When I was thirteen years old, my father was president of the Optimist International Club. Yes, optimists have a club and yes, they’ve really gone international. To this day, I have no idea how Daddy dearest became a part of this organization, though I think it’s kind of adorable that he was. But I digress.
At the age of thirteen, I came home with a mountain of homework to do and I plowed into it (this is because I was ugly and unpopular and didn’t really have anything else to do in my life EXCEPT homework). Halfway through the mountain, my dad called.
“I need you to write up a speech and be prepared to give that speech out loud in front of a panel of judges and several hundred other people who are part of my club. I’ll be picking you up in a little less than two hours. Oh, and Julie? You have to wear a dress.” (okay, fine, he didn’t actually mention the hundreds of people. He left that part as a surprise.)
It seems many of my life altering moments involve being rushed into something before I could think it through well enough to protest, and me wearing a dress. So I wrote a five minute speech on this topic: “I think the best; I expect the best.”
I was thirteen (as I’ve already pointed out). Five minutes of positive thinking for any teenager is quite a stretch. It turns out, this little shin-dig Dad had me go to was a public speaking contest. Lots of kids were entered and most of them were tutored by drama and public speaking coaches. The only public speaking I’d ever done was yelling at my brother at the grocery store. Why my father felt compelled to throw me in the mix at the last minute, I couldn’t really say. Standing in front of all those adults scared me to knee-knocking death.
Of course, I didn’t win. And I actually had the gall to feel badly about not winning. I went with two hours preparation and a dress that didn’t fit (because I never wore dresses back then; my parents were hard pressed to get me to wear shoes), and I had the nerve to feel I should have placed higher than the people who went prepared. I did get an honorable mention and a little medal. And as an adult looking back, I’m shocked at this little undeserved victory.
And what might this little trip down memory lane mean?
It means that so often we go into something less than prepared and then get ticked off when it doesn’t turn out the way we think it should.
I meet writers who finish their first novels and immediately begin submitting. And while I congratulate them for the fact that they actually finished a novel, and further congratulate them for having the fortitude it takes to submit, I wonder if they aren’t going into a contest less prepared than their competition.
Did those writers send their manuscripts out to critique groups? Did they receive the right coaching? Did they study up on how to make themselves stand out in the slushpile? Do they know the mechanics of writing? Are they passionate about their manuscript? What are their credentials? Did they even run a spell check before sending in the manuscript?
And worse, those writers (me inlcuded back before I knew better) whine when they don’t walk home with a contract in hand. The speech I wrote back then still resonates with me.
I think the best; I expect the best. And something more to take away the prize: I gave my best.
Because it’s Christmas, and I am working to finish a book, reading a ton of books for the Whitney Awards since I am one of the judges, and dealing with the holiday and children and snow, I am becoming quite the lazy blogger. Sorry.
I am happy to report that I am ready for Christmas. The presents are under the tree torturing my little people. We are still arguing the menu for our special family Christmas Eve dinner. Rae wants chinese chicken salad. Bing wants mac and cheese (which is soooo not going to happen), and I want bacon wrapped pork. I will win, because I’m the mom! (GO MOM POWER) Rae still thinks she has a fighting chance though. Christmas eve is traditionally candlight and the china, along with sparkling cider in crystal goblets and a small gift to be opened set out next to each plate. Because we live so far from our family, it’s just the five of us and I’ve come to appreciate the joy our little dinner gives me. Christmas day, we’ll drive up and join the extended family and get loud, eat too much and play video games until our eyes roll into the backs of our heads (well . . . everyone else will play games; I will be either reading or writing), but Christmas eve is reserved for just us. I can’t wait! We’re also planning on going to see the bedtime stories movie over the Christmas Break. It looks awesome!
Some interesting things are going on in the publishing world right now. One is the little bit of criticism the Newbery awards are getting this year (note: I am not the one being critical, merely reporting on the critiques of others) You can read that news flash here:
The summary of this article is that the Newbery winners might be too big a stretch for young minds and that the award is going to books catering to adults who like children’s books rather than to books catering to children. It goes on to say that perhaps the books are even turning children off to reading. Whether or not it is true, I can’t say, but I thought it was a good reminder for us authors to remember who our real audience is and to do what we can to write our best for that audience.
Another interesting aside is that Harperstudio and Borders have reached an agreement on the end of returns. For those of you who don’t know, the publishing industry has a bit of a quandary when it comes to ordering books and returning books. Publishing companies allow bookstores to order in as many books as they’d like and if those books don’t sell, those bookstores can return the books to the publisher. This model of business is rare, but allows bookstores to take chances on new product, new authors, new ideas.
Because of the returns policy, publishers are continually backed into a corner of economic and environmental strife. But because of the policy, many new authors who might get passed over, are given chances to sit on store shelves. You can read about the deal Borders made with Harperstudio here:
Remember the Whitney awards nominations are only available to the end of the year. If you read a book that simply rocked your world, give that book a shout out with a nomination. You can nominate here:
And last but not least, if you’re an author and still hinting at things people might get you for Christmas, remember to mention the Storymaker writer’s conference. It’s the perfect last minute gift since it can all be done online. It is one of the best writer’s conferences I have ever attended, which is saying something since I’ve been to a lot. If you are looking to hone your skills, meet agents and editors, enter the first chapters contest, or make connections in the literary world, there is no place better than the here:
Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you stay safe for the season, and that you feel nothing but love from those around you.
This was a fun meme I found on Josi Kilpack’s blog. Since I am a horriffic Josi Kilpack worshipper, I am doing a repeat here on my blog. I hit 57, 000 words on my work in progress and then wound up feeling SICK, I decided to avoid said work in progress and mess with my blog instead. My head feels too icky to be creative and I fear anything I might write in my book might end up being badly embarrassing.
Feel free to copy it and use it if you like (After all, I did). You highlight those things you’ve done.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (I’m sure singing in my car doesn’t count . . .)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Been to the top of a lighthouse
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (But I waved at the statue as I sailed by on the staten island ferry)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (But I know a girl named mona, another girl named Lisa, and I dated someone from france . . .)
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (sssshhhhhh!!!! I still feel guilty)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Ran a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (but I sell Amish Caramel in my store)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (Playing American Idle with my sis in law likely doesn’t count, but man was that mortifying)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China (I broke my grandmother’s china plate once)
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia (But I wrote to my best friend when she was in Lithuania, and Lithuania is really close to Russia . . . isn’t it?)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (But I buy them faithfully every year.)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (I’ll never understand people who jump out of perfectly good airplanes)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (my kids say I run one though)
67. Eaten New England clam chowder in New England
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (it was a book my mom gave me called The Dancing Man, and don’t go telling me books don’t count)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (ick!)
72. Pieced a quilt (yeah, won’t be doing that again any time soon)
73. Stood in Times Square (sigh . . . good times)
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (so not my fault)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life (every day I don’t kill my children . . .)
90. Sat on a jury (but I want to!)
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee