Saturday, September 29, 2012

Little Feathers: Trending Now...

Little Feathers: Trending Now...: We live in the age of the Great Compare-athon. Suddenly everything everyone is doing, saying and being is out there for us to see. Or, to be...

Trending Now...

We live in the age of the Great Compare-athon. Suddenly everything everyone is doing, saying and being is out there for us to see. Or, to be more correct, the versions of themselves they want people to see are out there. To say that social media is changing society is an understatement. And the fact that money can be made from tracking trends and garnering preferences takes the momentum of the phenomenon to warp speed. Never has so much been made of the need to be "with it". Or at least, never has it invaded our space so silently and totally. In many ways it has extended the High School-esque social climbing way on into the adult world. Want to fit in? Want to be popular? Want others to think you are hip and amazing? There is a fix for any perceived social weakness. If you don't believe me, read the ads on the margins of facebook. Will I really be happier if I buy the revolutionary new product discovered by the woman who covered herself in something scarlet and lumpy? You know, the woman all the dermatologists hate because she is cutting into their business.

I started thinking about his because I read some advice from a children's writer, saying that if we want to make money we should look to see what is trending in children's books and write to that theme. Yikes! That seems like such a bad idea. But I do notice a huge effort in that direction. Just search YA novels about vampires and you will see what I mean. Or picture books about bodily functions.

It just doesn't fit for me. Any more than I can put myself in skinny jeans or that must-have neon puce jumpsuit. I still have to be myself, and in this brave new world of keeping up with the current trend, I'll just have to start my own trend. I'm trending myself.  So much more freedom! Who knows, maybe I'll still sell more books. But I'll definitely enjoy writing what comes out of my own imagination!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Little Feathers: Roots And Nuts

Little Feathers: Roots And Nuts: A nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I heard that as a kid, and at first I thought I was simply being called a nut. And while that may be t...

Roots And Nuts

A nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I heard that as a kid, and at first I thought I was simply being called a nut. And while that may be true, the real meaning of the saying rings true for me as well.
I don't think it necessarily means we are bound by nature to be the behavioral spitting image of our parents. But I do think we grow in the shadow of a tree and our world view is very influenced by the type of forest surrounding us. Not determined by it, because we do have the power to decide who we are, but still influenced by it.

I was a late bloomer. I was slow to grow up (still working on it) and sometimes wonder if that is one reason I like to write children's books. I heard once, at a Highlight's for Children writer's workshop, that our imaginations are sometimes sparked, engaged, jump to warp speed, at a certain age. And that is the age of children for whom we do our best writing. It is part of the genre argument...pick one and write it and that's who you are as an author. As my current publisher, Richard Tate, told me, we don't walk in to a bookstore and wonder what kind of book we'll get if we buy a Danielle Steele or a John Grishom. We know. Publishers want that for their authors.

I've fought that notion. I say to myself that I need to write in different genres. I loved write for hire work I did for Augsburg Press, daily devotionals for adults. I loved writing Sunday School materials for High Schoolers. I loved writing musicals with my partner, Edie Elkjer. We wrote for middle grades. Then I wrote musicals for our church High School group. I love writing rhyming stories... the first thing I sold was a rhyming story about a frog king that Highlights bought. And my picture book that is now under contract with Tate Publishing is a rhyming story.

So, what about that tree analogy? What kind of a nut am I? I think about the literature I loved the most when I was a kid. It was any hero's journey where some good came out of the struggle. It could be Homer Price, it could be the Narnia Books, it could be Peanuts cartoons. I always loved it when hope at least glimmered, and people (or creatures) had the opportunity to become their best selves.
I'm still hoping I can publish my YA novel about a Soviet ballerina in the '60s. It may have to be under a nom de plume! We wouldn't want readers to wonder what kind of nut was inside once they know Judy Beglau is a picture book writer! Some people like the mixed nuts. But I guess if you are an almond purist you don't want hazelnuts mucking up your taste buds!

My mom is a really good writer. As a teenager I was struck to my bones by a poem she wrote just for herself. And she was always making up rhymes for coworkers' going away parties, etc. And my grandfather, her dad, published a book of poems. So....when I'm wondering what kind of nut I am, maybe the answer doesn't fall far from the tree. If my alter ego wants to publish a YA novel she'll just have to get her own publisher!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who's In the Details?

I've heard it both ways: God is in the details. The devil in the details. I would imagine that the version you identify with depends on whether or not you have attended to the details!
I am beginning to see that easy part of getting a book sold is the writing of it! For sure, getting a publisher to look at it is not the easy part! There are many how-to books written about getting your book out of the "slush pile" and into hands of an editor or publisher. I have been to many a session on this subject at writer's conferences. And still I feel I lucked into my current relationship. Sure,I kept sending my book off to publishers. I attended to that detail. And I have a little stack of rejection letters that I kept for practicing the formula I learned from one successful author: a rejection letter open it, read it quickly for the bottom line, do a little dance in the front hallway and say, "Yes!!! A rejection letter! Now I am one letter closer to getting an acceptance letter!" Do this quickly before any hint of those enemies of progress, those pesky tears of frustration, can appear to muck up your dance. But back to the luck part. I sent my book of to dozens of publishers. I always checked to make sure I had names right. At first I sent the manuscript to one publisher at a time, because that was the way things worked in the olden days (two years ago?). But since many established rules of publishing have gone out the window ( for example, the courtesy on the part of some publishers of any reply whatsoever), I would do my research and mail to multiple publishers at once. And the result of that was that sometimes I got more than one rejection letter on the same day! Such a great opportunity for that dance!
Then one day, a small miracle happened. I got an email from a publisher. Tate Publishing emailed me saying they might be interested in Mad Mad Annabelle Jane. And now I am climbing this learning curve of awesomeness. How a published author becomes a successful author. It can be done, and done by me, I am certain. And we'll just see who is in the details after all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Little Feathers: The Fun Part

Little Feathers: The Fun Part: The fun part of writing is that moment (usually before I sit down to the keyboard) when thoughts are lining up, begging to be sequenced into...

The Fun Part

The fun part of writing is that moment (usually before I sit down to the keyboard) when thoughts are lining up, begging to be sequenced into something comprehensible. It could be a story. I sometimes enter short story contests because they are just fun. Someone gives a writing prompt like a premise or a list of words, and pow! My brain boots up and a story comes out. I especially love the 1,000 word stories. A thousand word limit gives me elbow room for a bit of character development but not enough space so that I have to leave myself story-line bread crumbs.
And I have to say, I love writing a rhyming story or song lyrics or poems. If I have to stop and make a word rhyme by inverting word order or contriving a sort-of rhyme, I scrap that line. It has to be a story that rhymes, not vice versa. I was really impressed with that notion at the first writer conference I attended a few years ago. The speaker referred to it as "organic rhyming". Instantly my imagine jumped up. Organic would mean no pesticides...which could mean nothing stuck on a word to make it work, like messing up the syllable emphasis. No artificial fertilizers...that could mean no pretending...either it works and it flows and feels good to read, or it doesn't. I am working with a publisher now on a rhyming picture book: Mad Mad Annabelle Jane. I am in the early stages so I have not had contact with the editor yet. But I am really hopeful to get the "Organically Grown" stamp when all is said and done.
I know who Annabelle Jane is. I have a little detector that beeps when I try to make her do something uncharacteristic. And it's a really annoying beep, one I can't ignore. I am hopeful that this relationship with my protagonist will keep us both safe as we head into the editing process. I'll let you know. If I forget, Annabelle will certainly remind me. She is a very persistent girl. Very.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Little Feathers: Fruits of Our Labors.

Little Feathers: Fruits of Our Labors.: I have often said that I am not a multitasker. But we all are. Some of us just like it better than others. Anyone who has raised children kn...

Fruits of Our Labors.

I have often said that I am not a multitasker. But we all are. Some of us just like it better than others. Anyone who has raised children knows there is no such as completing one task at a time. If your child is stuck, your dog has barfed, your car alarm is wailing, your smoke alarm is piercing the drop what you are doing and address the crisis. And sometimes the domino theory predicts that the smoke alarm will go off since the thing you left in order to address the stuckness, the barf or the wailing was the supper on the stove.
Well, I'm going to quit saying I'm not a multitasker. I'll just embrace my instinct for self preservation that yearns for a day of check marks on my to do list. I can't insist on getting things done in order, because that would be like yelling at umpires...fruitless. And it's all about the fruit. The fruit is the reward for the work. So writing projects that never make into the mailbox, on their way to the great publishing house in the sky, are all pruning and no harvest. Even a thoughtful rejection letter is fruit. I learn from it. I guess I learn from the one liner rejection letters, too. Not to waste my stamp on that publisher.
I am excited to be working with a publisher on a picture book right now, though we are in the early stages and the major task at hand is drumming up patience. But hey...patience is fruitful, right? And the narrative poem I wrote with Thomas Pavlechko to weave his Ghoultide Scarols into a story is being performed by several professional and civic groups this fall. Including a production we are mounting ourselves. With choir, orchestra, actors, dancers...the story is coming alive onstage. Fruit!!! And much opportunity for honing that skill of multitasking!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bumpier Bumps

As I get older, life just gets more interesting. The bumps get bumpier. The sad parts are sadder. It makes sense I guess, because the longer we live, the more loss we experience. Someday I'm going to ask God a couple of questions that really have me wondering. Like, how come the years when we have teenagers in the house is when we tend to begin that long and lovely road to living without estrogen??? And just when we good and depleted of that helpful hormone, many of us begin to lose those people who loved us so unconditionally...our parents. I know we must be grateful if we have a mom and dad who always thought we were amazing and wonderful. I know we must grateful that we have them so many years when they live a long life. But those two things that are blessings indeed also make it very difficult to say goodbye.
I used to think that if I was just a good enough mom, our kids would never struggle. They would get all our positive traits and sail through life without a wrinkle. I used to think that if I was just a good enough daughter, my folks' old age would be a breeze. But here is the really funny thing about that. That would mean that I was responsible for someone life besides my own. When I think of it that way, I see what a trap that is. It's ironically a very self centered way to go through life. I may think I'm being a servant, when I'm really busy trying to pull strings to keep everything and everyone happy. Not only self centered, but very impossible as well.
So, I am working hard on going with the flow. Taking things a day at a time. Working to separate my ego from my best self. If the bumps seem bumpier, I'll just have to hope my shock absorbers are working. About the sad parts...well. We just have to be sad sometimes. Today a good friend of mine wrote the following, and I think it about sums it up:
" That's what life is. It's a banquet and a challenge and a wonderment and a puzzlement and a
blessing and a bit of crap samich."
I'll say thanks for the banquet. Thanks for the challenge because surely it'll make me a better person. Thanks for the wonderment and puzzlement and blessing. And I'll surely live through the crap samich.