Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why We Query...and other dull points of Writing Interest

For purposes of pure torture, that's why. How does one cram the whole body of a novel into two or three very tight, very succinct paragraphs? For the past three weeks, I've been working, thinking, dreaming and living with this one paged nightmare crammed inside my head. And I've finally come to a conclusion.

Well...duh. Everybody in the publishing biz is looking for a pitch. They're sick of the dog-drooling, self-serving authors out there. Well, I don't know about you, but I have been caught with my mouth hanging open at a conference or two before. "Tell me about it..."

Ummmmmm. Well, it all begins when...blah-blah-blah. And then that's it. I'm tongue-tied, my eyes are bulging, and I'm looking for my first means of escape. But what I've come to find out is that I'm not practiced and polished, I don't have the plot nailed down in my head. For me, that is a danger. Back to the drawing board, you'd say. I get it. If I don't know it well enough to talk about it, it's not all there to begin with.

So...after a year of returning to the drawing board, revising and rethinking. I finally think I've written the book I set out to write. The characters are clear. There are four of them, well...four sisters telling the story, which means four voices whispering their parts. There are many characters in all. In the past, taking those four story lines and condensing all of them has been a problem. But the art of reduction, boiling it down, looking at it, practicing and polishing has finally helped me to get to where I thought I was before. And now? Voila! The query begins to take shape...and it is not so bad after all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Chance Encounters of an Occasional Shopper

Well, anyone who knows me knows that that's a big fat lie. Occasional? Okay, no. I love to shop. But. Legal shopping season is finally over. And now? I'm broke. So, I find myself in places like Target and Homegoods...not Walmart. (I'm boycotting them...but that's a whole 'nother story.) I really think if we had more art galleries around here, I'd probably be less dangerous in the wallet department, or so I tell my husband. He smirks.

I was checking out a few odd items at Target last week, laying them on the belt when I heard an unusual exchange between a customer and the cashier. "I don't know which works with my food stamps, and which doesn't, I'm really embarrassed." He had a nasally lisp and pretty much spoke at the top of his lungs, so there really was no eavesdropping going on here. Pinky swear.

"That's okay, you don't have to know...the machine just figures it out." She stood there, focused entirely on him. "And as far as the foodstamps, I just got off them. Don't be embarrassed. Everyone needs a little help sometimes." Okay, well...I wanted to reach right into my wallet, but I kept my mouth shut and gave the man the dignity and space he deserved. And really, the cashier was doing just fine without me.

But then he had to enter his pin number, and he couldn't remember it. He was in a bit of panic. The cashier was calm as a cucumber. She just reached over and the next thing I knew, she was punching in some numbers. How'd she know? Could there be some kind of emergency pin?

Now it's my turn. While he's gathering his things that are kinda sprawled out all over the place, and the cashier starts ringing mine up, he suddenly discovers something she forgot to ring on his order. She zaps my receipt, suspends my order, and he looks at me and says, "I'm really sorry." I tell him I really don't care; I'm in no hurry at all.

The cashier finishes me up then...and as I'm collecting my bags, I see him getting ready to brave the freezing cold temperatures outside. But...he's lost his gloves, so I help him out a little bit with that.
"Stay here and get bundled before you go out there," I say. I don't mean to be demeaning, it's just the mother monster inside me. He's a grown man, I tell myself.
"I know, you're right," he says. But then he stops and smiles, and he's captivated by my new boots. "Those are really cool boots."
"You like them?" I say. "Santa gave them to me."
He winks at me then. He has that little twinkle in his eye. Like...he knows who the real Santa is. "That Santa's a pretty cool dude." They're my brand new gray suedes with the buckles along the sides, and I absolutely love them too.
"Or dudette," I say. My friend is now adjusting his wool hat. He starts to crack up. I wave then and he waves back, and I head out toward my car laughing. My friend had a pretty good sense of style, that's for sure. And I had a chance encounter at Target...priceless!