while I put the finishing touches on a query.  Needless to say typos are my signature.

My favorite time to write is after all are snuggly tucked into bed, (husband included). I have been sufficiently primed with coffee after dinner so as to maximize my alertness-curve.  I put on some Monteverdi, brew a pot of Chamomile and lose myself in Glastonbury, England, the setting of my new MG novel about –all things!, a time travelling young girl, dream-walking and the magical, mystery Tor. 

Nuff ‘bout me!  What strings do you have to pull to write?  Must the stars align as well for you, or do you have the leisure of penning your manuscript while nibbling chocolates and having staff prepare your luncheon? Thanks so much for stopping by!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Readers Don't Respond: Social Etiquette for Loaning Manuscripts

As writers, we require the daunting task of being read.  We are a host upon which we invite people to feed.  Without readers, our task is meaningless, unless you have either the modesty (or patience) of Emily Dickinson and can live with the idea of post mortem fame.  But, if you are of the publishing-seeking sort—alas!  We must needs be read!

Writers quickly grow accustomed to lack of response:  Query letters to agents and publishers, tweeting, blogging, comments on others blogs, are at times met with a deafening silence and we learn to roll with it. But, there is one instance for which I lack the social graces and the acumen to respond.  Perhaps you can help.

A friend/family member/blogmate/etc. inquires about a MS you’re currently marketing.  You give them your elevator pitch, without going deep, and they press on:  “Sounds interesting!”  “Ooh—I love the premise!” 

“Mind if I read it?”

You tell them…"Perhaps," unwilling to commit.

You go home and think about it.  Wonder if you’re being lily-livered and aren’t you supposed to let people read your work and you didn’t spend three months editing it for nothing and they actually asked to read it for cryin’ out loud!  When was the last time someone actually wanted to read something you wrote? 

What’s the worst that could happen? They might even like it.  They might even think it’s the best thing they ever read.

So, you do it.  You actually go to the library and spend seven dollars photo-copying the whole damn thing because reading on the computer gives them a head-ache, and you put the whole kit-n-kaboodle in a three-ring-binder like some English 101 writing project and send it first class (for another $4.00) and then…nothing.

(Insert crickets chirping here.)

Absolutely nothing.  Being the creative type, you ponder your lost manuscript’s fate as weeks tick by.  You imagine it stuffed into a book-shelf-- forgotten, or worse.
What’s a gal to do?
This is where I need you. 

1.) Someone please tell me you have experienced this phenomena and it is not just the tell-tale results of my crappy writing.

2.) What is the accepted social etiquette here?  Do I inquire?  Do I let it go?  Do I send them a postage-paid envelope for the return of the manuscript?  Do I let it just hang out there like a huge matza-ball?  Do I offer my MS with a time-limit like I'm the Bookmobile?  Or do I add it to my list of “thick-skin” inducers.

Thrice this has happened to me.  I would greatly appreciate any guidance from those of you who have gone before. Hopefully there will be no crickets chirping in the comment section of this blog.

~Just Jill



Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Few Good Hops and a Question of Place

Oh—the never-ending search for a fabulous blog-topic!  What is a gal to do when one is knee-deep in JaNoWriMO, embarking on a second date with a new CP, researching Victorian Glastonbury and can barely come up for air except to read fabulously hilarious and scintillating blogs by other writers who have obviously rationed their precious time better than I.  (Yes, that was one sentence.)

As a newbie to the blogosphere, I have been so encouraged and welcomed by many of you who have reached out and somehow found me in the myriad blogs that exist.  You have taken valuable time and read my words, left comments and shared in the communal blogging-bowl. Thanks so much.  Not only have your witty words and candid thoughts inspired me, but your sense of community has made me aspire to that level of kinship, and so today, I wanted to share some of that bountiful harvest with others.

I must herald the call to all those bloggers interested in a challenge of the alphabetical sort.  Our secret ninja guide and mentor, Alex J. Cavanaugh, whose blog is the veritable mecca to those of us thirsting for manna in the chaotic sea of choices has information regarding the A-Z Blogfest which sounds like good fun and should hold yet unearthed gems for upcoming blogs.  If you need to know anything about the writerly world, (or pit toilets) go ask Alec.  There you will also find the “Insecure Writers Support Group”, (badge is in my sidebar) a wonderful blog-hop with a blog-flavor for everyone.  Try a double-dip! Alex’s blog is veritable treasure trove of inspiration and support.  Get thee hence and become a member of the Ninja Army. 

Proof that I am truly a secret member of his minions is this talisman, which the Ninja Gods left for me to find recently.

M. Pax is also offering a fun blog-hop called "Back from the Future"  starting March 1st.  Since I find myself dealing with the theme of time-travel (of sorts) in my current MG novel, how could I refuse?  The prompt will draw you in and get that writer's brain prepare to be involved!

  Hart Johnson’s always titillating  “Confessions of a Watery Tart" provided not only laughs during a harried week, but thoughtful introspection as well, first on her high-larious piece about memory—or lack of it.  (I would tell more, but I have quite forgotten it.) 
Her clever poll about “What kind of writer are you?” got me to thinking, and I so enjoyed reading all of the comments.

Also, Misha Gericke is hosting a very community-oriented contest at her blog, "My First Book", where people can nominate/vote for favorite blogs in categories such as , “Most encouraging blogger”, “Best reviewer”,”Best writing/inspirational post” and “Beginner with most potential”.  Fun stuff.

Have a great week everyone, and in closing, and to keep those lovely, inspirational comments coming (to someone deep into researching a place) I would like to pose a question:  How do you research/prepare to write about place and setting?  Do you draw maps, or stalk Google-Earth like some strange cyber-tourist?  Do your characters follow real streets or just hang with “lane” and “road”.  Do you use your Aunt’s old house or create a new one?  How much is too much?  If you are writing fantasy, do you first create the place you are writing about, or does it create itself along the way?

Looking forward to hearing your tricks of the trade!
~Just Jill


Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Force-Feeding the Classics or "Eat Your Classics! They're Good For You!"

With all the blog-talk about “the Classics” in literature, (see Terri Giuliamo Long’s thoughtful words or The Pen and Muse's musings) I thought to finally jump on the proverbial band-wagon and contribute my two cents, (though I missed all the fun blog-hopping and contests which, regrettably, I always seem to do).

My daughter is eleven and an avid reader.  While she was younger, and at the mercy of listening to whatever Mommy picked out to read, she was fed a steady diet of my own favorites from a childhood steeped in reading:  “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and Charlotte and her web.  All the “Little House” books, ad nauseum, “The Secret Garden” and “The Little Princess”.  You get my drift.

Then, the fairies struck.  Perhaps it was the onslaught of Tink and her irrepressible pals (No disrespect to Gail Carson Levine  and her fabulous “Fairie-Dust and the quest for the Egg”) or it is quite possible the endless stream of “Rainbow Fairies” books (which were her first solo read) drilled FAIRIES! in to her consciousness like some type of crazy thought-reform cult.  Regardless, she had caught a whiff of fantasy books and has since to waver from her chosen genre, despite all my offerings.  She will occasionally read one of my "classic" choices, but usually as a home-school history read, not “for fun”.  Really?

  I remember reading “Where the Red Fern Grows” in Mr. Kaiser’s sixth grade English class in 1977.  (Yes, I'm old.) Being a fast reader, I reached the end of the book while everyone else was still off chasing 'coons.  I remember actually sobbing at my desk, my head bent low over the book, trying in vain to hold back the flood of emotions that tore through me as I read the ending. (I won’t give it away here since my daughter usually reads my blog and I still have hope she will read this book.)
It changed my relationship with books--forever.  Nothing had ever before moved me in such a way.

There weren’t so many choices for reading when I was eleven.  We were what one might call an “undiscovered tween market” or , if there had been the overwhelming choices for fantasy, I might have swung my daughter’s way with my reading choices too.  My "fantasy" reads were “ghost stories” like "The Amityville Horror" and V.C. Andrews books, and I read them almost guiltily.  I knew most were trash, and I usually leaned more towards books with the shiny Newbury gilded to its front cover.

But now, I wonder.  Will enforcing these "classics" just make my daughter dislike them?  Will it be like making her eat French onion soup with quite possibly the same results?  After reading the definitions for “a classic” I wonder if it is even relevant any more, hence the quotation marks.  We are all such creatures of our own creations.  Pinterest, Facebook, playlists, blogsites…we have all become specialists of our own interests, and (I think) people are too busy compiling their own canons, and declaring them sound, to bother playing catch-up. 

I really am on the ol’ fence-post on this one.  What do you think Readers?  Writers?  Do we enforce the old standards on the impressionable young minds of the world, or do we let them revel in dystopian zombie fantasy or whatever the hell else they like to read simply because…they are reading.

 Is that enough?  Shouldn’t it be enough?


Monday, January 7, 2013

On Ditching the Epic Snark

Today is about words-- the clay of our craft, the fiber with which we spin our yarns, and so on and so forth. (Insert suitable metaphor here.)

Do you use your thesaurus whilst writing?  I do-- Unapologetically.  I find that my feeble, aging brain wants to use the same words over and over again, while at my more youthful core, I’m all about choices.  It’s not that I don’t know another word for “bright”, it’s just at that moment, I can only think of the last two synonyms I most recently employed, and I need more options—now please! My brain is cramping!

Our national vocabulary is shrinking.  Compared to say, an Elizabethan Englander’s pantheon of words, here in modern-day America our lexis is dwindling to a shadow of its former self!  Comedian John Branyan proves this point delightfully (on YouTube) where he tells “The Three Little Pigs” in Shakespearean English, making clear the startling difference.  (Make sure to stick with it until the hilarious ending.)

So fabulous Readers, once a week on Mondays--if you can stand it, I shall bring forth from the vault a word that is pining for more usage; a dusty, old workhorse resting somewhere on forgotten laurels.  The challenge?  Simply to use it—merely once that day, perhaps on a manifesto like Twitter and before we know it, we are littering the world with erudite gleanings, enriching the vocabulary of the world, one word at a time!  (shiver!)

Oh--If anyone can think up a name for this super-hero in the making, I’ll use it!

Word for today: 

Erudite:  Having or showing knowledge that is gained by studying.

As an adjective it should be simple enough to work into conversation.  Erudition is more of a challenge, meaning: the depth, polish and breadth that  education confers. 

To finish, I would like to draw attention to some naughty, overused words,  which are hogging valuable space in our brains and in our language.  These words are not only starting to stink like an over-ripe banana, but are taking the place of other words waiting, anxiously at the gate.

Heading the naughty list is “epic”.  This word should never be used again unless the user is referring to a work by Homer. Punishment for usage would be having to read said work by Homer. 

“Snarky” has appeared, not of her own accord, for she is a word of much merit, however overuse is rendering her true meaning—well, meaningless.  I fear this fabulous word will suffer the fate of other like words, such as “bitchin’”, and sometime in the very near future, when one is asked how their Subway sandwich is, the response will merely be, “Totally Snarky, Dude.” So back off the snark, so she will remain ever-fresh and useful at times when only snark will suffice.

“Thing”.  Valuable at times, but it is being used as a poor substitute for words that have lost their rightful place, as in “Can you hand me that…thing over there?”  We’ll just attribute that one to Seasonal Depression and lack of Vitamin D this time of year.  All of you living in sunny climates have no excuse!

“Dystopian”.  I have nothing to say.  (Not being—like, snarky here.)

What are your favorite words?  Do you have any that pop into mind?  Which words do you keep in your back pocket, pulling them out at parties to dazzle others?

Go!  Populate the earth with animated, brilliant words.

 Use use ‘em or lose ‘em, Folks.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Finding Time

So dear Readers, how do you find time to do what you love?  What makes you sing inside, what puts a swing in your step, what puts the “ape” in your apricot? 

As some of you know, my New Year’s Resolution stems from a singular definition of the word itself: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones. Thought I’d keep it simple this year.  Simple is good. I can DO simple—right?  I figured it would help me take a tremendous task like reaching my dream of becoming a published author, (previously referred to in my blogs as “swallowing a rope”) and break it down into small, manageable bits and pieces.  My simple, aging brain can handle that, right?

I think I harbor what must be a rather skewed view of the rest of the world. I envision all of you writers (insert soap makers, musicians, knitters, sewers, etc.) sitting happily engrossed in your craft, a cup of tea at your side, nary a care in the world—in fact you have all the time in the world, right?  It must be only me that can never get to the computer because I have a sink full of dishes, a job that eats up my time, a feisty toddler who can't leave me alone for a blessed minute and a pre-teen in need of a scintillating homeschool lesson.  (Oh—and my husband, did I forget about him again?)   Man—how did I end up such a martyr?  Yoiks!

So today, in the spirit of my resolution, I decided to “simply” Google “finding time to write”, and what an education I received.  I am not alone!  You are out there, dealing with bills, garbage, family, phone-calls, dirty-diapers, fighting children that terrorize you whilst you try to hammer out a few elegantly placed words, all speelled correktly. (There I go again—blaming my lame typing on my children.)

When I read Kristen Jett’s blog at YA Stands (about finding time to write) it really put it into perspective again.  Keep it simple.  Break it down. Breathe.  Quit thinking the world is against you (just your children), and shut up and write already.  Baby steps…Baby Steps….

So Readers, when do you make time for your special something?  Do you stalk your novel in the middle of the night when everyone else is fast asleep?  Do you sit in your car while your kid is at piano lessons and write the next great song? Do you outline your next chapter while you are supposed to be in Biology class?  I would love to hear from you.