When are wars good? When they’re #PitchWars

4 Sep

I’m in! I’m in! I’m in a war. A Pitch War.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about taking small steps in my writing journey in this post. I’d finished a manuscript, gotten some recognition in a contest based on a query and first page and gotten some initial interest from agents. All good stuff. Really good stuff.  I celebrated, ready to take my next step. Then I realized in a panic that my manuscript was NOT READY.

Fortunately, my lovely and trusted beta readers started sending feedback. They laughed. They cried. And nothing–nothing, I tell you–makes me happier than making people cry. In a good way. They also gave me suggestions on how to make my story stronger. I listened. I revised. But I knew it still was not ready. I continued seeking feedback. And then along came Pitch Wars, the awesome contest by the even more awesome Brenda Drake.

I decided to go for it. I did my research and read the interests and backgrounds on every single mentor, narrowing it down to the maximum four allowed who fit my story, a middle grade contemporary with a twist of magic/sci-fi. I submitted my entry and crossed my fingers. I was asked to send more pages, then the full manuscript. Eep! More waiting, until finally, at midnight of the appointed day, I refreshed the Pitch Wars page obsessively until…*cue angels singing and harps playing*…there it was: the list. And I was on it!

I so needed this right now. In the midst of other challenging things happening in my world, this is a bright spot. And, though it doesn’t guarantee I’ll land an agent or get a book published, I know that no matter what, I’ll grow as a writer. And that is a prize worth fighting for. funny gifs

Violence, Women, and Art

5 Jun

Note: I drafted this post a few weeks ago, but hadn’t published it yet when events in the news spawned the #Yesallwomen conversation. I wasn’t sure I would publish it because I didn’t want to sound too preachy. But now, I’ve decided to, in the spirit of #Yesallwomen. (If you haven’t read the Twitter feed on that hashtag, do it. You will be amazed, horrified, nodding your head, saying ‘yes, me too’ and more).

 

Here’s my original post:

As someone who values and admires creativity, my ideals include validating and encouraging all art.  But reality has come smack dab up against my ideals.  Here’s the problem: violence against women.

The other day, I was listening to a streaming music station on my iPhone as I worked in the yard.  Happily, I clipped along to the playlist of one of my favorite artists. A song came on with a beat and lyricism that you cannot resist singing along to. It included a collaboration with a rap artist, embedded in the song. I love these collaborations – they’re super cool and interesting musically. I’d heard the song before, but had never really paid close attention to the lyrics. All the lyrics. As I did, they hit me like a ton of bricks. And I thought:

“This guy is calling a woman a b* and literally saying he’s going to eff her up because she isn’t pleasing him. And I’m singing it with him. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?” Yes, I was yelling at myself inside my head.

But then I said to myself, “Self, this isn’t the first song you’ve heard (or sung) with lyrics like this. Why are you freaking out now?”  And, then I freaked out even more at the fact that I hadn’t freaked out about this before. 

WHY hadn’t I freaked out before? WHEN did it become acceptable to glorify beating the stuffing out of a woman?  Are we in the Twilight Zone, people?  If you were to replace gender with race in these songs, people would completely lose it. And rightly so, because it would be wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Where is the outcry when these things are said against women?

In art, we explore many things. But when there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of songs which include lyrics that make it sound okay, normal or that glorify violence toward women, we are sending a message. A horrible message.  Millions of small choices make up our culture.  I, perhaps you, and millions of other men, women, teenagers and even young boys and girls are happily listening to lyrics that imply that women are: beneath men, here only to serve men, deserve to be harmed in some way if the men in their lives are not pleased.  And then we wonder why there is so much violence against women in the world. When we buy, stream and listen to these songs, we are saying it’s okay.  And, it’s NOT okay.

So, I’m making a small choice. I can only choose for myself, but I hope you’ll consider joining me. I’m not talking about censorship. I don’t believe in the big brother approach. I believe in the power of the market. The power of the people.  If people choose not to buy or otherwise support these songs, fewer of them will get made. Fewer of these hateful messages will be put out there.  And fewer little boys and little girls will grow up thinking that women are nothing but objects that deserve to be used and abused.

From now on, I will not buy songs that have a mysoginist message, I won’t stream them, and I’m removing them from my playlists. I admit I’ll be sad to see some of the songs go, because I do love me a nasty bassline. But it’s gotta be done.

Small Steps on My Writing Journey

2 May

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao-Tzu

One step at a time

One step at a time

For 2014, I decided my theme for the year would be to focus more on polishing what I’m already working on instead of starting a bunch of new things. One of the things I wanted to focus on was a middle grade manuscript I began early in 2013. I’d already weeded out other projects that were taking my time and distracting me from my goal. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other (i.e., words on the page) and git ‘er done.

Finally, I did! I had a complete first draft. Time to celebrate, right?  Well, sure, but…a first draft is not a final-ready-to-send-agents draft. So, my next step was to revise.  I began. But at the same time I entered a contest on an awesome website called Adventures in YA Publishing (if you write YA or MG, check it out here.)

In this contest, you submit a pitch and first line, and if you are in the first 100 submissions, you get feedback. I thought, awesome – I am going to get some feedback which will help me make it stronger. I didn’t actually think I’d get to the second round and get asked to submit my first page for critique as well. But I did. Eep!

From there, the top ten were selected to go on and get their entries judged by prominent agents. When I checked the list of finalists, I closed my laptop with a sigh. Oh well, I got some good feedback and that’s why I entered in the first place. But wait! What was that? My title? I flipped my laptop back open, and sure enough, mine was listed. Now I started to actually get excited. Big-time agents would read my work. Maybe even like it!  Of course, getting your hopes up is a recipe for a shattered heart, so I tamped down my excitement and just focused on getting the feedback.

So, how excited was I to receive a request to see my full manuscript from not one but two awesome agents?  Yeah, this excited:

Not me, but this is what I looked like on the inside

Not me, but this is what I looked like on the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

A day later, I was notified I’d been named a runner up in the contest!  Out of 100 people, I was one of the top few. Double eep!  As a runner up, I received a first chapter critique from the fabulous Rosemary Wells.  Her critique gave me great insight and new perspective on my story and I am so grateful to her.

As I’m getting more feedback from beta readers and critique partners, I’m taking one step at a time to make my manuscript stronger. And soon, very soon, I’ll be ready to submit my final, polished story to these agents.  I cannot know where that step will lead me, but no matter what, I know it will be something good.

It’s great to look back now and see how many steps I’ve taken just this year. And it’s exciting to think of what steps are ahead. I just have to do my job and keep on walking.

Inspired by Spring

28 Apr
Chicks hit the beach!

Chicks hit the beach!

Here’s a small thing that we enjoyed this past week: a beach day!  It was only a day, but it felt like my own little Spring Break, since it was too cold during our actual Spring Break to wear a bathing suit (or anything less than a jacket.) Nothing like a day of true relaxation to rekindle the creative spirit.

We loved every minute of our beach day. We also enjoyed having our guest chick, Maya, with us!  What are you doing this Spring?

LIFE IS A JOURNEY

16 Feb

“Life is a Journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experience to enjoy.”

My dad passed away in a horrific car accident on November 2002 in which he caused.

That’s when my life changed!

I  knew very young that life was not going to be easy, and that I was going to have my challenges along the way.  I was not a great student, was not overly smart, did not have a creative talent.  Knew that if I wanted anything in life I would have to work hard for it.

journeyBy November 2002 I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful little girl.  That day when the phone rang and I got the message that my father passed away it was the worst day of my life.  It wasn’t that I did not expect it.  He was an alcoholic and I knew that death was just a step away for him.  What hit me so hard was how he died.   Not only did he pass away he also caused someone’s death because of his addiction.

The effects of this incident have stayed with me for many years and made me evaluate my own life.  It’s made me think how precious life really is and how short it can be.  When we are young we think that we have our whole lives to do anything we want, that we have time.   We let fear and  insecurities stop us from pursuing what we have always dreamed of doing.  We talk about our dreams, but we never make that first step toward them.  We make excuses why we can’t pursue them.

November 2002 changed all that for me.  Yes it took a few years for me to get all my ducks in a row.  When I turned 40,  I focused in and made personal changes.  The funny thing was that I was thinking of a whole different journey for myself, a more creative journey. That is how 4 chicks started.  But life had different plans for me.  I went back to school, I knew that I wanted to study Holistic Nutrition but with my husband traveling for work so much and having 2 small girls at home, I knew it was impossible for me to go to a campus-based university.  So I researched the best Holistic Nutrition distance learning college to help me achieve my educational goal.   Some disagreed with my choice of school.  But I believe in trusting one’s intuition and going with the flow of life and seeing where it will lead.  Many were asking what are your plans for life after college.  Truthfully, I did not have a plan at all.  I knew I wanted to help people get healthy.  I really enjoyed the learning process without all the stress of  what specific job this was leading too.  I have great faith in life and know that I’m the only one that can change my future.  I knew I was going to have obstacles along the way and was prepared to face them.  In January 2014 I finished! Where will this all lead me?  I don’t know but I’m excited to find out :-).

It still makes me very sad to think about my father.  More because he did not value his life or the consequences to others of his actions.  He did not understand that life had great plans for him (as it does for each of us).  He lived his life with the notion that ‘if you have lost it all, why even try’.

I believe that everyone is put on this earth for a reason and YES life is hard but it’s up to us to make a difference within ourselves, family, community and world.  If we stop blaming others for our challenges in our life and focus more on how to move forward in a positive and uplifting way, we really then begin to enjoy the journey.

And life is a journey, and we must learn to enjoy it and not focus so much on the final destination.

So what happens now at mile marker 2014?  I can’t wait to find out!!!!

2014 Muse Challenge: What Now?

30 Jan

 Join the 4 Chicks this year to stay focused on the next SMALL thing!

Now that it’s one month into the new year, are you moving closer to your creative goals? Perhaps, like the recording artist Rihanna, you may be asking yourself “What Now?”

If you “just can’t figure it out,” you’re not alone. For 2014 I’m challenging my 4 Chicksand youto ask yourself this same question as often as possible: What now?

But instead of screaming it in reaction to events happening around you, stay calm and query yourself for an answer. Something very specific and very small. What’s the next immediate, tangible action you can take?

Here’s one: Join my 2014 What Now? Challenge. To celebrate and share your beautiful little victories, feel free to check in with the Chicks one of the following ways:

What Inspires Me

23 Jan

At a writing conference this weekend, I realized the speakers that always inspire me the most are the illustrators. It makes sense because I think in pictures when I’m writing. If only my hands could create what I see in my head. *sigh*

Anyway, I also realized the need to use visuals more in my writing process simply for the inspiration they provide. Here are a few that are inspiring me this morning.

Making 2014 SPARKLE!

7 Jan

Okay, yes I know that SPARKLE! was our December power word.  And, yes I know it is now January.  And, no, I didn’t write a post in December. That’s because, frankly, I didn’t feel very sparkly in December. I felt chaotic, thankful, busy, relieved, and a lot of other mixed emotions but not really sparkly.  In the last week of the year, when most of the hosting and feasting was over, I was simply happy to feel and be lazy.  Because I’ll admit – I was exhausted from 2013.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do choose an overall “theme” for each year.  For the past few years it’s been: to be uncomfortable as much as possible. In other words, to constantly say “yes” to new things, to push myself, to make possibilities realities. Because the more uncomfortable you are, the more you grow.DSCN0049

And, it’s worked quite well. To name just a few results, I’ve gotten my own business running on all cylinders, developed some wonderful clients, taught at my former college, become a public speaker of sorts, started a new networking group, learned to paddleboard, learned to surf (barely), learned to play the piano (sort of), kayaked for the first time, made a music video with my Chicks, and written a LOT.  However, I still feel like a beginner at many of these things.

Mario Sarto CCA-SA 3.0

Mario Sarto CCA-SA 3.0

So this year, I’m changing things up a bit.  Always doing new things is great, but now I want to focus on doing things better. I’m going to focus on polishing my craft, whether professionally or personally.

In particular, in my writing, I am in the final stages of completing an approx 35,000 word Middle Grade manuscript.  I’ve started an awful lot of stories before, and finished very few.  This is the one I’m most proud of so far. And, to give myself the chance to make it bloom into something bigger, I have to stick with it, polish it and give it a chance to SPARKLE!  So, our power word for December has become my Word to Live By in 2014.  I’m gonna make it SPARKLE!

HAPPY NEW YEAR – My 2014 Goals!

4 Jan

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you all, but it felt like the holiday’s just flew by.  Usually I’m able to sit down and write my goals for the new year.  It helps me be accountable on the things that I want to accomplish before it gets lost with my hectic life.  There are years that I’m able to accomplish many things and there are years that I don’t even accomplish one thing on my list.  But that is Ok, I just add it to the next year.

But for some reason, this year I could  not think of what I want to accomplish or do for 2014.  Don’t get me wrong there are many things I still want to do but I was trying to think of things that was not time consuming or much effort from my part.

Have you ever had those moments that you are thinking of something and you are about to disregard it for whatever reason and something you read or heard convinces you to not give up, do not disregard or ignore it.   Well I just had that moment.

skydiving

This was challenging for me!

I’ve been reading a book called Succeed: How we can reach our goals by Heidi Grant.  She writes:

“Setting and achieving challenging goals has added benefits besides great performance. Think of a time in your life when your accomplished something really difficult, and compare that to how you felt when you pulled off something relatively easy.  Which feels better? Succeeding at something hard is more pleasurable, gives greater satisfaction and happiness, and increases your overall sense of well being.”

As I contemplating what she wrote, I started looking at what gave me great happiness and it was those goals that I set for myself that were not easy and had me doubting myself but when I was able to accomplish them, gave me such an amazing feeling.

daily mileExample: I have never run before and at 40 years old decided that I was not just going to do a 5K, I was going to do a triathlon.  Call it stupid on my part to try something harder, than doing something like a 5K first (like if that was not hard enough for someone that had never run before).   But it was the best decision for me.  I knew if I trained for a 5K, I would be able to do it, if I stuck with it.  But a Triathlon seem so much harder and had me thinking “can I really do this?”  Can I push myself out of my comfort zone? YES! As I look back I always did better on things that took me out of my comfort zone.   Am I scared to death? YES!!!!   I always knew that we are here on this earth for a very short time and I always wanted to make my life count for something for someone.  I wanted to be an inspiration to may girls, that even in the hardest time you are able to get through it and keep pursuing your dreams.  But finding a balance is very hard, I never want my children to feel neglected because of my own dreams.  So I try to choose carefully what I want to do and what is really important to me.

There is a motivational video that I love to listen to and he said

“The wealthiest place in the planet is the graveyard, because in the graveyard we will fine the inventions that we never were exposed to, ideas, dreams that never became reality, hopes and aspirations that was never acted upon. THE QUESTION IS WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR TIME?”

So, here it is my 2014 Bucket List!  (few of these goals I know that I will be focusing on and the others might happen or not, but I’m not so worried about them if it doesn’t).
1. Find an activity that we all can do as a family together (bike, volleyball etc) (MUST)
2. Take time to focus on my spiritual journey (MUST)
3. Start working on my Documentary (This is the reason why we started the 4chicks and a Muse)
4. Continue my education in Holistic Sports Nutrition (MUST)
5. Compete in Spartan Races (Already signed up)
6. Bungee Jump (scared to death)
7. Take a paddle board class (Dream)
8. Learn to sail (Dream)
9. Go to Greece (I don’t expect this to happen but I’m still putting it out there just in case LOL).
10.  Make time for my chicks and our amazing blog!   (MUST)

What are your goals for 2014?

Let Your Little Light SPARKLE

24 Dec
This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

Once again this year I failed to take a decent family picture and send out holiday cards in the snail mail. So last weekend, inspired by Chick Eva, I realized that my last hope was to do something electronic. Eva is the source of much of the creative mischief in my life, so feel free to blame her for what followed.

Last Friday I got this idea for a song in my head and started fooling around at the piano. As a Florida native, I’ve never seen a white Christmas. Nor have my kids, who listen with wide-eyed amazement as my husband regales vivid tales of playing in snow during his childhood in Chicago. Why not have fun with the juxtaposition of wishing for snow in Florida when we literally were in even the 80’s over the weekend? How cool would that be?

My husband shook his head at me the way he does when he knows I’m taking on something I shouldn’t and he’ll be forced to help me. He covered me with that look that says, “Really? Again? Why?” He pretends I’m forcing him to play along with me, but I know that secretly he likes it.

Grumbling that the chord progression was too hard to remember and that he’d never be able to play it all together, he sat down next to me. We’re two music hacks trying to arrange a song, and it’s a frustrating process. But he kept working, making music from my clunking notes. “This is all I want for Christmas,” I pleaded.

Later that day, while driving my daughter to her roller skating class, I tossed my notebook to the back seat so we could brainstorm ideas for the video. She sighed loudly, as only an almost-thirteen-year-old girl can do, reluctantly scratching pencil to paper as I suggested possible visual shots we might take. She rejected thought after thought I suggested. “That’s a stupid idea,” she hissed after one. “I just don’t see the point of doing it all.”

I clawed the wheel. This was her inner critic lashing out at me, even herself. I felt adrenaline surge in my chest as if a dark hunter were trying to steal my precious bear cub. If we weren’t already late for skating, I might have pulled over.

“Don’t say stupid,” I rebuffed her before proceeding. “And don’t ever…ever call an idea stupid. You have a long time to become fearful and bitter and cynical. You’re only 12. You have a lifetime ahead of the world and experience telling you not to try, that things are too hard, that your creative ideas are stupid, pointless, worthless. Don’t start blocking yourself now, or I promise you, you’ll never feel fully fulfilled. It’s taken me a long time to stop listening to that voice in my head telling me not to be bothered, not to risk being laughed at, or worse yet, ignored. I’m 41; if you can learn from my painful journey, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

“I believe that the God who created the universe gave us the gift of creating, too. It’s a healing gift, maybe the only hope for the world you’ll grow up in, a world that often seems like it’s better suited to hating, tearing down and destroying–even killing–than to loving, building up and creating. Maybe that’s why God came to earth as a baby; maybe it’s the most beautiful literary metaphor of all time. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know everything, and sometimes I question everything. It’s okay to question, to not know. But please don’t kill your artist now. I love you too much to see it happen to you, too… ” I drifted from my emotional diatribe back into silence.

“Fine,” my daughter finally said. “What if we had our big nutcracker lip sync one of the refrains?”

My five-year-old son was enthusiastic from the start, especially when I promised him he’d get to sing into the “mike-a-phone.” We spent the weekend working as a family, even roping in some of our awesome neighbors. Below is the result of our shared efforts. From our family and community to yours, Merry Christmas!

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