The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Reason for the Season

My granddaughter--She's immersed  in a superheroes phase right now...

      The holiday has been a wonderful one for me so far. I got to spend a week with my daughter and her family in Navarre, Florida. The weather was not especially good, but that didn't hamper our game-playing. During the week we invested our time and imagination in many endeavors:  we pretended we had a restaurant, a repair shop, a superhero lab, a flea market, an art studio (one of my favorites), a library, a newsroom, a bookstore (also a favorite) and a pet store.

      Several times I suggested a mattress shop. I made note that our primary duties as employees would be testing out the mattresses. Lying down and being quiet. Sleeping. That idea got a resounding "No." The energy of a fifty-something grammy + the energy of a sixty-something grandma does NOT = the energy of a six-year old. Sad, but true.

     My son sent me a video of a song he had written for me. That was my gift. It brought tears to my eyes as well as my daughter's.

      And I finished a pesky short story that has been in the works for a while. I like it (I think); now I have to figure out where to submit it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sioux Sans Swimsuit Top

        On March 26, 2013 the next collection of stories from Publishing Syndicate will debut.

         In it will be one of my stories, "Half Right."

         It's a tale of me--topless--in France. Ooh-la-la! Isn't that scary enough to compel you to buy the book?

         Or do I have to take my shirt off and beat you upside the head with it until you order it?

         And here, in case you've never heard Regina Spektor sing, is a video of one of my favorite songs of hers, as I bid adieu for a week...(I'll be in Florida in Granddaughterland until the 31st.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wow in More Ways Than One

   I thought I was doing well having purchased a couple of boxes of Christmas cards from Target. No, they're not sent yet nor are they even addressed yet, but it's more progress than I've made, compared to some years. They are not spectacular, but they are real...

     However, today I got a handmade card  from Lynn that made me want to pitch my two boxes of cards into the trash. The photo does not do it justice, but understand--it is made from tiny strips of paper, some sparkly, and there are a couple of decorative brads to augment it, and holding the strips into the tree shape, Lynn has sewn them on--via a sewing machine--using gold thread and a zigzag stitch.

      She even numbered and signed them, and made 150 of them! Wow!  I got number 71. If I had made those cards, I would have been into the eggnog and by the end, they would not resemble Christmas trees in any way.

      The other "wow" comes from the Women On Writing site. Check out the Muffin on Friday. I'm doing a guest post (the "Friday Speak Out"), and after reading it, you might be able to get a fresh start on a piece that's being persnickety.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Val the Victorian and Validation and Value...Oh, My!

      On Saturday we had a bookstore-hoppin', Chicken Soup Signin' and canned good collectin' gala affair. If you brought in a canned good, you got a great discount on your book purchases. This is the value part of this blog...

      Eleven local authors appeared at three different independent bookstores. Beth M. Wood, Donna Volkenannt and I appeared at The Book House.  They sell used as well as new books, and were delightful, hospitable, and accomodating hosts.


This is The Book House. It's on Manchester, 3/10 of a mile west of McKnight, and is betweenTitle Max and
a Computer Resale shop. It's easy to miss, because it's set far back from the road, but well worth the screeching of brakes
to make the sharp turn to ensure you don't miss it. Three floors of books, each floor covered--floor to ceiling--with books.'s haunted!


Here are the four writers who appeared at All On the Same Page--a Creve Coeur bookstore. From left to right is
Nina Miller, Patt Pickett, T'Mara Goodsell and Theresa Sanders.

This is T'Mara Goodsell. She not only signed books, she entertained multiple suitors (they were like bees after honey, there was such a flurry of activity and attention from Tammy's male groupies), and she also chatted with fellow WWWPs. T'Mara and Theresa Sanders did the behind-the-scenes work that made the day run smoothly--the press releases, the emails bouncing back and forth, the "drive bys" to ensure the directions were right and all the other tasks they handled with efficiency and grace.

Here are three of the authors who appeared at Main Street Books. From left to right is Linda O'Connell, Cathi LaMarche and Pat Wahler. Not pictured is Lynn Cahoon, the 4th author who signed at this St. Charles book shop.

T''Mara Goodsell, Theresa Sanders, Pat Wahler (working the crowd) and Donna Volkenannt (her gorgeous hair serving as her only calling card, from this angle) at Main Street Books


Linda O'Connell, one of the WWWPs, is not new to Chicken Soup nor is she new to book signings. I think this was her
8th signing...this week.

Donna Volkenannt was one of the three writers signing at The Book House. She generously shares calls for submissions,
she's a wonderful friend and critique-er AND she's the most recent winner of the international Erma Bombeck humor writing competition.

Beth M. Wood is the other writer who signed books with Donna and me. She is one of the five founding
members of the notorious writing critique group, the WWWP.
           The validation part came with the friends and family and community members who showed up to chat and mingle as they got their books signed. Lynn Obermoeller, a fellow WWWP, came to each of the book shops, but was mum when asked about the details regarding her upcoming reading. Lynn was one of only 12 writers who were accepted into the Fifty Shades of Santa anthology (Donna, Pat and Marcia Gaye are also among the twelve talented authors whose stories are part of this much-touted collection.) If you're in St. Louis, keep the evening of December 17th open. The gelato shop at the corner of Grand and Wyoming will be the place, and although Lynn is keeping the other details a secret, there was whisper of a disco ball being installed to add to the ambience... 

Lynn Obermoeller

       Saving the best for last...Val. Val the Victorian, Missouri's own JD Salinger, made a rare appearance. Each of the WWWPs and Donna got a private sitting with Val. This was an unprecedented public appearance, as many expensive arrangements had to be made. The pope-mobile had to be rented for the hour-plus trip (each way)...otherwise, she would have been injured, as her fans were lined along the highways with pens, ready to hurl them at her in their eagerness for her autograph. A sky-writer was hired to scrawl across the skies "Val is coming to The Book House around 5:00" in case there was anyone in the Missouri/Illinois/Iowa area who had missed the earlier blog postings trumpeting her upcoming debut. And two of those giant spotlights were set up, to criss-cross across the night sky, to help the many groupies find the spot.

      We not only got to meet Val, we also got to chat over cocktails and cheese balls with Hick and The Pony. (The Genius was at home. He didn't want to be eclipsed by The Pony, I imagine.) Fudge was offered to her long before Saturday (I made it without nuts--as per her preference, even though it's against my religion to make fudge sans nuts), and since Val's family is the bartering sort, she brought her famed Chex Mix to trade. (It's real and it's spectacular...)

       I got to hook her up with one of my favorite books about writers, Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk. I hope she enjoys's truly twisted but is--in my opinion--a gem.

Val the Victorian

I apologize for the scads of photos. I usually am not crazy about posts that have nothing but pictures of silly things like vase after vase after vase, but since there are lots of blog friends who were unable to attend, I thought I'd fill this post with pictures...just this once.

And if you were looking for a picture of me, happily, there are none. I am part of the witness protection program, so photographs of moi are not allowed...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Huey, Hilarity and Hub-bub

        Huey has been with us since the beginning of September. Because he's a senior foster dog, we figured we'd have Huey until he died. After all, it takes special people to take on an elderly dog. You never know if you have weeks...or or months...or years...with an old dog. You just know that whatever time you do have, it will be "golden" time when it comes to that dog's heart. Animals know when they have a second chance at life, and are so grateful...

     It seems a family is interested in Huey. He may be leaving us soon. It will be bittersweet if that happens, because no other dog has gotten along so well with Foley as Huey. Although his picture does not show it, Huey has a lot of life left in him. He plays ball, will even jump up in the air for it, and does an excited series of left turns when it's meal time or when we come home. So, we may have to bid adieu to Huey soon...

     As far as hilarity, last night was our WWWP night. All of us were snorting last night (usually Beth is our prime snorter). Linda O'Connell shared an Alaska story with us; she is writing a series of memoir pieces that is sure to be a blockbuster when she's finished. They are poignant. They are gripping. They are snortingly hilarious. Last time, we critiqued a piece that had us all on the edge of our seats. Imagine a trip in the dark along an ice-covered mountainous area, and having to back up, each time sliding closer and closer to the edge (and the drop off). A can of Coca Cola saved the day. Intrigued? You'll have to wait until the manuscript is finished and published. The story we read last night was about a character who was bigger than life (in more ways than one), and yet Linda swears she was not exaggerating at all.

    Lynn Obermoeller shared a story about boogers. Yep, boogers. It was the kind of story that included a twist--you thought it was about one thing, but then it made a sharp left turn and left us all satisfied. Laughing. Thinking about past relationships. And connecting to our childhood. 

   And this is hot off the press--Lynn is going to read her Fifty Shades of Santa story at a local gelato place on Grand on December 17 in the evening. (It's at the corner of Grand and Wyoming.) The time has not been determined but more details will follow. Lynn was only one of 12 writers who were accepted into this anthology. Linda and I were gnashing our teeth because we did not make the cut All of the WWWPs congratulated her. 

    And what's with all the hub-bub? What's behind the flurry of press releases, and extra police patrols, and security gates being installed? Who is responsible for all this frenzied excitement? Val, of course. Val is supposedly coming to St. Louis on Saturday for a rare appearance. It's for a good cause. You bring a canned good (or two, or a box) and get a discount on your books. And you might get a glimpse of the elusive Val. If you would like more details, go here.     


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Tag! I'm it.   Cathy C. Hall tagged me. She answered these same questions on her blog. I've answered them about my NaNoWriMo, which has crashed and burned (NaNo-wise).  

After you read my answers, hopefully the following bloggers will accept being "it" and will post next Tuesday. Inquiring minds want to know...

Val--You're tagged!
Lynn--You're tagged!

And without further ado ("Wake up!") here are my answers:

What is your working title of your book? The WWWP Critique Group and SD Society 

Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea came from the pee-in-your-pants fun we have in our writing critique group...and the support and encouragement that flows like the Mississippi River--without the nasty sludge that comes with river water.
What genre does your book fall under? Chick lit, I suppose. Although for anyone blind enough or addled enough to think of me as a young "chick," all I have to say is, "I have a slightly used, like-new, chewed-by-a-dog size 11 pair of Crocs I'd like to sell you. And they're tres chic."
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, Anne Lamott, Hillary Swank and---negotiations are still taking place over the fifth role. 
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Five women begin by supporting each other's writing but their camaraderie eventually turns to committing a felony.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? That's putting the cart out before the horse is even out of the barn. I don't think I would be the type to go the self-publishing route, and yet I'm too smart to never say "never." I've known some impressive writers who publish their own books, so it would something I might consider... 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? We're still in present-tense land, not past tense. I'm about 30,000 words into it. I was doing well with NaNo, and then this little cherub (my granddaughter) came into town from Florida for a two-week visit. The writing had to be put aside so the spoiling could commence...So, even though NaNoWriMo is not over yet, I am surrendering to NaNo but I'm not giving up on this novel. In fact, the more I work on it, the more I'm enjoying it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? That is a tough one. Maybe Sandra Dallas' Persian Pickle Club? She so deftly paints the strength of the women in that novel, and I definitely want to showcase the power of my characters. 
Who or what inspired you to write this book? Lynn Obermoeller. She wrote a book for NaNoWriMo and it's incredible. But beyond the engaging story is the way she's stuck with it.  When it's gotten hard or frustrating, she feels compelled to continue with the revision process because the manuscript is's whispering to her. I really admire (and envy) that.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Well, here is the opening, which will hopefully intrigue a few people:

         All five of them were hot. Well actually, four of them were sweating and beet-red and fanning their necklines open because of the hot flashes that plagued them. They had passed up their hottie phase decades ago and were now dragging it behind their cellulite-ridden rump like a rusty red wagon.

            The fifth member of the group—Bri—would make most men and all women strap on their drool buckets. Men who saw her drank in the slender legs that never stopped, the long, ash-blond hair, and the confident, come-take-me way she had of striding across the room. Women envied the casual but chic way she wore her clothes, her flawlessly-lovely legs, and the fact that not one ounce of fat had the guts to land onto her frame and take up permanent residence.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken Soupers Are Signing Books

    A whole flock of St. Louis/St. Charles Chicken Soup writers are signing books on December 8. Bring in some canned goods, get your books signed, chat with some witty women and get a discount on your purchases. It's a win-win situation.

     See the schedule below:
10-12 AM, All on the Same Page

11052 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, Missouri, 314-567-4144

 Nina Miller, Theresa Sanders and T’Mara Goodsell will be the featured authors. (Tammy is a founding member of the notorious WWWP writing critique group.)

Have a quick lunch and then head to St. Charles--just barely over the bridge...
1-3 PM, Main Street Books

307 South Main Street, St. Charles, MO 63301, 636-949-0105

Cathi LaMarche, Linda O'Connell, Lynn Cahoon and Pat Wahler will be available for conversation, and they'll be thrilled to sign your books. (Linda is one of the 5 founding members of the famed WWWPs.)
Buy some fudge (for medicinal purposes only)  on Main Street, and then head to The Book House... 

4-6 PM, The Book House

9719 Manchester Rd., St. Louis, MO 314-968-4491

Beth M. Wood, Donna Duly Volkenannt and Sioux Roslawski (me)will be busy fending off our frothing-at-the-mouth fans as we collect canned goods and sign books. (Beth and I are also founding members of the infamous St. Louis writing critique group, the WWWPs.)
And if you're as reclusive a writer as J.D. Salinger (Val? Are you listening?), you can come and chat, and you'll know who we are but we won't know who you are. You'll be able to see us in a captive setting...

Friday, November 23, 2012

It Don't Take Much

        For me, Thanksgiving is all about family...and gravy. I don't need lots of fancy culinary creations. I don't need family heirloom silverware and fine china plates. All I need is my family around me, and some good gravy.

        I am, after all, a saucy type of gal...

        Yesterday I had both kinds of gravy. This year, we invested in a fat separator to make the gravy not as slippery and slick as it usually is, but I had my doubts. I saw that the fat had indeed risen to the top of the container, as promised, but when it came time to pour the juices out, I figured the fat would pour out right with the juices. The instructions claimed the fat would remain in the container, but I scoffed.

       However, it worked exactly as advertised. And I was happy, because a delicious gravy is one of my favorite parts of a Thanksgiving meal.

     The other gravy came with my kids. I was lucky enough that my son took the time from his studying to come to St. Louis. Even more fortunate, my daughter and her family made the long journey from Florida to spend the holiday with us. And with Jason came his mother, Sharon, who lives three hours away in Illinois.

     Having a kind and capable daughter is wonderful, and Jason is the perfect partner for Virginia. He is the gentlest man, he's the best dad I've ever encountered, and is the epitome of thoughtfulness.

     And although he is fond of making snarky jokes that I appreciate, and he makes them in a soft-spoken voice so they don't offend anyone but only serve to entertain me, he's still a guy, and he's still from another generation. His mother Sharon is a different story.

     It's comforting to have a friend join me at Thanksgiving who is also "family." She and I are both having a love affair with our granddaughter--she's our first and only one--and we enjoy each other's company.

     So I enjoyed the gravy that has already added an inch or two to my waist, along with the emotional gravy--the "extra" bits of pleasure that come along if we're fortunate beings.

      What kind of gravy did you enjoy on Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jean Whatley--Unleashed and Unfettered

Jean Whatley, author of Off the Leash, proudly holding up her book. The publisher is Blank Slate Press,
and Subterranean Books kindly donated 10% of the sales to the Humane Society.

         I had the privilege and the pleasure of hearing Jean Whatley talk about her new memoir. The book signing was at the Humane Society. It made me regret putting on mascara, because there were many moments when my eyes filled with tears.

        It's not that Jean spoke of only dark things, nor was it that she lacked a sense of humor. It was an uplifting talk, full of sardonic wit. The overall messages she wanted to impart were:

  • Follow your dreams...Don't put them off or it might be too late when you finally have the courage to try to achieve them.
  • Visit the people who matter. Now. And tell them you love them. Now. If you wait, the window of opportunity might slam shut.
      So why the tears? I think I was so moved because Jean came very close to not going after something that she desperately wanted and needed. She was so honest with the audience, I ached with her over her marriage crumbling and I was quivered right next to her as she stood at the edge of an emotional and a financial cliff...and she had the courage to step off, not having any idea how it would end.

      After reading her blog postings as she traveled across the country and after hearing some excerpts she read aloud and reading some snippets of the book myself, I know this is going to be a funny, poignant, and moving memoir.

      Have you read Jean's book and if not, when are you planning on buying it? Or

      What kind of huge "cliff" did you step off during your life, and how did it end up?

Jean Whatley at the Humane Society, signing her book. Her memoir tells how she and her dog Libby
went on a journey across the country that was more life-changing than Thelma and Louise's car trip.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Encouraging Rejection

         I recently received a rejection notice. Actually, it was not a notice, it was a rejection note. A handwritten note.

       The note was from Laurel McHargue, the co-creator of Publishing Syndicate's Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Stupid Kid. I had sent in a story that I knew didn't have much of a chance. I did my best--writing-wise--but it was a story with a small focus, and I couldn't squeeze any more out of it.

      Laurel took the time to tell me the story had made it through a round or two, but ultimately, it didn't make the final cut. She noted that she hoped the bad news didn't discourage me; she wanted me to be sure and submit to the other collections. (She worded it much better than I am right now, and when I figure out where I put the card, I will quote her directly.)

        However, I also got some good news at around the same time. Two of my stories are included in the Not Your Mother's Book...On Dogs. This book will be available beginning on December 11.

        What is the nicest/weirdest/harshest rejection you've ever received? If it's unflattering to the editor, the names can be changed/omitted to protect the guilty...

Friday, November 9, 2012

What is That? It's So Scary Looking!

       I follow the Muffin, so when my picture appeared on my sidebar (a not-very-complimentary photo of a woman who is notoriously not-very-photogenic), I shrieked. At least inwardly a little.

     I'm doing a guest post there today, so if you're stuck in the same writing box, perhaps it is time to change things up a bit. Like a pitcher throwing a change-up...Not only will the change surprise your writing friends, but you might discover some pleasant surprises as well.

     Please check it out, and please leave a comment if you're so moved to. (Cathy C. Hall, the baseball bit was just for you.)

      Also, I'm in love with helping verbs and adjectives these days. Why? Helping verbs and adding an extra descriptive word here and there adds to my word count. Right now, with NaNoWriMo I'm at 14,000 words. I haven't crashed and burned yet, but there's still 21 more days to go.

     On my next post, I'm going to share a reject card I got. Not a letter...a card.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dianna Graveman's Magical Breasts

      Get an image of Dianna Graveman in your head. Super-smart. Uber-talented. Co-editor of two Not Your Mother's Book anthologies. Owner of her own editing and design business. Got it?

     Now, imagine that her breasts are able to win a gold medal in a target practice. Imagine they can aim and hit a bullseye across a table. Imagine they are capable of shifting the way people think, the way people perceive things.

This collection includes stories from Tammy Goodsell (her story is the first one, and darn it, they included a photo of her
in her pajama jeans, and she promised it was a terrible picture but of course, she looked cute as a button), Linda O'Connell, Alice Muschany, Mary Horner, Dianna Graveman and moi...

 When I read the stories written by my writing friends, I enjoyed them all.  They were all witty and well-written. However, when I read Dianna's story, I was lucky I was not drinking milk at the time. Otherwise, I would have snorted it out of my nose. The ending is hilarious, and it made me have a completely different opinion of Dianna.

How about NaNoWriMo? Are you doing it? If so, what is your story about? Share, please...


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Chicken Soup Queen: Basking in Fifty Shades of Black (Ink)

       Linda O'Connell was a speaker at Saturday Writers' workshop on October 27. For many, she's known as a local Chicken Soup Queen because she has almost 20 stories published in the anthologies. She's one of the hardest-working freelance writers in St. Louis.

Okay, I admit it...This is a photo from a past event that took place at Borders.
But although her hairstyle has changed a bit, her blue eyes remain the same, as does her wit.

       In between doling out her tidbits of advice--things that she's learned the hard way--she passed out chocolate, she held up posterboard signs to send a strong visual message, and she had us creating slogans (more about that at the end).

       Here are some of Linda's wonderful points:

* Use your time wisely. We have a limited amount of time that is free to write. Don't spend too much of it on Twitter, Facebook, and so on...

* "Write" is a verb. Don't dream about it. Do it.

* Don't make excuses--make the time.

* Change your no's to yes's.  If you're prone to say things like, "No, I don't have time to write today because I have to paint the house," shift your thinking and say, "Yes, I have to paint the house today, but I'm going to carve out at least 15 minutes to write this afternoon."

* Being vague with details is passive writing and it's also passed over writing.  Paint a picture using specific details.

* Court words and writing like you would a lover. Fall in love with words. Discover the erogenous zone on the blank pages. Treat your writing with as much love and attention as you would someone you were wooing.

      During her session, Linda showed her prowess as an engaging speaker by keeping us active. She would occasionally prod us to proclaim "I am a writer" (with conviction), she had us write, and at one point she handed out small circles of cardboard. Everyone has a slogan or is wearing a button these days,  Linda reminded us, and she prodded us to dig deep and determine what our slogan would say about us as a writer.

       I came up with, "Sssh...Snarky writer at work." 

       What would your writing slogan say about you? It can even be a two-sided one--perhaps one serious and one more humorous...

        In my next post, I am going to share how reading a story written by Dianna Graveman--the super-smart St. Louis writer, editor and business owner extraordinaire--made me snort milk out of my nose.         

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pitch Your Pitch

photo by frank3.0
       So, you have a manuscript that's finished. You'd love to sign your name at the bottom of a contract. You cannot wait until an agent and then a publisher says "yes" to your baby.  This post might help you snag an agent...

      Yesterday I attended a Saturday Writers workshop. The speakers were Kristy Makansi (of Blank Slate Press), Steve Wiegenstein and Linda O'Connell. On this post, I'll focus on what Kristy and Steve said about pitches. Tomorrow, I'll share some of many Linda's tidbits.

        Kristy outlined what she considered what you should do and not do when it comes to pitches. Here is what you should include when doing a pitch:

* What is the conflict? What is stake for the main character?

* Get to the turning point in your pitch. Include the big turning point when you talk to an agent or publisher. What is the ultimate choice the protagonist makes?

* How is the conflict resolved? Tell the agent or publisher how it ends. Don't say to them, "You have to read it to find out." No. The agent does not need to read your book. They might sign you to publish your book. This is a possible business transaction for both of you. It's not a case of perusing the shelves at a bookstore to buy a novel to read over the summer. Tell them. (You might ask the agent, "Do you want to know how it ends?" because they might be the rare one who likes to be surprised. But if they say yes, tell them.)

* What makes your story unique?  Include the word count and the genre along with what makes your manuscript different.

* What is the setting, and how does the setting impact the characters? Don't just say, "It takes place in Missouri in the 1980's." Paint a writerly picture with your words, telling about the setting and how it roots the characters in their place.

Steve Wiegenstein strongly recommends rehearsing your pitch. Practice it over and over, and time it. After all, he says, "It's a speaking occasion. It's a sales occasion." The minutes fly by if you're stumbling and searching for words, so rehearse it with a timer.

He further adds that it might be a good idea to limit your pitch to four minutes. That means there will be 3 minutes for the agent and you to interact. Questions the agent/publisher has can be answered at that time.

These are the things that should not be included in your pitch.

* Details that don't have to do with the central character.
* More than 1 or 2 names of secondary characters
* Passive voice--It should be in present tense, active language, and avoid all cliches.

How about you? What pitch success (or nightmare) stories can you tell? What bits of advice can you add?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Like the Layers of an Onion, So Are the Facets of Our Lives

      Yesterday I led some middle school students in a session at a  writing workshop.  Each young writer got a small mirror tile. I spoke about the layers of an onion--the outer crackly-paper skin, so delicate and thin. Then I dug into the onion with my fingernails as we discussed how we are like the onion...we have an outer, fragile layer which covers layer after layer. Some of those layers are so private, no one sees them. Others we share with our family, our friends, our loved ones.

photo by faygate
           The students used the mirror tiles to look at parts of their faces. They were instructed to imagine...If someone saw them walking down the street, and saw their eyes, their mouth, their nose, their hair...what judgements would they make? What kind of labels would they come up with?

        We discussed teenagers, and the stereotypes teens are burdened with. We discussed football players, African Anmericans (especially African American males), students from expensive private schools and the erroneous conclusions people jump to when they encounter them---we had them all in our community of writers

        The students then wrote--prose or poetry--about the surface them compared to the real person underneath the surface. Some of them began with "People think I'm....but really, I'm...." One writer created an interesting "checklist," with checkmarks in the boxes of things she really was, and Xs in the boxes of things that people thought about her but were incorrect. We then shared  our pieces (some of us) and I put in a plug for NaNoWriMo. 

       Two of the writers had earned an a field trip to an amusement park for the same day--due to being on the Honor Roll--but chose writing instead. How cool was that?

       Here is what I wrote as we all sat and created together:

You see someone fat, frumpy...
But deep down inside,
I'm really a skydiving,
Breaking Bad-watching woman.

You judge me,
calling me old,
calling me out of touch.
But under the surface
is a tattooed semi-radical,
a Sons of Anarchy fanatic
left behind from the 60's.

You envision me as slow-moving,
lethargic--part of the primordial ooze
I perhaps rose up from?
But try to tred on my passion,
try to smother my fire...
and you'll see.  

       What do people think when they see you? When strangers see you on the street, when someone hears you read your writing out loud but has never met you, what impressions do they form? What kind of "mask" do you wear, and what lies under the surface?

       Come on--share. It's safe. We're all writers 'round here...        

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My "Hope" Came True

       For quite a while, I read as C. Hope Clark charted her novel's progress via encouraging posts. When Lowcountry Bribe came out, I was unable to run out and buy her book because I was buried under a tower of books I had borrowed from friends. (Right now, only an arm is peeking out from under that heap.)

     However, I was sure that--soon--I would read her novel. After all, Hope is a writer's writer. After hearing stories of the conception, the discomfort as things shifted, the labor pains...I was looking forward to seeing her new baby.

     And fortunate me, a copy dropped right into my lap. Barbara Younger had a give-away, and I won.

      Today it came winging my way and landed in my mail box. I read the inscription, and then turned to the first page. For many readers, that's what hooks them. if the first sentence doesn't reach out and grab 'em, they'll put the book back on the shelf.

       Here is Hope's first line:  "O postive primer wasn't quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn't given the decor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his brain with a .45." What a wonderfu line to start your novel with.

        And speaking of minds, I have not yet made the final decision about my NaNoWriMo 2012. If you have a first line that's been discarded, please send it to me. I will gladly you half credit for the steaming pile of poop manuscript.

       So, how 'bout it? Do you have a first line to spare?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Big O--For Everybody

        Last night was my twice-monthly writing critique night. It was held where it always is, but this time, instead of just light fare, we had dinner together.

          Our hostess--who will remain unnamed--welcomed us into the kitchen (she was putting on the finishing touches to the meal). Her first words were, "Who would like an o--asm?"

         (Her husband was out of town, and she had decided to walk on the other side of the street for a change the wild side. Of course, our hostess with the mostest is the epitome of selflessness. In this instance she only gave, she did not receive.)

       When we are all satiated (it had Creme de Cacao and Baileys, I think, along with other ingredients. I didn't pay very close attention when she was telling us what was in it. She had me at "O"...), we dined. 

         Following way too much food, we tackled the real work, the true reason why we were there--critique.

         Lynn shared her 91-word memoir submission. If you lost it or have not seen it, here is the low-down.  The deadline is October 15, and you can only send in one submission (online only).

        I shared my Bigfoot story, and got some invaluable suggestions. When I brought it to the group initially, they sent me off in a wonderful direction. I was now floundering a bit, was nearing the end, and again--they came to the rescue.

       Linda was missing last night (no O for her--at least not from Lynn) but we managed to limp along and snort and advise without her. The evening's big climax--an intestinal "concert" of sorts. All the rich pasta and the dessert items made a couple of our stomachs caterwaul like a cat and moo like a cow in pain and howl like a coyote. It was hilarious.

      (Polite people would have pretended it was not happening--they would have ignored it. But then, no one ever called us polite--at least when the five of us are together.)

       One bombshell was dropped last night. Or more accurately, several bombshells. I think all five of us are going to do NaNoWriMo this year.

      Okay there, I said it. I don't want to shout it out too loudly, because that might cause it to not happen. However, the other four of us have become inspired by Lynn. Over the past year, she's shared parts of the manuscript she wrote for NaNoWriMo 2012. We finally got tired of holding our breath and demanded she give us the entire story--we got weary of waiting for the next installment each month. Seeing an engaging novel unfold--one that was written in one month--gave the rest of us hope.

        So, it was a night filled with delectable food, delicious company, wonderful writing critique, and even a happy ending...

         Do you have a favorite beverage you depend on when you're writing? Or, do you fantasize about drinking a particular liquid as you write?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why NaNoWriMo?

     It's less than a month away from NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month. The chance to write a fifty-thousand-word pile of a hot steaming mess novel in one single month. And hey!  It's done during one of the shorter months, which only adds to the frenzied fun.

     Two years ago I crashed and burned in less than a week. Last year, I ended up with a piece of work that will never ever be seen by another human being that is not quite ready to be revised. This year, I'm more hopeful.

      A fellow WWWP, Lynn, has done NaNoWriMo several years. Currenly, she is working on revising one of her novels. It's warm and moving and full of voice.  It's not a steaming pile of excrement far different from my last attempt. Lynn's work makes me hopeful.

      So, if you've never done it, here are ten six reasons to do NaNoWriMo:

1.  You develop some writerly habits during the process. You need to average so many words each day, so the ol' "butt in chair" is a mantra you mumble every day.

2.  You develop trust within those 30 days. Oh, not trust like, "Everyone will pitch in and help out around the house/yard, because, you know, I'm writing a novel this month." No, that probably ain't gonna happen. But if you leap out and take the risk, with just the beginning idea, you can trust that if your story has legs, the novel will evolve and grow and probably surprise you as you write it.

3.  When you're done, you can print up your can be used as a wonderful paperweight.

4.  You will be secure in the knowledge that you are part of an international movement. People all over the world are doing the same thing you are.

5.  This might get you out of having to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Try practicing this several times in the mirror--check your facial expression--before you say it to your family and friends:  "I don't think I will be able to cook the turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole and all the other dishes this year--I'm swamped right now writing my novel. I'll probably just make a quick grilled cheese sandwich, so I can get right back to writing." This might snag you an invitation to someone else's house for the holiday meal...And if your spouse and kids sniffle and whine a bit, they might get invited, too.

6. You can get some cool blog bling, like this:

          How about you? Are you doing NaNo this year? And if not, what can you add to my list of six reasons? (Already I need help to pad my word count...)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hallacas and No-Ho-Ho and Hello, Oh My

photo by Sardonic Salad
        First, the hallacas (pronounced "aye-jak-ez," I think). It's a dish from Venezuela. A mixture made from fifty-eight five different kinds of meat (and the meat came from three different animals), capers, raisins, marjoram and other spices, red wine vinegar and red bell pepper. They're "embellished" with slivered almonds and olives. It's encased in a cornmeal "pocket" and then is "packaged" in banana leaves and steamed.

    I won't say what I was calling those banana leaves--since you might not appreciate the colorful and creative combinations I came up with--but suffice it to say, it was a daunting task.

      I was up until 2:30 in the morning on Saturday making these delicacies. My teaching partner's husband took his oath on Thursday and became a citizen. They have the most drop-dead gorgeous girl (who is a spitfire), and Holly hosted a surprise party on Saturday afternoon. I offered to make the hallacas before I knew how troublesome they would be. However, Rodrigo went back and got thirds, so I was happy...

      Next, no Ho-Ho for me. My "Fifty Shades of Santa" was rejected, but it was an encouraging no. I plan on studying the tone Pat wants, and submitting something to her at a later date for a later anthology.

       And I got a hello from Simon and Schuster. Okay, the "hello" was a box of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive books, I was expecting them, but it took a little out of the sting from the rejection.

       How'boutchoo? What was the funniest culinary disaster you've experienced?

       And if you'd like a pedicure this Sunday while you sip beer and get a pap smear, go to Pearl's Paps and Pedicure Pub. She'll fix you right up...I promise. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I am an Artist.

        As it is still my reign as Princess Procrastination, I had to drive downtown this week, park in a part of the city where there are cobblestones, and walk several blocks to hand-deliver a submission.

photo by skibriye

       The deadline was 5:00 p.m. and I got off work at 3:45...and I had just "found" the poem on Saturday.

       Have you ever looked in an old journal, found some writing, and you barely recognize it as yours? You read it, and you wonder, When did I write this? What was I thinking about when I scribbled this down?

      I participated in a writing marathon on Saturday, and before leaving the house, I grabbed one of my hundreds of barely begun many composition books. Standing around, waiting for the others to arrive, I scanned what was written on the first few pages. There was a poem, written during some writing conference or meeting, a poem that I had forgotten.

      Impressed, I was. Okay, it was not perfect, but since I usually don't do poetry, if it makes sense and the rhythm is workable and there is some kernel of imagery or relevance, I crown it Pulitzer Prize material...

      (After all, I ain't no Shay or Marcia Gaye. I don't masquerade as Mama Zen. I'm a writer of prose, for crying out loud.)

       And I did say it out loud. I had done some minor tweaking, made sure it did not go beyond the 15-line limit, and got my envelope ready. (Since it was for writers who live within 50 miles of St. Louis, I knew I was not competing with Shay or Mama Zen. Marcia was another story...) When I dropped my submission off (45 minutes before the deadline--so early, I wondered if I really deserved to keep my tiara as Princess), I chatted up the front desk guy and another guy who was sitting there in the lobby and who was obviously just wasting time.

       The work-avoider paused, his arm elbow-deep in a bag of chips, after I had explained to the front desk man why I was there. He had looked up some name on some directory he had--after I refused to just hand him the envelope--made a call, and was told that the PIC (person in charge) would be downstairs momentarily.

       The chip guy looked me up and down--made note of my swirled-up hair (from rushing to feed the parking meter and racing along the cobblestone street while simultaneously scanning for street numbers), made note of my somewhat funky outfit (long, flowing skirt to hide the possibly-hairy legs) and the definitely funky scarf (to camouflage the flab) and asked the question that made me stop my mindless chatter with the guy perched behind the front desk.

          "Are you an artist?"

         And without a moment's hesitation, I said, "Yes. I'm a writer."

         And for me, that doesn't need an exclamation point. It deserves a period because--for me--it's matter-of-fact. It's just the way it is. I can gesticulate and talk all day about the exhilaration of writing, and how excited I am about NaNoWriMo this year, and how much fun I had writing a "Fifty Shades of Santa" story and how jazzed I get whenever the WWWPs meet (they're my writing critique peeps), but if you want just the facts, there they are: I am an artist. I am a writer... 

          Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? (And if not, why not?) Are you planning on submitting to any anthologies this fall? (And if so, which ones?) Are you planning on trying to wrestle my tiara away so you can reign as Princess of Procrastination? (And if so, what are you gonna bring to this rumble? 'Cause I'm reeeeal good.) 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gone to the Dogs or Thirteen Naked Blondes

      Love a Golden Rescue, a group of all-volunteers who rescue unwanted Goldens and Golden mixes, has a gorgeous calendar for sale. The colors and the scenery are breathtaking.

      All 13 of the dogs featured were once throw-away dogs...dogs who were once in puppy mills as breeding machines, dogs who were abandoned, dogs who were unwanted. Now, they are well-loved members of their family.

      You may go to Love a Golden to order your calendar. Or, you may shave $2 off your purchase price, and send me a check (made out to Love a Golden Rescue) for $10, and I'll pop for the postage. Email me at sroslawski(at)yahoo(dot)com and I'll send you my snail mail address.

       The whole price goes directly to the dogs. Our photographer (who is one of Purina's main photographers) donated his services, the graphic artist who designed the calendar donated her services, and the printing was covered by the calendar dogs' owners. (They bid for a page in the calendar.)

      They would make a wonderful Christmas present (don't be afraid to order more than one) and is for such a marvelous cause...

      How many calendars would you like? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Naughty? Or Nice?

          The deadline for "Fifty Shades of Santa" submissions is hurtling towards us. Romance...humor...nothing sexually explicit is what they're looking for.  I can do funny and I can do not-raunchy, but romance? Not really. 

photo by floridapfe

         Last night I took my "Santa" story to my writing critique group. Helpful and encouraging and on-point they were, as usual. And it reminded me of more reasons why writing critique groups are so valuable:

1.  You'll get a speeding ticket when you leave your critique group. Okay, I didn't get caught by the police speeding when I left the WWWPs last night, but I was exhilirated and I was speeding--until I slowed down, realizing that the police would probably not consider "I'm-so-excited-because-writing-outside-of-my-box-is-so-fun-and-they-kinda-liked-my-story" as a valid excuse for breaking the law. Do you think I was right?

2. Any intestinal blockage (or blockage of any other kind) will clear up. Instantly. Someone (we won't mention names) brought brownies that included pureed prunes as one of the ingredients. Hopefully, too many explosions didn't occur as a result of that culinary debacle. What's that you say? You're stopped up creatively? A writing critique group will start the creative juices flowing again, too.

3.  The chance to open your mouth, gaping, in awe. In one evening, writers share stories that are heart-wrenchingly tender, gut-bustingly funny, and sobbingly-sad. All in one night. 

     I'm encouraging you, before it's too late, to send in your holiday romance stories to  Pat Smith of Welkin Press is eagerly anticipating a flood of stories.  Make sure they're 2,000-8.000 words long, and make sure you don't wait too long...the deadline is September 30.

      Donna, thanks for posting this call. And Lisa--I expect to be competing with you for a spot in this anthology. So if you haven't already written and sent off something, you'd better get your rear in gear...

And please check out my guest post on "The Muffin" where I explain the real difference between men and women--and whether you agree or disagree, please leave a comment.