Friday, October 15, 2010

Top 20 Picture Book Agents in Publishers Marketplace August 2010

I don't generally reblog, but thought this was a worthy resource for all you PB writers out there. Aspiring of course!

Top 20 Picture Book Agents in Publishers Marketplace August 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Country Road, Take Me Home...

If you've been following my tweets, you'll know we've come to the decision to move to North Carolina. A home in the country in a town with a population of around 300 is just too good to pass up. All signs point to go. Staying seems impossible at this point, and after a lot of thought and prayer over it, we decided to do it!!

We've always wanted to have an adventure, and move off to a little country town where we'd have wide open spaces and good schools for the kids. And this place comes with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, a Sister, a Dad and Stepmom; even a free house. That's right A FREE HOUSE. Who can say no to that?!

I'm excited, scared and exhausted from all the packing. Six more days and we'll be on the road, driving towards our cozy little red brick home. And if the offer of a home wasn't simply extraordinary in itself; the fam up there has been busily refurbishing it to get it ready for us! New ceilings, new linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, fresh paint and more. Grateful doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. The generosity of family in what began as a hard time for us, has made this feel more like an adventure and a step towards a positive future for my whole family! My kids can't wait to see the snow!!

As for me, I am awed and humbled and spilling over with JOY! I am ready to close the book of Florida, and began the second book in my trilogy of life; North Carolina!! Here we come!!!

Once we're settled, expect more posts here, and manuscripts: get ready to have your selves opened and edited. For now, there's a lifetime of stuff to pack.

In which I take my leave..... *furiously stuffs crap in boxes, tapes neatness and order inside, settles for messy house in the meantime* ;)

Peace!

Monica

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My cookies bring all the boys to the table...

And they're like, it's the best cookie ever.

I have an epic cookie recipe. I made it up myself when I was about 16, and every person I've ever served them to goes crazy. One guy, in all the seriousness he could possibly muster said, "This is the best cookie I've ever had in my life." He looked like he was about to cry. I make them regularly to bribe my Dad and Husband. So I've been wondering......

How can I make that work for me? Here I am facing no income in October and so far neither hubby or myself have been able to find employment. And yeah, that's getting really annoying, discouraging and frustrating. I can't even count how many resumes we've submitted, and only one bite each so far. He was not selected for the position he interviewed for, but at least he was informed of this so he could move on. My one interview so far has resulted in a, "We'll be in contact this week.", with no more contact. And yes it's been over a week. I'll take that as a no, because I have no time to waste waiting for your said no. I've got three kids to support.

We're facing the choice of either moving in with my parents, who live about 15 minutes away, so not too far from our kids' schools so I can still drive them. My son is on special assignment at his school so as long as we stay in the county it doesn't matter where we live. My daughter is going to a private preschool (VPK) so again, no big deal about moving in the county. My parents have a 4 bedroom house with plenty of space and they both do well financially so their offer of living quarters is well within their means. But I am afraid after the novelty of having three of their grandkids living with them wears off, we'll only get on their nerves. They're used to living alone and have been for about 10 years now since they got rid of the last of us kids. Plus, we will lose a certain amount of privacy, which seems whiny but when you've been living on your own for 11 years, feels like a big deal. Oh, and my Dad hates cats, so I couldn't take my kitties. My oldest we've had since he was a baby, and he's 10 now so I really have no intention of leaving him high and dry. He is so sweet and meows like a baby, and is B-E-A-utiful. He's also quite good at killing vermin. Which leads me to...

Option #2. Hubby's Dad's family up in North Carolina has a farm up there, and although not a farm used for their living or big, it's still pretty much a farm. They have chickens, cows and grow vegetables. In the past year or so some of the older relatives have passed, and his Great Aunt's house is unused at the moment, and we have a good chance of being able to move in there and start fresh in a new state. Hubby has a genetic green thumb and he's always wanted to live in such a setting and I think he could do quite well with encouraging vegetables to grow. He spent summers on that farm as a kid and it holds a lot of happy memories for him. I've visited quite a few times and it's really very nice up there, and the people are all so kind. In this city, not so much. In fact as time goes by, I'm becoming more and more tired of this city and the crappy politicians and violence and what not. We've always wanted to move to a new state and have our own "adventure". Is this the window to do it? It's not how we envisioned it to happen; we always thought it would be when we were ready to go, with a big wad of cash. But life can be tricky like that. Plus the kids would have a much bigger adjustment, although much more land to roam free and get dirty like we did back in the day.

Which brings me back to my cookies. I've been thinking maybe I could sell them to make some money for the family, but seeing as how I live in a state that prohibits home bakeries, I'm not sure how I could make that fly. I could rent kitchen time somewhere, but I can't afford it. Catch 22. I know North Carolina allows home bakeries. And I know my cookies could sell, I just need some deli owner to sample them and agree to buy stock for their store. Or maybe open my own at some point. Also, I make super yummy toasty sandwiches, lasagna, shepard's pie, beef stew and lots of other yummy stuff. Yes I cook country. I was raised in the South, so I didn't have much of a choice as far as that goes!

I think I need to sit down and make a pro and con list. You see, we do still have some time, but I don't want to wait til that time is up and then have nothing. I feel like we need to decide something before the feed bucket is empty, you know what I'm saying?

If anyone has some suggestions/advice I would love to hear it. Until then, the #greatjobhunt2010 continues here at our current home. Who knows, maybe he'll land a job that pays good like his last one. Anyone need an IT guy? ;)

*jumps up and down on resume in exasperation*

Peace

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Franzenfreude, gender and I perchance get booted from teamvagina...

Alrighty then. I've been following this "Franzenfreude" craze that seems to be hitting Twitter lately, and I have to say that after some time of silent observation, article reading and reflection, I have now formed an opinion. That being said, it's probably not going to be a popular one among my own sex. But I really don't care about being on #teamvagina just because I have one. I care about going with my gut. And so: here I go.

Jonathan Franzen, author of the upcoming novel, Freedom, got reviewed in the New York Times, and for some reason (and the only I can pinpoint right now is 1.) a seeming lack of equal coverage for female authors in the Times and 2.) plain old green eyed monster) Jennifer Weiner decided to start telling the Twitterverse and NPR about how women authors don't get adequate coverage in the Times, and also insulted Franzen on a personal level in her tweets.

*notices strange bitter taste in mouth, frowns*

In all fairness Jennifer's works have had nods in the Times. She's published eight books and had one made into a major motion picture. Franzen is now publishing number 4, his last one being 8 years ago. So who gets more attention to their works? Well as a newb to the arena, I've heard a lot more about her works than his. (Let it be said here, that I've read neither author. My wandering mind takes me all over the place as far as my book choices, and I haven't stumbled upon either of them yet. But typically I don't go for stories purely about modern relationships and dynamics and so on. I'm more of a fantasy/mystery/thriller/historical fiction/MG/YA/classics kind of reader. The so called "chick lit" category doesn't tickle my fancy.)

Neither does Oprah. Despite popular stereotypes, not all women like to watch Oprah, or any talk show or soap opera for that matter, and so we don't. Maybe I'm an anomaly, but I'd much rather watch reruns of Star Trek and the Science Channel before I watch outlandish drama or talky talkerton shows. It's just not my thing. Maybe I'm a tomboy, but I could care less what category others would put me in because I am who I am, and I like me. For example, I think high heels suck and avoid them as much as possible. I hate girly catfight drama, especially when it involves women I know. Why? Because I always get stuck in the middle pulling their claws out of each other; and the only one to use the logical part of my brain to repair said feline damage. I also don't enjoy bon bons, and I can't stand going to the mall. I do however hate beer, and the seemingly innate ability all men have to listen selectively. The point is, not all women are the same or necessarily like girly stuff.

And so Jennifer, and also Jodi Picoult, make a case for "chick lit" not being taken seriously, and fiction written by men on the other hand, is, simply because of their own plumbing. Doesn't it all come down to your fans and who your agent/publicist knows? And what genre of books people like to read? If they like stories about modern relationships and drama and such with a strong female lead, then they shall read those so called "chick lit" books. And that's cool. If they like dystopian thrillers or horror, then they shall seek out books by authors who write such stories. I mean do we need to create a sub-genre of fiction for books written by men about relationships and call it "dick lit"? I think not, although that's pretty funny. The term chick lit is pretty apathetic as well and I'm not too sure why it's used so frequently.

What I'm saying, and my perspective on this, is why does it matter?? Write to write, and get your stories out there. Share with the world what you've got inside you, and if we likey, we readey. No likey, no readey. Simple as that, and I frankly am tired of the ultra feminist stand against men, who get bashed into the corner cowering, wondering what the hell they did and if it requires the purchase of flowers to correct. C'mon, can we show a little love to our guys? Can we stop taking every opportunity to scold them into the naughty chair for simply having a penis? Because really it goes both ways, if you claim sexism for a dude's work getting more attention than yours because you're a chick, then you are in effect, playing the "sexist" card as well. So put that in your pipe and smoke on it for a minute. Once reflectively stoned on the thought, think about how each other, regardless of gender, is a fellow author and human, and each deserves his or her chance at publication if they've written their hineys off. I call that "buttless lit".

My point, dear readers, is that what the heck does it matter what gender one is when publishing their book? Why come down on another author because their book got more attention pre-release than yours? Shouldn't that equate to your agent/publicist getting you in the press, or not, more than what's between your legs? It is after all, all about who you know. Trust me, the #greatjobhunt2010 has taught me a lot about that. Network, people, network. And you know if you've written something great, your work will speak for itself. Enough said.

And thus I am done and have now been disqualified from #teamvagina.

*takes birthing trophies, storms out the door*

C'est la vie, #teamhumanFTW

Peace!

Monday, August 16, 2010

In which I received my first rejection: on Friday the 13th

On this past Friday the 13th, I received my first rejection letter from an agent. It was a courteous (albeit form) rejection, and to be honest I appreciated getting a response at all. It's better than wondering if you were just lost in the slush pile for all of eternity.

And it's all good. I had a twinge of disappointment, but all together, I didn't feel discouraged as I expected to be. It's ok! I will keep writing, revising and making an effort. After all, a call to write is in the blood and can't hardly be ignored for any reason, especially a frivolous one. And so I trudge on, with carpal tunnel as my constant companion! ;)

On a personal note, I am happy to report my husband as a second interview with a local hospital this coming Wednesday. It's a great position and we're hoping said interview results in an offer! *fingers are crossed*

My niece is stil pregnant and ready to do just about anything to get that baby out. I am getting anxious to meet my little great niece as well! I took advantage of tax free weekend and got all the kids' school supplies and clothes for the upcoming year. One more week to go!

I've been on a reading binge lately and along with job searching, have been neglecting my writing more than I would like to admit. But I just did so the cat's out of the bag! But I am happy to announce that I completed Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and I was blown away by it. I've always loved tragic stories and this one was beautiful, haunting and poignant. Well done, Ms. Brontë, well done.

I'm nursing a bit of a migraine today so I've got to keep it short. Until next time, my friends.

Peace

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Money Mucks Up Everything

So today I learned a valuable albeit crappy lesson. Never get in the middle of two people about a money issue. Especially if they're family.

Basically what happened is this. My sister got married a couple weeks ago. One of my brothers sent a check as a gift for her, but mailed it to me. So I endorsed it, mailed it to her. No big deal. Today she called me and said his check bounced and asked me to let him know (since I talk to him more often). Ok no big deal again. So I did. And he came back with the craziest stuff.

He basically accused her and possibly myself of just trying to finagle more money out of him. Wow. Paranoia is a word that comes to mind. Of course I got my feathers ruffled because I had no such intention; I was only playing messenger. So I shot back some of my classic sarcastic harshness that tends to come out of me when I'm angry. And what did he say? Oh I was expecting a fight, but he folded his hand.

He wrote me off. Over a measly $50 check that wasn't even mine. Basically said he doesn't want anything to do with me. Now that's some serious cowardice right there if I ever saw any. Can't take the heat? He doesn't just run outta the kitchen, he demolishes it on his way out the door. What siblings don't have a good fight now and then? I've had plenty with my other ones and we're all just dandy and know each other the better for it.

It's sad but interesting too, and gives me some insight to all kinds of issues in someone's personality that I can use for my writing.

Live and learn.

Oh and by the way, still no great niece yet. She's still stewing, for now.

Peace

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Freeing my creativity, and a baby maybe?!

So I have to admit this week I'm feeling a wee bit of a lack of writing inspiration. I've been focusing my efforts on assisting hubby in his job search; a most important yet mechanical endeavor. He wrote his resume; I helped him with grammar, editing and formatting. I've been scouring local and internet resources for openings that suit him and submitting his resume to said openings. All this has left me in a bit of a creational void for myself. The few times I've sat down to write, I feel so spent that I come up with nothing. It's important that I focused some of my energy into helping him because it means our livelihood and the continuation of our one working family lifestyle. I love helping him, I just have been so honed in on "job search" that there isn't anything left for me!

That being said, my efforts to help him are coming to fruition. He had a great interview on Friday and hopefully another next week for a position that will pay a bit more than he makes now. So that's encouraging to me because all this real life work has left me tired. I long to go back into my imagination.

Now that the majority of my contribution is subsiding, and all I am doing is keeping an eye out for new positions, I find myself needing, no BURNING to get back to my writing. I miss the satisfaction I get when I sit down, zone out and just write.

The month of July has been so busy for our family; my son's 6th birthday, my niece's baby shower, my sister's wedding, out of town relatives from North Carolina visiting and now we're eagerly awaiting the birth of my Great Niece. I'm 31 and about to be a great aunt. Wow. Things are finally calming down and aside from the birth and continued job search for hubby that's as much as I have to worry about. School starts back up next month so that will give me some more time for writing.

I'm finally through the thick of it. Now I have to put some work back into my own craft. My soul desperately needs it!

**I just got a call from my sister, my niece may be in labor. She just arrived to the hospital to be monitored. I may become a Great Aunt today!**

Peace!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dreams, Master Chief & Book Ideas

Do any of you use dreams as inspiration for your books? I have ultra vivd dreams and have had some pretty amazingly awesome ones, I've predicted events in family and friend's lives, and then I get terrible nightmares.

I had one last night, but strangely this time I didn't wake up feeling freaked out. It was like I was watching a movie while I was asleep. And it was really weird. I don't want to scare anyone, but I will tell you the protagonist was Master Chief from Halo. That was pretty awesome. Maybe that's why I wasn't scared? I knew my boy would get my back.

Yes I am a reformed Halo junkie. When it first came out (2002 I think?) I was addicted. I saw a commercial for it on TV one day and KNEW I had to play the game. This was before I had kids so you know, lots of time to kill. My friends and family ended up getting me an X-box for my birthday that year, along with a copy of Halo. I was *over the moon*! I played that game so much I could beat it on Legendary no problem. And I had an uncanny ability to throw a perfect grenade almost every single time. Plasma grenades stick to baddies too so that was always fun. Once I had my first son I cut back on that activity quite a bit. (Hello reality!) But by then we had played it so much that our X-box would only play Halo; it refused to read any other game. Good X-box.

Said X-box is now dead and in pieces in a brave attempt by hubby to fix it. I'm scared to think if we ever get a new one that I'll then be sucked into Halo 3. Lord help my laundry if that were to happen. Obviously I don't make getting one a priority.

I hope Master Chief comes to all my nightmares, because he is such an ultra awesome BA that I know he's gonna win. And he did.

I've often thought of putting my dreams into book ideas because they're just so wild sometimes. But I don't know that I want to write horror and contribute to freaking people out. Maybe just the happy dreams will make it to my Idea Bank.

Happy Sleep/Writing!

Peace ;)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Love Paper

So maybe I'm weird, but I LOVE the way paper smells. Whenever I pick up a new book to read, I have to smell it first. I love the way paper feels. And I like to write old school letters to my Grandparents, on paper. My Mom said I should have been a librarian and also: I'm weird. To me it's perfectly normal.

How about the rest of you literary geeks? Do you love paper too?

Unfortunately I can't smell right now because I have a cold, which my youngest son so generously shared with me. So no use of smelling abilities, and I also have razors and lava in my throat. Fun!

Also, on the subject of paper, why is it so hard to find stationary now? Maybe I haven't found the right store, but I've combed through a couple and can't find actual stationary, it's all invitations and such. So frustrating!! I think there's a fancy stationary store in the expensive mall, but I'm a little nervous to go in there. It's location alone tells me it'll be pricey and I don't know if I can be trusted in a paper store.

Ok so maybe I am weird.

;)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bride and The Gaggle

What does a gaggle of geese providing a honking serenade during your wedding ceremony mean? Well, only time, and my sister will tell. Saturday she was married to her beloved fiance of three years in a lovely setting; on the water, at sunset and with close friends and family. The geese showed up on their own, and of course right when the nuptials were beginning and the pastor (who is also now her father-in-law) had to pause at each pass of the honking aviary troop. Not just once, or twice, or even thrice; no! But four times! Later my husband pointed out that it was the same gaggle, making passes. Ha!

My sister's heavily pregnant 19 year old daughter served as bridesmaid, and also as lunch for the pile of ants she realized she was standing in. The youngest bridesmaid (and her other daughter) walked not down the aisle, but down the side of the entire scene of the wedding, and swung around as if it was her mission to arrive in stealth and surprise the wedding guests. There were multiple toddlers in the audience losing patience with waiting for their dinner and half of which were screaming. I held my own throughout most of the ceremony. At one point, I looked out over the audience to see my quite large and silly brother-in-law; two toddlers in tow on his big arms, walking and pacing the back of the crowd. The entire time, their musical selections for the different parts of the ceremony kept skipping and we heard the same 2 seconds of the song over and over. It was quite a comical experience, and a HOT one too. It's July. And Florida. Enough said. This bridesmaid was melting.

It made me think about the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte has her second wedding to Harry, and everything goes wrong. She nearly falls on Samantha's pearls, Harry can't break the glass after the ceremony, Charlotte spills wine on her beautiful dress, Miranda nearly lights herself on fire while giving a speech at the reception, and Carrie is in the middle of extreme awkwardness; a thrown out back and a disgruntled groomsman. Carrie reminds Charlotte in the bathroom, that she had a perfect wedding with Trey, but a not so perfect marriage. Maybe the wedding being not so perfect meant good things for their marriage. She succeeded in perking Charlotte up and she enjoyed the rest of the day.

With that thought in mind, I think the honking wedding guests may have been trumpeting their approval of the nuptials and giving them a comedic good luck sendoff. It's true that laughter is carbonated joy. Nothing in life is perfect, and I'm sure my sister knows that from her previous not perfect marriage. She deserves a happy and good marriage, and I'm glad that she's finally got it.

CONGRATULATIONS MR. & MRS. WILLIAMS! The Marriage Geese Approve!

Peace!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Fingers Doth Surprise Me! (and the difference between MG and YA)

A couple days ago, I sat in front of a fresh, blank new word page waiting for something to be born into my world. And what came out surprised me, to say the least. I consider myself to be called to write for children, and so far what stories have come most naturally to me, have all been children's picture books (PB). What I had just written was considered middle grade (MG). So when I stopped and read what I'd just written I had to kinda chuckle. I knew that I wanted to write all kinds of stories, I just didn't picture quite that coming out. But so far it's quirky and interesting, so I'm gonna let it grow. And knowing myself I can understand why I wrote what's considered MG...

When I was a child I was the biggest reader of Beverly Cleary and her "Ramona" stories. Ramona and her crazy antics were my first real book crush and I read every single one I could get my hands on. I have always loved to read, but this mischievous discovery ignited a passion for consuming books, that has never gone out. (Even if I fall asleep a lot faster than I used to when reading; but the woes of a mother, and mine come in triplicate!) Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren was always a favorite as well. And we can't forget Judy Blume! Loved her stories too! As I got a little older, I got more into typical girly type books, such as Babysitters Club, along with some classics thrown in here and there to spice it up a bit.

My teen years brought me into a paranormal type of world of Christopher Pike. I LOVED his books and read every single one he had published up to that time. One of my favorite books remains to this day his amazing Mars horror story, Season of Passage. But I've always been a Mars geek and love a good space story. Then came a phase which I dubbed the "trashy love novel" phase. My name for romance. LOL I then read a lot of fantasy books after the teenage version of my husband introduced me to them, and got lost in that world for a few years. I admit that after this phase I didn't read as much because I was turning into "career girl" and worked 60 hour weeks and spent the rest of my time being spontaneous and partying with hubby and friends.

Most recently I've been into historical fiction, namely Phillipa Gregory and her Boleyn girl books. I'm a history dork too so this was an amazing series of books to me, and timely as well as I could compare it to the show The Tudors. So I'm just coming out of my Henry the VIII phase and ready to pick up something new. Comically, I'm debating whether to read the post-humous publications of Steig Larsson, or to go back to my roots and read some good 'ol MG! That's where the "I act like a 3 year old" part comes in. Plus, I consider it research for my craft! Yep, some classic Beverly Cleary is really sounding appealing to me right now! (Oh! and some classics like Bronte and Austen, see I can never make up my mind! This is where I wish I could instantly download books like Neo downloaded Kung Fu in the Matrix. But without the freaky brain penetration.)

But I digress, I meant to explain to you the difference between the categories of books for younger readers and went on a trip down literary memory lane. Basically, picture books are for the little ones, typically birth to age 6, chapter books are for the earliest readers age 6-8, MG is for ages 8-12, and YA is for 12+. MG has around 20,000 to 40,000 word count, while YA has in the range of 75,000. Check out for an explanation from someone in the biz: Pimp my novel.

YA has more edgy themes and mature issues since these books typically appeal to high schoolers. MG is more for the late elementary to early middle school aged kid. These are more innocent and typically deal with the protagonist's inner turmoil, while YA addresses how they deal with the outer world and their impact upon it. And so when writing for kids, keep these age brackets in mind so you don't get too mature for a younger audience, or too boring for the teen audience. And all kids love to read stories they can relate to, so keep that in mind. Me, I'm going to indulge my spontaneous creation of an MG tale. This is going to be FUN!


Til next time, I'm off to be a bridesmaid today!

Peace ;)

Friday, July 23, 2010

When it rains.....It Ain't Playing

You know the old saying, "bad things happen in threes?" Well we hit number three yesterday. Here's what happened:

1.) Lost the diamond out of my wedding band in a waterpark last week

2.) Lost my Pell Grant over bureaucratic red tape at local college, appeal denied. (Despite 4.0 GPA)

3.) Hubby lost his job yesterday.

At least he's able to work 2 more weeks and then is being offered a generous severance package, so it isn't abrupt. Which I am very thankful for considering he's the SOLE breadwinner. That's right. I currently do not create any income. I'm working on it, and hence my diving into the slush pile. But I know that can take quite some time to come to fruition. And so I am now faced with the possibility of having to rethink our current way of life, and possibly return to the rat race myself. Not something I want to do, considering my youngest is only 20 months old and I am personally uncomfortable with daycare. We had tried the two parent working family setup before and it didn't work for us. My oldest son at the time was just about a year old and for the 7 months I worked (while pregnant with my daughter) he had severe ear infections the whole time. I'm talking 105.4 degree fevers, blood busting out of his ears, middle of the night screaming sessions, and barely a few days between illnesses. He had tubes in by 16 months and it was really scary for us. We hated seeing him so miserable and felt helpless at times. There were many nights in the ER, and many many scripts that poor kid had to endure. I eventually quit and took him out of daycare, and what do you know, his health improved dramatically. So the thought of putting my baby in daycare gives me chills.

My husband is amazing, and didn't deserve to be let go, but alas the company he's been at for 6 years is hitting some financial issues, (and who isn't in this economy?) so they had to make some choices. He and about 5 other people were let go yesterday. I have been having a nagging feeling it was coming, and so did he, to an extent. But he's got 11 years of experience in his field, (IT) he's smart, professional and a people person, so I'm confident he can find something else soon. And his company offered letters of recommendation and gave him rave reviews; there were even some tears. It's hard for me too because back in my pre-mother days I used to work there. The place is more like family to me, and I'll miss seeing them all too. It was a good run, and we met some great people. :( **Shedding da tears....**

I will continue to be his biggest supporter and do whatever I can to help him and our family. I've decided to assert myself to the fact that this CAN be a positive thing for us, and perhaps lead him into a brighter path for our collective future. And I will keep writing, and getting my work out there. But my practical self that I like to ignore gently reminds me that it's time to dig out the ol' resume, dust it off and have it on standby.

Here's to the future. I may not know what it holds, but I wil face it with determination, positivity and faith!

Love to you all!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Struggling Readers

I find it ironic that as one who has always been a naturally avid reader, I have a struggling reader. My now 6 year old son finished his excursion through Kindergarten last month, and let me tell you it wasn't an easy ride; for him or us. In fact is was downright stressful. He is a smart kid, don't get me wrong. But it's hard to get and keep his attention and you have to really be fascinating for him to stop and listen. All year long he was having trouble in reading and he just barely passed by the skin of his teeth. And that was with special before and after school tutoring programs. That's a lot for a 5 year old! I'm proud of him to say the least, and we've been working diligently over the summer to improve his reading skills. I feel like he's coming along, but I do still worry about how 1st grade is going to go.

As a parent you don't want your children to struggle or feel frustrated, especially so young. I remember being in Kindergarten and it was a magical time for me! It was easy and fun and full of arts and crafts and activities. But I also remember being able to read before I even went into Kindergarten. It's hard to explain, just that for as long as I can remember, I've been able to read. I think therein lies my own hardship with my son's struggles. How do I convey something properly that has always come to me so naturally? I've never had to explain "how" to read and so it's new territory for me too! We've had some help along they way, and trust me I've researched and read all about how to teach your kids to read!! He just hasn't had that "aha!" moment yet, but I know it'll come! And whatever happened to nap-time? Why did they get rid of that again?!

In Florida where I live, they have Voluntary Pre Kindergarten, where they do a free public PreK program at a provider of your choice. We put him in VPK at a local church (curriculum was secular), which was absolutely amazing! He loved his teachers, he formed friendships and he was engaged and HAPPY! He would chant, "Preschool! Preschool! Preschool!" on the way there in the morning. It was a 3 hour a day program and just enough. The bonds he formed there were really special and his little sister (who's 4) has the privilege of attending the same preschool this coming fall. And she is so excited because she already knows the teachers! Preschool has become the new Kindergarten.

Fast forward to Kindy and almost every morning I'm peeling him off the floor as he's crying telling me he doesn't want to go to school. He would go on and on about how the days were so long (6 hours is a lot for a kid who thinks and moves in the realm of quantum) and he didn't have fun and wanted to stay home. Came to find out that he was having some bully troubles and such and so we got him into a better (meaning smaller) school towards the end of the year. He thrived at that school, and fell in love with his young and pretty teacher. Not to mention she was super dedicated to helping him, and I have to give it up to her. She really made the big impact on him he needed. He started to make a turn for the better and really started to make some headway! He would tell me how nice she was, and even said she was "Beautiful"! Maybe that's the key. Give these boys who are struggling a pretty, young, engaging and sweet teacher! Maybe then they'll pay attention!! ;) LOL Thank you, Mrs. Orr!

So we keep reading and trying and bit by bit he's piecing it together. The pressure from the school systems today can be a lot for little kids. I could sit here and complain about the pitfalls of public school, but it works for our family. Despite some of the negative things you could say about it, it has a lot of benefits as well. Private school is out of my reach financially, and homeschooling is not for me. I don't put one over the other, in fact one of my best friends home schools her kids and I think she does a great job! I need to have my own thing; hence my writing. And so we use the resources we have available, and that happens to be our public school system. There are still good teachers in the system that really do care, and I think that's what makes the big impact. A good teacher! I have faith that "aha!" moment is on the horizon and it'll get easier for him. Plus I heard his beloved teacher has been moved to first grade! *Fingers Crossed!!*

Oh and did I mention he's a whiz in math? Maybe he can teach me a thing or two there!

Here's some Struggling Reader resources that helped us:

Reading Rockets

The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading

Starfall

And of course, our public library!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Waiting Game

Well I've gone and done it. I've gotten my first children's PB manuscript completed and polished after at least 1 million revisions, and sent it off into the so-called "slush pie". I'm hoping it doesn't just sit and coalesce in the slush; I feel confident it's a highly imaginative children's story and has the capability to sell to the younger market. Not to mention the potential for an illustrator collaboration! I have absolutely no abilities in the area of visual art so if it's accepted, that is a key element I will need. I've spent a lot of time researching the market and agents and finally sent of a total of 3 queries so far. I've heard it's a rare thing to get a "Yes!" on your first query so I'm hoping I can at least get some constructive feedback from the agents. It's a humbling thing in the least to be in this position and I feel honored to at least have a sliver of a chance to contribute to the world of books!!

It can take years to get an agent or to even get published, but for those of us who simply LOVE to write and create magical tales for the awesome kids on this planet, then it's a waiting game I'm willing to play! There's so many great books out there already so it can feel really intimidating to be up against such kid lit genius, but confidence is the key! Perseverance is a must as well, so for anyone aspiring to get published, keep at it!! Keep writing, keep revising and be open to change. If you get a no, that's ok because that no may be accompanied by some solid advice to hone your story. Listen to it! The agents in the business know the market, and they're a doorway to the publishing world. Unless you've got connections with a publisher already, you need an agent!! Do your research and make sure they're reputable, and remember NEVER pay an agent up front! If they make and offer of representation, and sell your manuscript, they typically take about 15% off of the deal. That's where they get their paycheck, so they're highly motivated to pitch your manuscripts! Check out this article from Editorial Ass.

Keep writing, keep imagining and don't give up. There's nothing more satisfying than to create something that can do good in the world. If you could use some brushing up on grammer consider taking some online classes or workshops. Also, if you write for kids, consider becoming a member of SCBWI. Go to a conference, mingle and meet the pros in the business. Join a critique group. Just remember to stay true to your craft, and continue to grow and learn!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Time

So how does a busy Mom with three kids under 6 (or more!) find the time to nurture a budding writing career? Easy. You make it. If you're serious about your craft (and passionate) with a gift for the written language, then it's something you do instinctively. You may only get 20 minutes here, an hour there, but add all those spurts up, and it pays off. You make the time you need to work on your pieces. It doesn't hurt at all if you have a husband who supports you, and tells you to go sneak off with the laptop for a couple of hours while he manages the circus. Yeah, guys like that rock and if you've got one, consider yourself lucky. I know I do! Here's a few tips to help out those of you stuck in kid chaos:

1.) Get organized and designate. Put all your writing research and tools in one place and go through them. No it's not fun, but it's essential. Organize the files on your computer and bookmarks too. A cluttered medium is of no help to you! Find a spot to call your own as well. You need a place to feel comfy. It'll help get those creative juices flowing. If you don't like working at a desk, use your lap. Laptops are an invaluable tool and I suggest you invest in one!

2.) Fit writing in during natural lulls. Your kids have to sleep at some point. Write when they nap, or before they wake up if you're an early bird. God knows I'm not, so that's a window I never use. They also have to eat, which requires them to put food in their mouths preventing sound from escaping, and a welcome break to your ears. Take advantage of that chowing down and grab your notepad or laptop. If you aren't zonked at the end of the night, this is a perfect time to zone out and write away. Use it! Just don't neglect your dear husband if he so beckons you... ;) (It'll help decrease stress and send you on a natural high!)

3.) Have a weekly night off. Hubby made your kids with you. Let him take over night-time routines once a week (or more!) after he gets home from work. Let him get changed and de-stress, then take off. Go to a park or a Starbuck's or somewhere with Wi Fi if you need it. Go to a single girlfriend's house. Sit in your car or lock yourself in your bedroom! Go wherever you feel comfortable and inspired.

4.) Make it all go away. Someday's it can be hard to find a break. So make one. If you're anything like me, it's almost impossible to write with Dora the Explorer, a hungry toddler obsessed with popcorn and, "Mommy, he pulled my hair!" all blaring at you at once! Set those kids straight, turn off the TV and give them something fun and creative to do. Or send them out in the backyard. Nature has a way with kids and you'll soon find they'll explore their surroundings rather than ways to assault each other. Load them all up in the car and dash off to the park, laptop in tow. They can play, you can write and the sounds of their screams drift off in the wide open spaces!

5.) Say Ommmmmm. If you've got a Mac, and you need more extreme zoning out assistance, then try Omm Writer. It's a cool and simple word processor with soothing backgrounds and meditative music. Stick your ear buds in and you're off in another world, spinning your web. It's an awesome tool if you can't seem to find that solitude you seek.

6.) Put them in preschool. If you've begun to make some returns off of your articles, books or other pieces, consider putting the youngest ones in preschool. Maybe your oldest kid(s) are in school during the day, giving you more time by streamlining your kid load. If you can afford it, put the little one in a half day program a few days a week. Local churches are good sources for this and typically provide high quality care. A good sign of an actual preschool and not just a daycare: they only provide half-day care. This tells you they're in it for the education of children not to babysit and take all your cash. If you need full-time care and your writing is on that kind of level, then live it girl! There's no shame in growing your career, just remember why you stayed home with them in the first place. In the words of my husband's wise old Grandpa (God rest his soul), "There's nothing like a mother!"

Once you start making it a priority, I'm sure you'll settle into a routine and come to recognize a spurt when you see it. Don't give up, keep practicing and write, write, write! That book won't write itself, so stop thinking about it and do it! Now stop reading this and go write. I am!