Friday Focus: You don't need anything else

"You are a writer. Right now. With only what you have in your head as it is. You don't need anything else. You are a writer. You just need to keep writing. Don't let the Writing Fairy tell you that you aren't. That you need something more, that you're pretending to be something you're not. Hemmingway wasn't Hemmingway when he started. He was just a guy named Ernest who sat down at his typewriter."
~Joseph Devon, "The Myth of the Writing Fairy"

Happy Friday!

Description Rhyme

Like the "i before e, except after c" rhyme to remember when spelling, here's one to remember when writing descriptions:

"When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint."

~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

Understanding rejections

Today's post, which was supposed to be last Wednesday's, then yesterday's (the holidays have taken over and the days are just zooming by) is about something many writers who have their heart set on publication know all too well -- rejections.

A little over a week ago, there was a chat on twitter regarding queries and rejections. Following the chat, my friend Andi and I had a discussion about it, and I mentioned how I'd found myself feeling a bit confused as to what some of the writers had tweeted. At least a few had mentioned "helpful" rejections, and I wondered how many of those were actually different variations of the standard form letter, and how many of them truly were beyond the norm. Then Andi suggested that this would actually be a good topic to post on the blog, so here it is.

Can you tell me what these three rejections have in common?

Dear Ms. Brooks,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read THIS AWESOME BOOK. Though I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, I don't believe that my agency will have the opportunity to represent it at this time. Please know that this has nothing to do with your work, and that you may find an agent who feels completely different about your idea.


Agent So and So


Dear Jessica Brooks,

After much consideration of THIS AWESOME BOOK, I've decided I will have to pass. Thank you so much for allowing me to see your work, and I wish you luck in future endeavors.


Agent So and So


Dear Jessica,

Thank you for thinking of me when seeking representation for THIS AWESOME BOOK. While we really like the concept of this book, we are unable to place it with our agency at this time. We believe your book may have market potential, and would like to thank you for considering us. We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent as zealous about your work as you are.

Best Wishes,

Agent So and So

If you answered standard form rejection letter, you were absolutely correct. The above three (fake) rejections were personalized and polite, but they were all standard form rejections.

I'm wondering how many first time writers who've just begun their plunge into the query process can actually tell the difference between a form rejection, and one that is not. Over the past few months I've noticed comments across the internet by writers stating they didn't understand how such a nice query could, in fact, be a rejection. The agency liked their work, thought it had potential, or appreciated the concept. So why was it then, that it was rejected, without the agent asking for at least a partial submission?

The answer is simple: Because that's their rejection letter.

I have to say, I do feel for agents. They receive a gazillion queries a year, and are, for the most part, doing their best to reply to most of them in a timely manner. If their response is short and to the point, a handful of writers will consider them rude. If they state that they enjoyed the premise but can't represent that specific piece of work at the present time, some writers see that as them being impatient and not giving the writer enough of a chance. So in a way, there's no right way for agents to reject. Someone somewhere is going to read into the words, or in between the words. They're going to want to know what it means, if maybe they should just fix it a little bit until it seems to fit the agency's particular style and then resubmit, or if it means something else.

Now, before I go any further in this post, I'd like to clarify that I haven't received a single rejection that I would deem helpful. Polite, yes. Slightly personal, sure. But helpful? As in, "this work could be better if this or that" or what other people have stated as rejections they've received that truly help them improve their work? No.

So you're probably wondering, what is a helpful rejection already, Jessica? You've gone on and on about these mysterious helpful rejections, and now I want to know what you're talking about! Well, the problem is, I actually don't know. But I do know that the above made-up rejections shared in this post do take the sting of the actual rejection away a bit, which is nice.

I guess the point of this post is

1) To point out that an agent can be polite and sound excited or appreciative in their rejection and still truly not be interested in your work.

2) I, along with other people, would love to hear an example of a helpful rejection.

How about you? Have you received a rejection that made you wonder just what it meant, exactly? Or have you received a helpful rejection that you could enlighten us with by paraphrasing here in the comments?

Friday Focus: Definition of Obstacles

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
~Henry Ford

(I need this quote hung in every room of my house!)

Keep those eyes focused, my friends!!!

Happy Friday!

You and me... and me and you...

So here we are. You. Me. Henry. My desk, a stack of journals, lousy illustrations by yours truly, stacks of paper scraps with chicken scratch all over them, and of course, one steaming hot cup of coffee (thanks, Lovemuffin!).

Now what?

I feel as though I'm in a three-ring (Or is it ringed?) circus. (If you'd like to picture me as the clown, fine. I wear a size ten shoe anyway so my feet being humacious is something I'm used to. But I will *not* wear that big red nose. Sorry. I have to draw the line somewhere.) I have this women's fic piece I've been working on, the second book that would come after FLORA (which may or may not even go anywhere so is it really smart to work on it all of the time? Obviously not. I'm not writing it, anyway, just jotting down ideas as they come.), and the WiP that came to me not that long ago, which I think is a pretty darn good idea if I do say so myself but will involve lots of thinking and brain wracking and hard work and well, I'm in lazy mode because it's the holidays and whatnot -- you know how that is, right?

So when I get into this mode of ideas crashing through my head, I go back and forth constantly from journal to journal, and not a whole lot of actual writing gets done. (Plot points? Yes. Dialogue? Once in a while. But word count? Nuh-uh.) When the day is done, I pretty much have nothing to show for it. Very frustrating.

I'm trying to decide which project to focus my energy on, but this deciding stuff is for the birds. Lovemuffin wants me to work on the shiny new (YA) WiP, instead of going back to the adult one. He's proud of the idea I've come up with -- him actually saying "Well I think you should work on such-and-such" is quite a big deal. But... I want to be lazy! (How dare I want something like that, right? Writer's can't be lazy! Hello, Jessica! What are you thinking?)

Ooh look. Donuts... on an eraser. Do you think it tastes like donuts?

To spell check, or not to spell check... there's no question

I had a great post idea for today, but this weekend was insanely busy, and my brain is mush. Therefore, I'm doing a switcheroo -- today's post is now what would have been Wednesday's, and Wednesday's will be the one I haven't begun to write yet. ;)

So... spell check, or no spell check? I say both, as long as you ultimately check everything yourself to make sure it's correct. Here's a great example showing how the spell check feature can be a crutch...

Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques for my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it to say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
Eye am shore your pleased two no
It's letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.

~Margo Roark

Friday Focus: Just Write

“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn't matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.”
~ Leonard Bernstein

I thought this was pretty appropriate considering NaNoWriMo is over!

So in the words of Lady Gaga,

just write...
gonna be okay
da da doo-doo-mmmm

(Well, they're close to her words.)

Happy Friday!

Book Dominoes

I came across this video last week and had to share -- it's an ad for a bookstore in Arizona*.

*For a little more info, check out the post from GalleyCat, here.

My brilliance is beyond brilliant

I was ransacking going through my closet looking for Christmas bags (because Christmas is, you know, weeks away, and I need to know how many bags I still need to buy like, NOW) and I came up with this awesomely awesome and wonderful idea. Actually, I came up with a few awesomely awesome ideas. And the shock that rippled through my body as I realized just how brilliant I was -- I mean, we are talking BRILLIANT, people -- well, that shock just about did me in. I seriously could have been found by Lovemuffin, spread out on the closet floor, clutching an ugly Christmas bag and Scotch tape dispenser to my chest (it had a little bitty hole in it... I throw nothing away people... this has been passed down three generations... don't judge), that's how mind-blowing these ideas were.

Are you tired of waiting to hear about my awesomely awesome ideas? Well wait no further. Here they are, in no particular order. (Hold on to your seats. No not those... the chair, people... I meant the chair.)

Five wonderful books I am going to write:

1) My Pickled Life*: Chronicles Perry the pickle's life from seed plantage to pickage to being shoved into a bunch of vinegar and whatever else they use to turn cucumbers into pickles. It will be educational, and even hilarious at times ("Nooooo... vinegar stunts my growth! yelled poor Perry Pickle"). And best of all, with the magic of faster-than-ever publishing these days, the package will be out in time for Christmas with one (or maybe more than one!!!) of these nifty pickly gifts.

2) Attack of the Horn**: A cute, meaningful story about a unicorn named Foofie whose beautiful horn somehow dislodges itself from Foofie's head and tries to poke her in the eye. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. And best of all, it will come with a strap-on one-size-fits-all-foreheads unicorn horn for the unicorn at heart.

3) Redundancy at a Glance: Saying the same thing over and over is *so* redundant, don't you think, right? So kick back and put up your feet and relax as you read Redundancy at a Glance. Things you never thought to think of will be sparking your interest, like these chapters, for example...

Eating cheese on a cold winter night that is freezing

Marshmallows are for hot cocoa and smores and for putting in between wedges of chocolate and graham crackers

I just said this and now I'll say it again


The best phrases to use *ever* (What? You'd like few examples? Well, sure! Try these out in talking conversations -- advance planning, same identical and free gift)

4) Noodles are so Noodly***: Inspired by my mother's phrase, "holding on like a wet noodle", Noodles are so Noodly is a compliation of photographs taken by yours truly showing the many things you can do with noodles (sorry, photos are copyrighted, or I would have posted them on here).

Here are a few examples to spike your interest:

Hair getting thin? Add a little bit o' noodles to that bare spot.****

Not sure what to stuff that Christmas turkey with because you're out of bread and crumbs and all that other stuff that goes into stuffing? Stuff him with noodles.

Out of cereal and the kids are screaming they're about to collapse from malnutrition? Give 'em noodles. (They won't even know the difference. I swear.)

Running low on icicles for the tree? Do not fear -- why not wrap your Christmas tree with noodles!? (Can we say beautiful, and yum?)

And last but not least...

5) How to Waste Time Writing Weird Blog Posts When You Should Be Writing Your Actual Book Instead***** (or, as I like to call it, HWTWWBPWYSBWYABI <--- much shorter).

Well what are you waiting for? Head over to your favorite bookstore and order these today! (And I will finish writing them... sometime in the very-near-possibly-soon-to-be future!)

*Slightly torn ugly Christmas gift bag optional for an additional $1.99.
**Inspired by Charlie the Unicorn. I don't know what makes this guy do what he does, but hopefully he never stops.
***Comes with three free noodles in the shape of your choice - elbow, pinwheel, long and skinny, or noodle
****Cooked, or dry. But if you use raw noodles, take care not to poke anyone in the eye.
*****No explanation available at the time of this post

A different kind of turkey


Imagine, if you will, that you're at a bowling alley.

You think you're a pretty good bowler, but the strikes are evading you.

At first, you don't think much of it. At least you're knocking the pins down, getting that occasional spare once in a while, right? You'll just try harder when your next turn comes around.

Now imagine that each set of bowling pins stands for something -- in my case, they'll stand for a query -- but they could be a job you're applying for, something you've been striving to do in your life, whatever.

You keep rolling the ball, trying to knock down the pins, attempting to get somewhere with those queries/job applications/et cetera. But those darn strikes... they refuse to materialize.

Now, disappointment starts to settle in. Within a short matter of time, that feeling goes from being a thin, hardly noticeable vapor of frustration, to the heaviest fog EVER.

But here's the thing.

Does the bowler attempt that first strike, use his second chance to do it again, then say, "Forget this, I quit" and walk out of the bowling alley?


How about after a few frames? Does he quit then?

Not at all.

The game isn't over until ten frames have been played -- that's twenty chances to knock the pins over. So if each set of pins is a query, that's a decent amount of opportunities!

Maybe you knock down a few pins, but the results aren't what you were hoping for. One pin gets knocked down -- one response after carefully analyzing the "perfect" way to throw the ball. It's not a bite, not a positive reaction as you'd hoped, just a reaction.

Time for another frame.

And if none fall down, or they do, but they aren't what you're looking for (rejections, someone else hired for that position, et cetera), you do another one.

And another.

And another.

And... another.

You keep practicing, sending that bowling ball in the direction it needs to go.

And eventually, though it may not be as soon as you want, you'll get that strike -- that request, that job offer. Heck, you may even get more than one. Maybe you'll get three. A query turkey, so to speak.

**For a much better query analogy, check out Amy's post, In Which I Compare Querying to Toothpaste.

Friday Focus: Your writing must have you

"There's one thing your writing must have to be any good at all. It must have you. Your soul, your self, your heart, your guts, your voice -- you must be on that page. In the end, you can't make the magic happen for your reader. You can only allow the miracle of 'being one with' to take place. So dare to be yourself. Dare to reveal yourself. Be honest, be open, be true... If you are, everything else will fall into place." ~ Elizabeth Ayres

Happy Friday, everyone! =)

Heavenly Blessings

I was going to post a query analogy today, but that will have to wait until next week. Today, I'm posting a few things I'm thankful for. But first, a quote...

"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!" ~Henry Ward Beecher

A few things I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for the way Lovemuffin goes out of his way to make my life easier on a daily basis, thankful that no matter how much I correct him or forget to do the dishes, he still loves me. Thankful for no matter how terrible I look or insane my hair is or how dark the mascara rings under my eyes are when I wake up, he still tells me that I'm beautiful.

I am thankful for the friends who are there to listen to me, who let me ramble on and on about this writerly journey that has to bore them at (most) times, and yet, they keep listening -- who know they can trust me to keep their secrets, and know that I trust them enough to keep mine.

I am thankful for the way my oldest daughter laughs silently when she laughs really hard, who gets my personality and doesn't get embarrassed by me very often, whose usual response is a shake of the head and a "You're weird, Mom."

I am thankful for the way my middle daughter can be utterly frustrated and furious and yell and stalk off to her room, slamming her door and screaming about the unfairness of it all, only to come out minutes later crying and saying she's sorry for making me sad.

I am thankful that my youngest daughter forgives me every time I put her wallet in a new place, to be lost for weeks on end until I happen to come across it again -- for her OCD tendencies, because even though it drives me batty I can't imagine how much messier the house would be without her constantly picking it up.

I am thankful for the view of the sunset right above our back fence every evening -- for having the best seat ever to watch the glowing leaves, the pinks and oranges spread across the sky as the sun melts into the horizon.

I am thankful for books, for words, for creativity -- for people who didn't give up and pursued their dreams to get their stories out there on paper in order to entertain little ol' me.

I am thankful for music, for the lyrics that make me happy, sad, hopeful, energetic. Thankful that if words ever leave me and I'm not sure what to say, I can find a song that explains it perfectly.

I am thankful for the writing community, the huge group of people who not only strive to get their own work to publication, but who also strive to help others reach that goal as well.

I am thankful for a roof over my head, a car that runs, flannel sheets, coffee, clothes to keep me warm, food in my pantry.

I am thankful for hand sanitizer.

I am thankful for cameras -- for photographs of captured milestones, silly moments, the people you love.

I am thankful for trees orange as flames lining the neighborhood yards, for the crisp, cool air that hits my face and makes my head hurt -- because if I can feel it, I'm still breathing.

and finally...

I am thankful that I can see, that I can hear, that I can remember. Thankful that though there are many wonderful people who won't be physically here on Thanksgiving Day, they'll be with me forever in my heart, in my memories.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! =)

The Sky is Falling

There's been some talk on the internet lately about the way the industry is going -- what publishers are looking for at the moment, and what's been overdone.

I read both articles (first this one -- scroll down to the Nov. 8th post -- then this) and my first thought was, Well, sh*t. (To be honest, I actually began to panic before I'd even read the second post.)

The main discussion in the first link was about contemporary YA, but she also said this: "It’s telling me I’ve got to be wary of paranormal. And that there are lots of stories around about teen girls with ‘an altered state of consciousness’ (ie, who transport somewhere else, switch places with someone, live an alternate life)."

But but... that's what I'm querying right now! Dreams! Fantasy! Not paranormal, but still... I mean... what? How was I supposed to know other people were writing the same thing, that the agents were feeling inundated with that sort of work? (Well I did know, because not too long ago I queried an agent who immediately tweeted that it was being done too much. But at that point, FLORA was done, so I was kind of stuck.)

I sat there, outside, in my chair holding Henry, shivering, and thinking, "Now what? What do I do? What do I write? How in the world am I going to come up with something entirely different?"

But you know, this sort of thing happens all the time. One person says things are in, another says they're not. The industry is entirely subjective. It depends on who you know, what you're writing, how you're writing it, and if your voice stands out. (At least, that's what I'm telling myself right now.)

I spent a better half of the day yesterday trying to change my new WiP into something that it wasn't. Into something more daring, more "high concept" than it really was. And for what? To make sure I covered the bases for something that will most likely change in a few short months? Way before I even finish this thing, that came two me a mere few days ago?

Then I remembered this post I read the other day - at the Getting Past the Gatekeeper blog. And it made me feel better. It made me remember that we have to do what we do, the way we feel like doing it. (Further proof of that is the ever-popular author Ellen Hopkin's response in the comments section on the Kidlit blog.)

Sure, FLORA may not go anywhere. Do I want that? Heck no. But if it doesn't, I'll keep writing, finish up this new WiP, and then I'll have yet another novel under my belt. Another piece of work I'll mention when querying -- that may or may not spark interest. But at least I'll be able to mention it, if they don't like the current piece of work. And who knows, by then it may be something agents are looking for again. At least, that's my hope.

We have to get to a point in this writerly journey where we're comfortable with who we are, comfortable with what we write. Because if every single article we read spurred immediate panic, and we all rushed around saying "Did you hear? Did you hear?" there's a whole lot of awesome work out there that would never go anywhere.

This is your brain...

This is your brain...

This is your brain during the query process.

That is all.

Friday Focus: Follow your inspirations

"Far away in the sunshine are my highest inspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see the beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they may lead." ~
Lousia May Alcott

Talk about an inspiring point of view!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Slumpy Snuffalupakins

So the past few days I haven't been me, or Snip. I've been Slumpy.

I'm not IN a slump necessarily, but this longline thing has me ready to poke my eyes out. Or cut off my fingers. (There will NOT be any removal of hair.) Between that and working on the ol' query thanks to Elana Johnson, who critiqued it a few days ago (check out her website, blog and ebook, From the Query to the Call, BTW, all three of which are AWESOME!), my brain is stuck on



So I just wanted to say,

How are you
Hope you're doing well
Hope you're feeling creative and productive and smart and refreshed and appreciated and Nanocomplished
I'm sorry I haven't read any of your blogs but I promise I will be back next week to drive you all crazy with my boring comments


I will be back on here soon, too.

Much love,


Friday Focus: The way to resume

“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein

Resume: to take up or go on with again after interruption; continue

Thought this was a good one after Wednesday's post.

Happy Friday!

RE: A renewed point of view

Have you ever noticed that most words starting with re are positive words? They reenforce something. Make it better.

Think about it.





We use the above actions to make our work as good as it can be.

And then, there's another re word that we don't usually associate with good at all: Rejection.

Rejection: A gentle push in a new and better direction.

Yes. That definition is much better, don't you think?

Writers write, right? Right. Write.*

*the above title was taken from

Oh dear. I believe the inevitable has happened. My brain has shut off.

This weekend was crazy and super boring at the same time. Two kids got injured, one by racing her sister on a bike WAY too small for her, then flying off (road rash sucks); and the other by going in the back of her dad's truck and slicing the bottom of her foot (no stitches, though it's going to be a crappy healing process). I finished doing the laundry, stayed caught up on the dishes (that never happens), worked on my query and logline (bugging my friend Andi so much she probably shudders every time there's an email from me in her inbox), and I even cleaned out a closet full of junk I never get rid of because "what if this is something I could use sometime in the future -- you know, like the next ten years".

Time must have slowed somehow, because by last night I'd found a way to get caught up on two missed Parenthood episodes and watch the newest Jacob's Patience installment on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. (The first one was with Will Farrell.)

And now, it's Monday. The sun is bright, the ground is wet from the rain last night, and a swift cool breeze is sweeping through the trees. The house is relatively silent (the dogs aren't barking at people pushing lawnmowers around the neighborhood for once -- oh wait, they do still bark when the mower is at OUR house), coffee is brewed... and my brain refuses to cooperate.

Friday Focus: The People Who Get Up

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."

~ George Bernard Shaw

And there you go.

Happy Friday!

Hunger and writerly advice

hippo.jpg hungry hippo image by denistephenson

Advice can be a double-edged sword when it comes to writing - everyone critiques differently. I used to submit my work (queries, loglines, first whatever-amount-of-words, et cetera), then sit back and wait with the attitude that though it probably wasn't that good, it wasn't all that bad, either.

So when the advice/critiques/words of wisdom would pour in, I'd be shocked. It wouldn't take much for me to cringe, to freak out, want to cry, and feel as though I should have the right to defend myself, explain why I worded it this way or chose to do something a specific way.

But I am finally, finally learning. Maybe it's because I'm at that point (the point I thought I was at a long time ago, strangely enough) where I don't give a rat's whisker about what people say, as long as it will potentially benefit my work. I'm hungry -- close to starving. Considering how I felt a year ago (I was probably a tad unsatisfied back then), this is a wonderful thing. And I hope, even though I know it will mean I'll be more emotional and on edge, that in the next few weeks/months I will become ravenous.

I am ready to hear what people have to say, ready to take their advice in any way shape or form I can get it, to make it what it needs to be, get it where it needs to go.

None of this could be done without the tons of writers/agents across the internet offering logline contests and free critiques and query sessions and chats and so on. These people take time out of their busy schedules to pour over our work, to offer advice on how they think things can be improved. True, a few of them come across snarky, but for the most part, they are completely genuine in trying to help us improve. I can't even begin to imagine where I would be without these lovely people. Talk about appreciating so many people I've never even met.

So the next time you submit work looking for advice, remember this: none of us are perfect. We wouldn't be sending stuff their way if it was, right? And tone? Tone is hard to read. It's easy to take one person's point or question as rude or hateful, but that doesn't mean it was meant to be that way at all. Before you read what they have to say, take a deep breath. Make sure you have plenty of time for contemplation, and you're having a good day. Then make your notes, tally up those questions and points made, and go for it. Let it loose. Address everything, and decide what is worth changing and what isn't. Polish that sucker up, and send it back out again.

Be hungry. Heck, be voracious. That drive is what keeps us from giving up.

Bucket List

"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." ~Leonardo da Vinci

The other night I got together with some friends at a local restaurant for a couple of hours. Our lives have changed over the years, grown busier and led us off in different directions, but we've kept the tradition of getting together for birthdays (which basically means, three times a year we go out to dinner).

The three of us had a great time catching up, giving each other advice, venting about life's bumps, twists and turns, and near the end of our relaxing get-together, as my friends discussed similar interests in accomplishing the same goal - the kind you think you'd love to meet but know in actuality it probably will never happen - I suggested we make a bucket list.

Enter amusement, contemplation, and an immediate set up of rules.

First, there was no way we could make a bucket list that would span over a long number of years - it would take too long, and wouldn't that make us less likely to reach our goals?

Second, how many "big" things would go on that list? Ah yes. We all agreed. One big thing, and if it was crossed off, it would qualify for bonus points.

And third, wait - we need more time - how about we meet in a month with our lists completed, and go from there?

As our evening drew to a close, one of my friends pointed out that I still hadn't come up with a single item for my list. So of course, being stuck in the whole query process like I am, I jotted down land an agent. (After which, I promptly informed them that if I still didn't have one in five years, I would be needing a straightjacket.)

Later that night, as Lovemuffin and I were lying in bed and I was trying to come up with more items for my list, I found myself feeling frustrated. The minute I'd brought our idea up to him when I came home, adrenaline-wrought items for his own personal list flew from his lips. Sky diving. Climbing Mt. Everest (okay, he didn't really say that one, but that was the kind of things he was coming up with), et cetera. I told him we weren't looking at it like that - our bucket list was more of an inspiration to accomplish a few things that could actually be accomplished in a short amount of time. Sounds simple, right? And yet... aside from the agent goal, I had nada.

So as I lay there staring into the dark I thought, Holy crap. What's wrong with me? Why can't I think of anything?

Then I said, "Honey, do you think the fact that I can't think of anything means I'm content, or do you think it means I'm boring?"

He replied, "Maybe a little of both."

Of course, then I was so busy trying to figure out if I was boring that the bucket list got pushed to the back of my mind.

The point of today's post is this: We all have things we would love to do or try - and yet, I think most of us have never really thought to write them down. So today I'd like to hear a few goals you'd like to accomplish. What would you love to do? Are there places you would like to go? A marathon you'd like to run? A fear of something you would love to confront?

I'd love to hear about them in the comments... maybe your ideas will help me with mine!

Pitch me a fast one, me hearties!

The internet is brimming full of pitch (also called a logline) contests right now. The Authoress on Miss Snark's First Victim recently held two critique contests for loglines, and will be holding another one this week (here's her post from last Friday), in preparations for her Baker's Dozen Agent Auction in December. (Note - the MG/YA category has been bumped from 40 up to 80 submissions.)

How important is it to have a logline ready? Pretty important. Knowing your logline ahead of time can give you a foot in the door when conversing with agents, and an agent who chooses to represent you may also use that same log line when trying to interest publishers.

Also, a lot of writing contests require a logline to be submitted with your work, including WRITERS DIGEST's seventh "Dear Lucky Agent Contest" (which ends November 3rd - YA genre only - you still have time to enter!), judged by Ms. Tamar Rydzinski of The Laura Dail Literary Agency. In this contest, a logline must be included in the entry of the first 150-200 words of your novel. (Quick side note: I am entering this contest, and was very excited to learn that Ms. Rydzinski belongs to the agency that represents Bonnie Hearn Hill, YA author of The Star Crossed Series. Ms. Hill is actually from where I live, and a few fortunate writers, including myself, received a quick critique from her a few months ago at my local RWA meeting! Kind of crazy that I'm now submitting the exact same thing to her agency!)

The ladies at the Operation Awesome blog are holding a one line pitch mystery agent contest (ends soon), so if you have one and it's for a novel in the genre they're looking for, head on over there!

For those of you who've spent countless hours of blood, sweat and tears trying to write a query or synopsis, the one sentence pitch is yet another opportunity to claw your eyes out (or, if you're a fan of Snip's poem, chew your own feet).

But what IS a one sentence pitch, exactly? Well, to put it simply, it's the summarization of the plot of your book in one sentence - a way to grab an agent, suck them in, and make them beg to read some (and hopefully all) of your work.

If you're wanting to learn more about pitches, here are a few links to check out:

* Holly Bodger's (who is helping critique Authoress's logline submissions) Loglines

* Angelica R. Jackson pointed out in the comments of Operation Awesome's contest that another good place for info on pitches is on Kristen Nelson's (of Nelson Literary Agency) blog, Pub Rants.

AND, JUST ADDED: Agent Miriam Kriss's post on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog - The Perfect Pitch.

So there you have it. Another feat to accomplish in the writerly world. (They never stop coming, do they?) After spending so much time working on mine (it's far from "good", but I'm going to keep trying), I've learned that from now on, before I even begin to write a book, I'm going to write the pitch first. Not only does it help give perspective on the plot and MC's goal as you're writing, but it also saves a lot of time when you're done and trying to figure out how in the world to put this story full of discoveries, twists and turns into a mere sentence or two!

Have any of you written a pitch for your current MS/WiP? Feel free to share them in the comments - I'd love to read them!

Friday Focus - let the beautiful stuff out

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ~ Ray Bradbury

I love that. Let the beautiful stuff out - isn't that a great way to look at it?

Happy Friday! =)

Thirty-two years young

So I'm thirty-two today. I'm not saying this so all of you will wish me a wonderful, lucky, writerly year (though, now that I think about it, feel free to send some of those wishes my way!), I'm bringing it up because it hit me last night that my thirtieth year was some sort of turning point.

By the end of that year I had cut my hair (which had been long for years), changed the color, and begun the tedious, fun, exasperating, exciting, educational journey of writing. If I'd known how different that year was going to be, I probably wouldn't have been so upset about the big 3-0. But I was. I didn't want to be older. I felt as though I was stuck in a rut of I don't-even-know-what -- with nothing to show for myself, personally. Sure, I had a wonderful family, a wonderful husband, and three beautiful girls. But something was missing. Come to find out, it was getting a story that I had on my heart down on paper.

Did that story turn me into this famous, awesome novelist with an agent and a book deal? No. Did I hold on to that first story for dear life and do what I could to try and make it get somewhere? Yes. But it didn't go anywhere. I moved on. I started another one, and even another. And now here I am, a year and a half into this journey, and though at times I feel frustrated and useless and as though I should be put into a straight jacket and thrown into a looney bin, I am loving it. I'm loving the process of all things writerly, loving the people I've met all over the internet who write, strive to keep their lives even by working their butts off and work/home and writing every chance they get, and are there to support their fellow writers and keep them informed and inspired along the journey.

Who knows where my thirty-second year will take me. I am hoping for great things. I am hoping for a synopsis that rocks at least one agent's socks, for a query that shows my vision for a wonderful book. I am expecting another year of laughs and tears and screaming between me, Lovemuffin and the girls. And I can't wait to continue this entire journey with all of you - my writerly friends - my friends who get me, who get IT - the constant, nagging feeling that we can do something, that we can put thousands upon thousands of words together straight from our hearts and create another world for readers everywhere.

So here's to another year, my friends. Here's to camaraderie and inspiration and accomplishments beyond our wildest dreams. Cheers!

(Also, my first *ever* guest blog is up at The Sharp Angle, titled Neglected Character Types in Women's Fiction. Lydia Sharp is a writer and great blogger of all things literary and I would love if you'd check stop by there and check it out! Feel free to follow her blog too, she's a great gal!)

Friday Focus: The Novelist's Ambition

The novelist's ambition is not to do something better than his predecessors but to see what they did not see, say what they did not say.

~ Milan Kundera

Yes! Exactly!

Happy Friday!

I'm an acorn in a world of peanuts

I'm having an epiphany here, guys. (Yes, I know. I have them a lot.)

I've been smacked. Smacked in the comprehensive part of my brain that has been reading, reading, reading, studying book flaps and websites and "this query worked and this is why" posts, trying to understand how to get it right. Trying to get FLORA to sound like it should. Trying to make FLORA sound good. (Because I really do believe that it is.)

I'm walking through Target, and there it is. BOOM. Right to the side of my head.

POW! Hello, Jessica! Glad to see you're back! Where have you been?

I've got it all wrong, people. I'm not supposed to be explaining FLORA. I'm not supposed to follow these other query samples to tell about mine. I'm supposed to be saying:

Mine is different. Here's how.

It isn't like everyone else's. You're not about to read the same words fifty other people have already used. This here is an acorn - a pretty, different, unique and original acorn, in a world full of peanuts.

Mine is different. Here's how.

You didn't know I'm a poet?

Ode to Querying
Snippy Snuffalupakins

Queries are fun.
Synopsises are neat.
(I'm lying.
Both make me want to chew my own feet.)

He who types the last line laughs (or goes crazy)

Yeah. I know. Two posts in a row pointing out my lack of sanity. But to be fair, yesterday's post was more along the lines of "this could/can/does happen", not "this just happened to me". (Course it had, but not right then. When I posted it. Did I clear that up well enough? Right.) So I say, I'm allowed to blog about sanity again. In a way I feel like a professional. An insane one. (You know, because we writers *are* professionals.)


The last line. The ending. The grand finale. Something *so* looked forward to for like, forever, and yet, when you find yourself there, looking over the cliff, about to wave sayonara to your *squee* - say it with me folks - finished novel, that longed for salute doesn't always go the way you'd planned it to.

Or does it? Is it just me? I don't know. Technically, I am done. I am done, finished, through. But this last sentence, it's driving me crazy! I know I should leave it alone, but I can't. Why is that? Why can't we let go, after so much time? I don't get it.

Oh wait. I just thought of another sentence...

*types it out*

*deletes it*

Noooooo wait.....

(I do believe I need help.)

Zero to panic in five minutes

So. You've gotten that pinky down, and are back in front of the computer screen again, with renewed hope, refreshed eyes and a rejuvenated mind. And then...

*Word document



*Recent File

*hover over odd-named file that has nothing to do with the actual title because it's never been changed*




*scroll to current editing page*






*type out better description*


*pat self on back*


*scroll down*




*scroll back up*



*type out previous words that were just deleted because who do I think I am that was too much I'm no Hemingway how pretentious of me*



*read some more*


*embellish beginning of chapter*

*edit word that makes no sense and laugh har har har*



*blink again*

*think, Oh my GOSH I am tired*

*think, Wait, am I tired, or am I bored?*

*feel heart racing*


*think, Am I? Bored? Really?*

*attempt to breathe*

*think, I am! I'm BORED! I've bored myself! I'm boring! IT'S boring! It's ALL boring! I suck! This is terrible! What was I thinking? I'm insane! I can't do this! I'm an idiot!*

*catch breath*

*sip coffee*

*read some more*


*spit out coffee*

*go do dishes/walk the dog/watch TV/wallow in huge pool of misery and promise to never look at the computer again because there's no way I can face those lame stupid ignorant words any longer what a waste of a bazillion hours of my life I could have spent catching up on Malcom in the Middle reruns I give up*

Now what?

Friday Focus: Put your reader in the middle

"The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader,through his sense, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events."
~Ray Bradbury

This is a good one for fantasy writers - I think we all need this kind of reminder every now and then! =)

Happy Friday!

Thursdays with Snip - contests & news

(Whew! I'm finally getting around to posting this - it has been a crazy week, so the list is rather short!)

Writerly News

Turning Rejections into Acceptances: Turn that query frown upside down!

YA Free Reads Alert: The YA Addict blog has posted that Egmont is allowing Michael Grant's Gone, Hunger and Lies to be read for free! (Through October 22nd.)

Your First Chapter: Author Stephenie Perkins' blog post about your first chapter is a good one. Check it out!

Star Crossed Series: Local YA author Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of the Star Crossed Series, has been interviewed at Sarah's blog, The Lovestruck Novice, and will be doing a book signing in Fresno October 23rd!


10 Smart Questions about the query process & 2011 Guide to Literary Agent Giveaway: The First Novels Club has none other than Chuck Sambuchino as their guest, and he asks (and answers) 10 Smart Questions about the Query Process and is offering a 2011 Guide to Literary Agents to one lucky winner! (Contest ends October 29th)

FREE MONEY: Tahereh is at it again - she's giving away free money to buy shiny new books! Yay!

Where the Truth Lies: Jessica at Confessions of a Bookaholic is giving away a free ARC of Where the Truth Lies. (Contest ends October 26th.)

Oh to wake up and have it done already

Some people sleepwalk.
Some even sleep-eat.
A lot of people sleep-talk.
I'd like to sleep-write. (Do they sell a pill for that?)

Milk Eggs Vodka (or, Inspirations for Your Characters)

A few months ago I was watching Jimmy Kimmel, and the guest, Bill Keaggy, was promoting his unusual book, Milk Eggs Vodka. (Warning - if you're going to check out the link, you've been forewarned that not everything on there is child appropriate.)

Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found [Book]

Milk Eggs Vodka is a compilation of grocery lists found by Mr. Bill Keaggy, himself, over a span of many years. Here's how the story goes: One day Mr. Keaggy found a grocery list, and after finding it a little interesting, he decided to keep it. Then he found another interesting one, and another, and so on. A few years later, the collection had grown to a whopping amount of almost five hundred lists. (I plan to get this book, eventually, because the lists he shared on the show really did make me giggle.)

Anyway. Characters with unusual quirks can make your story more interesting. Being the writerly person that I am, Mr. Keaggy gave me an idea about how to up the quirkiness with one of the characters in my women's fiction WiP. (No, she doesn't collect any kind of list.) And then I thought, I wonder what odd things have inspired other writers out there to do something different with their characters?

So today's question is:

What inspired you to write your characters the way you did?

I'd love to hear your stories!

A gross (but hopefully helpful) analogy by yours truly

My youngest daughter has a Kenyan sand boa.

DSC_0334.jpg picture by munchi5gal

** If you like snakes, then you'll probably agree with me when I say that she/he (?) is the cutest thing *ever*. (I'm already imagining the wonderful comments that previous sentence is going to bring my way. Ha.)

Now, I like snakes. What I do not like however, is feeding time. In fact, feeding time makes me downright sad. My daughter knows how it works: I will take her to get the pinky (aka baby mouse/rat/or in last week's case, hamster -- still pink, not yet covered in fur), I will buy the pinky, and I will take her and the pinky back home. But after that, I sure as heck am not going to go into her room and watch what happens next.

I understand the whole circle of life thing (I *have* seen The Lion King a bazillion times, thank you very much). I get that it takes life to keep life going. Yes. I understand. But watching it actually take place? No thanks. You won't ever catch me in front of the TV with National Geographic shows playing because I simply cannot handle it. I can't see the entertainment in watching one animal eating another. (And don't even joke at the dinner table about the name of the cow I'm eating, or attempt to invite me fishing, because I'll refuse to hook that poor fish!)

Am I losing you? Are you wondering what in the world Snookie eating pinkies has to do with my (not mentioned at all yet) analogy? Well stick with me here. It's coming up next.

Even people who don't like snakes know what they have to do to survive - they have to eat - really big things. And unlike our meals, which can be broken into little bites and enjoyed at leisurely pace, snakes have to force one thing down, slowly. (Doesn't sound remotely leisurely to me.)

So here's my analogy:

We all come across issues during the writing process. The plot may have serious wrinkles, the chapters may be too short or too long, the dialogue may lack that realistic quality we're desperate for it to have. And of course, we end up getting frustrated. We want it all fixed NOW. It isn't fair when what we know in our heads so well won't go down on the paper/screen the way want. Or when those problems needing fixing just can't seem to be fixed.

When those feelings come over us - inadequacy or frustration, for example - then it's time to be like Snookie, my friends. The problem is our pinky. Figuring it out may not happen as fast as wolfing down a cheeseburger, but it will happen, eventually. (Sometimes Snookie doesn't like the way a pinky is going down and she spits it back out, then goes back for another try.)

We can take a breath and step away from our writing place. We can take a walk. We can invite someone out to ice cream or coffee. We can go get groceries, watch three movies in a row, get our oil changed. It's okay to chew on ideas for a while before coming up with a resolution.

So there you go - an analogy probably a little tough to swallow (I know, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.), but an analogy just the same. Time isn't good time unless it's being spent the right way, and there's nothing worse than realizing many hours have gone by, and the only thing you've accomplished is upping the bite mark tally on your pencil.

I promise - the pinky will go down, in time. And when it does, you'll feel amazing.

How about you? What do you do when you feel stumped? Do you have a routine to help get those creative juices flowing again?

Friday Focus: You must want to enough

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like."
~Phyllis A. Whitney

I know I want to enough.

How about you?

Happy Friday!

Thursdays with Snip - contests & news

It's ten o'clock Wednesday night and I'm so behind with Thursdays with Snip it isn't remotely amusing. (I do have a very good reason, which includes not saving the blog post I started yesterday and therefore losing all of the links I was going to share, but whatevs. I won't bore you all with how that happened.) PLUS, I was a terrible blog friend, mentioned Forever's new cover and contest, then never brought it up again! (Bad me! Very bad me!)

So here are the links I could remember:


The Forests for the Trees: Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner is giving away five copies of this wonderful book. You can read more about the contest on her blog. (Contest ends Saturday.)

The Never-Ending Scene Blogfest (manuscript/synopsis critique): Brenda Drake is having a cliffhanger contest - post a cliffhanger on your blog, and enter to win a manuscript/synopsis critique (and more) by Cassandra Marshall. Details here. (Entries need to be posted by 8:00 a.m. ET October 25th.)

Shiver/Linger contest: So here's the link to Maggie's blog, where she tells you how to win AWESOME Shiver and Linger stuff. (Contest ends October 19th.)

All White for Twilight: Speaking of awesome, Operation Awesome is holding a All White for Twilight contest to win The Twilight Series books (not available in the US!). According to their blog:

The white titles will only be published between October and Christmas 2010, replacing the usual black jackets. The titles will have crimson-edged pages and crimson back covers, with text confined to the spines.

Check out the contest and more info HERE. (Contest ends October 31st.)

Kidlit: Adventures in Publishing's interviews and contest: Check out the interviews and enter to win newly released books here. (Contest ends Friday, October 8th.)

Writerly News

When it's Not Hot, Passion Can Carry It : Agent Kristin Nelson shared some great thoughts on having passion for a project.

The Answers: Cristi Goddard had an inspirating post about figuring out all of those writerly answers.

Essentials in Women's Fiction: Lydia Sharp posted about how to keep your ideas original when you're writing about baby-making decisions.

Defeating Your Inner Critic: Carolyn Kaufman is on Query Tracker teaching us ways to defeat our inner critic. Check out Part 1: Track the Problem and Part 2: Put the Critic on the Stand

The Query Tracker blog's Publishing Pulse: Lots of great stuff in last Friday's post .


Friday Focus: The professional writer

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~ Richard Bach

See! It isn't the perfect query, the well-worded synopsis, the requests for partials filling up our email inboxes, the contests we've won. It's not quitting when the going gets tough, when the words don't come, when everything looks jumbled and nothing makes sense and we think we're crazy for doing what we're doing.

So keep going, no matter what, my writerly friends! Be a professional! =)

Happy Friday!

Book grabbing survey results

Okay, so the results weren't THAT exciting. And I don't say that because I don't appreciate you voters out there... but I had another poll up at first, and for some reason it went all wonky on me and disappeared, so I think there were more votes than this is showing. Oh well. Thanks for voting, guys! (If this post comes out weird, I apologize. Copy and paste isn't always my friend.)

Here's the results to last week's poll (yes, I voted, too!) :

How many of you finish a book, even if it's not grabbing you?

I read it anyway.

4 votes

I skim through the pages to finish faster.

1 vote

I flip to the back to find out how it ends.

1 vote

I stop reading. Life is too short!

Tah dah! And there's the results. Were you guys surprised?

7 votes

FOREVER cover debut & pre-order signed copy info

And here it is - Forever, the last book in the Shiver trilogy. I love the jacket design (to all three books, actually), don't you? You can pre-order your signed copy here.

Check back on this week's Thursdays with Snip to learn how you can enter to win some great Linger and Shiver stuff from Maggie. =)

When you have friends & interests but your interests are not your friends'...

*Warning - the following post is a rant. If you do not have hours of time and at least one full cup of coffee, please proceed to the next "to do" thing on your list, and come back later. ;)*

Friends. Acquaintances. Pals. BFFS.

I have friends. Not a whole lot, like, friends friends, but I have friends.

(Let's try this again. I feel as though I'm defending myself. That isn't what I'm trying to do.)


I have friends. I have a lot of friends, and a few close friends. (There. That's better.) I'm not *as* close with my friends as I used to be, due to kids/work/school/writing/life plus whatever it is that occupies their time and takes them away from the phone/computer, too. (For some reason I felt the need to make sure you all knew I had friends before I went into today's actual post. I'm not sure why.) And that doesn't bother me, us not being as close, not speaking all the time like we used to, really it doesn't. I get it. Life. Life happens.

Anyway. Even though I *do* have friends (and they mean a LOT to me), I've found myself, over the past year or so, moving into a completely different direction. As in, well okay fine, I'll just come right out and say it: I'm obsessed. Obsessed with reading, obsessed with writing. And I've always been obsessed with movies. Every single time I go to open my mouth, either

1) a movie

2) a book/author/story line


3) a writing idea/experience

tries to force itself from my mouth.

And I swear, I try, I try *really* hard not to do it all of the time, to say things like, "Uh, so, the sun is yellow, right?" instead of "Oh my gosh I was reading this book and the best idea came to me and I ran to my journal...", but it's hard.

It reminds me of new parents. (Now, I was one once, almost 13 years ago, so I know what I'm talking about here. And if for some reason you don't happen to know any new parents, and have not been a new parent yet, then please, think of it as new pet owners, instead. It's pretty close to the same thing.) When someone has just had a kid, and that kid is pretty much the only thing the parent/s are dealing with every day, then that kid, and the experiences with the kid, and the cute times and the annoying times and the "once, when she threw up all over my face..." stories (and everything else you can think of that you've heard/told over the years) come out. Constantly. Until you get to the point where (and don't deny it, people) you want to scream, I DON'T CARE HOW CUTE YOUR KID LOOKS WHEN HE EATS A FRENCH FRY!

It's not that the new parent/s are *trying* to only talk about their kid all of the time, but that's their life. All the time. It's all they know. They're absorbed in every little bitty detail of it.

Well that's me. It's not that I'm *trying* to think about reading/writing all of the time, it's just my life now. It's me. I read, write, parent, drink coffee, steal the occasional date with my husband, and breathe.

And so, in trying not to drive everybody bonkers, I hold a lot of the experience, the enjoyment (and of course, the dejection and frustration) INSIDE. Which is a good thing, I'm sure, for those who know me. Less rambling for them to hear.

BUT. I've found myself wishing, over the past few months, for someone to just sit with, someone I could have long conversations with about everything in the writer/readerly world... in person. It's not that I don't appreciate you all out there across the internet, because I do, I wouldn't have survived this past year without you, but to look someone in the eye, see their reaction, hear their feelings about this character or that ending, and get it... I don't know. After a while, the "oh I don't reads", and "it's only a book" looks just make me sad, you know?

There. Rant is over. A cup of coffee has been emptied, and I feel better now. Somewhat.

I came across this quote, and had to share it in today's post.

"One hasn't become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating." --- Niyi Osundare

How about you? Does the solitary writer life get to you sometimes, too? What to do you to get over that lonely hump?