Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Word (or 76) on Politics

In the past few months I've noticed a trend. Every organization I'm involved with, from writing to sports to politics... is going through some kind of strife. Flux. Change. And uncomfortable change at that.

Poetry Society of America Rocked By Scandal
Take NRHA Back (this one makes me laugh because it should be Take Back NRHA... they way they have written it.. it's like taking the association back behind the bike racks after school...)
British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers has a 'labor dispute'
The Old Guard is leaving PWAC, and doesn't want to be called Old Guard anyways...

From member revolts to long-time members bowing out (but not without sending out emails pointing out all the faults and missteps of the org) to talk of labour disputes and conflicts of interest.

And I don't like it. For all my redheadedness, all my talk, I'm really not a fan of conflict. I want people to come together, discuss their differences and find resolutions that leave everyone happy. But that's in my head, not out in the real world.

By nature, I trust the machine. I tend to put a bit more faith in the structure of the organization, if only for the simple reason that you (as a member) have the ability to hold people in the organization accountable for their actions. Whereas the members, especially the ones manning the guns to fuel the revolt, can do whatever they want and be hold unaccountable. In fact, I personally have been threatened (physically and with lawsuites), had rumours started about me and my family, and had several people man a campaign to get me "fired" as a freelancer for a magazine. Why? Oh, I criticized a decision ... about a horse show... for some people horses = religion.

However, I have to check myself. Not every association is acting in the best interests of the members. The often repeated "volunteer" excuse, "We shouldn't be too hard on him, he's a volunteer", doesn't hold water if the person in question is not acting appropriately or taking liberties.

What does this have to do with writing?

If you join a professional writers association it can be tempting to a) volunteer to help run the joint or b) stick your head in the sand and ignore.

I think you should do a bit of both.

Volunteers get tired easily. Volunteer to help out with a few small details.

People always want to initiate the newbies. Take every opinion with a big, huge grain of salt. Ignore them if you can. Or go one step further and make friends with others in the organization who eschew the politics.

The trap you can get caught up in, is being the writer who will write about the politics of an organization. No one really likes that writer. But someone has to man the communications committee who actually knows how to put words in the right order. I did that for two years. Funny thing was... several of the members didn't like me because I was part of the machine. And many of the board members didn't like me because I spoke out in meetings on behalf of the members.

Then you have to be careful about not getting too close to a story you are covering. I realized this year that I was being hampered in my efforts to report on issues in one association because I volunteered with them. Big red flag. I finished up my time with them and gave my notice.

I hate to recommend not volunteering, but there are usually many opportunities down in the dirt that can allow you to help out without getting involved politically.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Days 17 and 16

Day 17

Today, my DH, DS, and myself went to my parents' home to visit my uncle and grandmother who ended up coming to my parents house late last night. (Read Day 16 below to find out why). I love visitors and guests, it breaks away from the routine of life every once and awhile--you need it.

It is really interesting to see how people are when they are fasting. Some of them (including myself at times) get really hyper and happy--hyper happy? Others are tired. Fasting influences people in different ways.

Day 16

My sisters went to the airport to pick up my uncle, his cousin, and my grandmother who were visiting from Jerusalem. Although the plane landed at 5:30 p.m., the guests did not actually meet my sisters until 7:30 p.m., due to security. However, my uncle's cousin was not with them. He was still being questioned about his visit and purpose (although he has visited the U.S. numerous times).

To make a long story short, my uncle's cousin finally met with my sisters and the rest of the group a little after 9 p.m., which would be a two hour drive home. Turns out his name was similar to another man's name on the "No Fly" list.

My mom called to tell me that my sisters and the rest of the company arrived at 11:15 p.m. (I don't go to bed until midnight or so.)

Working from Home (I Get No Respect)

If you were to ask me what I did for a living, and I told the truth, you would be a bit shocked to hear exactly how many different employers I have all at the same time. It's easier to say something simple that doesn't quite cover it like "I teach" or "I'm a writer."

I should realize that it isn't any easier for my children to figure out exactly what it is that I do.

A few years ago, my youngest daughter was convinced my job was delivering magazines. It was the thing she saw me doing on a regular basis. She didn't realize that a lot of the time we were home together, I was working too. So what did I do? I edited and published a regional parenting magazine, but she thought I worked only when I delivered the final product to the various locations.

What does it look like when I'm working, after all? I'm usually sitting in the living room with my laptop open and on my lap. Unless I'm on deadline or trying to concentrate as I write, I am still interacting with my family. It can look like I'm doing what my children do on the Internet, which is pretty much nothing important.

I realized yesterday (Yes, I am slow) that when I am working doesn't look a lot different than when I am not working. The only clue might be reference materials that I have spread out all over. Not to mention that my children don't have a clear idea of what it is I do anyway. I teach, I tutor, I write. I teach in person, which requires me to dress up and drive to work, but I also teach online, which I can do curled up on the couch in my pajamas. I write, which usually happens at home, but once in a while requires me to go someplace for interviews and/or information.

Because I intertwine my work into my life rather seamlessly (for the most part), my children don't know I am working. This has led to them approaching me, talking alot, me ignoring them, them persisting, and finally me saying things like, "Not now, I'm working." And "Leave me alone, I'm working." Not to mention, "No you can't fill-in-the-blank. I'm working."

This has also led to me looking up from my laptop and seeing extra children in my home because apparently the rambling child from an hour ago was asking permission to have a friend over and took my grunts as an affirmative answer. (The children, I have learned, are getting very good at this, and their requests aren't always about having friends over.)

Thursday, my oldest daughter threw a fit, and it was a doozy of a fit. I, being the writing mother that I am, blogged about it over on my own blog. A quick summary: she was doing homework in a strange way that involved Tivo, and I made her stop. She objected. "I have homework," was her battle cry. I was ruining her life, and she would flunk out of school.

As I was writing my blog, I mused over what could made her think the phrase "I have homework" absolved her of any other responsibilities. It wasn't until later when I was behind the wheel of my car that I realized her "I have homework" line sounded a lot like my "I'm working" line.

Could she really have learned this behavior from me? Egads.

The life of a writing mother can be hazardous to your sanity. You've been warned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Is writing a curse?

I posted on my new writing (amalgamated) blog, about writing being a curse - and I wondered what you guys thought.
Writers are cursed.

Now, yes, that’s also pessimistic. Of course it is. We’re cursed.
Cursed becuase we can’t - really – switch off. Writers just don’t think like other people – we take innocuous comments, store them in a subconscious area somewhere in our mind, and at some point, like feeding part of an equation into a computer, we extrapolate, we ‘solve’ the rest, and we spit it straight back out.
Our social lives also suffer. Writers, by their nature, aren’t particularly social – though we want the spotlight, we want it for what WE are saying. WE, as writers, generally don’t want to share, subvert, or even pull an iota of that attention from our works
(from Languagedump)
Having said that its also a blessing. You've got both sides of the coin :) What do you think?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 15 of Ramadan

The day passed by quickly. I cannot believe how quickly it went. Not only did I accomplish many work and non-work tasks, I took my DS to the park. What a BEAUTIFUL day. I met some friends there by accident. The kids played together, while us moms chitchatted.

Tomorrow, my uncle and grandmother is visiting us from Jerusalem. It should be exciting since they will be spending part of Ramadan with us in the U.S. My uncle and grandmother visit the U.S. often, but I believe this is their first time fasting in the U.S. This should be something different for them since the majority of the population do not fast.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Days 14 and 13 of Ramadan

Day 14

My son's preschool friend's mother asked if I would like to start walking with her before the weather turns cold. We would walk when we dropped our sons off--which is a perfect timing. Exercise is always a must. She said we could wait till Ramadan is over. I told her no, let us start this Friday. She was surprised. I told her not to worry, I have been fasting since I was a little kid. I am used to fasting.

On my way home from teaching class, I had a white chocolate mocha. Yummmmmm...I felt I deserved a nearly $5 medium cup. I even bought one for my mom. Actually, it was her idea. She asked if I could grab a white chocolate mocha for her when I was done teaching. I told her that sounded really good.

Day 13

Quiet day. By now the grumpers are become less grumpy and more at ease.

Too awesome not to share

What I like best about this video is the standing ovation that she gets at the end.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Moving on

I’m not leaving you guys, never fear ;)  I am leaving a couple of writing contracts though, that for one reason or another, don’t fit with my plan for my life as its now extending out before me.

There’s a grain of truth in the concept that we open doors with every choice we make – I’ve got SO many open doors now though, that I’m being buffered in drafts.  As the temperature drops where I live, I’m also finding that the ‘temperature’ is dropping in my writers soul – I’m spread too thin, and choosing to pull some doors closed behind me.

As writers, its hard to move on, or out of our comfort zone – but as writers, we’re supposed to confront that face on – our writing grows based on conflict, either internal or external.  To move on, we have to challenge ourselves to grow.

Growth can be easy – you can take some steps that are slightly uncomfortable, but beyond your usual.  Like a baby bird stretching your wings, or a child taking your first steps, you can do it, and still ‘make it back’ to the comfort of the familiar. 
For fiction writers, this could involve writing a different form of fiction – flash, a short, or starting or continuing on a novel.  Non fiction writers could query ‘the next step up’ on the ladder.

On the other hand, growth can be hard.  Moving on from regular contracts is hard, but sometimes essential.  People stifle, and wither if we stay in shadows.  Choosing to move or extend a long way out of your comfort zone can be very painful but well worth it.  More akin to jumping from a cliff and finding that first thermal, than stretching baby wings, its an amazing experience.  Scary, exhilarating, and deeply satisfying, you’ll find it addictive.  And its worth it too.

Take that step today and spread your wings and fly ;)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Day 12 of Ramadan

Tonight, my brothers treated us for dinner. He bought everyone gyros and Italian beef. It is the thought that counts. My brothers wanted to do something special for the family because it is the month of Ramadan.

During this month, it is strongly encouraged to feed a faster or fasters because Ramadan is full of blessings by God, Muslims believe.

Although, extra charities and good actions are done, it is still encouraged to continue this type of behavior year round.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why do you procrastinate?

I posted about procrastination over at The Writing Mother. I just wanted to let you know!

What is your favorite way to procrastinate? Or most common way?

I have been known to pick up the phone and call friends to talk about how BUSY I AM.

Days 11 and 10

Day 11

Quiet day. I am used to fasting now. DH joined us for dinner (yeah!) at my parents house. I helped my mom make pizza.

Today marks the next 10 days of Ramadan. These next 10 days are of forgiveness. It is best do extra prayers and ask God for forgiveness.

Day 10

Today was the 10th day of Ramadan. The first 10 days of Ramadan are of mercy. This is where Muslims believe God shows extra mercy towards humanity.

During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims will perform extra prayers, read and complete the Quran in one month, and do extra charity work and donations.

Taking Chances

Next week I'll be published in an exciting new market. I have wanted to be published here for some time... but I didn't really know how. I mean... real writers were published there. Real bloggers. People who blog for a living and are sometimes really brave and opinionated.

So of course I want to be there.

I'm talking about Pajamas Media.

Ever since I started reading blogs like Girl on the Right, Michelle Malkin I've spent some blogging time being equally horrified at some of the things written, and amazed at their bravery. (GOTR can be pretty offensive at times. Especially when she talks religion. She's basically a Canadian who wants to be an American.... and mad that she's not accepted. I mean what Canadian actually stands for the American anthem ... do Americans stand up with Oh, Canada is played?? No, standing for an anthem is respectful to your own country... unless you are at a hockey game, then it's respect for your opponent's team.)

Malkin has had her address published on the net and actually had to move because of it. I find her much less offensive... unlike GOTR, blogging and opining is her JOB.

So anyways... I have a blog that I update sort of infrequently, I've left most of my politics there. I hesitate to link to my blog because who knows what opinion I've put out there in the past that have changed. I have changed in the almost four years since I started it.

So I was reading Pajamas Media the other day when I realized that they didn't have any Canadian content... so I emailed them through their contact form to ask if they wanted some. They said yes, could they see clips.

I realized I had no political clips online... I didn't want to go through my old blog and use those... and I've shied away from writing politics (and religion) online because... well, I hate to be judged on my opinion because opinions can always change. So I sent him links to a few PDF clips I had, including my Shatner article.

He replied saying that he'd like me to pitch something to him. So I pitched three news items. He asked for one on spec.

Now I'm not big on spec articles. If they say no, I've just wasted my time. However, I spent about 45 minutes writing a 900 word article... that I figured could be a blog post on my politics blog if they said no. And the payment, which I asked about as well, was good enough to take a chance on.

They accepted it. It should run next week. It was about a Canadian politician who chose to go to the states for some medical treatment.

One half of me thinks that I'm just a lucky person. I queried 2 agents and one accepted me. We sold my first book proposal within 2 months. I got my first column through a fluke (the previous columnist died and it was offered to me!) and four of my regular writing gigs came about because I just emailed them and asked "do you want a writer?"

My husband, always the supporter, says that no... I'm just a good writer and I work at being at the right place at the right time. With Pajamas Media I just happened to notice the lack of Canadian political content, and I happened to know a few stories about Canadian politics that might interest a mostly American readership.

And I took a risk.

That's what queries are. Risks.

I talk to many writers who are breaking into writing and they fret about getting rejections or being told they aren't good enough. I hesitate to give advice because of that part of me that believes I'm just lucky. But in the end, I know I can give them advice about one thing. Just doing it... just asking for work, just sending an email to ask "do you want my writing?"

When you are surfing news sites or sites dedicated to your particular speciality, do you notice a hole? Do you see something missing? Could you write something more in-depth? Do you know something that they don't?

A big part of this is knowing yourself as a writer. Where is your strength? Can you write about a topic that few others can? For me, it's western performance horse sports... reining, working cow horse, cutting... for others it could be Coronation Street, physics, accounting, web design, American politics...

So, as my exFIL used to say... go on, git on yer bike.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Interview Jitters

Does anyone ever have them?

Some nervousness before an interview may actually be helpful - as long as it’s not the kind that makes your throat close up and you can’t even squeak out a greeting. But a tiny pump of adrenaline helps me keep an interview high-energy.

I have learned a few things that help me harness the energy of those interview jitters. I’ll share them, but I don't know them all, so I hope that you'll share your tips with me!

I usually perform telephone interviews. I’ve rarely interviewed people face to face, and without my trusty laptop, I struggle with taking notes. How do you keep up? I also haven’t done any “investigative journalism” where I’ve had to squeeze information from a source. Nor have I interviewed a celebrity (although they’re people too, and I would start with that mindset.) So if you have tips for those or other kinds of interviews, I’m all ears!

So, my tips to combat the telephone interview jitters:

 Prepare well. Do your homework. Knowing everything you can know about your interviewee will give you confidence that your questions won’t make you sound like a dufus. Check for a website, press releases, other articles written about them.

 Call or email to set up a time for the interview. (Warning: Many times your subject will say “Now is fine,” so be ready!) This is a non-threatening first contact. You call to set up appointments for the kids’ haircuts, right?

 Duct tape the kids before you make that call. (If duct tape is not your thing, figure out some other way to keep them occupied.) Nothing makes an interview more nerve-wracking for me than distractions.

 Have a handy phrase scripted in case one of the kids gets loose and screams that the baby is eating poop. (Hey, Heather warned you we might talk about poop.) You can chuckle and say, “I’m working from home today,” or “Those neighbor kids are always wandering over here!” You’ll sound so calm and professional.

 Make a list of the questions that can’t be answered with a quick “yes” or “no.” For instance, if you’re interviewing an expert on parental controls for web browsing, rather than asking, “Should all parents know about parental controls?” you would ask, “Why do you think its important to tell parents about the risks of the Internet?” Or “What are the risks?” And then a follow-up question might be, “How can parents keep their children safe while browsing?” See the difference? The first question could bring the interview to an uncomfortable pause if the expert simply responds with “yes.”

 If that does happen though, remember that the uncomfortable pause can be your friend. Most people feel like they should fill it by talking, and since you want them to talk, it’s a good thing to be silent at times.

 Near the end, ask if there were any questions you didn’t ask that he or she thought you should. This question for me has taken fairly dry interviews into “Eureka!” interviews, and abolishes the fear that I might not have asked something important.

 Thank the interviewee for their time and ask if you can contact them if you discover you need more information. Find out whether they prefer phone or email for follow-up questions. Again, this takes any fear out of it if your editor wants you to include something you didn’t get the first time.

Hope these tips help you like they’ve helped me. I LOVE interviewing. (Hate listening to recordings of my own voice though!) But I’m not an expert on interviews by a long shot.

If you have tips, please share them! If you have questions, you can post those too. I’m sure between all of us writing mothers, we can find a way to answer them.

I also have a few tips for putting an interview subject at ease, which will come in a later post.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Day Nine of Ramadan

Today I met my cousins in laws at the park with our kids. My cousins in laws were fasting like myself. They were very relaxed, yet with a good sense of humor. One of my cousins in laws, said that she was hungry, and she couldn't stop thinking about food. So the other cousin and I started teasing her by saying that we could use a nice, cold Pepsi or water. We would just laugh or giggle.

Keeping an eye on our kids occupied us for a while. By the time we left home, my cousins in laws mentioned that time flew by when we met at the park. They told me that we should meet every day.

I had dinner at my parents' home again because DH is working. DS and I didn't stay long after we finished eating because he was exhausted from playing outside, and he was ready to go to bed.

Although, I don't eat dinner with my DH, I have to give him credit because he fasts while physically working. I asked him if it was difficult. He mentioned to me that the only time it was difficult is when they had coffee breaks. He breaks his fasts at work with a light meal. When he comes home, he'll eat dinner that I prepared or brought from my parents' house.

Tomorrow marks the 10th day of Ramadan. I will be sure to discuss the significance of the first 10 days and what the next 10 days mean. When we get closer to finishing Ramadan, then I will discuss the significant of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

E-mail Etiquette

This week my inbox has been bombarded by little pop-ups that say something along the lines of "So and so would like to know when you read her e-mail, would you like to send a read receipt?" And I would select "no" and grumble about people who need to know exactly when I open up and read their e-mail. Shall I send a "wipe notice" too, as in, when I get done using the restroom facilities....

OK, yes, I'm venting.

As a freelancer, I usually find myself handling a large amount of my communication online, specifically e-mail. It is how I send queries, interview requests, invoices and even the finished article.

And while I realize not everyone will be annoyed by the same things I get annoyed about, I do think there are some recognizable standards. I've tried to compile a few:

1. Your e-mail address should be YOUR e-mail address. Don't send e-mail from an account that lists your name along with your husband's name. If you don't know what your e-mail says in the from line, send yourself an e-mail to find out. It should say your first and last name.

2. Your e-mail address should be professional. This is not the time to use your "momoffour" moniker. Even when you select what you think is a professional e-mail, ask someone else to look at it. I was once told my slslsherwood made people think of "slasher."

3. Do not send attachments that aren't expected.

4. Do not request read receipts the first time you send an e-mail. Save this feature for the time when you are sending a requested item a second time and there has been a demonstrated problem.

5. Use complete sentences and expected conventions for business letters.

6. Ask yourself if your requests are reasonable? Are you asking the person to "respond immediately" and sending it out at 4:57 p.m.?

7. Don't follow-up immediately. Just because e-mail lets your communication land in another person's box immediately, don't expect an immediate response. Wait at least a week, preferably two, before following up on an e-query.

8. Realize that not everyone has your standards for e-mail. Be aware that some people might not appreciate the cute photo or background that you like to use. For business e-mail, stick to plain text.

9. Do not send jokes, hoaxes, or warnings to people just because you have their e-mail address.

10. Pay attention to that TO line before you hit send. Some e-mail programs fill in addresses automatically, so make sure you are sending your e-mail to who you intended it to go to.

11. Make the subject line clear and concise. If I am sending a query, I write "Query: Great Article Title" in the subject line with the text "great article title" being replaced for a catchy title of my current proposal.

12. If you send out your e-mail query to more than one place, do not include every single address in your To: line. Learn how to use CC and BCC. Be careful using CC and BCC.

What tips do you have for e-mail communication?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Days Eight and Seven

Today, I was actually a little hungry because I did not have a "super early, I mean early" breakfast. The feeling of hunger soon passed, but once again, what was on my mind was a nice, cold glass of water. It seemed when I announced I was thirsty for a nice, cold glass of water to my family, that eased my thirst a bit. I am wondering if it is a bit psychological? I am not sure. But I actually felt a bit less thirsty. Funny, I know.

This evening, my son had story time at the library. It started at 6:15 p.m., and ended at 7 p.m. As my son and I left the library, my brother calls me and asks if I was going to join them for dinner. I told him that I was on my way. My family waited till I joined them before they broke their fast (I was about 10 minutes late). Some of them did even break their fast until I got there. I broke mine at the library by drinking water.

I told my family next time to start eating--I'll join them when I get there. My mom (don't you just love mothers? It is a true honor to be one.) said it is not the same, knowing that I was on my way. To her a few minutes of waiting was not a big deal. I love my mom.

I honestly feel my mind and body cleansing from chemicals and other gunk that we put in everyday. You adapt somewhat as you get used to fasting.

Day Seven
Something interesting, when I am outside my home, sometimes I feel my neighbors, and strangers are fasting with me. Then I have to remind myself, chances are they are not fasting.

Tonight was the first time I would break my fast during my teaching. Before class started, students started arriving a bit early.

One of my students was eating the biggest, greenest apple I have ever seen. I almost told her, "What are you doing? You're fasting!" I then remembered some don't fast. I smiled to myself because those are common thoughts.

I taught class. We discussed the chapters in Earth in Mind by David Orr. After that, I lectured on Plato and how he connects with education. Students made school brochures (they had fun) based off of Plato's theories. I just happened to glance at the clock, when I realized it was time to break my fast. I walked over to my desk as students worked on school brochures and drank some water. I didn't eat in class.

After class was over, I drove to my parents' home to eat dinner and pick up my son.

Sometimes fasters will say, "When I break my fast, I am going to eat 'this' and 'that' all night." It never happens. After you eat your regular (sometimes it becomes smaller), you are satisfied.

Oh my....

I've spent most of this week saying 'oh my'.
Induction week is this week at my University. Already, I'm exausted, overwhelmed, and overjoyed. I love it there. Its going to be hard, yep, but I'm really - REALLY looking forward to 'actual' work.
There is a band of us - I'm the only parent (so far) and I'm 'mummying' the younger ones (17, 18, 19) - making sure they've got their food, and their student card, and stopping for tea, and just to SIT and talk, instead of letting them rush from pillar to post in the highly fraught state most freshers perpetually live in.
Tomorrow, I have to get up and read something out, about what I was inspired to write about trees. This week has been a blast.

Pulling The Words Out

Last night I was tired. I mean bone tired.

I'm not trying to whine, but here's what I did yesterday:

5 am get up. Thanks to Faten, I know that it's just me and the Muslims up at this hour. I don't care how hungry I'd be the rest of the day, I'd fall asleep with my face in the halaal eggs.

6 am - 2 pm work. where I'm convinced that the aging workforce negatively impacts my workday in one very important way: they are all going through The Change and want the office kept at sub-zero temperatures.

2:30 get home and hubby goes to work, we kind of blow kisses at each other... hey, you're cute... nice to meet you... call me.

2:30 - 3:00 track down source for article, interview him and cuddle and nurse the baby (yes, at the same time), want to wring the neck of interview subject who KNOWS SOMETHING and won't bloody well give it up. Leaving me to have to dance around the issue in the article, I'm sure.

3:00 leave early to pick up my son from school, attempt to go through two caffiene related drive-thrus but find BOTH closed. WTH? Baby falls asleep in truck, as intended.

3:40 - 4:10 pick up Boychild and play at park

4:10 - 5:00 go to Toys R Us and pick out birthday present for Friday. Boychild behaves exceptionally well and I pat myself on the back for OBVIOUSLY being an exceptional parent.

5:00 to 8:30 three loads of laundry, a load of dishes, make supper, eat, convince boychild it isn't poison - just porkchops and mushrooms, clean up disasterarea/office/livingroom/kitchen, bath the baby, bath the boychild, lose my temper, find it again, apologize, change three diapers, fold clothes (mostly consisting of pile sorting), put the baby to bed and get the boychild into pajamas and in bed.

8:30 hubby come home and eats my lunch for the next day. Ahem. I coerce him into reading the bedtime books because boychild has been asking for him. I begin article that happens to be due.

8:30 to 10:00 transcribe interview from earlier, finish article and submit, make list of articles due for the rest of the month, cry, catch up on as many emails as I can, ignore the ones I can't. Try not to shoot evil glares at well meaning hubby because he's playing video games and watching TV.

10:00 fall into bed and realize I am really, really, really tired. I hope my article is ok because writing it has been like plucking eyelashes with mittens on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Mommy Club

There’s a club that many mothers don’t want to admit to: a Phi Beta Placenta sorority complete with its own decoder ring (twist-tie) and secret handshake (sticky jam hand).

If you herd 72 women into a room, they will, by nature, break off into small bands of the “Have Birthed” and the “Have Not Birthed” tribes. The Have Nots desperately trying to avoid being sucked into another conversation expounding on cracked nipples or how little Johnny will be the next brain surgeon because he can correctly sort shapes in his shape sorter.

The Haves will be smugly avoiding discussions centering on how “I went through the same thing with my dog,” and avoiding the raised-eyebrow-forced-smile-head-nod when they really want to say “Yes, I put Johnny on the porch in the winter while I clean up his pee on the floor, too!”

Every once in a while a stray breaks off from the Have Nots herd to venture in to the Haves. Usually she’s recently discovered that she’s pregnant and she wants to see how the other half really lives.

A side-effect of a first-time pregnancy seems to be the belief that you actually know what you are getting into. There’s a look that crosses a pregnant woman’s face when a mother starts to expound on what it’s like to have kids. It’s the “oh sure, that may be what it was like for you because you are a bad/unprepared/unrealistic/overbearing/uncontrolled mother. It will be different for me” look. This is why the first tenant of motherhood should be Never Give Advice To a Pregnant Woman.

The Haves would like to send a message to the Have Nots:

The number one priority spot is now eternally taken. It is something that we can’t explain to the non-moms. No matter what is happening and what is going on around you, your thoughts will be on how this will affect your children or on what they are doing. It isn’t possible to just forget that they exist, or put them out of your mind for a night out.

They are there. You can hear their voices, see their smiles. Running home to let the puppy out of the kennel is not the same as running to pick up Johnny from day care. It just isn’t.

We’ve all seen the looks in the supermarket, on the airplane, at the mall, when our child is crying or screaming, or flinging himself limply on the ground. And, really, we don’t much care that your shopping experience is being ruined, or that you think we should just “spank his butt”. Chances are that as frustrating as it is for you, it is exponentially more frustrating for us. This is after all, our child.

If you want peacefulness and calm, go to a spa. Or stay at home, where you can perfectly parent your puppy. The Mommy Club is only open to the imperfect.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day Six of Ramadan

I was doing errands most of this hot day today.

I was thirsty. I couldn't wait to drink ice cold water. I reminded myself that I can do it, there is so many hours till "this" or "that" time.

Since DH works second shift, I break my fast at my parents' home. To me, eating with loved ones is essential to fully enjoy Ramadan.

Tomorrow will be the first time that I break fast alone. The reason is because I will be teaching my weekly night class. The time for me to break my fast is about 7 p.m., which is a good thing because that is when I give my class a five minute break. Although, I will not eat until after class (I hate eating in the classroom even as a student), I will drink some water or juice.

Right now, we are losing minutes as we fast because of the sunset. It's getting dark earlier each day. That will not be the case once we fast between January through August.

I am curious about your fasts. Do you fast? If so, how?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why is it....

... that when I started working full time outside the home again I didn't give up all my other duties like laundry, grocery shopping, breadmaking, cleaning?

... that the number of shoes that a six year old boy needs at the start of school/indoor soccer/Beavers is n+1 where n= the amount he currently has?

... that I can access the NFL, CFL, NHL and MBA sites from my work computer, but I'm blocked if I want to read something at

... that the relationship between energy I have and work I have to do is completely flippin' inverse?

... that my wind-down time involves sweeping, baking, sewing badges on a Beaver uniform and blogging while Love of My Life's involves Watching Monday Night Football?

... that I can bring on a heat wave by being pregnant and bring on a cold snap by buying shoes with peeky toes because they were on sale? (And cute as heck!)

... that when I'm waiting to hear back from The Big NY Publisher, the hands on the clock move backwards?

(Cross-posted at The Writing Mother)

Day Five of Ramadan

It was a quiet day today. I can't complain. DH went back to work, after being on vacation for one week. I am getting used to fasting now. The key is not to think about food and liquids. Now, I notice when I eat, the food tastes richer. I am able to appreciate the taste and texture of food and liquids.

I find myself more relaxed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day Four of Ramadan

Today, I deep cleaned the kitchen, that kept me busy for a couple of hours. Once again my dh and ds went to the park for a few hours. When I focus on something, I really focus.

After that, I watched live prayers televised in Saudi Arabia online. The prayers were held in Mecca which is considered the holiest city for Muslims. It was packed full of people from around the world. You want to see diversity? Wait till Ramadan or Hajj (Pilgrimage). You will see people from around the world in one area.

The person that was leading the prayers is called an Imam, sort of like a priest or a rabbi. His name is Sudais. He recited with a beautiful voice. He was full of emotion that I had tears and goose bumps. Growing up, we always heard Sudais during the month of Ramadan. So, when I watched it live, it brought back my childhood memories.

Mood wise, I felt good today, same with dh. DS does not fast because he is too young. However, he knows that the adults are fasting. We went to my parents' home to break our fast. (I know lucky me, no cooking for two nights in a row!) It was a night family get together. You know how it is at Thanksgiving or Christmas? Well, we have about 30 days of Thanksgiving nights.

Yes, I was a good girl, and I washed the dishes for my mom to give her a break. Thank God, we used paper plates for the main course--that saved some time in washing dishes.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Day Three of Ramadan

Today, I took a day off from everything I needed to do, like chores, errands, and writing projects. Today was my lazy day. I felt worn out, so I didn't bother doing those activities. My dh and ds stayed home till about 4:30 before going to the park.

I read Quran. I am trying to complete the reading of the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan. There are 114 Surahs (known as Chapters). Each Chapter has unique title along with varying number of ayat (verses). I just completed Surah Four.

I stayed home till 6:30 p.m., picking up dh and ds. Tonight, we had dinner at my parents' home. There we ate with my parents, siblings, and my brother in law. It was nice, you know that family get together.

My mom had filled the table with different types of dishes. You just wanted to keep eating. I think it is the fact because it's mom's cooking. Something special about your mom's cooking. After that we had apple pie and coffee for dessert.

My aunt ended up coming over to my parents' home for a while. We were sharing funny stories of our past, making us laugh really hard. Some of us also played fooz ball as well.

Today was a happy and relaxing day. Now tomorrow, I will be back to "chores, errands, and writing projects."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Goals Schmoals, I’m 40!

“I’m in a hurry to get things done, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.”
- from “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why), by Alabama

Ever feel like that? Running around getting things done but never stopping to enjoy what you’ve done? Never feeling much of a sense of accomplishment?

What’s the point then?

Obviously, there are times when you sacrifice some of the enjoyment part of life so you can achieve some of the accomplishment part. But what about when the achieving something part never ends?

For me, D-day was always my 40th birthday.

Recently, I started to re-read Shirley Kawa-Jump’s (awesome) book, How To Publish Your Articles, and was struck by the first sentence. I apologize in advance for cutting it short, but here’s the part of the sentence that stopped me in my tracks: “Every writer—whether he dreams of getting a single article into print, launching a freelance career, or...”

(“Or what?” you’re screaming at me. Well go get the book! You’ll be glad you did, I promise.)

The very first time I read that sentence, I would have been happy just to have one article published. It would have been a BIG accomplishment!

And that thought brought me freedom.

Thanks in no small part to that book, I did get an article published. Then many more, to the point that I'm working on being a freelancer full time. But I can, if I want or need to, get a different job. I could clean houses. It’s a lovely job. No really! I did it for years while I dreamed of being a writer.

The point is, I have other options for making money. Freelancing might be something I want to do for the joy of it, rather than for the income.


I have assignments right now on my desk waiting to be “accomplished.” I’m going to try to remember the joy of doing them while I’m doing them, and not the pressure.

I used to think what I wanted was to make a living by writing, because I like words. They’re fun.

But will I like them if I do this for a living? We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll keep my dustrag near the door.

I hear 40 is an age of self-assurance, of coming into one’s own. I think I like that concept! The pressure’s off, in any case. I get to make new goals for myself.

Hey, I finally understand the purple-hat-wearing women – it isn’t because you no longer have to put on airs to impress others; it’s because your self-imposed deadline is up. You don’t have to put on airs to impress yourself.

By the way, speaking of having fun with words, Linda Formichelli helped me remember how much fun it is to play with words when she started Tom Swifty contest at The Renegade Writer blog. I’m so thankful for the fun, it’s almost not fair that I won the contest too! My winning Swifty:

“I hate writing articles with bullet points,” he said listlessly.

She’s sending me a signed copy of Query Letters That Rock. Woot!

Hey, I’m not too old to rock!

What kind of writing do you do for fun? Is it still fun for you?

Days Two and One of Ramadan

I decided to combine days one and two of Ramadan because--oh just continue reading, and you will find out why.

Day Two

Today was a much better day of fasting. Everyone was in a better mood. No grumpy family members to put a damper on the atmosphere. If you have never been around anyone fasting, some become grumpy due to lack of caffeine, nicotine, or just can't tolerate hunger. Eventually, those "grumpers" will adjust.

I still have my allergies, but I continued to fast on day two (because I am persistent, some would call me "stubborn"). Today was an easy going day. No one was in a grumpy mood, thank God. At times when I saw my ds eating lunch, I was thinking, "mmm...that looks good." Then I would remember, I was fasting. That is normal by the way. Many get caught up with their activities, if they decide to take break they may actually drink or eat something, then remember they are fasting.

At 4:30 p.m., my dh took my ds to the park, so that I could complete some errands (grocery shop). I left to the stores at 5 p.m. (I snuck in 30 minutes for myself--shhh don't tell anyone). I went to Aldi's bought salmon, potatoes, and some other few items. Then I went to Walmart, and bought a few more things. I was home by 5:40 p.m. I know what you are thinking, what fast shopper. I am one of the few females on earth that hate to linger in a store. I like to buy what I need and leave. At 6 p.m., I started dinner by putting the salmon in the oven. Then I baked potatoes, made rice, and prepared the soup. By the time dinner was almost prepared, my dh and ds came back from the park.

My dh and ds set the table and started helping bring the food to the table. At 7:10 p.m., my dh and myself broke the fast with a small prayer, sort of like saying grace. My ds is too young to fast. He is only four years old. We are teaching him about Ramadan and fasting, etc. He is so excited for Eid (our three day celebration after Ramadan is over. Eid is pronounced Eed). He keeps asking if today is Eid. I tell him not yet. (I wish I left that part out until we actually got closer to Eid.)

I drank my liquids. Boy, did that feel good. However, that was a mistake I made. I should have taken sips, not gulps because that made me more full. What I should have done was take sips, and put myself a plate and eat something. It is healthier for you. But because of my allergies, to me the drinking was more important.

You actually think when it is time to eat, I am going to eat everything. But when the time actually comes, you eat as usual, or even less.

So tonight, I am going to have a small breakfast at a much earlier time. If you live in North America, you might even be sleeping while I have my much early, early breakfast.

Stay tuned to Day Three.

Day One

I was in good mood, until some of my family members were GRUMPY, so grumpy that I was basically forced to be in a bad mood for the rest of the night. That is how some fasters become, grumpy because they cannot have their caffeine or nicotine, or just can't tolerate hunger. However as the days of Ramadan continue, the "grumpers" become in a better mood. It just takes time for them to adjust mentally, and some physically. Others, like myself, become a little hyper and happy.

As long as I keep myself busy, I am fine. I won't think about food, sometimes I think about drinking liquids. I like my liquids. No, I am not talking about alcohol. That is forbidden in Islam. I like to be active during Ramadan, you know continue my daily routines. I am not a big believer in slowing things down just because I am fasting (I mean I will slow down on certain circumstances, like being in an air conditioned room on a hot day. You won't find me working outside in the yard or garden).

To make a long story short, my dh and ds returned to our apartment, and broke our fast there. Since it unplanned, I had to grab whatever was in the freezer and pantry. We had shrimp, nachos with salsa, soup (always recommended during this month), and apple juice. That is what I call an impromptu dinner.

I ended up having headache from being in a bad mood, and having allergies with it. Agh. I couldn't even post last night. I told myself, "the next day you have to post, even if it kills ya."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Long Road

I think often of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken. (Go here to read it because it would be wrong of me to post it here methinks... I'm all about the rules!)

I am a life traveller, as we all are, but I'm a frustrated one. Because I have always wanted to take ALL THE ROADS. I want to double back and take shortcuts and longcuts and reach dead ends and go back again.

(In fact, I remember being in elementary school and thinking about college degrees. I thought: I think I'll just go to school and get ALL the degrees, wouldn't that be good?)

But Frost is smart. He knows he has to choose a road and commit to a journey. "And be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could". He seems to be saying "I'm only one guy, with one life to live... I'd better consider my choices and make smart ones."

And then. Then! A man after my own heart he goes and takes the one that it looks like no one has taken recently. He thinks about both paths though, and he knows that he'll be on one and may want to go on the other half way through.

He looks back at the end and knows that the journey has made the difference. The walking through uncharted paths has made the trek his own.

I feel as though that's what my life is like these days. I'm walking on a path of my own choosing. Each morning, like this morning, I get up at 5:00 am and I try to be oh-so-quiet as I get ready for work. The kids are asleep, Major Man is asleep. It's just me and my cobwebs.

Truly it's the only truly alone time I've had in years I think. Other than naps maybe. I try to enjoy the process, putting on make up, doing my hair, choosing my outfit. And as I leave the house at 5:45 am and it's pitch black and I can still see the stars I feel good about myself and my path.

I can do this. I am doing this for my family. I get up at this horrible hour, go to work and put letters in their correct order and I'm helping my family. I may not be the full time writer I wanted to be at this stage, but this is only one path. This is just the part of the path with the weeds and the brambles where I need to move slowly and carefully, where I need to pause often to make sure I'm still on course and my family is still following me.

The road is long, it's winding and at times I wish for another. But if I stop and look around, even the weeds and brambles have some harsh beauty to them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fasting During Ramadan

It is declared by Islamic scholars that tomorrow, Thursday, September 13, 2007, is the first day of Ramadan. Why is that holy or significant? Because this is the first day of fasting for Muslims around the world. This will last for about 29 or 30 days. Each day Muslims cannot eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Once sunset arrives, the fast is broken with a dinner with family or friends. This is done for the next 29 or 30 days.

Muslims also try to do extra volunteer work, random acts of kindness, and appreciate the world around them. Fasting teaches Muslims to strengthen self-discipline and to be less materialistic. Fasting shows Muslims how the less fortunate feel when food is not easily or readily available. As a result, many Muslims reduce their waste of food.

Not all Muslims are required to fast. Some of those exempt from fasting include children, elderly, people with medical reasons, and travelers. Although some Muslims are not fasting, they tend not to eat or drink in front of fasting Muslims out of respect. This is seen in Islamic countries, even tourists do not eat or drink during the days of Ramadan, in public.

I, personally, have been fasting since I was seven. The first time, I tried fasting, I was living in Jerusalem at the time. My family members were very excited about Ramadan starting. I wanted to be part of that too. They informed me I wasn't required to fast because I was too young. I asked them, could I even if I am too young? After, "negotiating" with my parents, they allowed me to fast. They made me promise, that if I became hungry or thirsty to eat. I told them fine.

The night before Ramadan began, my family was up for an "early breakfast". This is allowed where people get up before sunrise to eat a light breakfast (so basically, you are just missing lunch when fasting). My parents tried to wake me up, I wouldn't wake up. The next day, I whined to them saying how come I wasn't awaken to eat a light breakfast. They said they tried to wake me up, I wouldn't wake up. Once again, my parents reminded me that I didn't have to fast. Persistent as I am, I told them I am going to try it.

The key was to keep myself busy until sunset. So, I remember after doing my chores, playing with my siblings, friends, and even by myself. I just finished playing hopscotch when I washed my hands due to the chalk dust. I took a drink of water before I realized I wasn't supposed to because I was fasting. I became devastated. I thought my fasting was now broken. I told my family that I drank water. They all thought I did it because I wanted to break my fast. They told me it was OK. I told them to stop. I explained that I broke my fast by accident. I forgot I was fasting when I had washed my hands. It was an act of forgetfulness.

Needless to say, my family was surprised I had fasted the entire day without breaking it intentionally. I felt good and proud that I did something for myself.

Each day, I will give you a brief post (maybe brief, I am not sure *smile*), on my days of fasting and how it is affecting my daily activities.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Silent house

My children went back to school a week today – and in a less than a week, I’ll be attending induction.  Assignments, book lists, field trips and stern warnings about remembering our jackets…and that’s just for the adults.  First week of induction, and I’m going on a field trip to a wood near my home.  To write.  The first week and I’m already I’m looking at something that I do to relax.

But for the moment, all there is in the house blessed silence.
Well.  Sort of anyway.  There might be silence in the house, but inside my head there’s dozens of articles, blog posts, stories, novels…all clamoring to get out.  

Like my own children, they all want the attention that they deserve, but there’s only so much time I can spend with each before the next one pulls me off. 
Some, catlike, bring me trophies – images of the really important things – like birds left in the bath, or on my bed.  Sometimes just as gruesome.  Others bring me childlike sketches – outlines – some just whisper in the night – exhaling – sweet, soft.  
And when I’m lying, listening to my family breathe, and sleep the night away – some of them don’t sleep, and they aren’t – exactly my children.  They are the psychopath – the strange noises outside my door.  They whisper – beguilingly.  And as time passes, more of them gather – in the dark shadows of the corners of my room, I’ve been jerking awake, confused.  It takes a couple of minutes to get my bearings, but while I do, I scribble.
I’m pregnant with possibility, and frozen in the moment of knowing there’s never enough time.  And still the house remains silent.  Save maybe the scratch of a pen, the siren song of my printer, the staccato of my keyboard. 

And though the house is silent, and there’s noise in my head, I still have breathing space. I can always close the door, put the ideas away in their rooms for a while. 

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Never Ending List

Will I ever reach the end of my to do list? I highly doubt it because people, especially mothers always seem to find something to put on their to do lists. Don't believe me? Go talk to a mother. If she doesn't physically write a list, then she mentally forms a list that stays in her mind.

I haven't exactly figured out why we always have to be busy by following some kind of list. I have been thinking about why mothers are constantly "listing". I am not sure if society has programmed the role of motherhood. It is looked down upon if a mother isn't crossing achieved tasks on her lists, physically or mentally.

Although, I speak of the above, I am one of "them". There. I admit it. I list. I list everything using a pen, pencil, even a marker, and paper, notebooks, pads and even scrap paper. I even use the computer. As if listing things on paper or the computer screen isn't enough, I even list mentally. Things I have to get done. Things I have already gotten done. People to see. Places to go. Things I would like to do in the future. I can go on and on. My list of things to do always gets longer and longer.

Maybe my enjoyment or "addiction" of writing lists has to do with the fact that I am writer. I love to write things down. I enjoy seeing words forming before my eyes.

Not only am I a list writer, maybe I'm a multitasker as well. That is another topic to write about on another day.

Out of the Box

Last Saturday my husband and I went to a professional boxing match. It was a first for both of us. He'd won the tickets by calling in to a radio station. We thought we were just going to see one fight, but it ended up being seven fights including two "co-main" events and a "featured" fight.

It was a new world experience for me, and I was amazed at the atmosphere and the language used. I don't mean to suggest it was bad language. It was language unique to the boxing world. Words that I rarely hear in my day-to-day life were surrounding me. I was familiar with them, of course, but still I was entering a lifestyle that has a different lexicon than my normal life.

Plus the line to the women's bathroom? So short, that I could get right in. The line to the men's bathroom? It stretched out well into the back of the arena, and there was a long wait. Oh sure, it had something to do with the ratio of men to women at the event, but still, no line for the women's bathroom at a public event? It is unheard of, in my experience.

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with my experience, but I did take some notes to keep the memory fresh, so if in some distant future I want to write about professional boxing, I will have some first-hand experience and notes to help me do so.

Plus being in a different atmosphere that uses a different lexicon made me aware of my own world and the various lexicons I use daily. As a writer, it never hurts to stretch your awareness of language.

What I found most amusing was that, during the final fight, a young guy sitting near me was getting quite mouthy. He was enamoured with the name of one of the fighters. The fighter's name was "Dicky," and the young guy was yelling encouragement to Dicky, and in doing so, he was thinking of every possible combination that would go with "Dicky" and still have to do with fighting yet had a sexual overtone to it. And I was impressed with the variety the young guy (who was being assisted by liberal amounts of alcohol) came up with. The guy was having fun with words.

When was the last time I had fun with words? Every day I think about the words I use, but when did I just have fun? Sure, I've played Text Twist lately but that's not what I mean.

And, so, on this Monday morning, my advice to the writing moms out there is two-fold: 1) Make time to step out of your box and experience something new; and 2) Make time to play with words.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I Have Broken the Flux Capacitor

At this moment in my life I believe I am operating at full capacity. I don't think I have room for one more thing. Perhaps that's why Jordan Sadler's article, An Open Letter to My Son's PTA really struck a chord with me. Some of us need to work full time. Some of us even need to work more than full time.

For the past year and a bit I've been revelling in my abilities to work from home while raising my kids. You could say that I might even have been smug about it. I tried hard not to be. After all, I'd been a full time working single mother for a while so I knew that we all do the best we can at the time.

But even last year as I wrote my book and I juggled a full slate of columns and articles, I squeezed in a piddly four or five volunteer mornings in the Kindergarten classroom. The teachers were very accomodating and let me bring my daughter in while I volunteered. But it became apparent that we were more of a distraction than anything.

And I tried to get to the PTA meetings, I did. But, um, they coincided with my Thursday night off. And I love my Thursday night TV line up, it's my night to relax and veg and maybe even drink a beer glass of wine while hanging out with my husband.

And I admit, that activity had priority over listening to moms with pet projects complain about the lack of funding for security cameras/rubber bits for the playground/paint for walls... It seemed that there was already a clique of moms who had either raised their kids next door to each other, had their kids on the same team or volunteered at the same preschool. I did not fit in.

I tried. But I couldn't get revved up about their projects. I asked questions about why they were necessary or why we needed to paint the library wall two months before the end of school when a) the walls are covered in posters and b) the unionized maintenance staff will get around to it one of these years.

Anyways. I thought maybe I'd get involved this year. But now I have n+1 projects on my plate where n = the maximum amount I should have and remain sane.

I now work from 6 am to 2 pm and let me tell you... me going around and saying I had "better hours" is somewhat of a pipe dream. Sure it's nice to leave the office at 2pm... but it's not so nice to leave the house at 5:45 am. They say I'll adjust.

I have one proposal sitting at four publishers.

I have a query into my current publisher and I'm waiting to find out if they want a detailed proposal or an outline.

I have an article due on the 12th.

I also fly away for four days on the 12th.

I got sucked into going to a golf tournament for work on Monday. Forgetting that it's been four years since I've golfed...

I just begun my Pampered Chef training.

I am late in sending out my eNewsletter.

My juggling act is wobbly. My hold on sanity is tenuous. My veneer is cracking. I may be at maximum velocity, Captain.

(Cross posted at The Writing Mother)

How Do You Promote A Blog?

This isn't one of the lessons I've learned....YET!

I know a lot of readers of Mama Needs a Book Contract are well-versed in the ways of blogism. Some make their living almost entirely by blogging! They have crazy-fingers, typing 900 wpm and posting and clicking and going wild. Their blogs receive so much traffic the Internet had to put in stoplights!

So how do you do it? How can we get this Mama up off the couch?

And here's another question: how can we do it without being a nuisance to friends, family, and Internet acquaintances?

Or is being a nuisance the big key to success? How do you do it?


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The mediocre fraud

I've been feeling a little sorry for myself lately - I shouldn't I know, but humor me?
Once I'd gotten my place at University, I realized I'd been out of 'the learning game' for ten years. Chalk one up to the uneasy feeling of my life speeding past my nose. I've done lots of great stuff in those 10 years, of course, including having two wonderful children. I've written two books, one poetry, one non fiction, and I've got tonnes of novels, novellas and short stories on my PC.
But I'm still waiting for someone to tell me that I'm mediocre.
Or a fraud.

Every writer faces this, I think. There's not one among us that wakes up in a cold sweat when we're looking into finding an agent - subbing to our dream publisher. But sometimes we're paralyzed by it. And I think that's where I am now.

I'd like to think that its a passing phase - I'm going to have to get over it really fast for the first weeks of university - I'm hoping to shake it sooner - so if anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them :)

Is the Spin Cycle Sexy?

Last year, I was fortunate to stumble on one of the most spectacular talents to have sloshed out of small publishing since... well, since! You see, Natalie R. Collins is a good buddy of mine. I tell people, "I knew her when she was nobody." She writes books about Mormons in Utah and as a result, she gets lots of requests from Utah authors for blurbs.

Now, when you're a Big Name Author from a Big NY Publisher, like Natalie is, you get a lot of requests to blurb absolutely awful books, mostly small published, self-published, and POD vanity published. And you don't have a whole lot of time to comply—especially for the bad ones, which you must read to find out they are bad and then deal with the fallout from the disappointed author when you refuse to blurb the book. Said fallout is often quite nasty. It's enough to make many BNYP-ed authors turn down all indie books sight unseen.

But Natalie is a nice lady; she was quite anguished. We talked it over. And we wandered through JulieAnn's web site—which was, at the time, a fright. I stumbled on JulieAnn's blog, though, and it convinced me. It was funny. It was crazy. It was quite well written with an incredible voice. I said, "Nat, give this chick a chance." But Natalie, on the horns of a pressing deadline just couldn't commit to it. But I was so sure, I offered to screen the book first. Deal was, if I loved the book, she had to read it.

Well, I got JulieAnn's book in the mail and started reading it before bed. And then I stayed up til 4 AM finishing it. I don't do that with too darn many books! I wrote to Natalie, saying that she absolutely HAD to read and blurb the book. And I wrote to JulieAnn about how much I loved her novel. And we became friends. The rest is history. Someday, I will be proud to say that I knew JulieAnn Henneman when she was nobody.

On today's blog, JulieAnn Henneman is our guest blogger sharing the travails of writing erotica while parenting a small boy...

Is the Spin Cycle Sexy?

She reached for him, and felt his hands cover her breasts before their mouths collided in a fiery...

"Mommy, I want lunch!" My four year old smiles at me with his little gap-toothed grin and I smile back at him, feeling as though I was just caught by a cop in the back seat of a Chevy.

"In just a second, mommy just needs to finish this one little bit of work, okay?"

"Well, can I watch tv in your room? I wanna watch Blue's Clues."

"Okay, there. Now shush, so mommy can work." I begin again by reading and catching up.

... a fiery melding of tongues and hot breath...

"A clue! Mommy there's a clue!"

"What? Oh, that's great sweetheart, be quiet now, okay?"

I suddenly here a loud beeeeeeeep followed by loud, rhythmic pounding. The washer is off balance again. I make my way down to the basement trying to come up with a phrase that is the equivalent to "quivering" or "swollen member". I adjust the load for the thirteenth time. I ascend back up the stairs.

My son is standing at the top of the stairs in his Spiderman underwear and wearing my red, Italian leather pumps.

"Mommy, do I look pretty?"

My son has two older sisters. They ask him this question before they leave for school every day. He invariably tells them they look 'booger'.

I tell him that yes, he looks very pretty, and to go finish watching his tv show.

Back to work.

"Where should we go?" She asked, panting into his ear.

"Here." He lifted her from behind so her legs straddled him, and moaned as she felt his—

"I want peanut butter and honey but not too much peanut butter on the bread mom."

"Uh-huh, okay..."

—desire for her straining through his—

"Mooooom, I went poo-poo and pee-pee in the big potty. Come wipe my bottom!"

My son kneels on the bathroom floor with his derriere perched up in the air like the All-Seeing Eye.

"Okay, son, I really need to finish some work, so you need to be really quiet for a while. Alright?"

"Okay, but what happens if apples get warm?"

"I don't know, son. Just play with your toys for a few more minutes."

—trousers. She could feel his need and she ground her hips into his laundry—

The laundry buzzed its final buzz and I continued. But little did I know the laundry wasn't quite finished.

Her breathing was haggard as his hands wandered over her body.

"I love you Dora"—

"Dora? Her name's not Dora!" I yell.

"Yes it is! Can I? Can I please watch Dora instead of Blue's Clues?"

"Son, finish the show. I'll be done in a minute."

But that's it. My sexual libido and creative fire have been whittled down to a memory and a piece of cold coal and I know I'm done for the afternoon. I fix my son lunch and watch as he happily plays with stickers while eating quietly. The laundry begins to pound again and I'm fed up.

The washer practically jumped off of the floor as it shook and I vow to never wash rugs with towels again. I had adjusted this load too many damn times today and it's almost done, so I hop on the washer, my weight bearing down on it so it made merely a jittery tremor.

Bump, bump, bump, bump.

I begin to like my washer as it hums mercifully below me. I find myself giggling with... with what? Glee? Happiness? With... oh...oh my!

I make my way up the stairs lazily, a half smile on my face. I trip a bit on the upper stair and break into laughter.

"Look mommy, I'm being good so you can work!" He says proudly. He has now donned a black cape.

"Yes you are baby, thank you. Mommy's done working for a minute, so why don't you get some stories and we'll read and take a little nap."

I'll get back to my story after our nap—when I put in the white load.

JulieAnn Henneman lives precariously in suburban Utah, USA. She is the mother of three children, a poet, creative writing instructor and coffee freak. She is the author of Always Listen to the Ravings of a Mad Woman (Draumr Publishing, 2006), and four other completed but unpublished books which she is marketing to agents and editors. JulieAnn also writes award-winning erotica under the pen name Trinity Wolf, with her debut short story available at Forbidden Publications.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Joshilyn Jackson's Book Tour Tips

Once mamas get book contracts, mamas need book tour tips. And I cannot help you there - no not one bit.

However, what I can do is recognize greatness when I see it, and beg, plead and cajole until greatness agrees to post over here! So that's just what I did.

Joshilyn Jackson is the author of Gods in Alabama (which won SIBA's Novel of the Year Award), Between, Georgia (which was called "a small miracle" by Anne Rivers Siddons), and the latest, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (which kept Homer Hickam, of October Sky fame, up til all hours reading). I know all these things about her books, but of course what impresses me most is that I see them at my local Wal-Mart. She's hit the big time, right?

So when Joshilyn, a veteran book tourer herself, gives tips on how to make the most of a book tour, I listen. And I think of my writing mother friends, because that's just the nice kind of person I am. Joshilyn graciously agreed to let me post her tips here on Mama Needs a Book Contract. Because you know, we're going to need them someday!

Here you go... Joshilyn Jackson on making the most of a book tour:

OKAY, so, I know very little about anything, BUT I have an AWE-INSPIRING
BADASS publicist, and I will tell you what he told me.

On a tour stop, you have three ways to make it worth your while. If you
hit any ONE of these ways, you call that stop a win. Two and it's a big
win. Three, it's a trifecta. But get ONE, just ONE, and you have not
wasted your time in that city. These are not in order of import, just in
the order they occur to me as I try to remember.

1) You have a good turn out at the store, you connect with readers, you
sell books. This is actually the LEAST likely of the three, but it’s SO
nice when it happens. :)

2) You get media. Ask your in house publicist to book you some -- tell
her you will getup at 6 am to do radio, you will do TV, newspaper, local
glossies whatever she can get, you will do. If she does not have media
for you in one of your towns, ask her if you can try to book your own.
Ask her for a contact sheet for that city. Ask the bookstore you are
going to if THEY have any connections at the paper with the events
people Call that cities version of creative loafing. Call radio
stations. Book yourself on anything you can.

3) Connect with a bookseller or booksellers. One dedicated you-fan
handseller can make a HUGE difference. HUGE! A lot of people who sell
books do it for LOVE, and they are HUGELY underappreciated.

SO. You talk to all the people in the store. You would be surprised how
many authors JUST talk to the owner or manager. You talk to EVERY
EMPLOYEE YOU SEE. You introduce yourself. You get and remember their
names. You do not TALK, you LISTEN --- you ask them about THEM, what
they like to read, how they like working in a bookstore, how long they
have been there. You look for the ones who like books like YOUR book and
who like the same books you like. If they adore a favorite book of
yours, you guys have common ground. The longer they have been in the
store or working as a bookseller, the more likely they are to be
passionate about it.

When you find a bookseller who likes your kind of thing who seems to be
one of those blessed saints who do it for love, you ask them to read
your book. You tell them where it intersects with the sorts of books
they love. You get their email addy. Take them for coffee or a cocktail.
Treat them. If they do take you up, if you later hear from them --- and
a lot of them you WILL -- that they have read your book and loved it and
are passing it on, then you put them in your database and you NEVER
forget them when you have a new release. You send them swag. You send
them love. You remember their names and you see them every time you are
in their city and you let them know EVERY chance you get how much you
appreciate what they do for you, because the handsellers? They are
superheroes, IMO. They are a dying breed, and when they go, there goes
the mid list.

That's all I got.


Thank you Joshilyn!