May 30, 2010

Are New York Editors Out of Touch with Middle America?

A couple months ago, I attended a writer's conference in North Carolina and I couldn't help but notice a recurring topic in some of the conversations.

"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

The Dreaded I-Can't-Finish-This Syndrome

As I nervously await Jim's revision notes, I've been trying to finish the rough draft of my YA dystopian. (Yeah, yeah, I know that everyone's working on a YA dystopian!) I started writing this book back in February and I'm about 80% of the way there. But...

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.

Argh.

Does this happen to any of you? What do you do when your novel wants to wrestle with you? Any advice?

Help!

May 25, 2010

The Lessons I Learned at the Hospital

Good news, folks! Justin is still very much alive after his surgery!

(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

Weekend Wrap-up

Justin and I had a pretty good weekend, aside from our neighbor's dog barking for twelve hours straight on Saturday. Yep, other than that, it was a fine weekend! A quick recap:




1.) Lost

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.

3.) Anxiety

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

Surviving Rejection Week! -- How Do You Cope?

Surviving Rejection Tip #4: Gorging on ice cream, drinking lots of whiskey, throwing away your laptop--choose your poison to cope with disappointment!

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:

1. Cry

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.

2. Eat

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?

TV Recap!

Another 'Surviving Rejection' post will come shortly, but I wanted to chat about some fave shows of mine this past week.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!


1.) Glee. OMG! Totally, totally loved this week's episode. Artie's mall dance! The duet between Rachel and Ms. Corcoran! *Swoon* I love me some of that Idina Menzel--that voice, that voice! Wouldn't it be awesome if her super-hot husband Taye Diggs made a guest appearance on Glee as well?

I really think Glee is getting back on track. After the show came back on air this spring, I kind of felt like it was grasping for plot lines. (Note to Glee's writers: this is what happens when you tie up everything so nicely right before the winter hiatus!) But now, I'm really excited to see what happens next.

2.) Lost. Oh, beloved Lost! I have watched you since you first premiered and I'm really bummed that you're about to end. This week's episode was rather intriguing. Jack as the future Jacob? Ben turns evil yet again? What's going on with Desmond, huh?

But I still have not forgiven you, Lost, for killing off Jin and Sun! That made me so mad. SO MAD! You better show them living happily ever after in the parallel universe...or else!

3.) CSI. I think Laurence Fishburne has been doing a fabulous job since William Petersen (AKA Gil Grissom) exited the show. Granted, I don't watch CSI every week but I made sure to watch the season finale since it promised to resolve the intriguing "Dr. Jekyll" plotline.

Holy cow! Did you guys catch the end of the episode? DID NOT see that one happening. Oh, man...

Anyway, did you any of you guys catch these shows? What did you think about Artie's mall dance? What do you think will happen on Lost's last act? And what do you think will happen to poor Laurence Fishburne who was stabbed repeatedly in CSI's last few seconds?

May 20, 2010

Surviving Rejection Week! -- My Worst Rejection Ever

Surviving Rejection Tip #3: Rejections can really hurt. It's okay to cry.

Sometimes a rejection can sting a little.

Sometimes a rejection can bum you out.

And sometimes a rejection can hurt so bad that you cry for a whole day and you consider moving into a cabin in the woods where you'll never have to face disappointment ever again.

This is the story of my worst rejection.

About a year ago, I signed up for a writing conference and shelled out 40 bucks for a professional critique of my first 10 pages. Now, this wasn't just any ol' critique with any ol' professional. Nope, I was going to have my excerpt workshopped by a big-time New York editor! Suffice to say, I was really excited to meet this woman. Really, really, really excited.

Right before my critique began, I smoothed my hair and took a big breath. My heart thudded in my chest and my fingers felt numb, but I made myself think positively. After all, the editor couldn't hate my excerpt, right? I mean, I already had it workshopped by my critique group and I'd received a glowing review from a published author at another conference. No, there was absolutely no way that the editor could hate it...

When my name was called, I forced a smile on my face and took a seat next to the fabulous editor who would surely see my talent and request to see a full manuscript. I tried to make small talk, but the editor glanced at her watch and said she was running behind schedule. Could we dive straight into the critique, please?

*Gulp*

I nodded and politely listened as she commented on my plot, my dialogue, and my characterization. She advised me to fix this and to change that. She told me this part was too cliche and that part was too confusing. She tore apart my first chapter and then my second and then my third. Her mouth kept moving and my heart kept fluttering. Surely, she would have a few good things to say about my manuscript...maybe?

The editor paused. For the first time in five minutes, she looked up from my red-marked excerpt and glanced at me. She gave me a little smile.

"Um," she said in a soft tone. "You really should consider joining a critique group."

That did it. Blood rose into my cheeks. Tears welled in my eyes. But I blinked them away and forced another smile. I managed to nod.

I probably looked quite composed on the outside, but on the inside I felt like this:


When the critique finished, I mumbled a quick 'thank you' and stumbled out of the room. The conference was still going full-blast in the main room, but I couldn't go back in there. So I plunked onto a chair in the hotel lobby and let the tears fall. I really wanted to call my husband, but he was thousands of miles away on deployment. There was no way to reach him.

With my face red and splotchy, I pulled out the brand new journal that I had purchased for the conference and I proceeded to word-vomit onto the page. This is what I wrote:

Should I just quit now? Obviously, my book isn't getting any interest from any agents or editors. The only editor who has read the thing doesn't even think I've read the book aloud or have a critique group. She didn't like it and she doesn't see potential in it. Eh...very discouraged right now. Looks like I will have to scrap this book altogether and write something new.

Then I cried some more. And I gorged myself on the cookie platter.

Looking back now, I realize that the editor was spot-on with her comments. Absolutely spot-on. My manuscript was not up to snuff at this point. It was pretty awful!

Looking back now, I also realize that this rejection wasn't as harsh as I thought it was. But it certainly felt that way at the time! My little heart just needed more time to toughen up.

So that is the story of my worst rejection ever. What's yours?

May 18, 2010

Surviving Rejection Week! -- The Public Forum Rejection

Surviving Rejection Tip #2: Oftentimes, a rejection can be a great gift. Granted, it's a gift that punches you straight in the face, but then it gives you an ice pack and makes you stronger.

Yesterday, I talked about my rejections in the magazine and newspaper world. Today, I'd like to discuss the rejections of my novel.

Joy of joys!

A little back story... In early 2010, I had been working on my MG science fiction novel for over a year and a half, and I finally felt it was ready for querying. With my manuscript all polished and shiny, I decided to enter a "Secret Agent" contest at a blog called, Miss Snark's First Victim. Every month or so, this blog invited writers to submit the first 250-words of their manuscript for public review. Once all of the submissions had been posted, a Secret Agent would critique them and choose a couple winners who would receive some cool prizes.

So awesome, right?

On the day my excerpt was posted, I bit my nails and refreshed the blog page every five minutes. (Okay, it was more like every two minutes.) I had no idea if I would win or not, but I kept hoping that something good would turn out of this. After all, I had workshopped my first chapter to a bloody pulp and it had been through the ringer with my critique group.

I thought I might have a chance.

But once the comments started rolling in, my heart sank into my stomach. Some of the commenters liked the excerpt, but some of them pointed out a few big time mistakes. (ie, over-writing. D'oh!) Yet, I kept my chin up because I knew the Secret Agent would have the final say.

Yeah, I was in for some bad news... Ultimately, the Secret Agent was very gracious and gave me some good advice, but she didn't ask to see more pages. Once again, I was crushed--and embarassed. I sobbed into my blanket for five minutes and moped around the apartment for the rest of the day. Indeed, I was a major cry baby.

I kind of looked like this, minus the plastic surgery:


I didn't look at my manuscript for about a week, but then I decided to brush off my wounds and get back on the revising horse. I re-read all of the comments and I took a harder look at my first chapter. Slowly, I realized that the Secret Agent was right and that my story lacked a certain oomph. And so, I re-wrote the first 250-words of my book until they barely resembled my original draft.

Here is my original version compared to the revised one. I've only pasted about 100-words each.


Original

A loud knock on the front door jolted twelve-year-old Danny Singer from his math homework. He scratched his head and put his pencil down, wondering who had come to the house. His mother didn’t get off work until six o’clock and his trumpet teacher wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon.

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.


Revamped

Danny Singer knew the rules. He could recite all three of them by heart, like the times table or the Pledge of Allegiance.

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.

Until today.


Of course, the revamped excerpt isn't perfect and I'm sure I'll have to tweak it some more But at the end of the day, my public forum rejection injected some much-needed life into my novel's opening. A few weeks ago, I even spoke to an agent who really enjoyed the first chapter of the book.

Even now, I still remember quite vividly the sadness I felt when the Secret Agent rejected me. BUT, I'm really grateful for the comments she left because my book is much better because of them. In the end, my disappointment (and despair!) was well worth the result.

Never give up! Never surrender!

Surviving Rejection Week! -- My Very First, Very Sad Rejection

Surviving Rejection Tip #1: Rejections suck. Indeed, rejections suck ass. But don't let them make you give up. Ever.

Back in 2007, I decided to try my hand at freelance writing. Up until that point, I had worked in a few different museums since I had dreamt about becoming a curator in college. But museum work wasn't exactly for me--I'm too impatient to wait 3 to 5 years to see an exhibit come to life--and writing has always been my first love. And so, I took the plunge and did a huge belly-flop into the freelancing world.

Man, I really didn't know what I was getting into...

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!"

*Le sigh*

Slowly but surely, I learned what I was doing wrong and I tried my best to correct my mistakes. After I gained a firmer grasp on all of this publishing stuff, I started writing a personal essay that was buzzing around in my mind.

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!

Right?

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.

Below, you will find a picture that depicts what I looked like at this low point of my life:


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.

*Le sigh*

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.

Really? Really?!

*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

Surviving Rejection Week! -- An Introduction

Throughout my life on this beautiful green Earth, I have faced dozens upon dozens of rejections. Hundreds of rejections! Thousands of rejections! Entire mountains of rejection!

(Okay, maybe I'm being a tad melodramatic, but you get the drift.)

Let's face it. Rejection has been a major theme in my life. Case in point:

In elementary school, I was rejected by the cool kids.
In middle school, I was rejected by my crushes.
In high school, I was rejected three times from the super awesome show choir.
In college, I was rejected by my crushes. Again.
In my adult life, I was rejected from three super awesome graduate schools.


Hey, it happens. Rejection is a part of life, right? And so, I tried to take each rejection in stride--and I got pretty good at brushing off my wounds.

But I had no idea how much a rejection could hurt until I became a freelance writer. Yeah, with each rejection I received, it felt like somebody had pulled a giant bandaid off my heart. Ouuuuucccccchhhhhh.

When I first started freelancing, I made a subconscious decision not to blog about my rejections and dejections. Frankly, I didn't want to spread around my misery--and I was too embarassed to do so. I didn't want to be seen as a failure. A loser. A nobody. Because, sometimes, that's how I felt.

So why dedicate a whole week of blogging to "Surviving Rejection"? Because I said so!!! Bwahahaha!

In all honesty though, I want to share my numerous rejections with y'all because rejection is a big part of my life--and I don't want to hide from it anymore. All writers face rejection. Hell, all people face rejection. Nothing to be embarassed about, eh?

I also hope that these posts will push some of my readers (all ten of you!) to keep striving for your own goals. When I was in the midst of finding an agent, it really helped me to read other writers' blogs who went through the same thing that I was. I felt their pain. I felt their sorrow. And I felt their happiness when they finally succeeded. These blogs buoyed me up when I wanted to throw my hands in the air and turn to knitting or cat-breeding.

So...whether you write or paint or dance or bake pies, you will face rejection at some point along your career path. Inevitably, you will cry and scream and cry and stomp your feet. (Which is fine.) But the most important thing is this: DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.

Believe me, if a so-so writer like me can do it, then you can too. But you'll never taste a drop of the success if you let those rejections get to your head and make you quit. Not a drop!

Stay tuned this week as I recount the various rejections that I've received in my own career! In three short years, I've collected countless rejections from major newspapers, small-town newspapers, national magazines, religious magazines, kids' magazines, small literary journals, various websites, awesome editors, and really fantastic agents. So many rejections!

But somehow I survived them all. AND YOU CAN TOO!

May 16, 2010

Have you checked out ModCloth.com yet?

Spring is in full swing, which means only one thing...

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:






So cute, right? And even better, most of the clothing is reasonably priced--from $30 on up! Huzzah for spring!

On another note, be sure to check out my blog this week as I post about my many, many, many rejections throughout my short writing career. I shall call it "Surviving Rejection" week!

May 14, 2010

I think my head might explode...

In the apartment below mine, there lives a dog.

A beautiful dog. A Weimaraner. The Lexus of the dog world.

Nevertheless...the damn dog WON'T STOP BARKING!


The dog barks at 5:00AM. It barks in the morning. It barks in the afternoon. It barks, barks, barks until its owners come home at 4:30PM.

IT. NEVER. STOPS.

Granted, I don't really blame the dog for its excessive barking. I mean, it's a Weimaraner. These dogs are bred to run long distances, to guard their families, and to hunt large game. They're not the kind of breed you just leave in your apartment, locked away in a bedroom all day.

So, it's not the dog's fault for barking out of loneliness. But man, it's driving me up the wall! At moments like these when I just want to pull my hair out, I can't help but think about one of Billy Collins' poems. Here it is:

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Such a fantastic poem, eh? And do you want to know my favorite part of it?

It's the title: "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House."

Hahaha.

Of course, I am not going to harm this dog in any way, but I really wish it would stop barking...

May 12, 2010

Tell me the truth—am I getting old?

My little sister, Kristy, just finished up her freshman year at college.

Whoa.

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

4.) Camera
Me: Disposable cameras
Kristy: Camera on her cell phone, of course

5.) Boys
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

If you had the chance, what would you say?

Last Saturday, I simply inhaled Sarah Mlynowski's new book Gimme a Call. I'm not kidding! I bought it on Saturday afternoon and I finished it later that night. At one point, Justin even turned to me and said, "Wow, you're really enjoying that book, aren't you?" Yep, I really liked it.



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

With the good comes the bad...

After a quick trip to the doctor's office yesterday, Justin found out that he has a hernia.

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

The BIG Announcement!

Okay folks, I just got the okay to do this. So without further adieu...

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!

Wow, I've waited 2 years to be able to write this, and I seriously can't stop smiling! Here is an extremely cheesy picture of me as I signed my contract last night (Justin chuckled when I asked him to take this):


A recap of events: For an entire year, I've been searching high and low for a literary agent to represent my MG science fiction novel, THE COSMIC CHRONICLES OF DANNY J. SINGER. I started sending out query letters to agents in April 2009, but I received nothing but rejections. (Quite embarassingly, I cried many, many tears during this period.) After I got my 15th rejection or so, I decided to stop querying and revise the hell out of my novel.

Fast forward to November 2009. After working on my book some more (and getting it torn apart at a few conferences), I sent out 20 queries to various agencies. This time, I received a few positive responses from agents who requested to see the whole book. Exciting, right?! I did a little dance. But alas, these agents ended up rejecting my novel anyway. Yep. Ouch.

Fast foward to March 2009. After another major revision (in which I cut 10,000-words from the book), I figured I'd query a few more agents and give up on the novel if nobody wanted it. I started working on a new manuscript in the mean time, which I was pretty excited about.

Fast forward to last week. Eeek! Last Sunday morning, I got an email from an agent who loved my book and offered me representation. Eeek! My whole body went numb. I couldn't believe this was really happening. I was tempted to accept this agent's offer, but I also knew I needed to alert the other agents who had my manuscript. So I shot off a few emails and twiddled my thumbs and lost my appetite.

Fast forward to Monday. Got a call from Jim! I was utterly flabbergasted that he wanted to represent me---completely floored. After our phone conversation, I got all tingly and excited. I just knew that I wanted to work with him. He was The One!

In the end, I received three offers of rep (Eeek!), but I decided that Jim was the best agent for my book and career. He's smart, he's professional, and he wants to represent me! What more can I ask for?

So that is my story in landing my agent! Honestly, I feel excited and happy and humbled and even a little scared. I still can't believe this is happening to me... Wow...

Anyway, the next step is to revise my novel yet again (more revisions!) and then Jim will start subbing my book to editors once he feels it is ready. (This whole process will take months.)

I'll say it again: Eeeeeeekkkkk!

(If you're interested, I've posted a short summary of my book on my new website. Just click on the "Books" tab!)

A Much Needed Update!

Friends! Families! Foes!

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.

The evidence:
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.