Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breaking through Stereotypes and Labeling

As a writer, I try to break through stereotypes and labels. I don't want to write about cookie cutter people because the world is filled with snowflakes of people. We're individuals. Sure, we might look for like minded people to play with, but life is so much more interesting when we step out of our comfort zones and get to know people from all walks of life. I don't lump people into a box and say that is who they are, I try to get to know them based on their character, their ideas, their passions.

That is how I've raised my daughter. Yesterday she came home with a taste of being labeled and she was angry. Very angry. She is a theater/drama student. She loves performing and has participated in many musicals, plays, Improvs and choir performances. Performing is as natural to her as writing is to me. She eats, lives, breathes theater and the arts. Her peers come from all walks of life and are also very talented individuals. Yet, the 2011 Yearbook treated them as a stereotypical bunch of shy, scared kids and they had to share a page with the choir kids.

Homecoming got 2 or 3 spreads. Sports? Don't get me started on the bias of PRO sports in this area. And the worst part? She felt like they were portrayed as geeks and losers, not winners. And my kid is no loser. She is in the top 50 of her 800 2012 class. She is not afraid to embrace the challenge and the thrill waiting for her after she graduates. She's is one of tomorrow's leaders. So are many of her peers.

I was offended. As was her father. The sports, homecoming, snow days received better attention. I thought long and hard about it, discussed the situation with my daughter, and finally decided to contact the yearbook teacher about this inadequate coverage. Below is an edited version of my letter.

September 28, 2011

Dear XX:

My daughter is a XX High School Theater Advanced Production student. She is part of an outstanding group of approximately 300 young people at XX High School who are as dedicated to honing their craft on the stage as a football player is dedicated to winning the Homecoming game. However, unlike an athlete at XX HS, her theater and choir groups were given very little space in the 2011 Yearbook.

This lack of attention disappointed us, but we were more offended by the journalist’s portrayal of this diverse, multi-talented squad of actors and singers. She relied on stereotypes to describe the group by using words like “shy, crawling out of their comfort zones, breaking out of their shells” with an emphasis on overcoming “stage fright.” She also didn’t go out of her own “comfort zone” to discover the wide variety of students involved in the technical aspects of theater or the top student acting body in Mr. XX's Advanced Theater Production class.

Ms. XX, as a theater parent I can assure that I haven’t met many shy, retiring, scared kids who are only able to crawl out of their shells through theater arts. Just as a football player must overcome game day jitters, an actor or singer has to fight nerves to play a role on stage or sing a solo. I’m positive football players don’t want to be thought of as Jocks with no brains as is so often portrayed in the movies. I know my outgoing, bright and talented daughter doesn’t want to be labeled as a shy kid with theater as her only refuge.

Nor do her peers.

We’d like to believe the journalist did not intend to offend the theater/choir students with her portrayal. We know the Yearbook staff can do a better job for this diverse, talented class. In 2010, the choir and theater departments received individual spreads. In addition, the 2010 Yearbook did not use stereotypes to write the spreads. That journalist had an intimate understanding about the theater/choir programs because she participated in them.

Ms. XX, we sincerely hope that the 2012 Class of Theater and Choir students receive individual, honest, and fair spreads that showcase their diversity, talents and dedication to honing their craft and giving winning performances.

Have you ever had to break through a stereotype or a label? How did the label make you feel? What would you say to a person who labeled your child, your child's peers negatively?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen's Mother

I'm confessing my motherhood sins over at the Petit Fours & Hot Tamales today. Come read all about it here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Contests and Deadlines Oh My!

I love writing contests. They force me to sit in the chair and get the job done. I've entered two different contests to push my *shiny* in front of the computer and get my manuscripts polished.

Four manuscripts are entered in the prestigious Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest. I'm polishing two of them and fine tuning the other two. I entered the Linda Howard Award of Excellence because Southern Magic is committed to excellence in first round and final round judging. I expect solid feedback and fairness from this contest that I can use to fine tune my WIPs for future submissions. I believe there is still time to enter the contest. If you're on the fence or worried about the costs, offer to judge the contest and get a $5 discount on your entry!!

I'm also officially entered in the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest. I haven't submitted my entry because I'm still polishing my chapter, but I've got the blurbs ready and a short one posted on the Mills & Boon Website. I'm super excited about the story. Last year I entered the contest with another story and I had so much fun. Even though I didn't win the Mills & Boon contest in 2010, I ended up writing a brand new story and it's placed 2nd in the 2011 FAB FIVE contest and has been requested. So I feel like I won by entering the contest.

This is why I enter contests folks. Yes, it's great to win or to final, but the reason I enter is to discover a new story, give myself deadlines, force myself to sit in the chair and see if my new ideas are going in the right direction.

But I am also careful about which contests I enter. There are some that don't match my writing style. Others may not have judges in the final round who fit my targeted line. Or I may have had a bad experience with the contest and have decided to put my money somewhere else. I usually enter 5-6 contests a year. I keep track of the finals/wins/placing and whether or not the final judge requested my material as a result of the contest. My spreadsheet helps me determine where to put my contest money.

For fun I am going to keep you posted on the Mills & Boon contest with little additional blurbs and bits of the story.

Here is my Mills & Boon short blurb for THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION:

Maverick Zach Tanner returns home to rebuild his dying friend’s resort, but he doesn't count on the woman he once loved to handle the construction contract. Now he's determined to satisfy his craving for Kennedy Gibson without losing his heart.

Here is my longer version which gives a bigger picture about the story:

Corporate Maverick Zach Tanner returns to North Carolina to rebuild his dying friend’s resort. He’s got the money, the power and the will to transform Sweetbriar Springs into a premier spa for the glamorous, but he doesn’t count on the woman he once loved and lost to handle the construction contract. 

Construction company owner Kennedy Gibson is eager to bring her best friend’s last wish to life, but when she realizes Zach is her new boss she’s terrified he’ll learn the truth about their breakup. She denies the attraction sizzling between them and works with the one man she vowed never to hurt again. 

Zach thought he’d buried his desire for Kennedy five years ago, but he’s still drawn to her. He’s determined to seduce her and satisfy his craving for her until the project is completed to get Kennedy out of his system. 

Kennedy yields to Zach but protects her heart. When their friend dies, the barriers to their emotional union drop and they turn to each other for comfort. But Kennedy’s secret threatens to destroy their red hot reunion. Only the power of love can heal the wounds of their past and give them the future they deserve. 

I love the longer version, but the trick to writing and submitting is to learn how to carve away the words to get to the heart of the story. I'll use both these versions to create different elements for my new story. I can build a synopsis out of version 2. I can build a query letter out of the 1st and 2nd versions. I can build a story out of a sentence if necessary.

This is why I write. I write to discover stories about two lost people who find each other and discover home. Love matters. Romance isn't dead. And I love Romance!

Do you enter contests? If not, what's holding you back? Tell me why you love or don't love contests.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writers, Artists, & Doctors

Well I missed Monday and I'm sorry. Life is just too insane right now. Between revisions, the teen, the house, the revisions, the craft, the .... the .... well, that's just how it is this week. I have to make my writing and my family life a priority, but I don't want to miss out on my cyber world either.

So hi!!

On Saturday I went to a wonderful all day workshop hosted by the Heart of Dixie at the Huntsville Library. I learned how to dress, how to behave, how to market, how to write a review and how to be excited about this industry from two fabulous editors from Romantic Times Magazine. This is an industry magazine that spotlights published authors and gives awesome book reviews in all sub-genres of the romance writing world.

Many thanks to Morgan Doremus and Stephanie Klose for taking the time to teach us this Saturday. I hope to see them again at an RT Convention when I am a published author. Additional thanks to Morgan for taking so many headshots of all the published and unpublished authors after the workshop. She was so kind and very enthusiastic. I felt like a published Mills & Boon author when she showed me the digital shot she thought was the best.

On Sunday I went to see the wonderful Cirque du Soleil show Dralion with my darling teen. Wow!!! Amazing show. We had seats center stage, but super high. We had a great view of the entire ground stage and the aerial stage. These performers are all artists with amazing strength, grace, humor, and agility. I highly recommend this show!! When it was over, we turned to each other and said, "What? It's over?" We were mesmerized by the constant feats of agility and theatrics. Truly, the eyes were never bored.

Monday arrived and with it the revisions. Sigh. This book is causing me all kinds of problems. But they are the good kind. I've just passed the "I'm a hack" stage and into the "if I work at it I might get a decent bit of prose written." Meanwhile, I've entered 4 manuscripts in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest and I'm prepping a chapter for the Mills & Boon New Voices contest. I love to add tension to my writing life, really. I do.

Today I'm off to the allergy doctor to get all kinds of testing done. I'm a little nervous, but also very excited to find out what else is causing me issues. I suffer from shellfish and insect allergies. I hate the food allergy worse than the bug allergy. I have found it difficult to eat outside of the home and there is a stigma attached to food allergies. I don't think people take food allergies seriously. And I've had to endure many unappetizing meals in restaurants I didn't want to eat in because they didn't properly separate shellfish from the other foods just so my companions could eat what THEY wanted to eat. My nervousness comes from the fear of the itchiness. I instantly go into high alert whenever I suspect an insect bite or reaction to food. My adrenaline pumps like mad, my fight and flight system kicks into high gear, and I panic. I have to talk myself out of reacting, calm myself down with deep breaths, and tell myself I'll be okay. Yes, I have an epi pen and Benadryl. So I know I can save myself if necessary.

But I am still very afraid.

After the allergy tests, I am heading home to tackle the dreaded revisions again. They take top priority after the kid and the king of the house. So I'll be backing off the blogging a bit. Popping in once a week to say hi and to share my life with you. Maybe more than once if I get some spare time.

How was your weekend? What do you do in your spare time? And do you have allergies, too? Share with me and let's chat.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rainy Days, Reviews & Revisions

I'm in full on revision mode. This book was a lot of fun to write and finish, but now the real work begins. Everyone has their own process and mine is that I have to write the story to figure out the story. Weird, I know, but I've learned to embrace this process and own it. I am writing cleaner first draft now, but much of what I throw down on the page is like an outline with complete sentences. Revision is taking the big picture, cracking it apart, restructuring pieces, omitting pieces, and building new pieces to create a stronger picture.

Revision is hard work. And it doesn't brook interruptions well. I'm eager to get the first half of the story nailed down. That means a little lighter blogging schedule and whole lot more writing real stories.

Meanwhile, life is busy. And it's rainy. We've had three days of rain and colder weather blow through Northern Alabama. This means football season, dressing in fun clothes, and tucking under blankets to read. I also kept up with the other blogs I'm contributing to during this month.

You can read about my adventures with going blonde on the Petit Fours & Hot Tamales Blog here. And if you want to know my take on suffering and how to respond to it, head over to the Romance Magicians and read about it here. Stay and play awhile. My sister bloggers have great blogs, too.

Monday was a super rainy and blustery day. The teen and I stayed home and read all day. I read Kerrelyn Sparks THE VAMPIRE AND THE VIRGIN from start to finish. It was a great, fun read and just the pick up I needed. I think you'll enjoy her books and her fun family of Vampires. Check her website out here. Right now I am reading Lexi George's book DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE. Her characters are colorful, well-drawn out, and down right sizzling. Great book and great debut author. You can read about Lexi George's first time publication adventures on my Celebration blog here.

This week I have not written as much as I would like, but I have taken care of a teen, run the household by myself, taken the car into the dealership to replace the battery at Woody Andersen Ford, and continued taking care of myself. I've also emailed good friends, talked to my darling hubby via Skype and caught up with my dear sister friend via Skype as well. The time differences mean stopping my writing to talk, but sometimes real people are more important than fictional people.

I'm taking a break till next week Monday so I can get my revisions rolling. Plus I have a darling husband to welcome home after a long business trip so I'll want to spend time with him, too. So I'll see you next week.

Have a great writing week!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

HEART OF DIXIE ONLINE WORKSHOP: Designed to Sell-How to Enhance Your Writing's Curb Appeal

The Heart of Dixie chapter of RWA presents the online workshop:

Designed to Sell: How to Enhance Your Writing’s Curb Appeal
Instructors:  The Grammar Divas
September 6-20, 2011
Cost: $20

Description: In today’s buyer’s market, anything you can do to enhance your manuscript’s appeal puts you one step ahead of everyone else trying to sell. By taking a look at your writing with a fresh eye, you’ll discover ways to make the most of your writing’s appearance, readability, and impact. The Grammar Divas share episodes of popular writing improvement shows such as Dream Words, This Old Sentence, Extreme Makeover: Paragraph Edition, Trading Spaces, Fun Shui, and Designed to Sell. You leave the workshop with decorating ideas, remodeling projects, and prose improvements that can make your manuscript appealing to a potential buyer… an editor!

Annie Oortman... Grammar wasn't Annie Oortman's first love (actually, it was a cute boy in her second-grade class named Henry Talley) or even her second (avoiding barn work). However, after getting an A for content but an F for readability on a third-grade book report, she learned having great ideas was one thing, communicating them well on paper another.
Annie became a disciple of the church of Proper Grammar and card-carrying member of The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar ( Nowadays, she diagrams sentences for fun (yes, for fun), corrects her children when they say "I did good on the test" (I did well.), and argues with fellow grammar devotees on the acceptability of ending a sentence with a preposition (don't do it).
BTW, Annie is hoping to see her name on the cover of a fiction novel soon... very soon. (And, if you’re wondering, Henry Talley never even noticed Annie as he had a mad crush on blonde-haired, blue-eyed Libby Boxler.)
Darlene Buchholz... Darlene fell in love in the first grade with a boy named Neil. He shared his crackers and milk at recess after someone took her snack and never got caught. She’s loved romance and intrigue ever since. By the third grade, she discovered Nancy Drew mysteries and developed a great passion for perky heroines who drove convertibles (proof they were in charge of their own lives). She wrote her own one-hundred-page mysteries, giving the heroine a much better hero than wimpy Ned Nickerson, who seemed more fashion accessory than hero. What woman wouldn’t prefer a cowboy or a cop named…well, Neil, of course? Darlene never thought of grammar as a challenge. It was, instead, a tool to help her express the ideas she felt passionate about. She served as a peer mentor in junior high and high school. Becoming a high school English teacher was a natural for Darlene. She loved sharing ideas expressed in great literature and exposition. Now, family raised, Darlene has decided to write stories again. She writes romantic suspense, and sometimes her heroines drive trucks rather than convertibles. Her heroes are still cowboys and cops. She hopes to publish soon.