Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer's here! (almost)

Today is my last day of work until August! Tomorrow is the last day of school. And yesterday, the weather actually felt like summer (fitting for Memorial Day). It was warm and humid and wonderful, even though I ended up in bed with a migraine for three hours in the afternoon. The thing about pain, though, is that once it's gone I feel twice as great as before it showed up.

I am very much looking forward to summer and hope that it will be as pain free as possible. I have no major plans besides reading a lot, writing a lot, and most importantly, spending lots of time with my kids. We're planning on heading to Minnesota for a family reunion in June, and my two girls and hubby will be going on a church trip in July, but no big vacations planned this year (unlike last year's big road trip, which kinda seems like it was only last week).

What are you looking forward to this summer (or this winter, for my readers on the southern half of the globe)?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

facing rejection

One of the questions I was asked at career day a couple of weeks ago was this:

"How do you feel when you get rejected?"

This is a hard question to answer simply, because there are so many emotions involved. And even those vary depending on the type of rejection it is.

There's the standard "no thanks" form letter. These letters cause an immediate, yet temporary, emotional deflation. My shoulders sag, my heart settles a little heavier in my chest and I get quiet and pensive. Then comes a decisive moment: Give the story another hard look? Or send it out again? The answer will depend on a few things, including how many times the story has been sent out and what (if any) kind of feedback I've received. But once a decision is made, I feel energized!

Then there's a step up from a form letter. It's still a pretty basic "no thanks" letter, but with the added courtesy of a personal address and actual signature (in snail mail replies, anyway). In the case of this kind of rejection, there's still the temporary emotional deflation. But my shoulders sag a little less. I think this is because seeing "Dear Rebecca" shows me that someone took at least a little time to make it personal.

A rejection that includes actual feedback (we liked _____ about your work, but...) is also disappointing. But the disappointment is tempered by the fact that THEY LIKED SOMETHING ABOUT MY WORK! It gives me hope that I'm doing something RIGHT and could help me fix what I might be doing wrong. Occasionally this type of rejection includes the delightful phrase, "We would be happy to see more of your work." Even better!

The worst type of rejection is the one that follows a reply like, "We would like to hold your story for further consideration," or "Yes, please send the full manuscript. I would love to keep reading." Even though I know that those replies are not a definite "yes," it is so easy to get my hopes up. So, to receive a letter later that says something like "...ultimately, we decided that this story does not fit..." Ouch! That is the worst. To come so close only to have my hopes crushed, like a birthday cake that crashes to the floor before I can even blow out the candles. Not fun. BUT...this type of rejection is also the best. It shows me that I've grown as a writer. That I've come this far and there's no reason why I won't make it all the way.

This is what it takes to be a writer. Talent is important. But to believe in my work, to have the drive to face rejection after rejection, to pick myself up out of the rejection pile threatening to smother me--these are the things that will help me reach my goal.

I may be panting and ragged, but I'll get there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Summer Reading List

Reading is going to be a big focus for me this summer. My plan is to read one book each week. So the other day I had Daughter #1, who enjoys making lists, write up a list of books that she thinks I should read this summer. Of course, I had a few books in mind too. Here is the list that resulted from both of our efforts (in no particular order):

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath
The Canning Season, by Polly Horvath
Flyte, by Angie Sage (Septimus Heap, book two)
The Beyonders, by Brandon Mull
The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, by James Rollins
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Matched, by Ally Condie
Just Listen, by Sara Dessen (went to her book signing last week--fun!)
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (my daughter insists!)
Everfound, by Neal Shusterman
The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas (my son's favorite)

Well, that's a little more than one book per week, but it's good to aim high, right? I think I will start with Divergent, once I finish reading Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson. What books are you planning to read this summer?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ideas are like puppies

Ideas are like puppies. If you chase them, they'll just run you ragged until you're so frustrated that you wonder why you ever wanted them in the first place!

But most of the time, if you are relaxed and casual, the puppy--like an idea--will come to you and curl up in your lap, beg for treats, jump up for an ear scratch, or otherwise beg for attention.

Those are the kinds of ideas I want as a writer. Ideas that come naturally, often as a surprise, and demand my attention. Not some elusive thing that I have to chase down and force into submission.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Career Day

I survived career day on Thursday!

After all my drama and nervousness, it turned out to be a lot of fun. Once the panel questions were over with, that is. And once that was over, I got to meet with two great groups of kids (and a couple parents).

I started out by asking them if they liked to read. Every hand went up! That's great, I told them, because if you think you might want to be a writer some day, one of the most important things you can do is read. A lot.

Then I talked about what I do. That is, what I write and what I do with what I write. I explained the submissions process, talked about rejection, stressed the importance of patience and persistence, and even shared two examples of actual rejections I had received--one form and one personal.

Lots of questions came after that. I was delighted that the group was so interested. They asked things like: Where do you get your ideas? How do you know which publisher to choose? What books have you written? What is your favorite book you have written? How do you feel when you get rejected? And lots more.

Of course, I also shared examples of my published work. They were genuinely impressed as they passed around copies of Highlights, Fun for Kidz, and Pockets. They applauded when I read one of my poems aloud. And when the announcement came that the session was over, they were almost as disappointed as I was (well, maybe I imagined that part).

It was a good time. I could totally get used to visiting with kids about my writing. Here's to lots of future author visits!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What was I thinking?

Being uncomfortable seems to be a theme for me lately.

It's May 4th, and I've STILL got cold hands and feet.

I signed on to do an actual illustration project, which freaks me out just a little bit.

AND I've agreed to show up as an "author" for career day at school tomorrow. What was I thinking? I'm suppose to answer questions about my "career," along with a panel of other career people. And then break into smaller groups and talk more about my "career" with a bunch of 3-5 graders (and possibly some parents).

I know! Maybe I should answer my "career panel" questions here. Just to practice.

Q: What is your job?

A: Ummm...I'm a poet/author/artist type person. That is, I write stuff. For kids. And sometimes it gets published.

Q: What was your training/education?

A: AP English class? And life? I do have a high school diploma...

Q: Why did you choose this job?

A: Because I figured I might as well DO something with all the poems and stuff I was writing. Plus, I was staying at home with my kids so I had TONS of free time (okay, not really, I had hardly any free time). Or maybe it was because I wanted to torment myself by pursuing a career while not really getting paid for it...yet.

Alrighty. Well, maybe those aren't the best answers yet. Trying again...

My job? I'm a children's writer.

My education/training? No college degree, but writing has always been one of my strengths. Also, using the many resources that are out there (websites, books) and developing relationships with other writers has helped me get better at what I do.

Why do I do this? Easy. Because I love it. I love to write and I love to see my work in print and know that kids all over the country or the world can enjoy it.

Okay, I feel a little better now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What I've been up to

  • Been working on illustrations for Vacation Bible School curriculum for my church. This is my first illustrating project that I've ever done for something I didn't write myself (perhaps God's way of pushing me out of my comfort zone?).
  • Designed a new block print/stamp (a turtle) and made notecards for a friend with them.
  • Started a new super secret Lego project with my girls.
  • Worked on a costume for the upcoming school play.
  • Entered into the end-of-the-year school concert season (three musical kids=lots of concerts).
  • Helped sort and price items for an upcoming church rummage sale.
  • Sent out a few submissions, including an agent query for a new picture book manuscript.
  • Waited for the weather to match the month on the calendar (it's May and I've still got cold feet--something's wrong there!)
  • Avoided blogging, but not on purpose. Just been busy!