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Archive for May, 2011

Here it is! The amazing Shelley Waters is hosting a contest with agent Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates, and we writers have been counting down the days. Over the next few days, many of us will be hopping around the blogosphere and critiquing the other contestants’ first pages. My first page is below… so critique away, fellow Made of Awesome Contesters! I’m looking forward to reading all of your amazing work.

Title: Chronicity

Genre: MG Fantasy

Word Count: Currently 92, 000 (Yikes!) Soon to be 70,000

First 250 words:

Grim hated his name. It wasn’t short for Griffin, or Grissom, it was just Grim, and he’d never understood why his parents called him something that meant “extremely unpleasant”. Some kids at school, mostly girls, thought it sounded mature, but to him it just sounded depressing, and he usually thought about it on days like today, when he was supposed to be having one of the best days of his life. Why couldn’t he have had some nice, normal, average name, one that didn’t make him stick out like a sore thumb?

But then, his parents never had been exactly average. And although the Grinnerts lived in an average town, on an average street, in an extremely average house, it only took one peek inside to see that they were anything but.

The front foyer was filled to overflowing with every sort of gadget, gizmo, and useless doodad imaginable. There were machines that paired socks and threw away the strays, prototypes of vehicles that ran on powdered Tang, and widgets that molded earwax into jewelry (this last had been a pretty profitable business until someone at Broadbend General Hospital got curious as to why all the patients had such impeccably clean ears, and discovered Grim’s dad posing as a nurse and Q-tipping everyone in sight).

Every room in the Grinnert house was as cluttered as the foyer, with one exception. Grim’s bedroom was as neat as the rest of the house was jumbled. The bed, dresser and walls were bare, with not so much as a knick-knack or trophy in sight.

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To celebrate Candor week, I:

1. Yelled truthful things at a coworker.

2. Yelled truthful things about a coworker.

3. Made brutally honest remarks to a friend.

… wait, what? I missed the point?

Candor week, more than any of the others, confused me. There’s a fine line between honesty and rudeness, between candid and inappropriate, and it’s sometimes hard to tell where one stops and the other starts… especially for a Christian woman in the deep South, where we’re taught that you never, ever say anything that wouldn’t melt the sugar right out of your mouth (unless, of course, you add “bless her heart” to the end, in which case you can be as vile and uncouth as you like).

It’s also hard for me to give examples, since some of the people who gave me candor-licious food-for-thought this week may very well read this.

Now, posting those conversations would be a true exercise in candor! That blog post would be epic, and I did write it. In my head. But alas, I’m not brave enough to post it here.

Suffice it to say that what I want is to be somewhere in the middle. To be truthful without being vengeful. And to be honest without being hateful. I find this especially difficult in my job as a PR Director. When someone isn’t pulling their weight, or when someone makes a particularly asinine decision, it’s hard for me to handle that in a direct, honest, and yet kind way. It reminds me of the foot-high concrete rail around my elementary school track. Every day I attempted to tightrope walk it, but no matter how hard I tried to stay balanced, I kept toppling off.

Just yesterday, I read a facebook post written by a woman I barely know. In it, she swerved right off the edge of honesty and straight down into nastyland. When someone called her out on it, she went for the standard “I was only telling the truth.” (Even worse, it was combined with the ever popular “I’m praying for you for judging me.”) It was sad to watch, because it only made her look foolish. And the more she tried to defend herself, the more foolish she looked.

Truth is good. In fact, truth is essential. I believe in absolute truth, not some relative your-truth-is-not-my-truth mishmash. But truth without love only has the power to harm.

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Amity-Less

Well, it’s the second week of the Faction-of-the-Week Challenge, where we’re putting Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT factions to the test. This week… amity.

AMITY is the faction of: 1. friendship; peaceful harmony. 2. mutual understanding and a peaceful relationship, especially between nations; peace; accord. 3. cordiality

Easy peasy. Everyone likes a heapin’ helpin’ of hospitality, as those famous philosophers The Beverly Hillbillies would say.

I thought this challenge would be a piece of cake because my already-set-in-stone schedule would be a surefire slam dunk of amityness. Monday night we had plans to go out with some of the college kids for the amazing Emily’s birthday. The rest of the week was taken up with planning and prep, because tomorrow is the ginormous Benefit Concert for tornado victims that has been planned by our teenagers and…ahem… overseen, as it were, by the hubby and me. So, to rehash, a night with friends + helping out our neighbors? Yep. Amityland here I come!

But here’s the thing. My six-month-old screamed/cried/whined through the whole birthday dinner, so I spent the whole time bouncing, sighing, and telling the hubby we needed to go. When we left, I told him that I was officially declaring myself a hermit and not coming back out again until Bren had cut every last one of his teeth. Amity fail #1.

As for the benefit concert planning, I’m not sure it was as bad as I imagined, but in my mind it went something like this… Random Teen: Do you think we should sell brownies? Oh, thinking of brownies, today at school the snack machine… Me (interrupting): CAN WE GET BACK TO BUSINESS?!??! Random band: We can’t make it after all. Me (not to their faces but, worse, to everyone else): WHATEVER HAPPENED TO RESPONSIBILITY?!?!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!??!!? Repeat a variation of these conversations 487 times. Amity fail #2.

The life lesson here is that Amity is less about your actions and more about your attitude. Mine could use some work. What about you?

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 Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic:
How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals?It’s funny. I think back on the writing goals I’ve met – completing a chapter, completing a book, finishing the dreaded synopsis – and each time, it seems like the satisfaction of having completed it was the reward in itself. I might order a mocha, or my husband might take us out to dinner or something, but I guess I just haven’t really given myself a “reward” per se. (But perhaps I should start!)

As for the big goals, the future goals, the dream goals… well, here goes:

1. Top priority when I hit it big ;)… quit my day job. Best reward EVER.

2. A wonderful, amazing, incredible around-the-world trip. I want to see where my good friends Charlotte, Emily, and Anne once lived. Also Jane. And Charles. I want to walk on the moors. I want to go to Italy. And the Holy Lands. And Egypt. I’ve entered lots of contests and such, but alas, it seems that I’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and just become the next Suzanne Collins. 🙂

3. There is a certain person whom I would like to buy a van. And no, it is not me. But that has been on my list for a while.

4. For all other questions, see #1.

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No, not THAT Michael Jackson, silly! I want to be my coworker Michael Jackson, university assessment guru and distance learning director extraordinaire.

Why, you ask? Well, besides the fact that he can do like twelve things at once, I walked into his office today. And it was pristine.

I know that he is under all sorts of pressures and deadlines, and there was nothing on his desk but his computer and a couple of neatly stacked folders. Ray LaMontagne was playing in the background. It was all zen-like in there, and it made me think that if I could trade offices with him for one day, I could probably be super duper productive.

This is as opposed to my office, which is… er… not so zen-like. I took a picture, just to be sure. Nope. No feng shui here. 

I would like to say that I’m going to do better, and I’m going to change, and make all these commitments – but the truth is, I’m not. I’ve tried it. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

So, all I can say is, hats off to you, Michael Jackson. You’re my hero. I want to be you.

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Earlier this week, I committed to perform some act of abnegation (self-denial) as part of the DIVERGENT Faction-of-the-Week Challenge. And let me tell you… abnegation isn’t for the faint of heart.

I started the challenge with 24 hours television free. *ducks for cover* Before you mock, let me explain… I have a crazy life. Ridiculous crazy, filled with a six-month-old, fulltime job, a ministry, and sundry other things resultant from the fact that it is physically impossible for me to say “no” to anyone who asks me to help with anything. So, usually, my husband and I will put baby to bed and then enjoy an hour of Bones… or Criminal Minds… or what-have-you, just to relax. It’s mindless entertainment at its best. (I’ve now finished defending myself. Let’s proceed.)

What I learned is that making a conscious decision not to watch television is hard. It’s hard because you’re the only one doing it – and everywhere you go and everywhere you are, there’s a huge box blaring at you. I took Bren to see my grandmother… she’s got Bonanza on full blast. Go to a restaurant… they’re piping in ball games and Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s not a moment of peace to be found anywhere. On TV-free day, I enjoyed the quiet. It made me wish for more quiet moments and look for ways to root them out. I will do better at this.

My next challenge was 24 hours chocolate free. I’m not quite sure when I became a chocoholic; I only know that it happened. But you know what? This challenge was easy. I didn’t even miss it. Sweet!

Today I’m going caffeine free. *shudders* All I can say is, “Wish me luck!” This is one I want to stick with permanently. Caffeine makes me nervous, and it keeps me from sleeping well, and I hate it, yet I still love it. Call this the first day of the rest of my decaf life. I hope, I hope, I hope.

The hard part of removing something from your life is that you have to fill that little life-bit back up with something. So if you remove television, for instance, you have to put something in its place. Or instead of chocolate, carrots (eww). It’s taking the intentional road instead of the thoughtless one. I don’t think any of the things I chose were difficult to give up, but I did have to get all Robert Frostish up in here and actually think about where I was going/what I was doing. I had to decide what to do instead of mindlessly going through the motions. It meant living life with purpose, even with the small stuff. It was a good thing and I needed to be reminded of it.

Next up… 24 hours internet free. Yeesh.

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Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic:
Some audiobooks are read by celebrities. Most recently, Cassandra Clare’s CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS was partly read by Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl.  So, if you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be and why?

The answer to this question is always, always Tom Hanks. WIP, favorite novel, cereal box… it should always be read by Tom Hanks. In the words of Tom as Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

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