Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homeschool Readiness

We're starting school next week.

The kids are not exactly pumped about this. Quite frankly, neither am I. I want summer to last another, oh, 15 years or so. But that's just me. I'm a summer addict.

Truthfully, I'm always excited to learn, and I learn as the kids do. We explore science and history together (this year we start with the Byzantine Empire and should make it through the Middle Ages). We also do group art projects for which I found a fun new book that explores 2 dimensional art media through a series of projects. Last year we explored drawing, paying attention to shape and line, paying attention to light and shadow. Now we'll have fun learning about art supplies and their uses--paint and crayons, pastels and papers, pencils and ink pens.

Monday I put our makeshift schoolroom together. We live in a very small house--only 1250 square feet. To give you some perspective: The house is so small there isn't room for a separate laundry room. The washer and dryer are in the bathroom; the bedrooms are so small there isn't enough room for both a queen sized bed and a dresser in the master bedroom. The dresser is in the family room with the TV on top of it. And it just so happens that the family room has to double as the schoolroom.

Now I'm a person who tends to like to shake things up once in a while. I want more than anything to do something different with the family room/schoolroom. I usually want this every year.

The last major change was purchasing some tables which made it possible to move the schoolroom into the larger family room. Before, we were using the kitchen for double duty, storing crates of school stuff under the kitchen benches and pulling out what we needed as we needed it. Ugh. We had to clean up school to make lunch, then get it all out again. On top of that some of our school supplies were getting damaged by kitchen spills.

So I made scale drawings of the family/school room and the furniture and spent hours arranging and rearranging--all to no avail. It's pretty much exactly the way we've had it for a couple of years now.

But I really needed something to be different.

In the end, all I could manage was turning one of the tables in a different direction, but it's a change.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rejections and Revisions and Editing

Got a "not quite what I'm looking for but hope you will submit again," from Ann VanderMeer at Weird Tales on "Jack of Stones." Sigh. At 9300 words, "Jack" is a hard one to find a market for.

I also got a request for a revision from Haruah: Breath of Heaven on "Hummingbird." I did the revisions and sent it back toot-sweet.

This week I read a whole ton of slush--53 stories. 13 of those I sent on to my slush team, which is a bit over my 15-20% target. Part of that is that Jake tends to like sending Pro submissions on through to the slush team, passable or not, just to see what they have to say. I had quite a few pro submissions this week, which fluffed my numbers some.

I think the thing that surprises me the most about reading 'unfiltered' slush (ie. slush that comes right out of the proverbial mailroom) is how little of it is just plain not-ready-for-publication awful. All these years I have submitted with the expectation that my stories are within the top 90% or so simply because my grammar and spelling are correct, that I've copy-edited carefully, that I write coherent sentences, etc. From what I'm seeing, that number is closer to 20%. Of the remainder, most of the stories I'm rejecting suffer from deficient story construction and characterization. They simply leave me not caring very much about what happens in the story.

Make me care, people. Make me care.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Barnes & Noble, Here I Come!

So now I have $55 to spend at B&N.

My son has been all day at band camp this whole week and my daughter has been taking a veg week before school starts, but one of my son's lawn-mowing customers still needed his lawn done, so I did it.

I need the exercise. Believe me. Hubby and I usually jog, but band camp has thrown a wrench in our usual schedule, so we haven't gone running at all this week. So I mowed and earned $15. That plus my $40 gift certificate from the wonderful and crazy ladies who helped me organize and run Young Women's Camp in July.

So what should I buy?

Bookstores and office supply stores are two of my favorite places, but I can spend hours searching and yearning and second-guessing and changing my mind and searching for bargains--and $55 can go FAST in a bookstore. I'm also a bit odd in that I like to make sure I'm buying something that I'll be happy with forever. So my most recent bookstore purchases--aside from schoolbooks for the kids--have been classics, collections, some of my favorite books that I like to read again and again (that's a VERY short list, by the way), and nonfiction books about cool and interesting subjects.

I could use new copies of Dandelion Wine and Enchanted. Both are pretty hashed. I also wouldn't mind buying a few more Patricia McKillip books. One thing I do NOT want to do is buy books for anyone but me. Deservedly selfish of me, I think.

At any rate, I'll probably end up taking an afternoon and driving there myself so I don't have kids nagging at me to just hurry up and pick something and let's GO!

Watch out, B&N. I'll be there soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Team Leader: ME!

I got a promotion! If you can call it that. More a job change made because I was able and willing. But then, isn't that why most promotions are made?

Jake Frievald at Flash Fiction Online is restructuring his editorial board. With the growth of the magazine and the steady increase in submissions, as well as changes in Jake's time constraints, he is losing ground on time to handle slush the way he has been.

So now I'm to be an editorial team leader--a first-line slush reader who will pull the the top 10 to 20 % of the slush for team reading and send out rejection notices for the rest. Those that pass muster with the team go back to a winnowing phase in which the whole editorial board discusses and votes on favorites, then Jake makes the final picks.

I'm very excited about it, and looking forward to working with my team.

Yay, Team!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What to Read

The trouble with studying the craft of writing is that you inevitable get to the point that you can see all the flaws in the writing of others.

That's not such a bad thing when you're an editor or a critiquer. You want to point out the flaws that you see to help that writer improve.

But when you're looking for a good book to read, it can be a pain.

There's been a lot of hubbub lately over Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series. Dozens of people have told me that I just HAVE to read them, that they're SO GOOD! But none of those people are writers. I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to actually browse through on of her books. I just opened it, randomly glanced, and read the first line my eye fell on.

I have to say, it was one of the worst lines of writing I had ever read.

To be fair, I haven't even attempted to read any of the books further than that, so I can't give them a fair shake at a review of any kind, but that one sentence put a bad taste in my mouth because it sent my internal editor into a frenzy. One day I still may read the books. We'll see.

As another example, I read the first four Harry Potter books before I began my serious study of the writing craft. I very much enjoyed them all. After that I could hardly stomach them. I'm not absolutely positive that the change was in me. I think the first four books had much stronger storylines than the last three, and I don't think my opinion there would have changed. Even us writers tend to forgive a lot of craft weaknesses when the story is brilliantly engaging. But Rowling's writing foibles in the later books stood out to me in a way they never would have before.

Now, looking for a book to read is so much more of a crapshoot than it ever was before--and before it was a pretty high-stakes crapshoot.

So, here I sit with $40 to spend at Barnes & Nobles and no idea how to spend it. Anybody want to help?

What is your favorite book of all time, or a book that you absolutely loved?

I'm looking for a book that leaves the reader if not uplifted then changed, effected. I want a story with heart, with unforgettable characters.

I like most genres, but tend to gravitate toward urban fantasy, slipstream, historical fiction. I like books with excellent quality writing, leaning more toward the literary in nature. I also tend toward authors; ie. I find an author whose work I really like and I read everything of his/hers I can get my hands on.

To give you an idea, my favorite author of all time is Ray Bradbury, mostly for his writing style. I also enjoy the way Orson Scott Card makes his characters come alive in the heart and mind of his reader and the way Neil Gaiman tells an engaging and entertaining story.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite recent authors doesn't have a book out yet--brand spankin' new Campbell Award for Best New Writer winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Come on Mary! Get on the stick! ;-)