Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I'm Still Not Sure If I'm Doing This Right...

…but I think I like the way I'm doing it.
     I'm referring to a post I wrote back in June "Am I Doing This Right" where I talked about the ways I was going about trying to get my first book published and how I was stepping into the big scary world of social media.
     I'm going to save talk of the publication of my first novel for another post, otherwise we'll be here forever.
     Let's start with the blog. I've heard from numerous sources that it's important to have a blog that focuses on one topic, and I can see why this is. People are more likely to follow a blog if it's about a topic they're interested in.
     I'm kind of doing this, but kind of not. For the most part, I blog about writing related topics, but I also blog about whatever comes to mind. I also like to randomly share poems. It's possible that this is keeping me from being placed on lists of blogs about specific topics, but I think I can accept that. I like being spontaneous and genuine. I like writing about whatever comes to mind, whenever it comes to mind.
     I've heard that many writers start blogging in order to give themselves a platform. I've even heard it said that it's important for writers to create a persona and advertise it. I'm not entirely sure what this means. Am I supposed to act in a certain way online, only blog about certain topics, and stick to themes? I don't know, but I don't want to put myself in a cute little box. I want people to see quirky weird Becky who shares really dark poetry but then writes a silly post about using vomit to classify genres and puts childish stickers on her rejection letters. I want to share posts about whatever's on my mind, be it something totally mundane, or something really raw and deep.  
     So that's what I'm doing.
     I have a secret.
     Promise you won't tell anyone?
     Okay, here it is: I get nervous about almost every blog post I share. Right now as I'm writing I'm thinking "Am I really sharing this with people? Do I sound shallow? Do people really want to read this?" I wonder if I'm being too emotional or too raw or maybe not informative enough. I've decided that it's okay to worry about these things, so long as I don't let them stop me.
     So I'm not.
     All right, let's talk about Twitter for just a minute. I'm actually enjoying Twitter (outside the window, pigs are flying). By that I mean I'm enjoying the Twitter writing community, which for the most part is the only reason I use Twitter. Whenever I check out parts of Twitter that aren't writing related I'm reminded of how ignorant and stupid people can be and I get depressed. So I stick to the writing community, which is awesome.
     Writers are awesome people.
     I'm not an expert by any means, but I'll share a few things I've learned. I started actively using Twitter in May and already I have over 300 followers. In the grand scheme of things this isn't a big number, but for a no-name like me who just joined a few months ago, that's pretty good so far. There are two main things I did to get my followers. The first was participating in writing and publishing contests. The second was simply by talking to people.
     People love attention. Even shy, introverted writers. Even I love attention. It's interesting to watch a trending topic and see hundreds of tweets come in per second. Some people don't even bother to read other peoples tweets. They just post their own thoughts and move on. How is that a conversation?
     People want to be heard.
     I scan some of the better writing #s (#amwriting, #amediting, whatever contest is going on at the time) and respond to comments and questions that I find interesting. I also Tweet my own thoughts.  I always get really excited when someone retweets me or responds to me, so I keep this in mind and try to retweet and/or respond to others. But I don't do it blindly. I do it when I have something to contribute or feel something needs to be heard.
     When I was trying to figure out how to get followers I read a lot of articles that stress the importance of Tweeting interesting, intelligent things. And it's true, this is important, but at the same time it goes back to being genuine. If I come across an important topic or tip, I'll tweet about it, but I'm also going to share whatever weird quirky thought is in my head, no matter how weird and quirky it is. Because this is me, and I want people to know who I am.
     So, those are my thoughts and opinions thus far about my social media adventures. Just my thoughts and opinions, and it's definitely a process that will always be changing as I learn more.
     As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Don't Know How To Tell You Happy Birthday

But if I don't say it or think it or write it or tell someone then I might forget that September 26th is significant. If I forget, then others will start to forget too and that's the thing that worries me the most. Forgetting. Already I have to stop and think about how old you would be, which is really quite ridiculous because you're less than a year older than me, so there really shouldn't be a lot of thought required here. You would be 36, but that somehow doesn't sound right. You shouldn't be 36. You're not 36, you're forever 27 and I think that's what you wanted because you talked so much about the 27 club like you had it planned all along.

The first September 26th without you I decided to buy myself a present. I was still in college and really didn't have a lot of money, but it was easy to justify because I told myself the money would've been spent on you, but since you weren't around I spent it on myself instead. I only did that once. Now that it's been 8 years I really can't justify buying myself a present on your birthday anymore because sometimes it seems strange that you were ever here at all.

Last year I got the gang together and we went to Red Robin on your birthday. The one in Broomfield, not Boulder, because the one in Boulder is gone which I know you would be sad about. Can you believe that it was me who had to get the gang together? I rarely organize social events. It caused quite the panic attack, but all went well and I'm feeling much more social. I didn't think about it this year. I should've done it this year. It could be a tradition. We could eat at Red Robin every year on your birthday. Except for this year.

I remember the first birthday I acknowledged that it was your birthday. I'd known you for years but was so lost in my own world that I never knew when your birthday was. But then we started dating on August 31st and suddenly you were having a birthday and it was very important that I get you the exact right perfect thing. It was terrible timing, by the way, just so you know. Having a birthday one month after you start dating someone. It's rude, really. What kind of a gift do you get? I got you a toaster. I was flipping out for days and then the night before your birthday we were talking on the phone and you were going through this elaborate process of making toast on the stove because you didn't have a toaster and I was like "Eureka!" So the next day I went to the thrift store and found you a really awesome toaster. It was awesome because you could put four pieces of bread in it. You were really excited.

I feel like maybe I should think of you when I make toast, but I don't. I don't actually make toast very often but when I do I don't think of you. Sometimes I think of you less and less and other times you're right there in my head like I saw you yesterday and it's so very strange. I don't know how to celebrate your birthday or if I even should of if I should even think about it because in reality it's just a day. If I didn't know the date I wouldn't feel anything different, yet the calendar tells me it's September 26th so surely I must feel something because once upon on time on September 26th good things were happening instead of this strange empty feeling and a necklace resting heavily on my neck.

Anyway, I guess I'll just say it: Happy Birthday, Josh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm too upset to think of a clever title

     I wanted to begin this with something profound and clever, something intelligent and well-spoken that could make people see what's wrong with the world, but I can't. I have too many thoughts and emotions running wild in my head (more so than usual) so I'm just going to share those.
     Let me just start by saying that racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and all those other bad unfair and devastating things are NOT over. Every time I hear someone say something along the lines of, "shouldn't we be over this by now?" I just cringe.
     My focus this morning is Ahmed Mohamed, a 14 year old boy from Irving, Texas. From what I've read, Ahmed is an intelligent, creative boy who likes to tinker with things. He was in the robotics club in middle school.
    Ahmed made a home-made clock and brought it to school to show his teachers. The first teacher he showed it to, the engineering teacher, told him not to show it to any other teachers. Another teacher told him it looked like a bomb, even though Ahmed said it was a clock and that to him it looked like a clock.
     Guess what happened?
     Ahmed isn't white, so the teachers freaked out and called the police. Ahmed, who probably only wanted to make his teachers proud and find a niche for himself in high school was put through a humiliating ordeal that is not yet over. He was questioned in the principal's office by five police officers. Five! For one kid. He was threatened with expulsion, and suspended from school.
     Yeah, that's really great. Here's a kid who is smart and obviously motivated, so what do they do? They suspend him from school. What a great way to to cultivate this boy's talent and encourage him to do well in school.  (In case you didn't catch it, that was sarcasm.)
     The police admit that Ahmed never said it was anything other than a clock, but they still consider charging him with making a hoax bomb.
     Okay, let's use logic for just a second.
     Crazy idea, right?
     Let's just say that Ahmed did in fact intend his clock to be a hoax bomb. (I want it to be clear that this was not his intention, nor do I think it was. I'm just making a point.) Would he have gone around showing it to all his teachers saying "look at this clock I made!" No! He would've hidden it somewhere for people to find and freak out. But he didn't. Because he wasn't trying to scare anyone or play a prank. He was showing off his passion and talent and has been punished for it.
     Words cannot say how sad this is.
      Talent and passion should never ever be punished.
     One of the many things about this that devastates me is that Ahmed is young and impressionable. Things like this could easily cause someone to stop following their dreams and passions. Ahmed was punished for his creativity. That is absolutely horrible and unacceptable. In this day and age with how spotty education is in the U.S., we need to be encouraging students, especially students of color, not jumping to conclusions and punishing them.
     I hope that Ahmed can stay strong through this and does not give up his hobbies, dreams, and passions.

     When I read the part of the article that said he was questioned in the principal's office by five police officers I was reminded of my own Freshman year of high school. Let me just state for the record that when I was fourteen, I was an idiot. Plain and simple.
     I went through a brief phase where I found fire fascinating.
     Because I was an idiot. Luckily this phase didn't last long and no permanent damage was caused.
      One day at school during lunch, a friend and I were messing around. We were in the lunchroom, and I decided to light a tootsie roll wrapper on fire. Why? Because I was an idiot. Did I mention that yet? Well, as it turns out, plastic burns fast. I freaked out, dropped the burning wrapper on the floor where it started to burn the carpet, and then stood there like the idiot I was and screamed. A kitchen worker came out and stamped out the fire.
     Nothing happened to me that day.
     The following day I was called to the principal's office. I was questioned with my mom, I think two vice principals, and one police officer.
     Just one.
     Though they were pretty harsh in their questioning, I think they knew all along that I hadn't meant to hurt anyone. I was just stupid. I did not get led through the school in handcuffs. At no point during this incident was I placed in handcuffs.
     Why was there only one cop and not five?
     Because I'm white.
     Why was I not led away in handcuffs?
     Because I'm white.
     My point in sharing my experience is to point out that I was treated with much more respect than Ahmed, and I'm the one who actually did something wrong. Ahmed did nothing wrong.
     I've only just begun to understand what white privilege truly means. I once firmly believed that I am not privileged. This was ignorance on my part. Plain and simple. Now I know that I am privileged. If I were black or another minority, my situation would've been handled quite differently.

     Another sad thing about this is that even if the teachers were concerned, they could've handled the situation so much better. They could've had the engineering teacher take a close look at the clock. If they wanted to question Ahmed, they could've done it without getting the police involved. And, hey, here's a crazy thought: they could have complimented him for his talent and creativity!
     Ahmed and his family have created a Twitter account @IStandWithAhmed. Ahmed tweets "Thank you for your support! I really didn't think people would care about a muslim boy."
     That right there is what's wrong with this country. That statement, so short and simple, says so much. "I really didn't think people would care about a muslim boy." Think about that statement. Think about it hard. Don't let it out of your head. Think about how devastating it is that he felt that way. How devastating it is that a 14 year old feels that way. Think about how devastating it is that many muslims, blacks, and other minorities feel this exact same way.
     No one should have to feel this way.
     No one.

     If you would like to support Ahmed, follow him on Twitter @IStandWithAhmed.

     Here is a link to the article where I got most of my info about this story:

     Comments and opinions are encouraged, but please keep them polite and respectful.

Monday, September 14, 2015

More Than Just A Hobby

     I've had my nose buried in a book since I was a kid. I used to bring a book to the dinner table and read while we were eating. My mom let that fly until I spilled my milk all over the table because I couldn't be bothered to take my eyes off the book to look at what I was doing.
     I spent all my allowance on books.
     I stayed up late and read with a flashlight long after I was supposed to be asleep.
     I'd hide books underneath my desk so I could read during class.
     Reading has always been so much more than just a way to pass the time. It isn't at all like watching a movie or a television show. The story comes alive in my imagination. I get emotionally invested in the characters. They become real people who exist in some alternate dimension somewhere.
     When a book is really amazing, I become its slave.
     At certain times, like when I have to go to work, get up early, cook dinner, or do something else responsible, this slavery can be annoying. But most of the time, it's pretty awesome. The story makes me feel as though I too am a part of something special, something great.
     Books I really love take up residence in my mind for days or even weeks after I've read them. I love re-reading my favorite stories, because I always find myself noticing details that I hadn't noticed the first time around.
     The downside to becoming emotionally invested in a story is when the book does not end in a favorable way. This can leave me feeling down and depressed for several days.
     I love fantasy, paranormal, the occasional sci fi, mysteries, and thrillers. I'm a sucker for a good love story, though straight up romance novels tend to bore me. The stories that get to me the most are ones that dig deep into the human condition, show strong emotional bonds, and makes me think deeply about the gray areas of life. That must mean I like literary fiction, right? No. It tends to bore me. But genre fiction is not all fun and whimsy. There are many genre fiction novels with literary components and deep messages lurking around with the vampires and aliens and magical creatures.
     One of my favorite books when I was in my early twenties was Stephen King's It. Yep. A horror novel. I'm not so much into horror anymore, but this one remains a favorite. Why do I love it so much? Sure, that creepy clown and all that stuff about floating was awesome, but what pulled at my heartstrings was the profound friendship between the main characters. They had a bond so deep and beautiful that it stretched across decades and was still in tact after years of no contact. It reminded me of the bond I had with my two best friends in high school, and I am hoping to portray a similarly strong bond with my MC's in my own work in progress.
     Yesterday I finished Ally Condie's Matched. It's part of my quest to devour popular YA fiction in order to learn how to properly write it myself. I almost didn't keep reading this book. It started out being so ridiculously similar to Lois Lowry's The Giver that I was getting annoyed. I could not figure out why it was a bestseller. But, I hate starting books and not finishing them, so I kept reading, and I'm really glad I did. As Condie developed her world it became more unique, the MC showed growth (I love it when this happens), and a profound love story unfolded.
     It's this crazy emotional attachment to reading that makes me so excited to write my own stories. Despite the emotional roller coaster, books make me happy. They give me more than just something to do. They take me places and make think and feel things that I may not have otherwise felt. This is what I aim to achieve in my own writing. I want my books to keep people up all night reading. I want them to make people cry, laugh, and feel love and joy. I want to give back some of what has been given to me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Turning Rejection into Love

     I took the most frequently used words in my rejection letters from agents and turned them into a love poem. 
     Because what else am I going to do with rejection letters? Other than decorate them with encouragement stickers and hang them on the wall. 
     Seriously though, it's hard to stay positive during the querying process, so I'm trying to do fun little things here and there to lighten up the process. I saw an agent on Twitter had made a poem out of the most frequently used phrases in query letters ('a new take on vampires' was in there. Note to self: take that phrase out of query), so I thought I could do the same thing. 
     So, here you go. (Now just so we're clear, I said I turned my rejection letters into a love poem. I never said I turned them into a good love poem.) 


You are the literary material.

You are the best fit for me.

I consider others unfortunate

without your endeavors.

I project to you my wish

to give us an opportunity and

I thank the agencies above

for the opportunity to make to you this query,

for you are indeed the very best. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I've Gone And Jinxed Myself

     Awesome, right? I am my own worst enemy.
     How did I jinx myself, you ask? In an earlier post I wrote that I've never experienced writer's block. Every writer who read that probably had the urge to strangle me. Well, guess what? You don't have to strangle me. Why? Because I now find myself stuck.
     First I'd like to say that I hate the term writer's block. It's become so overused that it has become a concept that strikes fear in the heart of writers everywhere. We've given it so much power that writer's block has become an entity rather than a problem inside the writer's head, which it is. It's become a disease with a very elusive cure.
     There isn't any one definition for writer's block. It means something different for every writer, and can even present itself in different forms at different times to the same writer. Its causes are many, and those causes vary for each writer. Because it is such a variable concept, the solutions also vary for every writer. What works for one person doesn't work at all for another.
     Currently, I'm not blocked in the sense that I am incapable of writing. I'm writing right now, and I wrote a blog the other day. I'm simply having a difficult time making progress on my WIP. I've been on a writing roll this entire year. It's been great. Now that I've reached the climax in my WIP I'm having a very hard time knowing how to move forward. I know what the outcome of my story is going to be, I even have a rough idea of how that outcome is going to come to pass, I just don't quite know how to write out the details.
     One reason I'm having difficulty is that my story has a mystery that needs solved, and I'm not entirely sure how that's going to happen. I do have one idea, which I'm rolling with for now, but I'm having serious doubts about it. Every time I sit down to write it out, this little voice in my head tells me it's a lame idea. So I find myself staring off into space or hopping onto Twitter to distract myself.
     Another reason behind my difficulty is that action and fighting scenes are not one of my strong suits.  I've improved in this area quite a bit after writing the war scene for my first first novel, but it's still something I struggle with. So once again, I'm staring at a cursor and hopping over to Twitter. Sigh.
     Here's the thing: this is a first draft. So it should be easy, right? Even if I write something bad, it's a rough draft. Rough drafts are supposed to be bad, and they're supposed to change. I just need to get something on paper so I can have something to improve. I can't improve something that doesn't exist.
     My solution (for now) is to take a break for a couple of days, blog, and then just sit down and force myself to write even if I hate every single word. I'm hoping that blogging about it will help. Maybe writing through my feelings can help me overcome them. I'm very excited to get this rough draft finished because I have so many good ideas for the next draft. Hopefully I can work through the block in my brain.
     Alrighty folks, there you have it.
     I am not immune to writer's block. Apparently, I am human.
     Wish me luck! (I might need it.)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pitch Wars: The Most Peaceful War Ever

     I recently participated in Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars. This is a contest in which writers with a completed manuscript enter to win the chance to work closely with a mentor in order to edit and perfect their manuscript. The mentors are either published authors, editors, or both. There were roughly 108 mentors and about 1,500 entrants. The total number of mentee spots came out to about 125 because some mentors were allowed to take on two mentees. I did not get selected, but truthfully, I wasn't expecting to. I wasn't being pessimistic; I was being realistic. Statistically, the odds weren't in my favor. I'm also beginning to realize that my vampire novel isn't very marketable right now and mentors were mainly looking to take on marketable pieces.
     Despite the fact that I didn't "win", I'm glad I entered and feel as though I gained something from the experience. First off, Pitch Wars forced me to buckle down and make the changes to my manuscript that I'd been putting off. It also got me to improve my sub-par query letter.
     After participating in a contest that took place earlier in the summer, Michelle Hauck's New Agent, I realized the query I once thought was excellent was actually pretty lame. To be honest, it sucked. And not because it was a query for a vampire novel. It sucked because it was poorly written. That's totally okay though. I think almost everyone initially writes a crappy query letter. Writing and sending out a bad query is all a part of the initiation process.
     After New Agent, Michelle was awesome enough to host a query critique blog hop on her blog, which allowed me to get some great critiques and insight on my query. I learned that themes do not belong in a query letter. I also learned to stop trying so hard to be clever. My attempts at being clever left my query with a cutesy tone that did not at all match the voice of my story. I revised my query for Pitch Wars, and I am fairly confident that it is at least ten times better than it was.
     The Pitch Wars wait was fun because it put me in touch with a number of like-minded people. I connected with people who understand my love for writing and the overwhelming need to put words onto paper. A number of mentors shared their own experiences with querying. Every single one of them was once where I am now, and I cannot begin to explain how comforting it is to know I'm not alone. I'm currently sitting at twenty-seven rejections, and I've learned that twenty-seven ain't nothin'. Some people hit two-hundred before they finally landed an agent. Yeah, on one level this is seriously daunting, but mostly it's encouraging, because these people never gave up.
     All that being said, this seems like as good a time as any to give a shout-out to the mentors and thank them for how awesome they are. They have put a ridiculous amount of time into this contest, especially considering that they all have jobs, school, novels, families, and lives of their own.  When I explained to my boyfriend what Pitch Wars was he asked, "What do the mentors get out of it?" I was like, well, they get that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing they're helping people, they're doing what they love, and they're paying forward the help they got when they were in the mentee's position. He looked surprised by this answer so I added, "Writer's are just really nice people."
     So, in short, the mentors are awesome.
     Many of the mentors are giving feedback to everyone who submitted to them, which is incredibly awesome. Others don't have the time, and that's totally okay. I haven't received any feedback yet, but I've been told by a few of the mentors I subbed to that I will, it just may take some time. I don't mind waiting. Getting feedback from someone who's been through the query trenches is invaluable and a win in itself in my book.
     Now that Pitch Wars is over, I've decided what my next move is regarding my Pitch Wars submission. I've decided not to look over my manuscript again, at least not right now. Depending on the feedback I get, this decision may change. I currently have a writer's group friend who is giving it another go, and I will take her feedback into consideration, but at this point in time, I'm leaving it how it is. I'm happy with the edits I gave it to get it ready for Pitch Wars. I will be participating in Pit Mad (yet another Twitter contest) on 9/10. After Pit Mad, I plan to start querying again. Instead of querying agents, I plan to focus my efforts on smaller presses and Indie presses. I feel that this might be a better route to take for this particular story.
     I also plan to finish my WIP and start a new novel. Basically, I plan to write write write and never stop.
   Why would I ever stop?
    In case anyone is wondering, yes, awesome is my favorite word.
    Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Madness of the Mega-Rejection

     Yep. This is another post about rejection. I don't think I've discussed it for at least two or three posts, so I figured it was time to revisit the issue. But I promise not to be a broken record. I have something new to say. 
     I swear. 
     I'm starting to learn that for writer's, rejection and writer's block are two topics that can never get enough attention. Since I've yet to experience major issues with writer's block (lucky me, but I've probably just jinxed myself), I'm going to talk about rejection some more. 
     A quick recap: I'm in the process of trying to get my first novel, New Year's Revolution, published. I've been sending out queries for a little over a year, with a break for more edits at the end of 2014. I've since gotten twenty-seven rejections, and one acceptance that wound up not being a good fit for me or my story (but yay for an acceptance!) 
     I've recently discovered the joys of the Twitter writing community (I never thought I would call anything related to Twitter a joy) and all of the wonderful writing contests that take place. I've learned many wonderful tips from agents, editors, and other writers and I've just had fun talking and joking around with people. I'm currently waiting on the results of Pitch Wars, which will be revealed in less than twenty-four hours. I don't know if I'll be chosen or not, but I wanted to write this post regardless. 
     I've been reading a number of Tweets and blog posts about rejection, ways to handle it, what it does and doesn't mean, and so on and so forth. The majority of the things I've seen and read have been very encouraging, but that doesn't change the fact that rejection is hard. It's going to hurt, no matter what. 
     I understand that being rejected by an agent or a publisher or not being chosen for a contest most likely does not mean my writing is bad. But that's a rational thought, and emotions are completely irrational. Feelings refuse to listen to reason. They're very annoying that way. 
     The other day I had an epiphany. I have such a hard time with rejection because every time I receive a "thank you, but I must pass" letter from an agent, I'm not thinking just about that one rejection. I'm suddenly remembering all twenty-seven "Thank you, but no" letters I've received. Each time I get a rejection letter, I think of all the rejection letters that came before it. So my twenty-seventh rejection is no longer the twenty-seventh rejection. My mind has turned it into the four-thousandth rejection. 
     You think that's bad? I'm not done yet. 
     Upon receiving rejection letters I cry and mutter things like, "nothing ever works out for me" and "I'm never good enough" and "nobody ever chooses me." In my irrational state of sadness, I'm no longer thinking about just my novel. I'm thinking about that three month period in 2000 when I went on about twenty job interviews before finding a job. I'm thinking about the times I didn't get accepted into grad school. I'm thinking about promotions I didn't get, guys who broke up with me, friends who didn't want to hang out with me in middle school. The list goes on. 
     This is the mega-rejection. 
     It is madness. 
     And not the fun, dancing in the booth at the coffee shop to music only I can hear kind of madness, but the no-fun, depressing kind of madness. 
     Nobody likes that kind of madness. 
     I feel it necessary to clarify that I'm not a negative person. To those who don't know me it might sound like I am, but I'm not. I try to find a nice balance between optimism and realism. Plus, I recently heard a rumor that the glass can be refilled, so I find that pretty encouraging. Regardless of one's optimism, rejection is hard. If anyone tells you it isn't, they're lying. 
     Despite the pain of rejection, it's time to stop the madness of the mega-rejection. I doubt I'm the only one who falls into this trap. So let's stop together. The first step is to recognize the sheer irrationality of it. I need to stop re-hashing all my past rejections and "failures" every time something doesn't work out. It's not doing me any good. 
      It's normal to be sad when something doesn't work out, but why make something worse by dragging up all the other times something hasn't worked out? Like I said, it's madness. Let's stop the bad madness, and get back to the fun madness. 
     Ooh, a good song just came on. If you need me, I'll be dancing. 
     As always, thanks for reading!