Baby B

I’m feeling a little sad today.  I have several writer friends who are in Gettysburg right now HAVING AN INSPIRING TIME and I’m smiley for them (and can’t wait to critique the work that will come out of this Gettysburg Review Workshop), but I’m also second-guessing whether I should have not gone to AWP and held out for this instead and whether I’ll sign up for next year and Lee won’t be teaching and May and Julie and George and Warren won’t attend….that’s me.  I second-guess myself.

There’s the stress of end-of-year multiplied by (pseudo) graduations from preschool and 5th grade and all their accoutrements.  There was the losing of the class gift by my daughter this afternoon and then, luckily, finding the gift card tucked into her soccer bag (No, she isn’t currently playing soccer.  I have no idea how it got there.)  Twins went to bed late last night and are super-cranky while Diana and Chance had a half-day and have been arguing ever since.  (Why have a half-day when there are only two days left of school.  Does anyone else wonder about this?)

I’m also worried about this “Two Sides” story.  The editors of a magazine liked it, but asked me to revise.  I don’t know whether they’ll like the revisions or if I’ve blown it.  I changed the ending, like was asked, but that meant I had to change the beginning.  There was a comment about the action not being believable so I changed it from being planned to being accidental.  So, um.  Yeah.  I changed the whole story.  Not the title.  I kept the title.  And they are going to pass on it.  I know they are.  I don’t even want to re-submit it.

And there’s another story I’m working on. I’ve known about the contest deadline (June 15th) for a couple of months.  No problem, I thought.  My subconscious is writing it in my head.  Only not so much.  ‘Cause subconscious doesn’t give dictation so well and my fingers still have to type in the morning.

So, feeling kind of glum over here in Baltimore while the remnants of a hurricane water my empty garden.  But, I’ve got a brilliant shiny story for you.  One full of strong Ethiopian sunshine.  It’s not quite over and I know prayers will be appreciated to get to the finish line.

This is the story of Baby B.

I started following Andrea and Nate’s blog while my daughter was being treated for leukemia.  There was this sadness and hope in the entries that echoed my own heart.  Frustration with waiting, trying to understand and be okay with the waiting.  Then it turned out Andrea and I were the same age.  We had been married the same number of years.  She was my pastor’s daughter.  And she believed that God had a plan, but she didn’t know if it was a plan for disappointment or joy.  And, how could I not cry over that?  How could I, waiting through Evelyn’s procedures and chemo and counting down the days until we would see if the cancer would come back, how could I not cry for this woman who wanted to be a mother?  Who had started the adoption process and was waiting…waiting…waiting and she didn’t know the countdown.  She didn’t know.

My whole church was with her on this journey.  Just like they’d been with me.  So, imagine the response to this picture.

It's a Boy

Then Grammy Long (Andrea’s mother and Baby B’s grandmother) started baking.  She made a Facebook page called “Grammy’s Cupcake Obsession” and that woman baked.  She baked and she baked.  She baked herself right into a plane ticket so she could be with her daughter when Andrea met her son.

Wanna see happiness?  Want to? Want to? Want to?


LoveBaby Biruk and his new mommy.

The court date went GREAT.

It’s not over yet.







I hope this squeezed your heart super tight and made you happy.  This is real.  You can’t make it up.  God is good.




Query Letters

Let me just put it out there…I stink at query letters.  Most of it is probably me and my admirable ability to over-think just about everything — but it’s also the nature of the challenge.

For my non-writer friends, once you’ve *finished* your novel you write a one-page letter to a literary agent.  (You are, of course, not finished, but it’s as good as you can get it before the agent and then publishing house editor take a go at it).  Then, the agent decides whether they want to represent you.  You can’t MAKE the agent.  You can’t BUY the agent.  You can’t (or you aren’t supposed to) DRIVE up to New York for an impromptu appointment.  You can’t just SEND your entire manuscript and hope it will be read.

You get to send one page.  Then, a partial (say, the first 50 pages).  Then, maybe the whole thing.  Then, the agent will say yes, no, needs work, send me your next one or something uselessly generic about how it isn’t the right book for their agency.  And, time passes between each step. And, just to be fun, some agents who are overwhelmed with the number of query letters he or she receives, will say, “I’ll only respond to your query if I want to see more.”  Right.  So, how do I know if you’ve even read my letter yet?  I don’t mean to bother you, but I’d like to know for my own query-tracking purposes.

A writer needs to take their 93,000 word novel and write about it in two paragraphs.  Followed by a short paragraph about personal experience or previous publication credits.  But, for the most part, the writer has never met the agents he or she is querying.  And how the heck do you entice a stranger?  You read their bios on the agency website, maybe you check out their twitter feed.  This takes more time.

Some agents want to know where you heard about them.  Others want you to jump into the pitch.  Some agents say they want a novel that crosses genre lines and others say, “Don’t you dare write that you have a thriller-romance-paranormal–horror book.”  Some say to compare your novel to a well-known author, some say, “It’s such a turn-off when a debut author compares themself to a published author.”  ARGGGG, I say in my best pirate voice.

Some general advice is to send out your queries in batches.  If you are turned down by all in the one batch then you know it is the QUERY letter that isn’t working.  The agents haven’t even gotten to your book yet.  Okay.  That makes sense.

So far I’ve sent out 18 query letters in four batches where each batch has a different query.

Current Total: 8 no, O request for partial or full.

This is a project in which I find it easy to become obsessive.  Seriously, I could spend (maybe have spent?) hours on whether to say, “I’d like you to read my dystopian novel.”  Because, in my novel, New Babylon is a military regime which plans to bring the survivors under a one-world governnment and, between you and me, the leaders of NB are CRAZY.

I could say (and have) that GOW (Garden of Wynterhall for those who don’t speak acronym) is a post-apocalyptic fantasy in the tradition of The Road and The Book of Eli.  But then I always worry that I spell post-apocalyptic wrong.  And some agents, apparently, are bored with end of the world scenarios.

My mind spins and spins about what I should change or say to get through this agent barrier, this meeting the right person, because it’s the gate to the next step of my dream to get “Garden of Wynterhall” traditionally published.

And then I hear about Oklahoma.  I see pictures of such fear and suffering.  I listen to the story my neighbor tells me about her daughter and goosebumps raise on my flesh.  Dreams are important.  So is the rest of life.  Hug your children.  I’ll hug mine.




Me:  I don’t really want to be a family that eats at Taco Bell on Saturday nights and uses plastic utensils at our St. Patrick’s Day feast.

Mike: Based on our past weekend, that’s exactly what kind of family we are.

I’ve been on edge this past week, like a tuning fork that’s been hit too hard and vibrates like mad and makes everything it touches start vibrating too.

I can say its because I’ve been waiting to hear back about some stories, because I’m waiting to hear back from some agents about my novel, because I DID hear back from one and he said, “I have reveiwed your manuscript and it is not ANYTHING I wish to work with at this time.”  I can say because I’m tired of waiting on spring, I can say….whatever.
There’s a quote in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: “I could resent the ocean if I tried” and isn’t that just the truth.

But, my edginess started affecting my behavior, and making me a person that I don’t want to be.  I’ve always prided myself on being a good critique partner.  For years I’ve encouraged, looked for what works, tried to be constructive with what doesn’t.  And yesterday I actually wrote to someone that I ‘expected more from them as a writer.’  Who the hell am I to say that?  How is that helpful?

And then, of course, when the writer explained a connection, I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s really good.”  I’ve apologized for my first comments.  But, I can’t stop thinking about it. 

We are made from the choices we make.  I hurt myself too, I broke the contract that I’d made that said I would be empathetic and respectful of other people’s art.  I wasn’t careful. 

I understand why some people do vodka shots to take the edge off of life.  I can’t keep vibrating like this, existing in a hyper-sensitive state, but dulling the edges with alcohol isn’t really feasible for me.
I brainstormed a list of alternatives
                    I can exercise more — our hedgehog on his wheel as my inspiration.  Boy can run!
                    I can be more mindful of my behavior, erring on the side of caring
                    I can forgive freely, because I know I’m going to need it.
                    I can write more frequently in my gratitude journal.
                    I can admit to being human, to feeling things very intensely, to being disappointed that my art hasn’t found an audience.
                    I can acknowledge that its hard to feel like I have a purpose, that I’m making a difference in the world around me, when my words only sit inside my computer.
                    I can acknowledge that writing is a lonely pursuit.  It’s not like a painting that can be easily and quickly shared, a song that can be performed almost anywhere. 
                   And, after acknowledging, I can try to let it all go.  To bring my awareness back to my work, back to my family, back to a sense of love. 

WHAT?  I said TRY.  And, Happy Spring.


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27