Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why The Rush?

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen all at once."
~Albert Einstein

I guess it isn’t news to anyone that we live in a fast-paced, high-tech world that only seems to get faster with time.

Yesterday, I read an article about a mother who admits to cheating at Candy Land and Disney Monopoly with her daughter so the games will be over faster. And apparently, she’s not the only one.

Hasbro has announced it will release a “streamlined” version of the game of Life that includes a Visa card rather than cash and a “LifePod” that keeps track of points so players don’t have to. They’re also creating “Express” games: Scrabble Express, Monopoly Express, and Sorry Express, so players can have a “quick resolution” to the games.


Have we really gotten to the point where we have to rush through the very activities that are supposed to make up our leisure time? Why? Where are we off to? Why are we rushing through games, for God’s sake?

Is it because no one has the attention span to devote to an activity that lasts longer than ten minutes? Or no one has the free time?

I’m all for convenience: I like drive-through banking, and I’ll pick up a pre-cooked meal for dinner sometimes. I have an automatic hot drink maker that brews a latte in under a minute, and I don’t know what I’d do if I had to go back to a dial-up Internet connection.

But games? Really? Isn’t there a point where we should slow down? Isn’t there still pleasure in devoting the time to creating or enjoying the languorous unfolding of something?

Because honestly, we Americans move faster through life than any other citizens in this world, and yet I wouldn’t say we’re much happier (or wealthier or healthier) than people in many other countries.

Plus, if we’re raising children who don’t have the time or attention to focus on a complete board game that might last up to 30 minutes or more, than why on earth would we expect them to sit down and read for an hour? Why would we expect them, when they become middle and high schoolers, to devote multiple hours each week to learning schoolwork? And why, then, are we surprised when American children fall behind on test scores and suffer from an inability to master knowledge that, sometimes, requires more than an “express” memorization of facts?

What do you think? Have we become too fast-paced as a society? Would you be able to sit through an entire game of original Scrabble or Monopoly, even if it lasted over an hour? Are you able to enjoy a leisure activity without looking at the clock or thinking about what you’re going to do next?

Or is that kind of lifestyle something we’ve lost?

Friday, March 30, 2007


Today, since it’s been a long week, a Friday Feast:

What are you proud of?
Probably my professional accomplishments as a teacher. It's that time of year when, though I want to strangle some of my students for their senioritis and spring fever, I also love how much they've grown. I love watching them discover the power of writing. I love watching them discover the power of *themselves.*

What is the best thing you’ve ever won as a prize?
Two things tie here, both related: First, tickets to a baseball game during the years that the Cleveland Indians sold out their home games ALL THE TIME and finding tickets was like winning the lottery. And second, at said game, my friends and I won a prize given by some contact lens company to "improve your view" and we were moved from the bleachers to behind home plate. Very cool.

Name something you do that is a waste of time.
Ooh, lately, play Goldminer.

Main Course
In what year of your life did you change the most?
Hmm...I'm going to say 26, only because that's when I left Cleveland and moved to my current hometown. Started my current job and met my future husband.

Where is a place you consider to be very tranquil?
A lake in the middle of rural Ontario, Canada, that fewer than 100 or so people know about. My family used to vacation there every summer when I was growing up. Most peaceful place ever. It's the place I go back to in my mind whenever I'm stressed beyond belief.

Want to play? Leave me a comment if you do...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

And the Winner Is...

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”
~Robert Cormier

Congratulations to the winner of yesterday’s drawing: Pam! Enjoy your Amazon gift certificate :)

Tune in next Wednesday for another chance to win (yeah, it’s going to be a weekly thing…)

Today, I’m blogging over at Samhain. Come take a look!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How To Deal With Rejection

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'll be entering the name of everyone who comments into a drawing to win a $5 Amazon gift certificate. I look forward to hearing from you!


If you’re a writer, and if you dream of someday publishing a short story/novel/article/best-seller that will lead you straight to The Oprah Winfrey show, you’ve probably received a rejection letter from an agent/publisher/editor.

And if you haven’t, you will.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to dash your hopes. But the chances of having your work contracted by the first person you query are small. Not impossible, of course. Just small. And even if you’ve had the joy of hearing that first “Yes, we love it, here’s a contract,” your next work may not be as well received.

So how do you deal with rejection in the writing world, and how do you use it to make your next effort better?

1. Don’t take the rejection personally. Except in very, very few cases, you will not know the person to whom you are addressing your query letter. Nor does that person know you. The agent/editor/first reader is not rejecting you as a person. He or she is not telling you that you will never amount to anything in the publishing world. Or in any world, for that matter. He or she is simply saying that, for whatever reason, the work is not right. Not for them. Not now. That’s all.

2. Send out another query. Soon. This is crucial. Continue to query until you’ve exhausted your list. If you’re querying agents, is a good place to start, along with The annually published Writer’s Market is a nearly exhaustive list of agents, publishers, and other markets for your writing. Make a list of your top targets and work your way through to the end. Then make another list.

3. Read your rejection letters carefully to see if there’s anything you can take away and use to improve your manuscript. Most people will receive a form letter. If you manage to glean a personal comment on your work, that’s good! “I would have liked a better reason for Sally to return to her hometown” can help you take another look at your heroine‘s motivation. “I have two teenagers, and they don’t talk like that” can help you refine your dialogue. “Paul and Perry meeting in chapter twenty was too predictable” can help you amp up your conflict. Even “Sorry, not right for us” can encourage you take a more careful look at submission guidelines.

4. Keep writing. If you must, put the work that you queried away for a while. Sometimes it’s too tough to go back through and think about revising. That’s OK. Have another project in the wings. Maybe it’s your next novel. Maybe it’s an article for that gardening e-zine you’ve had your eye on. Maybe it’s a fun short story in a different voice or genre than you usually target. Maybe it’s a letter in longhand to your niece who just went away to college. Remind yourself why you write in the first place: because it’s a creative itch that just won’t go away. And it’s fun. It is, right?

5. Find a creative place, or way, to store your rejection letters. Stephen King used to hang his from a nail (later replaced by a spike, to hold the weight) hammered into his bedroom wall. Another author I know uses hers to make papier-mâché bowls. After they’ve dried into place, she paints them bright colors, and they make great additions to her living room décor! I’ve kept every rejection letter I’ve received. Right now, they’re just stored in a big (BIG) folder, but I plan to turn them into a giant display the day I become a NY Times best-seller and do a book-signing that draws a crowd of hundreds.

6. Comfort yourself. Really. Allow yourself the candy bar you usually don’t. Bake something delicious. Sleep in. Leave the laundry for another day. Go shopping. Play tag with your kids. You are a valuable being, and in writing and submitting your work, you’re living the dream that many people talk about but never achieve.

7. Find inspiration from these famous authors, all of whom were rejected multiple times before publishing:

Richard Bach, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (26 rejections)
John Grisham, “A Time to Kill” (28 rejections)
Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul Series (31 rejections)
Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (121 rejections)

Rejection is tough. But it does not mean the end of the world for you as a writer. Just the opposite: it means that you have the guts to send your work, your baby, out into the world for strangers to review. Think of how many people never even take the chance! Basic Author

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Mid-Way Blues

"The easiest thing to do on earth is not write."
~William Goldman

Well, it’s happened. I’ve officially hit the mid-point of my latest WIP, One Night in Memphis, and I want to be anywhere but there.

I’m just about half-way, and I’m at that point where my characters are starting to bother me, and I see an uphill climb of plot ahead of me. I’m bored. I can’t believe I ever thought this was a good story to begin with. I have about 3 other stories percolating in the back of my brain, wanting attention. Now.

One of the pieces of advice I always give to new writers is to soldier on, to finish what you start, because we all know there are oceans of aspiring authors who don’t.

But what happens when it’s hard to take your own advice?

I procrastinate. I work on promotional ideas for One Night in Boston. I blog-surf. I play games. And then, when I’ve killed as much time as I possibly can, I turn back to the manuscript. I sigh. I curse. I mess with the formatting or change the characters’ names.

Eventually, I do slog on. I muddle through another scene. I produce a decent word count (though not as much as I should), and I hope that the end is somewhere in sight. You know the one I’m talking about: that shiny, happy resolution where suddenly, you like your characters again, you believe in your story, and you’re sorry to see it end.

I have to believe that it’s out there. I have to believe that my characters will get me there.

But man, those mid-way blues are hard to beat sometimes. Anyone have a remedy or two they’d like to offer up?

P.S. Tomorrow is Writers’ Wednesday, and I’ll be blogging about how to deal with rejection in the publishing world. Make sure to stop back and comment (there’s an incentive…)!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday's Movie Meme

"I dream for a living."
~Steven Spielberg

Snagged this movie meme from Marianne:

1. Name a movie you have seen more than 10 times. Probably The Sound of Music - you know, the annual Thanksgiving Day broadcast. Other than that, I don’t watch repeats that often.

2. Name a movie you’ve seen multiple times in the theater. The English Patient, Schindler’s List, Brokeback Mountain. Hmm…why do I go back for all the heavy, depressing ones? Catharsis?

3. Name an actor who would make you more inclined to see a movie. I don’t know of anyone who’d be a HUGE draw. I like Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Cameron Diaz too.

4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to see a movie. Jim Carrey. Can’t stand him. Sorry!

5. Name a movie you can and do quote from. When Harry Met Sally.

6. Name a movie musical in which you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs. Many, thanks to growing up with parents who owned umpteen movie musical records. Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, The Robber Bridegroom, West Side Story, The King and I, Carousel, Bye Bye Birdie…

7. Name a movie you have been known to sing along with. See above!

8. Name a movie you would recommend everyone see. The recent animated film Cars. Perfect for any age.

9. Name a movie you own. Lots. Without looking at my collection, I know there’s American Graffitti, Cars, Brokeback Mountain, The Lake House, Austin Powers, Dodgeball. At school, I have a stack of teacher movies, including Radio, Hoosiers, Mean Girls, Coach Carter, Music of the Heart, Stand and Deliver.

10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops. Mark Wahlberg (see yesterday’s post).

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what? Yes, though not ‘til I was in my 20’s. There weren’t any around where I lived as a child. Last summer, we saw Pirates of the Caribbean 2 at a drive-in.

12. Ever made out in a movie? Um…yes. C’mon, I was a teenager once!

13. Name a movie you keep meaning to see but you just haven’t gotten around to yet. The Pursuit of Happyness.

14. Ever walked out of a movie? No.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater. Oh, many. I’m a softy when it comes to that. Most recently, The Lake House.

16. Popcorn? Depends. Sometimes.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)? Maybe every couple of months. Too expensive!

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater? Actually, hubby and I just saw Shooter over the weekend.

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie? Romantic comedy, though I will take in a scary movie (with someone other than hubby…he refuses to watch them!)

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater? Can’t recall.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen? Point Break, with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Not good and went on for far too long.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed? What constitutes weird?

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen? Nightmare on Elm Street - it was the first R-rated movie I saw in the theater (I was a pre-teen), and I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards.

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen? Hmm…probably the Austin Powers series: Mike Myers at his best.

Want to play? Turns out you can tell a lot about a person by the movies they like...

Sunday, March 25, 2007


"The eyes say a lot more than anything."
~Mark Wahlberg

So last night, hubby and I went to see the movie "Shooter" - it was his turn to choose, since lately we've been watching A LOT of romantic comedies (my choice, of course).

And while the body count was too high for my taste, the plotline, a government conspiracy story, was pretty good.

The best part, of course, was Mark Wahlberg. Anyone else find him as yummy as I do? He seems to be everywhere in the movies these days: we've watched him in "Invincible" (terrific, by the way), "Four Brothers" (again, too violent for me), and I know he was in "The Departed" as well (haven't seen it).

So for a lazy Sunday afternoon, let's pay a little homage to this good-looking guy who has great acting chops and also fought his way to stardom from a really troubled adolescence and a modeling/music career that could have faded. Hey, I'm all for rehabilitation!