Lent begins . . . film at 10

Wow . . . I’ve been offline for just over 24 hours, and I’m in withdrawal. I’m really addicted. Pathetic!

We didn’t do anything special for Fat Tuesday except go to the doctor and have him approve of our fat. Hubby upgraded all his iTunes tracks to iTunes Plus, and it took overnight. He had his network connection get reset more than once, so things would freeze and he’d have to fiddle with it. I’m still not sure he got everything swapped out in working order. Next trick is to FIND his iPod shuffle, which is somewhere around here.

What to give up for the Lenten season? Maybe I should give up spending money. That would be good all around.

I’m still pondering whether I want to go to that writers’ conference or not. Everyone’s comments have been very illuminating, and I realize that if I were younger and less jaded, I might find it fun to just go and schmooze and talk writing. But I’ve done that so many times before. It’s unfair to my family to spend that much on myself just for a weekend away talking about writing, when they’re not getting luxuries for themselves. I *did* enter their short story contest, but you don’t have to be present to win. (You win a certificate and a small award.)

One thing I should say is that I wouldn’t want to go there with any kind of plan to bug the agent. People have asked whether it wouldn’t be a good time to kind of corner her and ask her what it was about my work that she didn’t like, but I think that is a spectacularly wrongheaded idea because they get that ALL THE TIME (I expect) and they probably hate it–they won’t necessarily remember anything about the work by the time they’re being asked about it. Just think–she’ll have read hundreds of partials between now and then. So if I come along and ask her things that she probably doesn’t even know herself, it would be awful for both of us. I could sit there and socialize with her, mind, but I don’t think it would be proper for me to try to get her to figure out what it is about the work that didn’t connect. That is something that she’d have volunteered at rejection time if she’d wanted to tell me (and if she’d even known what it was specifically AND could put it into words easily), don’t you think? Many times I just don’t click with a text and I end up not finishing it. I can’t always put into words what “lost” me. It’s irritating to be pressed for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s just the vibe.

So making a point of going just to talk to her and ask stuff like that seems to me to be a very unwise thing. I’m not really that kind of person in real life, anyway . . . I would tend just to smile and nod and listen. You can learn a lot just by hanging around. And you definitely do not want to be That Crazy Woman who followed the agent around making her stay perfectly miserable by bugging her about what she didn’t like, and that sort of thing. Shiver! Quake! It’s not that I think it would be awkward to have the interview . . . I just don’t like to waste her time. It’d be too much like going into all the open houses for sale and engaging with the real estate agents by acting as if you’re a customer when you don’t have any money to buy a house.

What I mean when I say (occasionally) that I’m not in the same groove as people twenty years younger than I am . . . well, I think people are taking that wrong sometimes. I don’t mean that others’ ideas are outlandish or whatnot. I can tell you that my mother (who is 28 years older than I am) has a completely different vibe from mine . . . she feels that every woman should know how to cook and should feel obligated to cook for her family/husband daily, believes that your home is representative of you if you are a woman (and therefore if your house is messy or has dust, you are a crumb and a lazy bum–no matter who made the mess–and YOU should clean it, not have a maid!), sees any kind of premarital sex as a horrid sin, still doesn’t like Japan because of WWII, believes that the Greatest Generation had the right ideas about everything, and so forth. This is not right or wrong for her to believe this (even though you and I may think these ideas ludicrous or wrong); it simply IS. She realizes that Things Aren’t That Way Any More, but she still firmly believes that Our Way Was The Right Way. It’s something coming out of her core beliefs that probably can’t be changed.

I believe it’s natural to have the mindset of your generation and to not quite “get” the generation before/after you. (Some people DO have that ability, but most people don’t.) Mama can understand intellectually that my generation believes differently, but she can’t be in the groove with it. This is the dilemma I find myself in when I try to understand the groove of the twentysomething, or even the thirtysomething. It’s not that I can’t enjoy their work or that I think they should change. It’s that I know I cannot change core things about myself, things that will inevitably manifest in my work and in my art. That makes me a misfit in some ways–but that’s the way it is. This also means (I believe) that the very way in which I approach some things will turn some people off, and others on. Well, not everybody is gonna like you/me, even if you/I like him/her. We have to realize that and accept it. It could mean that it’s less likely for a book of mine to appeal to a younger/older person.

This also doesn’t mean that I think every word I write is sacred or that I refuse to change things, throw out scenes, rephrase lines, or replace all instances of “carpe diem” with “seize the day.” Just ask Dennis. I get him to give me changes like that all the time.

Another thing that has taken up the weekend is that I’m judging a manuscript contest in the YA category for a different conference, and I’m finishing up the score sheets and commentaries on the last few entries. I have been trying to point out what the author does right and giving specific reasons for the ratings I end up handing out, which have been fairly good ratings. Still, I can see that two of the entries have a lot of potential for commercial success, whereas three of the others (I’m judging EIGHT fifty-pagers, which was way too many to agree to take on–noted for next time) have serious problems. I’m trying to “pay it forward” by doing this, so I’m going to write something encouraging to every one of them without handing out false hope; there’s something good to be found in anything, so this won’t be a phony kind of “this was good” deal, but sincere. I simply don’t happen to believe that “it’s cruel to be kind.” And I don’t think they’re being prima donnas to think that their own work is good . . . if you don’t believe in it yourself, why should anyone else?

I only hope that my words help them and spur them forward. I don’t say to these writers that they’re facing huge challenges or tell them I believe that if they can channel their creative drive into something else, they probably should . . . because they didn’t ask, and that would be a zap to them. But man, it’d be nice if I could channel my creative drive into arranging flowers for FTD. A lot more people like flowers (even ugly ones) and will buy them, even sight unseen!


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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