May 30, 2010
"Editors in New York have no idea what life is like outside of the big city," someone would say.
"Oh yeah! Their whole point-of-view is changed by living in New York," someone else would chime in.
Huh. Interesting. As the conversations continued, I'd slouch down into my chair and hide my face behind my cup of tea. I wondered...am I the only person who disagreed with this sentiment?
Here's what I think:
Most New York editors didn't grow up in the city. A lot of them have grown up in the Midwest or the South or out on the West Coast--in the towns that you and I come from. For instance, the two editors at my recent conference grew up in Florida and rural Pennsylvania respectively--hundreds of miles away from NYC! And so, I find it hard to believe that these editors can't relate to "Middle Americans" when they've spent so many years outside of New York.
Secondly, I don't think it's right to assume that an editor is automatically out of touch with the world simply because she works in New York. The world is such a connected place nowadays! I mean, we have Facebook, Twitter, and 24-hour news. Sure, it might be easy to get caught up in the bright lights of the big city, but living in New York doesn't turn you into some snobby elitist. (At least, it hasn't happened to my friends in New York!)
Third, I'm constantly amazed by the diversity of books I find in the children's and YA sections of bookstores. For instance, Rick Riordan's new series features bi-racial protagonists and Laura Manivong's "Escaping the Tiger" tells the story of a Laotian family. Plus, Laurie Halse Anderson's bestselling novels range in topic from anorexia to child slavery. What a broad mix! (Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing more Asian-American protagonists!)
At the end of the day, I think editors strive to publish books that have wide appeal because they need to sell books in Small Town USA as well as Big City America. They simply can't be out of touch with the rest of the country--because they need the rest of the country to buy their books!
So what do you guys think? Do you feel that the writers at my conference had a point? Do you agree or disagree with their thoughts? Tell me why!
May 26, 2010
I can't seem to finish it.
This is my first foray into the Young Adult genre and I'm kind of fumbling my way through this process. Does the romance feel real? Is the world-building fresh? Am I nailing the all-important YA voice? Alas, I'm overwhelmed, which causes a lot of mental blockage. Plus, I'm continually plagued with the idea that this novel has some serious plot issues. *Le sigh*
I don't know about you guys, but I always hit a major road-block whenever I near the completion of a novel. I have no idea what it is! For some reason, I start out a book with so much enthusiasm and energy but it all seems to pitter-patter away once I see the finish line. All of a sudden, my brain locks up and my fingers freeze in place. I write a paragraph then I delete it. I gnash my teeth and flail my arms.
Does this happen to any of you? What do you do when your novel wants to wrestle with you? Any advice?
May 25, 2010
(I have weird fears about my husband dying young. I blame it on being an anxious Army wife.)
Justin's hernia has been fixed, and he has spent the entire afternoon in a percocet-induced stupor. Right now, he's trying to watch Avatar as his meds kick in. I'm sure the movie gets even better when you have some potent painkillers swimming in your bloodstream!
Anyway, here is a quick list of three lessons I learned while I waited for Justin at the hospital. (I love making lists! Don't hate!)
1.) Drugs and anesthesia make people act really crazy.
After Justin woke up from his procedure, he became sort of weird. For instance, he waved to everyone as the nurse pushed him into the recovery room. Another instance, he tried to wheel himself downstairs before he was properly discharged--and one of the nurses had to track him down. Moral of the story: don't do drugs, kids!
2.) Eating in a hospital waiting room is sort of gross.
Since Justin's surgery and recovery lasted a few hours, I brought along a lunch to munch on in case I got hungry. Uh yeah, I took a few bites of my pasta before I had to put it away. For some reason, eating food in the general vicinity of surgical procedures and bags of bodily fluids just grossed me out. A lot. Suffice to say, I lost my appetite.
3.) Male nurses should wear shirts underneath their scrubs.
Right before Justin was wheeled into surgery, a male nurse came into our room to ask him a couple questions (ie, Do you have any allergies?). But I could barely pay attention to the questions because I couldn't tear my eyes from the nurse's chest hair. Yep, a fountain of gray hair poured forth from the exposed skin on his V-neck scrub. *Shudder* I couldn't help but wonder if I had stumbled inside a seedy techno club in north Jersey. Not pretty...
Well, Justin will now spend the next two weeks at home on convalescent leave. He's quite excited to watch movies and play video games! Of course, he could do without the abdominal pain... Poor boy!
May 24, 2010
Okay, who else spent 4.5 hours last night watching the Lost recap and Lost finale? Anyone?
Not too surprisingly, I cried when Sun and Jin remembered their time on the island. Ditto when Sawyer and Juliet reunited. *Sniff* And the scene at the end? Incredibly touching and sweet. It was so good to see the cast together, even if Michael and Mr. Eko weren't there. (I loved Mr. Eko.)
But the whole we're-in-the-in-between thing? I don't know. Justin really dug it, but I didn't think it made sense. My brain just couldn't bridge the gap after I spent the entire season thinking this parallel universe was indeed a parallel universe. Still, I shall miss you, Lost!
2.) Shrek, the finale
Justin and I watched Shrek yesterday afternoon. Just like Lost, this latest rendition of Shrek is supposed to be the last in the series, but I guess we'll just have to see about that depending on how much money it makes. The movie itself was okay. There were some funny bits and I loved seeing an oversized version of Puss in Boots. (So cute! I want a fat cat.) But...it wasn't stellar by any measure. 3 out of 5 stars.
I'm a bit anxious about two things coming up this week. First, Justin has surgery tomorrow to fix his hernia. It's a relatively simple procedure, I guess, but I'm still a bit worried for him. He's not looking forward to the recovery. Second, I should be receiving my agent revision notes this week! Eeekkkk! Totally freaking out about it. Don't get me wrong--I actually enjoy editing and I want to make my story as strong as possible--but I have a feeling there will be a lot I need to change! Eek!
May 21, 2010
If you've followed my blog this past week, you have probably noticed the numerous rejections I've received in my life. Rejections on essays, rejections on queries, rejections on manuscripts. My goodness, how much disappointment can one girl take?!
When I get dejected and depressed over a particularly heartbreaking rejection (I shake my fists at you, Washington Post!), I go through a little ritual to help me feel better. It involves three basic steps:
As you've noticed on my blog, I cry A LOT when I get rejected. It doesn't take very much to get my tear ducts flowing--my eyes seem to well up automatically whenever I read the words, "Thank you for sending me your manuscript, but...." Yeah, I don't have very thick skin.
But crying always helps me to feel better. After a couple minutes of sniffling into my blanket, I can pick myself up and move on with my day. I don't know what it is, but crying is like an emotional band-aid for me.
Yep, I'm one of those girls who wolfs down a half-gallon of brownie ice cream whenever I get depressed. (No bowls, please. I'll just eat out of the container, thank you very much.) Obviously, this isn't the healthiest way to cope with rejection, but it sure does taste good.
In high school, I tried out four times for a solo part in my school's rock 'n roll show. But each year, I was always delegated to the chorus or a back-up role. When I didn't get a solo during my senior year--my very last chance--I collapsed onto my bed and shoveled nine Ferrero Rochers down my throat. Sure, I might have gained a couple pounds, but those chocolates made me forget about my rejection for about thirty minutes!
Now, I do NOT cry and eat at the same time. I try to avoid looking like this at all costs:
3. Slap myself in the face and get back on the horse.
Sometimes I let myself take a break from querying after a few rejections. Most of the time, however, I force myself to put myself back out there. For me, it's easier to forget about my disappointment if I replace it with the excitement of sending out more queries. Soon, my sadness ebbs away as I look forward to hearing back from another batch of agents or editors. And if they happen to reject me, I repeat the process all over again!
So how about you? How do you deal with rejection? Do you have any rituals?
May 20, 2010
May 18, 2010
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Three more knocks thundered on the door, ringing throughout the walls. Danny stood from his desk and padded down the stairs. He figured the mailman needed to drop off a package for his mom—she liked to order tubes of oil paint from the internet.
Grasping onto the knob, Danny turned the handle and swung the door open. “Hey, do I have to sign something or…?” His voice trailed off.
Rule #1: Homework first. TV second.
Rule #2: Only healthy snacks after school. (No candy!)
Rule #3: Never answer the door when he was home alone.
His mom had posted the rules on the refrigerator door and Danny followed them—for the most part. Sometimes, he would nibble on a Snickers bar or flip on the TV before opening his math book. But he had never broken Rule #3.
At first, I made a ton of freshman mistakes. I sent off pieces before they were ready. I didn't do enough research on the right markets for my work. And I had no idea what a query letter was. Seriously folks, I would email editors of fancy-pants magazines with stuff like, "Hello! I have written an essay for your publication. I look forward to working with you. Thanks!"
I slaved away at this essay. It took me a week to write 800 words. Then, it took me an entire month to whip it into shape. (Egads! What happened to my time management skills?) But finally, the piece was finished and I felt pretty confident with it. After all, I had worked so hard on this essay and I truly believed it would find a good home. This would be my debut into the freelancing world!
I aimed high. Really high. I sent my little baby to the Style section of the Washington Post. My fingers tingled. My heart leapt.This was going to be my big break!
But a week later, I got my rejection. It was short and sweet. Something like, "Thank you for this essay, but we have very limited space at this time."
I was crushed.My heart sank. My eyes welled up. My stomach twisted into a pretzel-sized knot. And I thought to myself, "I can't do this. I'm not cut out for this freelance writing thing. I need to give up right now."
And I cried for a long, long time.
Eventually, my husband found me in my heap of pitifulness and he urged me to send out the essay again. It took me a few days, but I listened to his advice. I mailed it off. It got rejected. I mailed it again. It got rejected. I mailed it again. And it still got rejected.
Months passed. My little essay had been turned down by the Washington Post, Commonweal, the Washingtonian, The Sun, and countless other places. I had an almost-but-not-quite experience at a small magazine, but the editor decided to pass. Alas, things were not going my way.
In a last ditch effort, I submitted the essay to a contest at a small literary journal, Segullah. I figured I would give it a shot since nobody else wanted the article. And you know what? About a month later, I received an email from one of the editors. She told me that I didn't win the contest, but she would like to include the essay in their winter issue.
*Le sigh no more!*
So that's the story of my first heartbreaking rejection. You know what's weird? To this day, I still remember opening the email from the Post editor and feeling the breath knocked out of me. I still remember deleting the email right away and crumbling onto my desk. And I still remember thinking about giving up then and there--about finding something else to do besides writing.
I'm sure glad I didn't. :o)
*By the way, you can read an early version of my essay here. Yikes! I just re-read it and there are so many things I want to change in it.
**Dear Washington Post, I will publish an article or essay in you one day. One day! Even if it's my own obituary!
May 17, 2010
May 16, 2010
I can wear dresses again!
Since cute clothing stores are few and far between in my military town, I often head online to get my fashion fix. On Friday, I discovered a store with the awesomest retro-style dresses, ModCloth.com. Here's a quick sampling of dresses that caught my eye:
May 14, 2010
May 12, 2010
I mean, I still remember when my parents brought her home from the hospital. I still remember picking her up from pre-school. And I still remember giving her advice on what colleges she should apply to.
Man, I must be getting old...
Anyway, Kristy and I stayed up late last night watching "Lost" and talking about her freshman year. (Justin and I are up in DC for a few days.) As Kristy told me stories about her roommate from Missouri and her friend from California, she decided to show me their pictures on Facebook.
Yeah, I had another "Whoa" moment at this point. Why? Because I was a college freshman ten years ago—but stuff like Facebook wasn't even on the radar screen yet. Back in 2000, my college life centered on AIM and Napster and dreaming about owning my own cell phone. Seriously folks, it's amazing what can happen in ten years.
Let's do a quick compare and contrast between me and Kristy, okay?
1.) College Communication
Me: AIM and a crusty old dormitory phone
Kristy: Facebook and a shiny cell phone with awesome ring tones
2.) Personal Computer
Me: Old family computer with a wonky monitor that stretched out the display, courtesy of Dad
Kristy: Sleek Dell laptop, courtesy of Dad
3.) Personal Music Device
Me: A portable CD player, complete with a giant case of CDs that I had to lug around
Kristy: iPod, plain and simple
Me: Disposable cameras
Kristy: Camera on her cell phone, of course
Me: BOYS? Where? Where?! Me want boyfriend!
Kristy: Boys? Yawn...I have much more important things on my plate, such as downloading new songs onto my iPod, watching movies on my fancy laptop, and basking in the joys of being Dad's favorite child.
Pretty crazy, right? It makes me wonder how different life will be when my kids start going to college...
Flying cars? Holo-phones? Robot servants? Oprah as president?
Should be interesting!
May 10, 2010
Gimme a Call tells the story of eighteen-year-old Devi Banks, who wastes her entire high school career in blind devotion to her boyfriend, Bryan. She ditches her girlfriends and slacks off in her classes---all because her main focus is their relationship. Right before senior prom though, Bryan breaks up with Devi, leaving her heartbroken and bitter and, well, really pissed.
But things start looking up for Devi when she accidentally drops her phone into a fountain. When she retrieves her phone out of the muck, she discovers something weird---the only person she can call is her fourteen-year-old self. Pretty cool, right? After she recovers from the craziness of it all, Devi sets out to make things right. She forces her younger self to hit the books, to join the yearbook staff, to try out for sports, and to stay away from Bryan. But...things never go as planned...
It's a fast read and vastly entertaining. I even found myself laughing out loud at a few parts of the book. Granted, Devi can get a bit grating in her endeavor to make herself over, but I really did love this book.
After I finished the last page, I couldn't help but wonder about my own high school years and how I would change things if given the chance. Here are a few things I would say to my younger self:
To twelve-year-old Caroline: "Do NOT use the hair brush you find in the hotel bathroom at Matt Slevin's bar mitzvah. It will give you lice and you will be horrendously embarassed. HORRENDOUSLY EMBARASSED!"
To fourteen-year-old Caroline: "Get thee to a dermatologist! Please, ask Dad to make an appointment for you. (Mom will just give you strange home remedies to cure acne.) Save yourself from years of torture!"
To sixteen-year-old Caroline: "Take showers more often. For the love of God..."
To eighteen-year-old Caroline: "Um, yeah, stop obsessing over boys so much. Sorry to break it to you, but Dan doesn't like you and neither does Nick or Matt. I'm sorry for being so harsh, but it's true! You're wasting your time, honey bun."
To twenty-year-old Caroline: "When you encounter Yorkshire pudding for the first time in London, keep in mind that this is not a dessert. Repeat: do not pour peaches and cream over this salty concoction. It will make you look like a stupid American."
What about you? What would you say to your younger self if you had a magical cell phone?
May 7, 2010
Yeah, he's not very excited about the surgery because he's really tired of going to the doctor. Just a couple weeks ago, he had to have a procedure done on his back since he has a couple of slipped discs. Poor husband...
Thus far, we are unsure what we shall name the hernia in question. (We're weird---we like to name things. My cyst, for example, was called Herbert.) Justin thinks we should call the hernia "Satan." I think we should name it "Lucifer" in honor of the evil cat in Cinderella.
Either way, hernias sure are nasty little buggers.
May 5, 2010
Erm...actually, forget the foes...
I promise that I'm still alive and that I have very good reasons to have taken such a long blog hiatus. These past few weeks have been so busy and hectic that I've barely had time to vacuum the carpet or clean out the fridge!
Erm...actually, I never really vacuum or clean out the fridge. Yeah, gross, I know...
Anyway, here is a brief bulleted list of the happenings in the Tung-Richmond household:
1.) On April 20th, Justin and I celebrated our 3-year anniversary! Go marriage! Go fantastic husbands! Go us!
2.) Earlier in April, Justin and I took his parents to the Outer Banks for a weekend of fun, sun, and lots of fried seafood. (Yum!) To make this perfect outing even more perfect, we rented a condo that was right on the beach! Ahh...I loved falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the waves. So awesome.
I actually took pictures of us while we were there, but alas, I cannot find Justin's camera. So this photo will have to suffice. Quite beautiful, no?
3.) In mid-April, I attended a writer's retreat up in Chapel High. Um, yeah, it was pure amazingness. The retreat was purposely kept small (only 25 attendees), and I had a fabulous time meeting a woman from my online critique group and chatting it up with other children's writers.
Honestly, I often feel like such an alien whenever I tell people that I write science fiction for kids. Their reactions usually go something like, "Uh, cool...um..." And then they smile and nod their heads. But I only got this reaction a couple times at my retreat! (Haha, I kid, I kid.)
Anyway, the retreat was great and I met a woman there who is kind of my twin.
A.) Her husband used to be in the military.
B.) She used to live in the same tiny town that I live in now.
C.) She has watched every episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" just like me!
Yes, we are indeed twins...bwahahaha!
4.) Writing has been going well. I had a short article published in Boys' Life in March (it's about a prototype spacesuit that looks like a superhero costume!), and I recently started writing for USAToday.com. Wahoo!
But darn, I didn't get accepted to write for the Olive Oil Times. I do love olive oil and I wouldn't have minded writing about it...
5.) Lastly, I have some incredible and exciting news that I'm just bursting to share! But I can't right now because I need to get the okay to share it. Ahhhh! I'm so excited! Okay, I will give you guys a hint: it pertains to my writing career. That's all I will say!
All right. That's the quick update. I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation points. I promise not to sound like such a maniac in future posts.