Query Letter Writing: My Imperfect Process

Here was today’s process for writing a children’s book query letter.

Open Word document.

Minimize Word document for hours.

Re-read articles on how to write a query letter.

Read articles about winter boots for dogs.

Fall down rabbit hole that is the internet and dog products.

Write heading of query letter.

Research publishers.

Research publishers that accept unsolicited submissions.

Get overwhelmed.

Play games on phone.

“Okay, you have to write at least one query letter by the end of today.”

Check Facebook.

Post picture of dog and cat on post about National Pet Day.

Look at all the pictures of animals!

Write two sentence summary of book.

“Alright, now just keep going!”

Play game on phone.

“Maybe I should just get a literary agent. Those cost money. I don’t have money. I should write this query letter. It’s not going to write itself.”

Write about lessons learned from book, missing the right adjective.

“Hmm… What is my book actually about?”

Determine proper adjective.

“Okay, back on track.”

Wonder if summary has enough depth.

Check comments on pet photos.

“I mean, how much could an agent really cost?”

Get to final paragraph of query letter, where you’re supposed to list accomplishments and awards.

“Can plug in flash drive correctly on first try…. Received Super Citizen award thrice in elementary school.”

Facepalm.

Admit that you have no experience, and that you’re just trying to get your first book published because the first one is the hardest, and your book is better than Jimmy Fallon’s, but you can’t hold that against him because you love Jimmy.

YouTube clips from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Go back to Word document.

Use word “thematically.”

Finalize your letter.

Doubt everything you just did and wonder where the past seven hours of your life went.

Send query letter anyways.

Repeat.

 

 

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Currently… February

Reading: I started reading Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin because I got it from my local library’s used book sale (such a steal for bibliophiles!) but I cannot get into it. I’ve seen the movie, but in the book the protagonist sleeps with her best friend’s fiance in CHAPTER ONE! It’s quite a way to start off a book, that’s for sure. I’ll keep going, but if after a few more chapters I still can’t get into it, it’s on to the next! I have quite the reading list these days.

Writing: Query letters for Children’s Book #2. Query letters and cover letters are the worst types of writing for me, so it’s taken awhile for me to decide it was time to write them, but there is no chance of it getting published without putting in that work.

Watching: This is Us. I would like for the show to still air during the Olympics. We need to get back to the story! And Divorce on HBO. I keep watching it, but can’t decide how I feel about it yet.

Planning: The wedding that is less than six months away now! Honeymoon is booked (Hawaii) as well as all my vendors!

Obsessed with: I Love Lucy. For awhile now, I’ve watched an episode before work in the morning, but lately I’ve been watching more and more in my free time. I love the fashion, the lifestyle, and the silly humor. It’s my comfort. ❤

Thinking about: The shooting in Florida. I’m frustrated that it happened again. I’m frustrated at the unproductive arguing over the issue. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it, imagine what we could accomplish if we focused on what unites us, rather than divides us. I really think all political views have more in common than we think. I do not think that our citizens need to have any kind of assault weapons or semi-automatics. I do think that as a petite, not physically strong woman, I should be able to carry a handgun for protection. I think background checks need to be universal when buying guns, but I also know that not every person will follow the laws, and there will always be loopholes, etc. I don’t think it is fair, or proper, or kind to balk at someone saying they are sending thoughts and prayers to victims of a tragedy. I also think that our country as a whole needs to focus more on mental health, and de-stigmatizing therapy, disorders, etc. If you go to a doctor for a check up, nobody bats an eye. If you go to a psychologist for a check up, people pry and probe into your business. And how do we prevent the mentally unstable from getting guns? I don’t know. Obviously, these are just my opinions, and I don’t know what I’m to do with them, but the fact that mass shootings are becoming commonplace news in our country is not okay with me.

Wanting: A day off during the week to just do normal things like clean the apartment, run errands, etc. OR a job where I make my own schedule. Part of why I loved college so much was because I made my own schedule and was able to work when I felt most productive. Here is one of my favorite of the many wonderful lines in Wonder Woman that really made me think about the concept more.

Diana: What is that?
Steve Trevor: That is a watch.
Diana: What does it do?
Steve Trevor: It tells the time. It tells you when to sleep, to eat…
Diana: That tiny thing tells you what to do?

When I stop to think about it, it feels completely unnatural for someone else to tell me how and when to work, sleep, eat, etc. I understand the need to be in an office during certain hours, especially in certain industries, but I need more flexibility in my life in that regard.

Needing: To sleep in. I’m hoping that tomorrow morning I can sleep in until my body decides it’s time to wake up. Not until the animals decide they are hungry, or my mind decides to wake up even though my body still wants to sleep. I’ve been sleeping fairly well at night lately, but come morning, my eyes still yearn to stay closed. I want to wake up feeling refreshed for once!

On the hunt for: My garter, cake servers, and possibly champagne flutes. Etsy is wonderful, and completely overwhelming!

Dreading: Getting a cavity filled next month. Do I have to? 😦

Looking forward to: Spring! My favorite season (tied with Fall) is on it’s way! Going outside during the early morning in spring might be one of the best feelings ever. It smells like dew and grass, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, but the air is just crisp enough that you need a light jacket, the sky is clear — I smile just thinking about those mornings! 🙂

I’ve noticed that writing is a lot like working out, it takes a lot of motivation to get you to do it, but once you do, you never regret it, and it might just make you do it even more! Thanks for reading!

Call for Proofeaders!

Good morning!

I need some grammar nazis to volunteer to proofread my second children’s book so that I can send it to publishers. I’ve had a few takers on Facebook and sent them the manuscript, but getting back to me has been a bit of a problem, and since they are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, for free, I can’t complain! I’m thankful for any help I can get.

If anyone would be interested in proofreading my children’s book manuscript, please let me know and we will work out the details!

 

Thanks so much!

-M

Student Loan Woes

Confessions of a 20-something

I need to take a minute to talk about student loans.

Since senior year of college, they have been a dark cloud looming over me. I have about $95,000 worth of debt for getting my degree. I take full responsibility for this. I signed up for college, knowing that I couldn’t afford to pay for it. I decided to go to a four-year, state university. I signed up for loans, knowing that I would have to pay them back after graduation. I chose a degree that is severely devalued in today’s world. (That’s a blog post for another day). I know that I put myself in this situation.

However, I recently realized that because my payments are so low, due to my income based repayment plan (IBR) that Obama put into place, I am only paying off the interest on my loans. Mind you, interest is still accruing every, single…

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Currently… January

ReadingThe Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses. The title caught my eye, but in an effort to save money, I actually went to my local library instead of bookstore! I forgot how great libraries are. My reading list increased after visiting, but at least I know I can get those books for free! I have only read chapter one as of today, but so far so good!

Watching: This is Us is back!! Alex and I are watching Band of Brothers, and I think when I finish re-watching Drop Dead Diva, I will rewatch Sex and the City as well.

Planning: My wedding, which is in…. 214 days! Which is 30 weeks! Which is 7 months and two days! We just booked our Hawaiian honeymoon, bridesmaid dress shopping is this weekend, and cake tasting is the next two Saturdays of this month!

Writing: *crickets* because I suck. 😦

Obsessed with: Getting our new puppy and my cat to get along! Alex and I found a one year old Golden Retriever rescue. So many things had to go right for us to adopt this guy, and everything did. It was meant to be! Here is his before and after adoption photo. It was seriously less than two hours after adoption and his demeanor changed so much! Welcome home, Peyton! (Yes, like Peyton Manning!)

img_2599

Thinking about: Taking a break from the internet. I have taken social media breaks before, and they can be quite refreshing. But I am thinking about taking an internet break, (other than emails). My friend and I were talking about just how reliant we really are on the internet. Don’t know how to change a tire? Google it. Want to know what illness you’re suffering from? Google it. What’s that recipe for that chicken you like? Google it! What did our grandparents think of their stomachache while lying in bed at night? How did they ever figure out how to make food delicious without Pinterest?? We’re just really spoiled with the internet and I’m thinking about taking a break. After I look up dog training articles of course! 🙂

Feeling: Slightly overwhelmed, and hungry.

Craving: Guacamole 🙂

Needing: My animals to be friends!

Wanting: A new job. I’ve been bored here for months now and have not even used that time to be creative. I have no flexibility, but do have money to keep a roof over my head, and get a new pet.

Well, thanks for reading everyone! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments!

-M

Wave of Doubt

Do you ever ask yourself, “What’s the point?”

I pose this question to artists in generally, and writers specifically.

We’re constantly reminded how hard it is to “make it” and redefining what it even means to “make it” and lately, it has exhausted me.

I’ve been uninspired, unproductive, and unsure.

And my writing has been even worse.

I can come up with plenty of excuses as to why I feel all those things. “It’s the holidays.” “I’m planning a wedding.” “It’s just the industry I’m in.” “It’s Jimmy Fallon/Isla Fisher/Chelsea Clinton’s fault.” (What do those three have in common that could possibly relate to my writing – children’s books and the fame that got them published.)  But these words won’t write themselves, and I have no one else to blame for that.

Even when I say that to myself and admit that I have no good reason to stop writing, then that voice is in my head that asks, “But what’s the point? You’ve been ‘a blogger’ for 5 years now and what’s come of it? When is enough enough?” It’s like taking a test like the MCAT or LSAT. After so many attempts, you might want to reevaluate. Is that how it works for creatives too?

Even after I’ve changed what my notion of “making it” means to a writer, and to me, I wonder, what’s the point? Why write this blog? Why do you think your words are more important than anyone else’s? What do I have to say that’s more interesting than the next struggling writer with an English degree? Or the next struggling writer without an English degree? Is the person who gets paid to write better off than me? Why can’t I just be happy with where I am in this very moment? Why can’t I just be content with the loyal group of readers that I have? What if Emily Dickinson concerned herself with getting published?

So my fellow creatives, and my dear readers, I can’t be alone in these thoughts, right? How do you get over your own fear and doubts and just keep going? 

 

A Few of my Favorite Things…

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….

Well, not quite. But I do love the holidays, and have quite a few favorite things when it comes to Christmas. As I’ve gotten older, and now that I’m engaged and have two families to share the holidays with, Christmas has gotten complicated, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the stress of logistics and money. Whenever I need a little Christmas spirit, I go to the mall, it’s decorated beautifully, it’s bustling with people, and it smells like cinnamon. As odd as it may seem, it’s a reminder to me to slow down and enjoy the season that only comes around once a year. If I can’t go to the mall, I light my Pine scented candle and wrap presents, or watch a Christmas movie, and I think back on all my great holiday memories I’ve had over the years. So while someday I might do a list of my favorite things in general, today I’m giving you a list of my favorite Christmas things!

Food: Homemade fudge! On the actual day, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and stuffing with dinner.

Song: The Christmas Song (Chesnuts Roasting) by Nat King Cole, or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra. A less traditional favorite is It Must’ve Been Old Santa by Harry Connick, Jr.

Movie: Home Alone

Tradition: Every Christmas Eve my dad reads Twas the Night Before Christmas to my sisters and I. We all pile onto the couch and listen as he adds his own personal touches to the story, “While visions of Starbucks danced in their heads…” (who wants a sugarplum anyways??) It’s been a tradition since we were kids and for the few minutes that he is reading the story, we’re not fighting, or stressed, or thinking about presents, we’re just a family, listening to a story. Below is one of the oldest pictures I can find and the latest picture of this tradition.

BeFunky Collage

These are just my favorite things to remind me enjoy this season and stop and smell the pine needles every now and then. Maybe you need a little reminder too.

Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . .means a little bit more!

I wake up to the beeping of my alarm. 7:00 a.m. I look outside and notice that the sun is just starting to rise, painting the sky periwinkle and orange. No time to waste today. I walk next door and wake up my sister, “It’s Christmas, time to get up!” She wakes up instantly and we go run into mom and dad’s room, jump on their bed, and yell “It’s Christmas, time to wake up!”

Dad says we have to wait for our other sister, and for coffee to brew. We sit at the top of the stairs in pajamas and curlers waiting impatiently to see what Santa has brought us. Our older sister’s bedroom is in the basement, so we can’t go wake her up ourselves without peeking at our own presents.  But soon enough the three of us are waiting together, talking about what we hope Santa brought us this year.  The coffee is brewing, filling the house with the warm, familiar aroma. Mom’s tea kettle is steaming and boiling. The twinkling of the Christmas tree lights cast reflections on the walls, but we can’t do anything until we hear the music, and get Dad’s “okay.”

“Can we come out yet?” one of us yells.

“Almost!” Mom says.

Then we hear Nat King Cole’s velvety croon, “The first noel…” We brace ourselves like it’s a race to the stockings.

“Okay!” Dad says.

And we’re off! Down the stairs we run and quickly turn the corner to see the wonderland.

The two Christmas presents that I most vividly remember receiving are a doll and my violin. I got the doll when I was about 4 or 5 and named her Kelly. I had very badly wanted an American Girl doll, but my parents just couldn’t afford it. This doll looked like me, with golden blonde hair, had the tiniest blush of pink on her cheeks, and had eyes that open and closed, so I was hooked. It was my favorite doll of all time; so much so that if I started to love another doll more than Kelly, that other doll would be stripped and banished to the basement, and Kelly got all the clothes. I still have Kelly, and though her hair looks more like dreadlocks now, and she has ripped so that she has to wear permanent underwear, and her face may be dirtier than on that Christmas morning, she is still one of my most memorable toys.

The year I got my violin I was in 3rd grade. I had been begging my parents for a violin because I wanted to be a world famous violinist when I grew up. I still remember turning the corner downstairs and seeing the case open to show a beautiful, shiny violin. I played for about 5 years before I quit in high school. (My excuse was the music program wasn’t very good, but now I wish I would have kept playing).

So if I’ve had 24 Christmases in my life, why is it I only remember the presents of two? Because as fantastic and special as those two gifts may be, that’s really not what Christmas is all about. For my family, every Christmas had a few things in common, family and tradition.

Once we looked through all our Santa presents, it was time for breakfast. We would have a cherry pastry braid, cinnamon rolls, coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Then we all sat around the living room while Dad passed out presents to each of us, oohing and aahing at each other’s gifts. There were no cell phones to distract our attention, if the TV was on it was only playing music. To this day, I don’t think we are on our phones much on Christmas morning. After the presents, Mom and Dad would start preparing the turkey and stuffing. Then the house was filled with the smell of celery and onions sauteing in butter and toast for the stuffing. Somtimes we would help them tear the toast and some years we made so much that Dad had to use a laundry bucket as a mixing bowl. Christmas is one day that only brings happy memories. Sure there are a few years where that day was better or worse than the year before, but overall, everyone is just happy and together.

Of course, as time goes on and people get married, have kids of their own, move away, etc. the holidays can get complicated. The pressure is on to make everything perfect, and when it inevitably fails to be perfect in every single way, sometimes people are disappointed, but I would like to think that when Christmas morning rolls around, all of that can be forgotten and we can just be happy and together.

Trying to determine holiday plans once you’re engaged to an equally family oriented person can be tricky. But when I stop to think about it, we’re both so lucky to have such amazing memories and traditions that we refuse to give up. We’re lucky that we’re both so close to our families that we want to spend more time instead of less with them. And we’re lucky that we have families that are understanding enough to know that things change, but that change isn’t always a bad thing. Change just means that life is still going on. The best traditions will stand the test of time, and memories will be made regardless of where you spend Christmas morning. This year, my dad will pass out presents to Alex and I in the evening, rather than in the morning. It will be different, but the meaning will stay the same. And in a few years, our Christmas will look different again, as we have children of our own and make new traditions and memories for them, but again, the meaning will stay the same.

For me, family is the most important part of Christmas, and I’d give up even my most cherished presents to continue making those happy memories.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” – Bob Hope

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” — Burton Hills

Currently…. December

Reading: The Sister Season by Jennifer Scott. So I don’t normally start a new book until I finish the last one, but I wasn’t getting into The Winter Wedding Plan like I had hoped, and The Sister Season has been on my list for awhile. It also takes place around Christmas and happens to be about three sisters, so I decided to try that one instead. It is turning out to be a much darker story than I was expecting, but it’s so juicy that I just want to keep reading it!

Watching: Drop Dead Diva – again. This show is just fun and since I’ve already seen the full series once before, I don’t feel like I have to watch every single second of it to keep up.

Planning: Christmas shopping, and the wedding. Tuxedos are chosen! But, let’s not get me started on the florists right now. 😐

Writing: Christmas stories and traditions. Stay tuned 🙂

Obsessed with: Christmas! AND Pinterest sections! I have said that they needed to implement sub-boards, or sections, on Pinterest for quite some time now so when I found out about it, I was pumped, and my Wedding board has never been so organized!

Needing: a memory foam pillow, so my neck doesn’t hurt all the time.

Wanting: a day of baking!

Looking forward to: next week I get Thursday and Friday off work, then we’re closed the following Monday and Tuesday for Christmas, so I will have a wonderful little 6-day vacation 🙂

Thanks for reading!

 

-M

 

Sunday Short Stories: A Hero Complex

                I didn’t expect to see her, not on this night, not at this party. She normally went out of her way to avoid parties. When we first met she said, “Why doesn’t anyone try to pick me up at a bookstore? ‘Can I buy you a book?’ ‘I see you’re into fiction, have you read Tom Clancy’s latest?’ I’d be much more impressed and you would learn a lot more about me than ‘Can I buy you a drink?’” She said that in response to my asking, “Can I buy you a drink?” So to see her at a party was certainly a surprise.

I saw Kate from across the room. She had a red cup in her hand – no doubt filled with water – and was pretending to be interested in whatever story the guy in front of her was telling. I looked around trying to spot who she was with, when I saw her sister, Lila, just within eyeshot of Kate. Lila and I never got along. It wasn’t for lack of trying, believe me I tried and I tried, but Lila just hated me, and I never knew why, even at the end.

I try to make my way over to Kate when Lila comes running to her, flailing around, drunkenly yelling, “Sister!” I quickly turn around and pretend to be on my phone. When I hear Kate’s voice, I’m right back in the past.

“Hey Lila, are you ready to go?”

“Um no! But you can go home, I’m going to stay with my new friend Danny!” she says as she drags a tall man over towards her sister.

“Does Danny have a last name?” Kate asked. I can’t help but chuckle as I realize that not much has changed in that regard.

“Ugh! Kate! Why do you always do this?!” Lila asked.

“I just think it completes the name. And besides, you know my rule.” She tried to whisper, but the party was loud and Lila was barely listening as it was.

“Come on sis, let her go.” I heard Danny say. Things were going downhill fast. Kate can handle these things for a little while, and then she just looks cool, but starts to lose her nerve on the inside.

“I’m sorry, Danny, is it? First of all, I’m not your sis. Second of all, why should I let her go with you? You barely know each other, obviously, since apparently you don’t even have a last name.”

“Come on Lila, let’s go.” She grabbed her arm, and Lila pulled back, just in time for Danny to grab her other arm.

“You’re not her mommy, if she wants to come home with me, she can.” He said.

“So I assume you’re going to hold her hair back when she’s puking in half an hour? Or make sure she’s drinking plenty of water the rest of the night? And I’m sure you’ll make sure she gets to her apartment okay in the morning? Oh wait, you don’t even know where she lives. I’ll take it from here Dan.”

Danny tightened his grip around Lila’s arm enough for Lila to say, “Actually I forgot, I do have this thing tomorrow, so I probably should go with her.”

“Really? You think that you can just talk to me, dance with me, lead me on all night and then go home with your bitchy sister? Oh no you’re coming with me.”

Some may say, that I have a hero complex, others may just say I have a soft spot for Kate, but whatever the case may be, this had gone on long enough.

“Lila! Kate! I’m so glad I found you! Mom’s been trying to call you. Grandma is in the hospital, she’s not doing well and we need to get over there quickly!”

I could see Lila’s internal struggle. She obviously didn’t like that I was there, getting involved in their battle, but she didn’t want to be in Danny’s grip anymore so she kept her mouth shut.

“Oh my God.” Kate said. She clearly didn’t expect to see me here tonight either. “Um. Grandma. Right. Oh wow, she’s not doing well? Well then yeah, Lila we have to get going!”

“Who’s this?” Danny asked, clearly agitated. “You think that just because some dude comes in and tells some lame story about your grandma, I’m going to just back down? Well he’s going to have to go through me first.”

“I’m really close to my grandma.” Lila said, trying to deescalate the situation, but was too drunk to help substantially.

At that, Danny forced Lila to the chair next to them, and stepped up to me. Kate ran over to her sister and sat with her, then just looked at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Her eyes were scared, surprised, confused, and maybe a little bit relieved?

“Danny, you don’t want to fight me. Now that the girls are good to go, I’ll make sure they get to their homes okay, and you can go flirt with some other girl. Or better yet, you could go home too. Or go to a well-lit bar to do your flirting.”

“Oh yeah pretty boy?” he was rolling his sleeves up. That’s the thing, when drunk people try to fight sober people, it’s already not fair, but to try and fight me, well that just wasn’t a good call to ever make.

Before he could even bring his arm back from behind him, I broke his nose with one punch – something I learned long before combat training.

“Goodnight Danny.” I motioned to Kate to get out of here, as I was leading them to the door, Danny was back at me and even angrier.

“Come back here you piece of shit!” I kept walking and then felt him grab my shoulder to turn me around.

“I didn’t want to do this Danny!” I said before I knocked him out.

I followed the girls outside, and helped Kate get Lila in the car.

“Thanks DREWL!” Lila said from the passenger seat.

“Sure thing Lila. Drink some water.” I said as I closed the door.

“Thanks a lot Drew. That was really nice of you.” Kate said before walking around to the other side of the car.

“You know I’d do that for you anytime.” I said.

“Drew, just so you know, you may have coincidentally been in the right place at the right time, with your superhero complex tonight, but this doesn’t change things with us. I appreciate what you did. Tonight. But you and I are still ancient history.” She slammed the car door shut.

“You and I.” Those words in her voice, they gave me hope to this day. I knew I would win her back. Maybe not tonight, but I would win her back some day.