Boundbytheword Blog

keep updated in the world of Debris

When you wish upon a star… January 27, 2011

This Christmas we decided to surprise our kids with a vacation, a Disney Cruise to be exact. We thought it would be a huge hit – tears of joys, squeals of delight, hugs so hard it made our ribs hurt. I bought a Disney board game, sliced upon the plastic wrap with a knife, and carefully lifted the lid in order to keep the game looking untouched and still packaged. I made up little signs on the computer and taped them onto Mickey’s ears, and stuck the trip confirmation email on the inside of the box lid. We would save it as their last gift and video tape the whole thing. It was going to be just like those commercials where the kids get hysterical when they realize they are on their way to see Mickey and the gang.

Unfortunately, when I was picturing the scenario in my head, I didn’t account for the fact that the trip was a month away and essentially their “big present” was a board game with a piece of paper with a picture of a boat tucked into it.

Not to say that they weren’t grateful. They asked “really”? They said “wow, great”. (in a fairly flat, non-too-excited tone I might add). In the end, the wheel of fortune game was more exciting than the promise of a trip lurking in their future. Even when grandparents or their big sister has asked them about it, they give a matter of fact reply. Not overly excited, and certainly not the kids on the Disney commercials. That will teach me for buying into advertising. (“Book a trip and your kids will be this happy, love you this much, your life can be just like those people on TV”).

I’ve ploughed along this January, preparing for our trip at the end of the month. Packing bags, purchasing the required cruise wear for my family, booking the little extras, getting our snorkel gear rounded up. I have little flutters of excitement, but I’m on my own in terms of giddy anticipation. It’s just been too far out for anyone besides me to be thinking (or obsessing) about the details.

But, now we’re in countdown mode. This is the week we head off for vacation and the “commercial reaction” I was looking for with my kids on Christmas morning has arrived. They are going nuts. Counting down the days, packing up their little carry-on bags, bouncing on the beds…wild anticipation has entered the building.

Since this is a family vacation, I’ve been banned from the laptop. No writing, no blogging, not even any email checking. Although part of me resists, a big part of me appreciates the direction to relax and be fully engaged in the experience. It’s so easy to get lost in this virtual world instead of living the one out there.

Can you relate? Hello, can anyone relate?

 

My oh my, what a wonderful day…

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:00 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Ah, this wondrous world of technical advances and computer genius! Even though it’s Thursday and I’m bounding along the streets of Disneyworld today, I’m still posting two bits on my blog. Thanks to the advance feature of scheduling posts, I can be here and there at the same time.

Of course based on my vow to keep my hands off the keyboard, I wrote this post earlier this week knowing I couldn’t leave you for two weeks!

No way, no how.

I know my fingers will be itching to jot you a note, and who knows, maybe I’ll be given a reprieve to send one little ditty about an adventure on board, but until then this will have to serve as my blog fix. Knowing something is scrolling across the screen should make my writer’s withdrawal a little easier to take.

Based on my last three trips to Disney I can only imagine that as you read this post I’m skipping in the sunshine (sorry my fellow Canadians!). Likely I’m giddy, or cranky, or eating. Since I’ve scheduled this post for noon, it’s safe to say we will have ridden the Tower of Terror at least three times, and if I have eaten, I will have wished I hadn’t. I will have seen a few characters, which I still get excited about. I don’t care that it’s just a guy in a costume – he’s still adorable and gives me supersized hugs.

My kids have inherited my avid collector genetic factor, and so I can bet we’ve been spending a decent chunk of our “ride wait time” leaving Daddy in line, while we run around to the Disney employees, checking out the display of Disney trading pins they have on their lanyard. It is addictive, and incredibly dorky, but it beats waiting in line.

Sing, laugh, skip, ride stuff, eat stuff, trade stuff, get hugged by Mickey and pals. That’s my agenda for today. If I can work it in I’ll watch a parade and fireworks, and probably get all juiced up on pixie sticks and Mickey-shaped ice cream bars.

Zip-a-dee do da, zip-a-dee day….

 

Too many distractions, not enough chocolate… January 20, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:34 AM
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In my quest to pull up my socks and query agents this week, I’m down to less than two days left and I’m slipping behind in my targeted number of a baker’s dozen. Ugh!

This week has been full of distractions, and I’ve sworn off chocolate (damn fool that I am) which isn’t helping me, because I’m now lacking in my usual sugar rush action mode.

So, status update: I’ve sent six queries. Okay, I lied. I’ve sent five and prepared a sixth, but it needs to be mailed not emailed, so although it’s ready, it’s not officially sent yet. That’s less than half, but if I blog less and query more, I might just have a chance of doing the virtual happy dance for all of you.

It’s better than donning the cone of shame. Back to it!

 

I hate me some pooch… January 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 11:49 AM

Don’t call me a hater, I’m true dog lover.

My own pooch, my golden boy Maalik, provides a constant source of love and affection. He brings me much joy, and petting him is like meditation (that is, when he hasn’t rolled in something repulsive and vile). He lays beside me all day as I write, and in turn, is my first audience as I read my work aloud. (He thinks everything I write is brilliant by the way).

It isn’t just my own dog that brings me pleasure either. There’s a little Cairn Terrier (think Wizard of Oz) down the street that would warm the heart of even the harshest grump. I know a handful of good ol’ Heinz 57 dogs that are as sweet as they come. I love big dogs too – give me a Saint Bernard, a Great Dane, a Rottweiler, or a Bull Mastiff – all big slobbery beasts who tend to be gentle giants to boot.

Of course, my favourite is the Golden Retriever, because their disposition is exactly the type of being I want to be around. Calm, loving, quiet, friendly, ready to play at any given moment, but always welcoming a good snooze. I wish all the people I am around were like that too.

Which brings me to my point. Enter the beast, or the breed of beast – the German Shepard. What is it with these dogs? My dog has only been bit twice and both times it was German Shepards. Don’t get me wrong, I WANT to like this breed of dog – I think they’re quite majestic looking and are smart as a whip, so what’s not to like right? Wrong – they are the bully on the playground, which I didn’t like in grade school, and I don’t like now.

Our daily walks are calm and serene. The only source of stress in the entire hour is the few minutes we walk past a neighbour’s house who owns a German Shepard. That dog goes nuts, barking, running along the fence, jumping up against the chain link with a loud clank and crash that serves as our warning to move it along. I’m waiting for the day that the dog figures out that he can jump the fence with ease, and attack us both at his leisure.

Quite disturbing that out here in the boonies, it’s not the bears, wolves, coyotes, fishers, or (reported) cougars that I fear will eat my face off. It’s the domestic pet down the road. Geesh.

I guess it could be worse. I could live in neighbourhood instead of farming country and have to listen to the darn thing bark his head off all the time. And I guess if I’m looking for a silver lining, his tyrannical display does tend to invigorate my step, which gets my heart rate up, which pumps the blood to my brain so that I can come home and write something wonderful.

I guess I could stretch that silver lining that far…

 

WARNING – passion may result in swelling of the buttocks… January 14, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:14 PM

Classic cause and effect: in order to actually be a writer, you have to write. In order to write, you have to plant yourself down on your bottom. And sitting on your bottom all day can be a fast track to piling on pounds. Case in point: me and my bottom.

If my body was as active as my mind, I’d be a freakin’ woman’s fitness champion with a six-pack and glutes to make a grown man cry. Trouble is, the more consumed I am with getting words down, the more time I spend parked in a chair.

It’s quite unjust actually, that when I do physical activity – like walk the dog or workout – my brain is in constant overdrive with plot development, character building, and new twists and turns that are aching to get on the page. By contrast though, when I am working my mind, writing ever so diligently, my body just sits there. How is that fair?

Why can’t leaning over the keyboard work like crunches, and editing the page work my thighs like lunges? So basically, my brain never gets a rest, while my body hibernates most of the day.

In an attempt at shutting off my ticker-tape brain during my walk this morning, I kept reminding myself to stop thinking.

Just look: the crystal-like snow sparking on the trees, horses at the farm next door huddled together in a rainbow herd of charcoal and chestnut, honey and hickory.

Just listen: the sounds of my feet crunching on the newly fallen snow, the occasional bird chirping a tune, the sound of brisk wind whirling though the trees, water trickling steadily in the half-frozen stream.

Inhale and smell: a hint of pine, and crispness in the cold fresh air.

And feel: the cold against my face, the tight strain and pull through the muscles in my legs as I climb the long slope of the hill, and Maalik’s soft muzzle against my mitted hand every time he runs back to nudge me a brief hello before he bounds off again.

Living in the moment was almost like a meditation, a calming, grounding way to centre myself in the now. Which was calming, and a little annoying, because my brain has lived 42 years on high drive, and it wasn’t clear why I was trying to change the routine. Nice, but the jury is still out whether that is what works for me. Neurotic, obsessing, mind-bending thought-streams work too.

As an aside, I promised to keep you posted on the query situation: I have 4 ready to go, and will send them Monday morning (I decided Friday’s are no good – nobody wants more work on their desk on Friday’s).

Before you jump in to say that four isn’t that many considering I’ve had all this week to do it, I need to clarify – sending a query is no bulk form letter. Each literary agent has different guidelines, and requires different information be submitted. Some want 50 pages and a query letter. Others want the first 10 pages and a synopsis. Some want it mailed, others by email, and most tell you to research the agents within the agency so you send it to the right person (one who would be interested in your genre). So, it isn’t as simple as a typing up a one shot deal, not by a long shot.

So, I’m happy with four by Monday, and I’ll work my tail off next week to get the other nine done by Friday, so I don’t have to wear the cone of shame upon my head.

Have a wonderful weekend, whether you spend it meditating or obsessing.

 

Rejected! January 11, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 12:14 PM

So it happened. A rejection letter.

I submitted my work for an anthology and got the big N-O. I’ll admit, I was shocked initially, because the piece I produced was really quite funny. In fact, I laughed out loud every time I polished it with edits, thinking what a clever writer I was. Thinking that surely they would fall in love with the piece as much as I had.

They didn’t love it, maybe they didn’t even like it. Maybe they didn’t even chuckle (gasp). I don’t know, and won’t know, but I do know I was rejected.

Meh. It actually doesn’t feel that bad. I thought I would be crushed, devastated, eat a carton of ice cream, or at least yell at my husband with misdirected anger and frustration. But, I didn’t do any of those things because really, meh…not so bad.

In fact, the rejection has served me quite well. All my mentors and wise writer friends who told me to query, query, query because it’s just a part of this business, who said I would shoulder it in stride were right. It wasn’t that bad at all.

For any writers or anyone out there afraid of rejection, I thought I’d give you a front row ticket into my brain for “Rejection Day”. This is how it looked after opening the rejection:

“What? I can’t believe it!”

I read the letter again, just in case.

“I wonder why they didn’t like it?”

I read the rejection again, looking specifically looking for feedback to answer the why (or why not). They said “selections were made based on the structure of the anthology, the tone of the anthology and the content of the entry”. I ignored their well worded explanation and instead spiralled into defending the piece to my ever-present inner critic.

“I thought it was hilarious and quite brilliant. Hmph. Was I fooling myself? I have to go read it again.”

I go read it again, laugh out loud, and decide that yes, it is in fact hilarious and brilliant.

“Meh. I need to start querying more. “

So, in the end I learned some valuable lessons about sending a query:

1. Forget you did it. Let it go, don’t wait on it, depend on it, or obsess over it.

2. Don’t take a rejection too personally. It doesn’t matter if it didn’t fit the structure, it wasn’t the right time or the right tone. Maybe they didn’t find it funny, engaging or brilliant in the least. So what? Someone will like it, even if it’s only your parents.

3. Rejection from a publisher, agent, or panel of judges isn’t nearly as bad as rejection from a lover. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you. No just means no. Let it go.

4. Query more. You have a lot more invested if you send a singular query. Or two or even three. You need to query enough that you lose track a little of who and what you’re waiting on.

5. Appreciate when the rejection includes some explanation. Once I got over the small sting to the ego that the rejection left, I looked at it again, and thought – that was pretty nice of them to layout what the structure looked like (which they did, and which made me feel like it made sense, mine didn’t fit.) Those guys doing the rejecting…they could just say no, so if they say more than that, let it sink in and appreciate the extra effort on their part.

6. Being rejected means you are actively writing and submitting your work. You can’t fail if you don’t try, but you can’t succeed that way either.

7. Ice cream does not equal love, approval or self-worth. It won’t help your writer’s delicate ego. It won’t help your thighs either.

So I close with a goal, instead of a quip. By January 20th I’ll have put out a baker’s dozen queries. Lucky 13. I’ll be counting on you, my faithful blog readers to keep me honest. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

 

Judgement Day January 6, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 11:43 PM

“So, what do you spend all day doing now?”

I was asked that very recently by an acquaintance. Let me set the record straight here; she knows that I’m a writer, and knows I’ve been working on a novel. Before my defenders rush in and assure me it was all in jealousy, she herself has a career that she purportedly loves, with lovely hard earned letters behind her name affirming her greatness.

Here’s the thing. I’d love to say that this kind of rude question was a first to me, but it wasn’t. In fact, I’ve also been asked (by different judging acquaintances):
“What exactly do you do all day?” and “Don’t you miss working?”

I must have missed something – when did I stop working? I believe I wrote and edited my first novel, started writing my second novel, and have thrown editing services, freelance writing and teaching workshops into the mix. But hey, I don’t sit in a blue cube for eight hours a day with regular trips to gossip at the water cooler, so I guess I’m an unemployed bum, not a writer. It must be the lack of a 9-5 job with a regular pay check that rattles people. But seriously, if it doesn’t offend my husband, my kids or my parents…then what is your problem?

Ugh. What is going on here, and who spit in their bean curds?

To be honest, I always answer that type of ego jarring question the same way – I list my accomplishments to the interrogator like a good little student, making sure to highlight the changes or advances since their last rude grilling. I end up feeling somewhat desperate, sometimes deflated, and always worse for wear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about my writing. Ask me anything without a hidden agenda and I’ll bend your ear for an hour. People who’ve asked the offending questions do have an agenda though, I’m just not very clear on what it is. Perhaps they’re socially stunted, and don’t know how to ask an engaging question. If that’s the case, this should help:

“What’s your novel about” or “How’s the book coming along?” or “When can I buy your book?” or “What are you writing now?” or “Where can I read your stuff?” = GOOD

“Don’t you get bored at home all day?” = BAD

I’m not clear on their motivation for asking in such an unsporting way, so I don’t really know how to answer. But as of today, I’m done justifying my day’s work to any negative ninny.

If I’d started following my dream when I was in my twenties or thirties and someone pulled out the hater survey like that, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to take it. I would have given up on writing a novel, gone back to something life draining in the blue cubical and remained a slave to making decent money for a second-rate career. One which I hated and left me feeling unsettled and unhappy. It took me until I was turning 40 to be brave enough to move forward and live my dream. So the odd rude comment won’t stop me now. Even so, it’s odd and offensive.

So now that I’ve worked it out in blog therapy (thank you ever so much), I wait with baited breath for the next haughty person to ask me insincerely about what I do.

I have the following responses ready and would love to see your vote on which one is most suitable for one who asks something like: “So, what is it you do all day?”

A – I spend most of the day curled up and crying, waiting for my family to come home and rescue me from myself.

B – Mostly I masturbate. Except when I eat chocolate or do a crossword puzzle.

C – That’s an odd way to ask me about how my book is coming along. That is what you are asking me, right?

What do you think blog readers – A, B, or C? Or send me your own suggestions in the battle against the dark force of negativity!

 

 
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