Pen Parentis Fellowship 2016-2017

Keeping it Real - fun

Keeping it Real – fun

I wanted to be a writer before I was a mom, and after I had kids I still wanted to be a writer. I think writing influences me as a mom, and being a mom influences me as a writer. That’s why I’m so proud to have been chosen the Pen Parentis Fellow for 2016-2017.

I still laugh when I read this part:

…she’s able to create surreal, clean, sharp, hilarious, strange, moving, wonderful fiction, despite the demands of her three kids!

I’ll take hilarious and strange. And yes, sometimes it’s hard to believe I get stuff done with kids around.

I’m still in awe about this whole thing. I’ve entered their fellowship contest before and not won. I’ve entered lots of writing contests actually, and I am no stranger to rejection. But I’m also learning what it feels like to be accepted! It doesn’t seem that long ago that Highlights for Children bought my submissions for the first time. That was in the fall of 2015. And I still remember the thrill when I learned FamilyFun wanted to buy my essay on helping grumpy kids, all the way back in 2012.

But this award is something else entirely. It’s only awarded to writing parents, and that’s why it feels so special. If you read my bio, you’ll see I’m a writing mom on the run. That first sentence describes some of the major parts of my identity and how they influence me.

And the story I submitted is a little different from these other pieces, too. When I submit to magazines, I try very hard to imagine what the readers want and what the editors want. But this story was something I wanted to write purely for the joy of writing. While I am proud of every piece of writing that’s been published, this one wasn’t sent in for commercial purposes. It was a bit of pure fiction I wrote for the sole reason that I wanted to write it.

Big parts of this award still haven’t sunk in with me. For instance, my story will appear in Brain,Child magazine, a publication I love and have been submitting to for years. Another achievement that feels pretty amazing.

Also, I get to go to NYC and read my story out loud, in a literary salon, with other writers. And it’s the day before my birthday. It feels like a dream.

My kids are of course, thrilled. They know how hard it is to get a rejection. And they know how amazing it feels to get an acceptance or win an award. And they take some credit and remind me I couldn’t do this without them.

And when they are done hugging me in comfort or in celebration, they know just how to keep it real and remind me I promised to find their missing Pokemon cards. Or that I have to make their brother share the blue lightsaber, or that I forgot again they won’t eat cooked spinach at dinner. Or that they can’t remember if the clothes on their floor or clean or dirty so that’s why everything went back into the laundry, or that it actually isn’t time for bed yet because it’s still light outside.

It’s ok, though, because I’d rather do this with them.

 

My Little Muses

My Little Muses

Homework for Writers: Writer’s Digest January 2011

The next assignment in my Homework for Writers series!

Writer's Digest magazine

January 2011 Writer’s Digest

Writer’s Digest January 2011

Obviously looking to meet the New Year’s resolution crowd, this issue is all about writing and outlining a novel.

– Differentiating between idea theft and simultaneous discovery. This isn’t something I am worried about. This issue lists three ways to tell the difference: Plagiarism is a theft. Trends occur in submissions and not avoiding critique groups out of fear.

– A round-up of ‘literary goodies’ in the Top Shelf section suggests gadgets for writers like AquaNotes, a waterproof notepad for when ideas hit in the shower and the website I Write Like that lets you upload some of your own writing and tells you which famous writer you resemble.

– There’s a good piece on how to fix email blunders. I’ve had my fair share of these but don’t really see myself implementing an email checklist before I hit send. That’s too big of a behavior change for me. Right now I’m just working on slowing down before I hit send.

– A profile of agent Daniel Lazar from Writer’s House who loves historical fiction. I think I could be friends with this guy. In the Breaking In section, I skimmed the books until I saw a YA novel that intrigued me, and was again reminded of the time involved from pitch to publication: over four years.

– I enjoyed the article about the value of a good mentor but actually haven’t found one for my fiction.

– I am working on a YA novel of my own, and my favorite chapter is my first. This issue of WD offers eight ways to write a great first chapter and I think I’ve already incorporated several, including a strong character, the tense, careful amounts of detail. Next is a big article on the emotions that drive our characters is valuable if we want them to live and breathe on our pages. There are basically writing prompts and cues provided here, questions we should all ask ourselves as writers.

– Three secrets of great storytelling: cause & effect, it needs to be believable (even if it’s not real) and escalation – ‘the heart of a good story is tension, the heart of tension is desire.’ Make the reader want what your character wants, or at least know what your character desires.

– When your novel stalls, you realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good thing I’m a runner. I used to let this common occurrence bother me, limit me, but even though I’ve stalled on working on my current manuscript I haven’t let it get me down. And I haven’t stopped thinking through the story. Just like these tips recommend, taking a step back and evaluating the big picture can help. I need a build-up of ideas in my tank and then they flow right out on to the page.

– The publishing world expects writers to handle much of their own promotion today, and there’s a good article in this issue on the benefits of selecting and working with other writers, in your genre and out, to promote the group of books and benefit together.

Other posts in the Homework for Writers series

September 2010 – The Big 10 Issue

September 2011 – Best Selling Secrets

October 2011 – Get Your Agent