Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Break Up with a Manuscript

Hey there, My First Manuscript. [Casually punches manuscript in shoulder and smiles uneasily]
We need to talk.

I Love You Not
(image by nubuck via
We've had this off again, on again relationship for a long time now. You and I both know this isn't going to work out. I mean, I love your humor and sweetness, but it's time we end this thing.  

It's not you- it's me. 

I will always adore your cute anthropomorphic characters, but you know society frowns on them. I'm tired of having to cover up our secret.

But it's not you- it's me. 

I've grown a lot in the last year. Sure, my word selection and dialogue skills have improved, but I can't fix you. It's not fair to you. You deserve someone who loves you for who you are. [Mumbles under breath] I doubt you'll actually find anyone who does, but you never know.

But again it's me, not you.
In fact it's my growing skills that are making me see you in a new light. All your flaws- your flat characters, your sagging middle, your anti-climatic climax- are so obvious now, and I just can't help but obsess over them.

No, I didn't mean it like that. It's not you. It's just that I crave excitement, and you're a tad boring. Not boring in a bad way, umm, boring in a quiet way.

Now, don't start preaching your "if we cooperate, we can solve this problem together" moral. No one likes a didactic message shoved down her throat- this is one of the reasons this is never going to work.

[Wraps arms around manuscript] You'll always be my first love, and I'll never forget how much we've learned together. I hope you'll remember that when I shove you into the bottom of this drawer.

[Closes drawer silently] I know I should delete you, shred you, but how could I be so cruel? Plus maybe one night I'll be woozy from Sharpie fumes, and you'll be back in my arms again.

Any other break ups out there? Oh, how did it go so wrong?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tagging Thyme!

Tag!  You're it! That's pretty much the worst thing you can hear when you're not very fast. Luckily, I was persistent and had a strong enough bladder to outlast my faster opponents for the occasional win at Tag.

Coming out of my shell a little bit...
(by Suzula via
 So when Marcie Colleen tagged me for Tagging Thyme, I was happy to find that endurance (there's 11 QUESTIONS) was going to be more important than speed (she tagged me a few weeks ago. And I STILL haven't gone tinkle.)   Thank you Marcie!

Yeah, thanks for making me share MORE about myself, and not letting me hide in my well-appointed hermit crab shell.  Blogging has been a very healthy experience for a hermit like me, because I've found you have to come out of shell a bit to for your emotions to penetrate your writing. So, really, truly this time:  Thank you Marcie!

I have to answer 11 questions then tag 11 people who would be willing to answer weird questions.  (note I am recognizing at this point that Marcie has picked me for the "weird" team.)

1)  What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten in public?  
I ate a McDonalds Cheeseburger with mustard and ketchup on it, because I couldn't scrape it all off. Even though I hated the taste of it, I ate because it was my BFF's 6th birthday and I didn't want to screw it up. I don't really eat strange things, though I did swallow a bug on a walk last night. I swear I feel wings still tickling my throat. Ack, ack.

2)  If you had to go on an adventure with elves, dwarves, or hobbits who would you take and why?
Of the classes of things I would NOT like to go an adventure with or even really to the grocery store with, the top three would be elves, dwarves and hobbits. The hobbits seem the most harmless, but I think they might want to engage in endless small talk, and I like some solace on my journeys. I suspect elves would be prone to trickery, and trick wars always escalate to a point where no one is cool with it. That leaves dwarves. Since I am shadowed by two small people most minutes of most days, this would be the most normal. 

3)  You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next?
Badgers are strange looking creatures. How could one really tell the difference between a stuffed one and a live one? They are mean little bastards too (pardon my language, but it is the right word for the badger). Is this one wearing the red and white striped knickers of the Wisconsin Badgers? Then, no. Is it snarling? Then, no. Does the taxidermist have a knife? Well, then I suppose I would put it in my lap.

Beware all that fiber- you'll
need a bathroom break.
(by salsachica via
4)  If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
Coffee, though I don't really get Biscotti. That's a lot of chewing per ounce of enjoyment.

5)  In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today? (comedian)
Tina Fey. Her Liz Lemon character was a mirror of me in so many boring, nerdy ways.

6)  If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be?
"Good evening. Let me read you a little tale I wrote. I hope you find it more interesting than Jersey Shore, Hillbilly Fishing, Toddlers in Tiaras, Storage Wars... [Pause. I realize here I cannot compete with such high caliber tubery] On second thought, maybe you could just visit your local bookstore when you're in the mood for a story. Coming up next, help Marilee extract a wedding shoe's 4 inch heel out of her fiancé's ear on Shut Up and Marry Me!"

7)  What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever?
On the water - kayaking or sailing on a lake. Both require cooperation and focus on the experience.
Me with Kit, the Knight Rider car, wearing
what I recall was my best sweatpants outfit.
8)  If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why?
I think David Hasselhoff would be a lot of fun. I wonder if he would pick me up in Kit? Whatever, don't judge me. Knight Rider was the best show ever. Plus, I'm pretty sure David's good on the water after 11 years of Baywatch.

9)  What is the worst song you have ever heard?
There is such a fine line between worst and best. During the holidays I enjoy Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey. It's like having a 4 inch heel embedded in your ear: hard to get out of your head.

10)  If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

I really like it here in New Jersey, but oh to be an adventurer living in South Africa or the Amazon. Perhaps when the fear of contracting some exotic disease and leaving the children motherless has decreased, I'll pursue something new.

11)  Who- in your opinion- was the greatest person to ever live?
Well, the way this question is phrased - in my opinion - leaves me only one choice.
My mom is pretty great, what with creating me and crap like that. This job of Mother is a pretty darn hard one, so she has my respect and love. And she has always said "You should write a book!" 

I need to tag 11 people for Tagging Thyme. Thankfully, I see a few of you have had to take a bathroom break allowing me to catch up to you! Tag, you're it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

All These Voices in my Head

Last summer I posted about my Mommy Multiple Personality Disorder and explained all 7 of my mom personalities including Giant Exploding Blueberry Monster (a bad mommy) and Rapping Mary Poppins (a good mommy.) 

Now I'm admitting I have a writing personality disorder too. Split-Voiceitosis. Yes, it's serious, but don't worry - I don't think it's too late for treatment.

It must have started in the fall, when I was striving for five polished picture book manuscripts (because Tara Lazar recommended that goal, and she's smart.) Finally, I had a solid stack of manuscripts, but then ah, snapadoodle! Each one was totally different. I don't mean the theme of the stories (of course they were different stories), but like written by seven writers with these distinct voices:
That's one messed up writer!
(Image by Lauri Meyers)

1.       Sweet, quiet, lullaby voice that cuddles in blankets and drinks hot chocolate. 
2.       Boy voice that throws boogers and makes mudpies which emit farting sounds.
3.       Pink, glitter-covered, boa-wearing princess voice forced upon me by Barbie-playing, princess-dressing, sequin-decorating little girls. Oh how they pry into my once tomboyish brain.
4.       Slapstick comedian voice with a lot of "nuk-nuk-nuks" and a banana peel on every corner.
5.       Psychedelic pink elephants on parade voice with imagination run wild where you have to actually read the book backwards to get the real meaning.  
6.       Dark, edgy voice which should be locked up tight, because she scares me and it's embarrassing for a grown woman to jump into bed at night so the creatures don't grab her ankles.
7.       Exhausted Mother voice which is my most me-voice. Unfortunately, when mother slips into a story with her morals, wagging fingers, and baby carrots she can ruin a perfectly good tale.

That's when I realized I had Split-Voiceitosis. I could elect the "Pick It and Stick It" treatment method by selecting one voice to take the lead. Or I could just let them all co-exist until one clearly becomes the dominant voice. I just hope Dark & Edgy doesn't win, because then I'll have to carry a flashlight at all times.  

Do you have competing voices? What would you do?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Great Picture Book Rating Scale

With the weather springing into life, I need to force myself to focus. Since I'm a procrastinator, I will do little things on little projects to avoid doing the big things on the big projects. That means I have to pick one (or two, I have a loose definition of focus) picture book(s) to coddle with attentive editing and love.

Unfortunately, this feels akin to picking a favorite child, which is generally frowned upon. As for the ones which don't get picked, I won't make them sleep under the stairs or feed them bread crusts (like my real children.) It just means they will have to be a little more patient and wait until mama's ready to give them proper attention. 

I have been studying picture books and learning how to write picture books, but when the time came to pick my favorite I was still stumped:

What factors determine a picture book's chance of success?

There's clearly an emotional element to the selection; each one is special in its own way (even the one who bangs his head on the seesaw when I'm busy.) The best way I know to strip out the emotion is with a spreadsheet! Sometimes my nerdy analytical side surprises even me.

So I created a rating system, and I will now force each manuscript to run the gauntlet so I can rate them like the wicked stepmother I am! Ah Ha Ha! Halve the food rations! None of you deserve so much crust! Sorry, my brain must still be a bit warped from Spring Break, which btw is only a break for the teachers as best as I can tell.  

Anyhow, here is The Picture Book Rating Scale:

I need your help weighing in on the right factors and the rating.  Am I missing something? Which one is the most important?  Should all the factors be given the same importance?  Could I narrow it down to a few key ones which really make a difference? With your help I just may be able to focus!

(Thanks to Nessa Morris for publishing this post in the Opening a Can of Bookworms April 12, 2013 edition!)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...