Monday, December 31, 2012

Caring Too Much...

Last night was phenomenal. This was THE game. Against THAT team. It was a long time coming.

And the stress of it gave me a headache.

If you ask my parents, I’ve been a fan since before I was born. Mom says I’d jump around inside her so much while she watched the games with my dad that she swore I’d turn out to be a cheerleader. Ummmm...not so much with that, but still. Lifelong fan here, through A LOT of bad years, and although I shy away from trash talk, fans of certain other teams don’t mind dishing it out anyway.
I’m talking about the game that would determine who clinched the NFC East Division title as well as who would move on to the playoffs.

Traditionally, over the past few years decades, these games have not gone well for us, and the sportscasters weren’t shy about voicing their doubts that this one would be any different. It didn’t matter that we went from 3-6 to win seven straight games. It didn’t matter that so many Sportscasters (coughTerryBradshawcough) already had to eat their words regarding their predictions for our final record. It didn’t even matter that we have, arguably, the most explosive rookie QB/RB duo in the NFL right now.

None of it mattered unless we won the game.

And, although like every other game this season, it came down to the finger-chomping final minute of the game, we did.

And all I have to say is


Okay, that’s not really all I have to say. I’m proud of my Redskins. Since last night I’ve pretty much been watching Sportscenter on a loop and clicked in to Comcast’s On Demand game highlights so I can, you know, actually ENJOY them this time around. Even if our playoff run ends after one game, I’m still elated that my team has gotten this far.

But what’s the big deal? How would it really have affected my life if things had gone the other way? I might have (okay, I know I WOULD have) taken some ribbing from acquaintances of mine who, for some reason unknown, call themselves fans of the other team. (A few of these friends couldn’t pick a football out of a lineup, but that's beside the point.) But really, that’s not exactly life-altering.

Sometimes I think I care too much.

Oh who am I kidding? I know I do. I care about pretty much everything too much.

In some cases, this isn’t bad. Caring about my students pushes me to do my best to meet their individual needs and to encourage their growth. Caring about those in need keeps me donating money that might otherwise go to Starbucks to provide safe drinking water and educational opportunities to children in third world countries. Caring about real people helps me stay others-focused. Caring too much, in these instances, is a good thing.

I’m not sure I could make the same argument for the same devotion to my football team. But good or bad, in the case of sports, television shows, books…once I’m invested, I’m all in.

And that’s what I think what my favorite authors do so well. They make me care about the characters so much that I have an emotional reaction when they struggle, when they suffer setbacks, and when they triumph.

They make me care. Sometimes too much.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 First Quarter Goals

Between teaching, building my school's S.T.E.M. program, and finishing my Master's degree, I've decided that quarterly writing goals sound more manageable than New Year's Resolutions. So from now until March, here goes...

1. Get halfway though major revisions of my MG fantasy novel currently titled Reflection. I'm currently on chapter six of twenty-seven, so I think I'm on track for this.

2. Find a snappier title for Reflection. I'd like it to have some connection to a mirror, but an obscure connection would still work. I'm considering Cracked, Shatter, and Shattered, which all have double connections to the story (and in the case of Cracked, a triple connection.)

3. Polish the first two or three revised chapters by February, in time to submit for critique at my SCBWI region's March conference.

4. Write a daggone synopsis to submit along with the first two or three chapters, again in time to submit for the March conference.

5. Write a rough draft of a query letter and post it to the Blueboards for critique.

6. Update the blog more regularly--at least once every two weeks.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


"The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."
--Eustace Clarence Scrubb
 Voyage of the Dawn Treader

There's something exciting about watching stuck things come undone. Band-Aids might hurt coming off, but there's a perverse pleasure in that rip. Same with scabs. And remember when you were a kid, bored in class, and you'd smear Elmer's glue all of the back of your hand just so you could peel it off? Or was that just me? 

Unsticking something is WAY more fun than getting it stuck in the first place (unless you're talking scratch-n-sniff stickers. They trump just about anything, right?)

Anyway, anyone who writes is no stranger to getting stuck. I "finished" my second novel (for which I still do not have a snappy title) some time around late 2005. I thought it was really good--smoothly-written, good plot, etc. In short, the best I'd written so far. It probably was the best I had written to that point. I made a few minor edits and decided it was ready to send out. Then I got stuck on the synopsis and query letter. They are the dual banes of my writing existence, and I know I'm not alone in dreading them.

In this case, they turned out to be a blessing. I put the manuscript aside while I worked on other projects. When I picked it back up a bit later, I realized the manuscript was definitely not ready. Not even close. You know that new Earth-like planet they recently discovered? The one it would take a shuttle traveling at the speed of light about 75 years to reach? Still closer than my manuscript was to being publication-worthy.

Forget the half dozen glaring errors I found on a casual re-read. Forget the loose threads of plot devices I dropped and apparently just hoped no one would notice. A ten page prologue in a MG novel? Really? As my Chautauqua mentor gently (and wisely) advised: That's not a prologue; that's called chapter one.

What in the world was I thinking? 

It's a little embarrassing now. So thank you, wretched synopsis, for sparing me a bunch of form rejections!

Despite this minor (okay, ginormous) epiphany, I still felt this was a story worth telling. I decided to undertake some larger revisions. At first, I tried to make the prologue shorter and more engaging, but after several failed attempts, I suspected that what I needed to do was ditch the prologue entirely and integrate the crucial information along the way. The s-l-o-w reveal. This would mean completely demolishing the manuscript and building it back up from almost nothing. But I  was willing to do it--reluctantly.

I couldn't do it. I made a few half-hearted attempts, then put it away. Every once in awhile, I  opened it and started reading, remembering how much I love this story. I would make up my mind to try again, and I would...but again...Nothing.

Until this past Thursday.  Enter metaphorical adhesive remover. (Industrial strength.)

 It took SIX YEARS 

but I finally figured it out.

I am unstuck! And while the revisions are not going as easily or quickly as I wish they would (Do they ever?) I am making decent progress. I have a workable plan. And the journey, the scab of being stuck, hurt like billy-oh, but it is such fun to see it coming away!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Word Vomit

So I'm on spring break, and after an insanely busy winter on the teaching front, and a one-day SCBWI conference for inspiration, I have spent the past two days writing. It feels SO good.

The writing itself isn't so good. Frankly, it's a puddle of word vomit, and I know I'll have to toss some kitty litter on it later and sweep some of it into the bin.

I'm okay with that. Sometimes you have to get stuff out of your system, right?

And now that my own far-too-extended metaphor is making me nauseated, I'll get back to writing.