Friday, July 31, 2009

What's new?

I haven't contacted an agent.


I think the problem with writing is that it takes quite a bit of time in itself. Actually looking for representation beyond that can be sort of tough to fit in. Take heart and know that at least I'm doing some research on agents. (Like anyone but me cares anyway.) Finding the right agent is a little like finding the right shoe, except that it's more of a mutual agreement between the foot and the shoe. It has to be the right fit for both.

In the mean time, I'm doing a self-study course on the book Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, and I'm learning a lot. The latest, which has slowed me down in writing but should help eventually, is that character sketches are extremely important, even for picture books. If you don't know your character, you cannot write about him or her effectively. He will come off as shallow as a sidewalk puddle, and then where will you be? STUCK IN THE SLUSH PILE OF DESPAIR!

So I'm on something like rewrite 40 of Cluck Lays an Egg, but this time I'm going to explore the inner workings of Cluck. Who is Cluck? What are her likes and dislikes? How does Cluck think? When I'm done I'll give character treatments to my other manuscripts too, even though I feel happy with some of them already.

Here's a plug for Ann Whitford Paul. Her book is informative and insightful. Top notch and you can't get by without it if you're a picture book writer. And like many books on writing for a specific genre, the wisdom bleeds over and works in other genres also. Since it's set up like a class, you have writing assignments (thus the character sketch of Cluck) and reading assignments (one of the many picture books she recommends) at the end of each chapter. School was never so much fun! It's definitely my favorite writing book of the year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing news: Finding an Agent

I think the time has come to look for an agent. I've finally been able to resolve something that was still bothering me even after the last revision of my favorite manuscript. Since my least favorite thing to do is to market stories once they're finished, an agent is a good solution. Unfortunately, the process for finding an agent is the same as finding a publisher except that you don't get paid anything when they say, "Sure, I'll take you on." Laura K. pointed me to at this site.

After looking at the figures, I decided that, economically speaking, there's a lot to be said for agents. Their know-how basically doubles what you would make without them, so they are worth their cut.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Let Us Eat Cake

This is two posts in one day, which I shouldn't be doing. Someone might get the idea that I blog all day long, and then where will we be.

I finished grading Chemistry!!!!!

Let's have a cake to celebrate!!!!! (Next Wednesday, since I'm sworn off sugar for a week. I can dream until then.)

On a side note, I have agreed with a friend to give up sugar for a week while she gives up bread. (I think I have the easier end of this partnership.) Alas, when I got into the 40s I realized my metabolism wasn't quite keeping up. This project is in the interest of losing about 3 to 5 pounds so I can be just where I want to be. Not that I'll do that in a week, but if I can shake the sugar, I could potentially do that in the end. It has been a tough row to hoe so far, but it helps that I'm writing down what I eat and the calories involved. It also helps that our riding lawnmower is now working right now, so we're all taking turns hitting 2.5 acres with a push mower which is NOT self-propelled.

While pushing, I meditate on the fact that there are people who shell out hard-earned cash to make themselves sweat like I am doing right in the comfort of my own yard.

I told you so

Okay, did I, or did I not say that there would be a response to changing the name of the blog again. Considering I have all of three followers (I don't count the twice that Christine put herself in), I think that's fairly prophetic. It's a byproduct of being a mom, I think.

Anyway, in response to Christine's suggestions (and please note that she's only changed the name of her blog once, I think) I will say the following:

Life with Beth. The truth is, there are a lot of people out there who really don't want a life with Beth, so I'd hate to impose on them. Sometimes I have enough trouble with a life with Beth myself, and there's absolutely no way I can avoid it.

Beth's Blurps. Nope. Sounds too much like Beth's Burps. That would be bad. Very bad.

The Best of Beth. This won't work either, because, as anyone who has read this probably can see by now, often times it is the Worst of Beth that is funnier, more interesting and sometimes more abundant than the Best of Beth.

So for now, we'll just have to stick with Beth's Blog. Not exciting. Not adventurous. But more stable than the American economy, and at least it has alliteration going for it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Words

I know I'm going to hear about this, but yes, I changed the name of this thing again. I'm new to blogging anyway, and pretty much view this as a good place to keep family and friends up on our lives since we don't do Facebook. At least for now. But Life Story? It didn't wear well. Way too serious.

What are we up to? Kathryn and Susan will be returning from two weeks on Grandma's farm. They said it was quiet there when the rest of our family left. We thought it was quiet here without them. I wonder where the noise went. They learned lots of wonderful things during their stay, like quilting and kitten taming. (The kitten was unusually tame already this year, but they were ready.) I love giving them this time with Grandma Ruth, because I have so many great memories from the time I spent with my own grandmother.

On the writing front, I am studying Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. It's a great book recommended by Kristi Holl, and was fortunately available through our inter-library loan system though it was just released this year. My brain just thinks like a picture book, so I can't abandon the genre even though it's a tough area. But while I'm picking up some pointers there, I'm working on an upper middle grade novel. Although my writing group knows about it, it's a secret so I won't give you any hints about it just yet except that it is historical fiction from World War II. I began it during the Nanowrimo (write a novel in the month of November), but decided to go back to it now after more research. 

Lately I reread Richard Peck's Fair Weather, since I like many of his books. Tucked away at the back is an interview with him that was very helpful. Peck says that before he writes a book, he first decides on the journey and then on which character would learn the most from that journey. Ever since I've been thinking about my Nanowrimo attempt. Since it was just a write-like-crazy-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of event with the only goal of a word count of 50,000 words in a month, it didn't call for much planning at the time. But it has value in that after you purge yourself in that way you have something to go back over and work with. 

Ah the writing life. Not the easiest profession, but satisfying.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Balancing Act of Life

Balance. If you're alive, balance is probably something you struggle with daily. As a wife and mom, I find it particularly challenging. Right now, I'm enjoying the summer respite from home schooling, and in this temporary quiet time, it's easy to be lulled into thinking that it last forever. It won't though. I can feel the second week of August breathing down my neck. It is not that far away.

Not that we're not still busy during the summer. We're putting the finishing touches on that townhouse, and just had Bible Camp 2009. There are art classes and piano lessons, writing to be done, and organization to be completed before the foray into school in the fall. The absence of that extra straw of home schooling, study, and grading does makes for a load that feels lighter, though. Some school days I feel like I'm losing control of our schedule because of the sheer amount that must be accomplished. This summer I find myself standing on the precipice of the coming school year wondering how to avoid the imbalances that we inevitably experience. How to keep life in control? How to create balance for our family? I think these ideas might help.

1. Say yes
Look for the things that only you can do. Only you can have your own relationship with Jesus each day. Only you can be a wife to your own husband. Only you can be a mom to your own kids. There are many things that you can do, but just a few that can be done only by you. These are things that you say yes to first.

2. Say no
A much harder task. No one likes to be the bad guy who says no when asked for help. I try to be available in the important areas, but during the school year, I try not to pick up any extra responsibilities. An example of this is children's author Kristi Holl, who gave up going to any kind of house party in order to preserve her writing time, which was getting eaten up by unimportant extra activities. In a business vein, evaluate your time usage and check whether activities are going to pay you, or make you pay. 

3. Say maybe
Use caution when making commitments. THINK IT OVER FIRST!
If you are married and/or a parent, then there are other people in your life who depend on you in some capacity. They need to be considered before you make time commitments. This consideration takes time and should not be done on the fly. Weigh the pros and cons before you make a final commitment. 

Also, note the difference between considering and consulting. Children should be considered. Your spouse should be consulted. In society as we know it nowadays, adults often allow their children to call the shots for the family schedule. This is not healthy for children, who will end up thinking the world revolves around them as a result, or the parents, who will be run ragged trying to do everything on the calendar. You are the leader. Your children must adapt their schedule to yours first and foremost. (Some friends of ours allow each of their three children to choose only one extra-curricular activity to keep their family balanced.)

4. Get into the Word and remember: life wasn't meant to be stressful. 
Although God created you with the resilience to endure great pressure, He doesn't want you to live under it daily. We're not supposed to be anxious for anything. We like to blame our schedules for our problems, but a lot of us have created the stress in our own lives by not making good decisions for ourselves or our families. By being grounded in the Word of God, you'll make better choices. God has a destiny for you and for each member of your family. As you press in for the wisdom and understanding He has put in His Word for you, the right choices will be more obvious. It will be easier to hear that quiet voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you daily. Life will still be busy, but you'll have the balance that you long for. 

If you have more ideas for maintaining balance, share them with us all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some thoughts

A chore done because it must be done can be onerous, but when it is done to bless another, it becomes a task of beauty rather than a task of duty. 

Lasting marriages are developed by those who can not count only to ten, but far beyond.