Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well, here we are, a little late for cards, but we all managed to get in the same spot in the house at the same time. Philip told me, "Mom, please don't show that picture to anyone. We all look like we just got out of the institute." I'm not sure which institute in particular he's referring to, but I don't entirely disagree with him. In case you're wondering, Philip is the one clutching at his collar in a mute gesture of escape. His brother almost managed to hide, but the camera still caught a glimpse of his face. Emma is, like always, happy because she's not a teenager yet.

Anyway, we want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from our little corner of the world. Hope it's a great one!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The T Word and Stuff

I want to thank everyone who emailed me their thoughts on writing groups, and here is my collective response: writers' groups are great if they work for you. Maybe they support you in some way that is necessary for you to go on writing. They are just not for me, and I need to spend what little time I have actually writing. So while I appreciate offers to join online critique groups, I like figuring out how to revise on my own. Just the way I work. And I think I'm more ruthless on myself than nice people would be.

Besides, I have to spend my online time looking up obscure facts about polar bears and peacocks so I can look at the clock and think, "OMG, it's 1:45 and the boys will be home in 17 minutes, and I haven't started revising yet!" It makes me really use those 17 minutes constructively. Unfortunately, another way I work: the Internet is my endless encyclopedia of trivia.

And while I'm sort of on the subject of writing and writing groups, I had no idea so many folks out there are aspiring to be writers, and YA writers in particular. It seems to have exploded, and I feel like Rip VanWinkle. Where did all these people come from and what were they doing before?

In reading some of these emails, I found out a lot that I didn't know, so I started snooping around the Internet to see what they were referencing. Now, admittedly, I am not a writer involved in many literary social loops - okay, no literary social loops - but I discovered a huge business has sprung up to cater to the aspiration of being a writer. There are workshops run by editors and former editors who charge mightily to critique your manuscript and make it publishable. (Can/do they guarantee that? What if that manuscript is still lingering in your hard drive three years later? Do you get a refund?)

There are conferences and weekend retreats and retreats combined with spa treatments to relax you so you can write better. So a sea kelp facial and then a little plot tweaking? Oh, sure, I get that. And none of these are cheap.

Then there is a strange fellow termed "collaborative publishing" - which seems like an advanced form of Xeroxing. You pay someone to publish your book. That's putting it a little baldly, but that's what I gathered from reading their spiel. You get to say you're published even if you're out a couple of grand.

Through none of this does anyone mention talent. There is a conspicuous absence of the T-word in most publishing come ons, and there is this weird atmosphere around writing that if you work a manuscript to death, send it out enough, throw some cash at it, you'll eventually hit it right, quit your day job and start lunching with JK Rowling. Or something along those lines. The odds are never mentioned.

We live right near Atlantic City, sort of a subdued LasVegas with tons of casinos and gamblers. One of the things Gamblers Anonymous does is explain the incredibly low odds of making it big at a casino. It's logical, and mathematical, and inarguable. You would think all the examples would keep the gamblers away from the glittery lure of Harrah's. But it doesn't, and the casinos continue to thrive. They keep coming back and spending money despite the almost impossible odds.

The gamblers know there are so many gamblers and so few jackpots. And the casinos know exactly how few gamblers will accept that as fact.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slightly Less Random Stuff About Writing This Time

Between getting over a horrible cold and finishing up finals at the college, I have been away from the computer for a few days. When I sat down to open my email, I found six messages about an article I wrote that just came out in the January Writer magazine.

The jist of the article is that I don't or wouldn't function well with a writers' group. For me, writing is an act best done alone, and in silence -- two conditions that are pretty rare in my day-to-day life. Still, I obviously find time to write since I publish on a regular basis. But I hardly ever watch tv, and I don't go out.
Seriously. I'm not sure how people who work, even part time, and have kids and write go out to parties or have other couples over for dinner. When someone says they are "dropping by" fear strikes my heart because I have to get the laundry baskets off the couch, put the baby gate up for the dog, find a spot to hide the vacuum, and try to act as if we don't live like gypsies with pillows on the floor and books all over the place. I just shut the boys' bedroom door because in there, it's just hopeless. And a little scary.

Anyway, that tangent is done. The point is this: I'm allowed to say that I don't like writers' groups, or critique groups, and that I don't think editors are always right. I guess that's arrogant. At least according to the email I received (so far 4 "against" the ideas expressed in the article; 2 stating they feel exactly as I do about writers' groups). The arrogance is because I don't take criticism of my work to heart. I stuff it away in the desk for a few days, or weeks, then look at it later and decide if the editor was right or not. After all, it is MY writing, and I may have a different vision of it than that editor does. And that probably explains why there are so many editors in the world. It's a little like dating...

I probably should have stopped writing there, but I went on to say how writers' groups are something I just can't stand. "I wouldn't be able to go on without my writers group," one email said. That's good. I wouldn't be able to go on without a fairly steady supply of chocolate, but who cares? Really. I can't imagine showing people my work when it's in the drafting stages because it seems too much like revealing myself too early in the game, or letting people "drop by" before you fix the place up a little.

My reluctance about writing groups can be explained simply. Writing is the only thing I do alone these days. It's the only physical and psychic "space" I have - and I find other people's comments on my writing, before it's in the final stages, to be distracting and, in my crabbier moments, kind of a nuisance. Comments on early writing is like an intrusion into a dream - and I mean the shrill alarm clock kind, not the someone-has-brought-you-coffee-and-bagels-in-bed kind.

But apparently, I am in the minority. Right now, my dog is the only one who is around when I am working (the cats hunker down for naps when the kids aren't home and the house is quiet). I think the only real arrogance here is thinking there is one way to write, and it's yours.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Random Stuff

This is just a collection of entirely random stuff since I have a low fever today and I am stuck in the house and really tired. I am almost never sick; I think it's been two years since I even had a cold.

I figured I would put our dog, Mazy Blue, on the blog because she has nothing to do with this blog and that's kind of the point of randomness.

First random thought: I like pie. I mean, I really like pie. I think when I am in the home, wild with dementia and not wanting to go to the doctor, the attendants will tell me, "But Anne, anyone who gets their check up gets a slice of pecan pie."
I'll knock the attendants over to get on board that cardio van.

I feel really bad that I have gotten so many emails from people who practice cutting. I did blog about it twice, but I don't know that much about it. In fact, I had never heard of it until right before I blogged about it. I know I emailed some of you and said I had no plans about writing a YA about cutting when you asked. I think I might write my next YA with a character who cuts, but it wouldn't "be about cutting" the way some other books are. This is only in the planning stages, sort of being thought about. So maybe yes to that question.

I listened to an interview with the Pregnant Man who weirds me out beyond belief. Am I the only one who thinks of Horton Hatches the Egg when s/he talks? Or have I read one too many children's books?

Right now, I am reading Feed by M.T. Anderson -- it's amazingly good. Not an easy read for teens, but he reminds me of what Ray Bradbury was to the 60's.

I can't stand Tyra Banks. I hardly ever watch tv, but this morning my eyes hurt too much to read, so I put the tv on. Does anyone like her as much as she likes herself?

My daughter tried to create a curved ruler last night to measure round things.

I have 37 papers to grade by Monday and I haven't started Christmas shopping.

There is probably something very wrong with the lives of people who send me holiday cards that arrive the day after Thanksgiving.

Speaking of holiday cards, do any of their kids ever mess up? Why don't those letters ever say, "Little Mikey got suspended for smoking in the bathroom, and it wasn't a cigarette..." Is it me or are those letters one long brag?

I can't decide whether I like or don't like blogging. Sometimes it reminds me of decorating my locker in the eighth grade so kids who were "like me" would talk to me, and the ones who weren't would stay away. Is there any actual point to blogging?
I guess it's a good way to waste time like I am doing now.

I've sneezed six times while writing this.

I think I'm going to lie down now. I'll come back tomorrow to see if this made any sense. And my dog keeps looking at the computer. I don't think she recognizes herself; I think she's hoping it's a machine, like the micro, that will produce food at some point.