6 Days Until I Can Stop Watching Television Forever

seal_of_the_president_of_the_united_states-svgThis past January, fueled by caffeine and post-flight euphoria, I promised a group of writers that I would pen 10 craft-related blog posts this year on this site. Well, kids, I’ve done this, partially on this site and partially on another–my daytime professional one. If you check my twitter posts, you will find them. Given my prolific blogging elsewhere, I figured I would burn out fast writing in two different places. You have to have separation between church and state.

Here, I will post more about my life as a person (new and different). Maybe as a writer and a wife and a New Yorker and a reader. Also a little about being a shameless seeker of cookies, Gwen Stefani/Blake Shelton updates, cheap yarn that doesn’t look cheap, and recipes I will never use. Maybe I’ll mention that I can’t turn away from election coverage and am looking forward to finally turning off the TV on 11/9.

Everything seems to have stopped until I can vote. I didn’t volunteer but I donated $$$, bought merchandise and have watched more television than is healthy. I had to procure a mouth guard from my dentist. Perhaps, there is some nervous candy bar consumption as well.  I have two 1/2 written books on hold. My normal TV watching has suffered, as in I’m no longer caught up with the Housewives or Grey’s. The apartment needs Swiffering and there are emails to answer. Stacks of puzzles to do, books to read, summer clothes to pack away, makeup to put on my face, and sweaters to bring out. And there’s my wonderful husband who, with his own insane schedule, gets take-out dinner because I am too preoccupied to shop (he does 80% of cooking). I make up for this by ironing clothes because you can do this and watch TV. That said, I do my job and make it to the gym.

For now, I’m frozen until the verdict is in. Who else is feeling this way?

Oh, and just because, I am reading two engrossing must-read books–but slowly because of TV crack-heroin-poison:

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

Can I Go Now? The Life of Sue Mengers, Hollywood’s First Superagent by Brian Kellow

Oh wait, never mind all of the above except for the book recommendations. I am way too privileged to complain.

My Tiny Presidential Pile On

I’m not going to post about the election because it feels way too cliché. Just kidding! Friends, consider me infected with the political bug. This addition to the infinity already written is only to engage like-minded spirits (and survivors)–and to vent like the red-haired vixen that I am. First, some housekeeping: I won’t argue with anyone on this site and will delete hateful comments against my candidate or me. If you don’t like what I’m posting, I encourage you to move on. Until WordPress charges me money, this is my territory. Unless you’re a hacker. Maybe I should rethink this.

Well, here goes. My name is Patience and I’m addicted to the news coverage of this damn election. It’s been at level 11 since last June. No one in this household is happy with my channel choices, least of all me. I can’t even watch Housewives or The Voice (boycotting Mark Burnett shows, sorry Blake Shelton).  Not to worry, this addiction won’t last past November 9, but until then, I’m clocked in, baby. This election feels way too important and if I watch, I’m convinced it will go the right way. Like on a plane, if I fall asleep, the plane will crash. But seriously, big moments in our history warrant our attention*.

Here comes the boring part, my history with history. Feel free to skip to the final rant. After college, I watched a lot of news because it made me feel like a grownup. What was there to watch? Oh, the Anita Hill hearings, the William Kennedy Smith coverage, then the O.J. Simpson trial. I remember them clearly, which politician/lawyer asked horrible questions–ones still around and now beloved–and who got away with abuse of women in some form. I remember how the guys at my work cheered when O.J. was acquitted. That one teacher who touched me far too casually and said, “I guess I shouldn’t touch you because of Anita Hill.” Once I saw William Kennedy Smith drive by me on my way to work. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards because he suddenly had moved nearby, in my small-ish city in the middle of the last place you would think he would live. These events kind of merged in my 20-something, new adult head as I went through the aftermath of a sexual assault–where statistics put me six feet under–and brutal criminal court experience, less than a year after my graduation. Twenty-six years later, I think about it a lot and experience it in some form every day.

My mind was made up before the release of those tapes–and yes, I know about my candidate’s baggage (about that, too, and that) and I still like her, a lot. But those tapes made what we’ve already witnessed so obviously indefensible and grotesque–enough that a few lunkheads finally smelled the foul odor and walked slowly in the other direction. Many remain firmly behind the grabber. What does that candidate have to do, dismember someone and hang her from a flag pole? It’s sad to see that savagery may not change anything. But it does change me and how I react to him and his followers.

It’s this simple: I can’t bear to be around anyone who would vote for him. It’s a vote against any woman who’s been assaulted. It’s a vote against women, period. You can’t separate this violence from a candidate. To add to these tapes, he is grotesque enough to parade a former president’s victims (alleged or not, they are victims) to rattle the opposition, opposition very prepared for all kinds of horror. Even with the escalating ugliness of this campaign, there are people walking the earth who think it’s okay to be hateful. It’s “telling it like it is,” meaning it’s okay to be a total jerk. Some people I know support him. How is this possible?

I’ve had friends from every party and I thoroughly appreciate the differences between us. While I’m passionate about my candidate, I’m more passionate that you should vote for whomever. I understand conservatives, moderates, libertarians, the green party, and progressives. They should co-exist.  This time is different, though. I can’t accept anyone in my life who believes that what happened to me and millions of women (and men) is no big deal, locker room talk. Going in that direction sets women back at least a thousand years…or sadly, twenty.

Peace be with us all. And now, I’m going to crawl back into the rabbit hole and stay quiet until I can blog about other things. Once I think what those things might be.

 

*Unless you’re really sick of the coverage, which I totally understand.

 

Welcome to Synopsis Camp!

IMG_2493What is more painful than writing a synopsis? Writing a blog post about writing synopses. Just kidding not really. While on an editor panel, I promised to write this post and I’m glad I did. From the bottom of my heart, I feel that banging out that synopsis is essential–and easy.

Let’s just get it out of the way, that every writer tells me, “I can’t write a synopsis.” And I can’t eat pickled beets unless you give me money, which is what my mother and brother did once. Seriously, you can write a synopsis. If you can write a book, you can write a synopsis. Remember high school, college? It’s a matter of getting into the right head space and practicing. I don’t blame you for complaining. I have to write synopses, too, and I do plenty of whining about it. Then I realize what a skill it is: being able to summarize your work.

One thing to note: Editors need that synopsis. They have to pitch your story to higher ups. We might even require a refresher if we haven’t looked at your book in a few weeks. There are so many books that we read between your submission and that second or third read. A synopsis turns out to be a handy guide to your story. It introduces everyone to the basics.

But how do you write a dry synopsis on a story you are so passionate about? It can be done, I swear. If we can survive the elements, reality television, and the presidential campaign, we can tackle this onerous task.

Because I hate writing synopses myself, I’ve devised a handy way to get through the pain. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

  1. Choose two days where your goal is to write the synopsis. No other writing, no other big projects. Just the synopsis.
  2. Write a logline, a one-sentence summary of your story, two sentences tops. Encapsulating your premise into one neat sentence is a talent and one you can show off when you pitch your story. You will use that logline over and over again.
  3. Prepare yourself psychologically for the longer synopsis. Editors have different requirements, but I like to ask for a five-page synopsis, double spaced. If you can do this, you’re in great shape. Line up your pencils, hydrate, and say, “I can do this.”
  4. Break down your synopsis into three parts. Act I, Act II, and Act III–but don’t label them as such in your synopsis. It’s easier to write a synopsis when you think of it in smaller segments. Never write a chapter by chapter breakdown. These are hard to follow.
  5. Write Act I in the morning. You have that surge of energy, you’ve had your coffee, so get out those first 500 words. You’ll be shocked at how little time this takes.
  6. Take a few hours off. Let Act II percolate in your head. Eat lunch. Have another coffee and then go at it. Get the middle of the story down in lovely prose. No need for gimmicks, just the story as if you were telling someone about it. Think generalities. Think that annoying paper that you’re writing for school. Readable, engaging writing that will inform the editor.
  7. Reward yourself. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Eat a Snickers and/or Cheese Puffs (see picture).
  8. It’s late afternoon, when you’re almost ready to call it a day. Maybe you want to take a nap, but you have one last item on your to do list: Act III. Make it dramatic and exciting! You’re on the home stretch!
  9. You did it. Was that so hard? Maybe, if you think mowing the lawn is hard. It’s just not something you want to do, but you did it because it needed doing. If you didn’t have a Snickers before, you deserve one now.
  10. Forget about your synopsis for the rest of the night. Sweet dreams! They will be sweet because you accomplished this one little yet crucial part of the writing process.
  11. Wakey, wakey! Don’t you hate it when people say that? I do, too, but not so much since I finished a synopsis. After breakfast or whenever the neurons start firing, go over your synopsis, revise it, edit it, then look over it five more times throughout the day. Remind yourself how awesome you are for writing a synopsis, which all of us hate to do.
  12. You are now done–and a new graduate of Synopsis Camp. For good measure and because this is a heinous chore, reward yourself often.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to go over your work, but the hardest part is often getting the words down. As a writer, though, you’re used to that, right? In conclusion, I’ll let you in on a secret. The synopsis is important, though many of editors don’t love reading them. It is truly a guide. The most important part is your voice, your story. But we still want the synopsis.🙂

When You Meet the Editor…

bitmoji-20160708104323We’re getting into serious conference season. You’re about to sign up to do a pitch, meet a publishing person for coffee, or a planned walk-by in the hall? Here are some incredibly easy ways to make this go smoothly:

Present your best self. There is no law saying you have to appear a certain way for an editor, but I notice things: a kind smile, general friendliness, cool nailpolish, maybe jewelry traits that make the writer uniquely herself. The overall package makes an impression. The best impression you can make is if you are fully yourself, open to the entire process, and ready to bring your story out into the world.

Nerves are okay. A compassionate editor will understand and guide you if your mind goes blank. We’ve been there oh so many times.  Hello, wobbly knees and shaking hands. When it’s really bad, I do as Ralph Fiennes does in Maid in Manhattan and demolish a paper clip or napkin as I’m speaking. This doesn’t happen as much anymore because of practice. When you pitch a lot, it gets easier.

Memorize the following to where it’s a mantra: My novel, _____, is a _____ word romance/thriller/contemporary novel, targeted for your ______ imprint. It’s the story of _______.  From there, you can relax. The details of your story should flow. And if they don’t, fret not! Pitching is still not the most frightening thing in the world. My cooking. That’s way scarier.

Know your publisher and editor (a bonus). The more research you do, the more prepared you’ll feel. Follow us on Twitter or whatever platform we prefer.

Have the goods. It’s one thing to be a great pitcher. It’s another to finish the book. Having a project ready to present will boost your confidence. Want even more confidence? Have that second proposal waiting in the wings.

Be friendly. Unless you get a weird vibe from one of us (it does happen), you can banter with the editor, though given the time limit, you want to get to the point.

Impress me with questions about what I do. This can help your nerves and you will show your engagement.

Spoiler: I will probably ask to read your manuscript unless it’s wildly outside the bounds of our publishing programs.

Now isn’t that easy? One calming last thought is the knowledge that editors are human. You will find us messing with our hair in the bathroom, knocking over people to get to the dessert bar (okay, that’s just me, I think), and obsessing about a book. Next week, I’ll be at a conference and I’m ready to meet some writers.

Are you ready for us?

Snapchat. Because I Should Be Folding Laundry…

If Snapchat were to go away, I don’t know what I would do. How else to torment my brother with crazy faces? Give/receive newsy messages from my BFF as things happen? Or express facially my extreme anxiety? Or have a halo, zombie face, or a cat on my head? You too could partake in such silliness.

Behold, the Gallery of Snapchat Narcissism. And this ain’t everything! I won’t show you the one where I switch faces with Simon Le Bon…

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Memorial Day Thank You

My husband is very into genealogy right now. Today, I too felt the desire to discover my roots, but not enough to download the Ancestry app. Instead, like a good American, I thought about family, friends and colleagues who served our country so bravely–I swear this is true. I’m humbled by their doing a job I couldn’t.

I thought about the soldiers in my family. As much as my relatives tried to enlist, our family is one with ailments that kept us away from any front lines (i.e. really bad eyesight, bad knees). They volunteered extensively, and I’m thankful that I grew up with family intact. Others haven’t been so lucky.

My father-in-law served in WW II, which makes him kind of ancient (and adorable). He hasn’t said much about it, though I imagine he was as persistent about serving as he is now about selling insurance. My uncle was in the Navy and so was his stepfather. My stepfather was in the Army and every now and then he’ll say something about it. When I went to work, I started to meet amazing women who served in the military and they’ve told me some harrowing tales.

Their experiences are out of my realm of understanding, but that doesn’t mean I can’t  thank them over and over again.

Thank you.