Saturday, August 30, 2014

Selling Toilet Paper

For a really long time, I was stuck on the idea that my writing was Art with a capital A, that I was a dilettante author for the love of wordsmithing. That I was neither a real writer nor a hack for hire, but an Artist. For this reason alone, I'm convinced I was unable to find an agent for my novel after repeated efforts. I just wasn't willing to revise the damn thing until it had sufficient plot events to merit its length. I'm still too attached to it, so it shall remain in my hard drive languishing.

However, for those who haven't heard, my husband got fired last week. We are now a one income household and that is, alas, a teacher's salary. Consequently, I've redoubled my freelancing efforts and I've discovered a few things that resulted in an attitude adjustment:

1.  Outlines help.  I'm a pantser by nature but clients like to know what to expect. For example, I ran out of plot on a novella and threw in an unexpected pregnancy just to sustain momentum with stagnant characters. The client was not thrilled by the surprise. It wasn't the event itself but its suddenness. So I outline. It gives me a map to work from and comforts the client.

2.  It's not art, it's a commodity. It's work for hire. My analogy now is selling toilet paper. As in: I had a client who hired me, worshipped my dialogue and my efficiency, then bitched when I turned in a 23000 word novella instead of 25K. I thought it was perfect or nearly perfect as it was and didn't need filler to clutter it up. I was all insulted because my capital-A Art wasn't being respected when, in point of fact, he was right.

Like, let's say you ordered a hundred rolls of toilet paper.
Your supplier sends you only 97 rolls.
You contact them and demand the other three rolls you ordered and paid for.
No, your supplier says, the 97 rolls he sent you are fluffy and superior with surprisingly good tensile strength. You don't actually NEED 100 rolls. Ninety-seven is better.
You demand your 3 rolls, convinced you're being cheated.
Supplier points out that, no, in fact the package looks much nicer without being crowded in with those extra rolls.
You refuse to pay until given the promised toilet paper.
Supplier gets huffy but supplies toilet paper as contracted, but in a begrudging manner. Like, say, a diva.

To the client, it ain't art. It's toilet paper. It's something to use or repackage and sell. It's like printer ink or coffee filters...they order a certain amount and that's what they expect and there is no ephemeral standard of writing till the story is told. It's work for hire.

Or to use my old chestnut from Jerry Maguire, it's not show friends; it's show business.

Believe it or not, this has been good for me to learn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fish Sticks!

Diva's not dead, y'all. I just have 21 kiddos new in class this week who have to learn to be functional second graders.

Here are some snippets that have set me smiling, shaking my head or giggling so far:

Joey:  Have  we been in school three days?
Diva: No, just two. Tomorrow's three.
Joey: Can we ever get a day off? Please?

Grading papers and putting them in mailbox sorter, I keep wondering who the heck Lanie is since I have three papers with that name. It takes me a while to realize I have a  little boy who's got some pretty bad reversals going on in his letter formation and they're actually his papers.

Tom:  You want us to sit ON our desks? Are you serious?
Diva: Yes.
Tom:  This is the best day of my life. This is better than holiday world!

Diva:  Okay, touch your toes and drop to downward dog.
Kim:  We did this yesterday.
Diva:  You're doing it every day. It's good. It stretches you out and gets your blood flowing.
Kim: That's BAD for you. If blood rushes to your head, it kills you.
Diva:  No. It does not. It wakes up your brain.
Kim:  It could kill me!
Diva:  I promise it won't kill you.
Kim:  What if it does?

Diva:  Donnie, put away your art supplies.
Donnie:  It's not art supplies, it's the box they came in.
Diva (smiling tensely):  Ok. Then put away the box you're playing with.
Donnie: I'm not playing with it. I'm looking at it.
Diva:  Put it away if you want to keep it.
Donnie: Where do you want me to put it? (challenging)
Diva:  In your desk (wishing wholeheartedly that 'in your mouth' was an acceptable answer)

So far, they're incredibly sweet (okay, maybe Donnie is perhaps the rudest child I have ever met in my life but I can deal) and we're having a great time.

They love sitting on the crate bench. I do it like this:  If your name starts with an A, sit on the bench. or If you're wearing flip flops, sit on the bench or if your name ends with N sit on the bench.  It's a fun sorting activity that gets them to sit with different fish sticks.

Every day this week I've read them a traditional folktale from our new Mary Engelbreit book and then a variation thereof. Tuesday I did Goldilocks versus Somebody and the Three Blairs. Wednesday was the 3 Little Pigs versus The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and yesterday was Little Red Riding Hood (reading Lon Po Po today). We talk about them, break it down and compare and contrast using a venn diagram at the board and it brings out a discussion of the conventions of fiction in general.  It's been pretty fun.

I've used ten frames with skittles and unifix cubes this week. Hand to God, I have never used a unifix cube before this week. I had to borrow some. The kids love it. We're doing even and odd numbers and pairing them off. i call it, check to see if everyone has a buddy for the bus...they match the cubes into pairs and see if there's an odd man out. I've got two kids who didn't get it and we're doing remediation this morning. Math is so different now. It's out of my comfort zone but I am learning right alongside those fish sticks.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mad Scientist

The creative perspective of a storyteller is useful in parenting, I've found.

I was making soup and left the Pea with an episode of Curious George on the iPad and a strawberry yogurt which she feeds to herself reliably with minimal mess. I checked on her repeatedly and her actions were constructive and on point.

Then I cleaned up the kitchen, peeped in on her and found my SP painting her entire left leg from ankle to diaper elaborately with strawberry yogurt.

In her defense, I never told her explicitly NOT to paint herself with yogurt. She didn't get any yogurt on any surface except her actual leg. By definition, she was being fairly tidy about the whole business.

Instead of shrieking NO WE DON'T DO THAT, as was my initial instinct, i asked her to stop, took the spoon and handed her baby wipes to clean off her own leg.

 I'm thinking perhaps this is the influence of the Amazing Spiderman comics that DH reads to her. She's seen all those crafty villains and has decided to become a mad scientist herself. She was, when I interrupted, testing the emollient properties of yogurt in a clinical trial (note the unpainted left leg as control group). She may have been developing a new beauty product or skin treatment. She may have been trying to replicate Rhino's hide..she loves Rhino. So I may have damaged her results in my ignorance of the hypothesis.

At this impressionable age it might have been best in retrospect to either limit her exposure to comics or yogurt. She runs around making pshew pshew sounds pretending to shoot webs at people and poodles. Now she's misapplying her dairy products. Can a life of crime be far behind?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rules for Writers: Lessons I Learned While Editing

I don't revise or edit anyone's work for money. There are two reasons for this:

1. It's easier to write something new than to clean up someone else's mess.
2.  No one ever offered me money to edit before.

So I took the job and here's what I took from it. These are lessons I will use in my own writing which could always use improvement:

1.  No character should ever feed off the entrails of another living character. Or, really, a dead character's entrails either because NO ENTRAILS EVER. No one says 'entrails' or thinks about tremor describes them much less going nom-nom on them. Ewwww.

2. One shall not use apostrophe-s to make a plural because that is not a thing.

3.  One should use a comma before addressing a character by name, even if it is a dumbass nickname like calling the vampire 'dark one' as in 'you summoned me here COMMA dark one'

4.  Overwrought phrasing such as 'the predator is now the prey' or 'you shall live but a cursed half-life from this moment' must be deleted immediately. I know. Vampires make one feel all formal and fancy and the dialogue can go downhill fast. I've been there, but you have to restrain yourself.

5.  Descriptions of any sort of bodily functions in one's pants ought to be avoided. Double yuck.

6.  If a vampire kills a rapist, then regards the victim with a serious thought of 'hey, i could rape her and then drink her blood' he is NOT leading man material. There is seriously no way to make him a romantic lead after that. Maybe I'd break rule one, though, and let someone feast on his entrails. His entrails actually deserve it.

7.  Any attempts to make vampire feeding akin to sexytimes ought to refrain from reference to 'dense adipose tissue' making it difficult to bite someone.

8.  Describing any and all unpleasant characters as fat (i.e. 'fat bastard' etc) and referencing their obesity as making one wish to vomit is distasteful and prejudiced. The fact that said characters are all rapists and pedophiles might make one think that those traits are more repellent than BMI.

9.  Inexplicable extra characters, all weak females, can be cut.

10. Rewriting a wimpy weak helpless heroine as robust, capable and flinty is a hell of a lot of fun.

11.  Getting paid to rework it is even better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sweet Pea at Nearly Three

Yesterday, SP was playing with her baby dolls, a favorite pastime, and I overheard the following:

Doll 1:   Come pyay wiv me mama
Doll 2:  No. I watch the television.
Doll 1:  Mama I need-lo
Doll 2:  Do you want to sit wiv me?
Doll 1:  Yes I do
Doll 2:   I watch-a bacha-YAret
Doll 1:  Noooo

I think my desire to watch the bachelorette finale on monday made a negative impression on my daughter. I felt truly horrible that she was enacting a scenario where she was rejected in favor of the television. Then I reminded myself that she was upstairs playing with DH during most of it and sitting in my lap having milk and playing during the rest of the episode and that it is the only show I watch. I literally do not watch television at all except for my lingering Bachelor/Bachelorette addiction and that's on like twice a year. So I decided to quit beating myself up that she is like scarred for life because I watched an entire episode (most weeks I manage twenty or thirty minutes of it).

Currently she is singing along to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (greatest show ever, better even than the Bachelorette) and having a "s'movie" with is a yogurt smoothie. 

We just discussed her birthday. She wants a barbie that swims (the scuba barbie with plastic coral reef that I have paid 35 ridiculous dollars for this shiny plastic crap already so it's good to know she still wants it) and a bert and ernie cake. This works for me as I can bake a cake and put her existing ernie figure on top of it (bert, the sneaky bastard, is missing but I have till September to find him). 

I've picked out a couple of books I want for her to give as ideas to relatives who don't know what to get. I always like to build her library and we read and reread a ton. This is probably why she uses words like "earlier" and "supposedly" with accuracy at age not-quite-three. Acquaintances, including her adored sitter, remark with amusement "She talks so big!" and I consider that a compliment owing entirely to the reading aloud. 

Today is the last day of the library summer reading program. Due to the necessity of multiple rereads we only got  in 140 separate titles since June 2 when my goal was 200. I'm still happy about it and she discovered a love for Scaredy Squirrel and Olivia. DH got in on the action this year and there are titles on her list like "Avengers VIII: And Thus By My Hand Shall Perish a Villain" which tickles me because not only is she totally into his comics, but I know the power a father's positive influence can have. So YAY for dh.

Here's a happy SP pic of her sitting on an amazon box wearing his shoes: