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My year end look back usually takes a month later to actually occur.  It gives me plenty of time to get out of my funk about what I didn’t accomplish and focus on what I did.  This year end has been completely different.  I’ve been rattling on to everyone who will listen about what a fantastic year I had.  Maybe it’s because I already went through my funk.  Or maybe it’s because the year was pretty kick ass!  Here’s why (with pictures of course!):

Mikel and Me:

How could I ignore the fact I was able to meet Mikel Jollett not once, but twice, this year?  Of course I couldn’t.  I get the most hits on this little ole blog from “Mikel Jollett Author” and “Mikel Jollett Girlfriend.”  Boy, those people must be very disappointed to see my face and bubble art.  But back to Mikel and me.  Sure, the first time we shared a moment; his face beamed with charisma.  The second one…not so much.  Either way, it’s one of those surreal things.  I mean, if you would’ve told me I could have the opportunity once this year, I would have been ecstatic.  I was fortunate to get a twofer.  It doesn’t mean I’m done with him yet.  He will be on the resolution page (coming soon) as well.

Meredith Barnes Kicks Ass!

OMG…Isn’t she fabulous?!?

The year started with a chance encounter with Meredith through her blog because of winning a tag line contest.  What it turned into was a defining moment.  I really can’t go on enough about how much I adore her.  Yes, you people who deal with me face to face already know because I gush on a regular basis about her awesomeness.

There are times where I read blogs about writers doubting the humanity of agents.  This is a completely foreign concept in my mind.  They have always been gracious, friendly, and they pretty much bend over backwards to be helpful.  Does it mean they signed my work?  Or begged me to send my grocery list because all my writing is that awesome?  Of course not.  Does it mean I have the utmost respect for them?  Sure the hell does.  Meredith is a fine example if you need one.

Cookie Love:

Bears

If 2010 was about cupcakes and cookie pops, 2011 was about the flood cookie.  I’ve watched Martha Stewart do it for years and made a few attempts before with terrible results.  With some wild hair one weekend, I was determined to figure it out.  I learned a lot in the process, most of which I was able to apply to writing and this blog.

Beautiful Music:

Snuggling up with Luke from Atomic Tom.  (Oh, he didn't know we were snuggling.)

Snuggling up with Luke from Atomic Tom. (Oh, he didn’t know we were snuggling.)

This may tread dangerously close to Mikel and me, but I had a record year for concerts with a total of 5!  The amazing part is the fact I live in a small town where no one dares to mark on their tour map.  This year I saw Atomic Tom, Cold War Kids, The Airborne Toxic Event (2), B-52s, Human League, and Men Without Hats.  It was epic.  I Safety Danced hard core.

Urban Girl:

My Rockin' Docs

My Rockin’ Docs

After ten years of living in Oregon and barely making it out of my county limits, I headed for the big city and Urban Girl was born.  Work trips and concerts traveled my hipness to Portland where I dined on fancy food, walked the streets like a pro (hey, wait a minute….), and drank micro brews with the best of them.  In a drunken stupor mid-day, Hubs and I walked into a Doc Martin store and I strolled out with these bad boys.  Hey-oooo!!!!  Portland is one of those things I commit to doing again this year.

Ze Blog:

The accomplishment I’m most proud of (and have you to thank) is the fact I have blogged the entire year.  I don’t have a schedule and I’m no where near my blogging idol, Tawne Fenske, but I’ve kept at it pretty steady.  I’ve incorporated my love for stories, baked goods, and Mikel Jollett to create something I am really proud of.  This place is me.  It’s what I do.   It’s who I am.  It’s what I love.

Mi Familia 2011

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Writing is like high school.  You’d think I’d be keen to this idea since I spend my nights acting like a teenager.  (When I’m writing Young Adult…not bumping ‘n singing with gal pals.)  But the idea brings with it all the ups and downs of high school too.  The writing world is most similar to adolescent insecurity with its clique breakdown.  Authors are divided out into groups of coolness whether they like it or not.  And when there is a top, there is always a bottom.

The Uber Popular Upper Classmen:

This is the granddaddy of all awesome.  The percentage allowed into this very small group of people is so small, there aren’t enough zeros to go before the decimal.  Here you will of course find JK Rowling.  She could put out a book about Harry Potter’s dog and there would be a crush to make it a best seller on the pre-sale alone.  She can do this because she is that good.  You can’t even look at her directly for fear your eyes will melt because she is that far out of your league.

The Ugly Duckling:

We’ve all seen it.  There was a summer vacation where the nerdiest person took three months to bloom into someone unrecognizable.  They went from a shunned outcast to being welcomed into the popular crowd with open arms.  I imagine Stephanie Meyer in this group.  Her story of quick success is as lucky as getting your braces off, rocking a hot new rack, and highlighting your hair perfectly all over a three-month hiatus from school.  She will never be able to shed her nerdy past and some will remind her of it on a regular basis, but it doesn’t matter.  She still scores with any dude she wants.

The Populars:

As they were in high school, the popular crowd was a mixed bag.  Some were pretty cool and some were assholes.  But it was agreed by all they were popular.  They strutted their stuff in the elite crowd and those of us on the outside wondered what it was like.  Was it all keggers and making out with college guys?  This is the world of an agented and/or published author.  They’ve broken out from the majority who are still working hard to pair the right material with the right skill like a well-designed wardrobe.  The Populars are close enough you think you can touch them like they are real people, but sadly admit you aren’t friends.  Today, I’m putting Tawne Fenske in this group (as one of the cool ones, of course.)  She’s one of those Populars where it totally makes sense because even the cynical you can’t deny she’s got great charm.  She doesn’t get lost in her superior status, instead choosing to talk to everyone like they are equals,  which only makes you love her more.  You may be jealous of her standing, wishing you could be just like her, but you can’t deny your want for her to do well by supporting her bid for class president.  (Or debut book release…have you bought Making Waves yet?)

The Fringe:

This is the group that’s on the outside.  It’s the purgatory like status where you don’t really know what you are.  You may deem yourself cooler than the Nerds because you have a nice core set of friends and get the occasional nod from a Popular.   But you are still awkward at times in trying to figure out where you fit into the social structure.  As it was in high school, I think this is my group.  I’ve done some work to understand the writing world a LOT more than I did three years ago, but no where yet in the universe of the Populars.  There’s been no life changing summer from junior high to high school to give me Ugly Duckling hopes.  Instead I will need to continue working hard if I want to bust through to the next social status.  Hubs famous line about my high school self when we started dating, “You were the coolest out of your nerdy friends.” 

 Neeeeerrrrrds!

While usually this term is associated with the intellectually advanced, in the writing high school cliques it’s the naïve.  We’ve all been there with the wide eyes of excitement at the thought of completing our first novel.  We had no idea how bad it stunk.  Instead we walked around in unknowing bliss with toilet paper hanging from our shoe and “kick me” posted on our back.  It doesn’t take long to realize people are distancing themselves from you like the plague.  The subtle hints of stacks of rejections make you aware that plaid and stripes do not go together. 

What brought on this breakdown of writing cliques?  When a Popular retweeted a message of mine and I considered calling everyone I know at ten o’clock at night to tell them about it.  I felt sixteen all over again.  I often wonder what it would be like to be in their shoes.  Do they have insecurities about who they are and what they’ve written?  Or is there comfort in being agented, published, and knowing you’ve gotten farther than the majority? 

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Uh, yeah, of course I retweeted it!

 

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Music has always played an important part in my life.  My most vivid memories involve music.  When I was ten years-old, I snuck out of bed in the middle of the night to watch a Men At Work concert on MTV.  (I’d still do it today if they played music on MTV.)  In fifth grade, I experienced my first live concert, which was Cyndi Lauper (still a totally kick ass concert memory.)  Half her head was shaved in a criss-cross pattern like a pie crust top while the other side flowed with fire engine red locks.  Even though it was at a fairground reeking of cow shit, it was the most glamorous thing I’d ever seen.

In high school, my melancholy moods were accompanied by The Smiths’ “Strangeways, Here We Come,” and Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumors.”  My first boyfriend played in a band and I’d sit in some dive studio on a garage sale couch to watch for hours.  I never complained about the springs stabbing my ass through the cushions or the fact the place reeked of “boy.”  There was also a time I watched a band play in a storage unit.  Cramped and claustrophobic, but you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face if you tried. 

In college, I found a security position for concerts, rubbing down bodies for weapons, alcohol, and cameras.  Needless to say, we had a pretty good stash at the end of the night of cameras and drinks.  Although my hands were filthy with the grime of fake leather, that shitty job guarding bathrooms let me see some cool shows, briefly talk to Perry Ferrell, and watch Ozzy Osbourne take a leak outside the back door. 

Now as an adult, the last couple years have blown my mind with concerts.  I’ve talked to people I idolize for using their awesome talent.  It never fails after I see a show; I can’t listen to anything else.  The leftover energy fuels me forward.  Their performance, their passion, their emotion powers me to continue even when I’m tired.  Maybe it’s a concert honeymoon phase.  Regardless of the reason, it’s magical.

Every night when I write, there are ear buds in my ears with a shuffle of my favorite bands*.  It’s no surprise each of my books contain music.  My current WIP (work in progress), Spite, is about a girl writing a song to revenge a wrong from high school.  To be honest, my books probably always will have an element of music running through them.   Music has always meant something special.  It brings comfort in times when I desperately need it.  I wonder if it’s this way for many writers?  I’ve seen blog posts about the soundtracks going along with books.  Kody Keplinger had one for “The Duff.”  A single song inspired her to write the book.   Tawna Fenske regularly listens while she writes and has four blogs with music being a subject.  Is there a connection for artists to other artists?  Do we feed off their creativity to build on our own?

What do you think?  Do you write and listen to music?  Does your music influence your writing?  In what way?  Or heck, just list off some of your favorite songs/groups.  I’m always looking for new music. 

*Right now I’m listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket.

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Recently, there have been some posts on my regularly visited blogs (Tawna Fenske and dammit, I can’t remember the other) about how “not to” deal with rejection.  The sentiment was not to whine in public view when it happens to you.  (And yes, of course, it’s going to happen to you.  Although you may view your writing as indestructible as Superman, you’ll quickly discover rejection kryptonite leaves a mark.)  This got me thinking about when I started this process two years ago and the rejections which started rolling in after six months.  Did I handle it like a mature writer who knows it’s part of the process or did I whine and cry like a little baby?

Admittedly, I was a baby.

But aren’t we all when we start the process?  We write a novel with wide-eyed hope of seeing our name splashed across a hard back cover in some fancy font and sitting on the main display table of Barnes and Noble.  At that point we’re basking in the success of having a 70,000 word completed piece of work.  There were times it was a question if we’d even get that far.  But, we haven’t done any research, asked any questions, or done any hard work to find out about the business except for writing the damn thing.  (Which you soon realize is just the first step.)  If you have any questions if writing is for you, check out this blog.

Now, I know I went out to query waaaaay too early with my first book.  I did some research to find out I needed a query letter to get an agent and an agent to get a book deal.  I read through a few query examples on “Absolute Write” and composed a letter following the rules.  All I needed was for an agent to give me a chance.  Another naive thought from a writing adolescent.  The letters were sent with feverish pace to every agent I could find in one of those thick agent books.  

I got a couple partials and one full manuscript request from an evolving query letter.  The rejections from agents who had given my book a chance stung more than the generic mass mailing of “This isn’t for us…Good luck.”  But, I must admit my favorite rejection was my own typed letter back with a big “NO” written in pen across the front.  And while at the time I thought I was right to rant and rave about the process, I know now I was going through the teenage rebellion of my writing lifecycle.

The first mature thing I did in my young adulthood was shelf my first novel.  It was painful because I loved those characters and wrote a sequel to the first.  (Another rookie move.)  I hope one day when I am more mature, I’ll write them in the novel they deserve.  I submerged myself in the writing world by reading books on structure, following agent and author blogs, and understanding other parts of the business.  One example, is following my favorite agents’ reading chocies, writing preferences and clients’ books.  Right now it may look like I’m stalking Suzie Townsend’s reading list, but I’m doing my homework.  I’ve learned so much in the last year about the process that I won’t sabotage my latest work by being impatient or ill-informed. 

So how old am I?  A woman never tells.  Honestly, I’m not quite sure.  I’ve grown a lot and I can see the rejections for what they are…feedback.  (Okay, maybe I’m not that mature yet.)  I won’t brag I have a thick skin because I don’t.  I doubt I ever will.  It hurts when your piece is rejected, but isn’t it supposed to?  If it didn’t, I’d wonder how much passion I had for it in the first place.  But, does it mean I’ll fall on the ground in a fist-pounding, leg-kicking tantrum?  No, I can safely say I’ve outgrown that.

What about you?  How do you deal with rejection?  What stage are you in of your writing life?

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As I’ve mentioned before, one of the first piece’s of wisdom when becoming a writer is “Don’t write a book about your life.  You aren’t that interesting.”  Sage advice.  But don’t you wish at times you could be the main character in the story of your life?  You may think it’s a given since you’re living it.  But referring to the advice up top, your life is not what a story is made of.

The exciting part about being a main character is you say all the right things.  You can be witty, funny, smart, or sharp at any time.  Your thoughts and words have been carefully crafted, re-read and edited.  They’re created with emotion and analyzed to ensure it’s the most succinct way to get your point across.  Conversations with others can be quick-witted, firing words back and forth with lightening speed and delivering the perfect blows.  (Ha, she said blows.)  So why can’t we do this in real life?  How many times have you woken up the next day, after a heated conversation taking place the night before, and slapped your palm against your forehead screaming “I should have said that.”  Hubs and I have a favorite joke in those moments where we quote George from Seinfeld with “The jerk store ran out of you.”  A classic episode about this exact idea.

Also in a book there will be personal growth from beginning to end.  A person starts out one way with a flaw and will resolve that by the end.  A lesson will be learned even through humiliation, gut-wrenching emotions, or unimaginable bliss (maybe even all three.)  The main character will work through a perfectly created problem and come out the other side a better person.  (They will if the book is successful.)  Wouldn’t it be nice if lessons were learned in three hundred pages?  

And do I even have to go into the romance?  Tawna Fenske (yes, my blogging idol) had a great entry about making love in a field with her husband.  She’s a romance writer so it must be even more tempting to indulge in those romantic opportunities.  If you read it, you will see her husband brought her back to the reality of a field crawling with bugs, passing hikers, and even piles of horse shit.  Not so romantic after all.  Along those lines, I wouldn’t want my husband to be dead, an angel, or a serial killer even though the books I’ve read lately (two I love–Sookie Stackhouse and Dexter) have these characters.  But boy howdy, some of those scenes with vampires are sure steamy and get the heart racing.  (For those that still have hearts that beat.) 

If this is to be taken seriously, it looks like I never have witty dialogue, any emotional development, and my love life might be less than passionate.  The funny part is my life is just the opposite.  Some may disagree with the witty dialogue part and think I’m always pullin’ a “George,” but I do know there has been personal growth (even in last year) and Hubs definitely still lights my fire.  Does this make me a main character?  No.  This makes me a person.  And it helps me create better main characters because I bring my pieces of reality to them.  They are lucky to have a delete key to erase their mistakes.  But that’s what makes it fiction.

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Inspired by my favorite blogger, Tawna Fenske, I’ve decided to add a feature of phallic baked goods.  Tawna is a romantic comedy writer from Oregon and she is hella funny!  She has a great writing style and sometimes humor of an eleven year old boy (which I LOVE.)  She goes through her garage  or Home Depot and makes all the tools sound dirty and posts it.  It’s hilarious. 

So, here I have a cupcake in it’s early stage.  As I had ten of them staring back at me, I couldn’t help but giggle (like an eleven year old boy.)  Can you guess what it will be? 

I’ll post the answer (with photos) as soon as they’re done.

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