Monday, January 25, 2016

Race Recap: One Down, Eleven to go #12in12

Remember when I posted my goal of running more? Specifically, I want to run 12 5k's in 2016. Well, my first 5k of my 12 5k challenge is done!

It took a herculean effort to get to this first race. It wasn't far from home, actually, it was right up the street and had an eight am start time (not bad). All good.

I just wanted to be sleeping at home with my kitties....but, alas, I made this a goal so I was going to run this race!

Luckily it was barely cold that morning so Handsome Jack and I weren't completely miserable as we waited for the race.

There were less than 200 people running which was exciting. Sometimes a small, local race is just what you need.

We lined up at ten til eight and waited for the the starting gun...or, in this case, a guy yelling 'start.'

We jogged along pretty well in the early morning, winter mist. Not full-on rain but not fog either. I was happy to run down streets I hadn't explored before.

Then the fatigue hit. Around mile 1 I was feeling flat. My break from running really showed. My muscles didn't hurt or ache but I felt sluggish. My cardiovascular fitness just wasn't there.

Now, I should say Handsome Jack was running on a torn ACL. Yep, that's right, he tore his ACL last year and we are waiting for a surgery slot so he can get it fixed. So when we targeted this race we knew it would be a slow, run-walk, starter race.

And we did walk.

We finished the 5k in 41.20. Not my worst time but certainly not my best. It's reminiscent of my first ever 5k's back in 2008. Sigh. It's amazing how fast your fitness can go.

But you know what, it's okay. It's a starting place. I can only get faster from here.

It was a great start to my goal. One down, eleven more to go!

To help me keep focused on my goal of 12 5k's in 1 year (not necessarily one a month but not necessarily not one a month, you know) I signed up for the 100 days of miles challenge. Check it out here.

The challenge comes with a super cool medal. Can't wait to earn that bling.

After the race I got back into studying.

Have you run any races in January? Share your experiences here:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I survived 1L exams - sorta #1LHell

So I survived my first pass at law school exams. Sorta. Or, said precisely, I survived exams but not without incident. In fact, the incident was a major, end-of-the-world mental breakdown. And I hope sharing my experience may help someone else. So, here we go:

Like a lot of law schools Profs, my Torts Prof stressed again and again that our take home exam could NOT be late under any circumstances. In fact, I believe the syllabus said we would be counted off 10% for every MINUTE the exam was late.

Now the concept of this late pentalty didn’t phase me, at first, because my Torts Prof also said that we would have 6 hours to complete an exam that should only take us 3 hours. So, why stress about a deadline that I’m sure to beat?

Then the exam rolled around. I studied with my study group for anywhere from 20-30 hours in the weeks before the exam. I felt ready. I wasn’t nervous, per say, more like excited.

I popped open the take home exam starting the 6 hour time clock and got to work.

I worked my little heart out. The exam was two questions. The first was your typical, crazy Torts fact pattern where everything that could go wrong would go wrong. The second question was a policy question (not uncommon in a Torts exam).

Now, you’re probably thinking, “two flipping questions? You lost your f’ing mind over two stinking questions?”

Yes. I did.

And here’s why:

I spent all six hours on the first question. It wasn't intentional. I simply didn’t manage my time well because I thought I’d finish in three hours (like the Prof said) and I wouldn’t even need to manage my time.


The first question completely kicked my ass. It was two and a half pages single spaced. There were a boat load of legal issues and a ton of potential litigants.

This question was at least twice as long as the hypos we ran during our study session (btw, E&E's are fab). Not only was the question longer, but it was more dense.
It was just packed with crap.

I spent at least one of the six hours OUTLINING my answer!!! Now, for those experienced in the way of law school exams you're thinking, "okay, an hour to outline? That's amateur hour. You must have chased issues that weren't actual issues." And you'd be correct. I'm owning that 100%.This was my first attempt at a law school exam. I prepared but I didn't really know what to anticipate.

But none of that worried me. I was calm and steady and went about my business detailing the issues and rules affiliated with intentional torts, negligence, and products liability. I raised defenses and tried to argue the points of law from both sides.

When I was nearly done with my first question I looked down at the clock and realized I had THREE MINUTES LEFT TO FINISH THE TEST AND UPLOAD IT TO THE SITE.

Cue major freak out!

My hands started shaking. My heart erupted into a thunderstorm of flutters and palpitations. I felt dizzy.

How did I let this happen? Where did the time go? What could I do?
I typed with trembling fingers a few bullets under question 2 (policy question) and hit save. Then I tried to log back into the electronic blue book site (aka the devil’s website) and that’s when the real panic set in.

I couldn’t log in.

I had 60 seconds to upload my exam or it would be late and I COULDN’T GET IN!

I started hyperventilating. My ears were ringing and my eyes swamped with tears.

This wasn’t happening, I thought. This must be a nightmare.

I took a deep breath and tried again. Still couldn’t get in. I tried again and again….nothin.

I was locked out of the site.

At this point the clock said I was thirteen minutes late. THIRTEEN!

That would mean I would get 130% deducted from my exam for being late (remember when the class stressed a 10% reduction in grade for every MINUTE it was late.)

I literally screamed. I wailed. I howled. I was devastated.

I had just flunked out of law school because of a stupid mistake!!!

Cue vomit. Literally.

That’s right. I threw up. I started crying hysterically and basically lost my mind. I tried again and again to get into the web site with no luck.

I remembered that if we had IT problems we were supposed to email the registrar….but I didn’t have their email address. So I set out on the web to find their email info.

Now you may be wondering why I didn’t just email the prof and explain my situation to him. In law school all grading of exams is anonymous. We aren’t allowed to discuss our exam tragedies with our profs.

I found the registrars email address and phone number and began calling. My calls went to voice mail. I left 4 hysterical voice mails (not intentionally, mind you, I was just that flipped out) and pleaded my case. I explained the mistake and the situation and that I wasn’t trying to pull one over on anyone. I cried.

Inbetween phone calls I sent emails. Broken, choppy, typo-filled emails with trembling fingers pleading my case. Nothing. No response.

I calmed down a bit – the horrible reality and crushing embarrassment settled over me (OMG I FLUNKED OUT OF LAW SCHOOL!) . I called the registrar again. This time, calm. And started repeating my case. Calmly.

But by the end of the message I was hysterically crying again.

I was a disaster.

Finally, about an hour and a half AFTER the exam was due I received an email from the registrar.

I assumed my career in law was over. Done. Just like that. In a blink of an eye. In a moment. All the possibilities were burned to the ground. All because of a dumb mistake.

My muscles hurt. My throat hurt. My face hurt from throwing up. I was shaking like a leaf and I sprawled out on the bathroom floor because it was cool on my flaming hot skin.

It was over.

I imagined telling my family that I failed. I pictured the disappointment on their face when I explained how and why I failed. The stupidity of everything.

And then I pictured telling my coworkers at my Day Job. And my friends.

Tears streamed down my face but I wasn’t shuddering with sobs anymore. I ached all over and lacked the strength to sob.
I literally thought my dream was dead.

But then my phone dinged. It was an email from the registrar. She said not to worry. That they have a handful of kids every year who can’t upload to the site and just to email her my exam.

I did.

But I also explained that it was now almost two hours late and I was going to fail because of the deductions for being late.

She responded saying not to worry, that they don’t count off for lateness if the exam is late due to technical difficulties.

And just like that, in a two sentence email, all my crying and hysterics were wiped clean.

I wasn’t going to fail (necessarily). I wasn’t going to get penalties for being late. I wasn’t technically late.

I worried and lost my shit for nothing. NOTHING.

Sure, I spent all my time on the first answer and didn’t actually answer the second question. But that didn’t mean I would fail. Even with that major blunder I could still ride the curve to success.

In the course of eight little hours I had: poured my brain into an exam answer, lost my mind, imaged the worst, cried until I threw up, and then was told not to worry – that it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

It was like the clouds parted and a beam of light shone right on my face. I was going to be okay. I frantically researched the minimum passing grade in order to not have to repeat the class (D, btw). And then I searched for the curve distribution from the previous years. Only 3 people get D’s. No F’s.

That means even if I get the lowest grade in the class I will get a D. That’s not failing. And as unpleasant as receiving a D would be it’s not all bad because: I will not have to repeat the class!!! (God I love the curve)!

And when grades came out I was pleasantly surprised to receive a grade much higher than a D.

So, why share my humiliation an pain?

Because so much of law school is about competition and being the best. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you aren’t on top you must be failing and the world is ending. It’s simply not true.

You can get low grades and still pass. You can think you did poorly on an exam and still do well.

Law school isn’t easy. It’s meant to be hard.
Embrace the hard --Embrace the journey--and don’t lose it over the little stuff.

Monday, January 18, 2016

7 Literary Agents To Follow In 2016

Over the last few years I've been spreading the word about some awesome Agents out there.

Usually the posts about agents are among my most popular posts. Which is great – yay page views. But over time the information shared in my previous posts became outdated. Agents leave the business or close to submissions and therefore tweet less, etc etc. This business is fast moving and full of surprise.

So once again it's time for a new and improved: 7 Literary Agents You Should Be Following in 2016. This list is comprised of Agents who provide helpful feedback or resources to writers via twitter:

1. Jennifer Laughran aka @literaticat - Jennifer has been known to blog and tweet sage advice. I love her Big Ol' Genre Glossary.

2. Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management. She's bright, happy, and upbeat. She has recently been involved online and participates in contests. Follow her on twitter to check out all her wonderful advice.

3. Pam Howell aka @bookaliciouspam - A self proclaimed super geek which immediately makes her awesome. Her blog is a terrific resource. She's moved around a bit but her advice is on point, as always.

4. Peter Knapp with New Leaf Literary. He reps a lot of fabulous clients and interacts with a lot of folks online. Follow him to learn what he's looking for before submitting.

5. Sara Megibow aka @SaraMegibow, with KT Literary. She does #Tenqueries and tweets great feedback.

6. Bree Ogden: of Red Sofa Literary (formerly of D4EO). Tweets regularly and columnist at LitReactor. She reps darker lit and has a quirky sense of humor and style.

7. Mandy Hubbard: of Emerald City Literary Agency (formerly of D4EO). She recently launched her own agency and tweets regularly. Her insight has been very influential in my writting evolution (I even took her LitReactor class on YA).

And for a bonus:

Mark O'Brien - okay, he's not a literary agent but he is an intern at Entangled Pub. He tweets amazing insights into writing and life (always with a splash of humor). He is a terrific resource so check him out.

Want more Agents to follow? Check out this post.

Which Agents do you love to follow? Has an agent tweet helped you on your path to publication?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

TBT: What To Do With Feedback: Tackling Revisions #amediting

It's a new year and that sometimes means a new WIP. If you are like me, you're probably editing an old WIP while you draft a new one. When I tackle and editing project I love to check out this post. It's a reminder that even when projects seem huge it is manageable.

Here are some suggestions on how to wrestle feedback into productivity.



You’ve done it. You’ve written a book baby and sent it out into the wild, vicious world….or, in actuality, the open arms of your CP’s. Those wonderful, insightful, challenging CP’s who really want what’s best for you and your book baby.

And what do you get? Feedback. Hopefully buckets of it. Here’s the thing, not all of that feedback will be good.

In fact, if you are lucky, a lot of it will be difficult, hard-to-swallow, gut wrenching feedback.

Did she say lucky? About receiving difficult feedback?

Yeah, buddy. I sure did.

Positive feedback is great but it doesn’t help you grow. It’s the challenging feedback that makes us, and our books, better.

So what do you do with all that feedback? Every writer manages it differently. Here’s how I tackle revisions:

1. Read over all the notes in the MS in one sitting.

If you are receiving feedback in chunks (as in ch 1-6 one week and 7-10 the next, then read through all the notes in the chunk available).

2. Suppress all urges to defend your book baby. It’s natural for a momma bear to defend her cubs. It’s okay that you have that urge. But you need to suppress it to improve.

3. Separate positive feedback and put it aside. Positive feedback is the best. It feels good and makes you smile. ‘This person gets it,’ you think. ‘I am a genius, see, my CP gets me.’ Enjoy the feedback and then set it aside.

4. Consider storing positive feedback in it's own file. I like to store these self-esteem inflating nuggets of feedback in a separate word doc. Stuff that works. Put it aside and open it when you need a shot of confidence about your story or your writing skills.

5. Bucket ‘constructive’ feedback into two camps: Quick Fixes and Rewrites (I do this by color coding the notes. Easy stuff gets one color and rewrites get another.) Note: If the feedback isn't constructive at all (as in, is just shitty, then dismiss it.) I consider Quick Fixes to be any tense errors, missing words, necessary dialogue tags, copy/paste errors, etc. Rewrites, for me, are any questions digging into character motivation, suggested rewording, continuity errors, etc.

6. Tackle quick fixes fist. They're easy and completing these will feel good. Get them out of the way.

7. Take a break.Step away from the project and clear your mind.

This could be a day or a month. Whatever it takes to ensure you’re looking at the MS with fresh eyes.

8. Now tackle rewrites. I start by dividing rewrites into two buckets: rewrites I’m excited about and rewrites I’m not excited about (or don’t fully agree with - yet.) Why? Because rewrites are tough.

It’s hard to tear a story apart and stitch it back together again. It’s a bit like reconstructing Frankenstein’s monster from the inside out, with nothing more than a headlamp, a dull needle and some embroidery thread. So, if I’m going to dig into the monster and get dirty, I’m going to start with the rewrites that get me excited. Suggestions that totally make sense to me or the ‘OMG why didn’t I think of that’ ideas that really get my blood pumping. I work those items into my story first. Warning: This part of the revision can take time. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself during this process.

9. Next, I take a long, hard look at the stuff that didn’t resonate with me right off the bat and ask the following questions:

Why didn’t I like this idea?

If my answers are “it’s too hard,” or “they just didn’t get what I was trying to do” I mark those items as seriously need to reconsider. Just because a change is hard doesn't mean it would not be worthwhile.

How would this idea strengthen my plot? Seriously pause and consider this.

How would this idea strengthen my character? Again, seriously consider it.

10. What I’m usually left with after the question/answer reflection is a list of lots of tough rewrites. The didn’t-resonate-at-first-but-now-totally-makes-sense revisions are some of the hardest revisions, IMO. These rewrites sometimes require other, supporting rewrites. But by this time in my revision process I’m generally convinced they will make my story better and I’m actually excited about them. My blood is pumping. So I dig back into that rotting corpse that is Frankenstein’s monster - aka, the book baby - and start hacking and stitching until it’s done.

That’s it. That’s how I tackle rewrites.

It helps, I think, to remember your CP’s feedback is a precious gift. CP feedback is insight you cannot possibly have yourself because you are too close to the project. Treat their feedback with the respect it deserves. This means taking the time to truly consider it. Often we need to let the suggestions simmer in our brains before we can truly decide if it is right for our book or not. Revisions aren’t done overnight.

It’s not about what was ‘wrong’ with your book baby, rather, what can be done differently. Approach feedback as an opportunity and you might just find new skills, perspectives, or ideas you didn’t originally consider.

Sure, growth is hard. But it is necessary and, in the end, totally worth it.

What approach do you take to tackling rewrites?

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Goals and my personal happiness project

If you’ve swung by this blog in the last few years you’ve probably noticed my strange, sometimes creepy obsession with goals. You might even say I’m Gollum-like in my obsession with goals.

That’s because I believe goals are the fuel of progress. It’s cheesy but true. If you want to change, grow, learn, or do (something, ANYTHING) then setting goals will get you there.

Because success doesn’t materialize like magic. You have to work for what you want. But you don’t want to run blindly at a goal. To make the most of your efforts, and to make large goals more attainable, I say break down your goals into smaller parts.

Last year was a wild ride because I started law school. I shortened my goal year to Jan – Aug instead of Jan – Dec. Aside from that change, however, I stuck to my standard SMART goal process (heck, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, amirite?). Check out my overview of SMART goals here.

But this year I wanted to try something a little different. You see, I’ve recently finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

The book suggested working on 12 small goals (one each month of the year) instead of a few large resolutions.

I loved the concept. So this year, in an effort to be more flexible (since I’m still in school), I’m doing 12 goals with subparts. Not all of these meet the SMART goal standard. That’s okay. Different is not wrong – it’s just different.

Here’s what I’ll be working on for 2016:


I. Make Room for Life:

a. De-clutter closets, Kitchen and pantry, living spaces, cars

II. Give more of myself:

a. Be more present with Jeremy (develop limits on social media and create no phone zones)

b. Plan a family vacation

c. Make gifts by hand

III. Make time for friends:

a. Visit

b. Do lunch with someone you haven’t seen

IV. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude:

a. Journal

b. Volunteer pro bono

V. Make time for family:

a. Call more

b. Visit with parents, brothers, sister, sister-in-law, brothers-in-law, and in-laws

VI. Make room for things I enjoy:

a. Write more/ Blog more

b. Sing more

c. Dance more

d. Move more

VII. Learn something new:

a. Make up

b. Hair style

c. Take a painting class

d. Take a riding class

VIII. Develop a healthy habit:

a. Care for your skin

b. Floss more

c. Practice mindfulness

d. Cook more

e. See a nutritionist

IX. Give up a bad habit:

a. Break up with soda

b. Stop overeating

c. Stop negative thoughts

X. Have more fun with fitness:

a. Try a new class (cycle or Zumba)

b. Race more (12 5k’s in 2016)

c. Try Yoga

XI. Make time for sewing:

a. Alter/rescue something vintage and cool

b. Costumes for dragoncon

c. Cosplay at dragoncon

XII. Travel:

a. Go somewhere new


These are my goals now. I may miss the boat on some of these. That's okay. Not reaching a goal within the desired timeline is not failure. Failure is not trying in the first place.

Also, it is entirely possible that life might get in the way. That's okay. Hell, life is what this whole mess is about anyway (so I say, bring it on). If life gets in the way I'll redefine my timeline or goals life I have in the past.

It's all about balance.

You might have noticed I didn't have a boat load of specific writing related goals on this list. That was intentional. I haven't given up on writing and publishing. I'm still passionate about it. But I want to free myself of arbitrary structure for a while and just write. I can't wait to see what happens.

What are your goals for 2016?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tips for tackling your first semester of law school #1Lhell

When my study group and I were wrapping up our first semester of law school we reflected back on what we wish we would have done to make the semester a little less stressful.

School is hard enough without making it harder by missing opportunities. Effective and efficient management of school work is the name of the game.

So, for those of you crazy enough to attempt the JD degree, here are the 5 tips from my study group on how to effectively prepare for exams:

1. Do your reading. This should go without saying but I said it so I’m going to talk about it. Being prepared is a big deal in law school. It’s considered unprofessional to show up without having done the reading. Read your cases. Brief your cases. Some upperclassmen may tell you not to ‘waste’ time with briefing but to them I say “back off you crazy, lazy, gunning b*stards.” Briefing is a substantial study tool and a helpful skill to develop. Don’t sell yourself short. You got here – now do the work.

2. Start outlining earlier! If your school is anything like mine, then they will have this super nice Academic Success Program. The program involves students presenting on tips and tricks for succeeding in law school. One of the tips they offered was to wait to outline until November (about a month before exams). The theory was that you, as a new law student, wouldn't really understand how the rules fit together so your outline wouldn't make sense. But, I'm telling you, start as soon as possible. And when I say start, I mean, grab the table of contents for your case book and compare it to your syllabus. Write up a rough outline of subjects using those two resources as a guide. Do it before classes start if you can. And then, each week, type your class notes under the applicable section heading. This will help you tremendously when exams are looming over you.

3. Type your notes each week. Some of my professors didn't allow laptops in class which meant taking notes by hand. This didn't bother me because the act of writing something down always seemed to cement it in my mind. However, outlines are typed. And outlining is easier and faster if your notes are typed. Just don't do what most of my study group did - don't let your notes pile up. It's overwhelming and you don't need anything else overwhelming on your plate.

4. Run hypos sooner. When you get close to exams you'll likely want to run hypos. This means finding a study aid (like E&E's) and reading their hypothetical questions and noodling out your best guess of an answer. We did this for hours and hours on end before exams. But we all agreed it would have helped us tremendously if we had tackled hypos each week. Learn something new in Contracts? Run a corresponding hypo to make sure you understand the material. The exercises help you recall the concepts and keep the materials fresh.

5. Meet with your study group sooner. We all agreed we wish we would have started meeting sooner. Meet each week. Meet whenever. But meet sooner than you think you need to. Meet and discuss what was covered in class. Meet and talk through your questions. Meet and work on your collaborative outline. Do whatever. But meet. Meeting helped us stay accountable and kept us on track.

Hope these tips help. Have additional tips? Share them here.
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