Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ostrich possum boy

Jared is so funny. By far my most entertaining toddler, his new strategy for avoiding doing whatever he doesn't want to do is to play possum. He refused to stay in bed yesterday and snuck down the stairs two minutes after I tucked him in, for the fifth time. I heard him slither down the stairs and told him to go to bed while Jeff and I paused our movie. Silence. "Jared? Go to bed." Still silent. Jeff crept over to check on him and then laughed. Curious, I skipped over to take a peek too. Eyes shut, face composed in 'sleep,' and body stiff as a board, Jared lay spread across the tread corners of four steps. His face was very convincing, and if I hadn't just heard him moving, I would've thought he'd fallen asleep there, albeit rather stiffly. Jeff scooped him up to carry him to bed and he let out an immediate howl of protest so I know he wasn't having a seizure or anything. Then today when I asked him to return the toy he'd just swiped from Nathan, he immediately rested his head on the couch and closed his eyes. Ditto for the marble he popped into his mouth an hour later that I wanted him to give me. Apparently, he is under the impression that if he can't see us, we can't see him. So maybe he's more of an ostrich.

As for the rest of the menagerie, they are getting along and for the most part, enjoying each other's company. No small miracle there. After pulling myself together from my manuscript's demoralizing critique, I talked with the kids about the power of words. I wanted them to understand how criticism and negativity could poison our thoughts, bringing down both the giver and receiver. With so much of it in our society, I want our home to be the antidote. I don't know if it was what I said, or my tears while I said it, but they seem to have taken the lesson to heart with more laughter and kindness in their interactions. So who knew? The critique proved beneficial after all. I've also cut 4,000 words out of the beginning to tighten it and get the plot moving. I'll re-write a few parts I think are weak and then send it out for another round of darts. If it gets skewered again, I'll lick my wounds and take a few creative writing classes. Stubbornness can be a vice or virtue and is defined by the result. During my moody, stubborn, teenage years my mom would chant this little verse to my unending irritation, "Patience is a virtue. Virtue is a grace. Grace is might pretty when you wear it on your face." So I'm smiling while I stubbornly insist that the time I spend writing is a good thing, despite evidence to the contrary. Of course, I could always close my eyes and play dead like Jared. But where's the fun in that? Besides, dead things stink.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Death of Spring

Spring was buried last night under a five inch blanket of snow. I am mourning the bitter loss and enduring yet another snow day with a snowy forecast all week. Maybe this is really a nuclear winter and I just missed the headline. Ugh. I hope real bombs never fall. Endless winter would be a cruel and unusual punishment for a person who loves plants. And I was told that it didn't snow very much here. HA! Oh well, at least it's sunny until the next storm hits.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spectacular failures

Okay, I've recovered enough to blog about it, although it's still stinging a bit. You know how I gave my manuscript to an agent I knew? She hated it. She said she didn't connect with any of my characters and that I should just put the manuscript away in a drawer and write magazine articles and short stories until I develop my voice. I guess she didn't hear my scream of frustration after our talk. I'm kidding. I didn't scream out loud. I gave it to her expecting her to point out parts that worked and parts that didn't, things she liked and things that needed to be revised. Maybe a younger agent would have connected with the characters more, I don't know. Because she's several decades older than I am, I thought she'd offer tips to improve it and hoped she would become an encouraging mentor. I never dreamed she'd condemn my story altogether. I guess that's the problem with dreams, they don't account for reality. But that's the wonder of them too. If you take a dream and work hard enough, it can become reality. So for those of you who read parts of my story but were too nice to tell me it stunk, never fear, I've been told. However, I'm choosing to take this as a life lesson verbalized in Meet the Robinson's - congratulations on the spectacular failure, may it lead to success in the future. In the mean time, I'm enjoying the cheery flowers from my awesome husband, the fun company of my sister who is visiting, and the big bag of M&M's I hid in the cupboard. Ah...the healing power of chocolate!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Do you believe in miracles? I do. We had two this week. They might seem simple or coincidental to others, but to us, they were much more. First, with our savings-draining empty house that's still for sale in Ohio, Jeff has been trying to arrange extra work for the summer. He found something that would work, but just barely. Then out of the blue, he gets an e-mail asking if he'd like to earn some extra money this summer. Would he like it??? YES! So still smiling from that blessing, I get an e-mail from a rental agent about a house that I might like to rent for next year that hasn't been advertised yet. On Friday, I take a look and despite it being the ugliest house I've ever seen, it's perfect. It's 1000 sq ft. larger than what we're currently renting, set on six acres, and much, much, less expensive than our current rent. So despite the brown shag, teal, blue, pink, gray, red plaid and green striped carpet (Yes, all of them. In vivid color.), it is perfect. Did I mention the lovely wallpaper? Needless to say, it's hideous too. But I can handle ugly for a year, at least we won't be tripping over each other all the time. And then when we finally move into the house we're planning to build, we will appreciate it even more. Besides, everyone has to live somewhere awful to tell stories about, right?

Speaking of stories, I handed mine to my agent friend. She called me five hours later and asked to see me, but wouldn't tell me what she thinks of it until I visit with her. I can't figure out if that's good or bad. But I'll find out tomorrow.

I'm posting a funny picture of Jared. He's poked the top of his ear into his ear canal since he was six months old. I wish I knew why. Love of pig ears? Tuning out strategy? Martian child? Who knows, but it is cute. I'm suddenly realizing that he's growing up and the treasured moments of his babyhood are numbered. He's my little cuddlebug, but at 30 pounds and almost 2 years of age, he's not so little anymore. I had a wispy sense of nostalgia today when I saw a tiny newborn at church. I've never been one to gush over babies. Strange for a mother of six, I suppose, but I think knowing I'd have several of my own prevented the gooeyness from surfacing all these years. Now that my babies are growing up, the goo is seeping out. Thank goodness there are lots of babies around to hold for a while and then give back. It satisfies the nostalgia, but I still get an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Anyhow, I hope you all had a lovely Easter. It was 39 degrees here and rainy, but still inspirational. At least it didn't snow! The music program at church was wonderful and I really wished I could sing like the angels that did. Ah well, maybe in the next life?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Positive rejections

I learned my first lesson about rejections in the publishing world this week. Anything personalized, even a rejection, is a good thing. Bless Andrea Somberg. I don't know the woman, but she took the time to write a very kind rejection letter and let me know that my story didn't pull her in the way she'd hoped. I was elated, because 1) she wanted my story to pull her in so the query letter must have piqued her interest, 2) the title must be okay, and 3) now I know that the first chapter isn't compelling enough, even though I know the rest of the story is. Time to re-tool the beginning.

On the upside, I discovered that I actually know a literary agent and she wants my manuscript tomorrow. Yea! I'd been told she was a retired author and visited with her hoping for a few writing and publishing tips. Then as we were talking yesterday, I find out that she's still an active agent. How did I miss that detail? She wants the manuscript and a two page synopsis by tomorrow, which I'm finding is amazingly difficult to write. How do I boil down 356 pages to two? I guess I'll find out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Flying baby

My baby flew an airplane on Saturday. And no, I don’t mean the paper kind. Trevor went on a training weekend with Civil Air Patrol and actually flew a plane. Yes, that’s right; he’s flown a plane before he’s driven a car. I think that must be an overlooked loophole in the vehicle operation laws. Fourteen year olds can legally fly airplanes, but they have to wait a year before they get an automobile learner’s permit. And even that’s kind of scary. Needless to say, Trevor came home absolutely delighted with himself and just asked me how much an airplane costs. Gasp! Gag. Cough. And I was dreading his request for a car next year. A plane? Here’s some paper buddy, fold away. He’s been duly informed that the only way he’ll get a plane is on the government’s dime, so he’d better get into the Air Force or Naval Academy.

I can hardly believe that Easter is next week. It just seems WAY too early. I mean, it’s still winter here. All my hopes for a fun Spring Break and lots of trips to the park with the kids were dashed when it snowed twice (Ugh! That flaky stuff is as welcome as dandruff at this point.), with a blustery biting wind that blew all week long. We did go to the Palouse Discovery Science museum, although I use the term museum rather loosely here for lack of a better one. Perhaps hands-on classroom would be a better description. I was expecting something like COSI in Columbus, Ohio and was dismayed to see that the local definition of science museum was a 50x50 foot room with tanks of lizards, rats, snakes, insects, etc…, a lot of educational toys, and a few science displays. The biggest hit was the giant vat of raw lentils with buried plastic dinosaurs. The younger kids loved it having nothing to compare it to, but the older children with their fond memories of COSI were not impressed.

The bleak weather last week didn’t help my outlook when I racked up more rejections from literary agents. And I thought the hard part was writing the book. HA! I love that part. But this? This wishing and hoping and waiting for an agent to even reply with more than a form rejection is like an exclusive online dating service. And I'm just not finding the right match. It seems that getting anyone in the publishing industry to read it and want to publish it must be the hard part no one told me about. I posted my query letter on an online writer’s forum and after getting ripped apart, re-wrote it. I hope the revised letter will be more successful at catching an agent’s attention. I think some writers must be lying when they breeze over that aspect of the business and make it sound so easy. Thank goodness for the few dead honest writers that shared their difficult experience on their blogs (Janet Evanovich and Shannon Hale). It makes the disappointment easier to deal with. I think I’ll just start outlining the sequel to write over the summer. But I have to help Jeff with a grant before I can actually start writing it.

I’m imagining my crocuses and daffodils beginning to bloom in Ohio. Sniff. And we still haven’t had any bites on our house. Grrr… Oh, well. Eventually, we’ll offload it. Well, I hope you all are blessed with a great week. And I, for one, could do with a dose of beautiful weather. But hope is the message of spring, isn’t it? So here’s hoping for a better week and at least one partial manuscript request. Take care.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why Minerva?

That's the first question I'm asked. Where did the name Minerva come from? It came about because I was a bookworm stuck on Greco-Roman mythology. As I bored my family silly with a comparison of the whole pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses to the Roman equivalents, my father said "you've graced us with enough wisdom for one night, Minerva," and sent me to bed. Embarrassed by the dismissal and detesting the name itself, I forbade my family from ever calling me by that name again. I mean, although Jennifer was the most generic name for a girl born in the early 1970's, Minerva was so unique that it landed on my worst names of all time list. I hated it. And because I hated it, naturally it stuck. As I grew older, I stopped minding so much. After all, Minerva (known as Pallas Athena to the Greeks), was the goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, commerce, crafts, and the inventor of music. Pretty impressive attributes for an ancient female deity. Ovid called her the "goddess of a thousand works." And seriously, there are days when keeping up with my family requires a thousand works. So although I don't hold any religious significance to the goddess the ancient Romans named Minerva, I wish I had most of her attributes. Life's too short for me to learn all I'd like to know and do all I'd like to do. But I'm always trying. Wisdom is not gained by a degree, but little by little in degrees. So I've named my blog, not after what I am, but what I'd like to become. And after all, doesn't every woman want to feel like a goddess sometimes?