Perseverance

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~ Newt Gingrich

Last week we explored semi-colons and rejection and learning.

This week let’s look at rejections and perseverance.

My first manuscript flew from my mind through my fingertips onto the page because my muses mainlined Ritalin. I printed all 65,000 plus words so I could edit my world altering master piece.

I rolled in the writer’s high.

Butterflies dance the Electric Slide in my stomach and adrenaline pumped my veins.

Time to set my art free.

After a trip to the library and perusing Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, I sent out my first snail mail query letter per the agent’s instructions.

Every day for five weeks I raced little Ralphie to the mailbox looking for my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring so I could inspire the world with my novel.

The letter arrived on a Thursday.  A white envelope with the agent’s logo. My hands shook. My palms reached first-date-with-your-high-school-crush sweaty.

I raced inside the house. Stumbled over two cats. I shouted, “It’s here, it’s here, it’s here.” My voice squealing like a twelve-year-old birthday girl winning Bunco at her slumber party.

My better half and I sat on the living room sofa. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I slit open the envelope. And pulled out a form letter.

Thanks so much for your query. Unfortunately, though, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for your work.

My gut twisted into a butcher’s knot and lodged in my throat.

A humbling beginning.

I keep my rejection letters. Everyone one. I view them as earning my sentences. I go back and re-read them. My most recent query contained a personal note of encouragement from the agent, not a form letter. I know I’m getting closer.

Sometimes, I meet the agents who wrote them at writer’s conferences.

An early rejection form letter came from Elizabeth Pomada, Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents. The theme of the letter: “Assume we are wrong. Persevere until your books reach the goals you set for them.”

Two years later, I met Elizabeth Pomada and her husband and partner, Michael Larsen.

Michael stands about five feet and four inches tall. Thick, manicured gray hair. Tailored suit with vest. Conference attendees buzzed around him the way mosquitoes feast at a June picnic.

While standing next to me in line at the dinner buffet, he offered to read my first page and give me some advice.

I handed him the page. He looked up, a politician’s smile fixed his lips.

He liked the opening hook. But the first page sucked. My words, not his.

He said, “Persevere.”

During an interview with Gerry Swallow, a.k.a. Dr. Cuthbert Soup, over at the BoFN, I asked him for advice for up and coming writers, he said, ”. . . be relentless.”

The Book Doctor emphasized craft.

In baseball, baseball players who hit the ball 25 percent of the time make it into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

But only one percent of writers achieve traditional publication.

So if you work hard. Improve your craft. Be relentless. And persevere. You will succeed as a writer.

And carrying a big stick couldn’t hurt. Or giving yourself a bouquet for luck.

Perseverance and floral enthusiasm caused tulips to bloom in March.

Perseverance and inspired weather helped tulips bloom in March.

 

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I Have a Semicolon and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

Everything in moderation, including moderation.” ~ Julia Childs

My transition from technical writing to fiction presented obstacles. During my technical writing tenure, I mastered the use of a semicolon.

Learning its existence in school and typing it on the keyboard lack the satisfaction of knowing and mastering the using.

In previous posts, I mentioned a book proposal I’m massaging to completion. It’s nonfiction. Not my first love. My first love remains fiction. Writing it. Reading it. Loosing myself in it.

After several failed attempts to get my fiction traditionally published. I pursued the book doctor path.

While my voice remained in tact, passive voice was nixed. The rear view mirror reflected the last of the back story info dumps. And for God’s sake, semicolons have no place in fiction.

My stomach splashed landed near my knees. Not my beloved semicolon.

I felt like I threw away a memorable pair of black stilettos only to be replaced with beige flats. Safer but not nearly as fun.

My fiction ventured beyond third base. Holding hands with it now would never feel the same.

So much for my virginity.

My siblings know I’m pursing publication. They send me regular doses of encouragement.

Before Christmas, one of my sibling’s co-workers self-published a Christmas novella. I’m a Christmas junkie. The Christmas junkie received a personally autographed copy.

I added it to the stack on my nightstand.

Last Saturday black clouds sauntered in from the south. They disgorged two-inches of rain. What better time to read a quick novella?

When I read a book, I read every page of the book—including the title page, the ISBN number, the acknowledgments, even the type font used in the book.

I read the blurbs on the back jacket first. No blurb about the story, not even a log line.

Praise for the work filled the back jacket. The first contributor, a retired English teacher.  The next credited blurb said, “Friend”. The third, the editor of the vanity press. The final blurb came from a former syndicated columnist, who is also a family member. Uh Oh.

If I’m going to improve my own work, I need to read the craft’s beginners as well as the craft’s masters.

This Christmas tale set the story in the 1850’s. The first three paragraphs of the book—the most grammatically correct sentences I’ve ever read.

The first paragraph spanned the length of the first page. It contained six of my beloved semicolons. The opening line of the story, ahead of the first semicolon, a play on Bulwer-Lytton’s, “It was a dark and stormy night,” only “It was daytime and beautiful”.

My inner editor went berserk.

I slogged to page five. Admired the grammar. Lost interest in the story. I wanted to know what made the story derail. I pulled out my red pen with the passion of Captain Ahab for the white whale.

My better half thought I derailed the crazy train.

Learning feels beautiful. Understanding feels powerful.

Sometimes I don’t take the time to thank those who have taught me the most.

If I ever meet the author, I will thank him for his lessons in craft. And I promise to be genuine and courteous and kind. And thank my sister for the unintended benefit of her gift. And thank the book doctor for widening my eyes.

Because I have a semicolon, and I’m not afraid to use it—in moderation. But not in fiction.

A world without stillettos; a world with lower insurance premiums.

A world without stilettos; a world with lower insurance premiums.

Until next week.

Ciao,

Fannie

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A Special Edition: Knowing Where You’re Going To

Stories grow the way mushrooms spring, from fertile grounds.

Ideas, inspiration, itches that tickle the mind. Writing every day. Obsession. Distraction. Respite. Fretting. Blogging. Loosing your direction—and finding your purpose.

The pleasures of writing, the passions of writing, the pains of writing. Writing brings us to blogging. To read the written words of others. To carry something away from it. To be moved. To laugh.

Remembering where you came from.

On the road to Blue Earth, Minnesota

Using it to know where your going to.

Go east my friend, or you'll run out of road.

Continue east my friend, or you’ll run out of road.

And crossing that bridge when you come to it. You know I had to go there. ;)

One of my favorite lines in literature came from the L. Frank Baum’s book, Ozma of Oz, published in 1907.

The set up: Dorothy is transported back to Oz, almost. She, a mechanical man named Tiktok and a hen named Billina find themselves in the land of Ev outside Oz’s borders. They meet the vain Princess Langwidere who is “ruling” the land of Ev because the rest of the royal family has been kidnapped by the Gnome king.

With the use of a magic mirror, any woman who is attractive is beheaded by Langwidere so she may wear their head on any given day she chooses.

When she changes her head to meet Dorothy and crew, Baum used the following line, “By the aid of the mirror she put on the head.”

What if that line had been written today. What if the line read instead, “With the aid of the mirror she took off her head.”

Would it make centipedes crawl up your ten-year-old spine? Going beyond the measure of the original well written line.

The pleasures of playing with words.

And the bonus material. One more snippet of Roger Crawford, Lagniappe: Going beyond full measure.

Back to special edition tradition, Diana Ross, would you please take us out with “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”

Keep on tending your story soil for your fertile grounds. Magic occurs, but not by chance. :)

Until next week.

Ciao,

Fannie

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Maru, The Cat

Fannie Cranium:

Japanese YouTube cat celebrity, Maru. This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names.

Originally posted on The Blog of Funny Names:

I’m eating at a sushi bar called Sushi Maru with my better half. Being a Trekkie, I mentioned the Kobayashi Maru to my husband. We toasted Leonard Nimoy.

Followed by what the heck does Maru mean in Japanese.

Buckle your seat belts people we are crossing into the Neutral Zone. In Star Trek it is the “no-win scenario” or “impossible situation”. But is that what it means?

Inquiring minds use their iPhones.

After a brief search we discovered the restaurant wasn’t cleverly named Sushi “Impossible” or Sushi “Situation”. Both would have been cool. Maru according to our source meant “circle” or “round” and referred to the conveyor system transporting our meal.

Isn’t the internet great?

It also lead to another discovery. Maru the Cat. A genuine Japanese cat celebrity.

Im-paws-ible you say.

Maru, a Scottish Fold—straight ear variety—entertains nearly half a million followers on YouTube. His channel is named…

View original 134 more words

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A Special Edition: Vision of Clarity

Book proposals feel challenging. Passion being the driving force. Completion the ultimate goal.

I am working on a book proposal. My focus felt off. A few nights ago I had the vision. The vision of my ideal reader.

Clarity restored.

Blaise Pascal once said, “The last thing we find in making a book is to know what we must put first.”

With an ounce of inspiration, a gallon of sweat, a myriad of late nights, the goal is getting closer.

Clarity helps.

If you are in need of a little inspiration, instead of our special edition music tradition, how about a snippet on the subject of clarity from keynote speaker Roger Crawford.

Until next week.

Ciao,

Fannie

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A Special Edition: Penny Power

The PenniesWhen was the last time you considered a penny’s power and influence?

“Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”

When was the last time you bent over to pick up a penny?

Without looking, which way is Lincoln facing?

Would you think twice before saying “a penny for your thoughts”, before putting a penny in your loafers, before tossing a penny for a wish? If your wish came true, would you consider it a penny well spent?

Or the title of one of Ogden Nash’s poems sums it up, “A Penny Saved is a Penny Well Spent.”

We are nostalgic about our pennies.

Or we would be more “penny wise than pound foolish” and join our Canadian friends who retired their pennies because it cost more to mint them than they are worth.

What if we took a trip back in time. Not via the DeLorean or the Tardis or the Time Machine, but through a book I picked up at a used bookstore.

1987. A time before the internet. Going viral meant sickness or disease. And landlines were all the rage—well pretty much your only option.

Nationally syndicated columnist, Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, received an interesting letter from Mike Hayes, a freshman enrolled at the University of Illinois. His parents put four older siblings through school and could not fund Mike beyond his first quarter.

Mike proposed an intriguing idea.

He asked Bob how many people read his column. Mike figured there must be millions of readers. He asked Bob to pitch his readers the idea of sending Mike one penny. If a couple million people sent him one penny—dug it out of the sofa cushions, the floor of their car, off the sidewalk—it would pay for his entire education.

No one thought the idea would work—except Mike.

The cost of a stamp in 1987: 22 cents. More than the cost of the penny.

Intrigued, Bob wrote the column.

In less than four weeks, the “Many Pennies for Mike” fund reached close to 2.3 million pennies. But not everyone sent pennies, some sent nickels, dimes, quarters or more.

In the end, he received enough to pay for his degree and gifted the residual to another deserving student at his university in the form of a scholarship.

Crowd funding before crowd funding.

And in case you want to know, Mike Hayes became a food scientist. And Abe Lincoln’s profile faces right.

Since we’re on the topic of the power and influence of pennies, how about the Beatles lead us out with Penny Lane.

Until next week.

Ciao,

Fannie

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A Special Edition: Boy Squirrel VS. Girl Squirrel Underpants

Greetings from the land winter forgot.

While the rest of the United States enjoys a real winter, my little corner enjoys never ending spring. I expect a summer scorcher. And lots of bugs.

Now for this week’s post.

Open season on rose hips. Spicy!

Open season on rose hips. Hot stuff baby.

One of my kitty carnivores alerted me to a resident squirrel calling open season on the “Fragrant Wave” rose hip salad bar. Clearly vitamin C cravings. Spicy!

I think this is my best side.

I think this is my best side.

My presence did not affect its dining habits one iota.

Go ahead, make my day!

I’m a diva, darling.

Other than it faced me and posed for more pictures.

Does it not realize the moral implications of running around the neighborhood naked?

Leaving the question of squirrel decency up in the air or in this case on a stick.

Leaving one to ponder, boy squirrel or girl squirrel underpants.

Leaving room for debate. You decided.

Tighty whities?

Tighty whities?

 

OR

Pretty in Pink?

Pretty in pink?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available on Amazon or a local joke shop near you! Click it to view it.

Since my neighborhood squirrel diva mugged for the camera, let’s wrap up this special edition with a real diva. Donna Summers and Hot Stuff. Since this IS such a hot topic. ;-)

And remember today is the last day for New Year’s Resolutions to be kept. Tomorrow the gym will be empty.

Until next week!

Ciao,

Fannie

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