26 May 2006

Holy calzone.

I had to hold off on posting this until I got my Symphonians post out of the way.

Actual e-mail:


Hi Melinda,

We received your proposal for the soil building book today, but I was wondering if you have a proposal available for The Saga of the Rose. That's the title we're most interested in. If you have a proposal for that book, please email it to me right away, and please copy Regina on it (something@somebody.com).

Thanks so much, and if you have any questions, you can call me after Tuesday at (random numbers here).

All Best,

Anne Wells
Assistant Agent


BRC: You say, Naah, not really, I'd rather do the soil book.


I better get off my ass, seeing as there is no actual proposal for the rose saga book, only a couple of articles. Aw, damn, just when I was getting some momentum going on Symphonians. But, as they say on earth, c'est la vie. So am I going to sit here and whine, or am I going to start working until my eyes fall out??

That's more like it. Ship the kid to work tomorrow with the husband, he won't mind. Just to get him back for the above comment!

On the i-Pod: "When It's Love" -- Van Halen.

Oh, I *know* when it's love.

Though a more appropriate song would be "Back in the Saddle" by Kelley Hunt.

Here's a two-ton heavy thing.

So I'm creeping through chapter 16 of the Symphonians novel, which is the first chapter of part 2. So obviously I haven't gotten very far very fast. But! I am getting somewhere, emotionally.

I've been once again going over the background between Kay and Carter, which is based on a relationship between me and this other guy a long time ago. (It ended ... poorly.) My sour view of this relationship is part of the reason my novel bounced back to me; it doesn't fit in with Kay's generous, friends-above-all worldview I'd so carefully built up in the first half. Mainly because Miss Hindsight-Is-20/20 is going, "The man is evil! EEEEEEvilllll!"

Basing a book on a previous relationship that ended ... badly ... is tricky. Of course, everything about the man must be changed to avoid libel suits. (Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird recommends giving the male character a tiny penis so he will never come forward.) But what really trips you up is the Voice of Experience crying "EEEEEEvillll!" This, obviously, doesn't do a lot for character development, or plot development, and then your MC becomes unsympathetic because she hates the guy's guts, whereas it's actually the author busting through the page, declaiming, "Oh how I hate this guy's guts!"

If the character was actually a decent guy, you're not going to want to look at that. If he and the MC had good times, and they went smoochy smoocy and it was nice, there ain't no way you're going to want to take a look at that. Because the man was EEEEEEVillllll and that's all there is to it.

Grandpa Simpson: It's evil! EEEEEEEvil!
Bart: Grandpa, you always say that.
Grandpa Simpson (sadly): I just want attention.

So last week, when I started digging through the old journal and letters, I started wishing I had a journal that I'd given to the man. Instead of writing in my regular journal, I wrote in a special journal and I gave it to him.


But too bad so sad, like I'm going to waltz into this guy's life and say, "Hi, I'm the evil one who broke your heart, now give me that journal I gave you about 16 years ago."

Even though I want to.

But that would be dumb.

Funny, "I Wish It Would Rain Down" by Phil Collins came on. That was on the radio toward the end of our relationship, spring of '90, and I felt sorry that I'd been trying to leave him, so obviously I didn't hate him all the time as my story insists, and obviously I felt a lot of kindness toward him because he was a friend and he did help me, at least there at the beginning. So I need to focus on these things more. Those kinds of feelings and attitudes are closer to the feelings and attitudes of Kay in the book's first half, so I really need to stay true to them.

But damn, that journal would have helped a lot with that. Since the journal I kept doesn't have a whole lot in it until it starts all going to hell.

Still, there is hope. This afternoon I was reviewing a memory of a day, early in the relationship, when we were having fun together, and I actually remembered what it felt like when I was happy with him. Even though now, when I write "happy with him," I am not comfortable with feeling happy with him. It goes against all the defenses I've been piling up over the years.

It's a start, though. Let's see if I can do this poor guy some justice. It's only fair, since I bash the heck out of him later in the book!

But seriously, it is important to make the Carter character lovable. If Kay loves him (as a friend), and the reader loves him, then it's going to be that much harder for them to break away from him. It's got to tear her up and it's got to tear the reader up. She can't love him, but her code of honor says, Never abandon a friend.

So that's what I'm doing with chapter 16. I've been adding in a lot of scenes to further establish their relationship and also to give the reader some sense of why she's wanting to leave him later on -- I have him stalking her at a dance, which actually happened to me but with some different guy.

On the i-Pod: "Same Old River" -- Sam Bush

22 May 2006

Garrison Keillor kicks my ass.

I read this and I had to laugh, thinking about all the times I'm on the SCBWI discussion board talking about how *I* slam my face into the keyboard on a daily basis. But I was also thinking ... his kids didn't get interesting until they were five? What's up with that?

But he's still the Boss. Or one of 'em.

19 May 2006

Worms! You love 'em!

I just ran across a blog by Amy Stewart, who wrote The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, about ... worms! These are dear to my heart, since I'm including a whole chapter about them in my Soilbuilding book, and would like to write a book focusing solely on these critters and how they can help fix the soil. I gotta link to this later; I have only an hour left of quiet time before everybody comes rushing home.

(And BTW I was just looking at blogs because I was printing out my Soilbuilding book proposal and ran across the blog while I was trying to find sales figures for Amy's book. So it was legitimate research! Really!)

Noa's singing "Three Days" right now.

What you need to know about reader's reports.

Here's the link to Anna Genoese's post about reader's reports at Tor.

My Action Agenda!

Today I need to:

Do laundry. Also fold stuff. Clean laundry is piled up on the rocking chair and has taken up half of my dresser. Aiee!

Look for more jobs and send out resumes. I'm disgusted because all the horticulturalist jobs are in KC, usually over an hour from where we are. But I must forge on.

(BTW, I'm not going after an English teaching job. I am an evil selfish girl, and all that homework I'd have to grade would take me away from my story. I am looking for a job where I don't have to bring stuff home, though I'm willing to write lists of things to do at 3 a.m. the way I used to.)

Get those damn book proposals out! I'm going to try to hook the laptop to the printer, but if it crashes I'll take it to the library, which has wireless access, send it to my e-mail account, then print from this other computer (it has internet access and it has a printer).

Get off the blog! Get to work! It's ten minutes until nine, so let's go!

On the radio (KNIM, Maryville) -- Telegraph City? by Dire Straits. Cool song! I love this station.

Oh no! Now they're playing the Doors! Oh well, ya win some, ya lose some.

18 May 2006

At Mitchell Park.

Sixth-grade girl: So I told him to bring it! So he brought it! And then he went home crying to his mom!

Short update on Symphonians.

I was chasing kindergarteners around all day, so that was fun, or something! There's always one or two that get on my nerves, where I'm thinking, "Did I not tell you to sit down 36 times in the last five minutes? And here you are up again."

Yesterday, though, I subbed at a high school. I prefer high school to elementary subbing because I can get a little story work done. And that was the case yesterday. I was filling in for the biology teacher, and her students were working on their Powerpoint presentations on biomes. So mostly I was helping students find files and making sure they weren't playing computer games instead of working. Also had to wrestle 6th hour around a little, because we had some backtalkers in there -- folks who want to see how much they can tweak the teacher/sub/whoever. Otherwise the day went smoothly.

And what do you know, I finished writing all the scene-by-scene outlines for each chapter in part 2. Except for the last chapter, which I'm going to rewrite. Then I started writing a plot outline for part 2. Whew! I was beat at the end of the day.

Getting this done has raised my spirits. While doing the chapter outlines, I was also getting lots of ideas and writing them in the margins of my MS -- places to expand the text, possible character reactions, and ways to make Kay and Carter both more pleasing characters (but still human of course).

My writing work has backed up in the weeks since the KC conference, partly because of the new laptop, which isn't hooked up to the printer and needs more memory, but partly because I got swamped by other things, one of which was the garden, which I finally mulched and planted. A little late, but oh well. I hope I can get caught up tomorrow, a little. I still need to get that proposal out to Regina, for instance! Also need to do laundry like you wouldn't believe. My husband's out of socks. Poor man.

16 May 2006

Ms. Polacco's response.

Tip of the pen (keyboard?) to Gregory for drawing my attention to this.

Ms. Polacco has responded to the creepy post that McGraw sent all over the place at her website.

I think this knocks McGraw on their ass. But others may feel differently. And they should indeed pay her as outlined in their contract.

15 May 2006

Back to work.

I've finally gotten back to work on Symphonians, and it's so nice. I'm concentrating on the second part, which needs it of course. To start, I'm doing short chapter outlines -- I list what happens in each scene, then write a one-sentence synopsis of the chapter, looking at what's really happening in the chapter. I also tweak chapter titles so they get closer to the heart of what each chapter is covering, and make a list of images that run through the chapter. Also random notes all over the MS.

It's kind of exciting to work on a novel that I like! Even though I still get frustrated at times with the fact that the words don't just pop out of my head, fully formed, like Athena. But I ain't Zeus, either, and I don't have headaches like he does. Oh, yeah I do: It's called a novel-in-progress.

I've also been sending out resumes and job apps hither and yon. I'd like to get a job before the summer's out. Not teaching, though. I know I would be constantly lamenting my inability to work on my own writing, even while I attempt to teach others to write. I feel that I'd be better off at a library or with the Missouri Department of Conservation, which are jobs that I could do that would inform my writing and not threaten it.

10 May 2006

Federal funding whacks Ms. Polacco.

This letter from Patricia Polacco was forwarded to the JWKC listserv. Check it out. And forward it to everyone you can!

> Urgent Notice....
> To All Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists
> Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for May
> 2 and 3, 2006
> A few months ago I was approached by The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, OH
> to appear at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago
> on May 2 and 3, 2006. I was to be part of 5 events. Speeches, 'meet and
> greet' and book signings.
> I was happy to accept the invitation which, I assumed, was coming from the
> I.R.A. and my publisher. It is always such an honor for me to speak and
> interact with teachers and librarians from around the country.
> But, then, a very disturbing turn of events transpired. My staff started
> receiving phone calls and emails from this firm in Ohio requesting that I
> furnish them with a detailed written outline of what I intended to include
> in my speeches. I assumed, of course, that this was asked so that a
> synopsis of my content could be included in a printed brochure furnished
> to the conferees.
> You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called this firm and
> learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline
> because their 'client' wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my
> deep concern about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND MANDATE...as well as my concern
> that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company
> who manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to
> school systems all over our country.
> It was then that I closely reviewed all if the emails (I had not up until
> this time because I had been doing school visits and was not home until
> now) I then realized that the "client" that this firm referred to, but
> never names, was indeed, SRA/McGraw Hill! I also learned from the
> Officials of the IRA that SRA/McGraw Hill was indeed sponsoring the event
> that I had been invited to. I was shocked!
> This "firm" insisted that my speech be "upbeat, non-controversial, and
> non-political"...I countered with the fact that the plight of the American
> teacher is far from "upbeat" and they are caught in the vice grip of the
> most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the
> American teacher.
> I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME
> and invite me to be a part of their program knowing how strongly I feel
> about this entire situation.
> My speeches certainly do inspire teachers...I truly believe they are among
> the last hero's we have in our country...but I always mention the
> destructive path that is laying wasted to our schools and that is the No
> Child Left Behind Mandate!
> I did mention to them that I considered this broaching "censorship" and a
> violation of my freedom of speech.
> Finally, after receiving numerous emails from this 'firm' that got more
> and more 'insistences'...I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my
> speeches in any way, Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused
> to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with
> this, then they could "un-invite" me to be part of their event.
> Needless to sat, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour!
> My main concern here, is that I very much fear the conferee's will be led
> to believe that it is I who cancelled this event. The cancellation was the
> choice of SRA/McGraw Hill and was generated by a blatant attempt to CENSOR
> my remarks and the content of what I say to teachers. Which is a clear
> infringement of my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I pride
> myself on being an advocate for America's teachers as well as being one of
> the most reliable speakers at conferences in our country.
> My lawyers and I have set a formal request to SRA/McGraw Hill through
> their representative, The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, Ohio, to post the
> following signs outside of each venue at the conference where I am
> schedules to speak.
> Call anyone you know that was either going to attend my events, or that
> did and were disappointed and tell them why this happened.
> I am very disturbed by this on may levels. It seems that we American's are
> losing, by leaps and bounds, our constitution "guaranteed" rights.
> I am insulted and very offended not only on my own behalf, but also
> because of these various organizations that seek to profit from the misery
> for our teachers and school children. Profits and money seem to matter
> much more that truly making changes to our educational systems that would
> truly help our children. I have to admit that I have a certain amount of
> pride in taking this stand on your behalf.
> Yours faithfully,
> Patricia Polacco

In my opinion, No Child Left Behind stinks.

Now I have to wait for the feds to show up at the door .... cripes.

08 May 2006

How to write a synopsis ... maybe.

Short version: I usually bash my head on the keyboard for a while, then write a crappy synopsis. Then I try to rewrite it a couple of times. Then I try not to grimace as I send the damn thing out.

I don't know of a way to make it painless. Some writers chug the bourbon to be able to produce something. But then you get drunk, then you start writing a really bad synopsis, but then you end up writing about how nobody likes your writing anymore, and then you start crying, and then you fall asleep.

Not that this has happened to me.

But the head-banging on the keyboard might not be working so well. Regina Brooks, the literary agent, was to critique the first five pages of my Symphonians novel. But instead she said, "Girl, your synopsis is confusing as heck!" Bang bang and down went the novel in flames! Just because my synopsis is confusing as heck! Where's the bourbon!

So maybe that's why I'm so freaked out about sending her the book proposal. "Girl, your proposal is confusing as heck! Not to mention it's about dirt!" But I gotta remember that she did light up when I mentioned the gardening books. I've got to write the proposal up and stop freaking about it. Geez.

Maybe it would be a good idea if I went to Mo West and got my study room and just spent the day working on that book proposal. Then, in the query letter, I could also mention other gardening-book projects that are possibilities. Then we could take it from there. It beats sitting in the corner and whining.

07 May 2006

At the JWKC meeting.

Christine said, "Don't be starstruck by an editor."

Elizabeth: My editor spit on me!
Me: I spilled my chocolate milk on a editor!
Mary: I totaled my car with two agents in it!

Mary won.

I'm baaaaack.

I did find Blackie, the stuffed poodle. She was hiding behind the curtains. Now I remember that Miss Thang was playing hide-and-seek with the poodle earlier. Apparently the dog had hidden herself too well. Sure freaked me out.

We did end up going to the Old Market, and I got two more books about soil and how to build it up. It's so nice that I get all excited about soilbuilding. There's a lot of stuff in horticulture lately that just leaves me cold. It's not that the topics themselves aren't interesting, but I'm just jaded. I'll come around one of these days, though.

In the meantime, I really need to get that book proposal out to Regina about the soilbuilding book. I keep getting cold feet, though, about sending it. "What if it's not the best, what if the sloppy way I've written it loses me the job," etc. Of course, if I don't send it, I don't get rejected.

I keep telling myself that I'm completely jaded about rejection, that rejection doesn't bug me, but obviously that is not the case!


We're in Omaha today, as we have been for the past two days. Miss Thang, who just woke up, is grinning at me from her bed, then burrows under her blankets again. We have lost her little black poodle doll, who she calls Blackie. I'm getting a little concerned because we still haven't been able to find it. I was outside tearing through the car last night, but no luck.

Anyway, while my husband went to the big meeting, the kid and I went to the zoo. I took her there when she was 2, and she still remembers bits of it. If you happen to come to Omaha, go to that zoo. The aquarium is amazing. We spent some time watching the penguins dive through the water, silver streams of bubbles in their wake. There's a little bubble-thing you can sit inside and watch them. When you tear up little scraps of paper and put them over the air vent inside the bubble, the paper dances around and the penguins come over and try to eat them, and the penguins are within arm's reach, though technically you can't touch them of course. So neat. Then you go into the tunnel under the aquarium where sharks glide over your head.

My favorites were the raccoons (I gave the kid a snack so I could sit there and watch them for as long as possible ... she got bored with me pretty quickly) and the bats (there was a baby clinging to the wall near where I stood, and Mama bat kept zipping around in front of my face). There was a lady in there who was kind of freaked out by the bats, but they have such bad press from Hollywood when they're actually really great animals to have around. Listen, any creature who can catch 600 mosquitoes an hour is tops in my book.

Two downsides to the zoo: by the afternoon, I was wishing we had a little moped to drive around because our legs were falling off. The second one: Miss Thang and I saw the wallabies from the train and then I got stuck with a Raffi song in my head: "Willaby, wallaby, woo, an elephant sat on you," etc.

Haven't made it down to Jackson Street Books yet. Dammit. I'd like to do that today, but my sister has a baby shower at 1. I'm tempted to cancel ... I only get to visit the Old Market once a year. Already have the kid's gifts: "If You Give a Pig a Party" and "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" Always books. But they're good books.

Miss Thang is hanging off the bed with her head on the floor. Guess I'd better sign off for now.

03 May 2006

Laptop stuff.

Actually I'm getting lazy this time and sending you over to Elizabeth's blog, which has conference stuff in better detail than I do!

I finally went out today and bought a new laptop, since the A drive on my old laptop (a Compaq Armada from the Bronze Age) has been clinching up on me. I try to put something on a floppy and GZZGZZGZGGZZZ goes the computer, which has been giving me grief unknown. So I have gotten a cheap Gateway, because really all I want is a glorified typewriter. Also internet access would be nice. But I have discovered that memory sticks are doing the job that an A:drive floppy used to do. Also you can put a lot of novels onto a little memory stick. So now I'm totally sold on those!

The laptops are still at Best Buy, getting a data transfer. But after that's done I can pick them up. Oh boy! So I'm all excited. It's a Mother's Day/birthday present. Not to mention that I need it. And I can also take it off my taxes. So we all win!

01 May 2006

Conference news part 1

Just thinking about this is wearing me out. Okay, I'm already worn out, but it's my own damn fault. My husband had the DVD of "Ray" playing when I was ready to go to sleep last night -- I didn't know I'd be up until after midnight watching it. So that was evil. Good movie, but at the wrong time!

Let's see ... I moderated the children's session of the 90-second shameless pitches. We were behind on the schedule so I kept things moving. I had fun moderating. I just treated the event like the poetry reading we used to have here in town with the Gang of Poets, except here we didn't raise hell until the authorities showed up. But I tried to make it fun, filled up the silence (as the participants walked across the big room to take the mic) by making wisecracks and dumb jokes, and folks seemed to appreciate that. Also did my best to make the readers feel comfortable and more at ease. My own pitch went over like a dead cat on the freeway, which kind of upset me at the time, but now I'm like, what the hell, I'll try something less intense next time.

I helped out at the conference a lot. The nice thing about volunteering is that folks appreciate your help, and sometimes you get the chance to help out the editors and agents and authors, too. Maybe it'll come back to me later, and even if it doesn't, it's cool.

Shoot, I better get out of here. I still have to go to the bank before I go to the school district office. More conference stuff later! Maybe I should write something useful next time, about how to get the most out of your conference. Let's try that.