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iCarly Inspired: Random Writing

This is not the first post where I discussed the randomness of a writer’s mind. If that topic makes you laugh, you can read my other post on this topic here: A Writer’s Mind, Random, Constant & Fantastical. If you’re just reading this because your mind responded the the twirp of my tweet and your finger clicked and now you here, then I’ll continue.

I love iCarly and I have no solid material for a blog post today. Honestly, with conference in 4 days, I shouldn’t be blogging at all, but I like it and don’t want to disappoint my fan. (no s). In honor of iCarly which is the only thing I’ve seen since my kids woke 5 hours ago, I dub this post “Random Writing.” In this post, I will unleash my mind for two minutes. That’s right. I will attempt to write whatever pops into my head for two complete minutes. It’s lucky for me I can type like really fast.

In 5…4…3…2…

I wish I had a better blog post for today. I like blogging. I don’t really like that countdown timer though. That’s distracting and it stresses me out. I have too much to do. It must be wrong. Kids are loud. They should play outside a while. What’s the temperature today? Probably cold. I’m a little cold. Why aren’t I wearing socks? I wonder if their spring jackets still fit? They have hoodies if those don’t fit. Hopefully the hoodies still fit. Crap. I’ll have to look for socks. They can’t wear their flip flops. Wait. Do I have to go outside if they do cause I”m still in my pajamas. No. They didn’t do school yet. That should come first. What time is it? NOON! Holy crow! Did we eat breakfast, I had coffee….I see snackable trash on the coffee table they must have fed themselves. I don’t feel like homeschool today, maybe we have a teacher day off schools do that randomly right? Wow. Hope the department of education never reads this. I need to print directions to the conference. Shoot, I need to paint my nails. We should do math first. I’m actually a little hungry. I should eat last night’s secret writing brownies and finish my pitches for the novels I’m taking to the conference. I wonder when I’ll hear back on Witness Protection, I’d like to talk to some agents there about it if I have the chance, but that could be rude if Literary Management wants it. Should I email and check in? I don’t want to be pushy. I’ll focus on my pitches for other things. Oh! I need a good title for the Alien Vampire Bunny story, I want that up Friday before I leave, and then I need to post about it so everyone can go and vote for me. I really want those crits for winning. Did I send my last pages over to my crit partner? Send. I never sent that last book out to the contest winner. I’ll do that tomorrow when I run errands. OK, errands. My to do list. I have to feed my kids, teach them, send them outside and find myself some socks, then I’ll paint my nails & get back to writing. Alien vampire Bunnies, pitches, packing, iCarly and …

Time’s up.

(I promise you a better post tomorrow when I interview my lovely critique partner Valerie. )

Avoid Writer-Brain: Get a Crit Partner!

Editing can be a drag. Frustrating. Head-pounding. Cry-into-a-bucket-of-Ben-&-Jerry’s-bad. BUT like all stinky things, there are ways to plug our nose and reduce the gag response. One of those ways, for me, was finding a crit (critique) partner.

The ideal crit partner is another writer who is compatible with you. They are excited about their work and enthusiastic about yours. This person has the desire to get published and to see you published too. They understand the industry, the rules and the taboos.

Critique partnerships are like a tiny two (wo)man support group, where you can encourage, advise, cry, rant and hope together without fear of judgement. Critiquing is actually pretty fun.

Once you find your perfect match, you and your crit partner will develop a system of trading pages. I  find that trading one chapter at a time is great. For one thing, you are getting out of your own head  in order to read someone else’s stuff everyday or two. That is a huge help in avoiding writer-brain.

Writer-brain- an epidemic wherein the writer’s brain begins to harden into cement and then dissolve into dust. This affliction is specific to writers and those who stare at and/or wrestle with the same manuscript over lengthy periods of time are at greatest risk. Writers brain=bad.

Secondly, one chapter is enough to keep the flow flowing. Neither partner will become bogged down, pulled away from their work too long, and then stop writing alltogether, like your french pen pal in third grade. Instead, the turnover will keep it fresh, easy, and interesting. Next, seeing some of your mistakes on someone elses stuff is nice. it reminds you that we all struggle with similar things. Seeing someone else do it is refreshing and correcting them will help you to catch those mistakes the next time you start to do it.

Finally, and this may be the best (not the biggest reason we look for a crit partner, but the best reason that we end up with) thing about getting a crit partner: you get a friend. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t have the support and encouragement of someone who really gets what you are up against in writing, then you will fail. You will lose your drive and determination. You will step back, take a break and in a decade you will wish you had marched on. How many people you know quit college for a semester – way more than a semester ago? It’s hard to get back into something that you’ve walked away from.

Writers are an incredibly diverse and powerful subculture in our society. We are snarky and ornery and passionate. Most people don’t know what to make of us, and we need to stick together. So, I encourage you, if you are serious about publication, hang out with writers, GET. ON. TWITTER, set up accounts at lebrary and absolute write and other sites for writers. Follow blogs and make friends. Find someone you click with and just ask. I guarantee you that you will not have to look far to find a crit partner.

Having said all of that, I must admit that though I have wanted to find a writer to trade pages with for months, I just never asked. Not to mention that I have been throwing every page I write at my dear and freaking fabulous cousin, Nikki Brandyberry.  Hey, she loves me and she loves to read, but seriously, she’d like to beta for more than just me 24/7 AND she reads real life published books too.*Imagine that*  So, finding a crit partner was like a dream come true. BUT, I didn’t find her. She found me.

I’d love to tell you more about her, but I will save that for another day. This week’s Writer Wednesday will be for her, the lovely, the super-mega-fun-and-happy Valerie Haight.

Until then, tell me, do you have a crit partner? Who are they and where did you find them??

Don’t Be A Geezer

There seems to be a common misconception out there among YA writers who are well beyond their college years. What misconception you ask? The notion that a good YA writer needs only to be young at heart. W.R.O.N.G-O. Before you start sending “What do you know” emails to me, let me say that this is coming from Julie Lindsey YA reader, not Julie Lindsey YA writer. Thank you for holding your false teeth and gumming your lips up tightly.Please read on.

If you know any 14 to 18 year old people, or have some in your family, or have seen them on the street, you can see that they are different. Most of us have been that age. We were different. It’s just true. Our world’s were smaller, our views were harsher, our emotions were in high gear – right beside our hormones. Psychologists have compared what goes on in the teenage brain to being on drugs. Personally, I think that’s harsh, but hey, I’m no psychologist. I’m just making a point with over kill. YA is a very specific voice, and if you can’t make your MC believable then no one will read it.  Your target audience will toss it on a pile with all the other crappy adult garbage and adults who prefer YA (like me) will pass because well, we wanted to read YA. Not some convoluted memoir from 1993.

Now, suggestions for creating an authentic YA voice from me, a YA lover:

  • Watch Mtv.
  • Devour magazines like Seventeen (especially if your MC is like 14, if she’s older, move on to Cosmo).
  • Skip Borders and head over to the mall, then eavesdrop. Oh, also listen to your babysitter, your neighbor, your kids.
  • Go to local high school sports events.
  • JUST FIND SOME TEENS AND SPY. *If you are arrested, I take no responsibility – do not be creepy. It’s easy to spy because  old folks blend into the wall to most teens.
  • Shop where they shop, do what they do, listen to them. That gets double emphasis, LISTEN TO THEM.
  • DO  NOT put them in a box. Teens are no more similar than all adults are similar. That’s it – end sterotyping.

So, if you are trying to polish a YA manuscript, please re-read ONE more time and promptly delete any and all signs that you need a walker and sleep in curlers, or own a “housecoat.”

  • Do not say anything you said as a teen unless that was five minutes ago.
  • Do not quote or reference sitcoms that are not on the air, ex: that Full House baby(ies) is like 20, so your audience has only ever seen that show as a rerun. RIGHT. Are you with me yet?

There’s MORE:

  • Shorts just aren’t “fingertip” length.
  • Cheerleaders are not “the pep squad.”
  • Girls wear skinny jeans not slacks – PLEASE Google for actual brands and do not ever say Gloria Vanderbelt or Z Cavaricci. Dear Heavens, Do Not.
  • Don’t reference music that isn’t on the popular college station near your home. You may think it’s “classic rock,” but they may think you are their great-great- grandma.

And MORE:

  • People don’t get perms
  • Body Piercing IS cool. Smoking is NOT.
  • Do not say “the bomb” or “hunk or fox”

FINALLY:

Please, I beg you not to say pocketbook , or try to fit what being a teen was like for YOU into your MCs world, unless you’re writing a period piece throw back to the 80′s or whatever. Teens today live in and react to TODAY’S reality. Please get in touch with today’s reality before I skip home from the bookstore carrying your book and then throw it dramatically at the wall when I read how your disturbed teen user bought some grass and watched their lava lamp all evening under black lights. *Ugh*

End Rant.

Thanks for stopping LOL

Writer Wednesday Welcomes CA Marshall!!!!

CA Marshall (The A Stands for Awesomesauce)

I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest that I’ve had to stop several times now to dance. That’s right. Dance. I have had the wonderful opportunity to interview an amazing writer, editor, literary agent intern, dog lover, and woman extraordinaire! Her name is Cassandra, but you will get to know her by CA Marshall. If you don’t know her already, you must be new to this blog or very very stubborn. Either way, kudos and welcome.

This is my story: I was on Twitter a few weeks ago (and also everyday – seriously people GET ON TWITTER) and I saw someone retweet a contest from CA Marshall. Imagine my surprise to see this freelance editor offering up a complete manuscript edit. I promptly fell over. Afterwards, I began to stalk her politely and you MUST join me! Politely. She’s fabulous!! Tweet her @CA_Marshall, and follow her at her blog CA Marshall. OK, I am so excited to tell you everything about her, that I’m going to just jump right in with her bio and our interview.

C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at camarshall.com


Hi CA! I am so happy to have you on my blog and this is a first interview for me with an editor or an agent. So SQUEE! and warning, I’m a little over-excitable, just a pinch. You know, I’m always surprised at the congeniality of the online writing world. I’ve only had one sour experience, and I am online a bunch (<–understatement of the century). The friendly and encouraging nature of the professionals and the aspiring writers makes all the difference. Who wouldn’t want to be a writer and cohort with these sweet and cheery people all day?

I can’t wait to get going because I just keep thinking, “They’re gonna love her!” So, here we go…

You write, and edit and intern for an agent, and I’m curious…if the job fairy came down and said she was here to grant you your dream job what would it be? I mean, how many awesome jobs can one girl have? Would you be a full time agent, writer, editor, candyman, governor?

I can honestly say that what I do right now is the perfect job. I don’t get paid for interning, and I’ve only made a meager amount this year by editing (as a fellow writer, I like to keep prices low), but seriously, I could not have wished for better circumstances. I get to use my degrees and training, spend days on end in my pajamas, and I can snuggle with my puppy 24-7. Writing/editing/interning is the best!

I’m imagining a ton of jealous faces right about now! It does seem the perfect set up for a book lover, writer, reader! Speaking of the writer part, I see that you write YA, and I love your book premises.

So, I have to ask…What do you read? We’ve had a lively and ongoing discussion here about how many sites tell us to read what we write, but often we love (YA for me!!) one thing for reading, but when we sit down to write, it’s a different genre altogether. What is that like for you?

I’m a YA girl through and through. I’ve read nearly every YA & MG books at my local library (that’s not really impressive, it’s a teeny tiny library). Sometimes I’ll read an adult book. On occasion, I’ve even been known to pick up chapter books and even picture books :) And then I write YA. (My first completed MS was a MG book).

OK, here come the Query questions. I know that you see your share of queries. What is it that really gets your attention in a query? The premise, the voice? Something else entirely like format LOL?

The queries that are professional, well thought out, and are well researched are the ones that stand out to me. If I get sidetracked by some gimmick, it’s the gimmick that I’m noticing, not your book. When I read truly unique plots in the query and well written and polished pages, I can read the entire query and not notice that it’s a query. Those are the best kind. The awkward ones that I stumble through and seem to go on and on are the ones that I stop reading and have to reject.

What is one of the most common mistakes, red flags, or no-nos you find in queries?

Word counts over 100k (see Colleen Lindsays’s post HERE for standard lengths by genre), mentions of vampires, wolves, angels/demons, and other trendy subjects, queries not addressed to a specific agent, no sample pages when we ask for them, and queries that have more info about the writer than the book.

I read about that almost everyday- writers who don’t send what the agent is asking for. COME ON WRITERS!!!! It’s a tough business out there! We know the number of manuscripts rejected every year. If we spend months or more writing a manuscript, we can find a few more minutes to see precisely what the agent wants before we hit send. Jeesh. (BTW guilty of doing this myself from nerves and haste, but please let me sound like I have it all together for just this one post).

I love your blog and I struggle to keep mine current. I know that most writers have a struggle for time, and we are getting mixed feedback. There are a ton of sites out there warning us that we must have a web presence to grab an agent’s attention and some go so far as to say that if an agent is on the fence about a project, a web presence may help to sway them in our favor. DO you find this is true?

If you’ve got a blog and are active in the writing community, it says that you’re the kind of person that cares about other writers and that you are willing to put in some work promoting your book. You can then see why this is a good thing in the eyes of agents. Even just a simple twitter feed is better than nothing at all.

Did you hear that out there?? Don’t give up on your social media or your blog just yet. Like everything else, your hard work will pay off if you stay with it!

You manage an awesome blog and everything else too. How do you juggle it all and still have time to write?

Passion. I absolutely love what I do, and I’m willing to sacrifice other things for it. I don’t spend hours a day going out to eat, I don’t watch TV (I don’t even have TV service!), and I give in to Writers Butt from lack of exercise sometimes.

(I totally have this and also am growing a writers hump from poor keyboard posture. I just never knew it had a name! Hopefully there will one day be a cure).

I take Mollie for walks and have a veg garden and I use that time to plot and work out problems. If I see mistakes over and over again in client MSs, I look for those errors in my work. What I learn interning I’ve put to use with my own queries (and have 5 fulls and a partial out, and I’ve only been querying for a month!). It all works together and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s awesome that you are able to learn and improve on your writing by what you are experiencing at work! That’s such an amazing position to be in, with your education and desire to be a novelist, and now working in the business. *Sigh* I’m focusing.

Tell us, as an editor, what’s the surest way to get a rejection? Once we make it past the query, and send a partial,  and then end up with the big R. Is there a common problem in our manuscripts that we can shine up before we send them off?

Focusing too much on those first pages so they shine in the query, but failing to make the rest of your MS shine too. Make your MS perfect, even the pages that the agent doesn’t immediately see.

OK, you’ve been so gracious to take the time to do this interview. Is there anything that you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom or encouragement or a grossly inappropriate favor which may win your affections for future submissions? j/k (not really)

If you’ve got the strings to pull to give an ILR visa for the UK to me, I’m your girl. :P But seriously, just be professional and nice and well-researched, and you’ll be ahead of 80% of the other queriers.

Thank you so much, CJ, for being here today, and for sharing your experiences and words of wisdom and encouragement with us! I love hearing from fellow writers and your unique situation gives us a fabulous opportunity for us to learn. I truly appreciate your willingness to share, and I am so excited to get your feedback on my first 3o pages – Did I mention I won her awesomesauce prize? Just checking.


Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I feel inspired and hopeful. We can plug away at this business of writing and blogging and networking until it happens for us, and it will. Every single thing we write teaches us, hones our craft, and builds character (ours and possibly a few of the imaginary sort). So, hang in there, keep writing, and let’s hear your questions and comments!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Submission FAIL

Good morning everyone. I have been staring at the keyboard for a very long time today and this is what I have for you. I tend to stay busy as most of you know. It gets tricky keeping up with life and writing and social media and all the things that we writers do. Usually, I get things in at the last possible second, but occasionally, I just utterly & completely fail. One of those times would be now. You see, a few months ago, I saw that Chicken Soup for the Soul had open submissions for their New Mothers volume. I wrote a little piece to submit, but probably was called away from my laptop by one of many children or the phone or hubby, or whatever, but I found the submission this week and the deadline was long long passed. I hate to think it will never even be seen, so I am posting it here for fun.


The Moment

Chicken Soup for New Mothers

By: Julie Lindsey

Some would say that motherhood begins in the moment which you first lay eyes upon your baby. The moment when you first cradle her in your arms, and lose yourself forever. That moment is certainly precious, and unequivocally fleeting, but I still believe that motherhood begins much earlier.

For me, motherhood began the moment my mind first registered the little pink plus sign. It was at that moment of comprehension when my life was irrevocably changed. Sitting there, alone in my bathroom, that plastic stick may as well have been a magic wand. My heart distended, infinitely and permanently, to encompass my baby. Silence encompassed me, my heart thumped awkwardly in my head, my breathing hitched, and suddenly every smell within ten miles was present. I lurched. It was the first of many times that I came back smiling. Only a mother won’t mind a good purge. It’s a small and eagerly made exchange for riches not yet seen.

You see, far before my waist line ever began to expand, my heart had already quadrupled in size. Life as I knew it was over, gladly left behind in a wake of high heels and French manicures. Things and priorities were traded blissfully for the promise of my child, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, sloppy kisses and toothless grins.

I left my bathroom transformed, no longer just me, but now, a mother. I began walking down the stairs a little more carefully, breathing more deeply, and eyeing strangers more warily. For the first time in history, my coffee addition was put on hiatus, fast food went the way of my other bad habits and unseemly language was banned. The changes were made in preparation for my new title, Mother.

Every thought was consumed with the protection of my baby. I didn’t even know any babies, and there I was trying to protect a child the size of an apple seed from carcinogens, second hand smoke, raw food, and soft cheeses. It was enough to make me swoon, and I did, frequently, but wrapped all around my fear was a blanket of love.

I believe that motherhood begins the moment that you accept your pregnancy. Once you know, there is no going back. The change is already made in that tiny moment of your life, you have become a mother. The tears in your eyes and on your cheeks are proof. Your heart has already taken over, everything has already changed. Becoming a mother is the greatest gift, the most prestigious title, the most beautiful blessing, and the title is now yours.

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