Monthly Archives: June 2010

Awesomesauce Editing Contest

Over the weekend I found out about this awesome contest for writers. Cassandra Marshall, a writer, freelance editor and an intern at a literary agency, recently achieved a goal in followers of her blog and Twitter and is celebrating in a way that I am awfully excited about.

In her own words:

And so, to celebrate the glowing review and for reaching 100 blog followers and 700 twitter followers (that just blows my mind!) I’m giving away a FREE substantial edit! (That’s plot, pacing, character development, etc, up to 100k words) to one lucky reader!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am by this. Just the other day a friend suggested I look into a professional editor for Kwizera. I’m at the point in the querying process where I’m getting feedback from agents and some really nice personalized emails. Which makes the ride that much more of a rollercoaster.

So to have someone who does this for a living read Kwizera and critique the plot, pacing, and character development would take me to the next level. I know I would learn so much, not just for this manuscript, but for everything else I ever write.

If you’re a writer, click the link above for the details and to enter before midnight on July 2nd.

Wish me luck, my friends!


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Filed under Getting Published, writing

Beautiful Rwanda

I am so busy writing and revising Sophie that I don’t have a new post ready for y’all.  But I leave you with a repost about one of the inspirations for the book I’m currently querying:  Kwizera.  It never hurts to be reminded what a beautiful country Rwanda is.

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.

II.  Volcanoes

One of the Virunga volcanoes loomed on the western horizon as I trudged up the hill from the tea plantations in the valley to the tarmac road in the weak early morning light.

Virunga Volcanoes in RwandaThe Virunga volcanoes lie at the conjunction of three central and eastern African countries:  Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).  They are home to mountain gorillas, made famous by Dyan Fossey and the movie, Gorillas in the Mist.

The volcanoes are sometimes visible from Byumba, the town in Northern Rwanda where “Kwizera” is set.  It depends on the clouds and the sun. Strangely – unless you’re familiar with meteorology, I guess – you cannot see the volcanoes on bright, sunny days.  Only right after it has rained.

Obviously, the closer you are to the volcanoes – in Ruhengeri or Gisenyi, perhaps – the more likely you are to see them, as in the above picture.

What are some beautiful countries that you just can’t get out of your head?  Tell me where your heart lies in the comments.



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Hugs Solve Everything, or getting through the querying process

Last week was rough. 

The querying process roughs you up.  All those letters that distill an entire manuscript and months and months of time and tears into one page, that either go unanswered or answered with an impersonal form email.  I know that agents are busy.  They get bombarded with queries for projects that are unfinished or inappropriate or just don’t fit their list.  I get it.  I really do.

That doesn’t stop the process from being draining.

“This is one hell of a ride,” my husband (let’s call him Rocket Man – for obvious reasons to those who know him) said a few weeks ago.

The best support I get, however, is from my two little guys (sorry, Rocket Man).  The 7 year old can’t wait to read Kwizera, even though it’s about a teen girl in Africa, and Sophie, even though it’s about a teen girl in France.  The other night at bedtime he asked me a ton of questions about Sophie.  He wanted details.  He wanted the twist.  And then his mouth dropped open.  That was awesome!

Last week I got another rejection to a partial, this time personalized.  The agent said the subject matter of Kwizera was too dark, but this agent admired “the heck out of me” for writing something so honest.  Wow.  That was pretty cool, but it was still a rejection.

Enter the 4 year old.  We were putting on our shoes to go out to a playdate, when he asked why I looked so sad.  I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling in a way he would understand, so I just hugged him.  He hugged me tightly then pulled away and said, “Thanks, Mommy.  I needed that, too.”

THAT made me burst into tears!

So bring on the rough stuff.  I can take it.  I’ve got the best cheerleaders in the whole entire world (one of the 4 year old’s favorite phrases).

I will keep querying and writing in the hopes that someday the 7 year old will get to read my published books.  And I will look forward to the next rejection so I can get more of the 4 year old’s awesome hugs.


Filed under Getting Published, The rest of my life

Writing Mistakes (in Paris)

Revising the Sophie manuscript has brought up some of my many memories of Paris.

When I was about 18 years old, I spent the summer in Paris, working at a software company in the 8th arrondissement.  I lived in a dorm room at the American House of the Cité Universitaire in the 14th arrondissement.  Every morning I would take the RER B train into the middle of Paris and change to the metro to get to work.  Every evening I would take the bus home with my new friend Mireille.

She was the bookkeeper at the software company.  The boss didn’t know what else to do with me, so he decided I would work with Mireille, who was three years older than me and didn’t speak English.  Because of her I not only became fluent by the middle of the summer, but she made me add up long columns of numbers on an adding machine while saying each number out loud in French.  I’m awesome with French numbers.

Mireille also taught me many “rude” phrases.  She told her mother she taught me those words so I would understand them if anyone said them to me.  She didn’t want me smiling at a guy who told me to f*** off.

It was actually my reading that led to the lessons in French slang.  I raided my uncle’s bookshelves and picked out all kinds of books in French – mostly not by French authors.  For example, I read Agatha Christie and Hemingway translations.  For Whom the Bell Tolls was quite challenging.  And many words I read I couldn’t find in my French-English dictionary.  So I’d bring them to Mireille.  Who would laugh.  Then she’d explain.

She would also laugh anytime I made a mistake.  Like if I used the wrong French word for hair (there are different words for the hair on your head – cheveux – and the hair on your body – poils).  She would laugh hysterically, and I would get upset.  Once she wiped the tears from her eyes, she would tell me what I said wrong.

“Why can’t you just correct my mistake without making fun of me?” I asked her.

“Well, you’ll never make that mistake again, will you?” she replied, still laughing. 

She had a point.  And she was right.

I don’t plan to parent that way, and I don’t laugh at my critique partners, but there is value in that technique.  Mistakes that have embarrassed me stick in my head and will never happen again.

Just like life in general and learning a foreign language, writing is a learning process.  I’ve made mistakes – querying a manuscript too soon, not getting enough distance from a manuscript before revising, among others – and I’ve learned from my rejections, however painful.

And I will never ever tell someone on the Paris metro that I like her poils.


Filed under The rest of my life, writing

A Reader’s Birthday

My new reader is now 7 and a full-fledged passionate fan of the Magic Tree House series.  And along with cooler (to some) birthday gifts like a Nintendo DS and a make-your-own-robot kit, he received 7 Magic Tree House books, 2 Magic Tree House non-fiction reader guides, 3 Star Wars books, and a Borders gift card.

 He is one happy reading maniac.

 And someday, maybe he’ll read books with his mother’s name on the spine.  Then I’ll be one happy writing maniac.

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Filed under Reading, The rest of my life