Pretty In Pink

The first azalea of the season.

Agent Kristin Nelson Will Read Your Work

Okay, folks, the good people at WOW! Women On Writing have posted their new contest, which will be judged by literary agent Kristin Nelson. This is a good chance to get your work in front of a great agent. Hook her in five hundred words or less to win.

UPDATE: Yes, male writers can submit!

Here's the link: WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Contest

Good luck!

JA Konrath

Teri at Verla Kay's posted a couple of links to JA Konrath's blog--don't leave your computer without clicking on these links:

How to Find an Agent and Sell Your Writing
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (This is his blog; the link is also in my sidebar.)

Palm Trees and Giraffes

My sister says this looks like a giraffe neck:

It's part of this clump (the big W):

America's Next Top Writer

I just love America's Next Top Model--the crying, the backstabbing, the tension, and, oh, yeah, the photo shoots. I like Tyra Banks. She's offering herself as a mentor in a field in which she is a superstar.

I think there should be an America's Next Top Writer. Thousands of writers would compete for a $500,000 contract with a big name publisher, a profile in a magazine, and a free website. Big Name Writer would head up the panel, and writers like Sue Miller, Anne Tyler, Kate DiCamillo, Sara Zarr, Laura Lippman, John Sandford, Ann B. Martin and others would rotate on the panel.

Panel members cull the first thirty-six finalists from more than 45,000 queries. "You don't know how bad I want this," we cry into the camera upon hearing our names called. "I'll make my characters do anything." After this first cut, we're made to write outside of our comfort zone. The literary types have to write romance. Children's writers have to write gritty crime fiction. Crime writers have to write literary, and two of us must write in rhyme for adults. We lose sixteen writers as a result of this challenge; the rest of us are flown to the house in New York!

Cuts come rapidly after that. "Not enough personality," the panel tells us. "Too much chin. You keep using the chin." We're not allowed to smoke. Some of us don't smoke anyway, and we're secretly glad that our competitors are burdened with trying to quit while trying to win. We talk about each other, "She says she writes MG, but her characters are TOO OLD for MG!" And sometimes we help each other out, "You should use the cookbook to connect the past to the present." But we all hope to win.

During the flash contest, we're given twenty minutes--TWENTY MINUTES!--to come up with a flash fiction, five hundred words or less, that hooks the panel and makes them believe. Some of us don't make it; we've barely drafted a rough idea before time's up. Some of us have completed our assignment, and some of us feel like we've done it well. Then the panel reads what they say is the most brilliant piece produced during the session. As Big Name reads it, we look around at each other. Who wrote it? We shrug our shoulders. I don't know. Not me. Big Name reads the author's name. What? It's the writer we all hate! The pretentious one who insists upon wearing those black reading glasses she claims are prescription but one of us tried them on and they're just glass! No! This can't be happening! The world is so unfair.

Right before our meltdowns begin, Big Name peers over the top of the manuscript and stares at the writer in question. "Well-written," she says. "But you had an advantage over the other writers, didn't you?"

Our eyes lock onto the writer, her pale, unlipsticked mouth quivering. We turn like wolves on a wounded cow.

"No, no," she says, jerking her head erratically. "I . . . what are you talking about?"

"You wrote 'a lot'," Big Name says, "as one word."

The writer's mouth falls open. Her eye clear with realization. "No! NO!" She drops to the floor, a weeping heap of writer, and she's clutching the manuscript with which she'd hoped to win the 500k contract. With her tears blemishing the manuscript (she'll have to print a new one to send out now), she claws out a red pen from behind her ear. "I can edit it!" She sniffles. We like her now. We feel sorry for her. "Please!" she entreats them.

Big Name turns to the panel. With tight lips, panel member shake their heads. Big Name turns back. "Five hundred and one words. You failed to stay within word count." She lowers her voice to a dramatic timbre. "You must now return to the house, gather your belongings, and leave."

The writer doesn't get up, so grammar police grab her and escort her out. "I coulda been a contender!" she shouts as they push her forever out.

We snicker amongst ourselves. A cliche! Never use a cliche in front of the panel!

There's a feeling of relief at the house tonight. We've survived the first two challenges. Some are content enough with that and they flop onto their beds and fall asleep. The rest of the house is dark, illuminated only by laptop screens and the faces that reflect the light in front of them. We hear one writer ask another, "Is my participle dangling?"

Hack Job, Harriet the Spy, and Don't Even Ask

I find myself unwilling to give up an hour or so to go to the beauty salon for a haircut. So I chopped my own hair a few days ago. Yesterday, someone I barely know said, "I LOVE your haircut!"

Harriet the Spy: How did I go all my life without reading this book? I started it a couple of nights ago, and I'm savoring every bit of it. Harriet is one of my favorite types of characters--independent, adventurous (all that breaking and entering!), and smart. The interior dialogue is thoughtful and analytical.

Insomnia has returned over the past few nights, and I was still awake at 1:30 am. I groped for my book light and opened Harriet, forcing myself to read slowly. It took great discipline for me to save the last thirty pages for tonight.

Here's my favorite quote from the book: "Writers don't care what they eat. They just care what you think of them." (Sport to Harriet regarding his dad.) HA! So true! Especially since I understand it as "They care only how you esteem their work."

Sometimes people ask how's my writing going. I still love saying, "I sold my book!" which is how I say it. But here's how I think it: OMG! I sold my bookISOLDMYBOOK! These same people ask a few innocent questions, and then I'm off, giving them my two sentence pitch, telling them how I always wanted to be a writer, how I used to be a technical writer (at this point, I'm telling myself Shut up, already! yet I don't--I'm too excited about the whole thing--I have to hear it again!). I told my sister Don't even ask me about the writing unless you have an unscheduled block of time.

That's all for now. Hope all your writing is going well.

Snowman, Lizard, and Copyedit

Back to your routine? I am. The snowman is in, the bells are down; no matter these things are standing in my living room, the neighbors can't see them, so they think I'm all packed up like they are.

I had a bit of a problem bringing the snowman in--I didn't know it, but a lizard had stowed away and clung to the snowman until we got into the house. He waited until I closed the door before he jumped off. Screaming comes naturally to me. Some reactions people verbalize only when others are around, such as laughing at a TV show, but for me, screaming works with or without an audience.

Part of getting back into the routine includes organizing and cleaning. I've done the easy part. I've bought stuff to organize and clean with. That counts, right?

I finished the copyedit for Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning, and FedEx is taking it up to New York today. This being my first novel, it was also my first copyedit. I knew it wouldn't involve the broad suggestions of the editorial letter or the turning of phrases in the line edit, but I wasn't really sure what to expect. Here's what the copyedit addressed: a few word changes, a few tense changes, mechanical issues (punctuation, italics/Roman, compound or hyphenated words), and some queries to confirm the material. The copyeditor did a great job; I learned a few things and I might have to pass my Danette-the-Dictionary crown (acquired in sixth grade) to her. She also left smiley faces on the manuscript here and there--you can't beat that!

Write It Down! Pen and Paper Do Not Forget

We forced one of my brothers to go with us to hit the boutiques last week. He and I got caught up in some discussion while my mom and sister traipsed ahead. And that's when I said it, something brilliant:

Brother: That's brilliant!
Me: Really?
Brother: Yeah, that's really good . . . so true. [He begins to expound upon my brilliant point.]
Me: Maybe I'll save it for one of my stories.

We catch up to Mom and M.

Brother: Hey, listen to what Danette said: Lkdjjf 9e kdkjkjfhgidanv, and so lkdi ncien kdfjjiaodfn andinn eienfirumey.
[Mom nods. M is awestruck by the sheer wisdom of my words.]

I was thinking about this last night. Mainly because I cannot remember what I said. My brother does not remember what I said either. I know better than this--I keep a notebook by my bedside and parts of Violet Raines were written on the backs of grocery receipts--I should have written it down! Whatever I said was enough to impress my brother, and he's a tough audience. Now mankind is forever bereft of that piece of brilliance. I guess John Bartlett will not be calling me after all.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It wouldn't be New Year's without THE New Year's icon, Dick Clark. We rang in 2008 with Dick, Ryan and all those other people in the Big Apple. While we were waiting for the ball to drop, before the one minute countdown, we kept switching back to Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Nothing like a little post nuclear holocaust to foreshadow the new year.

It's been such a great holiday season--I'm not ready to return to normal doings, are you? It's still Christmas in my house, at least until this weekend's over, anyway. Then I'll take off my hat.