Sunday, November 30, 2008

Distractions - Motorcycles and Moving

My son has a toy motorcycle that he won’t let out of his sight. He sleeps with it. He bathes with it. He tries to eat with it, but I won’t let him. He loves his “motor.” He has a “papa” that sits on the front and a “mama” that sits on the back. When I say something he doesn’t like, he rips the mama off the back and throws her to the ground. Later, when he’s happy with me, he demands we look for the missing mama. No matter what I’m doing—cooking, cleaning, writing—he pulls on my hand and leads me away saying, “Help, mama, help.” That’s what toddlers do, I suppose. And most times I’m happy to go. He’s an easy-to-justify distraction from my work.

Harder to reconcile are the little distractions of daily life.

St. Augustine is supposed to have said, "Even the straws under my knees shout to distract me from prayer." I don’t pray, but I know about distraction. The refrigerator hums, the clock ticks, a bird chirps, and they each remind me of something. There are endless cups of tea shouting to be made, a parade of dishes calling to be done, and so many views out the window waiting to be stared at that it’s amazing I ever write a word. Oh, and then there’s my son, who is just too cute to ignore.

Weeks ago, when I was packing up my life to move to the Netherlands, I got so much writing done. It distracted me from the more daunting task of deciding which items deserved a spot in one of our six allotted bags. I can spend hours dickering over word choice, but that seems like play compared to these decisions. Now I’m semi-settled and back to fending off distractions from writing.

I suppose it’s about choosing your distraction. I choose the toddler but not that third pot of tea. I choose the quiet evening with my husband but not the random browsing of the internet. I will let myself be led by the hand up the stairs and to the bedroom where together we grope beneath the bed to find the mama and put her back on the motor. We do it again and again every day until it becomes a ritual.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On marrying foreign men- and Skype

Lisa's leaving us!  

Let this serve as a warning- do not marry a man from the Netherlands, no matter how wonderful he is.  (And Michiel is wonderful.)  Lisa and Michiel will be settled in the Netherlands by Thanksgiving, and the rest of us Slushies will have to figure out how to incorporate Skype into our critique group.

We meet at a local Panera (free WiFi!) and I have a PowerBook.  We hope Skype will allow Lisa to play a part in the critiques, even though our meeting won't even start until after midnight for her.  I can just imagine us passing around my laptop.  And what happens if we start fighting about someone's work?  (That's one of my favorite times: a few Slushies absolutely for what one person wrote, other Slushies completely against.  Always a sign the writer's on to something good.)  Our fights- passionate discussions, rather- aren't exactly orderly.  What happens to my laptop then?  I doubt we could pass it around fast enough, and there will be poor Lisa in the Netherlands, mug of tea in hand, watching a deserted screen pointed at some random spot in Panera- probably at someone who chews with his mouth open.  

Anyway, we'll let you know how it goes.  Our first international Slushbuster meeting won't happen till after Thanksgiving.  

Goodbye, Lisa!  We love you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What is a Slushbuster?

Slushbusters is the name we chose for our children’s writing critique group. Why? Because one of our goals is to make our way to the top of editors’ slush piles. So now you’re asking, “What’s a slush pile?” Those of you already involved in publishing, bear with me a moment while I explain. When an unsolicited manuscript is sent to a publisher, it goes in with all the other manuscripts that don’t get routed straight to an editor’s desk. It may be months before the envelope is even opened. Usually the slush pile manuscripts are read by an assistant or an intern, and only the very best are sent along to an editor. There are a couple of ways around this process, such as having an editor request a manuscript because they met you in person at a writing conference. “Breaking out of the slush pile” is what many new (and not so new!) authors want, because it means that the people making the big decisions are reading your work.

But Slushbusters with a capital “S” means more than that. We help each other become better writers. We support each other through road blocks and rejections. We offer criticism when work isn’t the best it can be. We share good books and blogs and websites. We go to conferences where we can meet other writers and learn from them. And somehow, in the middle of it, we’ve become friends who happen to have a pretty good time.

We decided that seven was as many people as we could handle in the group. There’s only so much time for critiques! But we’re having so much fun we’re ready to share. Here you’ll read our thoughts on critique groups, children’s literature, and taking the baby steps (and falls!) every writer must on the way to publication. Welcome to the Slushbusters blog.