Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Author:

thumper can't say something nice-2I’m a softie. There. I said it. Now no one has to think it while they read this post.

I’ve always been the kind of person who hesitates before saying anything online that could hurt a person’s feelings. I attribute this to two things:

  • I’m a lifelong reader. Readers are more empathetic and, therefore, more sensitive to their effect on other people.
  • I was viciously bullied as a kid and, as a result, am pathologically predisposed to hating bullies.

When it comes to books, foods, TV shows, or anything, really, that someone put effort into, I’m inclined to hold to the Thumper Rule. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I won’t say anything at all.

I know this runs counter to the entire concept of the honest review, right? People rely on reviews, good and bad, when making decisions and an abstained review is no help to anyone, right?

Sure, until I think of all the people responsible for making whatever I’m reviewing happen, in which case I feel like a bully. I mean, say I read a book and I can’t finish it. It happens to me all the time. The more I learn about writing, the less I’m able to stomach sloppy prose. This makes me sound snobby, but it’s no less true.

Regardless, just because a particular book didn’t sit well with me doesn’t mean someone else won’t glean enjoyment from it. Books are written in a countless variety of styles specifically because there’s no accounting for taste. Just because so-and-so’s writing drove me up the wall doesn’t mean it won’t go down smooth as honey for someone else.

That said, if I write a scathing review lambasting that poor author’s work, it might frighten away the very person for whom the book was intended. And doesn’t that make me a bully? Frightening people away from making friends with someone just because I happen not to like him?

You have to understand, a bad review of your work lands like a sucker punch right to the gut. Believe me, I’ve gotten some terribly mean ones and every single one of them does more damage than ten nice ones because, for some masochistic reason, I’m more likely to believe negative reviews than good ones.

I realize this post isn’t going to stop all the people out there who write scathing reviews. I’m sure it’s empowering, in a way, to write an articulate diatribe against someone who you feel has wasted your time (and/or money) with substandard work. That said, all I can do is represent this side of it and plead for empathy.

You never know who’s reading your stuff online. I suppose I just have to hope that none of my friends and readers are the kind of people who enjoy making other people feel terrible about themselves for sport.

</End Guilt Trip>

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Author:

day-life-working-mom-Gisele-Bündchen-includes-sittingParents, right? Hollywood stars make parenthood look easy, breezy, and glamorous, what with their instagrammed pictures where they’re doing yoga with their kids in perfectly back-lit studios or breastfeeding in makeup chairs while stylists primp and perfect their appearances.

And then you go to a farmer’s market and see a sweaty woman strapped to a wailing baby, hauling on the arm of a red-faced toddler in the throes of a full-fledged meltdown and you think, “I bet Gisele has never done that in her life.”

It’s true. Gisele probably never has.

But that’s not my point. My point is that there’s more to that exhausted woman wearing sweatpants in public, whose hair is in a scrunchie because her toddler threw her last hair elastic in the toilet and she was halfway through straightening her hair when the baby pulled her diaper off and decorated the walls with its contents.

(For the record: These things have never happened to me personally, I’m using amalgamated stories from my friends to paint a picture)

This woman probably used to be the kind of woman who wouldn’t dream of leaving the house bare-faced and with messy hair. She was probably the kind of person who made time to read, wrote handwritten notes to her friends just to cheer them up, tried something new every week because Oprah told her to, and understood the importance of taking time for herself. She had dreams, and goals, and, if not a full-formed idea of who she was, was at least off to a great start.

And then this woman had a baby. And her entire world shifted on its axis to such a large extent that even the term ‘paradigm shift’ fails to cover it. And her whole life and body and marriage and bank account became relegated to the service of keeping a tiny little human alive. A task made even more daunting by the awareness of this tiny person’s future effect on the other lives around it.

And this woman, she’s still that younger woman inside her. The kind who feels at her best when she’s well-rested, dressed nicely, with hair that looks good and makeup that’s appropriate to the occasion and just the right number and color of accessories. Even though she looks like she’s one rough night away from becoming a bag lady, she remembers who she was, and who she still might be.

The same goes for men. Men are not exempt from this. The details change, but the story’s the same.

And the reason why? Kids, man. Kids. They’re worth it, but oh my gosh is there a personal cost in raising children (at least, if you’re doing it right) and I kind of feel like we all need to remember that.

It’s easy to sit at a Mommy & Me class and look at the other parents and think they’re all terribly boring. I know I’m guilty of it. After all, our lives revolve around the eating habits and excretion efforts of tiny humans, how interesting can we be?

And then I remember that all of us were someone else before we had kids. And those someone elses were probably interesting. Maybe not all, but I think it’s safe to say most.

I’ve taken to creating back stories for the parents around me if I can’t ask them what those stories might be. Maybe he was an extreme rock climber, and she posed nude for a photographer one time in college, and she was the youngest VP at her company before stepping down to shake maracas with her son once a week.

All parents, if you can get past the mom jeans and the socks with sandals and the bad hair or scruffy stubble or tired, bloodshot eyes, are still those interesting people on the inside.

And every once in awhile, when we’re very lucky, those people get to come out and we have the chance to remember, if only for a moment, who we are at our core, and who we’re capable of becoming.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 | Author:
This is me with my whole life, at the moment.

This is me with my whole life, at the moment.

I don’t know why exactly, but I’m always surprised when things everyone warns me will be hard actually turn out to be hard.

For example, I was told before my c-section that recovery would be a slow, difficult process. Intellectually, I understood that. I planned for it. And yet, when my daughter was a week old, I was astounded by how difficult and draining it was to stand up for five minutes and fold a load of laundry. It shouldn’t have surprised me, and yet, it did. It’s like I thought simple acknowledgement of the fact that it’d be difficult would be enough to excuse me from having to live it.

The latest examples of this weird quirk of mine are being away from Wes for two weeks and the process of trying to land an agent. When Wes and I finally figured out our schedules for the summer and realized that we’d basically be on opposite coasts the whole first half of July, we knew it’d be hard. We talked about it. We planned for it. And yet, once again, I’m surprised by how challenging it is.

We have Sprint for our cell phones, which means we can’t talk on the phone because lo, Sprint never met a call it didn’t want to drop. This means we’ve barely spoken and must rely on texts, which are about as cuddly as a Decepticon toaster. Add to that the fact that I’ve been on solo parenting duty for six straight days, all while querying the agents I met at the conference, and you’ve got a whole lot of missing going on.

For Wes’s part, when he’s not flooding his hotel bathroom and wandering into rough neighborhoods, he’s finally relaxed enough to realize he misses me. He’s been so stressed out getting ready for his conference, the poor guy practically had cogs springing out of his head when I got home from New York.

So here we are. In yet another situation where I’m surprised something is tough even though I knew going into it that it would be.

Maybe I’m just adept at the kind of wishful thinking that convinces me I’m exempt from these kinds of struggles? If that’s the case, querying agents is an excellent way to pay my dues. So far as I can tell, no one gets a free pass at this process. It’s tough for just about everyone.

What’s nice is, pretty soon I’ll have my husband back to go through it with. I’m pretty sure all my friends, on whom I’ve leaned heavily for support while my husband’s MIA, will breathe a sigh of relief at that!

How lucky am I to have friends willing to be leaned on?!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 | Author:

I’ve been a professional writer for three years now (I know, you’re thinking, “Three whole years? Please excuse me while I reign in my overwhelming awe.”). In those three years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending three major writer’s conferences along with countless other writing networking events. While not an expert, I’ve learned enough to volunteer a few suggestions for those of you who are planning to attend conferences of your own in the future.

So here they are: 9 Tips For Acing a Writer’s Conference:

  • Bring a full pack of minty gum with you, and chew a stick every time you eat or drink something. I cannot tell you how many times someone at a conference has leaned in close to tell me something and repelled me with coffee breath. Don’t let this be you! Be remembered for minty freshness, not halitosis!
  • Order business cards and bring them with you. Include the following information on your business cards: Name, genre, email, website, and any and all social media outlets you use. I go home from conferences with stacks of business cards and try to make new online friends with my recent acquaintances only to find I only have an email address to go on. Join Twitter, make writer friends there. Trust me, we’re everywhere on Twitter, and we’re pretty darn friendly!
  • Enjoy the company of fellow writers, but remember that this is still a quasi-professional affair. Even though we writers are a decidedly mixed bag of sartorial selections when it comes to writer’s conferences (I saw a guy in sweatpants at the conference in New York, sitting next to a guy in a nice suit), do put in an effort. At the very least, it’ll make you feel fancier which can only contribute to your seeming like an accomplished writer destined for great things.
  • Bring a notepad and a pen you don’t mind writing tons of notes with. You’ll kick yourself for not bringing writing materials with me because you better believe you’re going to hear something you simply must write down.
  • When you get home, send emails to all your newfound friends and encourage them to keep in touch. Writing is a lot more fun with friends, and what’s the point of going to a conference if you’re not going to keep the magic going once you get home?
  • Don’t approach everyone as a potential provider of something you want. Be polite, engage with other people as human beings, and enjoy!
  • Work on your pitch before you leave your house. If you think you’ll have time to write your pitch once you get there, you’ll find yourself feverishly scrawling notes between sessions, stressing out because your pitch isn’t done yet and you wish it was.
  • Once you have your pitch done, practice it on everyone. Get feedback, tweak it, and keep practicing it until you know it so well that you can say it without having to think about it too much. A little preparation goes a long way toward peace of mind at a writer’s conference.
  • If you go out for drinks after conference events, take aspirin before you go to bed. The number of hungover writers I chatted up at the ThrillerFest conference was higher than you’d think. If you’re going to party, do it smart. You still have to function in the morning.

That’s all the ones I can think of. Fellow writers and conference survivors, anything to add?

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Author:

July 14, 2014 is a date that will likely stay seared into my brain for quite some time. Aside from being pretty cool numerically (7-14-14), it’s the day I finished sending queries to all the agents I had the pleasure of meeting at the conference last week.

From this point forward, life is one great, big, giant ticking clock, lopping off minutes and hours until I get emails back from these fine people that will either make my day or crush me momentarily. I say momentarily because a writer can’t afford to get crushed every time he or she gets a rejection. If that happened, there’d be nothing left to pick up and soldier on with!

Rest assured, until I’ve heard back from all of them, my heart will skip a beat every time I hear the little chime that heralds new emails. It can take months to hear back from a literary agent (they receive hundreds of queries every month!) so it’s time to settle in for a wait. A potentially long one.

At least it’s summertime, which means there’s constant activity to distract me. Who wants to help me reorganize every drawer and cabinet in my house? Anyone feel like tackling my backyard with me? LET’S ALL TAKE UP CROCHETING!