Friday, July 29, 2011

That post where I compare Mommyhood with Writer-hood (oh wait, that's every post)

I was the supremo annoying first-time mom. Let me give you a look into that world:

*I literally bawled through ten months of breastfeeding (it never stop hurting) because I had the notion that if you don't breastfeed, you're a bad mom.
*I took my two-week-old to the library to watch puppet shows.
*I had my one-year-old pick out her flavor of birthday cake and help mommy make it.
*I started doing arts and crafts with my baby when she couldn't even yet sit up.
*I read every parenting book I could get my hands on.
*I had a set of RULES I would never break as a Mom, and I planned to stick to them.
*I went to the doctor for every sneeze and bump.

Now, let's compare that with my eight-year-later-self as a mother:
*Babies three and four never had a drop of breast milk. I learned a happy and not-hurting mom is more important. And guess what? They were HEALTHY!
*We still go to the library, but never with a newborn.
*A one-year-old pick out her birthday cake? Ya, that would require me to take four children to the grocery store, and that isn't happening! Whatever flavor we have in the cupboard is good enough.
*Baby number four is a year and a half, and he has yet to finger paint.
*I haven't seen a parenting book in years (except for one exception I read often Bringing Up Girls because my household is largely estrogen overridden).
*Most of the things I thought I'd never do as a Mom (such as let the TV babysit on a stressful day, or pick a pacifier up off the ground and, gasp, not sanitize it before popping it back in a baby's mouth) have long fallen to the wayside.
*Besides well-child checks and shots, we seriously barely ever go to the doctor. I'm a believer that rest and lots of fluids heal most things.

There was nothing wrong with the first-time mommy I was, I've just changed as I've become more experienced. In fact, the first-time mommy version of me could probably be considered more vigilant and less lazy. But the fourth-time mommy version of me is a more wizened version. I know what's important and I know when to let something slide. I cherish more of the big moments and fret less over the small stuff.

But without that first-time mommyhood, I would have never progressed to where I am now as a mother.

Now (finally) here is the writing analogy. Thinking back to the first-time writer version of me, have I also changed? Absolutely! Can you imagine that when I wrote my first full-length novel, I didn't even have the Internet? I never considered critique partners and writing forums and blogs (oh the blogs...).

Still though, I had to be that newbie before I could get where I am now. And in ten more years, I hope I can look back and say "wow, I have come a long way."

Share the funny things you did when you were a first-time mom or a first-time writer. Have you changed?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Poll for my LDS readers

If you've been Mormon long, you know we have lots of terms that can be baffling to the non-Mormon population.

For instance, what in the world is a Mia Maid?
What does PEC stand for?
And does a fireside really involve fire?

My critique partner and I are working on a special project, and I'd love for you to leave any Mormon Terms that Mystify in my comment box. These are the words that might have been confusing to you when you first became a member.

It would help us out greatly! Thanks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What WASN'T on your list today?

If you're a mom and a writer (which I think most of my viewers are), you probably have lists.

Here are a few lists I can see from where I sit right now:
*one on the fridge detailing today's caloric intake (it's a weight loss year, people)
*one on the counter with the EXTRA chores my children "earned" last night from some naughtiness
*one listing the homes we want to look inside (we'll be moving this fall)
*and the dreaded To-Do List

If you're like me, your to-do list is usually longer than your to-do energy on any given day. I often look at my list at the end of the day and wonder where all the time went. Sometimes I'm lucky to have a few of the items crossed off at all.

A few months back, I saw a post from a mommy writer about all the things that she DIDN'T put on her daily list yet still had to accomplish. These are the little moments that are life's necessities. It made the blogger feel better about what she had accomplished.

So, here's what wasn't on my list today:
-make breakfast (three different ones for picky kids)
-share my shower for the third day in a row with my little girl
-change diapers
-help kids complete their chores (I don't do them for them, just help them see what they missed)
-sweep floors
-help decorate a room
-encourage a friend
-call my sister
-schedule some upcoming plans
-write a blog post
-do four heads of hair

And it's only 1:30.

Mommy writers ARE busy, and I hope you realize that any single task you can cross off today's list is an accomplishment. Do your best. Ask for God's help. And everything will work out okay.

What WASN'T on your list today, but it took up your time anyway?

Friday, July 22, 2011

What's in your in-box?

What's in your email in-box today?

Anything good?

I have my husband's sales (wakeboard stuff); my husband's alerts (more wakeboard stuff). There's my daily scripture reminder that I am now 47 days behind my scheduled reading program. Oops. There's the kids bowl free coupons. There's a few church emails--who needs help moving today etc. And that's about it.

What do I want in my in-box? Any of these three choices would work:

1. Dear Maggie, I'd like to offer you representation. Signed, Awesome Agent
2. Dear Maggie, I would love to publish your novel. Signed, Awesome Publisher
3. Dear Maggie, Your home loan is approved and your interest rate will be 0.5% (haha). Signed Awesome Loan People

I've been checking email non-stop for these messages. So far, it's a no go.

What do you obsessively check email for? But what are you FAR MORE LIKELY to receive in your in-box?

AND P.S. Deborah gave Growing Up Gracie a great review over on her blog. Check it out!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Ann M. Martin

I'm not much into fan mail, but in Ann M. Martin's case, I would make an exception. Talk about prolific writers, this author of the famous Baby-Sitters Club series has written hundreds of titles (between several different series) and continually releases books that cross the boundaries of the generations.

My eight-year-old is reading the same titles I read twenty years ago--and she doesn't even seem to notice the totally nineties covers.

Although Ms. Martin has a great website through Scholastic as well as a Facebook fan page, I haven't been able to find a fan mail email address. So, in case Ms. Martin has a Google Alert on her name, which of course she doesn't, (I mean with THAT many fans, and THAT many years as a hugely successful author, how could she get bogged down in the mundane?) here is our fan letter to her.

Dear Ms. Martin,

I firmly believe my daughter is your biggest fan.

She has read close to one-hundred of your books, many of which she reads over and over again. She owns most of these books and goes to the local thrift store monthly to search for more of your titles.

Yesterday she had a Baby-Sitters Club birthday party. We luckily found an old copy of the BSC postcard book, which worked perfectly for invitations.

She and her friends made "kid kits," picked BSC officers, took phone calls from parents who wanted their kids babysat (pretend ones of course), and practiced on her own younger brothers and sisters.

They ate a BSC cake, and even had a guest speaker! I bet you didn't know you were coming to teach eight-year-olds the ins and outs of babysitting as well as a little bit about yourself did you? (Grandma made a great Ann M. Martin.)

Anyway, I just wanted you to know you have a major fan in my household. Thank you for writing such amazing books. Thank you for having such a cool internet presence where my daughter can find out lots about you and the BSC on Scholastic's site.

P.S. if you happen to read this, my daughter would love a little shout out in the comments. Her name is Gracie. Just sayin'...

Maggie Fechner

NOW YOUR TURN. Have you ever written a piece of fan mail? If you got up the guts to do it, WHO would you write to?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Paper Submissions

I love the modern conveniences of today's Internet era. Hitting the send button on a query or manuscript is so easy--not to mention cheap.

However, for me, there is something a little more exhilarating about sending in a paper submission. The feeling that my words are out there in hard copy gets me every time.

This is a picture of me submitting a recent novel to my publisher via snail mail. And today I will be submitting another book proposal. This is a non-fiction LDS idea that my critique partner and I have been working on.

Today she will take it to the post office and send it on its merry way.

Wish our submission good luck!

Have you ever submitted in paper form? Did it feel any different to you than a electronic version?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Time Ticking Away From Me

I honestly believe no one can procrastinate with such fervor as I. When it's time for something to get done, I can usually find 7,439 ways to avoid it.

So, in an effort to improve on this habit, I am trying something new. I'm writing my Monday morning blog post tonight, with the hope that when I get up in the morning I will be able to delve STRAIGHT into my real writing. No time-wasting on blogging, facebook, or email. Nope, not tomorrow. My 1.5-2 hours of writing time will be non-interrupted.

Here's hoping at least.

How do you keep your writing time from ticking away from you? Do you limit yourself on email/blogging/facebook time?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You MUST read this!

I love critique partners. Mine, Bonnie Paulson, is amazing and her feedback is always encouraging and helpful. She keeps me on track with writing goals.

I have also done crits with other LDS authors (Kaylee and Melanie) who have done SO much to help improve my novels, and for those I am incredibly grateful. Beta readers are another tool I ALWAYS use before submitting a book.

HOWEVER, I also feel there are times when critiquing can be stifling to a writer's creativity.

I recently read this post called Death By Critique, and the author hit the nail on the head for me.

Read it and then hop on back here and tell me what you think.

Have you ever felt a Death By Critique on a novel? Do you feel critiques ever do more harm than good to a writer's creativity?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wait a minute, agents make mistakes too?

In the querying process, I've made a couple mistakes that make me cringe. I've been working hard to "personalize" each query, and so, of course I've been researching each agent I send to. Despite all my research though, I've still made a few errors that I felt horrible about.

I accidentally told one agent how much I loved a book she repped. I did really love the book, but her firm didn't rep it (I just forgot to erase that line from the previous query). And, in another instance, I sent an identical query twice in a few hours to one agent (once from each email account).

In my mind, agents are these God-like creatures floating in the sky that I am simply begging to PLEASE, OH PLEASE, LIKE ME. So any mistakes from us humanly folks makes me feel low. Lower than low.

But today when I opened my inbox, I was really happy to see another rejection. Yeah right, that didn't come out right. What I meant to say was, the rejection I received this morning was a mistake on an agent's part, and THAT made me smile.

You see, this agent already rejected me a few days ago. Today's rejection was ANOTHER copy of the exact same rejection--nothing like twisting the knife into the writer's gut huh? It was a simple mistake, and one without any major consequences, but it just made me realize that agents are also human.

Yes, we MUST strive for perfection in our queries. But remember we all make mistakes. Next time you address a Mr. as Ms. or something similar, don't make a suicide plan. It happens, and it's okay.

What mistakes have you made when querying? Or what mistakes has an agent made on you (besides not picking you up for representation of course)?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Adding reading to your writing goals

Most writers are goal oriented people. Hit 50K by next month; finish revisions by Christmas; get an agent by 2013--you get the picture. But we often fail to add one of the most important aspects of being a writer to our goals: being a reader.

The number one lesson I remember from college is if you want to be a writer, you must be a reader.

Reading will improve your writing, increase your creativity, and even give you new ideas. We should read books in our genre to get a real feel for it. We should read how-to books on writing. We should read best-sellers to know what the market is enjoying. We should read friends' recently-published novels to show our support. And we should also read for fun.

However when you're immersed in writing, reading, like doing dishes and shaving your legs, can easily get pushed aside. This can't happen! One way to avoid this is to add reading to your goal list.

My current goal list has these in it:
*Read 100 Years of Solitude, Fall On Your Knees and Cutting for Stone by August 1. These are big-name family sagas (which I write).
*Read another writing technique book by September 1.

So far I've finished 100 Years of Solitude and Fall On Your Knees which are huge, fat family sagas. I've gained a greater appreciation for my genre, and I've also gotten new story ideas from them.

Have you added reading to your goal list? Will you?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A little bit of my WIP

I never ever post writing on my blog. Weird, huh, since this is um a writing blog.

I guess it's because I think reading novels on a computer screen is annoying. But recently I followed the Loving The Language Blogfest and enjoyed reading some bits and pieces of other people's books. So, today I'm going to post a few short passages from Letters Never Sent for fun.

It's a family saga about the women of the Ritchie family. Here are four five-sentences blurbs from the book:

So many years removed her from it, but when Ruth allowed herself to slip back to that hurt—the hurt that never really left her—she could still hear those sounds. She smelled the blood and the antiseptic clean smell of the Lawton General Hospital maternity wing. She saw the bed and the door and that little waiting room with its orange chair. And it nearly made her sick.

As he and the doctor neared the house, Ailsa’s voice ripped from its walls. The sound pierced through the evening air a block away.
That scream started at the tip of Ailsa’s head and burrowed deep into her soul like an auger drilling through a long frozen lake. The moment was cold and black and nothing she’d ever experienced prepared her for it. The rest of the world stopped spinning, and over Ailsa’s own voice, she didn’t hear James vomiting on the front porch.

Famie sprinted toward the back fence, and as she passed the snow-disguised bird bath, her front foot slipped and she arched back hard, clearing a ribbon of green as she slid. In slow motion her foot left the ground and rose up in front of her until her body took on the shape of the horizon. Time stood still while Ruthie wondered if her mother might never come down. If she might keep rising into the white and never even glance back to wave goodbye. If she would disappear into wherever her husbands resided, and a Heavenly train might carry the three of them to the World’s Fair where they’d pay for the parachute ride and visit the Futurama Display and never consider Ruthie at all.

Or maybe it was the final accumulation of the years they’d spent together—him loving her and her constantly pushing him away. Either way, this time Michael didn’t resist her.
The sweet smell of warm hay rose up around them, and the rain pattered on the tin roof so ferociously, the thunder was barely audible when it cracked.
One of them was in love. And that night it was enough for both of them.

How do you feel about posting writing on blogs? Do you ever read other's writing? And, of course, did my blurbs grab you at all?

Friday, July 1, 2011

July Goal Check In

Okay, quite often when I am headed to a social function, I remind myself: Maggie, don't talk too much. It's not that I'm an extrovert, just when I get nervous, I feel like I have to fill the silence with meaningless babble.

And here I am on my blog, talking too much. I've posted most days this week, but it's just because it seems like I've had a lot to say.

Anywho, July 1 is here. Yep, the year is half way done. How are you doing on your Resolutions? Here's my run-down.

1. Revise Letters Never Sent and submit it to agents/publisher.
****Finished round 4,982.3 of revisions. Have begun querying agents, and am waiting feedback from one crit partner. Then I will resubmit. Woohoo!

2. Finish a rough draft of Danielle, Never The Bride.
****Last month this had grown cobwebs. Now those cobwebs are growing mold. So yes, still no progress here.

3. See a weight on the scale I haven't seen in a few years.
****Yahoo. Running (I'm up to four miles) and diet have been going well. I have half a pound to go! Yes, I'm on the slow track, I realize this. But all in all, I've lost thirteen pounds in 2011. I have half a pound to my original goal and five pounds to my dream weight goal. I think slow and steady is going to be good in the long run.

4. Get going on long-term savings.
****Nothing has changed here. But, on the bright side of things, my first royalties from Growing Up Gracie came in and instead of using the money, I promptly created a MAGGIE-WILL-GO-TO-STORYMAKERS-2012 account.

Feels like a pretty good month. Six more months to go!

How are you doing on your works in progress? I know lots of ladies were planning to finish in mid August. Are you on track?