Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Think I May Flee the Country

And head to Canada, for the Surrey International Writer's Conference! Didn't I just post about wanting a respectable, reputable conference in Washington State ASAP? Well, Surrey B.C. works just fine, distance-wise.

It's crossing the border that will be the sticky widget. I don't have a passport, and I don't have my enhanced driver's license (people in Washington state can get those and they'll allow you to cross the Canadian border like a passport would. I bet other border states offer those too, but I don't know).

I miss the days when I could (and did) flit up to Canada on a whim, crossing the border with wild abandon. That's how I saw Eek-a-Mouse (and got the biggest contact high EVER when my friend and I were invited backstage -actually downstage, I guess, the backstage area was a basement.). Nobody smokes pot like a Jamacian reggae band. I mean NOBODY. Vancouver is also where I saw my first ever actual live prostitutes, and learned that when the prettiest girl on the block is holding an umbrella even though its not raining, then that means she's a dude. (And yes, she was better looking than nearly every actual female prostitute out there in Gastown.) I had some fun times in Canada in my teens and early twenties. I haven't been in ages though. My spouse and I have never been, and we've been married 11 years. We've talked about going to the aquarium up there with the girls, we hear its amazing, but its never been a serious enough discussion to actually do anything about getting the right post-September 11th travel documents.

My husband used to have a passport (he lived in Iceland for a few years, and was quite the globetrotter when he was in his twenties) but he forgot that it was expiring and failed to renew it, so now he practically has to start over - his process won't be as difficult as mine, having already had a passport, but it's still a pain in the ass that he doesn't have time for, considering we have no international travel planned for the foreseeable future.

But now this conference has come up and I really really really want to go. To get an enhanced driver's license, I need several things: 1. a copy of my birth certificate. Ordered. From the east coast. I paid for fast shipping. We'll see how long it actually takes. 2. A copy of my marriage certificate, since the name on my birth cert and my current name differ. Got it. 3. My SSN. Got it. 4. A utility bill with my name on it. Might have it. We just moved to the new location in July, and I honestly don't know whose name the utilities are in. I think the gas is in my name but everthing else is in my husband's. When we moved this last time I was really really busy with life stuff, so the husband took care of all the little things regarding the move. The gas just had to be switched to a new address, it was the same company we had in Seattle, so I think it remained in my name, but I'm pretty sure all the rest of it is in his.

So anyway! I will probably have all the materials I need within about 2 weeks. So then I have to drag my ass to one of 14 offices statewide that actually issue enhanced drivers licenses to apply. I have to go first thing in the morning, because there are a limited number of appointments, and they are only available on a first come/first served basis. Then, the actual license takes a week and a half or so to issue. So if I am lucky, I will be able to legally cross the border by the date of the conference.

If I am not legally able to do so by that time, perhaps I will smuggle myself in by hiding in the back of a Jamaican reggae band's van under a heavy curtain of pot smoke. "Do you have anything to declare?" they will ask. "No. No we do not," they will answer.

Good News

My friend came through her cancer surgery very well. The doctor said the mass was about the size of a tennis ball, so it was very large, but it doesn't look like it spread to any other areas of the body.

The surgery itself took longer than normal, because my friend is in really good shape. Apparently with this type of surgery when you're really physically fit the surgery takes more time because you don't have a lot of fat to give the surgeon more wiggle room. It does mean that her recovery will be quicker and will probably have fewer complications.

Yay!! Now, let's all cross our fingers to ward off nosocomial infections, and we should be home free!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've Been Speaking Too Much Chinese Lately

I wrote an email earlier today to The Rejecter asking a very serious question. (To me, at least. It's one of those things that I really want to know, yet am afraid to ask anyone but an anonymous person.)

However, in the subject line, I used the phrase "Is, or is it not?" IN ENGLISH. I wasn't even thinking. I read back over my email later and I thought, hmm. Could have written it better, but the kids were yelling at me so oh well I guess it could have been worse. Then I saw the subject line. IS OR IS IT NOT???? Who am I? Goddamn Hamlet?

But in Chinese, you say hua bu hau all the time. Please excuse my horrible pinyang. I neither read nor write characters or pinyang. I can only understand the language verbally. Give me a book in Chinese, I'm useless. Sit me down at a mahjongg table and I'm your girl. (Don't get me wrong. A Chinese person could still talk circles around me. But I'm probably the only blond haired blue eyed girl there who can eavesdrop on the Chinese ladies talking shit about the other people walking Greenlake.) But you never know! Maybe there's a large, secret group of us and we don't know about each other yet. Ooh! What a nice idea for a novel. Wait. Done that.

So anyway. I really would like a serious answer from The Rejecter to my question, but would I answer an email from someone with "Is or is it not?" in the subject line? Is her first thought going to be "Oh! I bet she was thinking in Chinese and writing in English!" Um, sure. Sure it is. No, it's going to be "What a fucking freak."


Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Want More Writers Conferences

Back at the end of July I went to the PNWA summer conference. I met with one agent in a one on one 10 minute pitch session, and I met with one editor in a six on one half hour pitch session. I also elevator pitched to three other agents.

Of those meetings I have had the following results: The agents I elevator pitched to said "fine, send me something. I have been rejected by two of them (one form, one very nicely. Both took weeks to reject me) The third agent I elevator pitched to asked for a 10 page partial and I haven't heard back from her. The agent that I met with in the 10 minute one on one requested a 100 page partial. I am waiting to hear from her. The editor request my full. I will now recount the meeting with the editor:

The scene: a packed conference room. Five nervous would-be authors sit around a table with a pleasant but detached looking blond woman. She's the only one not sweating bullets. The seventh chair at the table sits empty. The sixth author failed to show. Idiot! We all think. Can one of us do our pitch twice?

Our editor says hello, introduces herself. She's with St. Martins Press, an actual respected publisher, not some crappy vanity place. We all swallow the lumps in our throats. She turns to the woman on her left and indicates that she go ahead and give it her best shot. She begins "My fantasy novel XXX begins..." and she finishes her pitch. Editor looks at her kindly and says "I'm sorry, but fantasy is not one of my genres. Thank you for coming." The author, tears in her eyes, says "can you give me some feedback?" Editor: "I'm sorry, I really can't. It's not one of my genres, any feedback from me would be useless." Author stands up and walks away. I understand, but wish she could have pulled it together and stayed. It just looked kind of tacky. The next person goes. Editor: "It doesn't sound like its for me." The third person goes. Editor: "It sounds like a fantasy." Author: "Well it mostly is, but there's a lot of romance in it. Maybe you could call it a romance." Editor looks slightly pained. Author argues his point more. He really really goes for it, and I have to applaud his persistence. Apparently the editor does too, because she says "Fine. Send me something." Hooray!!! The next person goes. She's this smarmy (I assume smarmy is derived from school-marmy, so the word is really spot on to describe this person) overly-fake-friendly person that I met earlier in the conference. You know, all of her compliments are back-handed, everything she says screams "I am clearly better than you! Be thrilled that I am speaking to you!" She begins, in her long-winded way, finally getting around to the fact that her novel is middle grade fiction. The editor stops her there. "I'm sorry, that's not one of my genres. I'm afraid I'm not the editor for you." She turns and looks at me. "Yes?" I am so nervous at this point, but I begin. She looks resigned. I'm three words in when school marm interrupts me. "Can you at least listen to my pitch and give me some feedback?" she says in her nasty way. The editor looks at me, I realize for my yes or no. I have, after all, started my pitch. Crap. Do I give in to my inner bitch and say "fuck you, this is my time" or do I act graciously and rise above it all? I choose the latter, but it's hard. School marm launches into her very lengthy pitch, while I try not to look pissed. When she is finally done, editor says "I'm sorry. Middle grade is just not my genre. I don't have any feedback for you." She turns to me: "Go ahead." I say "I'm kind of nervous at this point. Would it be okay if I just read my pitch?" This may have worked out for me after all. I'm a much better writer than I am a speaker. I'm a competent speaker, but let me reiterate for you: I AM A MUCH BETTER WRITER THAN I AM A SPEAKER. She says sure. Yes! I get to read something I wrote, rather than just babble excitedly!!! I begin reading. She looks bored. I glance up from time to time. It is as though the editor is connected to a dimmer switch. She brightens a little more each time I look up. At the end, she looks positively excited. She asks me "Does it have a strong opening?" I say yes and describe the opening a bit. We discuss my title for a few; the pros and cons. Hasn't there been a successful book with that title recently? Yes, I say, but it's nonfiction, and it has a long subtitle. My target audience won't be confused. She looks at me point blank. "Is it good?" I don't get cutesy. I don't say "Well *I* think it is." I don't say "I certainly hope so." I don't say "Why don't you be the judge?" I say: "Yes." She says "Time travel is huge right now. Send it to me. Send it to me right now." Then she turns to the next person. I can barely register what's going on, but I realize that she shoots him down almost immediately. I am a-twitter with excitement.

I mail it to her on Monday morning. I send it regular first class mail. No express mail. I don't want to seem like a freak. I do pay for delivery confirmation. Not signature confirmation. I'm not an idiot. I get real busy for a couple of days with the kids. On Wednesday I send her an email letting her know it's on its way. She emails me back on Thursday saying "You too! I got the ms and it's on top of my To Read stack. Thanks!" (The "you too" was in response to my telling her it was a real pleasure to meet her - which it was. At this point, its probably the best thing that happened to me all year.) That was on August 6th. I'm starting to hear crickets. They're not loud, but they are intimidating. Yes, I put a SASE in with my manuscript, but not knowing the postal rules, I had it metered. Now I know that probably won't work, since she's in New York and I'm on the west coast. Fab. Why couldn't the postal worker tell me to buy stamps in the amount of 15 bucks or whatever it was? I would have done that. The postal worker should have known that it wouldn't work, I told her it was an SASE. Bitch. So I probably won't get the manuscript back if the response is a no. I really really really want to hear what she has to say. In the interim weeks from the time I mailed her, I have thought of a much better way to open the novel, and I've determined that there was one entire scene (almost a chapter) that could and should be deleted. What if she hates my opening 2 paragraphs, and she thinks the book was really promising until chapter 13 and then I blew it? Man, I could drive myself crazy over this.

So the two people I'm most excited about, the two people who have the most of my work (the agent with the 100 page partial and the editor with the full) have not gotten back to me yet. I take this a good thing, when I'm thinking rationally. It means they're still reading it. In between all the other things they have to do, in snatches of time, they're reading it. I have not been rejected yet.

In contrast, I have been almost immediately rejected by nearly everyone else I have sent a query to...some within minutes of zapping it off. Most within at least one day. Does my query really suck that bad? I've revised it again and will send some more queries shortly. I've also submitted my query to Query Shark. Even though Janet Reid has already shot me down (very, very quickly) I revised my letter and submitted it to her Query Shark blog. Perhaps she will recognize it, perhaps not. Maybe I'll get some good feedback, maybe not. We'll see.

But finally, I am arriving at the meaning behind the title of my blog post. The people I met in person are still viable options. They wanted to see my stuff. The elevator pitches have met with a 66% reject rate and a 34% unknown (let's face it, it's probably a rejection), but they took several weeks to reject me, not several hours. I think they at least read what I sent. The longer I spoke with a person, the more they wanted to see from me. And I haven't heard back yet, which I think is promising. (I won't think it's promising anymore once I get a rejection, but for now, let me cling to that.) I want more opportunities to speak to people in person. I want more writer's conferences. Good ones. Not some place where I sit around with a paintbrush in one hand and everyone wears saris. I want a business-like, lets make a deal environment like I got at PNWA. And I want it now. Could someone please organize another conference RIGHT NOW in Washington State so that I can go get a fix?

Why I Don't Care That I Have a Cold

Yes, it's true. I have a cold. A raging one. I came down with it Friday night, the night before my big girl's third birthday party. It has only gotten worse since then.

But it's nothing compared to my friend's colon cancer. They found it five days ago. She's having her entire colon removed in 48 hours. I'm going to be spending a lot of time at her house; her 2.5 year old daughter is my oldest's best friend.

Kind of puts things in perspective.

I think it will take at least a couple of months before I stop reminding myself to get over shit by saying "at least I don't have colon cancer." My kids are driving me crazy with their whining and crying? At least I don't have colon cancer. I dislike my first job so intensely that I resent even looking at my computer after the children go to bed? At least I don't have colon cancer. I'm sick and tired of having Playdoh ground into the carpet, food all over the kitchen floor, and no clean dishes in the house EVER? At least I don't have colon cancer.

Et cetera.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Caramelized Hazelnut Gianduja

That's the super expensive ice cream that I just ate. It was good. For a name that makes sense though, try "pralines and cream with a slight coffee aftertaste."

I have been working my first job all evening, so once again no time for writing, but I "wrote" several scenes for my pending middle grade novel in my head while at Costco earlier today. If I shoot for 55K words, I could have it done in 2 months, tops, given the amount of time I've spent thinking about it. If only my brain could type.

So why am I typing this blog instead of writing the great American middle-grade novel? The blog I can finish within the next 5 minutes, and it's 11 goddamn 53 PM and I need to go to bed because my 17 month old will wake up no later than 0730, and my 3 year old will follow closely on her heels. Tomorrow is aforementioned 3 year old's birthday, so in addition to the usual kerfluffle that surrounds everything we do, there's the excitement of knowing that 3 years ago some doctor sliced her mom open and dragged her practically lifeless body into the world, then spent the next 5 minutes trying to get her to breath/live. Okay, that's not how she remembers it. And truthfully, that's not how I "remember" it, but it is what happened.

She is absolutely thrilled that it is her birthday, and she doesn't know it yet, but there's a shiny red tricycle parked right in the middle of the living room with her name on it. I am so grateful and happy to have her in my life. Tonight as I was hugging her before putting her to bed I said "I love you honey." She said "I love you TOO Mommy!" then she got a huge smile on her face and said "We have so much in common!" :) She's freaking fantastic. I don't really like to think too much about the minutes we spent waiting to see if she would live though. After about 5 minutes of resuscitation, a look crossed the face of the nurse standing above me (I was laid out on the OR table 5 minutes post c-section and couldn't see much.) But I will never, ever forget that look on her face. It was the look. The call the chaplain look. And then M started breathing. And the look passed. But I will still never forget it for as long as I live.

A at 17 months is AMAZING. She constructed a little slide out of her fork and some food at dinner and was having peas roll down it while chanting "sli! sli! sli!" Her father said "A, did you make a slide?" She literally screamed with glee and started throwing herself around in her highchair, so insanely pleased that he had figured it out that she couldn't control herself. That baby is incredible. She also pooped in the toliet for the first time tonight. I can't be too was there or the bathtub. It was a close call.

I love my kids so much. But I am also very realistic about them and freely admit that on many, many occasions I have thought of them as my tiny little torturers. They put me through hell, waking me up every hour on the hour all night long with unreasonable demands. Find my pacifier. Help me out of the corner of my crib. Get me a bottle. Adjust my, don't change it. Just adjust it. Then in the morning I have to smile at them, act chipper, and make them a nutritious breakfast. Whatever. I will never get all earth-mothery about them with you. I love them, love them, love them, and that will always remain true, but I won't spare you the gory details. The actual duties of motherhood SUCK sometimes. Anyone who tries to say different is a liar. If you're on the fence about whether to have kids or not, my advice is don't. If you're on the fence, stay there. If you really like naps, my advice goes double, because FYI, you'll never really sleep again. And naps? Fucking forget it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Little A crawled today for the first time. She got up on her hands and knees and would scootch scootch scootch her little knees forward until they were nearly touching her hands, then she would obviously draw on some well of energy and rear back and throw her little hands forward 6 inches or so, then scootch scootch scootch....

What a difference in my two girls though. M got up on her hands and knees and just trembled, obviously using all her strength just in the effort to stay in that position. She was 10 months old. Little A had no trouble keeping herself in the hands and knees position, she was solid as a rock. Of course, she is SEVENTEEN months old (almost), and most of her peers are running by now. Damn right she should have the strength to support her body weight.

I'm so proud of her though. About 6 months ago a therapist "reassured" me by telling me that A would definitely be walking by the time she was 5 years old. Um...thanks. Now I'm pretty sure she'll be walking by the time she's 2. She really got motivated after running into Drew at baby class. He's one week older than she is, and he was tearing around the room on his little legs faster than my 3 year old. A seemed both intruigued and possibly a bit jealous. Now, Drew can't speak in sentences (A said "I love you I love you I love you Daddy" today as the husband worked on the lawn outside her window.) But man that boy could move. After spending an hour with him, A really seemed a lot wigglier and more experimental.

M's birthday is on Tuesday. That means pacifiers go away. We're going to put them in a nice bag for the tooth fairy to pick up Monday night after M goes to bed. To find out what the tooth fairy does with them after that, you'll need to read my middle-grade fiction The Tooth Fairy's Assistant. Once it's done. And after I get an agent. know, all the rest of that stuff.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Think I'm Where the Cool Kids Hang Out

So I had a blog on myspace, and I finally realized that myspace was pretty much a hangout for 15 year olds, pedophiles, and unsuccessful rock bands. So I've researched the blogosphere, and this appears to be where the cool bloggers hang out. Now I am one of you.

I started the blog on myspace so that I could remember some of the things that happen in my life (I have a horrible memory) so I don't want to lose my entries entirely. Maybe from time to time I will copy and paste an old myspace entry here, making myself seem fresh and full of tons of things to say. Is it okay to self plagarize like that?

My goodness, I certainly do like the font better in this program. And I thought my husband was a total dork for being so in love with fonts. Move over spousy, there's a new sherriff in town.

Now that my older daughter M is in preschool, I have this teeny, tiny urge (originating from the part of me that is clearly clinically insane) to have another child. We can't, unless the husband grows some tubes back, but it's not like that's never happened. (One in 10,000 chance I believe it is.) Having another child would be a nightmare, truly it would, I'm perfectly pleased with the ones I have and I don't really want one more. Except for a very, very, little, insane part of me. That's probably nature's way of keeping the species going.