Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I heart CNN... but...

. . . this is a bit much:

CNN is selling t-shirts based off the headlines of the day. As far as I can tell, this began on Earth Day--yesterday. I can fully understand the need to make money, especially when I'm struggling like I am to save few bucks, which is hard in a world of great books and movies, but this is ridiculous! Check it out for yourself--visit and look at the latest news headlines. By a few you'll see a tiny t-shirt icon. Click it and you can buy the headline on a t-shirt. I personally like "6-Legged Kitty Named Hex Needs Surgery" let me put that on a shirt and pay $15 (plus shipping).

It's not just me thinking that this is a stupid idea, right? Have you bought your CNN t-shirt today? The only t-shirt I would buy would have the following headline: "Debut novelist sells first novel for $1.5 million."

Yes, that is a headline I would buy.

In more interesting news: I walked to work today--two miles. For some of you that may not mean much at all and you could care less. Well, poo on you! It's a big deal for me because I had to get myself out of bed an hour early to do it. Not snoozing for 40 minutes was harder than the walk, let me assure you. Anyway, I'm pleased with myself. Pat on back. Pat on back. Pat on back. Now I just have to walk home in the 90-degree Texas heat! What joy is mine.

Hooray for accomplishments, no matter how small. (A lesson I learned from Horton.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day!

So... I'm guessing today is Earth Day. I have yet to do my part to save the Earth, but this may help:

Big pressures....

This past week has been sorta stressful for me. My dad had a pretty big health scare--a mini stroke. It should be "strokes" since he had more than one while at the hospital. The man will be 70 this year. (I'm adopted for those trying to do the math of how old he was when I was born, which was 44, which isn't too old to father/adopt a child now that I think about it.) Anyway... so he was going to San Antonio to have a treatment procedure for prostate cancer when the mini stroke hit. He was admitted to the hospital and several tests later they discovered a little hole in his heart, which they think had been releasing tiny blood clots that travel to his brain. We're blessed that these weren't major strokes that left him either physically or mentally altered. But still... the word "stroke" is laced with horrible "what if" thoughts.

Dad's been put on blood thinners and has a shiny new pacemaker to keep his heart rate no lower than 60 beats per minute. It was pumping at 44 beats before, which maybe normal for extreme athletes, but not my old man. I've always been concerned about that low rate--it's not normal. And no matter how many times he said "I'm fine" or "I feel fine" I still worried.

He was released from the hospital yesterday. My sister says that in his impatience to be free of his hospital bed he was really rude to people. I shudder to even imagine this as my dad can sometimes be the epitome of "grumpy old man" and loses his patience in a flash. But he's cheerful now that he's back home and I'm sure his nurses are glad not to have to put up with his crankiness.

Now that this health scare is over he's certain that he's on the cusp of death. Every time he calls me he asks if I've submitted my novel to publication. In March he told me that all he wanted for his birthday was for me to send my novel somewhere. Wish granted, I sent a query letter to HarperCollins last week only to be told my story wasn't right fit. I told my dad and he basically told me to try harder--that he doesn't have that much time left. What the hell?!? I told him not to talk like that, because honestly, the man is a beast and will probably live to be 120. He's not going to die any time soon. (We all say such things, don't we?)

Our most recent convo went like this:

Ring, ring.

"Hi Dad! How are you feeling?"

"Oh fine. So, have you sent your story to any other publishers?"

My non-verbal reaction went a little something like this: Roll eyes, put him on speaker phone, and open Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Loss Solution in full preparation to tune out the rest of our conversation.

"Um... yes, I've got a few written down."

This is a tiny lie... I have the Writer's Market sitting in front of me, but I haven't cracked the pages yet. I just don't want to hear a lecture. Besides, I'm going to send it off... I really am.

"Well, send it to more than just one this time!"

"Oh, I will... don't worry." My eyes move to the TV where I'm watching reruns of Discovery's Deadliest Catch. I'm big on multitasking.

"You've got to make sure there's action and suspense in it--or mystery. Those books sell. I know you like to read the romance ones, but you should write something with some suspense to it."

I smile. "Yup, it's got all of that."

He repeats what he last said about the suspense and mystery--he likes to repeat himself quite often. Could be old age. Could be a subconscious effort to really pound these tips into my brain. He does the same thing when he tries to tell me how to get out of credit card debt. The lectures get really old.

"You'll sell at least one copy--mom and I will buy one!"

We laugh.

"I want to read something you've written--I don't have much time."

What the hell?

"Ummmmm.... Ooooookkkkkkkaayyy. Let's talk more positively."

Dad doesn't elaborate and I suddenly have fears that he's not telling the whole truth about his condition. Suddenly I feel this immense pressure to find SOMEONE who will want to publish my popular novel. Anyone? I mean, I don't want to let him down. I want to be a "success" before he dies, which he makes it sound like it will be tomorrow or something. I am ever the optimist--Dad's gonna live forever.

That's a lot of pressure to put on your kid, which is not at all unfamiliar in my family. I guess I could tell him that it's not going to happen overnight, although I daydream that it will all the time. Maybe trying is all that matters. But we'll still talk about the same things whenever he calls me. The first words will out of his mouth will be: "Published yet?" Just like his first words to my sister are: "Found a job?" To my brother: "You really need to get off the drugs." To my little sister: "You need to finish high school or you'll never get a job." To my oldest brother: "Have you tried Nicorette?"

The pressures that parents put on us are intense most times. I suppose it's a good thing that I have one who cares about what I do and that I'm successful in it. He could not care at all, I guess. Still... I want to tell him to let up just a tad. And at the same time I think I need the pressure of him "not having time" (whatever that means) to motivate myself to do something FOR myself as much as it's for him. I want to be able to hand him my first novel and see the pride in his eyes. Although knowing my dad, he'd just ask how it was selling.

You can't win sometimes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shot down... oh well...

So... I received a quick turn around on that query letter! And it's a no go... here's the response email:

Dear Writer:

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your work. Unfortunately, your story idea is not right for us at this time. We apologize for the form letter, but with the number of submissions we receive, it's not possible to give a personal response in every case.

But thank you again for your interest in Avon Books; we wish you success in finding a home for your work.

The Editors

It's like getting a rejection letter from an MFA program. I didn't really expect too much, but there was always those hopeful daydreams that it would be easier than it seems to be published. I'm welcoming myself back to reality as we speak. Oh well, this isn't the end of the world... my dad will be disappointed. I'll just try again! At least I tried this time, I guess that's a pretty big deal.

Okay... I am disappointed. Who wouldn't be? But nothing's handed to you right out--I've gotta work on it a little harder. It'll happen eventually.

Friday, April 11, 2008

First attempt at publishing...

So, I've been behind the pack I'm sure as far as it publication is concerned. I think I tried to publish a short story in Seventeen magazine back in high school--like 10 years ago or something. Foolish little writer that I was, I'm pretty sure I filled out the envelop with magic marker or something. Not very profession, eh?

Well, today I took the first step toward publishing and submitted a query letter for a popular fiction novel I wrote a while ago. I'm pretty excited about it--about taking that step. It was an email query, so I should know something in the next 1-2 weeks. The first step is always the hardest, I think. Now I just need that first rejection letter/email and I'll be a real writer! ;) That would be really cool if they wanted to read more though, so I think I'll aim higher than a rejection letter at this point. I hope they ask me for a few chapters and then send an advance to make moving to NH easier.

Anyway, monumental day for me. Now I just need to finish editing the story! :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Writing Groove...

I feel like I've lost a little bit of my writing groove in this whole MFA application process. My mind has been consumed with thoughts and ideas of moving and what September will bring for my life. I've also been consumed with worry about my actual ability. Not my writing ability--but my reading ability. I'm starting to worry that I'm not a very good reader. I read a lot. A lot of popular fiction, but very few classics or more literary-like pieces. I've read for pleasure for so long, it seems like it may be hard to switch to a more analytical mind. It'll be hard to slow down too. I hope to strengthen that ability by buying books--mainly short story collections and the novels/collections by the two fiction faculty at UNH--and reading them--slowly. I started two books this weekend: "Reading Like a Writer" by Francine Prose and a collection of short stories by former students from top MFA programs. I can't remember the title or the author/editor, but it's nice to read snippets of what's out there.

The world is full of inspiring authors--and only a select few of us will make it. That's pretty daunting to think about.

Anyway, I can't find the writing groove that I had a few months ago. I need to finish the story I'm working on and start preparing my mind for more serious writing, but it's hard to get the story out when I've lost the little writing bug that pushes page after page, chapter after chapter out of my brain.

I feel a bit trapped down by this inability to get the words out.

The only good news is that this writing block has allowed bits and pieces of ideas for short stories to come to me. As a novel writer, I figured it may be hard to find ideas for short stories to write for the program. At least I'll have a small little arsenal of ideas to bank from. Accepting admission was supposed to chill me out a bit, but it only leaves more uncertainty--finding a job, moving, finding a job, moving. It's endless and tiring.

Very tiring. Oh well.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Officially Going!

So... I guess it's official now. I've accepted my admission to UNH for fall 2008. This is Hamilton Smith--where I'll be spending the majority of the next three years. It's a nice building--old, with lots of history, I'm sure.
Going to UNH is going to be a huge gamble for me since I don't have funding, or a job yet, but there's a sense of thrill to that. A thrill and a huge fear considering that my expenses now are a bit astronomical. But... it'll all work out, I know it will. In the mean time, I think I need to get a part-time job here in Texas to save up for the move and for the expenses that I'm going to have the first few months of transition. So that will be my weekend plan. I'm thinking of looking at Barnes and Nobel--I'd probably enjoy working at a book store. It'll be ten steps better than that shelving gig I had at the library as a sophomore.
Anyway, one step at a time, I guess. I have about five months to really figure things out--less if I get the job I applied for. That's enough time to make a lot of things happen. I'm excited.

** Work doesn't know yet... I'd like to keep it on the DL until closer to the time I need to leave. So if you work with me and you're reading this--please keep the news to yourself. Thanks so much! **

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Possibly my new home...

So... this is part of the University of New Hampshire's campus. Beautiful, huh? It had been snowing most of the morning and I was walking up toward Hamilton Smith where the prospective student day would take place. So many people were sick and tired of the winter. I guess it snowed over 100 inches this winter, a record according to several people. I may get sick of winter for a while, but I'm really looking forward to a few years of it. And who knows, maybe I'm just made for snow! And skiing... I'm really looking forward to skiing.

Anyway, I only have good things to say about UNH. The people, the campus, the little surrounding towns. Everything was great--I really felt comfortable and at home there. That's a big thing for me too. I definitely want to come here, it's just figuring out logistics: moving and hunting down a job. But... when you really want something, you make it work right? Well, I'm going to make this work. I see the potential of the infant MFA program UNH has--and it sits securely on a 30-year-old foundation, so honestly, how young could it be? I can't not go. I'd be hurting myself. So I might as well send in that acceptance email and start making things work!

More pictures from my trip can be found here.

I can't wait to take pictures in the summer and fall. I'll definitely make a trip out to the seacoast then, I'm sure that it too is amazingly beautiful!


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