Go ahead, squeeze the corn

I was at the store the other day and was in the process of picking some fresh ears of corn (4/$1) when this gentleman from Nova Scotia (he told me that’s where he was from) approached and asked me how I cooked my corn.

I laughed because I love random conversations like this.  I told him I either grill it or boil it unless a recipe calls for the corn to come off the cob before cooking. He smiles and says, “So I don’t know you and you don’t know me, do you mind if I share a trick?”

“Of course not,” I reply, and of course, I don’t. I’m always looking for new ways to cook.

“Leave the corn in the husk,” he says, “and put it in the microwave for 4  minutes.  When done, take it out and use an oven mitt because it will be hot.  Cut a tad off the big end of the corn while still in the husk, and then squeeze the corn from the small end and push it out.  It will come out without any strings and it will be very juicy and tender.”

I gave him my thank you’s and we went our separate ways.  Last night, I looked at those ears of corn and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if the Nova Scotia way really works.”

I put the four ears of corn still in their husks in the microwave for 14 minutes and when they were done, I did as he said.  I cut about a 1/16 of an inch off the big end, just enough to slide the corn out of the husk, and then I squeezed.  To my amazement, the corn slid right out with not one string attached.  The corn was moist, and so, so sweet.

Thanks to a man from Nova Scotia, I will never strip my corn husks and boil my cobs ever again.

And on that note, I’m going to squeeze some more corn.  🙂

Rally around and lend your support

A dear writer buddy of mine (who has asked to remain unknown for the time being), has written a wonderful and enchanting, very young middle grade novel that was just rejected for the 11th time.  “Amanda” just got the letter in the mail and is feeling very, very down in the dumps today.  Troops, please rally around and offer up your ‘go get ’em’ pats on the back.  She can use all the encouragement she can get.  Also, if you know of any agents and/or publishers taking middle grade fiction right now, please put that in your post and I’ll make sure she sees the info.

To “Amanda” and all you other beautiful peeps, I dedicate this song to you.

“Z” is for “Zippity doo dah, Zippity Ay”

“My o my what a wonderful day!”

Today is the last day for the A-Z challenge!  Woo Hoo!  Congratulations to everyone who participated and made it through!

Over the last month, I’ve visited a lot of sites (almost 900 out of the 1925 participants), met some really awesome folks, joined some other blogs and actually learned some things about foreign currency, photography and marketing (something I desperately needed to learn).

More than 75% of the folks who participated in the A-Z challenge were writers and many of them are gearing up to hit that submit button to agents and publishers.  I wish all of you luck and will keep my fingers crossed for you.

As for me, I will probably drop back on my posts to 3 times a week because I really need to seriously focus on some writing.  I’d like to take this time to thank all of my followers for their awesomeness, kindness and support.  Keep your eyes open for some interviews, giveaways and a contest or two.

All of you have an amazing day and I’ll be back on May 2.

Am I meant to write?

I think all authors think this at some point in their writing career.  I know I certainly have, but not as much as I have today.  Today left me feeling hollow and sad to the point I’m not sure how to react.  It started two nights ago but today took the cake.

What happened a few nights ago?

I sat in on a very informative seminar on blogging.  What to do, what not to do.  Comes to find out, I’ve been blogging all wrong…at least in the context of collecting followers.  I found out that to be a successful blogger, I should be (1) an expert on a topic that affects millions, (2) driven to share that expertise, (3) willing to work my butt off, (4) capable of dedicating myself to growing a blog without earning anything from it for a few months, and (5) must be a passable writer and write to engage.

I apparently lack #1 and #5, at least according to a blogger who was following me and then left today, but not until after she sent me an e-mail that stabbed at my heart.

According to this person, I am not an expert at anything, my posts are boring and unengaging and I’m selfish when posting on other people’s blogs, especially hers.  She also said my writing was sub-par and perhaps I should consider several courses in creative writing.  I then needed to figure out who I’m writing for because it’s not her.  She withdrew her “follow” from my blog and asked I do the same for hers.  I don’t have the heart to do it because I really like her blog.  I guess I can still read but not post anything.

You know, when I embarked on my adventure into blogging, I wasn’t trying to land 1,000 followers in one day.  I set out to write and hopefully touch some people’s lives and expand my ‘friend’ base.  I wanted to make new friends around the world…talk to other writers who are experiencing all the same hopes and fears, highs and lows, all the doubts and joys of success on the road to publication as I am.  I never wanted to come off as selfish in my posts on other’s blogs.  If I was/am…I’m so sorry.

Please understand.  I’m not looking for pity or sympathy.  This is yet another bump in the road, another form of rejection I have to go through to make me strong and resilient, but her words hurt deeply and made me question myself and my writing, as most rejections do.  This, coupled with what I learned about myself in the seminar the other night, left me feeling like I’m floundering.  I see other bloggers who are just starting out and they’re collecting hundreds of followers.  I look at mine and I sit at below 150 after 2 years of blogging.  Those aren’t good stats.  Maybe I AM blogging wrong.  All I can do, though, is blog from my heart. That’s all I know how to do.

Who do I blog and write for?  I suppose I blog and write for anyone who wants to listen.  Maybe I should refocus and blog about writing and reading young adult fiction. Maybe I should do what the host of the seminar said the other night and take down my blog, go through the process of getting 1,000 followers and then relaunch my blog.  Maybe I shouldn’t blog at all.

My brother told me once I excel at being a loser.  After five hours of soul-searching, all I have to say is “You’re wrong.”

Now I just need to convince myself.

“Y” is for Youth

Ah, the essence of youth.  We are all obsessed with it.  When we were young adults, we wanted to be older.  Now that we’re older, we spend billions of dollars a year to look and feel younger.  We crave our youth and the flexibility in our bodies, the stamina we once had, the carefree ways we enjoyed.

When I was a teen, the world was different, but the problems were still the same as now. We  had the popular girls in school who got pregnant and had abortions.  We had the smokers in the bathrooms and the jocks that had all the girls.  There were evil teachers, fantastic teachers and those that couldn’t teach at all.  We had the jokesters and the druggies, the slackers and the bookworms.  The beautiful and the unattractive.  You were either popular or you weren’t.  Those were the two cliques.  Somehow, we muddled through the heartaches, the disappointments, the dates that went horribly wrong.  We clung to our achievements and moved on to college, jobs, marriages, and families.  Only after years of struggling for financial freedom, moving up in our jobs, placing careers before family, do we sit back and wonder why we didn’t hold onto our youth just a little longer.  Why were we in such a hurry to grow up?

I suppose that is the underlying reason I like to write YA.  It takes me back to a time I should have not been so anxious to leave.  Through writing, I can experience things I never experienced as a teen.  I can pretend to know what it feels like to be popular or pretty.  I wouldn’t trade the bookworm part because I think smart and pretty go really well together.  I could be more of a daredevil, a risk-taker.  I could be a bit rebellious, say “To hell with the world, I’m going to live!”  In writing YA, I can re-write any scenario to alter the tragedies of my youth.  I wouldn’t have to lose my father 2 weeks before my 12th birthday.  I wouldn’t have ‘Danny’ abandon me at the 10th grade dance to make out with and leave with a pretty cheerleader.  I wouldn’t be the ‘four-eyed geek’ of the school.

As a mom, I’ve lived and relived the trials and tribulations of youth with my four kids.  My oldest just graduated college, is a teacher and has a beautiful little girl.   My second will graduate in 2013 with her Master’s in costuming and plans to travel the world.  My third is floundering.  He’s 20.  He hasn’t found his niche’ and high school was a nightmare experience.  But he has a heart of gold and an amazing way of making people laugh and feel good. My fourth is seventeen and is so done with high school.  He has one more year to go.  He wants to join the Air Force and eventually get a job in computers.  He’s a video game junkie and an avid fantasy/dystopian reader who loves the military channel.

Each one of them has had their struggles as young adults and each one will tell you they’re glad it’s over or will be over.  They will each tell you they would never do it again, that being a teen was too hard and there were too many bad memories to outweigh the good ones.  I hope I’m around when they get to be my age and wish, for just a moment, they could go back to a simpler place in time where muscles didn’t ache, stamina was abundant, there was no illness and moms and dads were still around to kiss and hug the boo boo’s away.

To youth…I salute you.  I wish I hadn’t been so anxious to leave you behind.  Thanks for the memories, both good and bad.  They’re all fodder for future books.  Now to just write them all down.

“X” is for X (Ten) ways to avoid the slush pile

Ready to send out your manuscript?  Here are some hints that may help you avoid the slush pile.

– If sending out a hard copy of your manuscript, don’t print it on watermelon, bacon or any other scented paper.  The agent’s or publisher’s dog might eat it.

– Don’t submit your manuscript on Monday then call on Wednesday to find out when they’re going to send out the book and movie contract.  Wait at least until Thursday in order for them to process your awesomeness and send it to the correct repudiation department.

– Don’t send your friends dressed up as characters from your novel to the agent’s or publisher’s door in order to act out scenes from your book.  If you insist on doing something so insanely inventive, at least hire professionals. Make a grand impression.  The least you can do is go down in flames to an amazing Broadway-style performance.

– Don’t send your novel about the erotic love affairs of Cat Woman to an agent or publisher who represents books on cat training, unless you want your manuscript to end up as cat litter.

– Don’t claim your novel is a blockbuster, unless of course it is, then I suggest you have Steven Spielberg deliver it in person.

– Don’t address your cover letter to Dear Agent, unless the word “Agent” is followed by 86 or 99, at which point your novel better be about a bungling spy and his pretty sidekick.

– Don’t mention how much your family and beta readers loved your book unless you include at least 5-10 page dissertations on the similarities between your manuscript and the likes of Harry Potter or Twilight.  Agents and publishers have nothing better to do with their time than read about how great you are at emulating your favorite author.

– Don’t send sexy photos of yourself, unless you want to end up on the slush pile floor, but that’s a whole other post entirely.

– Don’t be cute and turn your cover letter into a pictorial scrapbook page of what your novel is about.  Hieroglyphics are difficult to read.

– Don’t ignore or publicly berate an agent’s or publisher’s advice unless you enjoy being referred to in editorial circles as “the one who shall not be signed.”

In the Arms of an Angel – 100 Word Challenge

Today, I’m participating in Julia’s Place 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups.  The prompt today is:

“…I’m exhausted. Shut the door behind you…”

Here’s my attempt.  Hope you enjoy.

In the Arms of an Angel

A young man appeared in the threshold of my hospital room.  I knew him right away, though I’d never seen his face.  Angels, even ones of death, have wonderful auras about them.  I clasped my frail hands to my chest and shed a tear of joy.

“You came,” I said.  “You heard my prayers.”

“Yes, Molly.”  His voice was light as air, sweet as honeysuckle on a vine.  There was such tenderness in his eyes.

“Good,” I said. “I’m exhausted.  Shut the door behind you, please.”

He held me as the door breathed closed.  The light faded.  Death is beautiful in the arms of an angel.

“W” is for…

Wishing upon Stars

Do you remember what it was like as a child, to look out on the world and see one big playground?  Life was full of possibilities.  Everything could be accomplished.  There were no limits, no timeframes, no impossible dreams.  And when times were bad, all you had to do was throw a coin in a fountain or find your favorite star and make a wish.

What happens to that innocence when we grow up?  Why must we lose that childish enthusiasm?  Who says we have to?  What’s wrong with wishing?

We all know what Jiminy Cricket said in Pinocchio:

What is that you say?  You’ve forgotten how to wish upon a star?  Well, it’s not that hard.  Just close your eyes and remember…

1.  Pick the first star you see, not the biggest or brightest.

2.  Stare at that star and repeat the lines from a long-lost poem:  “Star light, Star bright, the first Star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.”  (Go ahead.  Do it.  Let the magic from your youth fill your mind and soul).

3.  Now close your eyes and make your wish.  Say it aloud so the stars and heavens can hear it.  What good is a wish if it stays bottled up inside?  Release it to the universe.  Say it with love, with passion.  Don’t hold anything back.  You must believe in your wish.  If you don’t, how can the star believe in it either?

Does this sound childish?  To some…maybe.  To me…wishing is magic and magic is all around us and within us.  So go on, make a wish.  Dare your dreams to come true.     All you have to do is believe.

“V” is for…

Villains are important if you want a successful story, but how do you write a good great one?

Through trial and error and wonderful advice from rejections, I’ve learned the following.  You might want to keep them in mind as you are writing your own ‘Voldemort’:

Continue reading ““V” is for…”

Smash – Katharine McPhee – “Run”

I normally don’t post twice in one day but this song has been playing in my head ever since Katharine McPhee performed it on Smash last night.  It’s titled “Run” and was originally recorded by Snow Patrol.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Sorry for the linky thing.  Hulu doesn’t allow embedding.