publishing, writing

Baby Give It Up

Caution, this post is meant to be therapeutic for me. Yesterday and today were one of those days lots of us have, where you feel like whatever you do isn’t right. And since I am blogging about writing, I feel like nothing I’ve written is any good and I should just ‘give it up’.

Again, I caution those of you who don’t like to read whiny posts, because I am about to launch into some major whining. I’m going to let loose, really let loose. So you might want to stop reading right here. Fair warning. Stop now!

Personally, I hate people who whine. I really do. Yet I have to dump this feeling off on some corner and leave it. This here’s my corner. Seems like a safe place to do it. I have to whine. I have to tell what it’s like when your editor can’t understand why you haven’t figured out how to stop using a passive voice, haven’t remembered what he said about the forbidden crutch words he told me a million times not to use (and I use anyway)… On top of that, last week, my local writing group trashed my writing and I seem to be going in circles as I attempt to make myself understood. Even Chip acts like the things I say don’t make much sense. I feel HOPELESS!

So I titled this post “Give it Up” like the 1980’s song of the same title. Lately, I’ve taken to listening to it when I need jazzing up. I heard it when I went to spin class while the instructor played her mix of music. I was ready to quit pedaling, ready to quit while mumbling, ‘this is stupid to work so hard at exercising,’ when the song came on. It was a hit in 1982, KC and the Sunshine Band made a video (check it out on youtube) – you’ll see the 80’s shoulder pads, the mini skirts, the pouffy hair, KC’s exposed chest and his mullet and unbuttoned shirt…. but when that song came on, I felt like dancing to the beat and what do you know, I was pedaling away on that bike and kept going! Now I play the song whenever I need to get excited about something. But today my take on Give it Up is the complete opposite of the repeated lyrics “everybody wants you.” Instead, I lament that nobody wants me, nobody wants to read what I have to say and I should give it up because I don’t have what everybody wants!

Except! It’s a little protest from another part of my mind, saying wait a minute here, .. a little tiny voice inside that whispers “That magazine is publishing your story in April so someone thought your writing was okay. ” I guess I shouldn’t give up entirely. At least not yet. Maybe I’ll even read again to the writing group. I can’t believe I fall so far when I get upset about honest criticism. If I’m going to write, I better be able to take it.

This gets me started on another topic. I see myself like the mouse in “If you give a mouse a cookie….” a wonderful children’s book about how one thing leads to another. Maybe the next post will be about how this negative, hopeless feeling, this downward spiral was triggered by my 96-year-old mother! How in the world, given her struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s – how is she still able to berate me? Another story entirely and it does have it’s funny elements.

#writing #fearoffailure #authors

publishing, writing

Victory!

In late October, or early November, after I came back from the Florida Writers Conference, I decided to use Submittable to send out a couple of my chapters as short stories. A couple of the entries were free, a few of them cost under $5. Altogether, I sent out twelve entries. People in my writing class said I probably would have every one of them rejected, so I shouldn’t get all excited. They said it was too early to do this, not ready, the work needed heavy-duty editing and blah-blah-blah.

Well, when I get excited about an idea, I usually jump on it before my enthusiasm deflates. Naively, I went ahead and jumped on the “I’m going to get published” bandwagon, even though I knew nothing about what I was doing! I received nine rejection notices before I realized my fellow writers were probably right. I decided to listen to their words of wisdom, and allowed them to caution me. I needed to focus on learning to sharpen my skills. So I quit wasting time and stopped sending submissions that wouldn’t have a chance of being accepted. The next three submissions are “in progress” which means pretty soon I will be hearing from them with a great big “No thank you.” That’s why today was such a shock. I opened my email and saw the words, “Congratulations!” in the first line. A magazine in Chicago emailed me to say they want to publish my story.

I don’t want to minimize the fact that they look like a small literary magazine, but they are in fact, very small. The fact is, they will be publishing what was a very rough draft of my first chapter as a non-fiction short story. The story is basically the first chapter of my book when Jessica moves into the group home and the flashback of the day we went to the Mailman Center and heard that archaic phrase “profoundly retarded.” So many emotions went into creating this chapter, and maybe, just maybe these editors saw something in my language that surpassed my tendency to use passive voice!

Then I read another article about the R word (see below) and I am thrilled this has become such a hot topic. I see why I might actually have a chance with my memoir.

http://bloom-parentingkidswithdisabilities.blogspot.com/2019/01/retarded-imbecile-morons-why-does-new.html

publishing, writing

The Struggle

I am struggling. Oops, I used the “ING” word! And I’ve only written three words. Dave, the wonderful editor who has patiently tried to teach me how to write, is surprised by how many times I use words that end in “ING”. I thought the editor was (oops I used another word I’m supposed to avoid overusing -“DON’T USE WAS!”) Well, I used to think an editor was supposed to correct the mistakes a writer makes. This is not what I’ve experienced. Dave actually wants me to develop into a better writer. Up my game, so to speak. Get stronger, so that when we (finally) approach the challenge of editing my memoir, I will be prepared.

Dave first approached me when I posted on Facebook about the multiple rejections I’d received from submissions. He asked for samples of my writing. He commented he understood why I received the rejections. ‘Wordy sentences. Extreme passive voice.’

Those of you who are not writers may wonder what’s a passive voice?

Passive voice produces a sentence in which the subject receives an action. In contrast, active voice produces a sentence in which the subject performs an action. Passive voice often produces unclear, wordy sentences, whereas active voice produces generally clearer, more concise sentences.

Concise. So I am trying over and over again. Poor Dave. He probably feels like I felt when I taught Kindergarten and I’d have a kid who couldn’t differentiate between the letters S and the letter D or a kid who couldn’t sound out a word or remember any of the high-frequency sight words like ‘and’ or ‘see’. Easy stuff right? I get it. The poor kid sitting across from me probably wondered why I had that look on my face.

My struggle to show Dave (oh SHOW is another one of my problems!) I’ve applied his lessons, used his instructions and have mastered the ability to write without TELLING – well my struggle is ongoing. Since I am struggling, I thought it would be interesting to do an ongoing journal/blog about it. Why not? At least it’s practice.

I don’t know whether or not I am making progress. I’d like to think so. What I am learning (ok I see how many times I’ve written the ING words but I need to finish this post, so for now, please bear with me and ignore all of it) – what I have learned is writing is a challenge. I worry Dave might give up on me, after all, if I am his student, shouldn’t I have caught on more quickly? Yet, I don’t think he will abandon me. He seems committed to helping me reach that ultimate goal of editing the entire memoir. Dave is truly a mensch, (a Yiddish word for a person of integrity and honor.) He gave me an assignment, to write a short story, which at first, I stubbornly resisted….now after months, I understand the goal is to allow me to experience and “get” what I am doing right and wrong. The support I’ve received is invaluable. One day, I hope to make him proud of the writer he helped shape.

#writing #writinglife

publishing, writing

Pause, then rewind

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I am a work in progress

Hey everyone. Perhaps some of you wondered why I haven’t posted anything in nearly a month. I haven’t forgotten  – life just got in the way. Oh and I  joined a couple of online writing groups and next thing you know, there were more interruptions than I knew what to do with, and didn’t have time to remember I wanted to blog about them. So, I thought about this today, how I let so many distractions pull me in all sorts of different directions. Pause,  breathe, wait. In my mind, I heard the words:  “Pause, then rewind.” That sounded like a great line and motivated me to write about what I’ve been up to.

First off, I want to share how I found SCRIBOPHILE. It is an online writers group I joined after I  heard about it in a writers workshop. I was enrolled in this free online course through the University of Iowa (https://iowa.novoed.com and P.S. – its free to everyone!)

The next thing I knew, I was finding more and more groups, and I became very involved. Or as Chip likes to say – obsessed.  Anyway, once I joined Scribophile, I found one of the memoir writing groups. Each week I had to post one of my 3,000-word chapters. My fellow groupmates critiqued my writing and in turn, I had to critique what theirs. This was pretty time consuming but the feedback I received was most helpful. Next, I joined a couple of writers groups on Facebook. Then something incredible happened. An editor decided he was interested in my story, perhaps something about what I said intrigued him. To make a long story short, he has offered to mentor me, as long as I accepted his terms and conditions!

You might be wondering what were these terms and conditions? He insisted I write a short story in a completely different genre and gave me an assignment –  write a fantasy story, and get it published! I probably rolled my eyes, thinking what did that have to do with my memoir. It didn’t make any sense. But now, I am glad I agreed.

Thank you Dave! I don’t think he enjoys being thanked, but I had to give a shout out. As an editor, he points out what agents and other editors see. The red pen comes out and when I look at the mark-ups I am not sure I even know if I can write!  Nevertheless, he is helping me. And we haven’t yet begun working on the memoir! I am still working on the short story!

About a month ago, when Dave contacted, he told me he read my posts about the constant rejections. We were getting to know each other when he asked me to send my  1st chapter. After Dave read it, edited and critiqued it, he said he understood why I was receiving so many rejections. “you are not using an active voice….you have too many ing words, your writing is filled with adverbs, pronouns, …actually his list went on and on! I wanted to throw up my hands and give up, but I didn’t. The fantasy story is nearly finished. He says it will be published. I tend to believe him.

One last bit of news. Good news! In my local writing group, there was a sweet couple who said they belonged to the South Florida Writers group. One day, as we were leaving, the man, Thom, handed me a newsletter. Thom pointed at one of the ads and said,”try sending your work to this magazine. They publish everything.” So I thought, why not? I didn’t believe anything would come of it and when I didn’t hear anything, I was certain that was true. But I thought I ought to check their lastest issue. This is what I found:

I’ll Be Leaving You Behind [Non-Fiction]

Thom wasn’t kidding.  The magazine published my story.

Note:

If you read the article, it might sound really familiar. That’s because I submitted the story about my mother, which I had written about in this blog.

#writinglife #publishing #writers

writing

It’s the same but different.

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Me and Jessica

Even though Jessica lives in the group home, she comes home on the weekends, usually for two nights, sometimes one. Last Saturday, after I picked her up at the group home, she got in the car and as usual, asked, “Can we go shopping?”

But something about the way she looked gave me a bad feeling. She looked tired and worn out. However, we had planned something for my birthday and she refused to take no for an answer.

“I fine,” she kept saying.  It was too much trouble to argue with her. Even when she wakes up at 2 in the morning and won’t go back to sleep, it’s impossible to reason with her. What does time mean to her anyway?  So the day went on – we went shopping, bought the needed ingredients,  mixed up the cake, baked it, frosted it.

At the end of the day, Jessica was dragging, so I helped her get into bed. That night was rough. She didn’t sleep well. Usually asleep by eight o’clock, she kept getting up, coughing and complaining about her ears. In the morning, she said she was fine. Again, no use in arguing with her. So we did more shopping. Jessica was excited about the birthday dinner, Mina just wanted to stick her fingers in the cake and taste the icing.

By 5 pm, I was ready for Jessica to go back to the group home. My thoughts were ‘let them deal with her’, but it was too early to take her back. We still needed to do dinner and candles. At dinner, she didn’t want to eat anything. She wouldn’t say what was wrong. When we finally lit the candles and sang happy birthday, she decided she DID want cake. A few minutes later, she started to gag.

Here we go again, I thought – she’s about to throw up all over the table. Springing into action, I shoved Jessica into the bathroom before she had a chance to begin vomiting in Sarah’s kitchen. I was proud that at least we got to the sink in time. Okay, the ideal place would have been the toilet, but it was close enough.

The crazy part is how happy I was that she threw up in the sink. After crying, throwing up, wailing, throwing up again, it finally stopped. No one saw her vomit, but I know they heard the wretching. I heard Mina ask, “Why’s Jessica throwing up?”

Jessica’s vomiting lasted a minute or two. Churned up food poured out of her mouth like rivers of brown lava. Again, I thought about how grateful I was- she didn’t have a chance to throw up all over Sarah’s kitchen table. Thank goodness poor Mina didn’t see anything. She didn’t have to witness the same things her mom and her aunt Alia used to witness, years ago, way back when this happened on a regular basis. Most of the time, it started when Jessica choked on food, unchewed green beans or even a piece of lettuce. The choking, followed by gagging, then vomit.

It was always so sudden, but the gagging noise was the signal to everyone – GET UP and  GO!

I can still hear the sound of the chairs clattering to the floor when she’d start heaving. Alia and Sarah ran from the table as though the house had caught on fire.  Paralyzed, Jessica wouldn’t budge and then the vomit would sprew all over the plates and surface of the table.  Poor Jessica – I’d be screaming at her to move, as the frightening feeling of choking and not being able to breathe made her more immobile. I never knew whether to try to force her up and could never get her to vomit into a bag. No, the mess would erupt everywhere, cascading down the front of her shirt, over the table and on the plates. I would hold her hair back as she alternately cried, choked, vomited and tried to swat my hand away. The clean-up was the worst part.

She rarely does it anymore. That is, until last weekend.

Mina is still asking about this episode. She wants to know why Jessica threw up.”She didn’t feel good,” I told her. She keeps asking anyway. So when Jessica threw up last weekend, it reminded me of all my past challenges. That one in particular.

And, of course, I wrote about it in my book.

Uncategorized, writing

A baby and a book

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Baby Ari and me

So here I am doing one of my favorite things in the world besides writing…. holding one of the grandkids! And in less than two weeks, I am headed to the Florida Writer Conference in Orlando. I am excited to be doing this. I have my friend Mimi to thank for convincing me to go. Mimi is a fellow writer who has written a memoir about recovering from a stroke when she was in her thirties. She’s brave and doesn’t let a silly thing like a wheelchair get in her way. She goes around and around and never quits, just like the Energizer Bunny. Yes, that’s what she’s like. So last year, she tried to convince me to go to this conference. We had nearly completed our memoirs. I didn’t go. After she told me she had an agent interested in her memoir, thought I should pursue it too. So this year, I decided I’m going. My decision was so last minute, it makes me laugh to think about it. I was in Mt. Rainier in Washington, with sporadic phone reception, and no cell service.  Mimi kept sending emails and once in a while it would come through.  Finally, when I landed in Miami, I saw every one of her emails -telling me the early bird special price was going up – urging me to hurry! At the 11th hour… maybe it was closer to the 12th = time was almost up. She had texted me over and over. “Are you going?” “yes”, I texted back. “well hurry up and register!” “I can’t get service on my network!”  Finally, there I was in the back of an Uber, and I had bars! I  registered for the conference on my phone. Now if you know anything about me, you know I’m not technologically savvy, but I did it! In the nick of time. Woo hoo!

I even texted another friend to see if she was interested in driving to Orlando and by some lucky break, by 12 am we were both registered for this conference. I am looking forward to finding an agent to represent me. I plan to take excerpts of my book. Do I take a query letter? I’m not sure what will happen, but the possibilities seem endless. Maybe Mimi will be lucky too.