Plugging Along

Standard

Summer’s reprieve from the day job leaves me with a lot of time to relax (which I desperately need no matter how much I try to deny it) and dig into the To Do List I created instead of New Year’s Resolutions. As with all lists, some items are easier than others!

Item #1 Declutter

It’s a work in progress, but I have made some headway. Two out of three closets at home are cleared and so is most of the junk I was hoarding in my classroom. I’m pretty sure my colleagues thought I was losing my mind – I tossed out an entire three-drawer file cabinet of handouts and folders, (all for classes I no longer teach). Then, I got rid of a ton of stuff from my supply cabinets, bookshelves, and office storage area.

However, what I’m most proud of is thinning out my Barbie collection. I’ve been collecting for most of my life, which lead to amassing more than 120 dolls and accessories. To say I’m attached to them is an understatement. Yet, I realized that my preferences as a collector have changed, so I sold or gave away 24 dolls and there are more I’m looking to clear out. It was surprisingly easy to do once I made the choice to let them go.

I still haven’t touched the DVD or CD shelf. Yikes – they are pretty daunting.

My writing area is better, but not organized. Everything is in a box until I decide what to do with all the shelving units in the guest room.

Item #2: Publish Something

I’ve made some good headway on this front, too. The summer actually started with a piece of fan mail from an avid reader of my poetry blog, Haiku Tree. She wanted to know if I had any books out and that gave me quite the boost to work on my chapbook! So far, I have 75 haikus selected from my journals. The goal is to get to 100, so I’m getting close. I’m writing all new pieces for the last 25.

Last month, I attended a query package workshop at Phoenix Comicon. It ended up being the kick in the pants I needed. I rewrote my query letter, cranked out a synopsis, and compiled a new list of agents. This week, I started putting together query packages with all my new materials for each agent on my list. While the sting of rejection is imminent, I’m jumping in head first. Let’s do this!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

I’m right on track according to Goodreads! At the moment, I am reading Book #17.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

Done. I’m still alive. I finished the final component last month, but I won’t know until November or December if I scored high enough to be certified. Fingers crossed!

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

Working on it. Being away from the day job is helping, but finding my mojo after such a stressful year has been challenging. I’m using some of my summer time to rediscover all the things I gave up during the school year.

One thing is certain, when the school year starts up again, I am determined to protect myself and my time.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

This is delayed. The furbaby needs a lot of special care. If that means staying home, then I’m staying home for the time being. Meanwhile, I will be planning a future adventure! I finally sent my application to renew my passport.

– – –

How are your goals To Do List items going?

– – –

c.b.w. 2017

The Annual Trek To Book Heaven

Standard

There’s nothing more a bibliophile loves more than a HUGE used book sale. Every year, I get to bask in the largest book sale in the state and it never gets old.

I arrived with empty bags and a lot of hope that I’d find something good. However, I had to somewhat behave this year given the fact that I just decluttered my bookshelves. I didn’t want to just fill them right back up again and undo all of my decluttering progress!

My first stop was the craft section. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come home with some amazing finds in knitting patterns – especially vintage. This year was no different. I found a great array of knitting magazines, but also a sweater pattern book and needlecraft how-to guide from 1945. The patterns in these books are pure gold as they are simple and timeless.

20170215_163620-1

The selection of knitting books was a little more sparse this year, but I still found a few good ones. My favorite is, Knit Your Own Dog. I’ve seen this book before and always wanted it.

20170215_163946-1

While I was combing through the rest of the craft section, my mom was in the collectibles section. She spotted this great visual reference guide for collectible Barbie and held onto it for me. It is beyond amazing!

20170215_164704

I hit the fiction section next. This is where I really had to control my inner urge to snap up any book that looks remotely interesting. That’s tough to do when most are only $3 or less! I decided to only pick up books that are on my to-read list or can pass the first page test (i.e. I can’t fight the urge to turn the page and keep reading). I ended up with small, yet intriguing group of books.

20170215_164550-1

Last, but not least, I hit the poetry section. My goal is always the same: haiku anthologies. They are tough to find! At the same time, I was looking to find anything inspiring or interesting in short verse poetry. Two of the books I found are pictured above with my fiction finds. Art and Wonder pairs poetry with famous works of art –  I can’t wait to read it!

In the haiku realm, I managed to find two anthologies and a couple of interesting takes on modern Japanese poetry. Flipping through them, I can see they are inspired by haiku, but other forms as well. I’m looking forward to exploring them.

20170215_164747

The grand total for my treasures? $24.25. All in all, it was a great day at the book sale!

– – –

c.b.w. 2017

A Plan For NaNoWriMo

Standard

Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself if it’s actually a good idea to do NaNoWriMo. My schedule is already ridiculously full and my stress level is already off the charts. Do I really need to add writing 500 words a day to my insane list of things to do?

In a word: YES. Writing is actually a stress reliever for me. Just like knitting helps me sleep (the repetition helps to slow down the thought train in my brain), writing lets me escape everything giving me a headache.

The only thing I’m worried about is having a enough time to complete 500 words. From past experience, I know I can punch out 500 words in an hour if I’m really focused. During the work week finding that kind focus will be challenging.

To deal with the work week challenge, I’m giving myself the freedom to have variant word count days as long as I hit a weekly goal of 3,500 words (which works out to 500 words/day). Some days I’ll be happy to get 200 words, while on others I might get up to 1,000. I know this isn’t how NaNoWriMo traditionally works, but I know what will work best for me!

I have several days off in November due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’ll be using those days off to their full advantage, along with weekends. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead whenever the day job isn’t taking up 12 hours of my day.

We’ll see how it goes. While I’m motivated to dig into my novel, I’m also realistic. If I make my goals, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This is supposed to be a fun stress reliever, not a source of stroke inducing deadlines!

In any case, I hope my favorite coffee shop ordered extra mocha so they can keep me happily caffeinated while I write!

Stay tuned for updates on progress!

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

And We Go Back

Standard

It’s been very quiet on the novel front (even though my muse has been very chatty on the sequel!), but that’s about to change. I’m ready to take another dive in the literary agent pool, despite the ever growing odds against me.

I spent the summer waiting for query responses that never came – the silence was deafening – and evaluating both my novel and query package. After another round of rejections, I can’t help but ask myself if some of the changes I made were doing more harm than good.

The last round of query packages included a new query letter and a full Chapter 1 rewrite in the novel. Both changes were prompted by several rounds of rejections. There’s only so many rejections you can take before you consider that maybe there’s something wrong with the product.

Prior to the changes, I was averaging about 75% actual responses and 25% no response to my query package. While it is gratifying to receive some sort of a response, the fact of the matter is they were all rejections.

After the changes, the stats changed significantly and not in a good way. In the last round of querying, less than half of the agents I queried responded. The rest offered nothing but silence. This was either a really bad stroke of luck or I need to rethink the tinkering I did on my novel.

Given the drastic change in statistics, I’m thinking it’s time to get back to basics. It’s obvious the rewritten first chapter isn’t grabbing agents’ attention (all that I queried requested the first chapter as part of the query package), so I’ll be scrapping the rewrite in favor of the original version.

After comparing the two this weekend, I can honestly say I like the original version better. It moves a bit slower, but it offers a stronger introduction to the lead character. Furthermore, it provides stronger contrast to the character she evolves into as the novel progresses.

As for the query letter, that’s where it gets a little tricky. I like my new query letter better than the original, yet it’s also part of the package that incited little or no response. So, now the question becomes, was it it the query letter, the rewritten first chapter, or both that turned off so many agents?

Yeah, that’s a sticky wicket.

I went back and read my original query letter and there’s a lot to like about it, but it’s not that exciting. The new query letter has a little more personality and leaves a little more room to personalize it for individual agents. The logical solution to pull the best elements of each and combine them into one new query letter. Yet, I’m left asking myself if that’s really necessary. The original letter has a great track record for getting responses – why mess with it?

If I’ve learned anything in this process, second-guessing yourself can be disastrous. I’ve believed from the start that my novel is something special and I can’t afford to lose that focus. The plan moving forward is to submit the original novel (as structured by me and my editor) and to utilize both query letters. As I research agents, I’ll decide which query letter might be the best fit for each agent on my list. Social media, blogs, and websites for prospective agents offer a lot of insight on personality and preferences.

I’ll consider this last round as yet another lesson learned. We’ll just add it to the lengthy list of things this process has taught me! Despite the constant failure, I remain optimistic. My novel will find its way into print – it’s just a matter of when.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Back To The Novel Front

Standard

It’s been a loooooong time since the subject of my novel has come up here, in my head, or anywhere else. Some think I’ve given it up or just don’t care anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always been lingering in the background waiting for me to come back to it.

Here’s where things get brutally honest. There were a number of reasons why I had to shelve my passion project. Most of them revolved around having no choice but to reorganize priorities. I’ve heard writers are supposed to have tunnel vision when writing and pushing for publication, but I refused to keep the blinders on when it came to being there for those I care about when they needed me the most. That meant redirecting my muse towards shorter writing projects so I could be at hospital beds, visit with friends who had limited time in this world, and provide extra care to aging furkids.

There was also the little thing of having to take care of myself. I needed to take a step back in a number areas of my life, so I could evaluate and adjust to so many changes that have taken place in the last three years. It’s been overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sorry for taking the time I needed. Slowly but surely, I’m coming back to things that have gathered dust during my absence.

Last week, my novel muse is started to whir back to life. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened the file for The Muse. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about after so much time …

Would I still like it?

Does it still read like a finished novel?

What about the Chapter 1 rewrite – does it still work?

With all those questions rolling around in my head, I read through the most recent draft. I still love it. Minutes later, I opened my Query Tracker spreadsheet and updated all the information I had for agents on my list (a lot has changed since my last round of query packages!). While it sucked to add a few more rejections to the list, it was energizing to select the next batch of agents that will be receiving query packages.

Now, here’s where things get fun. It turns out my muse had another surprise in store for me. My characters started talking to me again (I swear I’m not crazy!). The sequel for The Muse has been locked away for a while, but I opened up the file again and pulled my Novel Notebook from the shelf. I outlined two major sections of the plot and found I need to conjure up two new characters, and add depth to one that already exists. How cool is that?? It looks like this summer will be full of creativity and more world building!

Like so many other things in my life I’m sure the process will be slow, but it’s nice to be back on the novel front.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016