Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Little Acorn is Reborn

Alright, so he's not reborn, I just had to rhyme-it one more time. I sat down this afternoon and reworked Little Acorn's Big Fall. Do you realize how difficult it is to un-rhyme a story? It didn't take me very long, only an hour or so. The story came out to 850 words. It's 900, as a rhyming ms. 

I struggled with each line, because the natural tendency with Little A. is to rhyme! I had to laugh. The story plot flowed easily; it was the wordage that hung me up.

I'm not sure now, which one I like better. Perhaps, I'll send the non-rhyming version to the folks who axed rhyming in their submission guidelines. 

I'm curious whether I should resubmit the new manuscript to those who've rejected the first? It's the same plot, but different text...hmm? Probably not, I'm guessing.

I wonder what the agent, who requested the full weeks ago, would think about the new version.

The left side of my brain says, "Send it out, let's see what happens. Just get er' done!" 

However, the right side, the side I most often am ruled by, says, "How dare you betray, Little A.? Nobody wants to hear what he originally had to say!"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme: My Current Dilemma

If you'll allow me to vent here for just one minute or two...(Let me clarify. This is not a whine, it's a plea to listen and advise.)

I spent the past five years working in an elementary school, and the last two as the librarian assistant. I've read hundreds of books to children while there. I've witnessed the sheer delight on children's faces while I'm reading a rhyming book, as they clap, snap and bob their heads along with the rhythm of the story. I spent months each year working with the Kinders teaching them about rhyming words, as it is one of the requirements to graduate Kindergarten. Yes, this is true. I've relished the moments when they  uncontrollably shout out, "That rhymes Mrs. Fite!"

Think about a rhyming book or story you loved from when you were young...don't you just cherish that memory? I do. Right off the bat (and I realize this is poetry, but still), I think about the poem, Sick, by Shel Silverstein. I memorized this as a young child, mostly because it rhymed, making it easier to recall the text in my mind.

Naturally, as a writer with a passion for children's books, I wrote an adorable story about a tiny acorn, the chosen 1 out of 10,000 acorn, who faces his fears of getting lost, being eaten or not being able to find his special seed, and leaps from his father's branch, burying himself in the earth below, only to wake up the following spring, an energetic oak tree sprout. (Long sentence, but you get the gist of the story, right?) It's delightful and it rhymes, which seems to be the death of my wonderful story.

I have read many times in the past year, on dozens of agent's / publisher's / magazine's websites this simple comment: "Absolutely no rhyming stories".

I will not mention the name of the company, but here is a summary of their comment: "The last thing the children's book publishing industry needs is another rhyming book about a tooth fairy."

Although, my book has nothing to do with a tooth fairy, it does rhyme. I'd be a complete idiot to send Little Acorn's Big Fall to this particular person.

Here are the two main reasons (I believe) why so many agencies and publishing houses reject rhyming stories.
1.) They are not written in correct rhyme schemes.
2.) Rhyming is outdated. (What? Rhyming is timeless!)
***These are the two main reasons I've come up with numerous times in my research in trying to find an agent for my Little A. I did, in a quirky query, challenge an agent to read the full text, even though it rhymed. She did request a full, however, it's been four weeks, and I'm assuming, dead in the water. Moving on.

My text was edited by a literature professor, and she specifically assisted me with the rhyme scheme. We made sure it flowed in an even, natural AABB scheme. I entered it in the Cheerios contest last fall, and when it didn't win, I began to query agents and publishers, to no avail. 

Writers out there, if you're listening, please comment here. Tell me your thoughts and opinions on rhyming text. I need to hear from you regarding my current dilemma. I'm faced with the possibility of changing the text to NOT rhyme or leave it be. 

I don't know how many more rejections Little A. can bear without wilting his little trunk. :(

Monday, April 11, 2011

Self-Pub vs. Traditional Pub

Did anyone else see this post on Nathan Bransford's blog? I think this has been the first thing I've read that actually breaks down sales figures of self-publishing and traditional publishing. He goes on to use examples of real authors and their experiences. He leaves his opinions out of the post and simply states numbers from all sides. Take a gander, it'll leave you scratching your head.


Scenario #2, about Amanda Hocking, is an incredible success. I'd seen her interview a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still in awe over her story. I don't even know her, and I want to shout from the rooftop, "Way to go, Amanda, you rock!"

I have a personal contact who wrote a book two years ago, started her own small publishing company, and she sold many books at book signings. However, after 7 or 8 months, she decided to go the traditional route and tucked her box of books away. I believe they're still sitting in the box.

Her experience scared me away from the self-publishing path. That's not to say I won't attempt it before I throw in the pen. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. To give up now, when I've finally reached a point in my life where I have the time to write, would be an epic failure. 

For now, I'm on the traditional path. Have a look-see at Nathan's post and decide for yourself. The figures don't lie. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Have Something to Say about a Hot Pink Tank

"Everybody is talented, original and has
something important to say..."
~Brenda Ueland

Some days I feel I spend more time thinking of writing than I do actual writing. In fact, I know I do. I consider it lazy procrastination. Instead of sitting my toosh in the chair, and writing, I piddle, doodle, paint, pull weeds, organize and think about writing.

Then there are those productive days when I never leave the desk, not even for food. I feel like a six-year-old again, waiting until the very last moment to use the restroom (pardon my frankness, however, it's true.). From the kitchen I hear the girls and Jesse calling to me, "What's for supper, Mom?" My answer, in short, "Fix a sandwich or something!"

I do have a point to this post, in case you're wondering. We'll get to the hot pink tank, too.

Yesterday, I cashed my part-time job's paycheck, and decided I would take a portion of it and do what I enjoy tremendously. Thrift store shopping. Call me cheap, but I prefer the word frugal.

As a child, thrift stores and garage sales mortified me. I recall stopping at garage sales with my mother or grandmother and slinking down in the front seat of the car, in 100 degree weather, and hiding from the other shoppers. I wouldn't dare step foot in a thrift store, let alone tell ANYONE the cool outfit I had on a school was purchased at a local thrift store. When a friend or acquaintance would ask where I bought my awesome shirt, I would name the current hip store where all the rich kids shopped.

We were far from rich. With five kids, garage sales, thrift stores and hand-me-downs were all the rage.

The first store I entered yesterday had a 1/2 price sale on their books. Hot dog! I zoomed over to the miscellaneous section, where they usually put the writing how-to's. I noticed a spine title, "If You Want to Write," and recognized the author.

Brenda Ueland, an individual whose writing career only consisted of two published books, is best known for If You Want to Write. I've heard other writer friends speak of this book. It was first published in 1938. The paperback copy I found yesterday was a second edition from 1987, published by the late Ms. Ueland's estate.

The first quote written across the back of the book caused me to peek around and make sure no one was going to snatch the book from my hands. It was as if I was a teenage girl who'd found the last hot pink, spaghetti strapped tank at a Hollister sale. I snickered, giddy with finding the last hot pink tank. I was relieved to see there were no competitors around me. I would've went down fighting.

The quote on the back of the book read, "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say..."

I answered her (out loud), "Yes, I do!"

I clutched the book tightly, and paid a whopping quarter for it! 

At the next thrift store, I found the cutest, most eclectic pair of dress capri pants. (I'll post a pic of them soon.) Next week at my daughter's senior banquet, if someone asks me where I found my adorable pants, I'll be sure to tell them at a boutique on the square in town. Nobody needs to know it's a "boutique" ran by the local hospice center, and it is located on the town square.

Let's get back to the book, If You Want to Write. Of course, I began reading it soon after I arrived home. There's a smashed bug of some sort, with its yellow guts smeared on the author's bio page, and the name and number of the book's previous owner. I'm curious about who "Terri" is. She'll probably think I'm a stalker if I call her, and ask why she got rid of the book or ask her how she liked it. It would probably be in my best interest not to contact her.

Ms. Ueland writes about criticism and how it kills the writer's creativity. She states that she "hates" it because it "snuffs" out creative, gifted people all the time. "It is a murderer of talent." She's not talking about constructive criticism; she's speaking of what makes you think you can write? kind of criticism. I know when I have people, even family members, ask why I'm writing, my creative bubbles burst and disappear inside. Doubt and lack of support are murderous, I agree.

She goes on to say, "We writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people. A gifted woman writes a poem. It is rejected. She does not write another perhaps for two years, perhaps all her life. Think of the patience and love that a tap-dancer or vaudeville acrobat puts into his work. Think of how many times Kreisler has practiced trills. If you will write as many words as Kreisler has practiced trills I prophesy that you will win the Nobel Prize in ten years."

I love this! Don't you find this true in many writer's cases? A few rejections and they plunge their heads in the sand. I know, I'm one of them! The message she was trying to give in her comparison, was WRITE and don't stop, no matter what. At least that's what I got out of it. I seriously doubt I'll ever win a Nobel Prize, but actually getting my work published...now that's something I can strive for.

She also gave me permission to piddle or "putter" as she states, and I quote her, "So you see the imagination needs moodling,--long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering...But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude." She goes on to say, "The dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano, or sew, or paint ALONE; or an idleness--and this is what I want you to do--where you sit with pencil and paper or before a typewriter quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness."

Spoken like a true genius, for me. Creative idleness as she calls it, is a rejuvenator for me. I believe Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way calls it ,"filling the well." Julia and Brenda were on the same mental wave length when they wrote their books, only they were a century apart.

Ms. Ueland's book is way better than a hot pink tank, at least when you're me, it is.

I'm thankful for Ms. Ueland, giving me permission to idle creatively. I've blogged to you all, walked the dog, watered the vegetable garden, had a run-in with the rooster, played with my new six baby ducks, and later after lunch, I'm going to finish my "Why did the chicken cross the road" sign for my driveway, and finish my latest chapter of Vinegaroon Moon.

This afternoon when I'm at my desk, I'll imagine Ms. Ueland sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, "You're talented, original and you definitely have something to say."