Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Honor of National Poetry Month, William Wordsworth

I can’t honor poetry without giving mad props to my man Wordsworth, William Wordsworth. *said in manner of 007 with improvised British accent*

During my undergrad I primarily studied British Literature. When it came time to write my senior thesis-like-ginormous paper I knew I’d be writing about my swoony men with delicious accents.

Why did I pick Wordsworth? Well, because his body of work is extensive. And by that I mean awe-inspiringly huge.

Even now when I’m writing this blog it’s hard for me to find just one poem to share. I love so many.

I have a palm-sized collection of Wordsworth poems that I keep in my nightstand next to my palm-sized Keats and Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.

It is a Beauteous Evening – William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year,
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

Learn more about Wordsworth here. Check out his work here.

What poetry, or orther art, do you love enough to keep in your nightstand?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Writefully Shamed: Interview failure

A few weeks ago I started a project of self reflection, see the details here. And my first installment in the Writefully Shamed series is here: My embarrassingly true interview failure story.

A lot of people say you never get 'the call' with your first novel. And that could be true. But is it necessarily true for Day Jobs as well?

I was desperate for a job after I graduated. I had nearly 60,000 dollars in student loans holding me down and I needed real money to pay those down. Not the sorta money you make working three crap jobs. I worked my ass off to get my college education and I wanted to put it to good use. So when I got my first interview request for an entry level position at a really-real corporate job I was thrilled.

So all that remained was getting ready for the big event. I'd been out in the real world for 2 years and had gained the real-world-thirty. Pounds, that is. I was able to find one skirt that could still zip and one of my husbands button-downs that I could still button.

I curled my hair and put on makeup for the first time in months. I looked about as Corporate America as Chris Farely in a little coat:

Anyway, we only had one car so my hubby had to take off work to drive me to the interview. I wish it could go without saying that I was sweaty but I'm not a normal sweat-er. I sweat like this guy:

I got a plastic 'Visitors' badge at reception before using the restroom where I stuffed scratchy toilet paper into my pits. It's a tried and true method of keeping my pits dry for a short period of time.

I was as ready as ever when they brought into the interview room: dressed in the only professional-ish clothing that fit, face painted and hair curled, with wads of toilet tissue in my pits. Let's do this!

After what felt like a full day of questions everyone had smiles on their faces. It seemed like I had wow'd them with my dazzling wit. I pitched the TP and did a happy dance all the way back to the car:

Just before I got in the car I felt a breeze across my chest. I looked down and saw my shirt button had come undone. There was a giant gaping opening in my shirt. I was more shocked than this kitty:

Stunned, I opened the car door with a trembling hand. When I lifted my leg to step into the car I felt a breeze on my hip. The zipper on my skirt had come open during the interview.

First the shirt and now the skirt.............

I burst into sobs that would make Britney proud:

My hubby tried to comfort me for days after the interview. "I bet the button didn't come undone until after the interview," He said. "They didn't see anything," He said. "I'm sure you did fine. At least they didn't see the TP up your selves," He said.

But all I could think about was how I ruined my one chance. My one and only chance to get a really-real job. The one thing that my entire childhood had been leading to. All that school. All that debt. All those expectations and hard work were for nothing. All because of a some shitty weight gain and ill fitting clothes.

Weeks later I got the call. They wanted to offer me the job! *cue more happy dancing*

I worked there for several years and I even asked my interviewers if they noticed my shirt or skirt coming open-that would not easily be forgotten-but none of them knew what I was talking about.

In the end, we are always our own worst critics. And we are the cruelest critics when we are the most vulnerable.

Have you ever lost it over reacted like this? Share your stories here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In Honor of National Poetry Month, John Keats

My first literary crush might have been on John Keats. I can’t be sure because I did an aweful lot of swooning over poets when I was younger. That’s not to say my love of Keats is simple and fleeting. Rather, that I was head over heals in love with the rhythm of poetry. Period. Full stop.

As I got older some of my literary crushes fell to the side but never Keats. In fact, I have a tiny, palm-sized, collection of Keat’s poetry that I keep in my nightstand.

He had a sad, short life filled with illness and heartache. His story fascinates me almost as much as his work.

Here is my favorite:

Bright Star – John Keats

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

Learn more about his life here. Check out his collections of his work here.

Who’s is your favorite poet?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bid me run and I will strive with things impossible - Shakespeare

I'm an avid, albeit amateur, runner.

I'm not fast.

I'm not special.

I'm not exceptionally good at running. But I'm a runner.

In running we are challenged to overcome pain, self doubt, stress, distance, heat, rain, snow, and all manner of nay-sayers. Running is about triumph.

And as a runner there is no challenge more celebrated than the Marathon. 26.2 miles is a historic distance respected by all. A marathon is not some jaunt on a dreadmill (aka treadmill). It's a massive undertaking requiring months of training, planning, and sacrifice.

I learned this firsthand when I ran my first marathon last year. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever put my mind and body through. You probably don't know the depths of mental darkness available within you until you hit the wall at mile 22.

Of all the marathons in the world the most celebrated is Boston. It's the every-man's Olympics. Anyone who is willing to work hard enough to BQ (Boston Qualify) can run with the elites on the historic course. Every runner dreams of running Boston.

Running the Boston is such a big deal that if I ever qualified I would practically require my family to be present at the finish to witness my accomplishment.

I'm not special.

And I could have been there. My family could have been there.

The horrific attack at the finish line reminds us that there is no limit to the evil within man.

But then there were heroic acts. The first responders and athletes who ran towards the explosions to help the victims. The people of Boston who rushed to hospitals to donate blood. The outpouring of help and support to the victims reminds us that there is no limit to our capacity for good.

As the running community and the people of Boston band together to heal, I hope that one day, soon, running will once again represent triumph.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writefully Shamed: Vulnerability and the Writer

Like many writers I struggle with shame issues. What if I'm not good enough? What if people don't like my work? What if I never get an agent or traditional pub deal? What does that say about me? (For a great peptalk on the separation of work and self by Jenny Kaczorowski).

When I have thoughts like this I refer to it as "douche bag brain." My douche bag brain can be pretty ruthless. For those of you who don't know, I'm a bit of a self-help junkie. When I was turned onto some amazing work by Brene Brown, a research professor in social work who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, I was very excited. Her work is amazing and you should read her books and watch her TED talks here.

The main things I learned so many things from her work:

Other people have douche bag brains - it's not just me.

Living an authentic life is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something that comes easily.

When we are the most vulnerable our brains are the douchiest.

Not too long after I began reading her work I thought it should be required reading for all writers because vulnerability is the name of our game. Ernest Hemingway called it when he proclaimed: "There is nothing to writing. All you need to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

We are exposed nerves masquerading as regular people.

And that's what makes us great. Our comfort with being uncomfortable is likely why we are such great storytellers.

As much as we may thrive in the margins of emotion we can easily fall victim to our douche bag brain's. Our thoughts can turn negative and self-defeating. There's probably no better example from within the writing community than the brave, beautiful, and talented Natalie Whipple. See her recent posts on the subject here.

When this happens to me my mind begins a continuous parade of every single embarrassing event of my life. It's a painful trip down Shame Lane.

And it's debilitating. I can get lost in those crappy memories. Sometimes I even chew good memories up in my douche-bag-brain-meat-grinder until they are horrifyingly shameful. These thoughts can stop me from writing, exercising, eating, and even showering (yuck, I know).

Luckily, I can identify my douche bag brain moments and do everything in my power to stop it. One cool bit of advice I picked up from one of Brene's books is to share your shame.


Unthinkable, right? But it makes sense because the event only has power over you so long as you treat it like something to be ashamed of.

Being authentic means becoming okay with your flaws. (note to self: stop trying so hard to be a Stepford Wife/Friend/Daughter/Business Woman)

To that end I've developed a series of posts to share embarrassing moments. I'll be posting them here over the coming months becuase if I share them with the world I can't hide them anymore. And hopefully someone out there can get a good laugh. More importantly, my trips down Shame Lane will become shorter and shorter.

I'm sure new moments will take their place. But that's okay. I'm not perfect, as typos in my twitter stream illustrate, and that's okay. Living a more authentic life means embracing the famous line from Wreck-it-Ralph (possibly the cutest movie ever) “There’s no one I’d rather be, than me.”

Are you trying you live authentically? What inspires you to be true to yourself?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Honor of National Poetry Month, Robert Frost

I personally cannot think of American poetry without thinking of Robert Frost. Maybe it’s because I grew up all over the Midwest and his imagery and subject matter feel like home.

I love how I can curl up in his words and feel the very warmth of the scene.

When I was studying in London my professor said Frost was one of the greats. He asked if everyone knew Frost and shockingly some of the European students didn’t know him. "0_o" My jaw hit the floor. What do they teach those kids over there? LOL.

The professor played a recording of Frost reading his own work and I got chills. To hear the man I had respected all these years reading the words I had loved all these years. I may have geeked out a bit.

Here is my all time favorite Frost poem. I hope you love it too.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


I just love the cadence of the last two lines. I feel like just reading them makes me tired.


You can learn more about Robert Frost and his work here. Check out compilations of his poetry here.

What do you love about poetry?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

9 Hashtags Every Writer Should Follow

If you're a N0ob in the Twitterverse have no fear. There are many hashtags that can bring you closer to writing/publishing enlightenment.

Here are my top 9 Hashtags Every Writer Should Follow:

1. #askagent - a forum where authors seek advice from Agents. Calm your pits, it's not the same as representation. These Agents are giving general advice to authors about a variety of topics.

2. #amwriting - a forum of rants and asides by writers about - you guessed it - writing. It's a great place to meet other writers and to vent about this glorious craft. This hashtag is used often which is always good. While I was writing this post 46 new tweets were posted using #amwriting.

3. #5amwriteclub - For those of us who have to get our writing done in the early morning hours the #5amwriteclub offers sprints, challenges, and emotional support to it's members.

4. #amediting - Similar to the #amwriting tag, #amediting is used by writers in the editing phase. If you're like me, you spend more time editing than drafting. This tag is full of fun and useful info.

5. #writing - The slightly less cool sister of #amwriting, #writing is a good place to hang out and meet people.

6. #fridaynightwrites - Perhaps the night owl brother to the ladies of #5amwriteclub, this night based tag includes similar challenges and support.

7. #nanowrimo - This tag is most highly utilized during, you guessed it: NaNoWriMo. Follow this tag and you'll get great insight into the highs and lows of the infamous novel writing challenge.

8. #writeclub - Which came first, the #5amwriteclub, the #fridaynightwriteclub, or, simply, #writeclub. I guess we'll never know.

9. #yalitchat - If you're a fan of YA, like me, then you'll want to follow the activity on this tag. Insights from writers, editors, agents, and teens help make this a insightful resource for authors.

Which hastags do you follow?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Suck it up - You Need To Write a Synopsis

'Wait,' you say, 'I wrote a Query Letter, do I still need to write a synopsis?' The answer is: Abso-freaking-lutely.

*Cue massive freak out*

'Buuuuuuuuuuuuttttttt, not every agent wants one. Whyyyyyyyy do I need one?'

You should write a Synopsis because it's an important exercise. And because at least one Agent on your target list will require a Synopsis. Not to mention the whole you-want-to-be-a-professional-writer thing and professionals wear big-girl-panties and write synopses.

I made the sad mistake of thinking the synopsis was unnecessary. Then, when a super-cool-awesome-Agent that I admire asked for more pages and a synopsis I panicked. I drafted a piece-o-crap summary of my WIP and rushed to send it to the super-cool-awesome-Agent.

She passed of course. And after a good cry, like this:

I got to work polishing my synopsis.

First, I read these blogs to learn how to even write a Synopsis. Check out these posts by Nathan Bransford, Jami Gold, Holly Robinson, The Writers Alley, YA Highway

Then I got to work rewriting my synopsis. Let's just say it was about as easy as grabbing a fish out of a stream.

When you've caught your precious, aka synopsis, it's time to share it with your CP's. Get as much feedback as you can. The synopsis is just as critical to your success as your query letter. Catch the fish, throw it back, and catch a better one.

When you have the best fish in the whole wide world, and your query letter is amaze-balls, it's time to start hitting send.

How did you perfect your synopsis? Did you follow any advice you found to be helpful?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Honor of National Poetry Month : Jeffery McDaniel

Those of you who know me know that I spent many years studying poetry in school. Poetry was my first love and it started when I was a little kid. My mother didn't read bedtime stories she read bed time poems from a book of poetry for children. The rhythm, the imagery, the pulse - I was hooked.

One of my favorite contemporary poets is Jeffrey McDaniel. I stumbled upon his work because he spoke to the creative writing class my husband was taking at GA Tech (not a school particularly lauded for their liberal arts). My husband thought Jeffrey was brilliant.

Being an traditionally educated study of great literature and poetry I was skeptical. Would my husband, with his advanced math and software engineering background, know brilliant poetry?

Yes. Yes he did.

McDaniel’s work if littered with powerful one-liner observations that leave me breathless.

Here is one of my favorite poems:

Letter To The Woman Who Stopped Writing Me Back – Jeffery McDaniel

I wanted you to be the first to know - Harper & Row
has agreed to publish my collected letters to you.

The tentative title is Exorcist in the Gym of Futility.

Unfortunately I never mailed the best one,
which certainly was one of a kind.

A mutual friend told me that when I quit drinking,

I surrendered my identity in your eyes.

Now I'm just like everybody else, and it's so funny,

the way monogamy is funny, the way
someone falling down in the street is funny.

I entered a revolving door and emerged
as a human being. When you think of me
is my face electronically blurred?

I remember your collarbone, forming the tiniest
satellite dish in the universe, your smile
as the place where parallel lines inevitably crossed.

Now dinosaurs freeze to death on your shoulder.

I remember your eyes: fifty attack dogs on a single leash,
how I once held the soft audience of your hand.

I've been ignored by prettier women than you,
but none who carried the heavy pitchers of silence
so far, without spilling a drop.


I don’t think it gets any better than this line: “I've been ignored by prettier women than you, but none who carried the heavy pitchers of silence so far, without spilling a drop.“

That line is biting-mean and oozing venom. I love love love it.

Learn more about him here. You can buy his books from Manic D press (You totally should – I have them all and they are fan-freaking-tastic).

Do you adore contemporary poets? Share! Tell us who rings your bell:

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Can Haz Productivity: March 2013 Month in Review

Words, words, and More Words:

A few months back I was asking my writerly friends how they achieve their impressive monthly word counts. The beautiful and talented Aubrie Dione recommended that I cultivate a writing habit. (She recently made a guest appearance on this blog. Check it out here.) She’s not alone. Ask just about anyone in the Pub World and they’ll tell you that to be successful you need to make writing a habit. Check out my planner - you can see my March was cray cray.

After all, it's not called work for nothing. As much as we love the written word, the process, the magic of it all, we are first and foremost professionals. We need to act like it. *Stares at self in mirror* For more on just how much the publishing industry owes you nothing check out this straight forward post by the wise-beyond-his-years aspiring author Mark O'Brien.

I decided to take on the challenge to make writing an every day habit. My goal for March was to write 300 words a day.

And I failed. Utterly and completely.

When I missed my target for a few days in a row I nearly gave up completely. I hate hate hate failure - but more on that later.

I realized missing your target is okay. It happens. When I couldn't fit writing into my weekly activities, due to Day Job craziness, travel, or competing priorities, I was forced to re-evaluate my goal. 300 words may not work for me right now.

Instead of giving up I decided to adapt.

I was able to dedicate a decent piece of each weekend to writing. Being flexible is important so I decided to refocus my energy toward a goal that would force me to stretch while still reasonably fitting my life.

So here’s what I was able to accomplish during the 5 weekends in March:

1. 15 blog posts written and scheduled (woo hoo! That's more than all my posts last year combined)
2. Read 1 novel and started a second
3. Read 2 self-help books and started a third (what can I say, I love 'em)
4. Edits to my WIP MS, Query, and Synopsis
5. Edits on a few chapters of a friends’ awesome WIP
6. Potential plot outline for the shiny new idea I’ve been nursing
7. Character sketches for the idea mentioned above

All for a grand total of 9,694 words.

Yep, that’s 694 words more than the 300 word-a-day-total of 9,000.

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. “But most of those words must have been for the 15 blog posts you wrote this month. Who would write 15 blog posts in 4 weeks anyway?”

You’d be right. Or, erm….At least you’re not wrong.

Most of the words were for blog posts. But words are words are words. At least they were original words expressing thoughts. Each and every one of those pretty little words is a coin in my Better Writer piggy bank that I hope to cash in at the Bank of Published Authors.

Next month I hope to add more coins to the piggy bank. I’ll be sure to share the dirty, frustrating details with you in a blog post full of words. (See what I did there?)

What writing habits do you have? What works for you?
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