Archive for April, 2013

Letters to Agents

by on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I did it! I’ve gotten out 4 submissions to agents! So, here’s what went down. A couple weeks ago I went to the Writer’s Institute here in Madison which was hosted by UWM and many talented and successful people in the writing industry. It was a weekend of classes on writing and publishing, agents and pitches. There were pitching coaches who have worked in Hollywood with movie producers and TV shows. There were published writers who gave their experienced advice and agents answering questions. It was a fantastic learning experience. The most important part of the weekend was getting to work one on one with these coaches, and then actually pitching your book idea to an agent in the industry.

I did my research and carefully chose two agents who do represent the genre of book that I’ve written, Romantic Thriller. One agent, from the Liza Dawson Agency, I felt would want to see my work. Having read about what she likes and what she represents gave me a good idea that she would probably be an easy sell. And she was. That doesn’t mean that she’ll represent me, I still have that obstacle to over come. And, that doesn’t mean that the process of getting to that point (of her wanting to see it)  was easy.

Writing the synopsis and pitch were the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. In fact, I took a class that was offered through the University in conjunction to the Conference on developing your pitch. The instructor actually took a look at our pitches and synopses and gave her expert advice on how to improve them. I must be doing pretty well though, she only offered a very few changes and had mostly good things to say. (shocking to me!)

I also had the intensive and difficult advice from my (hard on me) husband who did a lot to help with my short version of the story. I’m more of a big picture person and he is the detail-go-to-guy. He spent many hours with my writing and many hours editing the synopsis with me. “Thank you Mikey, I love you. I know it wasn’t easy.”

So then, I had the problem with the 2nd agent I pitched to. I had essentially written him off since he mostly represents Romance. My idea was that I would pitch and be rejected, the rejection would be good for me as far as earning my ‘writing stripes’. My book is way more than a romance anyway, and has a fairly dark (by most standards) ending. My eight minute pitch session with him lasted only 5 minutes. And, he wanted to see it. (NO SHIT!) He asked to see a long (3-5 pg) synopsis, and the first 30 pages. He expressed his doubts, his “strong reservations”. He didn’t like the idea of the lawyer (main character) falling for her client. Bar assoc. rules are part of the conflict in my book for obvious reasons. But still, I had gotten a foot in the door. I still can’t believe he asked for a sample.

It doesn’t end there though. I spent most of the week after the conference perfecting and personalizing my letters to each of them and then of course cleaning up and making the best of the first 30. On Friday as I was preparing everything for this tough agent, I went to his blog to get more of an idea about who he is, what he’s looking for, etc. There, published in his blog, he had written an entry about our meeting at the conference. No kidding. The entry had to do with  whether a professional would risk their career in pursuit of love, lust or something more. Clearly he did not think so. Clearly, he thought that no one would make such a careless choice and put so much on the line. We decided that the President of the US would never do such a thing either, nor would a governor or teacher. (See my point?)

So now I know, 1) I had made an impression. A big impression. He was still thinking about me and my book idea a week later. 2) I had more fuel to fill my personalized letter to this man, though I did take Erika’s advice and I was not snarky. Although I do disagree with his opinion I tried to be polite and contrite. 3) I have my work cut out for me now, making sure…making damn sure, that I  make the risk reward for my main character very juicy, honest and believable.

Monday morning I sent it and it feels really good to be done with that part. Oh, I have received my first ‘stripe’. I got a rejection form letter from an agent that I cold pitched to…Did I say that in a previous entry? But so far, the three agents I’ve spoken with still have it. “Please allow 4-6 weeks”. And now I wait. And keep polishing. And wait. It would be really interesting if this difficult agent asks for more after reading the first 30. That possibility scares the crap out of me. That man is a hard audience and will push me hard.

Maybe that’s what I need. I’ve always known I do my best work under pressure, I do even better when I’m in defiance mode. I’ll be interested in what he has to say and hopefully it won’t be too punishing.



Training Day 6

by on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Knowing that the more often I go to class, the more quickly I’ll absorb the information, I jumped at the opportunity last night when my 7pm family had to reschedule. I arrived  late to class, unfortunately there’s no way around that on weeknights, but I quickly inserted myself into the program. They were working on punches  and kick attacks. Since there were 8 of us, (It was the largest class I’ve been to) we formed two lines to kick at pads that 2 of the guys held.

Mark led the class and then we built on some moves that we were working on at the beginning. An avoid attack, lead with the shoulder and pivot to the side, and a move that would continue the motion of a kicker down to the floor. It was fun working with them again, and I felt like I picked up the moves pretty quickly even though some of the others had trouble grasping it at first.

Knowing the stances now also helped me incorporate these elements that I do know into the more advanced steps. As with anything, I know it will take time, I have to be patient with myself. Learning something this complex is a process, and though I am committed, I know there will be ups and downs. Today felt like an up day: )

The dynamics of the class are great. Everyone is very friendly and extremely helpful and patient. I may be giving in to my own self doubt though when I say I wasn’t sure if I should have been there last night. I’ll have to ask Mark and Erik if I drag the class down, I don’t want them to have to spend so much time explaining that it slows the process for the others. And though I thought most of them were assimilating the information as much as I was,  I still don’t want to be a burden. I know most of them are working at a higher level than I and so when we pair off, my partner usually has to help break down the moves for me. It motivates me to learn more quickly if nothing else.

I’m making friends too. Stephanie was asking about my writing and I told her a little about the conference and the agent pitches and my book. She thought the lawyer dynamic was interesting and it made her want to read it. (my first sale!) The most important thing is that I’m having fun learning something new.


Finally Day Five

by on Saturday, April 20th, 2013

This week I got my Bujinkan uniform in the mail! I was so excited! I wore my white belt in class today to let them know I’m a beginner, because otherwise it’s so hard to tell… (kidding!) I had to skip class last weekend, yeah, it bummed me out. But today I finally went to my fifth class and found I’ve been absorbing much more than I thought. I knew the names of all the Kamae; Shizen, Ichimonji, Jumonji and Hicho. Then I also recognized at least five of the Kihon, or basic fighting defenses. It feels like I’m beginning to learn it. I wish I had a way to practice the kihon at home with someone. I’m trying to talk Mike into working with me just a little just to get my hands and feet coordinated. I promised not to hurt him : ) Many times today I’d get the arm and hand movements then forget to move my feet. Or vice versa.  But they are patient with me, thank goodness. They really are a good bunch of guys.

I have more things to practice at home after today. Sanshin, what I called the “dance”. I first saw these black belted guys “perform” the Sanshin on the first day when Mike and I went to watch. I call it a “dance” because they stand in a circle facing each other and in shizen position. Move to ichimonji then swing the back arm forward into either a block or one of the kenzen ichinyo (hand positions).  Start over on the other side. I like practicing this dance at home.

Mark Sensei  said my ukemi is getting better. Those are the rolls…think somersaults. Backwards is very good. Yea, because I have been practicing those on a hard floor. Trust me, a hard floor will be unforgiving and you will know immediately if you are doing it right. Or not (usually).  I’ve got bruises on the tops of my shoulders from practicing and trust me I have gotten remarkably better…fast! If I hadn’t, the floor would win the attack. I can’t let the floor win.

Also, a little class news, Erik’s wife Ashley gave birth to their first son, Hunter last week. Congratulations!


Envy, Narcissism and Honor

by on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

I’m currently reading the most awesome Memoir called A Real Emotional Girl by Tanya Chernov. It’s a very well written story about her father’s death and how it effected her personally. I met the author this last weekend at a Writer’s Conference here in town. She spoke about the process of getting published on a panel with her agent and editor. I liked her right away because of her easy ability to laugh at herself even though the subject of this particular novel is pretty dark. She also did a session on ‘Staying sane, while writing the insane’ which I found extremely funny and uplifting. She was profoundly motivating for me since most of what I write lately is in the category of the ‘dark’.

The novel is from her point of view during her young adulthood. Her father was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was just almost 17. In reading it, I am filled with sorrow at the situation he had to go through, which they all went through. And I am filled with envy and jealousy of how loving her family is. She is the youngest of 3, her brothers 5 and 7 years older than she. As his surgeries and procedures continued through the years, it seemed like their family grew closer together even though they were all growing up and in different directions. She talks about being a rebel, and doing things that caused her family pain, but I think my own mom can attest to the fact that not much can compare to what I put her through in high school and beyond. (Nothing that is until my own brother went off the deep end.)

But I can’t get over how they all pulled together to be with her dad. They spent almost six months in a cabin up North waiting for him to die; watching him slowly slip away, and most horrifying of all, after he had stopped eating and drinking, it still took him another 18 days to pass on through.  None of them thought twice about pulling out, or going somewhere else. Well, she did once and regretted it horribly afterwards. I found myself envying their love and admiration for each other  and their ability to stand in support of each other and the father. I don’t begrudge what she had to go through, in all honesty, I wouldn’t wish those circumstances on anyone. But I also know with a certainty that something like that could never happen within my small family. And I could only hope that my own children would be so selfless.

Of course, we would all be there for each other. In a way. We would be there for the one dying as we were with both my dad’s passing and Mike’s dad too. In different ways, we stood by them both. But I feel that we are all perhaps too narcissistic to put ourselves out for any length of time.  To really stand by, to give up everything and wait. And wait. The family I’m reading about is, I believe, uniquely unselfish. Giving and loving each other to the max. Though I can put myself in this woman’s shoes, they don’t fit me at all. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the same level of un-self-centered being where I come from. Regretfully, I include myself in that list of selfish people.

Perhaps there is time to change. Perhaps, in time, we all change. For so many years, I gave everything of myself to my family and children, so much that I’m now in the faze I call “My Turn”. But if it came down to it, of course, I would be there for you. For my family. Unselfishly casting off my current cloak of Narcissism. For you. Because I love you.

In many ways I can relate to her youthful angst, and it makes me think that someday I will want to tell my story too. Someday I’ll have to. There are some really great characters in my story! And wow, did we have fun. I admire Chernov for putting it all together in such a way. Though it is from her perspective, it seems to be from the collective point of view too. As if she is sharing even the telling of the story, as they all shared the experience. It makes me more aware of something I’ve known for a long time, that everyone goes through it differently. We each will have our own way of going through it.  In that, I believe, there is honor.

Day Four

by on Saturday, April 6th, 2013

Have you ever been so excited about something that you can’t wait for it? Like a kid expecting Christmas or their birthday, something you are so excited about that you count down the days for it? Something that you feel with a yearning and fervor, something that wakes you up in the morning and you are extremely eager and excited to do it again. The feeling could almost be classified as manic, but closer to ardor, exuberance or, let’s just say uncontainable zeal.

Currently, I am zealous about Ninpo. I’d like to arrange my schedule so that I can participate more often. Today, my training went well, I thought. I keep receiving comments like, “That’s very good!” or “It took me a long time to master that one.” Perhaps they are just being nice. However, I did grasp some of the patterns better this time too. I understood the movements better. I practiced the Kamae at home and even bought a Gyokko Ryu book which covers the first school of training for Jujitsu. And a gi! I’m on the right track. And I’m really enjoying it! More than that, I can’t wait for the next training session. Unfortunately, next week I’ll have to miss it. If only some of my students would cancel so I can go during the week. Ah, well, I am allowed to dream aren’t I?

It has been a long time since I’ve felt like that about anything. A very long time. Honestly, the last time was probably when I was a child. I mean, of course, I’ve been excited about things like going on a trip, or the holidays; especially when the kids were young, I used to love being Santa Clause and putting their gifts out.  Then the next morning, I think I woke before they did because I couldn’t wait to see the expressions on their faces. And there’s one other thing that makes me feel like that, you guessed it. A little romance, planned or unplanned it always adds excitement to my day.

And yet, it seems to me that I don’t know anyone anymore who is excited about something in their life. I feel like the odd man out; the one smile in a sea of frowning unhappy people.  If you think about it, do you know anyone who is excited about life? Or, is everyone just running scared? Actually, to sound just like a Dr Suess book,  everyone is just running; whether running in a treadmill for the man, or running from the man. Most of us go about our daily lives with an agenda and at the end of the day, exhausted,  they hit the wall, have a drink or turn on the mind sucking television to numb themselves down. Call me a pessimist, Hell, call me worse, because I have an extremely bleak view of humanity. I can think of only a very select few individuals who have  something in their lives that they are living for. How many of you do? I would seriously like to put it out there to get a response.

Tell me if you have something you’re zealous about. I want to know how many of you have an activity or hobby that you just can’t wait to participate in. What are you enthusiastic about?  I’d like to hear about it. Share with me, leave a comment. Please, I invite you.