Moving

I boxed up my things,

just objects I own.

But my heart still clings

to that which is known.

My home has no roots,

I’ve never known peace.

My never stilled boots

don’t seem to grasp “cease”.

I’m tired of moving,

of being shook up.

I’m tired of proving

I’m still just a pup.

I’m still starting out,

that what they all say.

My roots will soon sprout

I’ll see it, someday.

But as of right now

my sorrow is deep.

I’m still forced to bow

to a changing wind’s sweep.

I boxed up my things,

’cause I won’t be here long.

I don’t dream of kings,

Just a place to belong.

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My Children’s Book

 

So I have just completed a children’s story that I intend to self-publish. It began as a rather long, fun poem, but with encouragement from my writers group it evolved into a full story. I’m nearly done with the editing (as much as a writer ever can be anyway) and my next step it the artwork to go along with my story.

But the writing is only half of a children’s book. Kids love pictures that tell the story, so I needed to figure out what kind of illustration I wanted.  Upon some further research I found that you can hire an artist and pay them per illustration- the going rate seems to be about $100 to $200 per drawing online, or you can team up with an artist and split credit (and profit) from the book down the middle. I do know a few artists that would be amazing at it, but since graphic art is something I like to do (and have done professionally before), I decided I am going to do the artwork myself. I plan to make little figurines out of Sculpey and Fimo clay and pose them in scenes to take pictures, then turn them into something that looks illustrated in Photoshop. I will be sure to share more with you as my illustration adventure develops.

My father-in-law has a friend who has published a children’s story, so when I told him I wanted to publish he helped me get in touch with his writer friend. His friend told me that publishers want you to have everything done and mapped out before you even contact them, so I will be finishing my artwork before I take any efforts to publish further. The advice that he gave as far as marketing and publishing boiled down to this: Do as much of it yourself as possible. The publishers will be happy to do it for you, but their help requires lots of money. He also said they are impatient; any edits and adjustments are expected the same day they ask for them, and they get irritated if you delay. They also don’t really proof anything-if your work isn’t perfect when you hand it to them, then that is what will go into print.

With all this in mind, I am very nervous about my first independent self-published work. Even so, I am not deterred.

Marketing Rant

Today is not about writing. Today is about marketing, and the excessive and invasive way that marketing has blanketed out lives.

My reflection upon the subject arose from checking my e-mail today. I recently made a purchase from a large internet-based department store. I am pleased with my purchase. It arrived in a timely manner, the item was exactly what I was looking for, and I purchased it for a price that was acceptable. My dealings with this company were generally positive.

But now, three weeks later, after multiple marketing e-mails daily, I am peeved.

The whole reason I like shopping online is because I can avoid the fiasco at the mall. There are no cellular salespeople chasing me down narrow isle ways swearing I can upgrade my phone at no extra charge. There are no marketing specialist shoving a plethora of coupons at me as I try to find a restroom near the food court. There is nobody trying to polish my shoes, curl my hair, or show me how to improve my skin care regiment. I generally despise being touched by strangers, and I have a hard time being rude to anyone, even if they are being annoying and pushy. Salespeople latch on to this weakness, and mistake it as an easy sale. I need to make myself a t-shirt that says, “No, I will not buy any, and I don’t like anyone enough to buy them a present.” Somehow though, I don’t think it would help.
Don’t mistake me, I’m super girly and I love to shop, But I hate, hate, HATE salespeople. I’m sure they are lovely people when they are not at work, however while they are, I wish pain-free acute laryngitis on the lot of them. To combat this issue, I have taken to shopping online. Sure, I have to pay shipping. And I don’t get the instant gratification of wearing what I just bought now, but to me it is completely worth it.

But the E-mails! The emails are worse. I can’t tell anyone off for barraging me, and I have to filter through all the crap I don’t need for the funny article my mom emailed me an hour ago. Spam filter my arse. More like, “not affiliated with us”  or “anything from Nigeria” filter.  You order anything online and suddenly your inbox has 23 new messages to buy more. You ordered a Men’s T-shirt, you must need throw pillows, car wax,  lamps, slippers, hedgers, weed killer, anti-allergen sheets, a dog collar, gifts for dad, grads, and you mom. Looking to lower your mortgage? Is your carpet full of microscopic creepy bugs that look like this (insert disturbing picture)? Do you know these people on Facebook? Vote for this guy! Here are free coupons!

Stop it!

At least the side banner on most websites are targeted towards the cookies of items you actually viewed. I like going to Amazon and Google and searching for diamond rings and cute shoes, that way the pictures that turn up in the sidelines are of shiny, pretty things. Let’s face it, advertizing is the only reason Facebook and Outlook offer accounts for free. Might as well make it work for me right?

Most of the time I shrug and accept my tiny corner of the internet, banners and all. But enough is enough. Today I received ridiculously random spam emails from the online retailer previously mentioned. I bought an item used in sewing. I got advertisements for a mini fridge, classroom supplies, Call of Duty for the Xbox (do not own, nor have I ever e-searched for an Xbox), a John Oates CD for $4.99, A Yankees hat (hate sports), a bicycle, a subscription to Rolling Stone, a book about dogs (ok, I liked that ad), and here is the kicker: Spark plugs. I do not own a car.

I realize this entire article is nothing more than a rant, and will go completely unmarked in the grand designers of the interwebs.  But if this keeps up, I am going to go back to shopping at the mall. At least I don’t have to wait three days and pay shipping for those folks to harass me.

Was Had Been

I’d like to discuss the word “Was” today, and why it does not belong in your writing. “had” or “had been” are also not to be used in excess for the same reasons. Before I joined my writers group I over used these words, a classic newbie mistake. My fellow writers informed me by underlining every “was” or “had” on a page in red ink. When there is more red on the page than your originally written work, you know you’re in trouble. It surprised me when I began writing, but following this rule made me think harder about my word choice, and ultimately my writing style improved. trying to eliminate these words actually made me expand my vocabulary to restructure my sentences in a way that avoided it.

Exclude this over-used word because it’s boring and repetitive. There is nothing active or exciting about it. I know you will have to use it once in a while, it is, after all part of the English language. But it is difficult as a reader to stay excited and in the moment when every phrase is passive.

Example 1:

She was leaning provocatively into the car window over where he was sitting. He was parked next to the new “no parking” sign. That sign had been placed there by the local PTA last November. Parking had become a problem for local business owners when the new school was done for the day. She was one of the Mom’s that had pushed the issue about the no parking. She wasn’t complaining about someone parking there now.

Example 2:

She leaned provocatively into the car window over the man’s lap. His parked car sat next to the no parking sign in front of the school. She raised hell alongside the other PTA moms last November when local businesses complained about the parking issue. She even posed for pictures when the sign went up. She conveniently ignored the sign now.

 

The story is the same in both examples, but the one without the “was” and “had been” is more active, and makes the story more interesting.

Try going over a piece that you have written and highlight all the “was” “had” and “had been” uses. Now re-write the piece without them. I promise you the piece will be better.

Feedback

I have been singing about writer’s groups for a while now, encouraging writers to expand their ability and reach out for valuable feedback. Recently, I have been invited to moderate just such a group, beginning in September. I have experience with two other writers groups I attend every week, and I plan to pull from that experience to establish a procedure for my new group.

So the topic at the front of my mind lately is feedback. How to give it, how to accept it, and how to use it to your benefit.

Giving feedback can be delicate. You don’t want to be mean, but your fellow writer’s latest chapter is very confusing, and you can’t figure out what he/she is trying to say with this piece. Not telling the writer about the confusion is a disservice. Chances are, if you are confused other readers will be too. And if a reader is confused, they may not finish reading. The best way to approach this is to ask the writer questions about the portion that you can’t follow. Try not to phrase things in a confrontational way, and be detailed with your criticism. If you don’t understand a character’s reaction to something, ask why the character feels that way. If the author has an answer for you, then tell them to include that in the story. Let them know it would make more sense with the explanation. Feel free to share ideas and suggestions. The other members of your writers group will probably start piping up with more suggestions and comments once you do, which will help the writer improve his/her piece. Don’t be afraid to be the person breaking the ice. Everyone benefits from an open discussion on plot, characters, themes, settings, etc. Catching a flaw in someone else’s work will also help you catch those same mistakes in your own work.

Giving feedback only works if the person getting the feedback is open to it. It is no easy thing to hear something negative about work you put your heart into. It’s hard not to get defensive, and feel attacked. Just remember that you asked for the feedback (why else would you attend a group?) and listen very carefully to what your fellow writer is saying. If they are confused about something, it is because you did not give the reader all of the story. Remember that the reader is not in your head, so you have to give the details of your idea within your piece. And if you didn’t, and the reader is asking questions, then you need a re-write. Sometimes a re-write can inspire even more details that were not in your first draft, so there are a multitude of benefits from other people’s input.

So you get home, and you have three pages of notes from 30 people on your latest chapter. You’ve been given multiple different conflicting ideas. Now what? This is your piece, so ultimately what you do with it from here is 100%your choice. You already listened and took note of the helpful tips from your group. Take the spelling and grammar tips and fix those (goodness knows I always have to) to get them out of the way. Then you can focus on the storyline and character development ideas. Be careful not to lose your voice in the voices of others. If someone suggested a word change that is a synonym  to the one already there, be sure it’s something you like, and a word you would actually use yourself. Pick the ideas that work with your story, and make it clearer and easier to read. Use the ideas that help move your story along.

Re-writing a re-write for the third time is part of the process. With the help of your peers you will get it where you want it to go, and hopefully on to being published.

Happy writing!