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Anyone For a Game of . . . Rejection Bingo?

Well. The time has come, folks.

::rubs hands::

Here’s my score sheet for a short story that I can’t get through The Gates (published). No one wants to give this story a home. It’s loveless. It’s homeless. And I just want to weep. So, I forced myself to see the “bright side”: what prize can I give myself once I’ve completed an entire board? Or even an entire column?

Hmm. I don’t know. Leave me some ideas in the comments.

The only perk about this Short Story Rejection Dance is that I didn’t receive form letters. Maybe if I can swallow my YouTube shyness, I’ll read some of them.

woot

Rejection Bingo

My husband’s foot. It’s almost like a rabbit’s foot for good luck except it’s not severed. 🙂

Also, in a previous post, I had mentioned The Book. This book, Guide to Literary Agents 2018 will help me to accumulate more and more rejections? Unfortunately, yes. And hopefully some acceptances, too!

5kph and Literay Agents

5,000 Words Per Hour just helps with me writing more. 🙂

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Goal: At Least 50 REJECTIONS a YEAR? No Problem, Let’s Go Crazy!

Typically, rejection doesn’t hold a positive connotation. And why would it?

Rejection is painful.

When I was much younger writer, I often didn’t bother submitting my work because I didn’t think it would be accepted. Plenty of times while writing a query letter or a cover letter, the part that always froze me up was when I had to list previous publishing credentials. I was a teenager and feared that the writing contest I won as a seven-year-old would be laughed at or the poems and short stories I had published in the school newspaper were worthless. I didn’t know that not including any accolades was . . . okay.

This defeatist way of thinking ultimately trapped me in a fixed mindset.

I didn’t allow myself to be comforted with the fact that “sometimes, you’ve got to start from nowhere to get to somewhere” and “hey, you may not be there. Yet. You will get there if you don’t give up.”

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset — Your mindset can vary from interest to interest and from day to day. Simply being aware of your mindset is half the battle.

That three-letter-word “yet” holds as much power as the two-letter-word “if”.

Also, I was unaware of problematic issues within the publishing world. For example, I didn’t know how systematically racist the publishing industry can be — especially when it comes to the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. I feared rejection and ironically was surrendering to this practice by rejecting myself.

Self-rejection not only affected me, but it didn’t give others the opportunity to even take a chance on my work.

Thankfully, I know better and I choose to do better. For instance, I learned that magazines like Fireside aren’t only noticing that Black writers are vastly underrepresented in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but have actively taken a role in shedding light on this issue. The birth of FIYAH Literary Magazine was an answer to this problem and its staff didn’t need statistics to prove and add more weight to what most people of color already know: the stakes are often against us and these writers and editors bravely proclaim” . . . the future of genre is now. And the future ain’t going to write itself.” They too launched a survey and a report on Black Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. I look forward to learning more about these findings.

This year, I’m going to continue this new outlook focused on a Growth Mindset and my goal is to obtain at least 50 rejections (collectively) from agents, editors, and/or magazines by the end of the year.

Why? Well, the more I submit, the more likely I’ll be successful. 🙂 Likewise, one good sale is better than none!

And who knows, maybe I can play Rejection Bingo (originally found here — thank you,  Chris!) while listening to one of my favorite songs, Prince’s (may he rest in peace) “Let’s Go Crazy!”

prince_let's go crazy

image

 

 

 

2017 Year-End Reflection AND 10 Reasons Why I Plan on 2018 Being Even Better!

Soon, the year 2018 will roll on in. Looking back to all that I’ve accomplished, in spite of the struggle and medical hardships (yup, maybe I’ll share that someday), I can finally admit that I’m amazed and proud of myself.

Before I sat down to type this post, I had to think back on every single thing I did in order to own this feeling and not dismiss it. My mother and father raised me to always strive to be better. So, I blame them. Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. Thank you ever so much. Lol.

For most of you that know me on a more personal level, you know it’s hard for me to express such affirmations and truly, TRULY own them.

So, without further adieu, here are 10 Accomplishments in 2017 I’m MOST PROUD OF:

1. Attended various local author events at bookstores, libraries, and conventions.

2. Republished Forbidden as an e-book (now if only I can finish it up as a paperback)!

3. Independently published my first middle grade book (Waking Dream Series). Due to the fact that I struggle with marketing books like other Indie authors, I’ve decided that WHEN (not if) I become traditionally published, I’ll still put 100% into social media and marketing, but I hope that I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing. Being an Indie author is HARD! And yes, the stigma of independently publishing books is slowly disappearing it isn’t completely extinct!

indies what we are

Read more about Being an Indie Author here.

4. Celebrated my sons’ birthdays (17, 5, and 2).

5. Wedding Anniversary – 🙂

6. Submitted several manuscripts to agents and publishers! Sure, I received rejections! But if you don’t try, you won’t succeed!

7. Applied for artists grants.

8. Sold my FIRST PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” to FIYAH Literary Magazine. Learn more so you can purchase your copy in January here!

9. Created YouTube Channel that’s in need of some serious, serious attention! 😉

10. Connected with more bloggers, readers, writers, and friends all over the world!

With you and your stimulating social interactions, I’ve become a better writer!

Thank-you-word-cloud

 

 

Stellaluna, The Evolution of Picture Books, and the Excuse of Short Attention Spans

Short Attention Span_Meme

 

Earlier today I visited my local Barnes & Noble to purchase The Book. This book shall remain a mystery until a future post. 🙂

Anyway, I enjoyed a lovely conversation with a grandmother who is also a writer. She popped into the bookstore to purchase the gorgeously illustrated and beautifully written picture book, “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon for her adorable granddaughter.

stellaluna

Picture books like “Come on Rain!” by Karen Hesse and Patricia Polacco’s “Chicken Sunday” are much longer in comparison to the picture books that are being published today. And it’s sad. I’ve drawn my own conclusions about why that might be.

come on rain by hesse

There’s no doubt that editors and agents are paying close attention to chicken sunday polaccotheir intended audiences. Perhaps, they’ve drawn conclusions that the kids of today have shorter attention spans and that they’re unable to listen through a ten minute read aloud (and fellow teachers, let’s not forget accountable turn and talk time, amiright)? Last year, I sent a survey home to parents asking about obstacles that keep their student from reading. Parents didn’t disappoint. One parent in particular explained that her daughter is distracted by so many “toys and gadgets” such as her cell phone, tablet (where she plays app games such as Candy Crush) and video games. Despite this parental feedback, I was still confused because even as a kid when I had my video games (Legend of Zelda, Ogre Battle, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy series — oh yes!) I made time for reading. My parents also instilled in me the importance of prioritizing.

Another reason why I think picture books have shrunk is because they aren’t made for cheap. Publishers have to pay the illustrator and the author (if they’re not working with an author-illustrator). One other favorite picture books is “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Caroline Binch. Reading Rainbow introduced this book to me. I love how the character-driven story shares a universal message about following your dreams despite resistance from others.Amazing Grace by Hoffman

I miss the picture books of long ago! I miss the the graceful use of figurative language! And don’t get me wrong, I understand that publishers need to make money. Otherwise, they can’t feed their own families, pay their bills, and so on. According to Kidlit.com, picture books are a $50,000 investment for a publisher!

BUT, I do think that if a book is great and interesting, the length SHOULD be an afterthought! And if a reader is really engaged then they’ll just keep reading.

just-keep-reading-just-keep-reading

However, there have been times when I’ve relied on Quick Reads for my little ones. Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is a great solution when I’m cramped for time!

Don't Let the Pigeon_Willems

 

What Do Recurring Themes Say About You as a Writer?

recurring dreams

According to HowStuffWorks.com,

Many people have the same or a similar dream many times, over either a short period of time or their lifetime. Recurring dreams usually mean there is something in your life you’ve not acknowledged that is causing stress of some sort. … In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time.

I’ve had recurring dreams, but the main point of this post is to discuss recurring themes in writing. I think that the themes we express creatively, like dreams, often reveal a lot about us.

A little while ago, I needed to go back and look at some work I did over a decade ago. I ended up pulling out floppy disks (yup), flash drives, and paper copies of work.

floppy neckchain

Ahhh. Floppy disks — as retro as Flavor Flav.

flavor flav

You see, there’s a grant that I’m really interested in winning (finalists won’t be announced for quite some time) and when I attended the workshop to learn more, the facilitator shared that applying artist were encouraged to reflect upon past work (none could be older than 15 years) and analyze it critically in order to improve the work.

I found short stories, novellas, poems, flash fiction from when I was a teenager. I also noticed a trend in writing themes I’ve maintained over a decade late. Here’s a taste:

Death

Family — blessing or curse

Love Conquerors All

Immortality

Oppression of women

Words have power

Evils of racism

All those years ago, I didn’t know that these stories fell into the speculative fiction category. Heck, I didn’t even know that I was genre writing. I just wrote because it made me feel better. I wrote in order to channel my passions and sometimes despair in an artistic manner. The themes I write about often transcend what’s happening in our current world. In other words, the settings I create don’t exist based on the world as we know it now. At times, it’s comforting to speculate. And at times, it’s downright terrifying too.

Speculative Fiction Diagram_Annie Neugebauer

This diagram (thanks to Annie Neugebauer) for this great visual of how far-reaching speculative fiction is. And the possibilities seem endless. 

I’m actively looking for an agent that will help me to reach my next goal: a home with a traditional publishing house. Some of my friends and families say, “Hey, just write a memoir. Or write in a hot niche category that will get you published quickly. Once you get your foot in the door, then, you can write whatever you want.”

I considered this route. Sucked on it like candy, before spitting it out. I realized if I write something I don’t love, or something that isn’t a part of me, I’m not being true to who I am.

It’d be like one of those cringe-worthy romance-comedy (less on the comedy part) movies where The Girl (me) changes who she is so the School Hunk (publisher/agent) notices her and takes her to the prom (publishing contract). And heck, maybe a year or so later they’ll get married and have a bunch of kids (royalty check + sequels and New York Times Bestseller List).

Reaching my goal as a successful Indie author has been hard. I’m a face-to-face kind of gal. I sometimes kiss with my eyes wide open, break out into random songs, or dance in the rain, and marketing from behind a keyboard isn’t my idea of a “good time”.

So, back to the recurring themes . . .

My first PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” will be published in Fiyah Lit Magazine’s Ahistorical Blackness (January Edition). I remained who I am. The story includes themes such as death, family, oppression of women, the evils of racism, and so much more.

Writers, what themes often appear in your writing? What do you think they say about you and your craft? Readers, what kind of themes do you especially enjoy appearing in the stories you read? Please share in the comments!

 

How Million Yen Women Inspired My Revised Author Wish List!

wish-list

On Twitter, I discovered this hashtag: #MSWL. For those of you who don’t know, it stands for Manuscript Wish List. There’s even a website dedicated to this where agents and editors can share with writers what kind of manuscripts they specifically want in their inboxes!

Groovy, baby. Just groovy.

As a writer, I’ve always had a wish list of my own and it was simple:

  1. Find an agent or publisher
  2. Get published
  3. Sell books
  4. Quit day job
  5. Write for pay all day, every day! 🙂

Unfortunately, my journey toward becoming a best-selling writer hasn’t been simple to achieve. In between going to college to have a career to support my oldest son (almost two decades ago it was just the two of us); working full-time as a teacher; writing a book or two while pregnant, vomiting, nursing, crying, and living “the dream” (fake it until you make it) I didn’t think it would EVER happen. Sure, I independently published a book and had my first novel published (unfortunately, the publisher went out of business shortly after), but it wasn’t enough to quit teaching. Heck, it wasn’t even enough to make a car payment. Or a cell phone payment. Or even enough to buy a box of Tic Tacs (ha, ha — okay, I exaggerate it was enough to buy 12 packs of Tic Tacs!)

So, lately I’ve been submitting short stories, picture book manuscripts, and trying to complete another novel in order to return to that above wish list. And as time marches on, I get anxious, depressed (I may share more on that at another time), and feel hopeless that my dream to work as a full-time author will never come true.

And after watching “Million Yen Women” (it’s based on the manga series, “100 man yen no Onna tachi” by Shunju Aonoon) on Netflix, I have a new wish list. 🙂

I won’t spoil the series for you because I hope that you take advantage of the fresh satisfaction of watching it soon. Oh, so very soon.

I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Especially to other writers because even though Japan possesses different cultural views in comparison to those in the United States of America, both countries share a similar perspective when it comes to the publishing industry and marketing.

The main character, Shin Michima, is considered a poor novelist, but one day that begins to change when he’s visited by five beautiful women who live with him. Each women has a role to play, but their purpose for being there is shrouded in mystery. Oh, and he’s not allowed to ask them ANY questions or enter their rooms. Now, why would Shin want to allow five, strange women into his home? Well, they pay him a million yen for every month they live there! As the story unfolds, you learn a lot about what it often takes for a writer (even one who is considered a failure, like Shin) to become a hot, best-selling superstar!

My (Revised) Author Wish List

  1. An Ally with Connections, like Hitomi. She’s the daughter of a deceased, famous novelist.

    Hitomi Tsukamoto

    Hitomi Tsukamoto

  2. A Dedicated Following (even one person would suffice — not including my husband –I love you, bae, but you can’t count!)

    Dedicated Following

    Nanaka Hiraki – pop singer and actress

  3. A Ride or Die Editor like Mr. Sakurai. He’ll guarantee a bidding war for your book. He’ll push to have the right amount of copies sold! Sakurai san

  4. A Manga-styled Harem (if I wasn’t married, of course — heh heh). So, we’ll go with someone to kick my behind whenever I fall into self-pity. Every writer needs a Minami Shirakawa in their inner circle. She’s loyal, she won’t settle for anything but your best, and she’ll give you her all. She’s my favorite character in the entire series! 🙂

    Minami Shirakawa

    Minami Shirakawa: my fictitious BFF

    A Fan Club that Hosts and/or Attends all of My Events!you need a fanclub

Have an author wish list? Share yours in the comments!

 

 

The Query’s the Thing!

In William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the main character of the eponymous title states “the play’s the thing” in order to bring to light the truth about his father’s murder. Well, the query’s the thing for writers to grab the attention of an editor or agent! When querying, the first few pages are key!

Writers often struggle with preparing a manuscript for an agent or publisher. Nowadays, email is the way of submitting a literary piece and the shorter and sweeter the query – the better! For starters, I needed a better beginning for my dark fantasy middle grade novel, Shoes, with hints of horror and the supernatural. The beginning was as stale and dry as four-days-past-the-sale-by-date opened bag of bread. Oh, not just stale, but stale and boring. It didn’t even have the problem of mold in its staleness to make it even a little interesting. I was in trouble and would have been rejected in record time by any prospective agent or editor.

But I hadn’t realized this error until I revisited the manuscript almost a year later.

So, after several days of thinking, reflecting, and brainstorming I all but smacked myself in the face when I realized the perfect beginning resided in my own childhood fears. Not fear from reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series or watching Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street, but guttural, soul-shivering terror of the stories my Jamaican mother and Haitian father would sometimes share after dinner.

Perhaps because of the writer in me, my curiosity outweighed my fear and allowed me to listen, taking note of the interesting real-life characters and supernatural experiences of my parents in their birth countries.

Now that I’m an adult, I vividly see the frightening potential these tales of terror can offer. Here’s the revised beginning:

“Nothing to be afraid of,” Alexander promised himself. He pressed against the hallway wall, his gaze frozen on the wooden statue. Tongue glued to the roof of his cotton-dry mouth, he couldn’t speak anymore. Like Medusa turned onlookers to stone, the creepy statue that his Grandpa Jean gave to his family possessed the power to silence those who dared to stare and wonder about its purpose.

He swallowed hard and his throat burned. Fear always made him thirsty.

He hated the wooden statue, carved with beautiful African features, a wide brim hat, and almond shaped eyes, so detailed if you stared long enough he – the statue – seemed to blink and stare back.

Alexander wished the statue would topple over and break from the living room’s coffee table.

He remembered knocking it over once, hope burning inside him like a star that its gangly limbs would break off piece by piece from the assault. But to his shock and sadness, the statue remained intact. That day sealed his opinion of the thing. It was evil. Yup, no doubt about it.

He breathed in deeply, fidgeting with the buttons of his pajamas, closed his eyes and hurried pass the despised and prized piece of furniture to the quiet of his bedroom.

He slipped under the covers and buried his face beneath the sheets. For several meetings, he shivered as his body adjusted to the coldness of his bedroom, which was always at least ten degrees colder than any room in the house. His room most likely had some story of its own to tell, like that statue in the hallway. Someone had probably died here, he thought. Or worse, there’s a monster under the bed, like the scaly monster that rested its hand on your Aunt Nadine when Mom and her were kids.

Alexander clenched his teeth to stop the chattering of his teeth, which had nothing to do with the cold.

He shut his mind off from the terrible images playing in his mind and instead began counting sheep wearing polka dotted ties.

And slept . . .
***
Here’s the original beginning I had written:

Time and time again, Alexander Brennan’s mom told him he had an overactive imagination and right now it was his only source of comfort keeping him whole. Ever since his mother became ill, the real world slowly crumpled around him, threatening to crush him. His mother also told him that he fixated on useless things like quotes. Quotes like, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

When he first heard those words he wondered and wondered and wondered where they had come from. He wondered what they meant, rolling the idea around in his mind like a piece of candy. And then he wondered the opposite. What happens when an angel loses its wings? Does lightning strike? Does the earth shake?

And this particular afternoon, while walking home from school with his best friend, Dylan Perez, his overactive imagination caused him to obsess over yet another mundane and ordinary thing.

“Shoes,” Alexander said, pointing above. Dangling from the electrical wires hung a pair of black and white sneakers with silver stars.

Dylan looked uninterested, but he stopped to gaze up at the shoes. “Yeah, so. Some bully probably slung ‘em up there, man.” He gave an awkward shrug of his shoulders, weighed down by his backpack laden with books and school supplies. “Or, like my dad told me, people just toss ‘em up there because they can. Like a game to see if you can get the shoes to lock and hold. What’s the big deal?”

“Yeah, but that’s too simple an explanation. And you know better than anybody else that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. So wouldn’t it be weird and yet make more sense if the shoes were left as like a sign or something by an alien. You know, like maybe aliens abducted the kid who owned those shoes and left them there as proof of his conquest?”

Alexander burst into laughter at his idea. He laughed because it was funny. He laughed because a part of him wished that it was true. He stopped laughing when he noticed he was laughing alone.

Dylan shook his head slowly. “Lex, you seriously watch way too many sci-fi movies.” He shook his head again, trying to look stern and serious, but Alexander could tell he wanted to laugh. Dylan could be just as imaginative as he was. That was one of the reasons they had become quick friends in first grade and had remained friends almost 5 years ago. It was the first day of kindergarten and during free time, Alexander and Dylan played a game of The Teacher is an Alien. Sure, they got sent to time out (since they continued pretending even after free time was long over), but it was well worth it.

Alexander wasn’t looking forward to the first day of middle school and even though it was a couple of days away, the thought of possibly being separated from Dylan made his stomach hurt.

***

Which one is better? Which one do you prefer and why? Sound off in the comments. 3-2-1 – GO!