The Slushbusters meet twice a month. We decided long ago that we couldn't possibly critique a submission from each of us at every meeting, so we capped it at five people's submissions. Each meeting, someone has to "opt out." This is never a problem. Someone always has something they want to work on some more, or is out of town or has some other reason for not submitting pages. Only once in a great while have we had to choose who would opt out. We originally made it all official, deciding ahead of time who would submit for the next meeting, but so rarely is it a problem that we don't even talk about it anymore.
The other thing we don't talk about is that we have never not had something to critique. Any time I have to opt out, the day of the upcoming meeting creeps closer, and I find myself wondering if we'll have anyone's work to discuss at all. We always do. This, I believe, is one of the small miracles of our group. We complement one another in so many ways. One person's weakness is another person's strength and all. But it even happens in timing. One person's dry spell is another's flood of work. Amazing.
I found a great game today. You're given a list of title synonyms and expected to enter the real title. So The Feline in the Fedora would be The Cat in the Hat.
The only drawback is that you must enter the title perfectly- correct spelling, everything. But it was a pleasant diversion and I think you'll like it.
If you want, come back here and let me know how it went- how many correct in how long. I won't share my score- I discovered the game in the middle of a task and had to stop (the game- not the task!) and ran out of time.
I have a new baby and a three year old. (And there's my wonderful husband, too.) They're the first grandchildren on both sides of the family, so they're getting spoiled with way too many toys. I've started telling people that if they absolutely must buy things for my kids (and sometimes you just gotta), they should get books.
But there are a lot of not-so-great books out there, ones that I get sick of reading. What can I say? I'm picky about my children's literature.
So, I'm creating a list of books I want my children to have, books I loved as a child, books they will treasure for years, books they will save for their own children.
There are the picture books: Goodnight Moon, Blueberries for Sal, Where the Wild Things Are.
And then there are ones for as they get older. Beautiful, illustrated, hardcover editions of Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, the Chronicles of Narnia, the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, and on up through Beverly Cleary, Charlotte's Web, A Little Princess, and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Oh, the list goes on and on. But I need help. Which books would top your list? Quick, before we get another toy that makes horrid bleeping noises. We need more books!
Since I finished a full draft of a middle grade novel during NaNoWriMo, I've been working on revisions of it. I think it's going pretty well. I've had some good feedback from the Slushbusters, and I think it has potential.
But now my head has been turned back to my completed other manuscript. It's one I've sent out to a couple of contests, had critiqued at a conference, queried with a few agents. I had let myself stop thinking about making too many changes to it for a while.
Until now. I'm taking it to Chautauqua. I think it's better for me to submit a manuscript that I've done as much as I can with, and get a professional opinion, rather than taking something that still has flaws I know how to fix.
But now I'm distracted from my WIP. It's like I don't want to be too committed to it, because I know I'll have to switch gears soon and work on the other one.
I didn't have this problem when I worked on shorter pieces, but for some reason a novel requires a higher level of emotional commitment for me. Does that happen to anyone else?
Sometimes I am still shocked by how slowly the children's publishing industry moves. Seriously.
I got a manila envelope in the mail yesterday. I recognized the address label on it as one of my own. A SASE. I haven't sent out anything small enough to fit in that envelope in a long time. It was a rejection letter and returned manuscript. A picture book manuscript.
Now if you've been reading Slushbusters for a while, you know that I primarily have been writing for middle grade. I'm working on the second draft of my second middle grade novel manuscript. So I started questioning myself when I opened this envelope. Did I see something on a blog or in a publication a few months ago that prompted me to send out this story? I just couldn't remember. So I checked the computer.
I queried this publisher in January of 2008. They apparently asked to see the MS, because I have a follow up letter dated March 15, 2008, which acted as a cover letter for the manuscript when I sent it. They've had it in hand for over two years. They do have an explanation, which I guess falls under the category of "good rejections" They were waiting to see if their list would have an opening to accommodate my story. They have decided to go with something else.
The lessons in this?Keep track of your submissions. Once you submit something, don't rest on your laurels. Please. Keep writing and working and growing and living your life. I know that once you put that perfect, neatly printed envelope in the mail for the first time, you want to wait by the phone. Don't do it. Even if they think they're interested, you never know. And for goodness sake, buy "forever" stamps. The last thing you want is to get a rejection letter with postage due. Trust me.
In keeping with the theme of my last post, I thought I would share a couple of the ways children's writers can stay connected. Many of you probably know these already, but some of you may not, and sometimes we need to be reminded, as I did this morning.
Last night I finally signed myself up for the message boards for our upcoming workshop at Chautauqua. There hasn't been a whole lot of activity there yet, which is okay. No one likes to be the first kid to jump in the pool. Well, except Sarah, and she was in fact the first one in besides the workshop staff. Go Sarah!
I spoke with our local SCBWI coordinator Anne Marie Pace this morning. She reminded me that people on Verla Kay's blueboard are active posters of all things kidlit, and I should look there to find more workshop attendees. She was right! I haven't been a participant on the blueboard so far, and I tend to only check the SCBWI boards if I'm looking for specific information, but both are tremendous resources for information and connecting with other writers.
I should mention that you do need to be a member of SCBWI to access the discussion boards. It is well worth the money, though, because you receive information about conferences and events in your area as well as the national ones, and you often get a discounted rate at events if you are a member. And you get the bi-monthly SCBWI Bulletin magazine, which is full of good information. Verla Kay doesn't require a paid membership, but you do need to set up an account.
For any of you who are still looking for critique partners, I'd check the boards. You may be able to find folks in your area, but you may also find some online partners, which may work just as well for you.
I discovered over the last couple of weeks how very much we Slushbusters, and probably the whole writing community, really stay in touch via the internet.
I was out of town for six days. I had my laptop with me, but the place where I stayed didn't have wi-fi, and we were so gosh darn busy I only got to a local library once to check emails and blogs while I was away. Then I was home for three days, barely got caught up, and left town again for two days more.
Now that I've landed, I realize how much I missed everyone. I missed one Slushbusters meeting. Just one. But I feel like I haven't seen the gang in ages. I realized it's because I missed out on all the day to day emails that circulate among the group. Now, we're not all emailing each other all day long. We do have lives. But we check in. Maybe not daily, but every couple of days someone has a question or a submission or some news.
The same thing is beginning to be true of my new blog group over at Searching for a Good Read. The group sends quick emails to ask a question or give one another a heads-up that a post is forthcoming. When I returned from being away, I felt like I was out of the loop.
Since I've gotten home, I just want to communicate! I'm reading blogs, commenting, checking facebook. I didn't find that I desperately needed the Internet while I was away from it, but it is good to feel connected again. Does this mean I'm a writer?