Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Doldrums

Every writer knows that some days your brain refuses to help you string the words together, and as soon as you’ve beaten your gray matter in submission, you hate the result. These are the days when I realize what a mistake it was to sign up for all those lovely cable channels. Showtime and HBO always seem like good alternatives when I feel that nothing sounds right. This is when I ask myself, “Why keep doing this?”

Every writer I’ve known has asked herself these questions. You’re not likely to make a very good living writing (yes, I know there are BIG exceptions to this – like Stephen King – but let’s be real). If you write about friends and family, they’re likely to be unhappy with your observations. Writing may be difficult and draining as you rummage through your memory and subconscious for the raw material to glue stories together. So, then, why keep pounding away at the keyboard?

You have to write because you want to, not because you think you’ve got a best-seller in you or because you think it’s great to see your name in print (although those can be legitimate secondary goals). If you don’t enjoy putting the words down, you will never outlast the critics, the rejection, or the doldrums.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Courtesy of a Rejection

Back in the old days when I first started freelancing, things were different. After you chipped the letters into the stone tablet, you hitched the oxen to the cart so you could drag your tablets into town… just kidding. I never kept an oxen in my apartment. But I’m not kidding when I tell you that because we didn’t have computers (I can see the twenty-somethings gasping now), we treasured our manuscripts. Before ink jet printers and the internet, we treasured those painstakingly typed pages. If you wanted copies, you used carbon paper. That’s why an SASE was so important – if you didn’t get your manuscript back, you had to re-type the whole blasted thing.

Nowadays, we writers are able to e-mail editors with queries and manuscripts and hear back right away. Well, if we hear back. That’s another thing that has changed – now editors don’t feel the need to say anything at all to you if they’re not interested in your work. When I started freelancing, accepted wisdom was that you knew you were making progress when instead of receiving form rejections, you got handwritten comments on your rejections. Now, progress is getting anything back. Take my recent experience with a local paper. I’ll call them Paper A. They posted a call for work. I answered. The editor e-mailed back, “Hey, we’ll be in touch with you next week!” I never heard another word. Two months later, I checked back with Paper A to see if they were still looking for people. “Yes, we’re still looking. Send us something,” the same editor replied. That was a month ago. I guess I’ve been rejected.

I know editors are overwhelmed with work. I read a great piece a few months back by a writer who resolved to personally respond to every piece of junk mail he received. As you can imagine, he soon developed a new appreciation for editors who must wade through the slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts and query letters. Can you imagine if you responded to each and every piece of e-mail you received? We'd all have to quit our day jobs just to keep up. I understand, really. I just never thought I’d be wishing for the good old days of rejection letters.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Books and Prompts


To Hell With All That
By Caitlin Flanagan

Caitlin Flanagan took a beating in the press after publishing To Hell With All That. She’s a self-described “antifeminist,” but I think her book does more to further the cause of feminism than she thinks. Since reviews of Flanagan’s book painted it as a mandate for mothers everywhere to return home and start baking cookies, I expected to be offended. Instead, I saw a modern version of the wealthy woman’s version of parenthood – nannies, assistants, neurotic overprotection. I think she’s less an anti-feminist than an anti-middle-classist. Still, the writing is engaging and, like it or not, she has some good points.


--Boredom crept over Tammy. The scorching heat kept her inside, and the only way to keep cool was….

--Clark County is under fire for its aggressive stance in removing children from their parents. What do you think about foster care, CPS, or child-based social services? What experiences have you had with any of these agencies?

--If they can send a man to the moon, then they should be able to….

My New Blog Site!

While I didn't have much to complain about with my old AOL blog, the one problem I did have was that non-AOL visitors were unable to post comments. That really seemed to be both unfair and annoying, so here I am! Look for my regular post to appear later on today.