Monday, December 28, 2009

Computer woes

I have not fallen off the planet...but I am considering throwing my pc off.
Checking back in to say -have gotten files transferred to laptop and will be blogging again soon. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

My favorite holiday is fast approaching - New Year's Eve.
Always a lot of hope and forward dreaming.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Another rejection and not just a rejection but the dreaded form letter without even a comment. My hope was that the agent would recognize the writing as good and ask to see something else. Yikes- my worst case scenario for this venture.

This submission was to an agent whose agency I hope will one day represent me. I studied the market and I respect the work they are doing. When I receive this type of rejection from them I take it seriously even though it smarts. Okay, it hurts. But I am learning not to be ultra-hyper-sensitive. It’s a long overdue lesson that I think will serve me well. And it is a relief not to lose my way because of disappointment.

The book is not what they are looking for - What does that mean?

Probably a number of things but the lack of comment leads me to conclude a few things.
Probably accurate to surmise: the writing did not wow -the book did not wow.
For me as a writer, the goal is to wow.

As tough as rejection is – I personally want to write the book that shines. The book that causes the agent and editor to pause and to be excited. To think automatically, this is good.

I know I am not there yet. But with each rejection comes an opportunity for insight and to improve. Time to put this book aside for awhile. Later I may consider t submitting to others. On to a new project.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


She hummed their anthem
braiding daisies in her hair.
In a heart too fragile and with resolute conviction,
she believed.

There was a magical moment
before the drug induced euphoria,
distorted realities and extremist platitudes.
A short sweet peace, with little strength to endure.

Once it was "Love Me Tender" and gyrating hips,
Beehives and Ducktails. Goldfish, telephone booths.
Now it was "All You Need Is Love" and The Pill.
Passive Resistance, Civil Rights and "Stop The War."
Many shook their heads in sad reveries, and unison
"This too shall Pass."

The course was charted
and it is painful to look back-
to see how close, and yet
so great the distance to be traveled.

The morning came, as they said it would.
A day no different from yesterday or tomorrow.
It was never decreed
a simple sadness that
has no end.
She took the daisies from her hair.

© 2009 Melissa Jackson Brister All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 7, 2009

Contests that offer score sheets

I decided to enter a few contests at the urging of other writers. The primary benefit cited by the writers was the feedback.I had nice news yesterday. I placed in a RWA local chapter’s contest. My scores were lower than I hoped.

I read the judges score sheets and comments several times. For me there is no doubt this will be beneficial. The scoring helps to gauge how I scored among the other contestants. The comments interjected throughout and/or at the end are instructive and worth their weight in gold.

It is the kind of feedback an aspiring and sometimes lost writer craves. The feedback is concrete and specific. Some information I should have known but did not – don’t confuse an editor by using minor character's name- designate by their job or relation, i.e. bodyguard, sister etc. There were also several suggestions for mistakes or weakness such as: starting in the wrong place, lack of layering and dimension in one central character compared with effective treatment of the other character.

The judges volunteer to read and comment. The local chapters organize and conduct the contest – all an investment of their time and energy. My limited experience has been terrific- a help in a way I most need-specific feedback even though all is subjective. But editors' decisions although determined by experience are also subjective. Thanks to those published writers, editors, aspiring writers, and groups who offer and judge contests. It’s another resource available to struggling writers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Gift of other Writers/Artists

Lost a day – I planned to post yesterday.
I meant to write but important to mundane things circumvented my course, my drive.
It’s now the day after tomorrow and this passage of time may help illustrate my topic, Why networking and writers/artists are important.

The pattern:

As mentioned in a previous blog, I tend to be a loner and isolated.
I can entertain myself endlessly when I’m up or on a roll.
I have more interests than I can attend.
I get myopic, then full swing and I chastise myself for my silly pursuits and hobbies.
Sometimes I feel like I should apologize for these inclinations.
I do what’s before me to meet expectations and obligations, both real and self-imposed.
No matter how far I stray, eventually I come back to writing.
The problem is I lose my focus and my momentum.
Over the years writing has remained at the bottom of my list.
Until recently it was below doing the dishes and doing wash!
It is still below cooking dinner but happily that seems to be slipping this past year.

Recently I have come to know and interact with a few other writers and artists.
So far my reaction is – Wow! – have I ever been missing out!

Networking: A few important components:
There is an ongoing dialogue about writing.
Providing feedback on another writer or artist's work.
Feedback on your work.
Keeping directed on the goal with like focused individuals.

The gift of other writers/artists is important: What other writers know and give-
Yen and Yang –someone is hurting, doubting – someone else is there encouraging, celebrating that someone.
A belief in the same dream,
Understanding how it feels be thus afflicted.
Writers/artists don’t make you feel odd for being odd.
Writers/artists know when you need to be alone and when you don’t, no matter what you insist.
Writers/artists will tell you you’re getting too damn odd and snap out of it!
Writers/artists commiserate with you while you wait for the rejection and then get rejected.
Writers/artisits recognize the accomplishments even dinky ones.
Writers/artists celebrate the acceptance...being published. They know what it takes; they live it.

The obvious benefits for writers/artists who connect:

It’s easier to find hope when you do not always solo.

I’ve been isolated for so long that I suspect my perceptions are slightly skewed.
I can’t accurately gauge where I stand on the weird meter.

However, without my writer/artist friends I would be stuck in that dark place I know too well, again immobilized.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rejection and is it possible I suck mega?

Talk about ruining a writer’s morning – the arrival of another rejection. This particular rejection was whammied on another writer but my defenses went into overload along with my friend. Rejection unleashes a fierce and reflexive response. I’m working on disengaging the automatic trigger. For me, it is vital to learn how to handle rejection in a productive and understandable way as I continue to submit.

Rejections are about as fun as flatulence in a quiet room. It feels like the world pauses, all eyes are riveted on you - you stand alone, a beacon of the uncouth and laughable. It’s embarrassing. Over the years I have received plenty of thanks but no thanks. A couple stand out because they were not form rejections. Today my focus is on a couple of poetry submissions. In the future I will share some memorable book rejections.

Once an editor took a red pen and hand-wrote personal comments on my submission. He hated the poem and felt so strongly that he was compelled to underline key phrases. I suppose he thought I was of questionable intelligence and might miss the point. The gist of his words: I was a hack, a no talent. I was devastated.

Not long after that, I received another poem graced with another editor’s hand-written rant. Basically, he advised me to stop being an idealist and get real. The dreaded words that he carefully printed in pencil (no red ink) were: Flowery and pretty, you've worn it out. To make sure I understood how juvenile the work was, he placed a happy face on the poem.. Talk about a bad few days and a counter productive response, we are talking brain farts of the first magnitude here. I was mortified.

To me it was a clear and official message, YOU SUCK. I have a dear writer friend who having steeled herself as best she can against rejection, sings the “I suck song” as she travels down the harrowing road of submitting her work. I agree with her assertion, “Writing is not for sissies!”

Several things occurred concurrently with the two editor’s rejections.
1-The handwritten comments from several other editors (one editor loved the same poem the editor red-inked) were positive and encouraging.

2-The same two poems were liked enough by other editors to be bought. Granted, I think at the time it was $10 a poem but it was a validation.

3-Said maligned poems were published, appeared in print.

However, the positive responses did not counter or balance my read of the rejections. Following the two handwritten rejections, I didn't write poetry for years and that morphed into less and less writing in general. I was hurt. Being sensitive, and in my cases as a young writer I was hyper- ultra – sensitive and shy to a ridiculous degree, did I mention I was shy?

Now I’m mature and I'm only overly sensitive and neurotic. Happily the instances of blushing and being tongue-tied are far less frequent. I get lost in the flow of writing and forget personal barriers. What a relief and what fun!

Posting my poetry and writing, as well as blogging is good for me,a form of stretching. I have been rewarded with some favorable responses and readers. Readers, the end goal- to write – to be read. I have gleaned a few things that apply to me about the process.

For too long, I didn't have anyone outside of my family with whom to seek council and to exchange ideas, talk writing. My family has been incredibly supportive but face it, is the man you’re sleeping with going to tell you you’re a hopeless idealist or get real? Not if he’s smart. He will say something diplomatic and clever like, “Look you got a strong reaction at least your work moved the guy. He really hated that poem! That means your poetry works.”

If you’re lucky family and friends recognize that you're doing something you love and they support you. If they think your work stinks, you'll probably never know.

Both of our daughters write and one of our sons is beginning. The last two years I have enjoyed writer time with my family as writers. It has provided another direction. I attended the RWA conference in DC and in the midst of over 2,000 other writers I discovered the importance of other writers.

Tomorrow – what I am discovering about networking and writing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting unstuck

It's official, I'm stuck. The story has been in my head for several years. So far that's where most of it is staying. One strategy for moving past a block or a lull is to write something else. It's a means of freeing my brain. It can be a refreshing break especially when I find myself where I am now, running in place.

Start from scratch or return to something you have written and put aside. I am also interested in a young adult novel. My exercise is to write between 250 and 500 words about a youngster's walk to school. You can find prompts online at various writing sites including the Writer's Diget site.

The day was warm and golden as the sun glowed. This new morning sparkled and crackled. Everywhere she looked was warmth and life.

As the wind tousled her hair she knew it was a dinosaur wind, a wind that had blown a million years before perhaps across the flanks of a triceratops or brontosaurs, or maybe a marauding T-Rex. She ran, soaring, flying over the ground as her feet scarcely touched the ground. After all, she was nearly as fast as the wind itself, as light as air. Sometimes she ran faster than the wind and in those moments she became invisible, there was nothing she could not conquer.

Each morning the same magic awaited, the sun warmed her, the wind carried her setting her adrift in a universe of unlimited potential. The morning routine possessed a momentum of its own and then abruptly she would find herself staring at the sullen brick of Grady Elementary.

The building seemed amiss among the swaying pines and the swirling Texas wind. The school looked as though it had clawed its way up from the bowels of the earth and she swore most times it smelled like it. In her deepest reservoir of wishes she wished the earth would suddenly open and swallow the hideous place that demanded her attendance and precipitously snatched her form her world.

It wasn't that she disliked school, she was ambivalent at best. It was an aspect of existence over which she had no control, much like her cowlick. Much to her grandmother’s alarm, no amount of hair product tamed her dark wavy hair. Hair that her mother cut short with little regard to style or symmetry.

Just as she learned to accept the strands of hair that defied gravity, she accepted school. Early on she grasped that sometimes the best way to resolve a problem was to minimize its impact. She participated, made good grades, and was repeatedly patted on her cowlick by approving adults. Then sighing, the ever vigilant adults turned dour expressions to the problem children.

Her parents placed undue significance on her performance. Clearly they never understood her motivations. If they had they would not have strutted like vain peacocks waving the straight A reports cards as a testament to their superior parenting.

There was no honor involved but survival and sanity-it kept adults at a tolerable distance. Adults most outstanding and unifying characteristic was the ability to kill the magic that abounded, if one would look, move, breathe, the magic was everywhere.

"Good morning Maddie," Mrs. Grayson smiled at each child as he or she entered the room. Maddie called them graded smiles, each child began their day with the appropriate Mrs. Grayson brand. Maddie was greeted with her "A" smile while Dwight received the "C" smile. Susie and Danny were "D" smiles.

Mrs. Grayson barely kept the wrinkled corners of her mouth from turning downward when those two entered. If Mattie was very still she felt Mrs. Grayson's disapproval moving from her withered lips across the room like a cold wrinkled hand shaking the two children ever so slightly. More than once she knew Susie and Danny felt her palpable condemnation as she watched them both suddenly shiver before taking their seats.

I'll let you know if the exercise helps me to get back on track.
Until later -