Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming! Received My First Short Story Contract!

Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming! Received My First Short Story Contract!

First, I apologize for not posting in a while, but with NaNoWriMo and the Creative Pinellas Grant window open for Professional Artist, I’ve been extremely busy. The deadline for the latter is December 5th and I still have a couple more work samples to upload.

Now, onto more reasons why I should be forgiven.

On my other WordPress blog, www.adaratrosclair.wordpress.com, I reblogged a post, which explains that writing a blog is more difficult than writing a novel. I agree 100%!

So, for almost the past two months, I chose to focus on what would give me the most exposure as an author.

FIYAH Magazine was open for submissions in October and I needed to finish a story that I had a lot of fun writing for their Ahistorical Black fiction theme. I spent weeks researching slave revolts, the lives of slaves, the Civil War, New Orleans, the Reconstruction Era, and most importantly how many Africans died during the Middle Passage, which should be renamed the African Holocaust. Why? Because millions of Africans lost their lives. Anyway, I finished the short story just in time.

And something amazing happened!

I received an email from Fiyah Magazine requesting my story a few days ago. And today, I noticed an email containing the contract! Woo hoo! Yes!

That aside, all of the research for that short story opened new windows of ideas and opportunities for other stories I’m currently working on.

This past year, I’ve submitted short stories, picture books, and novel manuscripts to agents and publishers. Most came back as rejections and some I’m still waiting on because it takes at least 6 months for feedback. Six months. I had also applied for the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant and unfortunately wasn’t one of the top ten finalists. I not only felt like a failure, but worse, a misunderstood failure and wondered when I’d be recognized for my work. Perhaps more on that at a later date.

So I’m willing to accept failure as something more positive.

 

I’m not going to give up and this moment of sunshine through the clouds of doubt is what I needed to persevere! ūüôā

And on another quirky note, there are quite a few petals remaining on my roses. Now, how about that?

 

 

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Are You a Multitasker?

I’m definitely a multitasker.

I have no problem reading more than one book at a time and keeping track of the characters and plots in each book. It’s entertaining to compare and contrast how the two different books by two different authors. It’s especially fun when both books are from the same genre.

Being a mom to three sons and a wife most likely has a lot to do with me having to accomplish multiple activities at once. My oldest son is an honor’s student and¬†participates in track, volleyball, violin lessons. My toddlers are busy with weekend sports, building Mega Block Worlds with mommy and getting into all kinds of adorable adventures as I wear them out during the day. ūüôā Because when they’re sleeping, I’ve got lots more to do!

Even as a sixth grade reading teacher, I often use the phrase, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone” when teaching my students how to prepare their essays, even before they¬†have finished reading the anchor text. Basically, the process goes like this. During the initial read,¬†students use special text marking (such as check marking, underlining, and¬†writing¬†comments in the margins)¬†to keep track of important ideas and facts. They’ve done this several times throughout the year and then they realized that a lot of the sentences, paragraphs, or sections they’ve underlined, starred, wrote comments about can be used towards the evidence that will appear in their essay or paragraph. Students who don’t mark the text, during the initial reading, are left at a disadvantage because they didn’t use their time wisely. So, yes killing two birds with one stone works!¬†Why?

Because it’s working smarter — not harder!

Lately, I’ve adopted the same practice with my writing.

I know what some of you may be thinking.

Skeptical Reader: “Is she crazy? Multitasking doesn’t work when it comes to writing! Heck, she shouldn’t even be doing that when she’s reading. It’s a possible way to get the characters and the plot mixed up! Poor, deluded soul.”

Moi: Crazy? Uh, maybe. But at least I’m not straitjacket insane. ūüôā

Skeptical Reader: “She’s doing it all wrong! She should focus on one story at a time. Polish it until it figuratively blinds the readers with its brilliance! Not literally, because that would definitely suck lemons! And then, only then should she¬†move onto another story.”

Moi: Perhaps. But that hasn’t worked for me. I need to break free, breathe fresh air, cook dinner, fold laundry, do some¬†Zumba¬†before getting back into the literary groove.

So, here are 3 easy ways that you too can multitask as a writer and get more words on the page!

  1. Edit and Revise – If you struggle with what to write next, reread what you’ve already written. Look for weak words, potential plot problems, and inconsistencies with your characters in order to make that story shine like the fabulous diamond it is! If the words are flowing like there’s no tomorrow, keep at it!
  2. Start a New Story – Say you’ve finished a draft of a novel or short story. It’s good practice to let it sit for a few days before delving into it again. Separating from the text for a period of time, gives your mind time to prepare for the arduous task of self-editing. And while you step away from the story for a week or so (in order to return with fresh eyes to it for the editing process) you can begin another story. Perhaps, even a shorter one in order to keep your writer’s eye and mind sharp. After all, the creating process is always more fun. The possibilities seem endless and the characters are like precious, new friends you simply have to know everything about!
  3. Write a blog post or create a YouTube post – In between editing and revising a completed work, you can take the time to step outside of your characters’ minds and just be you. Sharing advice or sharing something new¬†that you¬†tried¬†is a fabulous way to keep the creative juices flowing. Even though I don’t consider myself a poet (often, they’re such a noble breed) I occasionally write a poem or two. It’s a different kind of writing and helps me to get out of a writing jam. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that there’s a fourth step:
  4. REPEAT the process!

Are you also a multitasker and if so, what works for you? If not, how do you fit it all in? Please share! I love learning new things.

 

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What Kind of Reader are You?

Writers should be readers too. And if you want to be an exceptional writer, you should be an avid reader.

I¬†love to read. And as a sixth grade reading teacher, I’m dumbfounded when my students would rather stare at their phones and tablets instead of investing their time in the glorious world of a well-written book.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m a hybrid of two kinds of readers that I’ve called, The¬†Angel and The Devil.

In Angel mode, I’m utterly involved and hooked on a book and will remain faithful to the series, rooting the author and their imaginary friends and enemies onward to resolution! “You keep doing your thing, main character! I’m with you all the way! It’s about time that you told that girl you loved her. I mean, I thought you’d get a clue in Book Three, but no one’s perfect, right? Well, except you of course. Woot, woot!” *Fist bumps cover*

Heck, even if the book has some slow parts or a weak plot I’ll keep plodding through! Why?

I’m a patient, forgiving reader. I know what it’s like for my writing to be analyzed and torn apart. And even when it’s for the better, it’s an exercise in misery. LOL. So, give me your slow beginnings and your unlikable characters! Give me your sometimes cliched plot twists. I will read it, I will bear it, I will endure it!

This book-love at first sight may start with me simply seeing the cover and stopping dead in my tracks to go¬†onto read the back of the book blurb. Interesting characters? CHECK! Riveting plot with just enough mystery and intrigue? CHECK! Infatuation with a book may even begin with¬†a friend recommending it to me. Sometimes, I’ve even read a book based off of a bad review to learn on my own if the book And if my literary palette is piqued, I will immediately rush off to the library in order to possess it spine, pages, and adhesive perma-glue! Come here, you. Let’s have us¬†a hug. Mmmm. Maybe some of your genius will rub off on me.

And then there are the times when my patience has run thin. Incredibly thin . . . until it snapped.

Devil Mode activated.        

Moments that turn me off to a book can happen within the first 50 pages of me reading a book.¬†Or even much later.¬†As a rule, my students and myself included HAVE to give any book¬†we read the benefit of the doubt. It’s a mandatory rule that must be followed. Below is table for time frames to abandon books and I sometimes read more than that to make sure I’ve given the writer much courtesy before surrendering to¬†defeat and choosing to not finish reading¬†their precious, literary baby:

Type of Book Minimum Length to Abandon
Picture Book  After first 5 Pages
Chapter Book  After First 5 Chapters
Novel  After First 50 Pages

“The War of the Flowers” by Tad Williams is one of those books that I haven’t been able to finish. I made it to page¬†64 about five years ago. When I have more time that I’m willing to dedicate to completing it, I may return. I may not. But I didn’t feel invested in it, like my oldest brother, who recommended it to me. The writing is beautiful. The characters are¬†lifelike. The plot is interesting and the setting, like the characters it holds, are believable. Likewise,¬†when writing fantasy those two elements are essential because readers — new to the genre and old —¬†will put aside disbelief for the sake of genre, but the foreign worlds have to resonate with what we know.¬† Fleshing out such a feat is vital to keeping your reader engaged. The primary reason I abandoned “The War of the Flowers” is because I couldn’t connect with the main character, Theo Vilmos, a rocker who is drawn into a magical world while reading a book. Like I said before, the plot sounds so tantalizing.

Why are you such a wimp? And why am I still reading this?

However, I just couldn’t connect with Theo. I didn’t like him and I didn’t want to care about him or his problems. I felt no empathy for him. I tried. God, did I try. I even tried reading on to see if some terrible fate would befall him and make my reading worthwhile in a twisted way so I could laugh through my tears at his dilemma.

Besides that, I’ve had my share of rotten book experiences. Especially when the author decided to murder my favorite character. “You. Did. What?”

You broke MY heart with that move, writer!

Or the author decided to not remain consistent with who the character is. Heart-breaking. For instance, in one series¬†(that Shall Not Be Named)¬†I adored the main character who started out as a well-rounded individual with a set of rules he/she followed¬†precisely. Eventually,¬†the main character transformed into something unrecognizable with Mary Sue attributes (perfectly flawed in every way and yet still . . . perfect). And for the record, there’s no place for Mary Sues in¬†literature. After all, Mary Sue is¬†place¬†and doesn’t make a¬†believable character.

As writers, we have an obligation to our readers to:

  • Remain consistent
  • Keep them invested in the plot and the characters
  • If you’re going to kill off a beloved character
    • Prepare your readers with little hints along the way and never, ever do it for shock effect alone.
  • Stay true to the genre
    • For example, romance novels have a certain formula and readers are pleased with that. Don’t ditch the formula just because you feel like it and think it’s avant-garde.

This post was inspired by Plaisted Publishing House’s post found here.

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