Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Here are some of my favorite family photos from Thanksgiving pasts. What's not to love about dressing up like Pilgrims and Indians?? And since one of my great grandfathers came over on the Mayflower, and my husband's genealogy is Native American, we're the perfect Thanksgiving family!

The best part of the holiday for me? Not the turkey. Not the pies. Not even the cute costumes. It's the stopping to take time to reflect on all there is to be thankful for. So wherever you are, turkey or not, have a happy Thanksgiving!

(Those last ones are in Iraq, many years ago, during the first Gulf War... my hubs doesn't even look like the same guy anymore, but I adore the photos!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back and Forth, and Back again

I've avoided writing the blog because writing in general is not going well these days. I find myself going in circles, trying to figure out where my heart is calling me to write, and what I might actually be able to publish, and wondering if it's possible to find a place in between.

I started a story a few weeks ago. I outlined the characters and the plot, put work into it to make it a decent story. But my heart wasn't in it. I wrote, and it fell flat. I loved the characters, but the story itself bored me.

The months of querying and agent replies have started take their toll. The fact is, I have had a fantastic run. Some amazing replies to queries that resulted in tons of referrals and personal responses, glowing reviews like, "You have a tremendous talent," and "You have that Spark." I've had phone calls and full requests. But ultimately, I still have no agent.

I am, by nature, a problem solver. And so I look at the past months and think, if so many agents say I am talented, and can write, and have a great idea, why is it I'm not getting the offers?

I don't know what the answer is. But while the query front is dying down and the writing front is frustrating, my mind is spinning, trying to figure out how I get from where I am to where I want to be.

Numbers are fairly clear. The adult fiction market is slowing drastically. The kids' market is fairly strong. When I started writing, my initial idea was to write books like my kids are reading.

It didn't work that way. It turned out I didn't gravitate towards kids' fiction. I am an adult fiction writer. But when things get tough, I keep going back to it: to my list of ideas for middle grade books that have been piling up for years. If it sells more easily, why not revisit the idea?

So this week I did. One that's been bubbling for a while, and I started to get excited about it. Put away the adult book I couldn't get excited about and take up a new one.

And then a friend emailed with a recommendation for a definitely adult book... with an idea that immediately I dismissed as something entirely out of my realm. But it has hung around and grown on me. The more I dismiss it, the greater it screams in my head. And the bonus? It fits perfectly with the themes in Some Kind Of Normal. It would cement a branding and side-step that terrible genre-hopping.

But I'm not ready for it. It's a hard book. And I'm tired of jumping around and not committing (or committing for a week or two) to an idea. I don't like the waffling.

And, in short, it really comes down to the fact that I'm not ready to shelve Some Kind of Normal. Ocean Deep I put away and never looked back. But not SKoN. I love that book. I think it's good. I think it's important. I know I should look at all of these rejections as a sign to move on, but I can't let go.

To go the middle grade route would be to put away Some Kind of Normal for good. To go forward with the new idea is to put myself in a place I'm completely not comfortable, and to risk continuing to try to break into a genre that has no place for me.

I am stuck in the middle.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Dog That Was

Almost exactly two years ago, we put our "trial child," a beautiful black lab, to sleep.

You'd think we'd be over it, but we're not. Twelve years is a lot to have someone be such an intimate part of your life. He came to us when he was barely eight weeks old. We were newly married, and had just bought our first house. He was our house-warming gift, all warm, fuzzy ball of fluff and over the top personality.

Over the years he grew to over 100 pounds. He was the smartest dog I ever knew. Loyal, eager to please, able to shift easily between the rough play with my husband to gentle love with my children.

When he arrived in our family, we were two, and the thought of children far, far away. When he left us, we were five. When he arrived, we lived in Southern California. When he left us, he'd been cross country twice, lived in more than six homes in three states. He loved swimming in the Pacific Ocean, chewing on sticks, chasing cats, riding in the truck with his head hung out and his ears flapping wildly and his tongue lolling in the wind. He loved eating Taco Bell on long car trips, for which we paid dearly. More than once we had to roll the windows down to try and diffuse the toxic fumes.

He loved creeks but hated baths. He loved people and music, but hated fireworks and lightening. When he was a puppy and my husband traveled often, I sat with him on my lap to feel safe at night. When he was old and it stormed, I stayed up all night with him so he felt safe.

When he came down with cancer, we kept him around too long. We couldn't say goodbye. Is there a good time for that? It was my son's birthday... we didn't want him to associate his birthday with the death of our dog. It was Halloween... could you cast that kind of shadow over a holiday? But before Thanksgiving came, and the rest of a holiday season we knew he'd never live through, we had him put to sleep. We held his head and cried our eyes out and rubbed his ears the way he always loved.

We'd heard stories of other owners who took their dogs to be put to sleep and their dogs walked in practically prancing, defying all outward appearance of being sick. Not ours. He seemed relieved. Slow, and old, and very relieved. And when he closed his eyes, he just went to sleep.

Our youngest, who was only three at the time, tells people we took him to the vet and he lives there now. All three children, even now, two years later, when asked to draw a portrait of the family in school draw our dog in the picture too. They write stories about him. My husband has kept his collar under the front seat of the truck he drives each day. And I.... I feel empty.

When I tentatively suggested getting another dog, my husband countered with the statement that he needed a "year of grieving." That year has stretched into two. He tried to remind me how much I have on my plate, and when in the world would I have time for a dog? He likes to point out how we can up and leave at a moment's notice, can sleep through thunderstorms, can juggle five very busy schedules without having to figure out how to fit in walks and feedings and play time with yet one more family member.

The truth is, he doesn't want to go through it all again. Because, inevitably, it comes. The end.

But, despite three children and a very, very noisy house, it feels quiet. It feels empty. It feels like something is missing. And I know it's the love of a dog - that unconditional, full-bodied, tail-wagging, no-holds-barred kind of love that only a dog can give.

So tentatively, we've begun to discuss rescuing another dog. Which is why, when I should be writing, should be cleaning, should be cooking, I am scouring the local rescue groups, perusing lists and photos of dogs in need of homes, and picking out my very favorites. I've got the kids on my side. Just not quite the husband. But I'm getting close.

He was beautiful. He was smart. He can never be replaced. But there's more room in our house, and our lives, and our hearts. I'm ready to move on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Handing it over to you, Brian

I heard this report on the news today: another possible cure for type 1 diabetes. These kind of reports come often enough it's hard to start planning the "I'm cured, let's eat cake" party, but it's very encouraging.

This is actually one of the possible cures Babs discovers in my book. It's fun to hear news reports about "break-throughs" and have known about it months ahead. It makes me feel like I've well-researched the book.

And, of course, it makes me fear a little that by the time I have an agent the book will be obsolete. It's a sad state of affairs when the publishing industry moves slower than the FDA!

The First 250 Words

Over at Miss Snark's First Victim's blog last week, Authoress held a contest: can you hook an agent in 250 words?

It's fascinating to read the first few paragraphs of so many diverse kinds of stories, as well as the comments left by other aspiring writers and one anonymous agent. There were a few entries where the consensus seemed to lean one way or the other, but most of them, like real books in the real world, elicited a wide range of opinions. What does it take to hook you?

If you open a book and the first page is full of beautiful writing or colorful characters, but something doesn't happen before you turn the page, do you turn it? Are we as a society so ADD that we have to have a car chase, a dead body, a confrontation involving clear danger in the first 250 words or we dump the book for something racier? Do we have to know immediately what it is that makes this different than any other book?

After some good discussion with my writer's group over the difference between contests and real books, I went to my bookshelves and chose some of my favorite books in the past two years, published as either a debut novel or one of the early books of an author that went on to make the best seller list, and read the first 250 words.

So I'm adding them here for you to judge. The first 250 words, or closest to it without going over or breaking a sentence. Do you see what the hook is? In the words of many of the commenters in the contest (and the agent), is there conflict and tension? is something happening? Would you turn the page? And why?

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

The hours of Walker and Daughter: Knitters were clearly displayed in multicolored letters on a white sandwich board placed just so at the top of the stair landing. Thought Georgia Walker – usually preoccupied with closing out the till and picking up the strays of yarn on the floor – rarely made a move to turn the lock until at least eight fifteen… or later.

Instead, she sat on her stool at the counter, tuning out the traffic noise from New York’s busy Broadway below, reflecting on the day’s sales or prepping for the beginner’s knitting class she taught every afternoon to the stay-at-homes looking for some seeming stamp of authentic motherliness. She crunched the numbers with a pencil and paper, and sighed. Business was good, but it could always be better. She tugged at her long chestnut curls. It was a habit from years ago she’d never quite grown out of and by the end of each day her bangs often stood straight up. Once the bookkeeping was in order, she’d smooth out her hair, brush off any bits of eraser from her jeans and soft jersey top, her face a bit pale from concentration and lack of sun, and stand up to her full six feet (thanks to the three-inch heels on her well-worn brown leather cowboy boots).

Lottery by Patricia Wood

My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded.

Gram always told me the L stood for Lucky.

“Mister Perry Lucky Crandall, quit your bellyaching!” she would scold. “You got two good eyes, two good legs, and you’re honest as the day is long.” She always called me lucky and honest.

Being honest means you don’t know any better.

My cousin-brother John called me lucky too, but he always snickered hard after he said it.

“You sure are a lucky b*****d. No high-pressure job, no mortgage, no worries. Yeah, you’re lucky all right.” Then he would look at his wife and laugh harder. He is a lawyer.

John said lawyers get people out of trouble. Gram said lawyers get people into trouble. She ought to know. It was a lawyer who gave her the crappy advice on what to do after Gramp died.

I am thirty-two years old and I am not retarded. You have to have an IQ number less than 75 to be retarded. I read that in Reader’s Digest. I am not Mine is 76.

“You have two good ears, Perry. Two! Count ‘em!” Gram would hold my chin and cheeks between her fingers so tight that my lips would feel like a fish. She stopped doing that because of evil arthritis. Arthritis is when you have to eat Aleve of Bayer and rub Bengay.

“You’re lucky,” she said. “No evil arthritis for you.”

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty. My best friend Darcy and I came across a perpetual calendar in the back of the phone book, hwere you could look up any date inn the future, and by using this little grid determine what the day of the week would be. So we located our birthdays in the following year, mine in May and hers in September. I got Wednesday, a school night. She got a Friday. A small victory, but typical. Darcy was always the lucky one. Her skin tanned more quickly, her hair feathered more easily, and she didn’t need braces. Her moonwalk was superior, as were her cartwheels and her front handspring (I couldn’t do a handspring at all). She had a better sticker collection. More Michael Jackson pins. Forensa sweaters in turquoise, red, and peach (my mother allowed me none – said they were too trendy and expensive). And a pair of fifty-dollar Guess jeans with zippers at the ankles (ditto). Darcy had double-pierced ears and a sibling – even if it was just a brother, it was better than being an only child as I was.

But at least I was a few months older and she would never quite catch up. That’s when I decided to check out my thirtieth birthday – in a year so far away that it sounded like science fiction.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn’t how babies were made, but why. The mechanics I understood – my older brother Jesse had filled me in – although at the time I was sure he’d heard half of it wrong. Other kids my age were busy looking up the words penis and vagina in the classroom dictionary when the teacher had her back turned, but I paid attention to different details. Like why some mothers only had one child while other families seemed to multiply before you eyes. Or how the new girl in school, Sedona, told anyone who’d listen that she was named for the place where her parents were vacationing when they made her (“Good thing the weren’t staying in Jersey City,” my father used to say.).

Now that I am thirteen, these distinctions are only more complicated: the eighth –grader who dropped out of school because she got into trouble; a neighbor who got herself pregnant in the hopes it would keep her husband from filing for divorce. I’m telling you, if aliens landed on earth today and took a good hard look at why babied get born, they’d conclude that most people have children by accident, or because they drink too much on a certain night, or because birth control isn’t one hundred percent, or far a thousand other reasons that really aren’t very flattering.

On the other hand, I was born for a very specific purpose.

Blue Water by A. Manette Ansay

Forget what you’ve read about the ocean. Forget white sails on a blue horizon, the romance of it, the beauty. A picnic basket in a quiet anchorage, the black-tipped flash of gulls. The sound of the wind like a pleasant song, the curved spine of the coast –


Such images belong to shore. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the sea.

Imagine a place of infinite absence. An empty ballroom, the colors muted, the edges lost in haze. The sort of dream you have when you’ve gone beyond exhaustion to a strange, otherworldly country, a place I’d visited once before in the months that followed the birth of my son, when days and nights blurred into a single lost cry, when I’d find myself standing over the crib, or rocking him, breathing the musk of his hair, or laying in bed beside Rex’s dark shape, unable to recall how I’d gotten there. As if I’d been plucked out of one life and dropped, wriggling and whole, into another. Day after day, week after week, the lack of sleep takes its toll. You begin to see things that may or may not be there. You understand how the sailors of old so willingly met their deaths on the rocks, believing in visions of beautiful women, sirens, mermaids with long, sparkling hair.

The crest of a wave becomes a human face, openmouthed, white-eyed, astonished. The spark of a headlight appears in the sky, edges closer, fades, edges closer still.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Query "Meme"

My friend and critique partner Jen put these questions on her blog to answer. While I'm not sure if I can answer them fully yet, since I'm not done with the query process, I'd figure I might as well start the transparency now.

Background: I sent my first query just shy of two months ago. The last set of queries I sent out were less than a week ago.

  1. What was your longest (time-wise) response to a query letter? Two of my first set, sent two months ago, are still out.
  2. Tell me your total query amount. Out of that amount, how many didn't respond at all? So far about 125 sent, about 62 still outstanding. Still, most of those are less than a month old...
  3. What's your standard habit when you get a request for a partial/full? Dancing? Singing? Or, as I like to call it here on the blog, consuming of 'da life-blood' (aka chocolate?) My first request was a full, and I drank champagne and played Guitar Hero all night with my hubby. The rest... I was very low-key about. It feels like it just prolongs the rejection one more step. I never knew I was a cynic until now.
  4. How many revisions did you put into your book before querying? Several small ones along the way (like four to the first chapter), but only one really good overall.
  5. How many revisions did you put into your query letter before sending? I wrote lots of pitches, then picked the one I liked the best; then threw it out to be critiqued and tweaked, then one more big revision.
  6. Did you ever flub up and send out a query to the wrong agent? (ROFL!) I sent one with the right agent name but the wrong agency name!
  7. What was the most mood swings you ever had in a day of querying? Rejection, then full request, then another rejection; the moods followed appropriately.
  8. Do you have a support system for your query time? How did you use them? My critique group read and offered suggestions and lots of encouragement
  9. Did you have beta readers for your draft(s)? How do you use their feedback? I had six critique partners and my sister. I ended up changing almost all of the suggestions they gave! They were able to see the weak spots I couldn't.
  10. What's the single worst part of the whole process for you? The rejections from people I really thought I had a shot with.
So that's the query update. There is still lots of waiting going on, but I'm putting the rest of the querying on hold for the holidays, and working on my next book.

While Jen has assured me that the road isn't all roses on the other side of the agent tracks, I'd still love to be there instead of here.

My greatest experience so far? An agent called after several emails to discuss possible revisions and future representation, and told me I have "tremendous talent." Those words will carry me through.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting to Know the Characters

There are people buzzing around my head, but at this point, they are vagueness... a hint of something bigger to come. I have a hint of the journey they are on, a hint of where they are going to end up, and a hint of where they have been.

It's time to flesh them out. Time to figure out exactly who it is I'm dealing with.

So here it is: my interview questions, completely and shamelessly ripped off from Noah Lukeman's book, The Plot Thickens.

Physical Appearance:
1. What is his facial structure? Face shape? Facial hair? skin color? glasses?
2. Hair: color, texture, length, style, dyed?
3. Age? Are their physical signs of it?
4. Body: height and build
5. Clothing: what style or colors do they usually wear? Expensive? Thrift?
6. Body Language: how do they walk? hold themselves?

Medical Background:
1. general healthy or sick?
2. Any chronic illnesses? Disabilities? Past injuries that effect them now?

Family Background:
1.What kind of family did they grow up in?
2. How many parents did they have? Siblings?
3. What was their socio-economic situation growing up?
4. Are they married? Do they have kids?
5. What is their relationships like with their parents, siblings and spouse? What things might they fight about?

1. How much schooling do they have? At what age did they complete their education?
2. Are they satisfied with their level of education?
3. Are they smart? Is their a discrepancy between education and intelligence?

1. What job does he have? What jobs has he had in the past? How long has he been in this position?
2. How does he feel about the job?
3. How do others in their job see them?

1. How do they handle money? Are they in debt?
2. How important is money to them? If they suddenly came into money, what would they do with it?

1. What are the major things does he own?
2. How does he value those things? What role do they play in his life?
3. What kind of vehicle does he own?
4. What kind of house or apartment does he live in? How does he feel about it?

1. What country, state and city do they live in? What kind of neighborhood?
2. Does this location play a part in who they are?

Pets: Do they own any?

Police Record: Do they have one?

Inherent Abilities: IQ, psychic, athletic, artistic, etc

Identity: How does he identify himself? A son? Father? Husband? Employee? Leader?

Belief: What do they believe in?


Sexual Experience

Motivation: What drives him? What are his goals and dreams and secret hopes?

Friendships: Who does he choose to keep around him?

Religion: What is his organized religion? I love what Lukeman says about this: "Religion may play a huge role in a person's life, or no part at all. Either route is telling."

Spirituality: what is their own faith and relationship to God outside organized religion?

***Look over the answers to this list: do any of these traits influence the plot? Could you base an entire plot off of one of those traits?***

This is really only the tip of the iceberg, but it's a great jumping off point. If you want really detailed questions, check out Noah Lukeman's book, because he brings up all sorts of great specific details to consider.

He does point out, which is a critical point, that these tidbits are to help these characters become real to you, but that the vast majority of these details will never - nor should never- be written into the story. They are the rounding out of the characters that allow them to act a certain way, talk a certain way, react to situations that arise in the book with authenticity.

Some of the questions may be quick, easy, one-word answers. Some might be more complicated. But taking the time to think them out will reap benefits far down the line.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Rock!

It's Veteran's Day here in the USA, and in Canada and the UK and other countries around the world. It's the remembrance of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when armistice was signed to end World War 1. It commemorates peace, and remembers the sacrifices of those who served.

I spent my youth as an Army brat. I married a soldier who fought in the first Gulf War. I've spent my share of time watching anti-aircraft missiles firing in the night sky while curled on a couch in the dark, wondering if my boyfriend would come home.

I've seen firsthand how military men and women sacrifice on a daily basis, and put the needs of others and their country first.

So here's to all who served, and have served. For those who go months without real food, warm water and bathrooms. Here's to all those who can't get the sand out of their hair, or off their skin, or out of their clothes because you live in it and it becomes part of you. Here's to those who go where they are called without question. Here's to those leave cable TV and the comforts of home to live in third-world conditions to make a better life for those in other countries. Here's those who walk in places where each step could be their last to keep America - and the world - a safer place to live in.

I never take for granted the rights I have - to vote, to disagree with politics, to speak my faith, to write this blog without worry of censor or consequence, to pursue any career I choose. And I never forget that there are many countries where this isn't possible.

Monday, November 10, 2008


It seems unreal to me that I should be starting my third book. I still have a hard time believing I wrote one, let alone two full novels. And that I am now writing fast enough to be writing one while waiting to hear about agents on the other (the first still conversing with dust bunnies)... just, WOW!

I suppose the ideas for all of the books come from different places, and come to me in different ways.

SOME KIND OF NORMAL is about diabetes and stem cell therapy (although the real story is probably about faith and family). It came from a simple question I had during the primary elections back in February. In looking at a list of where each of the candidates stood on certain issues, I found a checklist of types of stem cell research. I didn't know there were different kinds of stem cell research! The more I looked at the different kinds, the more I realized there was definitely a story there.

But in truth, though that was the impetus for a new book, the story, as all of mine, start at the same place: the characters.

In college a professor told me to write down a main character's name and walk around with it in my wallet for a week. I did, and ever since, I've kept to that same idea. For me, even if there is a general plot, the real story is with the characters, and the better I know them, the more able I am to let them tell the story, which, I've found, is the better story.

It's kind of like people: everyone has a story. You don't go looking for the person who has a story about stem cell experience to tell. You meet people, and then you listen to their stories.

So I start with names. And today I'll introduce you to some of the people in my new book by name, and tomorrow I'll list some of the questions I ask to get a better feel for who they are.

So my new friends:

Texas Winters
Maggie Mae Winters
Annabelle Abbot
Claudine Rose Rousseau
Olivia Rousseau
Tad Collinsworth
Jeb Houston
Jackson Ogletree
Trinity Summerlin
Wade Shaw
Margarita Bautista Cepeda

Whew! That's a heck of a cast of characters! Hard to know yet how many will play a major role. It's really Texas's story to tell. She's been lurking in my head for a few months now. It's time to let her loose!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Fall is my favorite season, but it seems to come and go so fast. This fall, the colors seemed very lackluster. For weeks and weeks we waited for them to brighten up, for the dull browns and muted oranges to come alive. Then, for three days, they suddenly got so vivid we had to wear sunglasses to see them.

And then, just as suddenly, overnight they all fell. For 24 hours it snowed leaves.

This is our driveway.

This is the backyard:

And now, the trees are bare and brown. The air is crisp and cool, and smells of wood stoves and burning leaves. The skies are a surreal blue and the clouds look like a HDR photo over-tweaked with unreal shades of greys and purples and whites so fluffy they look like whipped cream.

It'll probably be another two months before we see real snow. Ahead are some cold, drab days. But I love burrowing under blankets and warming the room with a fire and serving hot cocoa with marshmallows. I love the smell of fir trees and sugar cookies and cinnamon-scented pine cones.

It's the perfect time for writing!

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Not the End of the (Publishing) World

My son has taken to perusing my bookshelves. Once he read the Harry Potter series, he felt he was really over the whole middle grade/young adult thing. After all, nothing else even comes close in scope on the bookshelves in our library devoted to him and his two siblings.

This weekend he expressed desire to read Michael Crichton. Something about dinosaurs and alien spaceships and gorillas in the jungle that appeals to him. And as he looked over the shelves he commented, "Man, Mom, you've got shelves and shelves of just Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy and John Grisham!"

I found myself saying, without even thinking about it, "Yeah. I read them all about the same time. That was the hey-day of fiction."

As I shuffled him out the door to school, it struck me as true. I don't think I was just reading more then. After all, I am still working through about forty books a year. But fiction was bigger. Authors were bigger. There was room for more of them. It seems like now there can only be one blockbuster at a time. A Sparks. A Rowling. A Meyers. In the eighties, I collected dozens of bestselling authors and their collections. Crichton, Clancy, Grisham along with Higgins-Clark, Cornwell, and Grafton.

Lately, as I've been querying agents on my own book, I've wondered if this is the worst time possible to be trying to get published. Books aren't selling as well with the advent of the Internet and wider cable TV, there is much talk about the death of publishing, and the economy... well, that isn't helping anything. Maybe agents aren't acquiring. Maybe publishers aren't publishing. Maybe readers aren't reading.

But I don't think so. I think the standard is higher, now. They all have to be more selective, which is actually better for everyone. If I'm honest with myself, I don't want to just be published because there is excess money in the bin and people will buy anything. I want to be good at what I do, not just good enough. I don't want to be the book that gets published, shipped out to bookstores and then returned. I want to be the one that sells. And even now, in this recession, books that sell get published.

This recession won't last forever. I actually think it might be worse to be a new author coming out right now than a new author looking for representation. If I get picked up by an agent it may be another year or two before I see the book in print, and by then, who knows what the economy and book industry will look like?

Both Moonrat and Jenny Rappaport have very interesting articles on publishing and the economy today. Neither is predicting the end of books as we know it. And what they suggest is just what I intend to do this weekend:

Go buy a book. Write a book.

And have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Meme

I've been tagged by my friend, Jen. So here are seven random facts about me:

1. My first alcoholic drink was red wine on my 21st birthday.

2. I am inept at phone calling. I avoid the phone like the plague. If you call, it very well may take me three months to call back. For the love of all that is decent, if you want a response, please email me. Unless you are an agent. Then, please call!

3. When I was in college a boy I knew, but didn't get along famously with, called to ask me to pray about something for him. When I asked why he called me, out of all his friends, he said, "Because when you talk to God, He listens." Of all the things anyone has ever said to me, I still hold this to be my very biggest compliment ever.

4. I qualified to compete at both the American and National speech competitions when in college, but couldn't go because my university, which spent countless millions on athletics, couldn't cough up the airfare. It was probably better...

5. I love the gym. If I could be there all day I would. Despite the fact that I am ungraceful, nonathletic and uncoordinated. Despite the fact that when the eye doctor asked me in eight grade what I do when a ball comes at me and I answered, "duck!" I love cycling, running, elipticalling, lifting, curling, pressing until I feel like my lungs will explode and my limbs will fall off. I love it.

6. When I was in seventh grade I wrote my autobiography completely around the basis that my older sister was out to kill me. It was the first time I realized I could write comedy.

7. I hope I live long enough not to care if I get skin cancer, so I can lay out in the sun and enjoy the feel of its warmth without worrying that it's killing me.

This turned out to be pretty hard. All the things I thought of to write I'd already written about in this blog or my random bio on the side. I'd tag someone else, but everyone I know who blogs has already been tagged!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm Getting Vibes

My question of the day: How much should our gut guide us?

Last night I watched election results come in with my laptop on my lap, looking up more agents. You'd think by this time I'd be willing to query any agent who vaguely reps what I write. If their client list sounds impressive, if they are looking for commercial women's fiction, if they like spunky, feisty main characters.... shouldn't I be frantically cutting and pasting and sending? In the words of my mom, "Maybe you shouldn't be too picky."

But I am terribly picky. And not just because I'm trying to fit my book with the agent who looks like they are the best fit, necessarily. A lot of times there is a gut feeling, a vibe I get about whether someone is right or not for me. I can look at a webpage and list of clients, and then see a photo and think, "Oh, we wouldn't be a match." I can see a name and think, "Absolutely!" Sometimes, an interview that gives a peek into their personality turns me off. But mostly, it's just a feeling. Everything about the agent may seem right on the surface, but in the end, I don't type them into my little excel spreadsheet.

Am I cutting off my foot, here? Am I limiting myself? I don't know the answer, but I have to believe that if an agent feels all wrong from the start, he or she is all wrong. And, as I informed my mom when she imparted that little pearl of wisdom about being picky, "A bad agent is worse than no agent."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Feeling A Bit Patriotic

Tomorrow is officially election day. I've waited to vote on the day as opposed to absentee ballot or early voting. Part of it is so that my kids, who always get off school on election day, can go with me.

They've gone since infants: my son first went in a car carrier seat at less than a month old. They've never missed one. I think it's important for them to know what a privilege and responsibility it is to vote, and how magnificent and unique this country is. We've used purple markers to color in the box, pulled the curtain behind us and flipped the levers, and touched a computer screen. We wear our flag-bearing "I voted" stickers all day.

Another reason I wait is for the experience of it. Mailing an envelope doesn't quite feel the same (although if I had to do that, I'd do it proudly!). And the early voting is in a different location. As a creature of routine, I like my home polling place. I run into neighbors. I know the polling volunteers.

So tomorrow I brave the crowds. Tomorrow I vote.

I'm proud of being an American. Proud of the history of this country, although it's far from perfect. And whichever way this election goes, I'll still be proud to have been a part of this process. Whichever way it goes, I'll be glad to live in this incredible place I call home.