Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When Editing Takes a Hike

I've yet to be stumped with a client's manuscript but my own work is another story. Countless hours of staring at a blinking cursor can bring on an obscene level of restlessness. 
Sometimes a bruising run or a long hike under the sun can help, and then other times, I take the words with me. 
The speed is slow, the steps awkward, but problems unravel and the story unfolds, allowing me to tackle the glaring flaws. It's only here, when I tell the internal editor in me to take a hike, that the story gets the intensive care it needs.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Armed with Kindness

Kind Girls Make Strong Women attended Franklin's STEM Community Activity. This wasn't our first invitation but it will forever be the most memorable.

 Two young women, kind and strong, spent the last year dedicating their free time to bettering our little part of the world. Sixty five families were given Christmas, parks were cleaned, the hungry were fed...and so much more.
 These girls were a little embarrassed; they're used to putting the spotlight on others, not accepting it for themselves. They were given two medals, Friends of Franklin and Making a Difference.
They were also introduced to Dignity's Hello Human Kindness marketing team (expect collaboration in the very, very near future).
Earlier today I was driving and blinking back tears. To say it'd been a rough day would be laughable. It's been a rough week and that dark fear of failure that every parent feels was at my side. But then tonight, hearing how these girls touched other people's lives...tears came for another reason entirely. 

That's how kindness works. 
It spreads, strengthening us so that we can turn and strengthen others. After all, kind girls make strong women.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contests and Competitions

 (click on the appropriate links for more info)

2018 Golden Rose Contest
Fee:  April 1–30, $30 RCRW members, $35 RWA non-RCRW members.
Deadline: April 30, 2018

Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing
Parent-Writer Fellowships
April 21, 2018
Entry Fee: 
Cash Prize: 

Whiting Foundation
Cash Prize: $40,000
Entry Fee: $0
Application Deadline: 5/1/18

Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society
Cash Prize: $7,500
Entry Fee: $35
Application Deadline: 5/1/18

Del Sol Press
Cash Prize: $1,500
Entry Fee: $30
Application Deadline: 5/15/18

Cash Prize: $2,000
Entry Fee: $24
Application Deadline: 5/15/18

National Book Foundation
Cash Prize: $10,000
Entry Fee: $135
Application Deadline: 5/16/18

Monday, April 16, 2018

Three Weeks Left

Giving a shout out to all our Dan McGuire Blog Challengers!

Roughly three weeks left and these beauties are blogging to the bitter end. Give 'em a pat on the back (or a comment on their site).

Ann Cook
Judy Salamacha
Srey Khoy
Brent Gill
Isabella Tagore
Judy Kukuruza
Mary Morton
Carla Martin

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Prescription

Harry Potter is my daughter's service animal and hands down, the greatest prescription a doctor could give Rose (she asked me to refer to her as Rose, her new pen name).

At eleven years old, this kid oozes charisma and creativity. She's president of her school, runs the yearbook club and pretty much the entire student body. She's kind, gentle and all that is good in the world but sometimes, her brain shuts down and she stops functioning. This only happens in medical situations, such as going to the pediatrician, dentist or getting blood drawn. A glaze slides over her eyes and she becomes animalistic with little understanding of what took place. 

After receiving a prescription from her psychiatrist, this little beauty hauled Harry to her appointments. He'd lick her face, sit on her lap or give a little whimper to remind her to breathe, in and out until she realizes she's safe. Her ability to function in those stressful moments was all because of a bundle of black fur.

At least, it's supposed to work that way. Rose needed to update her immunizations for middle school next year. Her records showed she was missing a vaccine. We show up to her pediatrician's office, Harry in tow. After changing into the hideous medical gown, Rose's hands started to shake. Her skin broke out in chills, panic on the verge. Harry began licking her when she didn't respond.

The pediatrician walked in and stared at the dog. She backed up against the door stating she's terrified of dogs. Rose started humming and rocking on the exam table. Harry jumped to the table to get to her. 
The doctor yelped, flattening against the door. She yelled for the dog to be removed. Harry laid on top of Rose, forcing her to still, to calm down.
The doctor screamed at me to take the dog out. Harry turned toward the doctor, whimpering for her to calm down for Rose's sake. 
The doctor snapped at me. Harry jumped down, standing between her and Rose.

I snapped a leash on Harry and looked from both Rose to the doctor, not sure what to do. The doctor said service dogs aren't allowed and that she'd prescribe medication for Rose's anxiety. She yelled (because Rose and Harry were too loud) that service dogs were for the blind, not someone Rose (she quite literally said, she has good grades, she doesn't need a dog). 

The doctor then approached Rose for the exam. Rose lost it, and then Harry leapt towards her, trying to do the job he was meant to do. The doctor panicked and shrieked, ensuing complete and total chaos. In one fell swoop, the enormous amount of effort we'd taken to ease Rose's functionality in medical situations was destroyed. 

At the end of the appointment (if I could call it that) the doctor said Rose already had the "missing" vaccine. The office hadn't updated the records properly.

I took my trembling child and her dog home. She didn't speak, her lips gray and her skin ashen. She's still ashamed. 

Doctors are human, that I know. But so is Rose. She kept repeating the law stating no one can take her dog from her (it is illegal to separate a service dog from the handler). 

And so here I am, begging for understanding. Next time you see someone with a service dog, remember Rose and Harry. Instead of judging, be kind.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Critique Central

It's the umpteenth time you've tackled your villain's death scene and all you can focus on killing is the blinking cursor and the pretty adverb you already deleted twice before.

We've been there, shoot, some of us are still there.

Maybe you've even taken the next step and joined a critique group only to find they're just not that into writing. Or they've read your thriller so many times they've memorized the dialogue and are just as blind as you are.

If you're stuck in your critique group, switch it up. Or join a second one. 
If you don't live near any writers, join an online group (or two or three). 

Critique groups force us to do one thing, schedule. We submit on a certain day and meet on another, whether in person or through a computer. More than anything else, critique groups give us a foundation with our fellow authors. 
We write. 
We critique and then we write again.

Click here for help on joining a critique group.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Word Count vs Page Count

Wondering why your agent of choice asks for a word count instead of the number of pages?

Page length can vary widely on the publishing end. If the font is a bit smaller or the margins are a bit wider, or the page size is a bit larger, it will result in a completely different page count.

If the agents and editors (the publishing industry as a whole) used page numbers, the number would constantly change depending on the stage (from the writer's computer to a bookstore's shelf). Word count, however, stays pretty much the same.

Throughout the years, word count has shifted back and forth, especially with genre fiction. There might be a few outliers (Agatha Christie, JK Rowling...) who have much higher or much lower word count than their peers. But, unless you have an absolute slam dunk of a book, you'll spook an industry that has become increasingly risk adverse. 

Even if you opt for the self publishing route, statistics show readers give better reviews (and return for more) with the following word counts.

Novella: 40,000 or less
General Fiction: roughly 80,000
Science Fiction & Fantasy: 115,000 or less
Mystery: 75,000 to 80,000
Young Adult: roughly 60,000

Monday, April 2, 2018

Reverence and Respect

 The entire family sought out historic sites in and around Washington D.C., including Arlington, Virginia, where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier rests. Signs requested silence and I am ever so grateful for the peace those instructions provided. 
  My daughters watched the Changing of the Guard ceremony with quiet reverence. Immediately afterward, we were lucky enough to witness two wreath ceremonies with our rights hands covering our hearts. There are few moments more profound than a bugle playing the taps.
  Damon and I spoke of our grandfathers who'd served but weren't around to tell their stories. We'd already visited and paid our respects to several other war memorials but a living, breathing soul performing for the unknown adds an unfathomable depth.
Not one, but two separate funerals were held that day in the sacred cemetery. It was a gentle reminder of our mortality and the cost of our freedom. 

We paid tribute to the Eternal Flame and other past presidents. The greatest moments followed us, blossoming again each time one of my daughter's asked another poignant question. Their begging for understanding reminded me of all that I have, not just in this country but in my life.