Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rejection Part 2

Something to add to the story below and part of another reason why I haven't sent off that revision. . .

Recently I was in Titcomb's Bookshop. Now, I love Titcomb's. It's my favorite bookstore. . .the smells of old books, the soft music playing, the authors who visit, the activities they plan, the ladies who work there and love to read and know every book in that shop. . .all of it. While I was making a purchase one day a lady comes in with a children's picture book under her arm and engages in a discussion with the manager that went something like this:

Author: I have published this book and would like to know if you would sell my book here and let me do an author's signing.

Manager (looking the book over quickly): Has it been reviewed?

Author: It's listed on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Borders. I have reviews there.

Manager: By a newspaper?

Author: No. (she's starting to scramble) But, I live locally. I live here in Sandwich.

Manager: We don't do any book signings until it's been reviewed.

Author: Oh. How do I go about that?

The manager kindly proceeded to explain the process to her. . .a process I know about because I attended a workshop about getting your book reviewed by a newspaper. Bigger newspapers get upwards of 500 books per week to review and if you have seen your Sunday paper lately, how many of them actually make it in? About 10? 20? How many of those are children's picture books?

I left the store feeling sorry for this woman. She went through the agonizing process of getting an agent and a publisher and now her own local bookshop wasn't going to allow her to sell it there until she gets it reviewed, which may never happen. These days the publishers don't do the marketing for you. They pretty much leave it up to the authors to take care of that.

Didn't make me feel very enthusiastic or encouraged!!


Usually I keep quiet about my journey as a writer. Continuous rejection can do wonders for your confidence. . .but there are positives about the journey that I should share. . .

Recently I finished a novel for young adults, the third young adult novel I have written. Not thinking too much more about it than other books I had written I submitted my query letters to ten agents. Three of the ten responded quickly, asking to see more (a good sign!). One asked for an exclusive (I said no). After sending additional material, two wanted to see the whole thing. Six weeks pass and being down this road several times I didn't think or worry too much about it. Then one day an agent called me on the phone. Now, this has never happened before. Unfortunately I was mowing the lawn and Melanie took a message. The agent said she would be emailing me, so no message was necessary.

My hands shook as I signed on and checked my email. It was a rejection. . .but nicer in a way. She said she loved the story, loved the writing, but it just wasn't as "dazzling" as other stories she was considering.

Well, the other agent was still out there. . .there's always one more chance on the horizon. Then the email came:

I loved the intensity that you created between Sam and Pete - I feel like you nailed their relationship 100%. I also really enjoyed the premise - a young adult heroine in (sorry don't want to reveal too many story details) who deals with her life and its challenges with maturity and a good sense of humor (most of the time of course).

But then this sentence:

It is with regret that I am going to pass on the offer of representation.

It was the closest I had ever come to a yes. I emailed her back and said thank you for the feedback and then another email from her:

I would read a revision. I really enjoyed reading this story and was hoping my answer would have been yes. If you do end up rewriting, simply email me back and I'll see what's in my queue at the time.

So, not a complete no. . .

Did I revise it? Yes, I did. right away.

Have I sent it? No. I'm not sure why such the hesitation. I have written the email to her on more than one occasion, but decide to wait and delete it before sending it. It could still be better, is one reason I haven't sent it. How can I make it better? Not sure. . .need real time to be able to sit down and focus and concentrate 100% on it. Another reason is that all writers seem to write all summer and then submit at the end of the summer, resulting in agents being bombarded in the fall with queries. Not a good time to try to stand out.

So it sits in its file in my computer, waiting for me to have time to really focus on it and make it the best it can be and then try to send it when I think maybe the agent has had time to catch up and can enjoy my novel.

And I remember when sitting one on one with an agent at the Cape Cod Writer's Conference that she told me I was further along than any other author she had met with lately. That she couldn't blow any holes in my story, that I was a better candidate than many others and not to give up. And she told me women's fiction is dead (all I had ever written at that point) and to consider making the jump to YA. Women aren't buying or reading as much as they used to. Publishers are going out of business, only accepting books from established authors. To break into the biz as an unpublished author is becoming next to impossible. YA is the way to go. . .

So I wait for inspiration. . .I wait for the big idea that will make this story dazzle. . .Or even the big idea that will create a completely different dazzling story. Something that the agent will find among the 50 other queries from that day that will make him or her say, "Wait a minute. . .what's this?" It's there somewhere and I'm getting closer. Keep your fingers crossed - maybe in the haze of anesthesia next week it will find me, or in the drudgery of day to day tasks and cleaning or in the car while driving to work or as for me - where a ton of my story ideas come from - in my dreams. . .waking up with the story that will give me that yes that I've been waiting for. . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


One week of school down. . .how many to go?

I had thought that the first two weeks of school prior to my scheduled gall bladder surgery, I would have some time to catch up on blogging, finishing reading that novel I have been working on for a few weeks (Friday Night Knitting Club. . .for some reason can't get through it!), watching Regis and Kelly and maybe even catch Oprah once or twice. Not a chance. Haven't even had the TV on during the day or picked up a book. I did manage to get a Shutterfly album done, but that was easy - I uploaded the pics in order and hit "auto-fill."

It makes me wonder how I will manage to fit in working 4 days a week. But as everything -we'll adjust. It will mean packing three lunches and two snacks every day (really, why do the kids need snack right before lunch? Know what I do? I just take part of their lunch and pack it as the snack. That's as much as they'd eat in a day if they were home). It will mean getting up at 6:00 instead of 6:30 and will mean packing dance clothes, ice skating clothes and all other after school activities in the car the night before. It will mean fitting in groceries, laundry, cleaning, mowing and errands all on my one day off and weekends. It will mean less time to work on Girl Scouts and other volunteer projects and less time to chat with friends.

I do enjoy work, but I don't look forward to the harried feeling that I will have until we adjust.

Just like I do enjoy feeling well and being able to enjoy a burger, ice cream or pizza now and then, but I don't look forward to having IVs, anesthesia and pain meds to deal with. Ick.

Oh well, I know it's all part of life and part of our responsibilities. I just hope I can look past the transitions over the next few weeks and enjoy the "right now." It will be great having my mom here again so soon to help out and hopefully I'll feel great in just a day or two and can enjoy the visit more than have her wait on me.

Kylie had her first ice skating lesson yesterday and there was a horrendous traffic back up (bridge construction + medical emergency + accident at exit 2) that made us almost 15 minutes late. Since I knew we were going to be really late, I told Melanie to help Kylie put her skates on in the backseat and I would carry her in (we had to drop Melanie off at piano first on the way to skating). When they started to put the skates on, they realized one skate didn't have it's lace. Ugh! (Long story as to why). So I took my left shoe off, threw it in the backseat and told Melanie to unlace it and use my lace for the skate. Unfortunately, Melanie hasn't really ever laced up shoes by herself before and was having difficulty following my visual demonstrations from the front, so I had her pass me the skate and I started it while we were sitting at a dead stop on Rt 130. Dropped Mel quickly at her lesson, then continued on to the rink while Kylie in the backseat kept telling me the lace wasn't long enough. Get to the rink and I see that both skates are laced REALLY loosely, so I quick try to tighten them. Then I carried Kylie in while I was walking without one lace. . .NOT easy. Finally I set her down in the parking lot in her skates while I took off my sneaker and walked in - one shoe on and one shoe off. Lessons had already started and were well under way. If you've never been to Gallo for lesssons, let me set the visual. Tons of kids on the ice. . .tons of parents milling around the sign up table. Confusion since it was the first day and disorganization. Finally I got someone who could help direct Kylie to the right class and off she went with a teacher. I took a deep breath and limped my way up the stairs to watch from the bleachers. Just as I sat next to a nice, warm looking mom who obviously appreciated the stress I was under, I noticed the teacher examining Kylie's skates. . .what? Couldn't she have a sneaker shoelace?? The teacher starts scanning the crowd so I stand up, collect my things, hobble back down the steps and they find me in the crowd. "Her laces are way too loose. You need to tighten them." I utter an apology and a quick excuse, "traffic, rushed, sorry." I spend a few minutes REALLY tightening the laces AGAIN and send her back out. This time the class (the most beginner class she can be in) skates away, all unassisted, leaving Kylie clinging to the wall. Tears start. . .I feel horrible and think I should just take her and go, but then one of the teachers skates back, takes her hand and Kylie's face lights up as she takes her first few tentative steps. Then, she was skating. Class ended shortly after and Kylie had managed to skate by herself for a few of those minutes. When she came off the ice she was beaming (I was worried she would think she was the worst in the class), but she said, "Mommy, I can skate! I want to stay and keep skating!" Made all the stress melt away.

School has gone well. The girls are really enjoying themselves. I'm so lucky to have kids who really like school and enjoy learning. Seems like Melanie is going to have a big homework load, but somehow we'll fit it all in!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Backpacks are packed, school supplies are labeled and by the front door, girls are clean, nails painted, clothes are laid out for tomorrow and the excitement of a new school year is in the air.

As I combed Kylie's hair after her shower tonight, I saw that her scalp was still filled with tiny grains of sand. I laughed thinking it may be until November before all the sand is our of our hair, off our floors, out of our cars. But each time we see a speck of sand it will be a remembrance of this wonderful summer we shared together.

We spent this weekend soaking up as much last minute fun as possible. Thursday was our last BIG beach day. . . we loaded up the cars and headed for Mayflower Beach in Dennis. In all my years as a Cape Codder I had never ventured to Mayflower before even though it's one of the most popular beaches. The sun played tricks on us throughout the day, hiding behind the clouds, causing the kids to dive under their beach towels and bundle up, then coming back into the open, making us all shed some layers and seek out the cool water.

We finished the day off by finding a completely "rustic" Cape Cod seafood place called the Sesuit Harbor Cafe. Run down with old unpainted wood it looked like a fishing shack at the end of the dock. Inside was bustling - a long line of beachgoers curving around a baby grand piano. There were only picnic tables outside and finding one was tricky, but we finally settled ourselves next to a large group - turned out to be a wedding rehearsal dinner. That is true Cape Cod for you. . .the more rustic, unsuspecting and off the beaten path it is - the better it is. We watched the sunset as we feasted on our fish and chips and BYOB drinks. . .

Saturday was Kylie's first soccer game with Sandwich Soccer. She is on team Australia and actually has the same coach she had when she played for the Y. She knows many of the girls on her team and she showed amazing improvement over the last time she played. Now she actually went after the ball and kicked it in the right direction and to her teammates. We were very proud of her and went for ice cream after.

Saturday night we gathered with several of our friends for a bonfire at Sandy Neck. Lots of good food, drinks and fun was had by all. The kids had the most fun - running, screaming, laughing and playing. They even put on a show for us at 10 pm. . .way past everyone's bedtimes.

Sunday we managed to drag our tired selves out of bed and go to Falmouth to try out the Shining Sea Bike Path - another first for me. Melanie had learned to ride her bike without training wheels at the beginning of the summer and Kylie had been working on it (but wasn't quite there yet), so we thought we'd try it. Melanie was nervous about the narrow, busy path at first but eventually fell into a comfort zone (until she got run over by another biker while she was on foot - ouch!) But we settled her back and and she and her friend Kate actually finished the 4 miles ahead of everyone else.

Kylie pooped out pretty quickly with those pesky training wheels. She needed A TON of encouragement to keep going and we finally finished. Next time as Amy says, we will make a date with our hubbies and do the bike path without the kids. Riding along the coast is just breathtaking and taking a pit stop at a beach with our picnic sounds so romantic. . . :-)

The nine year olds still have some energy after two miles

The six year olds look a bit pooped. But Ben had the easiest and most sought after role - the one who got to ride in the baby seat. . .everyone envied him!

Today was the day we decided to take off from activity and just stay home and get ready for our big first day of school. We had accomplished all the goals the girls set for themselves at the beginning of the summer, except for the training wheels on Kylie's bike. Well, I told her, we have a few hours left, wanna try it? She was up for it, so away we went and within a few minutes she had the balance down well enough for me to let go of her, but then getting her to steer for longer than 2 or 3 seconds wasn't going well. But we stuck with it and an hour later she was riding down the street in a straight line without stopping. Woo-hoo! What an accomplishment. Check out the videos below.

It was truly a perfect ending to a perfect summer.

The money shot

Runs into Melanie

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer Reflections

Summer on Cape Cod is my favorite time of the year. The school year is such a busy time for us (as it is for everyone) that by April or May I am longing for some quality down time with my kids. Then all the summer camp brochures start to roll in from school and this year I just tossed one after the other into the trash. I couldn't stand the thought of getting up early every morning and shipping the kids off to camp. I wanted to spend time with them.

That's not to say they didn't do any camps. Melanie was in a 2 week long drama camp and they both particpated in two bible schools (one ours and the other invited to by friends). But that was it. The rest of the time was a schedule of our own making.

The summer started with rain. Lots and lots of rain. I wanted down time? I got it. Two weeks worth of non-beach weather. We played games, watched re-runs of Little House on the Prairie (who remembers Little House being so intense??), got a head start on their summer workbooks, had a ton of playdates with friends we never get to see, attended the the library summer reading activities, raised butterflies from caterpillers and spent as much time using our imaginations as possible. We even fit a circus performance in there.

By Fourth of July, the weather was starting to clear and the residents were venturing out into the world again. Since moving to Sandwich, the 4th has become my favorite holiday. The community spirit is almost overwhelming. This year, we started an new tradition of jetskiing on a friend's pond. One more thing to add to a marvelous day.

Long awaited beach time followed the 4th. We spent as much time as we could at as many different beaches as we could get to. Packing sandwiches, snacks and watermelon became a daily habit.

My mom came on the 14th of July for 3 weeks. She started out her visit by helping out at our Bible School and came with us to swim lessons (getting her first sunburn in many years!). We introduced her to Mr. Parsons at the library (he's a tourist attraction in himself), hunted for mermaids, went on a duck tour in Boston, spent a day at the MOS, took her for her first Barnstable County Fair experience (and first country concert!), took her for her first lobster roll, spent a day in Chatham watching the fishing boats unload and saw tons of seals, and celebrated hers and my birthdays respectively. We also taught her how to play Mexican Train Dominoes and I think she and Melanie would have been happy to skip all the other activities to just play domino game after domino game. In fact she purchased her own set of double 12 dominoes when she got back to Kansas to have her girlfriends over for a game night.

Josh Gracin concert at the fair

Chatham Lighthouse

Museum of Science

A day after Mom left, my cousins from Denver arrived consisting of my cousin Cindy (Mom's sister's daughter) and her husband, Todd and three kids, Ryan, Kelsey and Lauren. Only suddenly Ryan and Kelsey aren't kids anymore. Ryan is 20 and entering his sophomore year of college and Kelsey is a senior this year. (Were they really the same 7 and 4 year old ring bearer and flower girl at my wedding???) Lauren is only 9 and was a great playmate to my girls. They came for a visit, but also for Tom to take Kelsey's senior portraits on the beach. As soon as they drove up in our driveway, we ushered them in and headed straight for the portrait session (gotta take advantage of that good weather and with Tom shooting 2 weddings that weekend and booked solid with portraits, had to make sure their trip wasn't in vain!). The portrait session went great and we headed straight to Seafood Sams after for dinner (also a must see tourist destination for all our guests). While they were here, we showed them around Hyannis, to a Cape League ball game (Ryan is on baseball scholarship in college), took a cruise around Hyannis harbor (saw Ted Kennedy's boat Mya up close), took them to the Boardwalk at high tide where they all jumped and even got Melanie to jump (wow!), spent time at the beach, had a bonfire on the beach with our friends and lots of s'mores, watched Tom run in the Falmouth Road Race, took a drive by a lighthouse, had a family movie night (Fever Pitch), did lots of shopping and had lots of great food and drink. Then their final day the girls spent the day at Heritage Musuems while we sent the boys to Boston for a game at Fenway (sounds like they had a LOT of fun). It was a great visit. The girls didn't want Lauren to leave and we would be more than happy to have them all back again!

Kelsey, Ryan, Lauren, Cindy and Todd (Oh and there's Libby too!)
Kelsey's senior portraits

Todd, Lauren and Mel on the cruise
Ryan and Cindy

Kelsey and Kylie (best buds!)

Things slowed considerably down since our guests left, but somehow we continue to be busy every day. We have still crammed in as much beach time as possible, played tons of games, read books, shopped till we dropped, spent time with friends and with our summer learning. We spent a day at a flea market and ended up with two hermit crabs as pets (who seem to now be hanging tenuously onto life) and a day down cape at the beach, followed by the girls' first drive in movie experience.

Rainbow and Shelly
Getting ready for the drive in movie!

At the beginning of the summer, I had the girls set some goals that they wanted to accomplish over this few months. Both of them had one goal of each: social, academic, physical, emotional and fun. I have to say I am incredibly impressed with how they have grown in different ways. Kylie has made LEAPS and BOUNDS in her reading and math skills just by completing a page a day of her summer workbook. Melanie is more confident on her bike and with swimming. There are a couple of goals left unaccomplished -but we still have a week to go! (Just need Tom to take those training wheels of Kylie's bike and we're all set! She's ready!).

We have also introduced a new system of reward - the Daddy Dollar. The girls now make their beds and brush their teeth every morning without being asked. Their rooms stay picked up and messes get cleaned up without complaint, they help with the laundry, dusting and putting all their clothes away. It's a great system and so far they have stayed highly motivated. They can spend their Daddy Dollars at the Mommy store, buying family game time, movie night, sleepovers or playdates. It's fun to see them working together to save up for a dual sleepover. I've had to print more money to keep up - just like the US treasury! Since they have done so well with it, I've started an actual allowance with them at the end of the week if they have done all their chores without complaint.

One thing I have not accomplished this summer is writing. Usually the summer is good for at least one novel to come out, but I have a momentary lapse of inspiration. But I have enjoyed the vast variety of summer reading material I have completed (another blog story for another day!).

But one of the main themes of this summer has been friendship. We have spent more time with our closest friends than we ever have before and experiencing a variety of new activities. I treasure these friendships and am so thankful to have all these wonderful families in our lives to help shape my daughters' childhoods. Thanks ladies!

Amy, Donna and Wendy. What a fun pic!

Some of the crew at Mashnee Island
Wendy and Maryjo

The girls go back to school next week and another summer is coming to an end. It also signifies me going back to work, although I am having gall bladder surgery September 21, so work isn't starting up for me again until October 5 (hope I'm recovered). So I have two weeks prior to surgery while the girls are in school for time to catch up on those "me" things I haven't done all summer. Hopefully I'll get caught up on my photo albums and maybe, just maybe I'll be motivated to crack that next novel that lives inside me.