Monthly Archives: May 2010

Finding your Writing Inspiration

Last week was 8th grade graduation.  Parents were invited (I use that term loosely.  Let’s face it, it’s mandatory to attend anything for your child that has the words ‘celebration’, ‘graduation’ and/or ‘promotion’ in the title) to come celebrate their child’s ‘promotion’ to high school.

I have many problems with this.  I have had problems with the kindergarten graduation ceremony, 5th grade graduation ceremony and naturally, I had a problem with this one as well.  This is not a local phenomenon (the idea that we need to ‘celebrate’ accomplishing what is expected), I can speak for at least 3 areas in the south where I’ve lived in the last 15 years, who all believed that it was important to lavish praise on our children for passing on to the next grade.  When did passing to the next grade become cause for celebration?  And not just celebration, folks, we’re talking balloons, bouquets, gifts, and flying in family from all over the country here.  I would love to know, just what is the perfect gift for passing the 8th grade?  If you spend hundreds of dollars on your child for surviving the harrowing experience of middle school then you’ve raised the bar to a crazy place for high school graduation.  Ladies and gentleman, I beg you here, if you can’t think about the precedence you’re setting for your own household, then think of all the other parents that you’ve now made look bad because we don’t understand (and thus, refuse to partake in) what you’re doing.  Was there really ever a moment when you thought jr. wasn’t going to make it on to 9th grade?  Obviously, I’m not referring to children that have real social or physical issues that limited their school performance in some way.  I’m talking to the 99% of us who have been blessed with average (or above) kids that had no problem getting through the school year intact.  What in the world do you have planned for high school graduation, college, and holy cow, the wedding??   

What happened to the days when we were given our award for citizenship, school spirit, handwriting (oh, yes they did that!) attendance..etc, in the gym in front of our peers?  Our parents weren’t dragged to the school to celebrate this moment.  I don’t even think my parents knew it had occurred!  And, let me tell you, I received a folder full of those certificates of achievement every year.  I was proud to get them, I even looked forward to it.  But I never expected anything more than that feeling of pride in myself for having done something well (bragging rights were nice, too).  That’s it.  No balloons, no flowers, no family hugs…yet somehow I made it through the night.

Now the icing on the cake, after sitting through the mandatory honking, squeaking and tooting of the middle school band (actually the band was quite good, I was impressed), and pledge of allegiance while carefully omitting the prayer, this beloved promotion ceremony that was created for the purpose of celebrating each and every child’s fantabulous achievement of passing was halted for 30 minutes of speeches to single out 4 ‘extra amazing’ individuals that needed recognition for their character, integrity, etc…wait a minute, I thought we were brought there to exalt even our most mediocre, expected achievement and then I became confused, were we actually called there to praise, single out, only 4 of these kids??  Clearly, if you’re going to have a heart attack or if there’s a natural disaster you better find one of these 4 kids because your own kids ain’t gonna be enough (even though they passed 8th grade).  I’m not biased here, I wouldn’t expect any other parent to listen to a speech about the awesomeness of any of my amazing children (and let me tell you, my kids’ awesomeness would blow your socks off) unless they were invited there for that specific reason, full disclosure included.

Sadly, for about 10 seconds, I felt bad that I had shown up at this momentous occasion empty-handed.  But, alas, the feeling passed and I remembered that my son did exactly what was expected of him and deserved exactly what I received at that time in my life, a spot in the 9th grade class.  Clearly there have always been magnificent children, regardless of which decade they are being raised, and there will continue to be many more, I would never suggest that we shouldn’t recognize the value of praising a child, I only ask that we step back and ask if we’re going overboard. 

Someday I may realize that I was wrong, I should have taught him early on that each and every achievement was cause for a grand celebration, but I seriously doubt it.  I believe he’ll learn self-pride, confidence and motivation from knowing that he did an awesome job, not because of the praise he received from others, but because of the praise he learned to give himself.  How in the world can a child, any of us really, learn to live with ourselves if we’re taught that self-worth comes from outside of us?

If you’ve read my blog before you’ve got to be asking yourself, what the hell does any of that have to do with writing?  Ummmm….actually it does relate to my writing.

My writing, like yours, is a product of my own experiences.  I create characters that I know, see, feel and grow with.  As a writer for children and teens I often think about the affect my characters will have on my readers.  I am sometimes shocked and saddened at the way society wants us to raise our children.  If I successfully remove even one child from the pressure of their day, make them laugh and think about things in a different way, through one of my stories, then I will die happy.

It’s moments like ‘8th grade graduation’ that inspire me to go on, keep writing.  Find writing inspiration in your life, from your own colorful experiences, remember many of us have been there, too, and would love to join you for the ride.

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Synopsis Workout…

My mind has rejected the very idea of editing a synopsis today.  Much like my body completely rejected the idea of working out this afternoon.  But despite the obese little devil that perched on my right shoulder and teased me with the idea of a much-needed nap, I chose to listen to the angel on my left (she’s been watching way too much Jillian Michaels) and painfully completed a much-needed workout.

Now I need to continue to shut out that rotund little satan that’s clouding my thoughts with a reality TV marathon, eating strawberry peanut butter M&M’s until I’m sick (hey, I worked out), and here comes a vision of that nap again.  Let’s be honest, working out is fun (in its own way), writing a synopsis is not.  But it’s a necessary evil that I cannot avoid, much like the physical pain I’ll be experiencing tomorrow (can you say, ‘one too many squats’, I’ll let you know if I’m able to leverage myself off the toilet tonight), but that is a part of the game.  If you want to sell, or attempt to sell, your writing you must write a (perfectly wonderful) synopsis, you cannot avoid it.

I’m looking forward to the mental exhilaration that will come once it’s done.  I don’t think it will compare to the ‘high’ of a good run but I’ll let you know…


Extinction of the Reference Book?

If you think you’re a grammar expert then try writing a book.  Some days it’s formatting problems (I’m embarrassed to say that I’m still trying to figure out how to make Word happy), some days it’s spelling (had to look up the spelling for more words that I will admit last week), other days I have problems with verb tense, punctuation, and on and on.  You name it and it has challenged  me.  (This, of course, doesn’t even include the difficulties of storytelling in and of itself…but that’s a whole ‘nother post). 

For the last few days it’s been word usage.   Use to or used to, past or passed, and is it lay or lain?  (I won’t tell you their proper uses in this post, go look it up, I had to).  My writing today was halted repeatedly so that I could verify the proper use of these words.  It occurred to me when I turned to the world wide web for the 3rd time, rather than use a reference book on a shelf only 5 feet away, that the reference book world must be crippled these days.  If someone like me, that cherishes my time with a bound book of any kind, turns to the internet for research then I can only imagine how rare it has become for the ‘occasional’ reader to actually purchase a reference book.  The thought saddens me.  I do understand that, especially in these economic times,  the house payment and groceries must come slightly ahead of the ‘books (of any genre)’ section of most people’s household budget.  Because let’s be honest,  it’s just not necessary any longer to purchase these reference books when the information can be found instantly, and easily, on the internet.  I will admit that while I have shelves currently overflowing with reference material, it’s been a while since I purchased a dictionary or any other grammar reference material (I do remember purchasing a thesaurus about 5 years ago).

I think tomorrow I’ll stack a dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar book right beside my computer…no longer will 5 feet allow me to contribute to the demise of the good ‘ol hardbound reference book.

*Please note that I’m referring to a specific type of reference book in my post.  There will always (let’s hope) be a place for certain types of hardbound reference material.


A Mother’s Day

From the cozy warmth of my bed this morning I heard two small voices, “You better get a towel, ooh you’re in trouble,” followed by, “It’s your fault”.  Oh, the joy of another Mother’s Day.  To those that advise me, ‘Have a day to yourself, the laundry and dishes will still be there tomorrow,’ I know you mean well but not only will the laundry and dishes be there tomorrow there will be a LOT more of them.   Maybe I’ll just cook the meal I want for dinner tonight rather than avoid housework.

I think I strive to accomplish the same things in my writing as I do in parenting–to do my best and make a positive, lasting impression.  Despite the fact that I remain unpublished, I sometimes feel more successful as a writer than a parent.  Unfortunately, I fell out of contention as ‘Mother of the Year’ (last May) when the 14-year-old said, ‘maybe if you wouldn’t use that language then I wouldn’t either’ and on the (one of many) occasions I redirected the 7-year-old to hour 2 of a video game so that I could watch Project Runway.  However, I’m not out of the running to be nominated for a writing award just yet…but I’m getting ahead of myself, maybe I should (continue) work on becoming a published author first. 

Happy Mother’s Day to those of you still in the running for Mother of the Year.  I’m already working on next year.


It’s Worth Your Time

I wouldn’t normally devote an entire post to someone else’s blog but this one is worth it.  If you’re looking for a great daily inspiration and reference place (or even if you’re not looking) for writers check out this site/blog:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

The information is not only helpful, it’s concise and entertaining.  I went to the site to double-check on how to format an e-query and found myself reading several other useful and funny posts.  Check it out!


A Contest to Consider

Win a trip to New York City to meet with 4 editors or agents, not to mention a cash prize and bragging rights in your next query letter about how you won the Writer’s Digest competition this year.  There are many categories (including children’s/young adult fiction) and multiple prize levels in addition to the grand prize mentioned above.  The deadline for this competition is May 14, 2010, with late entries taken through June 01, 2010.

Get more details and enter online, http://www.writersdigest.com/annual

Good Luck!