Monday, December 28, 2009

It's finished!

So I finally had a moment of inspiration or motivation or both tonight and managed to finish off The Green. With the holidays and a giant pile of papers to grade I was really stressing and had to put it on the back burner for this last week. But I am SO happy it's finished! I have to say, I was feeling rather lame that I had managed 50,000 words in 30 days but couldn't quite figure out the last few. And now that it's time for revisions, who knows if it will look the same when it's all said and done, but it's a start.

I hope to start revisions this week, and maybe soon I will have a copy worthy enough of my critique group! We're writing New Year's Writing Resolutions for our critique group next week. I'll work on mine and have them posted by New Year's on here!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Dream Job

When you're a little kid and someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, you have awesome answers like a Ninja Turtle or a Ghostbuster (well that was my brother and his friend, anyway). When I was 11, I wanted to be an author. By 16 I was sure I wanted to major in musical theater and be an actress. By the age of 19 I decided a major in musical theater meant a career as a waitress and switched to teaching. And now I'm 31 and I want to be an author. Funny how that works out.

At one of the schools I teach at, they interviewed me as a 'new' teacher (even though I've worked there before - whatever) and the student asked me the following question...

Is teaching your dream job?

So I, like any honest person, said no. And when I read the articles later, I was the only one who said no. I kinda felt like a jerk, but I didn't want to lie to the kid. I'm sure nobody read it, so it's not really a big deal, but seriously? Maybe teaching is a dream job for some people, but I call shenanigans because I can't imagine out of 20 people that I was the only one who thought teaching wasn't my dream job. (*Disclaimer* - I did say it was a good job, just not my DREAM job.)

When I think of a dream job, I think of what I would do if money were no object. A dream job is the job you don't have to get up at 5AM for. A dream job is one I can do from a lounge chair on the beach. But in all honesty, my dream job would be to not have to have a job at all. I suppose that is cheating though. I won't say a dream job shouldn't require you to work hard. I love to write and would be insanely happy if that alone was my job. It's hard sometimes, but the fact that you're creating something makes it so fulfilling for me. I suppose people could say the same about teaching. But again, no early mornings and beach as the office? I would say writing wins. Hands down. Now, only if it could pay the same...hmmm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Submission update...

Unfortunately, most writers have day jobs, and I suffer from the same affliction. Said day job hasn't given me much time in the last 2 weeks or so to get much done in the way of *work* on my current project THE GREEN, or write any blog posts. I did make some time on Sunday though to take advantage of the *stickers* given out at Prairie Writer's Day last month. These stickers are apparently like the Golden Tickets of Willy Wonka fame. According to my writer friends, putting one of these stickers on your envelope to an editor or agent gives you a leg up on the competition. So I'm giving it a shot. (I'm picturing all of the stickered envelopes lovingly placed in a golden IN box, awaiting the editor's perusal while the rest rot in the corner. Hey, it's a nice thought!)

I can't say that I'm more excited about my stickered submissions than I was about the previous ones, but I sent them out with all the good vibes and positive energy I could bestow on them before I tossed them in the mailbox. Someday I know I will get the good letter/good email/good phone call back, but I also know that most of them have not turned out that way. But it's cool. Despite all the 'no', I really like submitting my stuff. It really makes me feel like a 'real' writer. Someone is looking at my writing. They may not like it, but that's okay. They saw my name, they saw what I had to offer. If it's sitting on the shelf, it's not doing anybody any good.

So these were the two submissions:

Sol and Luna: A Tale of Day and Night to Charlesbridge
Into the Shadows to Walker Children's books (Bloomsbury)

So I'll keep you posted on those results. I believe Walker's info sheet mentioned it could take 8-10 months. So I'm guessing it'll be awhile! In the meantime, over winter break I plan to get some major work done on THE GREEN so my ladies can read it in January. Got to put the pedal to the metal and many other lame cliches! I'm hoping to put out those submissions in March or April...time to try for an agent again! Maybe third times the charm...

Books and Movies: Sherlock Holmes

I've been reading the original Sherlock Holmes (I picked up the giant leather-bound collection at Barnes and Noble) and I am quite interested to see how the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie (starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law) compares to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpieces.

Just in the trailers for the film alone, we are introduced to a fast-paced, action hero Sherlock Holmes (who is rather hot, or dishy as those Brits might say!). Maybe because Sir Arthur wasn't that kind of guy, I've never gotten the impression in the book that Sherlock Holmes was anything but eccentric middle-aged guy who is a genius when it comes to solving crimes and may just use too much cocaine. No joke. In the books Holmes is in a drug-induced cocaine haze between cases because, as he claims, his brain gets bored.

I appreciate the fact that Sherlock Holmes (the movie) will introduce a new generation to the character so many of us know for his trademark hat and pipe. I just hope readers aren't put off by the fact that the books, while good classic detective stories, aren't quite the exciting production the movie promises to be. Nevertheless, I can't wait to see it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Importance of Professional Organizations

About 9 months ago I was sitting in front of my computer banging my head on the keyboard. I had been submitting my manuscript for a couple of months to various literary agencies and had some interest, but no luck otherwise. I knew my manuscript needed work but I knew nobody in the biz, as it were, and had no idea what to do. Aside from my trusty Writer's Market book, I was basically on my own. I had read the blogs of other writers and knew that there were organizations for romance writers (Romance Writers of America) and sci-fi writers (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) but I hadn't heard of one that dealt with young adult fiction.

So I went to good old Google and typed in 'young adult writers organization.' The first thing that popped up was the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I was quite excited and read through the website, thrilled that I'd finally found what I was looking for. I signed up right away and emailed the names listed on there as local reps. I was lucky to find Writers' Groups in Geneva and Dundee (both 15 minutes from where I live). I have since joined both groups!

SCBWI provides a lot of opportunities and support for aspiring writers. It was great to be able to bring my work to the critique groups and get feedback from other writers. It also taught me how to be more critical of my own writing by critiquing others. It has also given me so many opportunities to meet and get to know other writers at all stages of the game. There are also the yearly conferences, both locally and in other states that offer so much in the way of learning about the business through editors and agents and how to be a better writer and improve your craft with pointers from published authors.

I'm looking forward to the SCBWI National Conference in L.A. at the end of July. I'm also grateful for all the wonderful and talented writers that I've had the luxury of working with these last nine months. I don't know what I'd do without Laura, Sarah and Natalie, along with the rest of our critique group members!

If you are starting down the path towards getting published, I encourage you to find the organization that fits your writing and join it right away. Get active about your career. I would say it is the best 75 bucks I've ever spent! Good luck!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Students = (cess)pool of characters

As I'm moving towards the end of my first decade of teaching, I really must thank the crazy fools that (aside from my family and friends) inspire my characters. They make the process of writing that much more fun.

1. They provide character names and personalities. It's great because when I need the overachiever, the cheerleader or the jock, as well as the cool lingo (like 'creeper') all I have to do is sit back in my class. I have a fish tank of potential characters swimming right before my eyes for 5 classes a day.

2. They are awesome cheerleaders. They always ask how the books are coming along, when they can read them and how long until it's published. Although it always reminds me of the fact that I'm not published yet AND sometimes I'm sure they ask about it because they know it's a sure way to get me off topic for 20 minutes, I appreciate their interest and hope to someday provide them with a finished novel. And I can sign it and they can brag that their teacher is a best selling author. *sigh*

3. They provide motivation to keep moving forward. On days when evil kids are stealing my books, swearing at me or won't shut up, parents are sending awful emails blaming me because their child is failing or the school district is kindly telling me my subject is just not interesting enough and I'm on the verge of running out the front door screaming and signing up to join a circus, I think about the fact that the only way out of this is to write many best sellers. (I realize that is the longest sentence ever.) Writing is sometimes my only sanity as it's the only world I can control.

So I thank my friendly students and hope they buy my books when they come out! hehe! They will most certainly see themselves in those pages!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

THE GREEN Chapter 1 teaser

Chapter One

College Resumé
Name: Ariceli Pisa
Age: 17
School: Cambridge High School / Journalism Academy, Cambridge, IL
GPA: 4.0
Extracurricular Activities: Cheerleader; Editor for the Cambridge Cutlass Newspaper; Class Council Treasurer; Member of Principal’s Advisory Council; National Honor Society; French Club
Work Experience: Drug Dealer (or maybe ‘Street Pharmacist’ would be more appropriate?)

So I suppose that really won’t go over very well if I plan on getting some good recommendations from my teachers. And I know what you’re thinking. Drug dealer? It’s so Tony Montana of me. But I promise you; the story is not nearly that exciting. I mean like no major shoot-outs at my big mansion on five acres.
But yes, that’s me. I’m an honor student and a drug dealer. Parents will probably wonder where my mom went wrong. How could she raise such a terrible daughter? But maybe once you read my story you will understand why I did what I did. Don’t be so quick to judge me, because I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if people like you weren’t trading the green for green. Because the bottom line is just that—all that matters in this world is the Green. If you don’t have it, it’s all you want. If you have it, you don’t realize how much it means to you until it’s gone. But I am here to tell you; money makes the world go round. And I was pretty much standing still.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner and THE GREEN synopsis!

I made it!  I finished last night (well not finished but made it to 50,000 fabulous words)! My husband and daughter were there to give me a hug and a kiss, but that was about it for fanfare. The Green is finally that much closer to being done.  I figure now I'll take another couple days to write the ending and then it will be complete and ready for revisions, after a week off, of course.  Gotta give it some time to marinate!

I gotta give props to my cheering section which included family and friends at home and online.  You guys really kept me going!  I do have to give a special shout out to my cousin Ed who started the race with me and then had to bow out halfway due to a dislocated shoulder (not suffered from typing).  You'll finish it soon!

And now, I'm sure you're wondering what The Green is all about...Ariceli Pisa is a senior at prestigious Cambridge High School and has her sights set on Northwestern University.  She's a cheerleader, member of National Honors Society and secretly in love with her best friend's ex-boyfriend.  When her brother skips town, Ariceli is confronted with a desperate situation and finds herself dealing drugs in order to stay at Cambridge.  Now she's not sure if she should stay on the path she had planned or take the new and dangerous one, even if it might lead to disaster.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

oh...New Moon

Of course I've got to talk about New Moon today, which is the latest edition of the Twilight book series put to film.  I know a ton of you are fans out there, and I'm not really here to rip on it because frankly, it's made Stephenie Meyer a ton of cash and a ton of fans worldwide and that would simply make me a hater.  And that's not really my style.

I will say this, while the Twilight Saga is not and will never be my favorite, there are some things that Stephenie Meyer got right.  It says a lot that even though I'm not the biggest Twilight fan, I still purchased and read all four books.  Yes, there were many times I wanted to throw the book out the window, but the story and the characters (save for Bella, whom I can honestly say I do not like at all) kept me going through all four.  I DID want to know what happened to the other characters and I really hoped Bella died a painful death. (Spoiler alert - which at least she almost did, childbirth is close enought hehe!)

The other thing that I have to say about this Twilight 'phenomenon' is that it's really not all about Twilight.  It started with Harry Potter and Twilight is just picking up the torch.  What's fantastic is that we are seeing the emergence of a true Young Adult literature boom, where not only teens, but everyone from 8-80 is rediscovering the joy of reading, getting lost in characters and their lives and using their imaginations.  I am eager to see who picks up the torch next.  Maybe some of my awesome writer-friends.  Maybe me!  Maybe you!

I won't be waiting in line tonight to see New Moon, but for those of you that are, I'm excited that you are out there skipping work and school to celebrate books.  That, my friends, is true success.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all down hill from here...

So I've passed the halfway point for NaNoWriMo.  I'm closing in on 30,000 words.  Writing is such an amazing artistic process.  I know it sounds all lame, but really...when I sit down to write I have an idea in mind of what I want to say, but once I get going sometimes the story changes and I come up with things I hadn't thought of before.  I knew I really liked to write, but during this month I am really learning how much I LOVE to write.  And I am so happy to have found something that I can pretty much do the rest of my life, regardless of broken feet and bad knees. 

And this book...I think those of you that know me well will be surprised.  It's not something I thought I would ever write.  But it's turning out just like it should. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prairie Writers' Day Re-cap

Yesterday I headed out to Harper College for my first Prairie Writers' Day (SCBWI-IL annual conference).  I was really nervous, it was my first time mingling with people in the industry.  It was also cool to see some authors I've met before and to meet some for the first time. 

We listened to all of the editors (four of them from various publishing houses in NY) and one agent discuss just what the industry is looking for and how to put our best work out there.  One editor sang for us and one did a cartwheel and they were all pretty damn funny. 

In the break out sessions I learned about PR from Cynthea Liu, who is pretty awesome (Paris Pan Takes the Dare, The Great Call of China).  It made me feel like I've got a good start on the PR stuff...now if only I can get a manuscript published...

I also saw Michael Stearns from the Upstart Crow Literary Agency and made me wish and hope I get an agent as cool as him.  He already passed on Into the Shadows, but I'll give it a go again when I get the next one finished.

Lunch was really cool as we got to sit with the editor or agent of our choice.  I was able to snag a seat at Nick Eliopulos' table, YA editor from Random House.  He was so funny and easy to talk to.  It seriously must be a awesome job to be an editor.  *sigh*  If only I lived in New York!

It was a pretty fascinating day, but a lot to take in all at once.  I felt like I was drunk on information!  But it's back to work today.  I've got my 25,000 words for NaNoWriMo and I'm half way done, but it's still a long two weeks before I have a second finished (well, ready for revision) manuscript ready.  Maybe I'll post the first chapter tomorrow.  Just to give you guys a taste!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sweet Valley High Movie??? OMG!

So I was reading in Entertainment Weekly (not my subscription, Grandma is nice enough to pass it along when she's done - thanks Grandma!) that Diablo Cody, Illinois native and screenwriter of Juno has met with Francine Pascal and is working on a Sweet Valley High movie script.  I am quite excited to see how it turns out and who picks it up.  I have heard that Sweet Valley High was being updated (to include computers, cell phones and iPods, etc).  I wonder if they'll still have the Spider convertible they had.  *Sigh*  They were so lovely.   Elizabeth was definitely my favorite.

As for YA books made into movies, New Moon is out next week, which you would have to be living under a rock not to know!  Being that I am not a huge fan of the books, I can't say I'm ready to run out and see it, especially after Twilight, the movie disaster.  I hope for the book's fans that it is a much better showing, considering they did get a bigger budget this time around.  I might wait until it comes out on video, though! 

One more day until my first Prairie Writers Day...I'll tell you all about it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo update

I see I have my first follower here!  Thanks follower! 

So this weekend is halfway through on National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) and I have made it to 17,221 words.  I am hoping to get to 20,000 today, after my unplanned trip to my favorite place on earth (that would be IKEA, to those who don't know me quite yet).  The characters are moving along very well and I am really pleased with how it's turning out so far.  I am really convinced that this might be the one. 

I was reading fellow blogger Hilary Wagner's post on only needing one YES from somebody in the industry (which she has gotten...upcoming book Nightshade City).   I agree with what she said, and many of my other friends and fellow writers have said.  I've been working for the last year to get that one YES, and so far I've probably racked up about 100 NOs.  For some reason (either I'm crazy or delusional), I just get more feisty and convinced that I will find the right person.  I've had my first YA novel, Into the Shadows, requested by agents and publishers, but in the end, it's always a NO.  Kind words on the picture book too, but still NO.  But my new YA, the Green, I think it's the real deal.  I am hoping that this will bring the love faster than Into the Shadows did.  So I keep moving forward.  I definitely haven't been discouraged, okay maybe for a day or something, but not for long.  It makes me want to work harder and faster and write better, because I know my chance will come.  And no one else is going to do it for me!

Monday, November 9, 2009

My very first blog...here, anyways!

Ugh, trying to get your name out there is such a PITA!  My own website crashed when I tried to update it and now have been without one for a week or so.  I thought I would try this site, and *tried* to get it uploaded to my site, again with no luck!  And with Prairie Writers' Day this weekend, I really wanted to get something up and running, since it is on my business cards.  I just feel like it's going to be tacky to hand out cards and have no site come up.  Such a pain!  Anyways, I hope to have that worked out soon, my site was actually getting hits as well!

As for this week, I am very excited to be attending my first Prairie Writers' Day (the IL yearly writers' conference).  I am going to be seeing the lovely YA author Cynthea Liu and agent Michael Stearns, from Upstart Crow.  I just got a rejection letter from Upstart Crow last week for my first YA, called Into the Shadows.  But that's cool, no hard feelings.

As for NaNoWriMo, I'm doing good so far, over 14,000 words already and still going.  If only I hadn't wasted so much time on fiddling with web crap tonight I would have already put in 2,000 more.  I have really high hopes for this project.  I really feel like this is going to be the one to make it!  Or maybe I'm delusional after writing 4,000 words yesterday.  Whatever.  I think it rocks so far.  Well, back to work!