Sticking It To Rejection


The list of writers who made to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was posted yesterday and alas my name was not on the list. How tempting it is to pout and unmute my inner critic (who is most certainly shouting, “You suck!”). How easy it would be to give up. How simple it would be to shelve the whole project. However, I’m not doing any of those things for a couple of reasons.

First, any rejection I get is added to the stack and treated like a badge of honor.  Every rejection, silent or otherwise, brings me one step closer to the agent who will say “yes.” Regardless of what my inner critic would have me believe, The Muse does not suck and neither do I.  The Muse is a kick-butt novel that deserves a shot at publication.

Second, my readers gave me a precious gift. When I posted a short story for the first time in more than a year, you all showed up to hit that “like” button and write amazing comments. None of my previously posted short stories got that kind of attention and I’m beyond thrilled that Blink evoked such a strong reaction.

Part of the reason I held off on doing anything with Blink was because I thought it was too weird and no one would get it. Obviously, I was wrong. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my odd little story.

As an added bonus, here’s the image that inspired Blink. I’ve used it before for a series entitled Sundays in London, but it’s an image I come back too often for inspiration.

A side-street in London, near Trafalgar Square
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

All I have to say to rejection is, “bring it.” As soon as I knew I hadn’t made to the second round of the competition, I immediately started Googling “young adult fantasy literary agents.” I’ve already got a new list of agents started and they will all soon be receiving a query package from me. Get ready guys, The Muse is coming to find you.

How’s that for sticking it to rejection?

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c.b.w. 2014


Blueberry Hunt


This story was submitted to the Write it Your Way Competition in July, (for the theme of “summer”), but unfortunately it did not make the final cut.  Rather than view it as a failure, I’m choosing instead to see it as another step I’ve taken towards my 2012 writing goals.  I like how his story turned out, so I thought I’d share it with my readers as you have all given me so much encouragement and support.  Thanks for always reading and I hope you enjoy my little snapshot of summer in Northern Wisconsin.

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Blueberry Hunt

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

I grab my blue metal cup and race outside. The gravel crunches beneath my feat and I can hear Addie isn’t far behind.

“I’m going to get more than you!” she calls.

“No you won’t. You’ll eat all of them on the way back.”

“So what! I’ll still pick the most.”

“If they’re not in the cup, they don’t count.”


We disappear into the trees. Oak, maple, and pine surround us on all sides, green leaves rustle overhead. The forest is so thick the sun barely punches through to the ground. Whippoorwills call in the distance and chipmunks scurry as our clunky steps rattle the thick blanket of leaves from last fall.

“They gotta be around here somewhere,” Addie says.

“I hope the bears didn’t get them, first.”

We scan the ground for smooth oval-shaped leaves and a speck of blue. I look around the base of stones and large trees. Berries like to hide in cool, damp places. My mouth waters at the thought of eating summer’s first blueberry!

Horse flies buzz in circles and I see Addie waving her hands around her head. Those things drive her crazy and I hope she doesn’t go running back inside. What’s the fun of a blueberry-picking contest if I’m the only one playing?

“I hate flies!” she yells.

“Just put your hood on and hold your breathe for a few seconds so they can’t smell ya!” I holler back.

I start to get excited when I see juneberries hanging from a small tree. If a bear had come through, he wouldn’t have left a single edible thing behind. That means there must be blueberries, too!

I pick a few juneberries just for the heck of it, but then decide there’s something much more fun to do with them. Addie isn’t too far away, so I take aim and throw them at her.


“What?  I saw a fly on your shoulder and I tried to hit it.”

“You better run!”

She comes tearing towards me armed with acorns and I take off. Small tree branches hit us as we run and ferns wrap around our legs. We’re laughing so hard we can hardly breathe, but we keep running wild and free.

The ground goes from flat to a steep hill and we come to a stop. Addie drops the acorns and sucker punches me in the arm.

“Ow!” It doesn’t really hurt and I know I deserve it, but little sisters aren’t allowed to win.

She sticks her tongue out at me and I laugh. We plop down on the ground to catch our breath. Who cares if we get a little mud on our jeans! I can tell by the way the trees have thinned out that we’ve ended up in a spot near the lake. Sure enough, I can see blue water peeking through baby popple and pine trees. Last year, this was a great spot for blueberries!

Both of us get up and bolt to an area thick with ferns. I lift the feathery leaves, hoping to find blueberry goodness. Small patches of bushes dot the ground and the leaves are the right shape!

“I see green ones!” Addie squeals.

“Me, too!”

Where there are pale green berries, there are ripe blueberries waiting to be picked! As I move leaves and tiny branches, I spot green, green, green and then a little shade of blue!

“C’mon!  This way.” I motion to Addie to follow me a little further down the hill. Sticks snap under her feet as she heads my way.

My eyes stay glued to the ground. I see the red berries I know are poisonous, little white flowers, the leaves that make me itchy, and then . . . BLUE!

My fingers lightly pinch the plump blueberry and I snap it off the bush. “I got one!”

My sister dashes over and squeals, “It’s huge!”

“I know!” My blueberry makes a very satisfying ping as it hits the bottom of my metal cup.

“You’re not going to eat it?” Addie asks.

“No!  Not until I have a few more.”

Pretty soon both of our cups are pinging back and forth as we find more and more blueberries. The further we explore, the faster we fill our cups.

When the berries start rolling over the rim, I decide I can eat one or two and still win the game. I grab the biggest one and pop it into my mouth. Juicy and plump, sweet and sour, it’s like we’re out here to pick candy!

Addie is on her knees, still picking berries. I run over to her to see what she’s got and I’m not surprised to see her cup is only half full. A blob of blueberry juice stains the corner of her mouth and I know she’s eaten most of her haul.

“You dork,” I laugh.

“They’re so good,” she says.

I don’t need to rub in the fact that I beat her fair and square, so I join her on the ground and pick berries to fill her cup. Every third berry or so, I catch her sneaking another one into her mouth.

With our cups overflowing, we hold the berries in with our hands and take off towards the house. Grandma put a big bowl on the back stairs so we’d have a place to dump our cups. Empty cups in hand, we go back to the sweet spot and pick more berries. We scour the ground from the lakeshore all the way to the neighbor’s house.

Many trips later, Grandma’s bowl is full of beautiful blueberries. My sister giggles as she swipes a handful and stuffs them into her mouth.

“You’re going to get sick!”

“Worth it,” she says, while still chewing.

“Ewww! Your teeth are purple.”

“Really?  Cool!”

The next day, Grandma sets up the kitchen with freshly cleaned mason jars, a large stew pot, wooden spoons, and our bowl of blueberries. We picked so many, the only thing to do is make jam! She gives me the job of rinsing the blueberries, while Addie is in charge of telling us when the “magic mixture” starts to boil.

Grandma and I pick out the shriveled and green berries that somehow got into the bowl until only the best berries remain. We eat a few along the way and laugh every time my sister doesn’t notice.

“The bubbles are here!” Addie announces.

Grandma hands the bowl to Addie and I so we can pour it into the pot. Just as we put the lid in place, a knock sounds at the door. We keep watch over the bubbling blueberries, while Grandma goes to see who it is.

“Hi, Terry. What brings you by?” Grandma asks.

“I was just out berry picking and thought I’d stop and say hello.”

“Well, I’m glad you did. How goes the picking?”

“You know, I can’t seem to find a single berry.”

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c.b.w. 2012

June Status Report: 2012 Goals


June turned out to be a month of realizations and adjustments. As a result, some of my goals have to change in order to compensate for what I’ve learned.  I don’t see this as a setback, but rather a reassessment of where I stand and where I need to go next.

While some projects have changed drastically, others continue to tick along at a rapid pace.  A month without a day job does wonders for the muse!

1) Submit five pieces of writing to contests, journals, literary magazines, or the newspaper.

I made some headway on this goal by submitting The Expanding Pear to the Your Story #42 competition in Writer’s Digest.  I didn’t make the final cut, but I’m still proud of the piece and myself for finally gathering the courage to submit something this year.

In addition, I entered Your Story #43.  The competition only calls for a single sentence of 25 or fewer words, but sometimes that’s more difficult than a short story.  So, I’ve decided it counts as my second submission this year.

In the coming month, I’ve got my eye on three more opportunities for submission:

Sixteenth Annual Zoetrope: All Story Short Fiction Contest (Opens July 1st)

Write It Your Way (Writer’s Digest – Summer Stories) (Deadline July 15). I’ve got a story started and I think I can finish it in time!

Wordrunner eChapbooks (July 1 – August 26). Starting next week, I’ll be setting up a few polls where my wonderful readers will have a hand in helping me decide which three poems will be submitted.

2) Finish minor changes in my first novel.

After receiving an amazing and constructive critique of my first chapter, I embarked on a little experiment.  In the critique I was asked if I’d ever considered switching the point of view from third person to first person.  I was so happy to see that question as its something I’ve kicked around in my head for a while now.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been re-writing my first novel in first person to get a sense of whether its the right to do for the character and the story.  The first chapter is fully converted and I’m halfway through the second.  Should this work out, this means my goal of finishing minor changes goes right out the window and I’ll be taking on the workload of converting the entire manuscript.

3) Work on my second novel.

My second novel dominates most of my days.  If I’m not typing out a scene, I’m outlining, brainstorming, or listening to characters speak in my head.  Last week I punched out a huge turning point scene and I’m in the process of planning the climax.  I love this story!!

Starting word count: 53,695
End word count: 59,596
Total word count:  5,901

That 60,000 word count goal I set for the year is so close I can taste it!

4) Send out five query letters and be ready with a synopsis.

With Goal #2 in the midst of a possibly drastic change, I am putting this goal on hold.

5) Keep up with my blog.

June has the distinction of being the first month where I’ve posted every single day!  That being said, I’ve made the decision that I have to cut back if my workload increases for Novel #1.

Thank you so much to everyone who continues to stop by.  Your support is so inspiring as are your comments!  I will still be posting several days a week, so be sure to stay tuned!

6) Network more with other writers.

This month, I was better at networking with other writers in person rather than online.  This is a strange departure for me as I’ve never been known as a social butterfly.  I’ve really enjoyed the inspiration that comes from hanging out with other writers and enjoying a cup of coffee.

However, I managed to gain some increases in the online world as well.

My Facebook Page has grown from 140 to 165 Likes.

On Twitter, my followers have grown from 237 to 265.

Thank you so much to everyone who has clicked those “Like” and “Follow” buttons!  I appreciate all of you so much!

To follow me on either network, please visit my sidebar.

7) Inspire other writers to keep writing.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence!

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c.b.w. 2012

The Expanding Pear


I submitted this story to the Your Story competition in Writer’s Digest, but it didn’t make the final cut.  Instead of sulking, I’ve decided to celebrate my first submission of the year by sharing it with my readers. Meanwhile, I’m already working on two more pieces to submit in other competitions.

This piece was entered into contest #42, which gave the prompt of starting a story with the phrase “I’ve got to get out of these clothes . . . fast.”

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“I’ve got to get out of these clothes . . . fast,” I mutter.

My muffin top looks like the baker spooned too much dough into the paper cup.  A year ago this size would have fit just fine, but now it threatens to give me a blood clot. As if that isn’t depressing enough, I’m in this predicament because my favorite jeans split right up the rear seam when I bent over to pick up the cat last night.

The fluorescent lights of the dressing room drains my skin of all color and makes me think I should have worn at least a little make-up.  The jeans I’ve stuffed myself into bunch up under my hips and the back pockets refuse to lay flat or straight. Nothing ever fits right.  Half the time I don’t know why I even try.  Clothes are made for women too afraid to eat or fans of masochism.

I can hardly look at myself in the mirror, yet I stare and wonder why my curves are so ugly.  I bubble out like a pear with my bulging gut, back fat, and wide thighs.  Great.  I look like a fruit I don’t like to eat.  That’s right, skinny on top and global on the bottom.  And I just keep getting more juicy and plump! Of course, my sister looks like a runway model with her beanpole frame and bright blue eyes.  Where was the magic gene fairy when I was born?

The too tight jeans dig into my thighs and as I try to shimmy out of them. The waistband just won’t stretch another inch. Honestly, why does all the fat settle just above the knee?  Giving up on the pants, I try to wiggle out of the shirt, but the shoulder seams clamp down the moment I move my arms.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Oh, no!  Was that the sleeve?

Now stuck with jeans wrapped around my legs and my arms cinched in a shirt that will not come off, my confidence deflates as though it’s just sprung a leak. Too bad my balloon butt can’t do the same thing. Tears burn my eyes and I slowly sink into the bench.

Why can’t I be beautiful?

A sick feeling of disappointment churns in my stomach.  It doesn’t matter what I do. I’ll never be a Size 2 or the blonde who flaunts it because she has the right to feel pretty.  So, why not give me extra fries with that large chocolate shake, please.

A little tap sounds on the dressing room door.

“Ma’am, are you okay?”

I wipe my tears and suck in a deep breath. No.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

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c.b.w. 2012

Poll Update: Solitary Confinement


Preliminary poll results are in for the question of what readers would like me to reveal regarding Solitary Confinement.  So far, full disclosure of the inspiration for the story and the ailment afflicting the main character is in the lead. Here’s what the numbers look like right now:

Did you vote, yet? This is a screenshot, so visit the link below to cast your vote!

Voting will remain open until tomorrow.  I’ll write whatever my readers want to know!

Need to catch up on the short story in question and the poll?  Here are the links:

Solitary Confinement

Poll: To Know or Not to Know

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Meanwhile, I’d like to ask a small favor.  Over the last couple of days, my stats have taken a nosedive, (which could happen for any reason!).  After checking out the forums, I noticed a few people are noting an issue with new posts not showing up on e-mail subscriptions.  If you are not receiving notifications, please let me know so I can work on getting that fixed! Thanks!

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Stay tuned for a new page from Project Spirit Journal!  It’s scheduled for early tomorrow morning. May it inspire you to smile!

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c.b. 2012