Monday, July 30, 2012

I Never Get Tired of Good News

Good news abounds!  I have had a fun couple weeks.  Sure there was one rejection letter in there, but you know it didn't completely knock me down this time.  I must be toughening up!   If you have an aversion to exclamation points, please sit down before continuing (bad habits die hard.

I bought myself!  At the low price of $10, I am a steal.  My name at least- as in ""  Woot, woot!   "But what about the dirty girls?" you cry.   No worries.  The girls are still dirty, and their mom's parenting is still lacking.  More things I am too embarrassed to share but do anyway are bound to occur!

My first page picture prompt got selected for agent critique over at Writing and IllustratingEver since dragons took over London, poor Copernica has not been able to keep up with fashion at all.   If you are a YA writer looking for prompts, please check out Kathy Temean's site.

Lauri Meyers Children's WriterI received the Very Inspiring Blogger Award from EB Pike over at Writerlious!  I love her site so this was doubly good news.  Thank you Erin!  

The award requires me to share 7 things I never get tired of:

1. I never get tired of staring at the kids when they are sleeping.  They are precious.  And the house being quiet doesn't hurt either.
2. I never get tired of a really fabulous spreadsheet.  Analysis, graphs, and spectacular color coding speak to me like music.  Nerd alert noted.
3. I never get tired of the excitement a thunderstorm warning starts.  The sky darkens.  The trees start to sway.  The air is scented with the coming storm.  Then I chicken dash into the house.
4.  I never get tired of swinging.  Well, sometimes my rear falls asleep, but that's different.
5.  I never get tired of really good/bad sci fi.  Did you see the History Channel Mermaid show?  If that and "Revenge of the Chupacabra" were on at the same time, my head would explode.
6.  I never get tired of finding the moon.  It always makes me feel a little better knowing it's there.
7.  I never get tired of pizza.  'Nuff said.

Here are my 7 nominees for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you to these blogs for partying with my blog:

Well, I am going to store up all this bliss, glee, happiness, joy, contentment, delight (I couldn’t pick just one synonym) to pad myself for any rejections that may be lurking at the post office.  Or maybe just maybe, good news will beget more good news.  

What do you have to be thankful for?  Share your good news in the comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Writing Puzzle

My husband thinks I'm a liar.  I talked to him at lunch and mentioned how I cleaned the living room and the kitchen was sparkling.  (I am a bad enough housekeeper that these feats require bragging).  That was at noon.   Now it is five.  And the living room is piled high with toys. 

A pile of princesses is weeping in a destroyed palace of blocks.  The dinosaur pile is attacking the Little People pile.   The kingdoms are divided by the deadly Swamp of Puzzle.  

Every puzzle box has been emptied into the Swamp.  Dora's head floats by an alligator and hippo.  Princess Ariel's tail narrowly avoids a crash with a loose M and a wood 3.   Train pieces and truck pieces add noise to the chaos. 

I love puzzles, but this is going to take some serious puzzle making to sort all the pieces to the correct box and verify no pieces no left behind.

The task is overwhelming and reminds me of the puzzles I am trying to solve as a writer.

There's the social media puzzle, the blogging puzzle, the publishing puzzle, and (oh yeah) the writing puzzle.   There's a marketing puzzle too, but I didn't buy that one yet.  Each puzzle is a good 500 piece puzzle.   And when I step back I see all the 2000 pieces jumbled together on the floor.  

Lauri Meyers Children's Book Writer
Do you finish the writing puzzle first and then start the publishing puzzle? 

Do you complete the border of the blogging puzzle while putting together the twitter area of the social media puzzle? 

Can you do just one puzzle, or must you do all of them?

Trixie in Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny expresses it best when she yells "Aggle Flaggle Kablable!"

When it comes to overwhelming tasks, I guess you do it just like I am tackling the real puzzle pile.  One piece at a time.  You try a piece here; if it doesn't fit, you try again.  You say a little "yay" when you get a match.  And you keep going.

 What puzzle piece are you working on now?   Let me know in the comments.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tales of a Sixth Grade Writer

Lauri Meyers children's book writer

I posted recently about finding my binder with my childhood writing, including my 3000 word story Camp Tak-a-Wak-a which was published in the local paper.  

Here's what my sixth grade self taught me about writing for children:

Action  The action was crazy fast.   It was even a little uncomfortable for an old-timer like me to keep up with the pace.  Tension was created through the tight pace and the tidbits the main character threw out.  "Oh no, not Mr. Hammond!"   Why not I wondered and kept reading to find out. 

Anything is Possible   Parts of the story were not completely plausible for the mom in me, but were totally reasonable for my young self.  She stretched some rules - what is so wrong with a 2AM bedtime?  Part of writing for children means getting to think like kids and letting your imagination run wild.

Main Character The independence of the main character suggested she was an early teen.  It follows the wisdom children want to read about slightly older characters.  She was a spunky leader which is my favorite character to write.  

Characters  I introduced a shocking 12 characters within the first two chapters, not including the 8 animals named in the story.   The adults in the story had child like habits, such as the practical joke loving camp counselor.   I took great care in naming the characters.  Isn't Lolita Famel a pleasantly bizarre name?   

Dialogue  The dialogue was choppy and slangy which sounded just like a real kid.  The dialogue allowed the story to move through a lot of action in a short space.  I used a lot of exclamation points.  In my defense many preteen girls do talk in a sort of squeal best replicated with excessive exclamation points. 

I am the same writer today.  The POV and tense were delightfully clean and consistent, which I still do pretty well if I do say so myself.  In some spots I didn't have the technique to express the vivid pictures in my head.  The plot was, well, let's say, I laid the foundation for a plot in the first chapter, but didn't really fulfill the promise.   Funny enough (or really not funny at all) I still struggle with plot.  I just want to write about something fun that happened.  I don't seem to want anyone to grow or learn a lesson or defeat evil. 

OMG, I am like still a sixth grade writer!!!  (there I go with the exclamation points again...)

What else does the MG reader need in a great story?  Please share with me in the comments. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

     Recently at a dinner party with people I was meeting for the first time I said, "I am a writer." 

     Well, it didn't come out exactly like that.  It was more like: 

Lauri Meyers Children's Books
     "I used to work in a big fancy corporation like you do, but then I decided to stay home with my children, and I thought maybe little old me could try to put a few words on a paper, and now I am sort of trying to, like, write a children's book or something."  Illustration note:   A blond-haired gerbil shrinks a little with each word until in tiny little 8 point font she squeaks, "I have a blog too."

     I waited for the response, presumably "Oh, that's nice dear."   But instead I heard "Oh, that's wonderful.  I always wanted to be a writer!"  Illustration note:  tiny gerbil grows bulging muscles and smiles from ear to ear.

     The guest proceeded to tell me a story about his college writing class.   It went something like:
     On the first day of class, the teacher told everyone to write for ten minutes.  The students shuffled in their seats and stared at blank papers.  They didn't know where to start.
     The next week she tortured the class again with the assignment.  After 10 minutes they dreaded handing in the unassembled bare thoughts they had written.
     She did this every week until the students wouldn't stop at ten minutes.  She had to cut them off.  The teacher told the students, "I didn't even read your papers the first week.  I started reading the third week.  By week five there was actually some pretty decent stuff.   You have to practice.  You have to do it every day."

     I remember my first month of writing when I thought I had three manuscripts ready.  But they were only "week 1" quality.   In the flurry of my 10 Query in July challenge, I have 6 manuscripts I think are ready.  But, if it turns out I'm still only at "week 5," I know what I have to do.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Posting on Clemson Road: How to Stalk an Editor

When Kasie Whitener asked me to guest post at her blog Life on Clemson Road, I was incredibly excited.  Then I realized she must not know I am an Ohio State grad. Or the statute of limitations has run out on Woody Hayes v. Clemson.

To take advantage of her hospitality I wrote a post titled How to Stalk an Editor.  So now we have one of those Ohio State hooligans talking about stalking people on her site.  Sorry Kasie.  To make it up to her please go read the post and leave Kasie and I some nice comments.   

I hope it goes without saying the post isn't literally about stalking which would be illegal or worse - super creepy.   It is about taking the time to diligently research potential publishers (but that sounds boring).  

jcoelho via Flickr
Why do I "stalk," you may be asking? 

1.  It is a good way to spend time when your manuscript is in the freezer chilling before you edit it again.  A significantly better way to spend your time than on, say, housework.

2.  I don't like the whole princess being given away to a prince she has never met thing.  I have the opportunity to learn a little about these editors before I ask them to marry me.  So I should. 

3.  A nice side benefit of the stalking is learning how a publisher will use social media to publicize your book in the future.  Not all editors and publishers are visible in the social media realm. So don't expect them to tweet your book, duh.

One other bit of advice I failed to include:
Set reasonable limits for your research.  You need to have some patience to learn about publishers, but don't turn into Rip Van Winkle waiting to send a query.  Don't let the fear of not getting the research right stop you from moving forward.

Happy Stalking!  Read the Post HERE!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

QUERY - Acrostic Poetry for Procrastinators

Do you remember acrostic poems?   This is an easy variety of poetry for grade school kids, with each line starting from a letter in a word or phrase.  I have queries on the brain since I set a goal to complete ten this month.  As of midnight last night I had done two.  I seem to have forgotten how difficult queries are (or how difficult I make them...)

You may be saying, "Why not work on a query now, fair maiden?"  But alas, procrastinating with an acrostic poem is too delicious of an option.  Plus I am quite certain a little break for creativity will unleash my productivity for the rest of the day.  The 10 marshmallows I just ate will also contribute their fair share.

        Rarely gets

        Quality writing
        Editors to
        Your ms.

        Quizzical looks
        End with
        Your query.

        Questioning the need
        Energy and
        You down.

        You just need to finish the query.

Aye, caramba!   Reminds me of my attempt to write stand up comedy for writers... Now off to QUERY!

Monday, July 9, 2012

In the Middle of the Lake with No Breeze (rejection #4)

My muse locked herself in her room. 

I persuaded her to come out for one blog post with a bribe of mini ravioli and Diet Coke with lime.  Even though we are in a heat wave, only the sweet taste of comfort food can lessen the pain of a fresh rejection letter. 

I was extremely excited about my first rejection letter, even though it was a photocopied form letter.   The second rejection letter included my name and my manuscript title and said they really enjoyed reading my manuscript.   The third rejection letter said they saw the manuscript's potential and included my name and my manuscript title and an actual ink signature!   

Querying was like high speed sailing!  I had a serious rush with each new letter.  And I was moving up the rejection letter ladder. 

Today's letter was different.  It left me afloat in the middle of the lake; no wind in my sails.

Lauri Meyers Children's Writer
(by pale via
When I researched this editor, I wanted to write something for her.  I just learned so much from her site as a novice writer.  This manuscript had the benefit of a critique group.  This manuscript was tailored to the editor's wants.  Or perhaps it wasn't.  Ahh, unrequited love.  

My muse looked at me groggily with belly full of ravioli and burping sweet carbonated goodness.  "You know we can't quit, right?"  I know, muse.  "Ice cream wouldn't hurt either."  Anything for you muse.

The only way to stop drifting is to get some breeze in those sails.  How about a challenge of sending 10 queries in the month of July?  I think I can.  Will you join me?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In Over My Head

Lauri Meyers
Trying something new...
heading for the drink. 

This year has been full of firsts.  First query letter.  First blog post.  First submission.  First interview.   First book review.   First critique.  First tweet.   First rejection.  Most of the time I have been in over my head.

Luckily I have started every new job in over my head.  I had a really pervasive habit of saying "That sounds challenging, and I am underqualified.  I am in!"  I have swallowed enough salt water to fill a killer whale enclosure.   As a result of all these years of dog paddling, I have learned the most growth occurs in the midst of challenge. 

Here are my coping mechanisms to stay afloat:

Gather data.  I can't wrap my mind around where to start until I have some background information.  This has annoyed most people I have worked with.  But I have to do it.  I study.  I research.  I ask questions.   If I am lucky, I find some numbers, because I love numbers (nerd alert).  

Set deadlines.  Even if they are artificial, deadlines help drive action.  Be specific about deadlines.  Try lots of little deadlines to get to a big goal.  So think "complete the fight scene by August 1" rather than "write novel by December 1." 

Procrastinate the deadlines.  Amazing things can happen at the last minute when the pressure is on.  If the motivation isn't there, then wait until the alarm sounds and get it done.  But then ask why you procrastinated - were you scared?  Did you dislike the topic?  What prevented you from getting the assignment done without the rush?

Trick yourself.  Clearly you have no idea what you are doing so you can't just sit down and write an article.  But maybe you can handle the title or the opening line or the ending...whoops, you just wrote the whole thing.   I am very gullible, so this may only work for me.

Think like a rubber band; be resilient.  When you are doing something you have never done before, you can't expect to avoid mistakes.  They are going to happen.  Accept this fact and keep going.  You won't get anywhere if you break with every mistake.

Celebrate the little successes.   I still respond like a first grader to a gold star.  I like to use green highlighting on my plan for completing a task and a little hot pink when an exceptional milestone has been reached.  Throw in a tiny happy dance, and I am motivated to tackle the next challenge! 

The jobs I hated the most are also the ones I would do again because the growth was so exponential.  It would have taken 5 years in a less challenging job to grow as much as I did in 1 year.   I hope I will be able to say the same about this writing journey.  Right now I can only gurgle, because I'm drinking from the fire hose.

How do you stay afloat in your writing career?  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inappropriate Hysterical Laughteritis

Lauri Meyers Children's Book Writer
Let's just assume I was
allowed in the deer enclosure.
   I was a tomboy growing up.  I had an older sister, so all the girly skills were already taken.  She cooked with my mom, while I was out in the garage with my dad pounding nails into a board to make a pretend cash register.  While she was learning to clean; I was learning to mow the grass.

            As a result I got to live on the wild side.  My dad brought me up on the roof while he was installing new shingles.  I was one.  (He says I was in a box, so it was okay. I got stuck in a box a lot.)   He let me make Rice-a-Roni at the hot stove sitting on a stool.  I was four.  He propped me on the railing outside the gorilla enclosure at the zoo.  We'll pretend there weren't signs back then, but I suspect there probably were.   

            I got to ride on the back of his bike without a bike seat or helmet.  One day he was taking me to an evil day care where children were forced to eat peas with plastic silverware (more on this later).  It was winter, but we only had one car at the time.  Not surprisingly, we slipped on the ice and the bike fell over.  I was half trapped under the bike in the snow crying.  My dad was trying to pick up the bike, but he couldn't do it because he was laughing so hysterically. 

            Even though it was a traumatic event, I have never been able to tell the story with the anger it deserves because I start laughing hysterically.  I could tell of 20 other events which all included my dad uncontrollably laughing.  Luckily, it never happened while I was propped up on a railing of a wild animal enclosure.  This inappropriate laughter appears to be a genetic trait.  

            Leaving a lunch date, my 2-year-old ran into the door (um, we also have a clumsy trait).  My friend distracted by the screaming missed her kiddo walk into a puddle in her socks and also begin screaming.  Then getting into the car my 4-year-old somehow wedged her foot under the seat.  I yanked while she screamed.  I excavated the backseat of dolls, coloring books and empty juiceboxes to figure out how she was stuck.  I was laughing so terrifically at this point, I could barely do anything. 

                Oh, the memories!  I hope my girls will laugh when they tell all the stories about their childhood tragedies.  Maybe the memory of me laughing will remind them the situation couldn't have been that bad.
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