I've been sick the last couple of days-- first a cold, then a sinus infection and of course now that the weather has warmed up my dear old allergy friends Grass, Pollen and Just About Everything dropped in to say hello. Noortje, thanks so much! You made my week. Be sure to give Noortje's blog WriBie a visit. (I just love the name. It's so creative.)
So here are the rules.
1. Give to a blogger with less than 200 followers
2. That blogger will pass it on to 5 followers
3. According to Babelfish (and I didn't comfirm this but Noortje can), Liebster means Dearest.
Well, I don't how many followers I actually have. Unfortunately this is not a Weebly feature. (um, um, you wonderful Weebly folks, I want this feature!)
Noortje and I talked about comment on blogs via email once. We both read blogs but often don't feel like we have anything to say. So, except for Sarah (and maybe Valerie), these people probably don't even know I poke my head in now and again. But they're awesome blogs so check 'em out!
1. Sarah's blog, Word (en)Count(ers)
3. Brent's Babblings
4. Pirate Writers of the Universe
5. The Writer Librarian
I eat, sleep and breathe writing, so it really feels like overkill to talk about it on my blog. Crazy right? A writer who doesn't write about writing? But there's really only three things you need to do to be a good writer. (Thought I was going to tell you, didn't ya? Ha.)
Anyway, one of the writers in my critique group has a story with a cat in it. This got me to thinking that I could tell a few pet stories. I've had pets my entire life, except now. I live in a small apartment and I just don't think it's fair to have a cat or do. I'm a gold fish murder as well as a plant killer. So no fish.
But, let me tell you about Princess. She came to live with my family when I was about five and not because she wanted a home. She was a stray who would have been happily stayed a stray if my mother wasn't late for everything. Consequently, it was a rare day that I didn't waddle into school late. On this particular morning, I left our house and walked the two blocks to school among few stranglers. We happened to be living in a Norman Rockwell kind of town. Parents rarely drove their kids, even us kindergarteners.
By the time I had arrived, the bell had run and the playground was deserted except for two kids and a black and white cat. I can't remember if the kids were girls or boys. I do remember they had cornered the cat on this strange sloping architectural element. I really don't know what it was for, but on recess the big kids would kill a soccer ball up and down the slop. The cat was dirty and miserable because it was also raining.
After a second bell rang, the big kids dashed into the school. I immediately re-cornered the cat, scooping her into my arms. And she promptly set about scratching and biting for the entire two blocks back to my house.
I entered the house with "Mommy!" And I think this was promptly followed by some shouting as to why I wasn't in school. This was followed by several exclamations as she come out of the dinning kitchen and saw me standing there with a cat, covered in scratches, and wearing copious amounts of blood. I quickly explained how I had bravely saved the cat from the big kids, embellishing of course. I had rushed in under the spray of stones to save the cat's life from bully's who then chased after me. I'd had no choice but to bring her home.
I don't really remember how I persuaded my mother to let me keep the cat or her transition from feral stray to a member of the family. Maybe, she believed the story I'd told. At any rate, she was named Princess. I do vaguely remember arguing with my sisters on what her name would be. I don't really know who chose it.
Princes was a unique cat. I don't think we tamed her, but rather she adopted us. She and my mother both shared a fondness for cheese corn and TV. The cat and my mother would sit on the couch watching late night shows.
If Princesses dinner wasn't timely enough, she'd get into the pantry, pull out an individual packet of cat food morsels and open it. She never had a litter box. She came house broken and would yowl at the top of her lungs until she figured out how to open the back door and let herself out. I don't believe she could open the front door.
She came and went, living with us when it suited her and living in the wild when it suited her. At some point, she started bringing us gifts of dead squirrels, skunks and opossums. She loving deposited them on the front porch for us to find on our way to school in the morning. Despite being wild, she let my sisters and I dress her up in baby clothes. We even put blush on her checks and rolled her around in a baby carriage.
Next to our house with a random duplex. Crotchety, Mrs. Blake lived next door. She had a fat gray cat and was probably a cat lady. She'd watch my sisters and I rolling Princess around in a stroller dressed up in baby clothes.
"Stop abusing that cat!" She'd shout.
I don't know if we were or not, but I do know for certain Princess didn't mind. She was a character and by that I mean, she hated everybody but us. One of her favorite pastimes was to lay on the side walk ( and later Mrs. Blake's walkway.) She'd roll over like she wanted her belly rubbed. A strange cat, she actually enjoyed being scratched there and all the neighbors had seen us petting her like that.
So, at one time or another about all of them walked up to her lying on the sidewalk and reached down to give her a pet. At which point, Princess would lock on to their hand, all four claws and teeth, and not let go until it suited her. Usually, after the neighbor had started shouting for help.
Our mother would come out of the house and say, "Princess," in a stern voice.
Princess always released the neighbor in a way that could only have been her idea. She'd then go bounding to our porch and sit upon the railing like a queen to her thrown, tail curled around her paws. When she did this she always wore that hard, disapproving look only cats have. Over time, the neighbors would gaze up at her as though asking for permission before passing our house. If Princess came off the porch, many would cross the street.
And that brings us back to Mrs. Blake, the cat lady. She thought that she had a way with cats and was determined to rescue Princess from being dressed up in baby clothes. And was promptly attacked by Princess.
After that day Mrs. Blake held a deep hatred for the black and white cate. Princess apparently felt the same way because she took to find creative ways to surprise Mrs. Black. This included spring from a tree branch onto the old woman's shoulder when she went to get her news paper. She'd also just lay on Mrs. Blake's walkway staring at the door and flicking her tail the way cat's do when they think.
After that, her favorite spot became Mrs. Blake's front step. The old woman took to leaving the house by the back door. After several years of being haunted by Princess, Mrs. Black moved. And that's when the whole neighborhood knew without a doubt that Princess ruled us all.
The older I get the more I believe there is no such thing as a bad word. Still, I rarely use expletives in my daily vocabulary. This link about shit amused me. It amused me more so because I live abroad and a lot of this is simply lost in translation. Koreans hear the word used in English movies so often they think Americans say shit all the time. So shouting "ice cream" and "Oh, shit!" will get a relatively equal response. And shouting "Baskins!" will stop traffic.
Anybody who knows my writing, knows proofreading is my weakest skill. I get better at it all the time, but as compared to other writing skills, I'm still riding this short bus. So, I've been looking for to hire an editor to proofread before I release my short story collection.
I tried EFA and quickly became overwhelmed. EFA doesn't defined memberships by experience: pro, semi-pro and entry level. In contrast, to have a pro membership with SFWA you have to meet certain sales criteria. I started sifting through the profiles, looking for a bargain, probably a semi pro with good rates. What I found were a lot of entry level editors at pro rates. I suddenly realized it was going to take a while of going through profiles and interviewing potential editors. I'm fairly confident in the quality of the stories I'm releasing, so the one thing I know I don't want is a paid critique partner.
After searching on EFA for several days, I did a google search on how to find an editor. This led me to a thread on Absolute Write. The writer suggests I try Elance. Hat held in hand, I posted a job saying this is what I can afford to pay. Within minutes the bids started rolling in. At first I was delighted. Then, overwhelmed. Then suspicious.
I discovered many of the offers were like those Sale signs in the windows of electronic stores here in Korea. There's never a sale. Many had bid low, but actually quoted pro rates, or bid low and asked me to describe the project only to give me a different quote. About 70% of the freelancers wanted more than pro rates. Most of these acted like they were doing me a favor for discounting it so much. (On a side not, it's never good to go into a business deal where the person you're paying, thinks they're doing you a favor.) Even so, I found a couple who looked like a good match, one was highly rated. And I sent them a sample page of a published story with some intentional typos. They dug into it like a critique partner. One missed the typos and the other added enough commas to make my eyes bleed. A third, rewrote the page.
A quick Google search for Elance scam (which I should have done before signing up!), turned up a plethora of complaints. I want to state that Elance isn't a scam in and of itself. However, the biggest complaint against Elance is the lack of skilled workers. The second is the number of loopholes freelancers have to work the rating system. I decided to close the job.
Because I hadn't found an editor and I really want to get Midday out, I asked if anyone in my critique group would swap. Ambrose said he'd just do it. What I got back was a meticulously proofread manuscript, with a handful of suggestions that were stylistic, but in a way that was true to my voice. So in the end, I found what I was looking for. I offered him a job as I have a few other projects. We're working out how to manage our friendship and business relationship.
I don't want to come off as a writer who is resistant to changes. But there are a couple of editing dos and don'ts. A do is where the editor sees a better way to say something while staying true to the author's voice. A don't might be, the editor injecting their voice into the story while writing out the author.
I had this happen to the extreme last year with 'They're All Called Bob.' A magazine accepted with a few "minor" changes which turned out to be significant rewrites. I felt like I had been replaced! I questioned a lot of these changes when I should have declined publication. I didn't quite have to guts to just walk away from an acceptance. Newbie mistake! The editor replied with a strongly worded letter, telling me what my characters were thinking and doing. I realized he had changed so much of the story, that he saw the characters as his. I learned a lot about myself as an author through this experience.
When writers start out, it's hard to tell the difference between help and being replaced. Partly, because new writers don't have a voice yet. We start out emulating others. Hiring an editor isn't just about words. It's about making something great while preserving one's individuality. I think back to two years ago, imagine myself trying to find an editor. The truth is I probably would have paid too much, gotten a poorly edited story, and thanked the editor for it.
Do you know the difference between an editor and a critique partner? If not you might pay for a Ferrari and end up with a Renault.
Everybody is talking about potential lawsuit by the DOJ against six of the ten top publishing houses. Everybody is talking about self-publishing versus traditional route. I'm not really too concerned with what happens-- it's a gonna happen with our without me. So I don't really have a dog in this fight other than to say, I'm glad I have the option of self-publishing. Still, I can't help but speculate a little. I think it comes with the nature of writing. Today, I sat down and made ppt. about my speculations for the future of publishing. ( It took about 45 minutes. )
See the file below. So, what do you speculate the future publishing industry will look like? Do you have a dog in this fight?
First, I've delayed my short story collection release as I search for proofreader. I'll have a post soon about my experience and some thoughts on hiring an editor. Moving on. I'd like to introduce you to Noortje de Graaff, another rising star who entered the Write While you Wait contest.
Noortje lives in the Netherlands with her brother and parents, in a city near Amsterdam. When she was a child she was diagnosed with dyslexia. In case you don't know dyslexia is a disorder that causes the brain to not recognize certain symbols. Many people with dyslexia have above average intelligence but have trouble reading. Noortje was encouraged to read by her father. Due to the enormous amount of books she read and still reads, she doesn't have very much trouble. It also resulted in a love for language (especially English) and books. Because of her parents' love for English books and series, she and her brother have spoken English nearly all their lives.
Connect with Noortje on twitter at @Lordkiwii or on her blog.
Q: Tell us about your writing experience.
I first started writing longer stories when I was nine years old. I still remember showing my father the first few pages of what would become my first manuscript. At first my parents didn’t believe I wrote it and thought I had copied it from one of my Goosebumps books, a series I was obsessed with at that time.
I finished the story within a year and came back to it when I was thirteen to revise it. I rediscovered my passion for words and started another book, this time in English. It evolved into a fantasy series of three books. Currently I’m editing the first book and writing on the ending of the third.
I had sent the manuscript to several publishers and agents and got rejected every time. One agent said that she loved the idea, but didn’t find the story as compelling as she hoped it would be. I stopped sending the story and decided to do some mayor editing.
Shortly after the rejections I spend a year in England to improve my skill of the language. I began to realize how foolish I had been in sending it out WAY too soon. Even now, editing and changing the story for the third time I find some hilarious mistakes.
I’ve written another fantasy story with the help of NaNoWriMo and have been exploring some other genres and trying my hand on some more serious subjects, but have stuck mostly to fantasy.
I hope to be finished with my edits within a few months and will be sending out letters to agents again in the summer.
Q: What authors are you inspired by?
The Dutch author Thea Beckman inspired me because her books made me realize how much freedom you can have with creating your own stories; twisting history or creating events that will change the future.
J.K. Rowling because her books have been my companions throughout my childhood and she made me care for character like I never had before. She made me realize the important of good fleshed out characters.
And J.R.R. Tolkien made me realize how important it is to create the history of the world and to know as much about is as you can to create a wonderful and realistic story.
Q: What was your favorite book as a child?
I never really had one favorite book. But as a series I loved Harry Potter the most.
Q: What is your most played song on your iPod or MP3 player.
I’m not sure because I recently managed to delete all my songs but I think at the moment Adam Lambert – Better Than I Know Myself or Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars – Safe and Sound, because I’m obsessed with those songs.
Q: If you were a reality TV show, describe briefly what the show would be about.
Haha that’s a good one. Probably about my studies in Amsterdam, my friends and family but mostly about my writing and trying to publish something. But I doubt it would be very interesting to watch.
Q: We've established or are establishing that I'm obsessed with breakfast food. Are you a pancake or waffles person? Why?
Pancakes. We never really eat many waffles and although I like them, they are too filling especially for breakfast. In the Netherlands it’s unusual to eat pancakes for breakfast (we eat them for dinner) but I’ve tried it when I was in the USA and I really enjoyed them! And it’s about the only food I’m good at making.
Q: How long have you been writing? What things inspire you?
I have always loved to write and had a great imagination as a child, but it was only in the last few years that I was able to hold onto an idea, research it, and watch it come to fruition. I'm inspired by all the wonderful people I have met, all the fabulous books I've read, and particularly stories that transport us to another world.
Q: What's the most played song on your iPod or MP3 player?
Right now??? I listen to music most often when I run, Linkin Park, Muse, Prince, Tom Petty, just a lot of different things.
Q: A little birdie told me you're working on your first novel, care to share a little about this project?
The Energy Crusades takes place after the Great Oil Wars have destroyed the majority of civilization on Earth. An alien race has taken over, creating a government based on the currency- energy. All children are required to join an Energy Crusade by the time they are 18 years old. Kaia has lived her whole life as a dedicated Athlete for the Reformation Republic. Her ability to generate energy for her Grid affords her a life of privilege and celebrity. But when the Resistance attempts to capture her in the ruined city, she begins to understand that she has a bigger part to play in the struggle between the Reformation and the Resistance. She thought she knew who the good guys were, but now she's not so sure. Discovering the truth may be the key to her own identity.
Q: Who are your favorite authors? What was your favorite book as a child?
Wow, I have so many. I absolutely LOVED Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn is my all time favorite book. I loved the Harry Potter Series, the Percy Jackson Series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so much more. I just finished a book called The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson, which was fantastic. I love George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series too, but darn it, I wish he would finish already!
Q: This next question is going to be a bit personal-- feel free not to answer-- but everybody is dying to know, do you prefer pop-tarts or cereal? Why?
Cereal!! I don't think I've ever eaten a whole pop-tart. We weren't allowed to have them when I was a kid.
Valerie has a background in property management and an education in food science. While studying chemistry, an idea for a story began to take root, and she has recently completed her first novel. It's a science fiction story for young adults called The Energy Crusades.
Because Valerie is both awesome and a great writer she was hired to ghost write a non-fiction project, an endeavor she's still working on. (Hopefully Valerie will come back for a second interview about ghost writing when the project is finished. I know that would interest a lot of writers.) She has a new a blog, www.noblevalerie.com which she says was inspired by my contest. (I'm blushing!) She recently attended the The Big Sur Writing Conference hosted by The Andrea Brown Literary Agency. ( In other words, the creme de la creme.)
She says, "There isn't much there yet, but I plan to work on it."
You can connect with Valerie on twitter @noblevalerie .
If you follow American Idol, you already know that that the top 13 have been chosen. One of these 13 will win and it isn't necessarily the most talented.
Contests like American Idol or Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award offer a lot of exposure in a very short time. This makes it that much easier for an artist to sell their product to people. But despite TV's attempts to make it seem like they KNOW what's popular, they cannot actually predict whether the winner of said contest is ever going to land on the A list.
For every hit show like American Idol there are thousands of failed pilots, hundreds of C list shows, dozens of B list shows, and handfuls of A list shows. American Idol is an A list show, but the idea that the producers could actually see into the future and predict how popular it was going to be is all smoke and mirrors. Creative Genius is an after the fact title. This is why it's ever so important for writers to write a lot of different things. But, be careful there is a cliff.
When I was in first grade I got a bird's eye view of this cliff. I drew a whale in art class. Before I drew whales, I drew horses. My horse's never got a prize but my whale won me second place in our schools art show. After winning the prize ,I drew whales. I drew so many whales my art teacher said I drew too many whales.
You see contestants on reality TV do this all the time. They get positive feedback and they repeat the same thing, seeking that positive feedback, bang their heads against a wall when they don't get it. Of course sometimes they do themselves too and fail. But at least that was an authentic failure. There really is no better way to fail.
I'm gonna sound like a broken record here, but the only answer is just to do you. When you are you, you are authentic. You may not be the most popular kid on the block. But hey, the A list is really just an accident anyway. An if you accidentally trip over it while being you, just pretend like that's what you intended. This is how you become a creative genius.
It's officially March 1st in Korea so here are the contest results.
Possibly my favorite line ever goes to Jeremy
"Life wasn't a contest with Jesus, and money was better than salvation."
Funniest use of hullabaloo goes to Matt.
"A man riding an invalid carriage asked why he looked like he'd done a hullabaloo in his pants..."
Tie for deadliest use of Kimchi goes to
Marva Dasef :" Rangle used the neck of the empty beer bottle to force the last of the kimchi down Cord's throat."
Noortje de Graa: "The kimchi chopped up and hidden in Adam’s food. The allergic reaction that would follow. The inevitable tragic death."
I loved every story for different reasons. Choosing one wasn't easy. I wish I could give you each a prize but my pockets don't run that deep. I honestly wish they were=(
The prize goes to Valarie! She somehow she managed to capture the essence of two cultures clashing in her very short tale and had me feeling pretty bad for Mr. Choi. It's a popular misconception, but on cannot subsist on beer and kimchi alone. You need 밥! (bap=rice)
Mr. Choi was crying again. I could hear him through the paper thin walls of my apartment, lamenting about how his wife had left him. He spent his days drinking beer and eating kimchi, until the reek of it was embedded in his very being. I could smell him from a mile away.
“You know Mr. Choi, it’s not a contest,” I yelled through the walls, meanly. “Nobody cares how much kimchi you can eat.”
“Hurry up and wait!” he yelled back at me in his heavy Korean accent. I laughed and banged on the wall. He didn’t know how to insult me properly in English.
“Hullabaloo!” I shouted, knowing he’d be more confused than ever. Was that even a word? He wouldn’t know, but he would sit and wonder if I was insulting him. Before I left, I shoved a five dollar bill under his door.
Valarie, please email me and let me know whether you want $25.00 Paypal or an Amazon gift card.
Also, if anyone who entered is interested in doing an interview for my blog, let me know. Don't worry if you haven't been published. You still can share your thoughts and experiences.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).