Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tweet Me A New Book

OMG: It Snowed.

Like, it’s snowing.

Did you see the snow?

Yay, snow!

If you’re annoyed with these bite-sized updates, consider how annoyed agents and editors are when they see the same dang story cross their desks, one query at a time.

If you think of your novel as a tweet, you can see very quickly how easy it is to get lost in the never-ending updates that inundated facebook and twitter by area residents yesterday as the snow took many of us by surprise.

So how do we stand out in an agent’s or editor’s crowded inbox? We tweet something new and original. Something like, “Thanks for the message on my windshield, Jack Frost!” We don’t use the same tired phrases to convey our thoughts. Nor do we use the same tired perspective.

Rachel Kent at Books and Such Literary Agency explains the key to giving your novel that added twist of freshness.  As usual, her tips are spot on.

Writer, Stina Lindenblatt takes this idea one step further by providing insight into how to properly use backstory. Because a glob of backstory can be as off-putting as an inbox full of weather reports.

How do you stand out in a crowd? What tips do you have for keeping your writing as fresh as the first, unexpected snow?

Curious minds want to know.


Self-Awareness: a writer’s greatest asset

The other day, my little boys and I worked on behavior modification. “Youngest,” I said, “what can you change about yourself to make it easier for your family, your teachers and your friends?”

With no hesitation, my eight-year-old said, “Anger management.”

Surprised he recognized this as his big behavior issue, I kept my face blank and my voice calm. “So, you need to work on anger management?”

With a sigh and all the honesty that such a small child can muster, he replied, “No mom. I need anger management classes.”

At this point I nearly wet myself–but I didn’t. “What does that mean exactly? What do you need to work on?”

“You know, pinching, hitting, kicking, screaming, squeezing….”

I wonder how long he would have tattled on himself if I hadn’t interrupted. I also wonder why we adults fail to have such a clear vision of ourselves and our down-falls.

Imagine what we could do as writers if we sat back and really took a look at the motivations behind our behaviors. What would happen if we isolated those behaviors into a single modification plan to increase our level of success?

At an SCBWI writer’s conference I attended this past weekend, literary agent Karen Grencik basically asked that question. After speaking on inspiration, she gave us an assignment: figure out the greatest lie you tell yourself that holds you back from reaching your potential.

Ugh. If only I’d had Youngest’s introspection at that point. But I didn’t. It wasn’t until my five-hour drive home from the conference that I realized the answer. It was a humbling experience to finally figure out what holds me back and why it has such a strong hold on me. It won’t be easy to debunk the myth and move past my motivational block, but it will be well worth it. Maybe even more so than Youngest learning to keep his fists at bay.

Thank you Youngest for showing me how to take a hard look at myself. And thanks to Karen for asking the question that made me do it.

What about you, dear readers, what myths and lies do you carry around that impact your level of motivation and success?

Curious minds want to know.

Writing and Real Life Inspiration: One Leg at a Time

Another successful marching band season has closed for Dear Daughter. Likewise Middle Son’s football team finished the year with 1 loss. (Don’t tell anyone, but it might help that he has an ex-pro-football player as a coach.) Regardless, it was a busy Saturday for our little fam.

But it wasn’t the wins that inspired me. What impacted me far more than Dear Daughter catching her rifle after five mid-air rotations or Middle’s touch down on the last drive of the game was a young gal from another band.

She had a prosthetic leg from the knee down. And yet, she was out there on the field dancing, tossing flags and marching to the beat of the drums. All with a smile on her face.


Remind me as a mom never to let my kids take the easy way out when they are pouting about someone getting more football passes than they got. Remind me as a writer never to let another person’s success get in the way of my own ability.

Writer’s block be damned. If a young lady can learn to toss a flag on one foot, I sure as heck can pen a few hundred words. And then a few hundred more.

Ohhhh, how easy it is to bemoan our writing rejections or to blame the wind for missing a tossed flag. Better that we give up and quit trying than to complain incessantly. Seriously, it gets old after a while.

Better yet that we should buckle down and move toward our dreams one step at a time.

I thank this young lady for silently reminding me of my blessings and my short-comings. May I do her justice in my daily writing life.

How about you? What events have inspired you over the years to be something or someone better? Please share your tales of standing tall despite the odds.

Curious minds want to know.

Some Days Are Like That

What are your writing woes? Your real life ones? What makes you grab your head in frustration when the rest of the world parties on? And more importantly, how do you pick up your tambourine and join in when that’s the last thing in the world you want to do?

Curious minds want to know!

United We Stand: In Orange!

If you’ve ever been bullied, seen someone bullied or care about someone who has been bullied, please make a stand against bullying by wearing orange on Wednesday, October 10th, otherwise known as Unity Day.

During an entire month dedicated to the prevention of bullying, I feel it’s important for people to fully understand the effects of bullying. Kids are bullied for many reasons including: race, religion, gender, sexual preference, athletic ability, glasses, braces, zits, clothing, grades, etc, etc, etc. And while kids can be cruel, the greater problem may lie with those who stand by and allow the bullying to take place.

Don’t be that silent witness. Stand up and say, “No more!”  Do your part to give people the respect they deserve.

In preparation for Unity Day, I’m going to share my Dear Daughter’s competitive speech piece from last year. While it specifically speaks about LGBT harassment, the truths found within are universal, particularly since many children are targeted for their perceived homosexuality despite being straight.


It is not about sex. It’s about getting up in the morning. It’s about going to school. It’s about acing that chemistry test. It is not about sex; it’s about being who you are and loving who you want.

Yet for many teens, sexual orientation makes them a target for ridicule, degradation, and harassment.

Lawrence King was such a teen. When he openly admitted his homosexuality, his classmate shot him twice in the back of the head from point-blank range. He died in front of the computer as he worked on his English paper. Lawrence was only fifteen.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, known as LGBT, deserve the basic human right to live free from persecution and the subsequent harm that comes from being beaten down and disrespected on a daily basis. They deserve the basic right to live like any other student across America.

Let’s explore how homophobia creates a vicious cycle of bullying, escalation of self-harm, and continuance of behavior that can only be alleviated by education.

Mental Health America states, “Homosexual teens hear gay slurs such as ‘homo’, ‘faggot’, and ‘sissy’ up to 26 times a day.” That’s once every fourteen minutes.

This has a profound impact on a student’s perception of self-worth and future success. According to the organization, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays , “Growing up and getting through high school can be challenging for any student, but LGBT youth too often face additional obstacles of harassment, abuse and violence.”

These difficulties are often under-addressed. A 2009 National School Climate Survey revealed that nearly 85% of LGBT students reported being bullied. More than 64% failed to report it for fear that nothing would be done.

Unsurprising, since we know that bullying for any reason often fails to gain appropriate attention. Consider the case of Gretchen Miller who was bullied for her weight. Gretchen sought help from the principal, only to have her tormentors remain free and able to continue their bullying. Eventually, Gretchen quit school.

The choice to drop out is even higher for LGBT youth who skip school rather than face being ostracized. A missed class quickly turns to missed days. On average, 30% of LGBT students skipped school at least once in the past month compared to only 6.7% of students in a national sample. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network cites bullying for lower GPA’s and higher drop-out rates.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Besides decreased school success, homosexual youth may fall into a pattern of escalating self-harm. They participate in risky activities, and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol than their straight peers.

When illicit chemical use no longer dulls the emotional pain of being bullied, LGBT students may inflict physical pain on themselves through cutting or burning. This type of self-harm provides a tangible outlet for the turmoil within.

Still others don’t stop there. Gay Pride Inc. estimates that 1/3 of LGBT youth attempt to take their lives each year.

Kids as young as 11 have decided the abuse was too much. Carl Walker-Hoover was called gay on a daily basis. On April 9th, 2009, he was found dead. Carl had hanged himself. But the thing about Carl: he never openly said he was gay. People just assumed and bullied him to the point where he thought suicide was his only option. Carl never got to truly figure out who he was; he wasn’t given the chance to be himself.

Sometimes bullied youth do more than internalize their despair. They redirect the ridicule onto others or retaliate against their attackers, turning into bullies themselves. Violence is escalated and the perpetual cycle of harassment, prejudice and hate continues.

Like most discrimination, fear drives the way we treat each other. Common sense doesn’t dictate our actions. Education, or the lack thereof, does. The history of prejudice in our country is rich: the Irish, women, Indians, and African Americans.

“What people don’t understand they will torture.”

Though these words were spoken by Mel Piche, a contemporary young lesbian, they could have been spoken by Rosa Parks. Her historic arrest prompted individuals of all races to boycott city bus lines and advocate for the equal rights of all people.

We have a long way to go.

Today, the LGBT community faces fear and misunderstanding. Fear that homosexuals are pedophiles. Fear that all homosexuals do is have sex—all day, with anyone. Fear that homosexuals want to convert us all.

Fear that if we accept those different from us, the moral fabric of society will unravel.

Sound familiar? This fear, this myth, is the very same argument used against abolishing slavery.

Blacks—with their different skin and different traditions—were deemed unworthy of respect and freedom. Their “otherness” granted the close-minded permission to ridicule, degrade and control them.

As history proves, civil rights are not guaranteed. Only through education can we understand that different is not bad. Only through education can myths be dispelled and fears be laid to rest. Only through education can bullying against the LGBT community be stopped.

Educators must be trained to effectively deal with incidences as they occur. In a 2010 report based on a New York City Department of Education initiative, 9 of 10 teachers who participated in the LGBT Educator Training Program changed the way they dealt with bullying, creating a more welcoming and safe school environment for all students, regardless of gender orientation.

According to the 2010 collaborative project between the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, only 4% of principals surveyed reported that training on LGBT issues was provided to staff in their school district. This leaves 96% of schools undereducated.

Student/teacher organizations such as the Gay and Straight Alliance can strengthen the image of a united front within the school. When students and educators no longer stand by as passive participants, bullies lose the upper hand. This will create a new atmosphere. One where respect is expected, accepted and strived for.

Yet we all know teens do not like to listen to authority. We want to figure things out for ourselves-or at least be told by someone reputable, who gets it, and gets what it’s really like.

At fourteen, Jonah used a series of notecards and a video camera to tell his darkest secret. He was gay. He didn’t take it to the school board, he didn’t talk to his friends, he didn’t even tell his mom. He let himself get bullied. The summer before eighth grade, he decided enough was enough. He made a video outlining his experiences. Suicide was an option for him, but Jonah realized he had a million reasons to be here.

By putting his video on the internet, his message touched many lives. People who didn’t think they could make it found their strength after watching this fourteen year old boy find his. Thanks to him, Jonah and so many other people can now love who they want and be happy with who they are.

They will have earned the respect to live free from ridicule, degradation and harassment-at least from themselves.

As you can see, it is not about sex. It’s about understanding, safety, support and education. It’s about the basic human right to live free from fear and prejudice.