Tag Archives: writing community

A Day of Donor Thankfulness

For forty years my body has behaved perfectly.  My nephew’s only did for fourteen.  Within the last month, both of us have replaced worn out parts–him a tendon and me some jawbone.

My utmost thanks goes to the unknown donors who will make our lives–and our recoveries–easier.

My utmost thanks also goes to the known donors in my life.

I thank the writing community at AgentQuery Connect and the daily donations my fellow scribes freely give.  The gifts of time, talent and even treasure are exchanged between individuals who have never met and likely never will.

Thank you, AQCrew and the beautiful site you have provided us.  If it weren’t for you, I would never have met so many wonderful people I call friends.  I wouldn’t have my agent because I’d still be debating whether or not I needed one.  I also wouldn’t have the confidence I now have in calling myself a writer.  You will forever rock my world, and I would give my firstborn son to you out of gratitude if he wasn’t turning eighteen in a few months.

I thank the Class of 09 for being the wonderfully supportive group of peeps that you are.  As odd as some of us can be at times, we make a pretty stellar team when you lump us into one room.  I would do anything within my power for any one of you.

I thank the newest members who join AQC every day in hopes of reaching their dreams.  Your enthusiasm continually pushes me to be better.  You might not realize it, but your donation to the community is invaluable.

Another thanks goes to my blogging friends.  Connecting with you through your writing is always a joy.  Seeing your successes and commiserating in your losses–personal and professional–gives me hope that the world really is a wonderful place to be.

Additionally, the comments I receive on my blog are some of the best donations around.  Some make me laugh, while others nearly bring me to tears.  They all bring me joy and motivate me to keep writing.

And finally and most importantly, I thank my family and real friends (as opposed to my imaginary, cyber ones).  Your support is unparalleled.  Even if you don’t know what an anthology is.  Or should I say especially?  Because despite not knowing how gruelling the writing process can be, your encouragement makes me believe in myself.  I am almost more afraid to let you down than I am of disappointing myself.

Life is full of gifts, given to us in tiny, unimaginable ways.  We don’t always recognize them for what they are, or appreciate them when we do.  We take things for granted that we should cherish instead.  Like our knees and our teeth.  Like our ability to breathe and live life.  We forget that someone, somewhere, has donated a portion of themselves to help make our lives easier and better.

So thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thanks for being you.

hugs~ cat

Common Sense for Writers

The internet is full of blogs and websites that tell us what to do.  As writers, we are especially prone to finding posts and forums dedicated to what every writer must do to succeed

Query advice abounds.  POV, tense and style are big items of concern.  Everybody has an opinion on web presence and platform.  It’s amazing that writers stay sane with all the differing commentary on what absolutely, positively must be done for a writer to succeed in this business.

We can spend endless hours researching our next move, only to find ourselves more confused than when we started.  In my experience, I’ve learned that we create more problems than necessary by trying to keep everyone happy.  It’s simply not possible.  Nor is it desirable.  At least in my opinion. 

I just got done writing my parent handbook for my preschool.  In it, I wrote our House Rules so parents know going in what is expected of their children.  The rules are simple and can apply to our lives as writers. 

  1. Never hurt anyone on the inside or the outside.  Kids pinch, bite, hit or call names as reactions to their emotions.  Sometimes they lash out with the intent to hurt.  Other times hurting someone is a by-product of unchecked behavior.  Writers are often guilty of loading a manuscript with messages or agendas.  We have been known to use our writing as a platform to air our side of the story.  However, our utmost responsibility in writing fiction is to give our readers a pleasure trip.  If we want to rail against abuse, we should write an article for a magazine, not couch it in the form of a novel, because ending our tales as a moral lesson will feel like a slap in the face to our readers.
  2. No Swearing.  A wise person once told me that people swear because they have limited vocabularies.  While I don’t feel this is entirely true, the gist of his statement is.  We use comfortable and familiar words when we communicate.  They might not always be the best choice, but they are readily available and therefore over-used.  When writing, we must choose our words carefully.  Every word must matter.  So, edit, edit and edit some more.  Avoid clichés and shock-value words.  Pull out run-ons and echoes.  Then edit once again.
  3. Respect the Environment.  Kids think nothing of dropping a gum wrapper on the ground or scribbling on a chair with permanent marker.  At least until they learn the impact of their actions on the world around them.  Writers have been known to forget the impact of their words on the environment as well.  It is easy to hide behind an avatar and say something we otherwise would not say.  Anonymity allows for a certain comfort level that invites heated commentary and slanderous debate.  We have a responsibility to respect the world around us and those who populate it.  To do otherwise can make the difference between getting published or not.  In short, the way we conduct ourselves can make or break our writing careers.  
  4. Respect for Elders.  Kids simply must learn who is in charge.  They must learn to follow the expectations of the adults in their lives even if they don’t understand them or always agree with them.  And if they disagree, they must learn to express this respectfully and discuss things appropriately.  In the writing biz, agents and editors are our elders.  We work hard to impress them.  We ask them to spend their time and money backing us.  Yet, writers have been known to spout off after a rejection or a disagreement.  They haven’t learned that respect is earned and that we get what we give.   
  5. Abide by Personal Space.  Everybody has a comfort zone.  Kids will come right up and stick their noses into someone else’s business.  Literally.  Writers, this is a mistake we don’t want to make.  It’s called annoying at best and stalking at worst.  Don’t submit fourteen manuscripts at one time.  Don’t slide your manuscript under the bathroom stall at a conference.  Don’t send a potential agent a box of her favorite chocolates and a picture of you in the buff.  Writing is a professional business.  If you wouldn’t stalk the principal at school or the CEO at the office, certainly don’t annoy the agents and editors who are in charge of your destiny. 

My advice: Know the Rules and Be Consistent. 

Kids want boundaries.  They want to understand how to interact with their peers and their elders.  They thrive when they know what is expected and why.  Kids inherently want to be good.  But dangit all, they also want to have fun.  So do we. 

Writer, know thy craft.  Read books to better understand the genre you are writing.  Then write the story you feel in your heart.  POV doesn’t matter as long as it is consistent.  Tense won’t make or break your story.  Don’t write to a trend.  Your job is to write–consistently and well. 

Tell your story.  By trying to incorporate every slice of advice you’ve ever read, your story no longer belongs to you.  It will be a regurgitated, lifeless lump of words that nobody will want to read.  Even you. 

If you decide to break a rule, do so consciously because you think it will better your story.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But the point is, if you break the rules without understanding them (grammar, punctuation, POV, personal space, respect, tense, etc.) you’re just being naughty and deserve to be punished with a rejection.  If you can justify that certain circumstances require bending the rules, you just might succeed. 

But above all, be consistent.  If you break POV, don’t do it one time when the MC is knocked out cold and simply cannot relate what must be relayed to the reader.  This is a cop-out.  Find a way to break outside your POV in a way that is consistent and works for the story you tell. 

If you must send an agent a box of chocolates, do so because it makes sense.  For example, the recipe is your award-winning concoction that you sell at your own confectionary boutique and will be included in the book because the unique candy is the key to solving the murder mystery. 

But always, and I do mean always, withhold the picture of you in the buff.

What have you learned along your writing journey that you wish you had known before starting out?

So, I’m a snob…

This morning DH got up early to work out.  I got up early out of guilt (yeah, I hate to think of him thinking of me snoring while he’s lifting weights) and the need to write.  Mornings are the quitetest times in our house and my day is so jampacked I knew I would have to write now or never.

Anyway, when I turned on the light, the newspaper was sitting there.  I try not to read our paper in depth because I’m a snob.  But the article on the front page intrigued me.  A few pages in, an article made me snort my coffee onto my keyboard.

The reason: the article was on a class to teach the uneducated about Face book.  Now I have a FB account, but use it infrequently.  Again, I’m a snob and I won’t go into detail about why I don’t use it often.  Let’s just say that the idea of grandpa’s trading crops online is more than I can handle.  And grannies doing the Mafia Wars?

People are addicted to this thing.  It’s like crack.  One of the gals I know won’t eat dinner until after she’s played Farmville.  I’ve seen families ripped apart because Mom Facebooks and leaves the sixteen-month-old to it’s own devices or because Dad hops on for a little dollop of extra-marital spice.  I’ve heard adults say things they shouldn’t be thinking, let alone be doing and airing it for the whole world to see.  And let’s not forget the teens…

Got bombed again last night.  Can’t wait for round two tonight.

How does housework and homework get done?  When does the dog get fed?  And worse yet, when do people really connect anymore?

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Facebook.  In fact, the concept of it and social networking in general is a good one.  However, we are a gluttonous society and we don’t know when to stop. 

I just worry that by addicting Grandma and Grandpa, we will feel less compelled to spend time with a generation that really needs that physcial, human connection.  We will isolate them further and degrade the last years of their lives.

Call me a snob, but there you go.  I would much rather spend time face to face with someone than a computer screen.  I also think social networking has a way of getting out of hand rather quickly.  I’ve been guilty of it.

Do you think the class will give tips on limiting Facebook time?  Somehow I doubt it.

How do you prioritize your computer time?  Do you ever find yourself losing track of real life because cyber life is so enticing?  Have you spent your writing time tweeting about your breakfast, snack, coffee break, lunch…?  Does your productivity in writing and life decrease with the use of social networking?

*Disclaimer: this is not to say that I don’t socialize online.  In fact, I love my writing community and wouldn’t give it up unless it seriously impaired my real life.  But hey, as a snob, I can pass judgement…that’s what snobs do.*

Coffee Grounds–the new super hero

Coffee is amazing.  Not just the black stuff you drink, but the grounds themselves.  I hearken back to my Big Sis’s soap making days.  She used to create colorful bars of perfumed soaps in all shapes and sizes.  But my favorite was always the coffee ground soap.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

Peel an onion.  Wash with coffee ground soap to get rid of the lingering scent.  That alone was enough to keep a bar on my kitchen counter at all times.  And yet, I never thought outside the coffee can with this until a co-worker came in with a problem.

She’s a farmer’s wife and happened to unload a truck full of pigs one morning before school.  In her rush, she forgot to wash her hands with lemon juice, apparently an old stand by, pig-smell eraser. 

I suggested she wash her hands with coffee grounds–a staple in any church.  Viola!  No more pig.

In this way, coffee grounds are almost like a super hero.  Yo, Coffee Ground Boy, come wipe out this offending smell.

Writers can learn a lot from Coffee Ground Boy. 

  1. We could know our strengths, talents and limitations–and how they complement each other.  For instance, coffee tastes good, perks up a lagging morning and is great at eradicating unpleasant scents.  This is a fabulous bonus for CGB.  He is in virtually every household, ready to assist in whatever way he can.  As a writer, I’m usually good for 800 word passages, and yet I strongly desire to publish longer pieces.  The solution: shorter chapters and daily blogging.   
  2. We could be ready for action.  Instead of waffling over stale passages, we could swoop in, cut them out and move on to the next crisis.  Imagine if CGB wiffle-waffled over what to do?  Should I offer my services to the beautiful MC with the mild onion smell on her hands?  It’s not really that bad and it might not turn off Mr. HotPants.  Things could turn out okay on their own.  Hello, we’re writers.  Okay is not good enough.  Not for super heroes or manuscripts.  Get in, get on with it and get it done.
  3. We could be accepting of change.  CGB has many disguises and he allows us to dress him to suit our needs.  He doesn’t balk when I fill my mug with hazelnut creamer.  Instead, he inherently knows that some like it black, others like half and half and still more prefer a dash of cinnamon on top.  As written the first time or the fifth time around, our manuscripts are not perfect.  Let’s put on our big girl panties and thick skin.  There is nothing wrong with allowing others to help hone our java so it is more palatable.
  4. We could spread the love.  Even the smallest bag of coffee goes a long way.  Five scoops equals ten cups of brew.  Ten.  Imagine the lives we could touch if we opened ourselves up to the writing community.  If we engaged in literacy projects.  If we helped out at events.  If we wrote encouraging comments.  If we were more secure in ourselves and didn’t cut down other writers or slam rejecting agents.  CGB would be proud of our big hearts and our accepting natures.  After all, even he knows that Lemon Juice has a place in this world too.

Out of curiosity, how else have you used coffee grounds in your life? 

As a writer, which of these super hero lessons resonates with you and why?  If you had to add to the power of Coffee Ground Boy, what other tips could he give us on our writing journies?

Thanks for indulging in my whimsy!

What’s Community?

I hear this phrase a lot.  I use it often myself.  The Writing Community this.  The Writing Community that.  It is spoken as if the first letters should be Capitalized.  Like the White House or the Swine Flu.

This shows a level of importance.  But what exactly does Community mean?

To me, it is a connection to other writers and industry professionals.  This sense of Community refers to real life connections as well as those floating around in cyber space.  Yet it is more than the sum of my writerly relationships.  It is a feeling of belonging.

Writing has always been a solitary business.  Writers often lock themselves away while drafting their newest masterpieces.  Editing typically occurs in the confines of a private space–whether it’s an office, a closet or the library.  We sit alone typing out submission packages and our trips to the post office are not group efforts.  At least not in my experience. 

Waiting can be a lonely endeavor.  And since much of the querying process consists of waiting, writers need something to keep from going insane.  Hence the Community.

But is there more to the Writing Community than support, waiting games for which AQ is famous for and commenting on each other’s blogs? 

Over the last nine months I have watched AQers come and go.  I hope some of those leaving have reached their dreams and not simply given up.  I pray that the handful of steadfast AQers all reach the best selling list.  They are fabulous cheerleaders, mentors and individuals in general.  Not to mention their writing rocks.

If any one of the core group on AQ got his/her book published, I would stand in line for its release.  But I am one person.  It takes thousands for a sell-through and many more to reach break-out status.  Which makes me wonder, does the Writing Community have a role in helping writers reach these benchmarks?

Is there a new level of support to help debut novelists?  Or is the line drawn when we are asked (even silently) to lay out our hard earned cash?  What about the established mid-listers in our midst?  Do they need something different?  If so, what can the Community do for them?

What steps will/do you take to support the members of your Community?

warm wishes to my writing buddies~ cat