99 problems (in my submission pile)

amomnextdoor:

I’ll be pinning this list up on the bulletin board above my computer, and re-reading it every time I revise.

Originally posted on CK Webber Associates:

  1. Query is for a book in a genre I don’t represent.
  2. Query is for a vampire book. Come back in 3-5 years.
  3. Query letter is addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
  4. Query letter is addressed to “Dear Agent.” My name is not Agent.
  5. Query letter is not addressed at all. It just begins, “Hi!”
  6. Query letter is addressed to Kristin Nelson. (This is not a problem if you’re actually sending your query letter to Kristin Nelson.)
  7. Query letter is 2 pages long.
  8. Query opens with a rhetorical question.
  9. Query opens with a tagline.
  10. Author has spent too much time constructing a one-sentence hook and not enough building the rest of the query.
  11. By the end of the query, I’ve learned more about the author than I have about the book. (Does not apply to nonfiction.)
  12. I can see that you’ve copied 100 other agents…

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For You, Mom

 

Mother's Day Nosegay, ©amomnextdoor, 2014

Mother’s Day Nosegay, ©amomnextdoor, 2014

I have spent the past four Mothers’ Days alone with my children, while Mr. Banks was away on business. Every year, I have wondered if he would remember what day it was, following a foreign calendar all the way across the world. Every year, I have stepped into the bountiful garden we have grown together, and seen the flowers he had already given me. So I would pick myself a Mother’s Day bouquet, and then send those flowers to you, honored mothers of my life. At some point later in the day, the doorbell would ring, and Mr. Banks would deliver his love for me, from all the way across the world, in yet another fragrant extravagance of flowers.

California is facing a serious drought this year. We ended winter with just 5% of our usual annual rainfall, and by the end of spring had only edged up to 30%. We have decided not to water our garden this year. Out here in the valley, our garden needs irrigation from Spring to Fall Equinox in order to truly thrive. We’ve had just enough rainfall to bring out the blooms and the grass. Now we get to watch everything die. It makes spring flowers that much more precious, when we’re unable to artificially extend the growing season with imported water.

I noticed the Mother’s Day bouquet really changed in character this year. Usually I end up with armfuls of giant blooms, and still have flowers left in the garden to enjoy. This year harvested every single stem, and ended up with this little nosegay. The flowers are different, too. Instead of roses and tulips and lilies, I’m getting the self-seeders–forget-me-nots and bachelor’s buttons and carnations–and the hardy perennials. It will be interesting to let our garden go back to what it was meant to be, to start over on the canvas nature intended for this region. To tend my little corner of climate change. And still find flowers, for you, for Mother’s Day.

No One As Witness

Photo by rachjose, Source: morgueFile

Photo by rachjose, Source: morgueFile

I slogged my way through all five volumes of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, because he managed to invoke my deep commitment to his characters. I cared about the Stark children and their doomed parents, Tyrion, the transformed Jaime…I cared even about his most despicable characters, reading on in the hopes of seeing them eventually crushed by the same indiscriminate heel of Fate that beheaded Ned Stark and orphaned Arya. The HBO series capitalizes on that keen and deep portrayal of character in its frequent use of tightly-written, superbly-acted, richly-costumed and beautifully-lit scenes of intimate conversation and revelation between two actors.

But I don’t think I can keep going anymore. I only got through the novels by simultaneously ignoring and loudly reviling the despicable and unrepentant treatment of women throughout. My husband nobly bore the brunt of this disgust every night, as I verbally abused the author for his misogyny and lack of accuracy. Yes, you heard me. I am accusing Martin himself (not his characters) of misogyny, and I am calling him out for his incomplete and inaccurate portrayal of women and gender relations in ANY moment in history, imagined or otherwise.

In a recent New York Times article (“For ‘Game of Thrones,’ Rising Unease Over Rape’s Recurring Role,” May 2, 2014), Martin is cited as claiming that “he had an obligation to tell the truth about history and about human nature.” Except that he doesn’t tell the truth. Yes, one thing he says is true: “rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day.” But Martin’s depiction of sexual brutality is consistently limited, inaccurate and deeply-biased — making it his truth, perhaps, but nothing near the truth.

In his fiction, and now in the series, no one stands as witness to this horrific treatment of women, and that is where Martin’s vision and accuracy fail. Martin claims that “certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.” But that is not in fact what he either attempts or accomplishes as an artist. At most, his depiction of the rape, subjugation and abuse of women achieves a sort of background eroticism in his work, because it is perpetually mired in the perspective of the rapists and the bystanders. The experience and voices of the victims, the naysayers, the comforters, the survivors, the brothers and the sisters, the change-makers — these are almost entirely absent (with the occasional exception of Arya Stark, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly).

Photo by hotblack, Source: morgueFile

Photo by hotblack, Source: morgueFile

Over the course of actual human history, people have borne witness to rape and brutality – -cradling their mothers’ torn bodies, comforting a brutalized boy, marching through college campuses with lit candles to Take Back the Night, standing over their children and saying: “NO! I will NOT let you hurt them.” How do I know this is true, even in those feudal times Martin claims to depict so accurately? If it were not, we would still be living in those times today. The world that Game of Thrones represents holds no possibility of transformation, no one as witness to the things that must change — because they are too cruel, brutal and inhuman to survive against the collective will of humanity.

Will I boycott the show? Decline to buy the next book in the series? I don’t know. I am drawn to these characters and their destinies. There is no doubt that Martin has me hooked. In spite of my instincts, I have continued to read and to watch so far. To find out what happens next, to remain connected to these characters about whom I have come to care, I will probably squelch that inner recoil, swallow the bile, and keep going back for more. And in this way Martin with his art has replicated exactly the experience of rape itself: the confusion, the mixed allegiance, the blurring of self-protective boundaries and yes, the arousal, that occur when someone — usually someone we know and love — abuses us. The HBO writers and directors perpetuating this rape may read this blog and others, and perhaps tone it down a bit, just enough to keep us coming back for more — precisely as child molesters groom their victims, creeping past boundaries only to destroy them from the inside out.

When we consider rape as a society, every rapist — actual or imagined — is our father and our brother and our self, and every victim is our mother and our sister…ourself. Martin and his artistic partners at HBO are raping all of us, and we are allowing it. It won’t stop until we say no, walk away, and hold them — and ourselves — accountable.

Photo by plexium-nerd, Source: morgueFile

Photo by plexium-nerd, Source: morgueFile

Part Method, Part Madness: Luring in a Good Idea

amomnextdoor:

Love these reminders, so well-expressed. I appreciate the tenderness with which Mylisa Larsen holds herself and her ideas.

Originally posted on EMU's Debuts:

shutterstock_108783638

“Where do you get your ideas?”

 Man, I hate that question. Not because I’m jealously guarding writerly secrets. Not because I haven’t thought about it. A lot. Just because when I try to answer that question honestly, I babble.

Here’s the thing. Ideas are strange creatures. I know they’re out there. I see them out of the corner of my eye. But it might be in the grocery store. Or in the woods. Or looking at me from the window of a passing bus. Ideas don’t seem to have an established, identifiable habitat. Or habits. Sometimes they’re out wandering at 2 AM. Sometimes they refuse to show up at all until sleep needs have been lavishly met. They eat chocolate. No, grapefruit. Spicy fish?

It’s a puzzle. I can’t give a satisfying, tidy answer. But here are a few things that work for me.

Show up at your desk. And…

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Gender Equality and Picture Books

amomnextdoor:

Is your three-year old son asking for a tutu? Is your daughter wondering why Master Wu only picked boys to become the Ninja who save the Lego world of Ninjago? Do you gag when you cruise the color-coded toy aisles of Target? Read this!

Originally posted on ThinkBannedThoughts Blog:

I got a tweet from a friend last week that lit all kinds of lightbulbs in my head.

It was a simple – but very rare – tweet.

teaching equality for boys

Reading for Gender Equality. A novel concept ;)

So many thoughts hit my head all at once.

The loudest was that this was the first time I’d ever been asked that by someone with a son, or sons.

I get asked all the time to recommend books to parents of daughters in order to promote the ideal of gender equality. But I hardly ever hear from parents of sons, asking how they can teach gender equality.

It filled my heart – because that is where it starts, with parents. And if we’re only teaching girls how to be equal, we’re missing half the equation!

Then I thought of this amazing blog post by male author, Robert J. Bennett about the first time…

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Shelf Awareness

amomnextdoor:

This is a great intro to the blog Shelf Awareness–for readers and book professionals–from The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh. Check them both out!

Originally posted on The Librarian Who Doesn't Say "Shhh":

You may have noticed that I recently added a button to the right sidebar of my blog offering giveaways from Shelf Awareness, but I realize that I didn’t take the time to explain what the button it about. Or what Shelf Awareness even is!

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 5.19.05 PM

Shelf Awareness is one of my favorite little discoveries as a blogger. It’s a newsletter sent out to readers and book professionals (there are two versions). I subscribe to the book professionals newsletter, which comes to my inbox Monday-Friday. Wonder how I keep on top of new releases and bookish news? Often I get that information from Shelf Awareness. I’ve been a subscriber for about a year.

One of my favorite things about Shelf Awareness is the ads in the newsletter. These often offer previews of upcoming titles, and sometimes even chances to win ARCs. I’ve actually collected quite a few of my ARCs through the…

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…and the Water Taketh Away

St. Vrain River at peace, © amomnextdoor, 2013

St. Vrain River at peace, © amomnextdoor, 2013

You never think it will happen to your family. And then it does.

Last Thursday, my 65-year old mom and 86-year old grandma were evacuated by bucket loader from their riverside home in Lyons, CO. Sirens began sounding from the town at 2 a.m. that morning, but on the far side of the river my mom and grandma could hear nothing over the roaring river. They slept through the early calls for evacuation.

At 5:30 a.m. the housekeeper called, awakening my mother. The house was already surrounded by water, the river lapping at the underside of the porches. Several calls to 911 later, they were still in the house. Since the water had not yet entered, no plans for evacuation were made. A bit later the head of a local construction company called to check on them. Soon after, the head of the Department of Publics work arrived with his bucket loader. With the help of three water rescue workers, they lifted my grandmother into the muddy bucket of that machine. By that time the water was already up to the doorknob of my grandfather’s old shop. With the cell phone tower down, it was hours before we heard from my mother that they were safe. Many people are still missing. Many families have still not heard from their loved ones.

By Friday the flooding had gotten so bad that the entire town of approximately 2,000 people–the place where I spent all my summers growing up–had to be evacuated.

My mom and grandma spent one night in the evacuation center at Lyons Elementary School,

English: I took photo with Canon camera in Lyo...

where my grandfather taught for many years, and another day and night at LifeBridge Church in Longmont, before they were ready to move again. Now safely situated with my brother and sister-in-law, they wait.

The town of Lyons is working hard to restore power, sewage and water to its residents. Meanwhile, displaced townsfolk wait in lines for limited passes to get back to their properties: to assess the damage, gather their valuables, and leave without flushing a single toilet for fear of overloading Lyons’ tenuous system. Not even yet enough time to grieve.

On Friday, more than a week of weather after the initial flooding, my mom and brother will finally get to see what mark the river has left on the home my grandparents built, the home that brought my entire family together in the summers, for homemade ice cream and river tubing, horseshoes and dominoes and stories around the kitchen table.

I don’t usually blog about the news, but this time the news really hit home.

If you want to help, please look into the donation campaigns below. Please consider posting links to your other social media. This beautiful town and its residents will need all the help they can get to rebuild.

Main Street, Lyons, CO.  © amomnextdoor, 2011

Main Street, Lyons, CO. © amomnextdoor, 2011

DONATE HERE to the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief, part of the Boulder Community Foundation. Click the green Donate Now button and be sure to designate Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief from the drop-down menu to direct your donation to the town and people of Lyons.

Or, DONATE HERE for the indiegogo campaign started by Lyons H.S. graduates collecting funds on behalf of the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief.

Or consider putting one of these on the counter at work:

Photo by Jen La Follette/Ross Lehmkuhler

Photo by Jen La Follette/Ross Lehmkuhler

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30 + Summer Activities for the Kids

© amomnextdoor, 2013

Summer’s over, but some great ideas are eternal. Besides, here in the CA Bay Area, we have a solid month of summer weather left. I had to reblog this post, just to have it handy for easy reference. You’ll find my own ideas for keeping little ones engaged with their world in my post, Spring Break Blues.