catholicwriting

7QT: The Twenty Years Young Edition

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Takes.  Seven of them.  This Ain’t The Lyceum.  You know the drill.  

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Twenty years ago today I met my husband.  There were fireworks that night.  No, literally, I went with a friend to see fireworks with her friends.  As that friend calls it, Happy Meetaversary to us.  Every year I’m surprised that we met on the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, but I shouldn’t be.  Read here to find out why.  

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Meetaversary, not Meat-a-versary.  It’s Friday, so we’re supposed to skip the meat, right?  Well, we live in the good ol’ USA.  EagleFreedom

And it’s not Lent, so I get to pick my Friday penance.  Go educate yourself.

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 I’m the chair of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval Commitee.  Four times a year, I really, strongly dislike my job.  Yes, I do get to work with some very gracious, classy authors.  And then there are the others.  Frankly, I’m not naming names, but I sure am scandalized by how unprofessional some writers can be.  Writing people, a rejection will not kill you.  It won’t. I should know.  So, if you’re calling yourself a Catholic writer, act like one.  Don’t just join in the tiny Catholic writing world because, “I’m too fragile of a snowflake to endure anyone correcting me, and the publishing world is a big, scary place.” ::looks around, sees CWG:: “There’ aren’t that many of them, and the go to Hell if they’re not nice!  They’ll have to accept me!”

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Yeah, we have to accept you.  We don’t have to accept unprofessional work.  We certainly don’t have to accept unprofessional attitudes.

Okay.  Rant over.  It’s been a rough week.

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On the sunny side of the street, I get to work with nice writers all the time, far more often than not.  NFP week is coming up, and I’m looking for guest posts from Catholics living with subfertility, aka The Captive Panda Club.  Look for some stuff from those writers here during the week of July 19-25.

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I’m also cooking up a blog hop I’m calling “Writers Read,” where writers will answer the question, “Who’re your influences?”

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If you get the reference, you win a cookie.

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Oh!  To do that blog hop, I’m checking out the wisdom from my friends the SITS girls, 10 Tips for a Successful Linky.

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I feel like there’s something else, but I’ve run out of time.  Gotta get my kids to the rink.  If you’d like some inspiration from the world of figure skating which, funny enough, has some similarities to the world of writing: the competition, the hard work, the practice, the falls and scratches…)…

Bronze medalist Joannie Rochette of Canada performs during the figure skating exhibition gala at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010.

…visit my Pinterest board “Sk8rMom.”

Small Success Thursday

Small Success Thursday

Join up with a whole bunch of (surprise!) Catholic Moms as we celebrate the little things on Small Success Thursday.

Did you see my 7 Quick Takes from last week? It was about the seven things I wanted to get done now that the bulk of the writing for the Don’t You Forget About Me blog tour is done.

1.  Here’s the success of the decluttering efforts.

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See what’s on my coffee table?  Nothing but a decorative pumpkin waiting to be roasted for pies & soups.  And what’s on my kitchen table?

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That’s right.  N O T H I N G.

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And only the barest of essentials on the bathroom counter.  The sink isn’t even encrusted with anything.  Impressed?  You should be.

2.  I’m coming to terms with the boot.  My foot still hurts the rare times I’m not wearing the boot, but it’s no longer the kind of hurt that makes me say, “Funny, I don’t remember sticking a hot curling iron under my sock this morning.”

3.  The Don’t You Forget About Me Kindle freebie days have been successful beyond my wildest dreams so far.  Today is the last day, so please, help yourself–but quickly!

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For those of you who’ve read DYFAM and were wondering “how much of it was autobiographical,” Laura at Green4God can relate!  She has been kind enough to interview me on her blog, and that’s one of the Qs.  To see my A (that would be A for “answer,” not some other A), check out Laura’s blog.

Stepping up to the pitcher’s mound…

I’m getting ready to pitch my next novel at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference next week.  The novel is about one of the first saints with whom I cultivated a relationship:  St. Catherine of Alexandria.

It has been a loooooong time since I’ve pitched at a conference.  I used to pitch annually, but I never got anything more than a nibble from those, so take this with a grain of salt.  Each pitch is a learning experience.  Some were lessons in humility more than anything else.  Anyway, I’m going through the manuscript to give it some more polish.  I’m also reading through various blogs and such to refresh my dusty memory.  Since there’s no better way to learn (or re-learn) something than to teach it to others, I’m putting my little “pitching checklist” out here for the world to see.

  1. First, make sure your manuscript is complete.  Don’t go pitching something you haven’t finished.  Why not?  If the editor really loves your idea, he/she may ask for the full MS.  If you don’t have one of those, you’re wasting the editor’s time, you’re giving yourself a bad reputation for wasting others’ time, and you’re stealing a pitch slot from another writer who may have something completed.  In short, it’s just bad manners.  If you want the experience of talking with editors but you don’t have a pitch-ready manuscript, by all means, go to writing conferences anyway.  Volunteer to time pitch sessions, bring speakers drinks and other comfort items, and otherwise just put your face out there as a professional, caring person.  However, don’t pitch until you’re at least a little bit ready.  (BTW, I finished the first draft of Catherine, Princess of Alexandria during National Novel Writing Month 2012.)
  2. You’ll need what I’m calling your “concept sentence.”  This is your book in a one-sentence nutshell.  Since mine is a YA historical novel, I had to make that clear in mine.  A noble pagan girl with everything to lose defies her family and an empire to be with the One she loves.”  This is the sentence that lets the editor across from you decide whether or not he/she wants to hear more.  If he/she does…
  3. Then you’ll need your “elevator speech.”  This is a three-sentence summary of your novel, like you’d share with an editor whom you’d cornered in an elevator.  Your elevator speech shows that you have a finished work that’s worth asking to see.  You’ll show there’s a beginning (hook), middle (conflict) and end (resolution).  “Spoilers for your story to someone who hasn’t read it yet?”  In this case, yes; remember, you’re showing that your book is drafted, not a work-in-progress.  Aikaterina, the governor’s daughter, has three loves in her life:  luxury, logic, and her own good looks.  When she refuses to marry anyone who is less “fair and wise” than she, her parents exile her to the desert to learn obedience.  Her logic turns on her when she meets The One who not only softens her cold heart but pits her against her comfortable upbringing, her superstitious pagan family… and even the emperor himself.  [I’m not happy with that one yet; still working on it.]
  4. Identify your audience.  Who would want to read this book?  More specifically, who would benefit from reading this book.  Mine is painfully easy:  Girls, ages 12-18, as they are  learning how to be the women God made them to be while dodging pressures to be “normal” and “comfortable.”  There’s humor.  There’s drama.  There’s a smart, sassy girl making fun of boy after boy.  It makes a perfect confirmation gift.  It’s great for the girl who just came back from a Steubenville conference or World Youth Day, wanting to live for Jesus but who just can’t imagine having the courage to do so in a world so hostile to her love.
  5. Be ready to talk about yourself and what makes you the person to write this story.  See my bio for my writing credentials, but on a personal note, even when I was an atheist and then an agnostic, I still had a devotion to my confirmation saint, Catherine of Alexandria.  I’m convinced she’s been instrumental in Jesus using me to help the man I love most, my husband, find Truth.
  6. Expect the unexpected.  This editor may ask for more or less than this.  Know your project.  Know the publisher.  Most of all, know what I always told my PREP kids getting ready for their First Penance:  there is only one mistake you can make that is so bad that nobody can help you out of it, and that mistake is being disrespectful.
  7. You’ll also need your big girl panties.  There’s every chance that your work isn’t as polished yet as the publisher needs it to be.  There’s also every chance that, in spite of researching  the publisher, your MS is just a bad fit for them, or they just signed on someone with a project too similar to yours.  There are a million reasons the publisher may turn you down.  As long as you have been respectful and professional, none of those reasons are personal.  You’re allowed to cry in the bathroom, but you’re not allowed to put yourself down or give up.  Sorry.  You’re just not.  You’re human.  So are the editors.  Accept and move on.

So, as I said before, caveat emptor, but I hope you find reading these points as helpful as I did writing them!

Review: The King’s Gambit by John McNichol

Why did I not know about John McNichol until I was passed a review copy of The King’s Gambit for the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval?  Because, it seems, I have had my head in the sand for the past ten years.  That’s why.  Nobody to blame but selfie, self.

The King's Gambit

Anyways, John McNichol is the author of the Young Chesterton Chronicles… which I’ve not yet read, but I plan on remedying that shortly.  I wanted to review Gambit because I have a pair of young chess players for whom it is increasingly difficult to buy reading material.  Both read at a high school level but are nine years old.  (That’s not bragging.  They also still can’t get through a meal without flinging food everywhere or remember where they left their toothbrushes.  We all have our gifts.  Academics are theirs.) You try finding books for young minds eager for literary adventure without digging up something that’s dumbed down, morally offensive, suggestive, or all three and then some.

“Send them to the classics,” you say.  “Boring,” they say.  I can’t even get them to read Little Women.  I’m about to try Dickens.  Pray for me.

Back to Gambit.  We have an unlikely hero who conquers impossible–like, literally impossible–situations with the help of… wait for it… HIS FAMILY AND THE HEAVENLY HOST.  ::gasp!:: What a novel idea.  I was delighted to read the story of Edward and his battle against life-sized chess pieces.  I was even more delighted to pass it on to my “biggns” without having to explain why Catholics don’t believe that what this character did was right, and why that character’s choice was wrong, and so on.  Nope.  None of that.  I was able to share it with them, confident that they would see their faith upheld, not put down with flimsy characterizations or weak philosophies.

Best of all, they loved the story, too.  Well done, John McNichol! You have yourselves at least three new fans.