Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Queerness of Querying

Sure, queerness probably isn't a word, but we're going with it anyway.


Short post here, just looking for your opinions. I'm querying right now and quickly finding out that this quirky business can be quite quit-inducing. Did you ever see a sentence with more qu words? Just kidding. What I'm saying is querying is a tough part of the writing world. So grab one of these questions if you can and give me your advice.


1. How do you personalize a query?
2. Do you keep a chart or something to keep track of when you queried who?
3. How do you keep your chin up after a few/a lot of rejections?
4. How do you pick which agents you will query?
5. How often do you get requests for more of your manuscript? Does this usually turn out positive for you or negative?
6. Do you query the same agent with more than one manuscript? Or once they give you a "no" do you leave them alone.
7. Do you have a number of rejections you draw the line at and decide to shelve a book, or do you keep revising and searching for more agents.
8. Do you ever query the few mainstream publishers that don't require an agent? Which ones?
9. Does the querying process make you feel like you never had any talent to begin with and what the heck were you thinking? (You know, hypothetically. Just asking :))
10. If you could start your first querying process all over again, what would you change?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mommy Milestones That Are Making Me Happy


(These aren't really my kids, mine are older, for the most part)


Here are a few Mommy Milestones (or really Kid Milestones, I guess, but that doesn't sound as cool) my family has hit lately. I'm loving it!

1. Three out of four kids buckling their own seat belts.
2. Never buying formula again.
3. Finally "getting" the concept of Quiet Time.
4. Three out of four are old enough to bathe and brush their own teeth without my constant supervision.
5. Chore charts running smoothly.
6. No nose pickers (at the moment).
7. Kids are starting to help with the care of our dog.
8. They're being friends with one another about one-third of the time--I'll take one-third--THIS IS HUGE!!
9. Have learned to pray on their own and even remind Mom and Dad when we forget.
10. We are only four years away from having an in-house babysitter (when oldest is 12).

Don't say, "don't wish this time away." Because I'm not. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, especially when we hit these little milestones that seem to make life a bit easier.

Has your family hit any enjoyable Mommy Milestones lately?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jumping In


(Yes, this photo is actually me)


Have you ever waited for the perfect moment?

I have.

In fact, lately I've been waiting for the perfect wakeboarding moment. I enjoy learning to wakeboard, but I only get one or two tries in each summer because I wait for the perfect moment. For me, the perfect moment looks like this: only adults on the boat, 100 degree day and 75 degree water, and I look graceful and talented and skinny out there. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. In reality, the combination of all of those events to get me out on the board would be a near-miracle.

What have you waited around for? Maybe it was when you were considering having your first child. Did you have a set of pre-requisites such as: owning a home, losing weight, having $10,000 in a savings account, or reading lots of books on pregnancy and child rearing?

For others, the goal may be going back to college. But wouldn't it be easier if you waited until the kids were in school, or maybe even when they were out of the house, or when the car was paid off?

Often when we have a goal or dream in our minds, we wait. We wait. Wait. Wait. Waiting for that perfect moment to come when life is stress-free (like when there are no children requiring my attention on the boat) and we can jump in to a new endeavor. But you know what? Life really is never stress-free. And often, the perfect moment never comes along.

When one debt is paid another crops up, when kids are in school you may find yourself uber-involved in PTA and soccer team, retirement may find you in poor health or nursing a sick spouse. There will always be things to take up your time and money.

So what must we do to accomplish the goals and dreams that are on our minds? JUMP IN.

Of course, when considering something major, I believe you should always pray about it first, but if the answer is "yes," move forward with the confidence that even if money or time seem sparse, Heavenly Father will provide a way.

I can't count how many people who have told me that they will write a book when they retire or when their kids are in school. And I hope they do, but there is no better moment than the one we're in right now. You simply must, JUMP IN.

Start writing now. Call the college and set up those entrance exams now. Get pregnant now (just kidding there, you better have a good long chat with your spouse first). Go on a run now. Plan a vacation now. Learn to paint now. Jump in.

So, this weekend, I jumped in. Was the moment ideal? Of course not! All four of our children were present and a friend watched them on the beach. The air temperature was 64 with a major breeze, and the water temperature was 54. Yes--Holy crap that's cold! I didn't look graceful or skinny or anything of the sort. Instead I wore a 1990s look-at-me wetsuit, and I jumped in. And this is how I felt:



Sure, I took a lot of spills on my way:


But you know what? I got up, and it felt gooooood. I did my best and look forward to the next time I can jump in.



How have you JUMPED IN lately? Or what goals have you been waiting to tackle?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And this too...

I just noticed Mormon Mommy Writers posted an interview with me. Yes, they posted it like two weeks ago, but here it is:

http://mormonmommywriters.blogspot.com/2011/06/saturday-stories-maggie-fechner.html

Weird Wednesday



Nope. This picture has nothing to do with anything. My blog just hasn't had a photo on it in awhile and this one makes me happy.


Here are some questions about Mommyhood and Writerhood and a few about neither (that have been on my mind).

1. If a kid doesn't want to ride a bike--I mean, really doesn't want to--do you force them to any way? Is it un-American or un-childhoodish to just never learn to ride a bike?

2. Can you get so immersed in one writing project that it kills your drive/creativity/desire? When do you just say enough is enough?

3. Do you have any special tricks to remember the difference between waist and waste? Seriously, this causes some awkward sentences if spelled wrong. "He slid his arms around her waste." Ewwwwwe.

4. How do you get a child to stop sucking their thumb or fingers? Bribery? Threatening? Nasty-tasting-junk-on-thumb? Wait it out?

5. Am I the only one who doesn't get the Michael Buble thing? Is he all jazz? Because I seriously hate jazz, and so far I haven't heard anything from Buble that makes me swoon like the rest of the female population.

6.Do you love camping and vacation? Or do you build yourself up for it and then get there and think what was I thinking? This is hard work with kids!

7. Did you see Kiersten White just wrote a novel in nine days? If you check out her blog post from yesterday, you will see what I'm talking about. She is a mom and a wife too. Holy Moses how is that possible? I've been starring at the same darn thing for over a year!

8. What's the funniest thing your kid has said lately? I asked my seven year old if she liked a particular new boy in her class and this was her response: "Well mom, he's a fine student, but my worst enemy."

9. What food do you stinking crave but try not to eat because it isn't healthy? For me, the answer would be: Reeses Puffs cereal; Reeses peanut butter cups; peanut butter bars. Hmmm. I'm seeing a peanut butter/chocolate theme here.

10. Are you an optimist or pessimist? And has this changed as you've aged? I'm so sad to admit, I think I've slowly slid from an optimist to a pessimist over the past few years. I think I was tainted by a few hard years when everything seemed to go wrong. I wonder if a year of everything going right would reverse me again? (I know, I know, I can't wait around for something like that.)


Go ahead, tackle one of these babies or all of them. I'd love your opinions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Hundred Years of Solitude



One of my 2011 goals is to read four of the most successful family saga novels out there. I really want to understand this genre that I love and hope to make a career out of.

I started with One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez was a Nobel Prize winner, and this novel is considered his masterpiece.

Here is the review the New York Times Book Review gave his novel back in the 1950s: "One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race... Mr. Garcia Marquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life."

Can you imagine? How would that feel to have your writing compared to the Bible? "Required reading for the entire human race?" Come on!

The novel follows the Buendia family and their founding of the fictional town of Macondo. There are five generations in the story, and almost all of the characters share five names: Jose Arcadio and Aureliano for boys, and Ursula, Remedios and Amaranta for girls.

This book is a doozie of a read. We're talking 400 plus pages of very small print and very, very little dialogue. Sentences stretch on and on (the longest one I came across was close to three pages long!) Sometimes the wording was so confusing I had to re-read a section several times to understand what in the world he was talking about. And for Garcia Marquez, themes seem to be far more important than plot.

With all that being said, I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude. I loved the beautiful language he used. I loved following this family through their triumphs (which came few and far between) and their struggles (which seemed very frequent). I loved Garcia Marquez's theme that nothing much new ever happens--the world and families are cyclical and the same things happen over and over again.

Another aspect I loved was the author's "magical realism." The reader could get quite far into the book thinking all the events were realistic and could actually occur; however, then the author throws in fantastical events such as a character's being carried away into the sky by her laundry, and the reader starts to think, huh? How could that happen? Eventually such odd situations as the family's patriarch being tied to a tree for like twenty years and women living well beyond a hundred years grow more and more frequent in the book.

I read the Goodreads reviews on this book and many people hated it despite it being one of the top sellers of all time. Readers claimed it made them "feel high" or wonder what in the heck was happening. There were definitely moments like that, and I admit I got lost in the countless wars that one of the Aurelianos encounters. There were also way more instances of incest than I was comfortable with.

Overall though, the Buendia family sucked me in.

And I realized family saga is still my favorite genre.

The other famous family sagas I plan to read this year are Fall On Your Knees, Cutting for Stone and The Thorn Birds.

Have you read One Hundred Years of Solitude or any of the other family sagas I've listed? What did you think of these books or the genre in general?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

UPDATE*UPDATE*UPDATE

11:26 p.m. I completed the goal (see below)!

(And with 34 minutes to spare.)

Aaaaggghhh. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Goodnight.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brain. Becoming. Jello.

I'm trying so hard to hit a revisions goal I've been working on for the past month.

By tomorrow night I need to have all of my individual chapters revised, and then I will print the book and read it as a whole to make sure I've remedied all of its issues.

My brain is seriously aching, but I feel the progress I've made over the past month has been a major step in the right direction.

Wish me luck stumbling through Revision Purgatory.

Any other revisers out there? How do you keep your creative side in tact while tackling the mundane of editing?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick Question Tuesday

What's your opinion on this grammar topic?

Is Passive Voice Ever Okay?

Some editors claim passive voice is akin to anthrax. Some authors, however, use it in almost every sentence (including some best selling novelists).

I've cut hundreds of instances of passive voice in my current work in progress, but I've also left many alone. In many cases, I feel it just sounds better to use "was" than turn the sentence around so that all the focus is on some object in a way it wasn't intended to be. I think bumbling up the flow of a book, just to appease the grammar gods, is silly.

What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Plug



I haven't talked about my book on my blog in a super long time, and since I don't have a witty post in mind, here it is.

Growing Up Gracie is a Young Adult novel with LDS themes. It's the story of Gracie Fremont, a young girl sandwiched in a big Mormon family in, where else??, Cody Wyoming.

My favorite thing so far about having my book out there has been the reviews. Goodreads has been so kind to me lately. At first the 5 Star reviews were wonderful, but several of them were written by folks I know. The ones that have meant the most have been the 3 and 4 star ratings and comments by strangers.

They're saying they related to Gracie and her trials, and that touches me. I especially love when teen girls enjoyed the book. Read the reviews here. And by the way, if you are someone who left me a review, thank you!

Pick up a copy anywhere in Utah; and for the rest of us non-Utahans (I don't think that's the word??) order my book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Spokanites/Spokanians (I'm not in my best form today) can find the book at Aunties and The Brass Plates bookstores. Codyites can find it at The Thistle.

Thanks for reading it. I'd love to hear what you thought.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog Commenting Etiquette

I'm not one to rant, but when I opened my blog today and saw a re-post of a strange comment I deleted yesterday, I figured it might be time for a post on proper blog commenting etiquette.

Maggie's Rules:
1. Never comment on a post you haven't read. Now, some of my favorite bloggers tend to write loooooooong posts. If I don't feel I have the time to dedicate to reading the post, I will skip it, and of course, not comment. It's tempting to read the first paragraph and then make a generic comment (and I will admit I have done this in the beginning of my foray into blogging) but DON'T. I am not that good at being sneaky, and I doubt you are either.

2. Never comment with self-promotion in mind. Here are some of my not-so-favorite comments: "I agree. If you hop over to my blog you will see that...." or "Interesting. I recently released a book and would love for you to read it." or the shameless begging "Please come follow my blog. I'm building my platform."
I'm not naive. I understand that when we comment on blogs, we hope to gain our own new readers, but that doesn't mean we should be blatantly self-serving. Take a genuine interest in the blogs you comment on, and you may find a friend in addition to a new "follower".

3. Never copy and paste a comment in many, many people's blogs. Really--should I even need to say this? If you have mass information to get out there post it on your own blog; post it on Facebook; post it on a writing forum; Tweet it; whatever, but don't post it in someone's comments (especially two days in a row).

4. If you disagree with a post, comment! (But be nice). I've never had a problem with this as I tend to avoid conflict at all costs, and my posts are fairly non-controversial. But I've seen many blogs where readers use the comment bar as a cyber-knock-down-drag out. Classy? No way.

To not be overly mean and embarrass the aforementioned commenter with this post, I will be deleting the offending comment again. I am confident the blogger wasn't being downright rude, just still learning the blogging etiquette ropes. Heaven knows I made lots of etiquette faux pas when I started blogging.

So, now please don't be AFRAID to post comments on my blog. I promise not to be overly critical, and I'm actually a very friendly gal (who LOVES comments). Do you have any blog commenting etiquette rules you can add to mylist?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Art of War for Writers




This tiny book offers a giant punch! The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell was fantastic. Please, please, please go buy this book. It is motivating, inspiring and oh so informative.

After devouring this book, I sat down with my current WIP and took a second (or more like a twenty-second) look at some issues I was having. The advice Bell offered in this book was so helpful to my novel as well as to me as a writer in general. Here were a few of my favorite topics he covered:

*Making yourself accountable for a word quota every week.
*Understanding whining isn't winning.
*Using a writer's notebook to keep track of progress.
*Not stressing about your competition.
*Write faster (on your rough draft) and think less.
*Determine the very worst that your characters could go through.
*SPEED is paramount in your opening. GRAB 'EM! (boy, do I need to re-hash this lesson over and over and over again).
*Resisting the urge to explain everything.
*Determine if each scene is weak or strong. Cut or improve the weak scenes and elevate the strong scenes to greatness.
*Be specific and deliberate in your goal making.
*Never let promotion interfere with your writing.

Have you read any fantastic writing advice lately? I'd love to hear it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

31 Things You Don't Know About Me

Sure most of you who visit this blog are writers and maybe mommies. But there is so much more to us than that. Right?

So, I'm 31 years old, so here are 31 things you might not know about me. Leave a comment with some things I don't know about you!

1. I share my birthday with Earth Day.
2. I love to bake but rarely do because I will eat EVERYTHING I bake.
3. You know that hangy thing in your throat (uvula)? Well, mine is forked (so I have two) and this freaks Dr.'s out every time they look in there.
4. All-time favorite song: "That Summer" by Garth Brooks
5. I've been in a hot air balloon, Air Force Refueling Plane, skydiving, and a race car (and got paid to do ALL of these things for work--I was a journalist).
6. I am really allergic to horses, but I enjoy riding.
7. My whole name is Maggie--NOT Margaret!
8. My great-great grandpa was a polygamist with 5 wives and 30-some kids.
9. I was senior class president in high school (I know, I know, whoop-dee-doo).
10. My house is often only clean from one quick-someone's-coming-over to the next quick-someone's-coming-over.
11. My two thumbs don't match up at all.
12. I am the oldest of three.
13. I've been bear hunting but got scared and didn't shoot the bear.
14. I was one of those super annoying parents of my first child who read all the parenting books and tried to do everything by the book. I took my two week old to a puppet show for her to become more "social" for goodness sakes!
15. My favorite shows over the years have been My So Called Life (remember Jared Leto?); ER; Prisonbreak; and my current favorites are: Parenthood, The Voice, and Modern Family.
16. I rarely nap and get grouchy when my husband does (I'm ashamed of this, since he really deserves a nap, but somehow it bugs me).
17. Dan and I weren't even dating when we got engaged.
18. I write from 5:00-7:00 a.m.
19. I hope to live in the country some day.
20. I like throwing watermelon and pumpkins off bridges.
21. I have three colors of laundry piles: darks, whites, pinks (female household here).
22. I love those Christmas time white-chocolate Oreos.
23. I enjoy boating but get really nervous with the kiddos on the boat.
24. I once stood on a fat bull snake in a doorway and didn't know it.
25. I was raised in the "Rodeo Capital of the World."
26. "Mahanna" from Johnny Lingo is in my stake.
27. The first record I owned was True Blue by Madonna and I loved it! The first CD--Criss Cross.
28. My pet peeve is loud clapping for no reason.
29. I often spell maybe this way: "mabey." Weird.
30. I bussed Karim Abdul Jabar's table when I was 14. (And I met him and got his autograph).
31. I love my family and friends more than anything!

Your turn. Okay, I want at least one fact about you for every decade old you are! SHARE, SHARE, SHARE.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June CHECK IN

Oh dear, it appears we missed our May check up. Let's get down to business!


Here were my 2011 goals

1. Revise The Letters Never Sent and submit it to the publisher.
****Okay, well, this goal WAS complete. But my publisher asked for some revisions and gave me an option of resubmitting, so I've been hitting those hard for the past few weeks.

2. Finish a rough draft of Danielle, Never The Bride.
****Ya, this is growing cobwebs.

3. See a weight on the scale I haven't seen in a few years.
****After about six weeks of plateau, I lost two more pounds in May and I'm starting to really feel good. I pulled out my running shoes and am trying to get back in the habit of three runs a week. I have two pounds to my goal weight.

4. Get going on long-term savings.
****Nothing has changed here.

Where are you at? I want your stats!