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Returning to Battle: Second Time’s a Charm?

6 Sep

I’m doing it again! Pitch Wars, that is.  And can I tell you how excited I am?

It really happened!

I feel more fortunate than ever.  Because with Pitch Wars, the odds are most definitely not in your favor. This year, Brenda Drake’s epic contest garnered the highest number of entries yet–somewhere around 2600.  That makes the odds of getting in about the same as getting into the Ivy League. (!!)  But if you do get in, the odds of getting an amazing, super-cool, loves-you-like-their-own mentor is extremely high. These mentors are in it for the love, man. They love writing, they love writers and they love helping you make your manuscript the best it can be.

I’m thrilled to have Cass Catalano and Shauna Holyoak as my mentors this year (yeah–I got two! Bonus!) Together with me and my fellow mentee, Gaye Sanders, we are Team oMG. For the uninitiated, MG means middle grade, which means readers typically between 8 and 12 years old. I love writing MG because those years are such a pivotal time in life. It’s exciting and scary, and books can be a great companion, helping you figure it all out.  Actually, that sounds like me, now, with my mentors!

oMG squad hug

Seriously, although I entered hoping to get the opportunity to put my work in front of some top-notch agents, no matter whether I connect with one or not, I know I will get something hugely beneficial out of Pitch Wars this year: a community.

I first entered Pitch Wars three years ago and I gained a lot, including becoming a stronger writer, but most beneficial was the community I became a part of. Our group of over 80 mentees is still in touch, supporting each others’ writing and celebrating each new book published by one of us. And so far, there are a lot!! That deserves a separate post, which I promise I’ll do soon. I also connected with a super-supportive mentor, Lisa Lewis Tyre, whose writing I love. You can check out her debut novel, Last in a Long Line of Rebelshere and she’s got another book, Hope in the Holler, coming out in early 2018.

This year’s Pitch Wars class is turning out to be incredibly supportive and fun. I’m loving being a part of this group and am learning everything I can from them as well as Shauna and Cass. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about–taking my writing to the next level so that (hopefully someday) my words will be out in the world, touching the hearts of children.

The next step is revising, revising, revising and honing my pitch for the agents. I’m ready to take on the challenge!

Prepare for battle

Freedom on Captiva

18 Nov

Sometimes getting away from it all is exactly the right prescription.

When Michael called to reveal his plan for Tracey’s surprise birthday getaway, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. For me.  Selfish, I know. I kept reminding myself, “This is for Tracey’s birthday, not yours.” Yet, I couldn’t help feeling that I had received a gift.  We all did.

As mothers and professionals, the opportunity to shut out the everyday world and not WORRY about everyone else and all their stuff was a gift beyond measure.  Add to that the fun factor of not knowing where we were going, and it became an adventure!

From the minute we left, we knew no matter where we ended up, we would have a great time.  As we traveled further West and South, I will admit we did a little happy dance because we knew we were headed toward sunny shores somewhere.

Once *captive* on the island, we were free to explore: our beautiful home for the weekend, trails down to the beach, the sleepy shops on the island, our own pool and hot tub.  No place we had to be, no time we had to be there.   It was paradise.  Being able to freely explore, to take in new sights, try new foods, do new things was good for our creative souls.  As was the time to talk and share and encourage and laugh.

An important part of living a creative life is learning to wedge-squeeze-cram your writing, your painting, your photography, your sculpture or whatever your art may be, into the overfull cacophony that fills each day.  I do this well at times, pathetically at others.  Having four days when I did not have to ask one person, “Did you brush your teeth?” even once, or any of the other ten thousand processes mothers must manage on a daily basis, freed up some mental space.  And, yes, I managed to write some.

Now, it’s time to get back to the real world.  Will you pass me that crowbar?

Key Lime High

17 Nov

Travel Notes of My 40th Birthday Retreat with the 4 Chicks

As I write this, my four-year-old son is screaming for me to get the stuffed Christmas toys down from the attic, trying to break down my bedroom door behind which I am stealthily typing. It’s quite the contrast to two weeks ago today. On that morning, I woke up to silence and strolled around my second-floor balcony, imbibing views of Florida’s tranquil gulf below, stretching out to the horizon before me like a deep blue path of possibility.

Originally, I thought I might want to ring in my big birthday with a party. I envisioned a grand “40’s Forever” theme with lots of great 1940’s music and dancing on a tented outdoor dance floor. But when my writing class was keeping me so busy, I just didn’t have time to plan it. And having moved just over a year ago, I wasn’t sure who would actually come. My husband, Michael, stayed quiet.

When I showed up at Eva’s house for our regularly scheduled Chicks meeting the day before my birthday, I could tell something was off; Peggy and Vivi were both there before me–without coffee. Michael had told me I had to hurry and get back home so we could leave on our trip, some mysterious getaway sans kids to some unknown destination, just the two of us. He had only told me about it after learning I had accepted a freelance job that was to have started the same time, which he insisted I postpone. So my crammed suitcase, which held everything from my winter coat to my bathing suit, waited for my return.

The Chicks sang “Happy Birthday,” and I blew out my birthday cupcake. Then, as I prepared to get down to the day’s business quickly, Michael walked in the door. It was then that I learned the extent of his cover-up. He was sending me and the Chicks away together. They had been in on the secret, too, but none of us knew where we were headed. Michael rushed us into my minivan. Inside, a card included the address of our first way point: a Starbucks about an hour west on I-4. A CD mix of 1940’s music played in the radio. (I think the last mix he made for me was in college. On a cassette.)

After Starbucks, we were given our next address which took us further west and turned us south. We imagined Michael at “mission control,” calling us from a cockpit surrounded by dials, tracking our every mile. He seemed concerned about our timing, saying we had to be somewhere by a certain time. But we Chicks were enjoying the journey, talking and laughing so much that we missed a critical turn and our intended lunch stop, causing Michael some distress. Insisting we had to make up lost time, he gave us our next way point to navigate us back onto our path. Peggy Googled the address. He was sending us to a Publix parking lot.

Just as we pulled into said grocery lot, Michael called again. “You better not be giving us a grocery list,” I told him, only half joking. But that’s exactly what he was doing. He told us we had no more than thirty minutes to get breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days. Getting four women to agree on food was no small feat, but we managed. Michael’s voice was emphatic as we loaded the food into the empty cooler he had left in the trunk. “You MUST LEAVE NOW!”

Giving us the final address, he told us we were 15 minutes away from another parking lot, where a shuttle would take us to a ferry that would in turn take us to our final destination. If we missed the shuttle, we would miss the ferry and would have to pay for another one much later. He directed us to paperwork underneath the passenger seat. We were going to North Captiva Island, where the pirate Gaspar held his concubine women captive.

We boarded the shuttle just in time. After checking-in on the island, we received our own golf cart for transportation and eventually found the private house that would be our accommodations. Walking through the three-story wonderland of comfort and recreation that was called Key Lime High, I marveled at my husband’s creativity, thoughtfulness, and generosity to plan and pull off such a surprise for me and my Chicks. We were four happy captives for four perfect days. It was the best 40th I could have ever asked for, yet something I could not have imagined beforehand. “Trust me,” he had said leading up to the weekend, deflecting my hundreds of demanding questions. “Sometimes you just have to let go of feeling like you have to control everything.”

My son has stopped screaming now and is quietly constructing a Lego tower. I want to keep building, too. To start, I close my eyes and go back to that happy retreat with Eva, Peggy, and Vivi–my dear Chicks who know every painful, exhilarating chapter of my creative triumphs and tragedies–and our shared Key Lime High continues.

Sail Away…. Sail Away… Sail Away with us

9 Oct

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. ~Andre Gide

Truer words were never spoken and I’m proud of my Chicks for having the courage to set out on their creative journeys.  They don’t know what waters lie ahead but they know they can only reach their dreams by casting off and trusting that I will guide them.  And what better way to celebrate their milestones than a beautiful day on the water together?

As you set out on your creative journeys, how will you celebrate your milestones?   The Muse loves a good celebration!

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