Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lesson 119: A Public Confession

Like the blog title this week, Folks?  I am sure I just killed a couple of people with it.  If you live in the Foxwood subdivision, you may want to swing by my sister's house. I am sure she has passed out cold on the floor and Erik has the run of the place.  That could be dangerous.  If you are brainless enough to live in South Carolina (in July), Tracy Southern just got a case of the jitters after she read the title and screamed "Now What?"  She could use your help.  And if you happen to live between the towns of Harborcreek and North East, stay off the road because Tracy Northern is already in route at a high rate of speed with two cups of strong black coffee in her cup holders.  Sorry to disappoint; it's nothing THAT juicy.

I do have a confession to make though.  It's about my book.  My novel.  Mentioned in a few previous blog posts throughout the year.  It's done.  You knew that.  Now you have to help me figure out just what to do with it.  I'm like that last sign post on the video with all the arrows pointing in different directions. You can't see me, but I am actually standing beneath it scratching my head.  It's left me experiencing some Emotional Traffic,which happens to be the title to Tim McGraw's new album.  One of my new favorite songs from that newly released album is the music for my video.

Here are some updates.  I finished the book on September 6th, which is a young adult novel I titled The Key.   It is 33 chapters in length, approximate to that of JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer's Stone.  It is a sweet story, somewhat of a mystery, and set in my hometown of a Mayberry-like, great lakes region area.  It turned out to be above average, by my standards.  Good, not great.  Imperfect, yet perfectly flawed.  Eloise is content with her handiwork.

I had some copies printed and floated the story to about ten readers.  The only condition I gave them was that after reading it (and hi-lighting every typo), the volunteered editors needed to give me their honest feedback.  The responses from most everyone were favorable, which I expected because they were namely friends and family members.  I took their suggestions seriously, ruminated about them for a couple of months, made a few minor changes here and there, and so the book sits.

So now what?  I've had many more requests to read The Key as word got out about its completion.  The original readers are going to get to keep their draft copies, therefore I have no more to distribute.  The problem lies in the copying costs.  Just the dozen I made were a couple hundred dollars and I got a good deal. The copying costs for sporadic copies here and there would be too great for me to cover.

How about e-copies sent through the internet or for posting on this blog?  That would be efficient and eco-friendly.  Since our family gift was a Kindle Fire this Christmas, I see the way the population is moving with this book format.  I can't say that I like it.  I'll accept it as I did saying goodbye to the phone booth with the introduction of cell phones.  I'll accept that more books will one day be read with e-readers instead of on paper pages.  The e-format makes the most sense, yet without a copyright I fear that the potential for my baby to be cyber swiped would be a risk too great for me to take.

I looked into getting a copyright for it.  I can apply for my own through the Library of Congress and it is relatively and easy process and inexpensive.  However, once the work is copyrighted, it can no longer be entered into contests and is less likely to be picked up by a publisher.

Publisher?  Having one of those means that I would have to put my efforts into becoming published.  I am not sure that is a path I want to venture down.  It is so Un-Eloise if you know me.  Good writing then becomes a business with agents and contracts and book deals.  I looked into it once with my first book Misunderstood,  which will never be published because if it is I will not have a friend left in the world after it is read (it's the hardcore truth about autism).  You would be surprised at the cost a beginning author actually has to pony up for the first run at the market. It's more than my teacher budget can afford.

Plus, I am a teacher.  I am not a writer.  And you have my parents to thank for that.  I came home from college one weekend in the early 1990's to inform my parents that I had been under the tutelage of a very good Edinboro professor for three straight college writing courses.  During that third course in the spring of my sophomore year, he asked me to come to his office and wanted to suggest that perhaps I look into a career path change.  He thought I had enough natural story telling ability to be a writer.  In order to get to the level I needed to be to become a writer of any value, I would have to change my major from Education to English in order to pick up the needed language and writing classes to hone my craft.  It was a flattering day for me, and I promised the professor that I would take the time to seriously consider it.

I then did what any nineteen year old would do, went home to Mommy and Daddy to ask them for some advice.  Over a cup of coffee in the old red farmhouse kitchen, I rested my elbows on the sunny yellow counter tops and listened.  And listened.  And listened.  Being the daughter of many generations of working class people, in the end, the advice given boiled down to one simple sentence:  Get a real job, then you can write all you want.  

A real job meant teaching school.  A forty hour a week home with health benefits.  So, I took their advice and got myself a real job, fresh out of college, and went to work that following September.  Since then I've put almost eighteen years into the Pennsylvania Public School System and I can say that it's the best advice I've ever taken.  I love my profession and will stand in full support of what my colleagues and I do day in and day out.  We teach your children, do doubt, but also discipline them, keep them safe, stay current with ever changing technology, and incorporate the fast way in which children learn and receive information nowadays.  Children have become finicky learners and need some degree of "entertainment value" to every lesson. It isn't easy, but I (we) love it.  So thank you Mom & Dad.  You were right.  (Can you hear that?  That is the sound of my mother's printer humming to life so she can have a paper copy to hi-light and hang on her bedroom mirror.  You were right--isn't that one of life's most beautiful three word combos?).

And now at this point of my life, mid career, and not quite mid life (I'm living to be 100), I find myself doing just that.  I teach school 40 hours a week, and get to blog on the weekends.  A real job, plus a fun hobby that you all enjoy.  Because I have a Blogger account, I get frequent emails and paper mailings of writing contests and writing workshops.  I actually signed up for an online writing course last fall that I completed between the hours of 11:00 pm and 1:00 am most nights.  It was interesting if nothing else, and proved to me that creative writers are well, um, out kind of hovering out in space.  I wrote some things, but spent more time reading the submissions of others.  Most were about pebbles on the beach and unicorns and fairy dust and $%&*! (stuff), and that is so not Eloise.  I definitely needed a practical profession.

With my online course sign up, I got a free subscription to this writer's magazine, Writer's Digest.  I get it in the mail every couple of months and still get that same lift as when I found TEEN magazine in my parent's mailbox in the 1980's.  In it is practical advice for writers, contest notifications, and also information about Publishing Houses when they take open submissions for manuscripts.

I just read The Help and saw the movie this fall.  I keep calling myself Skeeter.  After all, on a humid day, my hair is kind of like hers.  I really felt like her when I saw a listing for an open submissions for Random House in New York City, one of the biggest publishing houses in the country.  The only type of manuscript they were taking had to fit the following criteria:

  • first time novelist
  • without an agent
  • genre:  young adult fiction
That meant:
  • me
  • me
  • me
I found this notification the first week of December and the due date was December 31st.  I tossed my Writer's Digest next to the bed and got right to work.  Talk about feeling just like Skeeter.  I pulled some late nights with the final edits and heavy doses of Ivory 2 Concealer hid the dark rings under my eyes.  I submitted it on December 17th and it is currently sitting on 9th and Broadway, probably in someones slush pile.

I know the history of my authors.  It was on Dr. Seuss's 51st attempt that finally gave him his shot for his first work, Mulberry Street.  Stephenie Meyer got 15 rejections for Twilight before someone took interest in her love story about vampires.  So on December 17th I sent it off with a kiss, knowing that The Key will most likely never get a second glance.  But there was a great sense of accomplishment sending it off, just the same.

It's now been six weeks since I tossed that Writer's Digest aside, and in my January bedroom clean out, I found it again.  "Huh, I guess I never finished this one," I thought as I smoothed the crinkled pages.  "Time for a break anyway."  I flopped down on my bed, propped a pillow under my knees and leaned back against the headboard to take in some good advice.  Ahhhh..........relaxation..............until:

The article past the notification section was:  TOP TEN MISTAKES NEW AUTHOR'S MAKE.  This should be interesting I thought.  I better get my hi-lighter.  #5 on the list was this:  
Make sure to include your contact information:  You'd be amazed how many people don't.  At a minimum, list your e-mail and phone number so that if we're excited about the submission (or if we have questions) we can ring you up.


 I hope they saved the original envelope.

I guess you would chalk this one up to live and learn.  Perhaps someone will find Eloise Hawking, but I don't think it will be this time.  I'm mature enough to know there will be others.  

This is about as good as the Christmas Eve disaster.  Word to the wise:  Do not shut the automatic garage door when the truck tail gate is in the way.  You'll see the picture on the movie.  FYI:  We are still finding shattered glass from the back truck cap window. 

These are the mistakes we make because we are human.  Human Error.  That has a nice ring to it because it let's you know that lots of other people do dumb things, too.  I guess that's why Tim McGraw sings the song Only Human on his new Emotional Traffic album.  

On the first run through of the album released this week, I liked six songs immediately, so I knew it was going to be a good one.  By the second time through it I liked all twelve.  One is Felt Good On My Lips, a previous hit, but the other eleven are new.  Only Human also houses the line for his album title.  I love it when a song title is not the name of the album.  I like the album titles to have an overall feel and have names of their own, apart from the songs.  You'll hear the line early in the song, listen for it.

Only Human also rides in the eleventh spot on the CD.  I like numbers and 33 is my favorite number, but I always liked number eleven, too.  My high school friend Vicky will remember this.  She always seemed to look at the clock at that time and it freaked her out.  Maybe it will take me 11 years for The Key to be read by the right eyes.  By the way technology is advancing, I am sure the words will be virtually projected right into the New York offices of Random House on 9th and Broadway by then.  The words can hover right in front of you--no need for paper or a computer screen.  

I'm willing to wait eleven years.  Are you?  Let me know if you have any great ideas, Readers.  I'd like to get my story out to you. It has a nice message that I feel should be shared.

Love, Eloise--Flawed Human Being

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