Damnable Gerbil Sends Hormonal Pregnant Woman Over Edge

ImageI walked in the door, peaked, but still mellow, from our vacation to the beach. Lil’ K. made it inside a little before me as I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant with her. She was just beginning to stick out a bit. I hadn’t yet developed the stature of a charging rhinoceros, but I found myself possessing some of the emotional qualities.

Lil’ K. did some interesting flips as I headed into the home office to check on the gerbil, my classroom pet. My students throughout the years had been the owners of everything from a giant killer rabbit, to two rats, to horny guinea pigs. At the time, I felt that no classroom was complete without some sort of creature.  I had even taught one of the rats to ride on my shoulder while I taught. Rats have wonderful personalities, but they tend to stink. After the big rodents died, I moved to gerbils. I thought they would be easier to manage. This gerbil always looked like it was up to something, though; its shifty eyes looked Satanic as they followed me around the classroom. It seemed to think evil thoughts about harming stupid humans.

I peered into Cheeseburger’s cage (named after Jimmy Buffet’s song, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) only to find the little white puff ball gone. The food bowl was still partially full, as was the water bottle and the treat bin; but the damn cage was empty. One of the bars on the cage had been chewed through as if the beast had been watching the movie Jailbreak and wanted a starring role in the rodent version.

I saw a flash of white zing across the rug, daring me to chase it. I noticed two pieces of electrical cords lying on the floor. One should have been connected to Mr. Jenn’s police radio chargers, and the other belonged to my printer. Instead, their frayed ends curled limply under my desk. The little asshole zipped back under the desk, stopping briefly to nibble the chewed radio cord. I swear I saw it flip me the bird as it disappeared. I envisioned Mr. Jenn’s hemorrhage when he discovered the electrical carnage. Thank God we had unplugged everything before we left on vacation.

I squatted my pregnant self down on the floor in an attempt to catch the damn gerbil on its next pass. I farted and burped in concert as I dove over to catch the little white turd while it changed course on me. It slid behind the file cabinet, sticking only its nose out from behind it, obviously mocking me with what it thought was superior intelligence.

“You sumbitch,” I hollered, then caught myself. Breathe, I told myself, don’t scare it off. I offered the little shit some gerbil nibble, and it stuck a bit more of its head out to investigate, hunger obviously overpowering its need for escape. I grabbed it by the face and cupped it in my hand.

I remember screaming in pain as the rotten little thing bit down on my finger. Now, the rat bastard was trying for a starring role in a Monty Python thriller about a killer gerbil. Blood pooled around two newly gaping holes in my middle finger, and I saw nothing but white-hot hormonal rage.

“You rotten mother f(*&&%%$$%^^&*&*())(**&^%$##!!!” I howled, running for the door with the fluffy, cuter version of Edward Cullen attached to my finger. I kicked open the door, only to hear Mr. Jenn swearing profusely as he bent over the camper trailer hitch. I vaguely remember seeing the hitch-shaped dent in the bumper of the truck, and realized he must have turned too sharply upon re-entry into our driveway.

He looked up in shock noticing me wind up as though I were pitching for the Red Sox. The gerbil made a gorgeous arc as it flew from my finger and into the woods. Mr. Jenn’s eyes followed the white flying creature traveling at the speed of light, his brow furrowed in bewilderment.

The gerbil landed in the leaves with a soft squish and looked back at us, its expression screaming “WTF?”

“What did you do that for?” stammered Mr. Jenn, wondering what possessed his animal-loving wife to feed her pet to the neighboring raptors. When he realized that his nemesis, the so-called damnable rat, was gone, he began to grin. He had never liked the animals I brought home, and his grin turned into a snicker.

“You know it’s illegal to introduce an invasive species into our environment,” he said. “I could give you a ticket.”

By this time, I had calmed down. I knew the cursing over the dented truck was nothing compared to the tirade over the destroyed radio charger. That one would be tough to explain during his annual equipment inspection.

“I think we can work a deal,” I said, winking at him. The gerbil happily scampered off deeper into the woods to enjoy its three minutes of freedom. A nearby hawk called, an exclamation mark to my hormonal tirade.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

This story is for Dotty Headbanger—the She-Hermit, in response to her contest earlier about something white that flies through the air at lightspeed. Sorry, Dotty, your American Gopher is tardy as usual; “gophing” is hard work. Better late than never.  On Thursday, I’m also linking this story up with Mama Kat’s Practically World Famous Writing Workshop Prompt about seven things your pet could be thinking. Read closely—this stupid gerbil thinks about seven separate thoughts…jackass!

Finding Time to Write When the Keyboard is Covered in Milk

ImageFinding time to write as I chase small children around the house has proven almost as futile as my cellulite cream applications. My ass still looks like it’s been gently peppered with bird shot, and my son is currently chewing on the kitchen dustpan. I am, however, writing.

I had, at one time, sworn off Diet Cokes, and my butt had a bit more smoothness to it. I then decided to pursue my writing, while adequately performing my day job, removing my daughter from in front of the television and breaking her thumb-sucking habit, and keeping my son out of the trash. My lofty goal requires that I will never again see the back of my eyelids. EVER.

My goal report/writing update reads as follows: I destroyed an entire case of Diet Coke this week, and it’s only Wednesday; my cellulite is literally vibrating from the caffeine. Lil’ P. dumped the trash can full of diapers on the floor and poured milk on my keyboard. The Fresh Beat Band’s “Just Like a Rockstar” is blaring out of my TV, and Lil’ K. is bunched up on the couch with her thumb shoved in her mouth. I did, however, complete five essays, prepare several submissions, and finish these blog posts.     

Here are five strategies I use to insure that nobody dies while I get in some writing each day.

  1. While this one may be so obvious that it’s clichéd at this point, I carry some type of writing implement with me at all times. My weapon of choice is a Kindle Fire with a nifty little word processing app on it. I whip that bad boy out during long wait times, and streams of bullshit some insightful prose emerges.
  2. I take the kids outside and wear them out. Run, play, climb, and chase them; it’s good for all of us. It gets my ass jiggling heart pumping and blood flowing to my brain. Exercise opens my channels so the Muse can download material with ease. I love the inspiration I get when I play. Additionally, the kids are happy, exercised, and healthier. They come in ready for a nap. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Driving time serves as thinking time. I always put in music the kids will like, and I let the words and ideas flow while my kids and I are singing. When I’m turning a wheel, I’m turning over some thoughts. I’ve written several of these posts to the Laurie Berkner Band’s pumping jams.
  4. I substitute caffeine for sleep. This is unhealthy, and hopefully, life will throw me a bone so I can write more during the day. Until then, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
  5. Letting go of certain goals has helped tremendously. I only clean my house when the stench gets too overbearing. I’ve also decided to forgo writing my own version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a novel at this time. I think in blog posts and short essays. I can throw out 500-1,000 words at a sitting with some level of ease. For right now, a long novel might very well be out of the question. I can, however, find time to edit and expand older manuscripts I have lying around.

Now that I’ve thrown out 500 or so words, I can feel my eyes closing. I think it’s time for another Diet Coke. Have a literary day!       

Male Dominance and Mouse Turds

You may officially call yourself “screwed” when your four-year-old daughter marches right up in the middle of a bunch of kids of the male persuasion, puts her hands on her hips, and says, “Hey, Boys!”

I just shook my head, and Mr. Jenn put his head in his hands and began to moan. Our journey to screwed-dom accelerated as she began to relate the latest Worrell Family Adventure that transpired on our spring camping trip. We trembled as we watched the whole thing unfold on the camp playground.Image

“Boys, have I got a story for you!” she paused and eyed each of them to make sure their eyes rested on her. Said boys kept playing in the sand. One ate a handful and grinned at his brother with sand pebbles in his teeth. Undeterred, Lil’ K. continued her story.

“We-e-e-e-lll,” she said. “It all started when there was a mouse in our camper. We kept stepping on mouse poop, and it was everywhere.” She took one hand off her hip and gestured around her head to make her point. “Everywhere,” she added.

The boy with sand in his teeth perked up at the mention of poop. He faced her.

“Daddy set traps all over the pwace!” she said. “And then we heard a SNAP from under the couch! Daddy was so excited! He looked under the couch, but he didn’t catched the mouse!”

ImageShe lowered her voice and leaned in to the older boys whose heads were still buried in their sand creations. Pebble Teeth watched her with rapt attention.

“All the traps were empty. The mouses got away!” She jabbed her finger in the air for emphasis. Mr. Jenn growled next to me in recollection of his lost rodent battle. “Damnable little bastards,” he muttered quietly to me.

Lil’ K. continued, “And then, Daddy said lots of funny words. You know I can’t say them, but Hoooooo-wwwwwweeeeeeee, they were really funny.”

Mr. Jenn rolled his eyes, and I stifled a snort. A few mice got in our camper and had sex while we stored it during the unusually balmy winter. We thought we had gotten the rodents before we left, but the mouse crap everywhere proved we were still under infestation.

Mr. Jenn looked at me. “Is she going to tell everything we do?” he asked.

“Duh,” I said. “I mean, we’re kind of a storyworthy family. Look!”

I pointed discretely to the little boys who now gaped at Lil’ K. with raised eyebrows.

“She owns them,” I said.

“I must admit, her timing is impeccable,” nodded Mr. Jenn.

“Just what did he say?” one of the older boys asked with a naughty grin.

“Oh, I can’t tell you,” Lil’ K. answered with folded arms, “but it was really hi-war-i-ous. It started with…”

“Okay, that’s enough,” I told her. “Time to move on.”

Disappointed, the boys all went back to their sand creations.

“You forgot to tell them that I did catch the mouse on the sticky stuff,” said Mr. Jenn, so as not to leave the impression with these preadolescent boys that a wily man such as himself could possibly be defeated by a lowly mouse.Image

“Yeah,” said Lil’ K. nodding vigorously, “and Daddy squished him in the sticky stuff, and I bet he exploded.”

Again, all eyes turned to her.

“Were there guts?” the oldest inquired.

“Probably,” Lil’ K. answered. “Daddy folded him up and put him in the trash can. Daddy said, `I gotcha you Son–“

“Enough!” I interrupted. Mr. Jenn’s head again descended into his hands.

“Time to go!” I said.

As I was collecting our things, I heard Lil’ K. say, “My daddy may not have catched a lot of mouses, but he sure is funny.”

“Well, that counts for something,” I nudged Mr. Jenn encouragingly. He just snorted, his mouse-catching manliness called in question in the sandbox.

Anyone could have predicted what happened next. That night, Mr. Jenn launched a mouse campaign so murderous and sinister that it could have caused the extinction of the entire species. He even changed the kind of cheese he used because he thought that a heavier brand might insure proper trap deployment.Image

The next morning, we had one mouse in a sticky trap, and two in snap traps. Mr. Jenn danced around the camper, lording his victory over the rodent kingdom.

“Congratulations,” I said, patting him on the back. “I’m very happy for you.”

“We need to get right and go to the playground,” he said. “we need to find those boys…”

I just linked this post to Yeah Write #53. Check them out!

Worrell Family Adventures: The Making of the Male

Spring just sproinged on the Mid Atlantic this week with 85 degree temperatures collapsing into the 50s ushering in wind gusts that knocked Lil’ P. on his precious, diapered butt this morning. Naturally, this weather change arrived right in time for spring break week, just as we embark on yet another Worrell Family Adventure in our camper.  My family supplies me with endless funny bullshit inspiration, and I’m sure I’ll have much to write about as the week progresses.

Worrell Family Adventures always provide a plethora of WTFs, head shaking, sighs, and a wheelbarrow full of shits and giggles for all. One particular WFA we had earlier in our marriage before the advent of Lil’ K. and Lil’ P.(my bio kids), involved a small catamaran, Big. T., Big A.(my stepkids), and the two people loosely disguised as parents (Mr. Jenn and me). Mr. Jenn was sailing said catamaran, I was perched on the opposite pontoon, and the Bigs were hanging somewhere in the middle. Mr. Jenn allowed as to how much better he would like it if I cuddled up on his pontoon next to him so we could enjoy A Romantic Moment as our sails held hands with the wind and meandered down the river together. I moved gingerly across the cat, carefully plopping my arse next to him, when the wind saw an opportunity to have a bit of merriment with the Worrell clan. No sooner had I wedged my asscheeks next to his, then a monumental gust of wind took cruel advantage of the added weight of my wobbly butt, grabbed our sails, and flipped us on our starboard side. I heard the mast hit bottom then splash back to the surface as I launched over and past Mr. Jenn. He cursed loudly as my knee bashed his temple. I found the river floor, tried to stand, but then sank in the bottomless marsh mud. Big. A. had dropped gracefully into the river and was sputtering a little next to me. Mr. Jenn was rubbing the side of his head and looking around frantically. Three of us were accounted for, but where in the world was Big T.? We called his name in a panic until we heard a little voice from above. Backlit from the bright sunlight, Big T. was wrapped around the port pontoon which was several feet above the surface of the water. We tried gently to convince him to drop down. He shook his blond head and wrapped his arms and legs tighter around his post.

“Son,” Mr. Jenn said, trying to inhale some serenity from the river, “we have to turn this boat over. I need you to come on down. NOW.”

Big T. knew the Voice of Lost Patience, so he cautiously unwrapped first one leg, then the other. He hung there for a seemingly infinite amount of time.

Mr. Jenn sighed. “We are in four feet of water.  This is no big deal.”

Big T., bless his awkward little heart, possessed little insight back then into the physics of his own pre-adolescent body. He tried to pull himself up and over his perch for some unknown reason, but lost his grip. He slid off, legs flailing, and took the lower pontoon right in the ‘nards. He sat strattled, paralyzed in pain, with his mouth wide open in a silent howl.

“Oooooo,” Mr. Jenn winced, crossing his own legs under water. Big A., who had been contemplating tears, began to giggle. Big T. noted her reaction even in his moment of agony, and got all Steve-O from Jackass on us. He grabbed himself and commenced to rocking back and forth with that stupid look men get when they’re trying to make it look like they busted their nuts on purpose to impress some chick. Since Jackass hadn’t yet crashed into our living rooms on its jet-propelled bike and water skis, I assumed that  Big T.’s ability to turn his pain and anguish into a comedy routine was either

  1. Inborn as it seems to be with all males;
  2. Something he learned by watching his dad rip his knee while trying to ride a skimboard into a tide pool at the beach in front of about fifteen families;
  3. Something he learned by watching his dad launch out of a inner tube pulled through a large boat wake. My dad was driving the boat at the time;
  4. Something he learned by watching his dad try to snow ski in the terrain park: Mr. Jenn tried to shred on a rail, but missed and face-planted in the snow;
  5. Something he learned by hearing his dad tell the story of  losing control of a jet ski and winding up in a tree.

Big T. continued rocking for a bit, then fell over the pontoon into the water while proclaiming loudly, “I’m dead!”

By this time, Big A. was howling, and Mr. Jenn was cursing as he attempted to right the boat. He pulled himself up on the upright pontoon and humped it repeatedly until the boat fell back down into the water. The mast popped back up, erect as ever, and all was right with the world.

That particular WFA ended happily, with Mr. Jenn and I hoisting the kids back on the boat and swimming the thing back to shore. Now that Big T. and Big A. are off at college having their own exploits, no doubt, Mr. Jenn and I are creating more opportunities for mayhem and insanity merriment and fun with the Little Worrells. Stay tuned while Lil’ K. and I quietly observe the indoctrination of Lil’ P. into the world of male nut-busting and bullshit social mores and customs during this latest upcoming Worrell Family Adventure. Have a literary day—wear your cup!

Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches: An Interview with the Muse

While I wouldn’t lay that one on Father Henry in the Confessional over the Easter Week, I will tell you that the Muse has been whispering this statement in my ear for awhile. I’ve shut her down on many occasions when she starts spewing irreverent shit, but this time I decided to ask her what she meant. She agreed to an interview, and I caught her the other day as she bellied up to a mess of piss clams and some beer.

Me: Why piss clams? Little Necks are better.

Muse: What do you know?

Me: Uh…

Muse: Seriously, tell me, what do you know?

Me: About piss clams? They are mushier than Little Necks, and you should wash them off in broth before you eat them.

Muse: I consider myself a purist. I don’t wash them.

Me: EW?

Muse: EW? Coming from a girl who eats all the yellow stuff and guts in her steamed crabs? Pu-lease: I heard what you told that guy you caught cracking open and cleaning the crabs in that bushel he had just cooked. I believe you used the word, “sacrilege.”

Me: Touché.

Muse: Merci beaucoup. Now can we get on with this conversation? I don’t think you called me down here to gripe about my food. So what do you know?

Me: It’s what I don’t know that’s got me interrupting your dinner. That whole “Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches!” thing has me stumped.

Muse: Aw, come on. It’s all about the freedom you attain by taking responsibility your own excrement. Like in that co-parenting book you read called, No One’s the Bitch, by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine …I believe they had a chapter titled “Owning Your Shit” imploring step parents and bio parents to admit their fears and issues so the relationships within the blended family structure can improve.

Me: I did own my jank within our family structure. Not terribly helpful to anyone but me, the stepmom–sources say that, contrary to beliefs held by Marine et al., I am the bitch of the universeAll that aside, what does owning my shit have to do with my art?

Muse: Everything. One can’t have light without darkness. One can’t have sweetness without the shit smell.

Me: So?

Muse: You can’t connect with your writing and with other people unless you have a firm grip on all facets of your being. If you don’t confront the most dangerous parts of yourself, you’ll bind your art.

Me: Constipated writing?

Muse: Exactly. As we have said, one can smell stoved up rants from miles away.

Me: So does that mean I have to write those writhing confessional pieces and vomit rage and angst all over the page?

Muse: For the love of God, no. Please. You have notebooks of that garbage hidden in the attic. I mean you have to come clean with yourself. Are you angry? Do you lie to others? To yourself? Are you a slacker? Are you judgmental? Small? Obnoxious? Homicidal?

Me: I avoid killing people.

Muse: Good for you—would you like a cookie? To paraphrase Rita Mae Brown in her writers’ manual: an artist must acknowledge the murderous parts of him/herself before he/she can create a dynamic and believable character truly capable of killing.

Me: On what page did you find that?

Muse: How would I know? I’m up to my elbows in piss clams. I’m not about to soil my copy of Starting From Scratch for a page number. You go find out.

Me: I’m too much of a slackass. Besides, my characters aren’t murderers.

Muse: Why not? Kill off some people every now and then. Committing homicide with the pen vents frustration. Don’t you have some people you wouldn’t mind offing?

Me: No comment.

Muse: Pussy.

Me: Look, I admitted to being a slack ass. What more do you want?

Muse: Confess your control issues. When you swallow your pride and admit how little power you really have over your events in your life right now and how much you hate that fact, then the experience of powerlessness will stop haunting you and, instead, flesh out some aspect of your art.

 

Muse: You’re quiet.

Me: I’m trying to swallow my pride. It’s stuck in my throat.

Muse: Well, good. You have infinite amounts of pride, so you’d better start swallowing, Honey. It’s getting in your way, big time.

Me: I thought pride was healthy?

Muse: Not when it keeps you from asking for help. Not when you get so caught up in trying to control and ameliorate situations way beyond your firing range that you ruminate day and night over the unfixable like some sort of sick cow.

Me: I thought helping people was decent.

Muse: Their shit is their responsibility, not yours.  Let ‘em go.

Me: I have.

Muse: Good. That’s why you’re finally writing instead of whining about how much you want to write.  Mea Maxima Culpa: you don’t have the energy, the impact, the contacts, or the wherewithal to control all your relationships, your family, your family’s health, or your job. You cannot fix all these things on your own; Sister, you are not in control. And that pisses you off beyond belief.

Me: Feed me some bile this morning, why don’t you?

Muse: Drink up. Let everyone else own their own shit. Stop trying to shield them from it. Or, as in some other cases, stop trying to jam it down their throats.

Me: Why would anyone reading this care about my shit?

Muse: They don’t. Hopefully, you will inspire them to confess their own shit to themselves. If you run from your darkness, it will chase you like bean farts from here to eternity. Everyone else will smell it, except you. You’ll be wondering why in the world everyone you meet has their nose all wrinkled up. Meanwhile, there’s a steaming poop pile behind you that you don’t even see. Have the sense to notice the crap, examine the color. Why are these turds following you? Interview the pile.

Me: Oh, my GOD!!! Are you my shit?????

Muse: You might consider me one of your cow pies, yes.

Me: You don’t look like shit.

Muse: That’s my point!!! Once you get to know your shit, it’s not all that nasty. It stops stinking. What is crap but the delicious yellow stuff in the belly of a mess of hard crabs? After all, what is poop, but fertilizer? Your piles of dung morph into something vegetative. Art. Writing. Song. Own it, Baby. Then You. Are. Free.

Me: Wow. Confession really is good for the soul.

Muse: Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches!

Me: Yeah. Now I get it.

Verbs and Vindication at the Virginia Festival of the Book

When Valerie Tripp, author of the American Girl series, said that excess description in children’s books borders on “self-indulgent,” I swear I heard my Muse crack open a beer in salute. I attended Tripp’s session on the differences between writing for boys and girls at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville yesterday. Fred Bowen, the session co-presenter and author of two series of sports books for kids, agreed. Both said that metaphors had better explode to “earn real estate on the page.” Hallelujah, pass me the verbs!

As I traveled through various presentations from authors, editors, and agents yesterday in Charlottesville, the same theme followed me. During a session entitled “Dancing with the Manuscripts,” writers could submit the first 100 words of their manuscript ahead of time. The moderator read each submission aloud during the forum. Four representatives from the Moseley Writers’ Group served on the critique panel at the front of the room and held up a green card if they wanted to read more or a red card if the writing had problems. They consistently “green-carded” submissions that dropped readers right in the middle of the action with vivid language that moved. Those stories that launched into a description of the setting or some other story element generally ended up with a red card. The Moseley Writers also requested that authors use fewer “be” verbs and completely annihilate the word “it.” By this part of the day, the Muse had finished a case of beer and had a good buzz going.

I’ve always hated books with long descriptions like that Proustian crap where it takes two pages for some guy to walk across a room or three pages for the same guy to eat his eggs in the morning. I tend to put down books replete with metaphors and similes and devour plot-driven novels. William Zinsser refers to all these excess words as “verbal camouflage” in his book On Writing Well. Even though he gears his manual toward the creative non-fiction writer, I think his statement applies to any genre. But then, maybe you shouldn’t listen to me. I’m a twelve year old trapped in a late-thirties body: I still think farts are funny.

I believe the passive tense completely shits all over a good piece of writing as well. The sentence “From its pink shutters to its cute little door and hanging wisteria, the sweet little house was lovingly built with hand hewn boards and guarded carefully by enormous trees, standing sentry-like on both sides of the driveway” pisses me of. It makes me want to write a rebuttal like this, “The tornado ripped through the neighborhood, sucked the roof off the pink-shuttered house, snapped the guardian trees in half, and deposited giant logs atop the splintered hand-hewn boards.” Call me an asshole, but still! Let’s just pile some passivity on the roof of the poor house, power-wash it with adjectives, then hurl some adverbs through its windows until it collapses with a guttural moan and dies.

Given my preoccupation with flatulence, I must again remind you that I may not hold the qualifications to judge good writing. I will point out that some successful writers agree with me, though. My favorite author is Rita Mae Brown—I particularly love her earlier works like Southern Discomfort, Rubyfruit Jungle, Bingo, High Hearts, etc. I also like Cathy Lamb, Sarah Addison Allen, William Kotzwinkle, and Glenn Murray. All these fiction writers have VERY different styles, but their stories all move. Brown’s characters pepper the stories with colorful dialogue and bad behavior. Lamb creates a grandmother who thinks she is Amelia Earhart and flies around the room, while another character lights her thongs on fire after every one-night-stand she procures. Allen makes trees throw apples at villains. Kotzwinkle and Murray created the Walter the Farting Dog series for kids. Walter’s flatulence leads him on many exciting adventures that caused me to weep and snort with laughter one afternoon in a local bookstore.

All those books are short on passive verbs and long on action. Even the forays into the characters’ emotional lives literally shove the plot along. The authors tell us very little about their characters—they just turn them loose on the page and let them bump up against each other or fart repeatedly, as the case may be. Their crazy behaviors reflect their emotional lives, relegating all the “to be” verbs to the obsolete hole of darkness where they belong.

In her book, Starting from Scratch: a Different Kind of Writers’ Manual, Rita Mae Brown says, “If you want to get your black belt in boredom, load your sentences with variations of the verb to be.” (p. 67). I read this book during my first year in college and loved it! Ignore the chapter about “Computers and Other Expensive Knicknacks” that advises writers to buy an “IBM Correcting Selectric III” rather than a computer. Brown says, “You’re better off with expensive lighting than a computer. Those damn computers hurt your eyes, too” (p. 53). So what if she published the book in 1988? The writing advice is still relevant and reads like one of her novels.

Yesterday’s sessions at the Virginia Festival of the Book taught me that I need to tighten up my writing, make the first words of my books scream with excitement, and stay true to the type of writing that I have always loved. While Oprah may never endorse my books, plot driven writing sells, too. Hello, Hunger Games! Fred Bowen quoted Mark Twain and said something like “If you don’t write for money, you’re a blockhead!” Damn straight. Once the Muse recovers from her hangover this morning, the two of us will get to work. Liven up those verbs, and have a creative day!

Pitches…GAWD!

Writing pitches reminds of me pregnancy hemorrhoids. I strain really hard, then something odd pops out. I’ve been pushing all day, let me tell you. I hope I have created something at least slightly Prep-H worthy.

I really HATE writing pitches, but I won’t get published without them. I love making stories, but I despise trying to consolidate my ideas into a couple of attention-getting sentences that will snag me an editor. I’m NOT short winded. AT ALL. I will fart around for days before I actually sit down to write a synopsis. I spent all day yesterday avoiding the queries I’d assigned myself by lolling around at the park with my family. I had the BEST day playing with my kids, so I slapped a couple of pictures from our little adventure up with this post. They are way cuter and more appropriate than any graphic representation I could put up that would symbolize me trying to get my work done today. For me, writing a pi-otch is a bi-otch.

I’m not sure if I’m even qualified to give advice on the subject of pitching, but I’m going to try. Here are a couple of things to remember when you are on your own personal query toilet.

  • First and foremost, consider your writing style. Are you funny? Is your writing contemplative? Flowery? Sarcastic? Academic? Then write that way! Construct your query to match the writing style you are trying to sell. Be professional, obviously, and DEFINITELY have your facts straight, but don’t send some stilted formal tome to introduce yourself. Editors can smell constipated writing from miles away.
  • For Cripes SAKE! Spell the editor’s name correctly. If I were the editor, and you screwed my name up, I’d flush your “jank” immediately.
  • Look for and FOLLOW EXACTLY the directions on the submissions guide for the  magazine/agency/publisher/website to whom you’re sending your work. Most editors, etc., will slushpile your work if you don’t format or send it correctly.
  • Do your homework. Show the editor/agent/publisher that there really is an audience for your work. Statistics help. If you’re writing a book on stepmothers, you can tell a potential agent that there are around 2500 stepfamilies created daily in this country; currently, there are an estimated 15 million stepmothers in the United States. There’s definitely a market for your book, and you proved it with your stats. BUT, don’t submit an article on snow to a local publication in Miami, Florida, whose readership consists of people who hate cold weather. Duh.
  • Most pitching experts I’ve consulted (stalked on the Internet) agree that if you can’t narrow a synopsis of your work or idea down to four or five sentences, you don’t know what the hell you’re writing about. I have to agree, but that doesn’t mean this tight of a summary is easy for me. My queries today were pretty long, but I got my point across.

I can assure you that there are plenty more important things to think about as you create a query, and I’ll add to my list as time goes on. I am also going to submit the synopsis I created for my unfinished middle grade novel manuscript to The Canary Review to be “Pitch Slapped.” Their reviewers will rip it to shreds, slap me soundly, then provide me (maybe) with some ideas for a better pitch. I’m scared crapless, but criticism from fellow writers can really help improve your work and possibly get you published. I’m ready to flush my ego and put my stuff out there. I’ll share any comments and feedback I receive on this blog; I’m going to get me a public “pitch slap.” So wish me luck, and have a creative day (that doesn’t involve queries, hemorrhoids, or constipation).

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