When You’re Not Writing…

I imagine writers have other responsibilities outside of perfecting their craft.

It’s a constant tug-and-war game—writing and…life. I try not to feel guilty about being one person, lacking the ability to multiply like gremlins so that I can get more accomplished; though my virtual planner these days looks like some wacky kind of road map. I’ve been busy—all over the place. Will summer break ever come? Oh right, that phenomenon ended after undergrad. To add to this, I’ve just bought a car and a house. And for anyone who’s been through the home buying process, you understand my exhaustion.

As artists, it’s so easy to get lost in our craft. Actually, most of us prefer that space—I know I do. I feel most myself when I’m creating something. I know this comes from my father. He’s a rapper. Growing up, we had a studio in the basement and he spent most of his time there. A little checked-out from the world, but when he returned he’d bring a new song with him.

Now, I completely get that obsessive passion about art. But I’m learning the importance of being present—in the moment. It’s hard to do when I’d prefer to be alone with my characters or plotting a new story. With the help of those I love, I’m learning to do both — achieve my writing goals and enjoy the special moments life offers.

When I’m not writing or reading, these are some of the things that can fill my days.

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1) I’m spending time with students—lots of them.

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2) Being a mom and volunteering at school.

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3) I like taking friends out for yummy desserts. This is Hotcakes Restaurant in

Charlottesville, Virginia and they have wonderful sweets.

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4) I take time to feel nostalgic. This is my high school. In 10th grade I had my Napoleon

Dynamite moment and danced in a talent show.

The audience cheered because they were so surprised this shy girl could break dance.

Now, I’d probably break something if I tried to spin on my head.

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5) I try to witness as many sunsets as possible. I love the sky. This is from my backyard.

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6)And lastly, in light of Fathers’ Day, my hubby got Father Of The Year. We attended a

special banquet where he was honored. So proud of him!

When you’re not writing, what are you up to? 🙂

 

One of the World’s Finest

Few can captivate a crowd of eighth graders with a speech.  Or have the gift to talk and somehow make each word ring with meaning.  In middle school I met a woman who did this effortlessly. I was attending a lecture at the University of Virginia, and I hardly understood the awesomeness of this guest speaker. Honestly, in eighth grade anything that will get you out of class and homework will do and is happily welcomed. So, I couldn’t wait to plop my bottom down in one of those uncomfortable wooden lecture chairs and listen to crickets if that was the presentation.

As soon as this woman opened her mouth to speak, the audience went silent.  I can’t remember all the topics she touched on but I remember the way I felt as she shared them: inspired, moved, curious, (like she was telling bits of a secret).

Afterward I went up to her to introduce myself. She was calm not frazzled like you’d think someone would be with a crowd of kids coming at them. She had a gentle confidence that was easy and approachable.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

She made me feel important and proud. Which is a big deal for an insecure twelve-year-old girl. 🙂

And after that day, I made sure to follow-up on her work. Listen to her interviews. Quote her wisdom. She became an influential person in my life without even knowing it. As a writer I think we all hope for that kind of impact on people. Today, it’s important to celebrate her life, all that she accomplished. I’m grateful to have met one of the world’s finest human beings.

And Dr. Angelou you’re right. I’ll never forget the way you made me feel. You will be missed. Her words will live on in all the hearts she touched. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from her:

"Be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud." M.A.

“Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” M.A.

 

Photo credit: victorianinnouray.com

 

Unusual Jobs

Interview picture

A note a staff member gave me before my interview

For this weeks snippet I’m sharing an RA interview. Another writer interviewed one of their characters last week and I really liked it! The process for the RA position is pretty intense. There’s a long, detailed application, 2-3 personal interviews, then group interviews where candidates do a series of tasks with other candidates. Organizing RA interviews and hiring can take an entire semester. It’s a big deal.

I’ve invited Carly (my character from The Hall Speaks #fallsemester) to sit with us and answer a few questions. These are real questions asked on interviews and I got them here. Hopefully it gives you a little insight into the RA job and my character. Carly wasn’t a girl I liked right away. She’s not mean but she isn’t concerned with trying to be nice. Eventually she grew on me.

The math: It’s May 7 so she will answer that many questions.  🙂

********

Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

So, Carly, thanks for meeting with me. I know you just finished interviewing with Landon for the actual RA position.  I’m going to ask you some of the same question he did but feel free to be candid. Nothing you share will get in the way of you getting the job.

1) Well, how are you?

“I’m fine…can’t wait to get out of these clothes, though. A little tight in all the wrong places if you know what I mean.” She’s wearing a lavender button down shirt and a navy skirt.

2) Ok, I won’t keep you long then. So, why do you want to be a RA?

Hm..I didn’t come to school thinking about the RA job—not at all.  My parents believe in working hard and all that, and want me to work through college. I can’t do retail or fast food stuff. No way. Being an RA seems pretty harmless. I get my own room, tell freshmen what to do, and get campus-credit. It’s really cool, when you think about it.”

She looks down at her lap for a moment, then back at me.

“Beside, it’ll be the first thing I do without my boyfriend. We’ve been together for, like– ever. So I want everyone to see that I’m more than Patrick’s girlfriend.  And the money I save my parents on room and board, they promised to give it to me after graduation. Not a bad deal.”

Pride gleams in her smile as she crosses her legs, leaning back in the chair.

3) Not a bad deal at all. And what are some of your strengths?

“I don’t really have a problem confronting people, especially if I’m right. I can keep residents in line. I’m a planner, good with numbers too. I’m an accountant major so I could maximize our RA programming funds.”

4) And what about weaknesses? What would you say those are?

“Weaknesses, Ha! I have plenty of those…like chocolate, margaritas, bakeries. In general when it comes to food I don’t discriminate. But I’ve been dating slim fast for the last 6 years so no one has to worry about me eating all the food at RA programs. But I guess my social weakness is forgetting that people have feelings. I can tend to just focus on my own,” she explains smiling with her eyes.

5) Why should we hire you?

“Because I have moves you’ve never seen.” She laughs and so do I. “I saw the original red-head, Julia Roberts,  say that in a movie once. Sorry—just wanted to see how that sounded. Why should you hire me? Well…I’m pretty awesome. But other than that, I’m reliable and really organized…I don’t stress out. School is fairly easy for me so I can handle those RA responsibilities just fine.  And I’m pretty normal. Alana’s cute if you’re into that Disney princess kind of look, but I caught her cleaning in the bathroom. I mean, who cleans public bathrooms unless it’s their job?  I’m nineteen with no major meltdowns on my record, so that should put me in the top ten on the candidate list.”

6) Carly, tell me what you would do in this situation: You notice that one of your residents doesn’t seem to want to return home for Christmas. When you approach her, she tells you she’s nervous about going home because her step-father molested her in the past. What would you do?

She sighs.“These questions… this makes me sad. I hate that people go through stuff like this—period. What I’d want to tell her is that while her step-dad is riding his broomstick to hell, that she can stay with me for break. My family is crazy-generous to everyone except me. Of course, I gave Landon the more censored, good-RA  answer, but honestly I couldn’t let her go home.”

7) Do you think Landon will hire you?

“Gosh, I sure hope so. He said I needed this job. Which I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that because my parents have money.  But he sounded pretty darn sure that I needed to be an RA on his staff. Yep–totally got that vibe from him.”

Well, maybe he thinks being an RA can help you as a person.

Her brows shift, moving closer together. She looks kind of offended.

I learned so much in the role and grew as a person because of it. Possibly he wants the same thing for you. Best of luck to you, Carly! I’m sure you’ll get the job. Thanks for letting me interview you. It’s nice getting the uncensored, unscripted version.

“Yeah, no problem. See ya around!”  She walks off towards a guy in a suit.

********

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds later today.  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading all! Stay beautiful. 🙂

Keeping Secrets from Friends

Beautiful Day

Beautiful Day

Today I’ll be brief. Writing, my job, and being a mom is catching up with my hands. Like most of us, I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my cell phone and laptop. And I don’t own a dishwasher so that means I am the dishwasher. Anyway–all this to say, my right hand and wrist are starting to feel tired, like carpel tunnel weak. But no complaints from me! I’m glad to have food to dirty my dishes and fortunate enough to write a story I love. So I’ll just have to incorporate  activities that don’t involve using my hands as much. Since the day is GORGEOUS I think a walk by the lake is long over due. 🙂

Before I do that, I wanted to share. I came across a journal my RAs gave me years ago with quotes and encouraging words. Finding little gems like this as I’m packing to move makes me happy. With the rush of life it’s important to take a moment to reflect, appreciate, and smile. I get the feeling that this RA knew I needed to hear these quotes. I still do.

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Hope these encourage you too!

Onto my WIP, the sequel to The Hall Speaks #fallsemester which, if all goes as planned, will be available in September. If this is your first time stopping by, I write about college life. My first novel is a NA contemporary drama about resident assistants (RAs). In another WIP Wednesday, I shared an excerpt featuring RAs Ethan and Carly. They have a past but are friends, so Carly believes. But Ethan has a secret that would cause irrevocable damage to their friendship. This except is from Ethan’s POV. 🙂

Math: April 23, 2014 comes out to 23 lines or so from blog post 14.

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Keeping Secrets From Friends

#Ethan

“Hey, man,” Ethan greeted the tall, long-haired guy. Their big hands clasped together like cymbals, sending a sharp echo through the lobby.

Ethan could feel his smile spreading across his face. He felt relieved to have friends that weren’t doing the Res-Life thing. And Finn didn’t live on campus which made it even better. He pulled Finn into a hug, arching his back so that Finn’s feet lifted off the tile.

“Guess, I’ll leave you two alone…enjoy the bromance,” Carly teased, wheeling away toward the hallway.

Finn’s eyes followed Carly, paying special attention to her wheelchair. Then he stared at Ethan.

“I know—don’t,” Ethan mumbled, rubbing his shoulder, thinking back to that night.

“I’m not. But you and,” he made a gesture with his hand, pointing to the hallway Carly left down, “…working together. How do you—?” he asked, squinting.

Ethan looked down at his Nike’s, avoiding the question.

“You’re not going to tell her, huh?” Finn didn’t wait for a response. “I don’t blame you,” he finished, catching sight of a girl walking by.

Ethan’s jaw tightened a cue for ‘shut up’ already. He wished a delete button existed. He’d use it, slamming his fist on every detail of that night—the night Kyle crashed into Patrick’s SUV. Ending Patrick’s life and leaving Carly…crippled.

He shook his head, hating that he thought of her that way. Even more he hated knowing  that he could have protected her–protected them both.

*******

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds later today. I’ve missed all the stories and excerpt shared during this time.  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading All! Stay beautiful. 🙂

How To Lose A Reader In 10 Pages

kateLet’s not lose them before we hook’em

Before I decided to self-publish, like any other writer-wanna-be I researched literary agents. On average, most preferred an outstanding query letter and the first 5 to 10 pages of your polished, glowing like the last lightning bug, manuscript. Those pages better cause the agent to miss their stop on the subway and compel them to contact at least five publishing houses because they are reading the next big thing. This may be a tab bit of an exaggeration but it sure seemed that way years ago when I was dating around the agent scene (I wasn’t into it much, only contacted two agents). The point is, that I kept running across this 5-10 pages requirement. Based only on a few pages–not even a full chapter, agents decided if a project was right for them.

For a new author this pressure is intimidating as all get-out—harder than trying out for American Idol. Most of the time they let the contestant finish their song. Writers do not get that luxury, many agents stop reading in the first paragraph if they spot problems.

I attended a writers’ conference that held a Gong Show for manuscripts. The host would read a manuscript and agents gonged when they lost interest. Out of 40 manuscripts only 1 made it through an entire page. I understand why they take this approach because the average reader wants to fall for a story immediately.

I get it, reading a novel takes commitment, time–it’s like starting a relationship. I jotted down feedback from this conference on what not to do, because in many ways agents represent the reader. And in real relationship fashion I’m going to share writing tips that also apply to dating.

Kate says it all

Kate says it all

  1. Explicit Intro: On average, talking about sex when first meeting someone isn’t a good idea—definitely off-putting. Opening a novel with an explicit sex scene is a big no-no as well. Now, with Erotica, the rules may be different but I image the reader isn’t thrown into a steamy bedroom scene in the first line.
  2. Showing Off: Ok, raise your hands if you like dating a show-off? Huh, I don’t see any hands. Unless you’re writing for writers or masters of the English language, the reader just wants a good story. To be entertained. Why use a twenty-dollar word when a five-dollar one will work?
  3. TMI (too much information):  Sharing all your business on the first date is an easy way to lose the interest of a potential partner. Where’s the mystery? What’s there to wonder about? It’s nice having to work a little when getting to know someone. Same applies to writing. Information dumping in the beginning doesn’t create that I-can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens response. Actually, it does the opposite–a real snooze-fest!
  4. Lack of Authenticity: No one can be you better than you. It’s really awkward being on a date when the person isn’t being themselves. Be true to the character and story by writing realistically. And it’s totally fine to do it your own way.
  5. Pacing: There’s a natural flow to good conversation just like there’s a natural flow to good storytelling. A good balance between summary and scene makes for enjoyable reading!  
  6. Hot-Mess: Showing up for a first date dirty and looking a hot-mess, will not go over well–unless it’s a rock climbing date. Being prepared and put together helps people to take you seriously. With a novel, having a ton of grammatical or spelling mishaps in the first few pages is unacceptable. 

As a writer it’s important to know what makes readers lose interest in the first 10 pages, and not do them. And there’s many more but six is plenty. To be honest, readers can lose interest with a perfect manuscript just because they have options.

America, at least, is full of the OEEB (Overly Entertained and Easily Bored). Scrolling through Netflix, trying to find the best, most suitable entertainment for my mood, can take more time than just watching a Walking Dead episode. My Kindle is a small library—and that’s the norm for young adults. But I still think it’s important to watch and read new stuff, even stuff I don’t think I’ll like.

I can’t tell you how many books, televisions shows, movies, that in the beginning turned me off. I had good reasons too: slow-paced books, cheesy movies, irritating characters. Then, after a while, I got hooked. At some point, I forgave the flaws and felt captivated by the story, the characters changing, or the moral dilemma.

Growing up I wouldn’t touch a fantasy novel, they just seemed weird to me. Because of a neighbor who shoved a fantasy novel in my hand I began to read my first fantasy/sci-fi series. The first chapter—I wasn’t feeling it. After the third chapter or so, I couldn’t put the book down.

These are just a few books/shows/movies that won me over.

  • Harry Potter series
  • Supernatural
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Walking Dead
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Les Miserable
  • Inception

So, this is my plea to the Reader. Novels aren’t perfect because imperfect people write them.  So, if the pacing seems off or it has fancy words or it’s a genre not of your liking, basically if it doesn’t’t hook you in the first 10 pages, keep reading. Most people are not a fan of insta-love, it’s always better when the characters grow and fall in love over time.

I take the same approach reading now. I don’t have to love a novel right away. I give it time to grow on me because I might just fall in love during the process. And finding things I love is always worth the journey it took to find it.

tumblr_inline_mxmfp8fj4q1r6ywxdFinding a book I  love–True Fandom!

Photo/Gif Credit: www.huffingtonpost.combysandradi.wordpress.comgiphy.com

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Intruder-WIPpet

March came with another snow storm. I’d like to think being stuck inside would lend itself to me getting more writing done, but I have children. So, I typically spend those snowy days trying to keep my little boys from breaking things. They’re use to being in daycare–I’m use to them being in daycare. However, I do love the special, unexpected time with my high-energy boys. Just yesterday we watched Pinocchio–Disney never gets old, and they loved it!

I’ve designated this month to editing the sequel to The Hall Speaks. I’m so looking forward to spending time with my characters (my number one fans). There’s a runner’s high but there’s also a writer’s high. I get into a zone, the endorphins are flowing, and nothing can distract me from their story. After writing, I actually feel more energized, confident and genuinely happy.  My posts may get sporadic as I rewrite and edit, just saying. 🙂

On a side note, I’m loving social media. I’ve been able to meet some of the nicest, most interesting people ever. Recently I ran across a post on Tumblr for Res-Life: The Musical. It’s nice finding others interested in promoting Residence Life.  They’ve raised close to 4,000 for this short film which they’ll be working on for the next few months. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on their progress.

Now onto my WIPpet! As some of you know, RA Sage gets caught in a horrible situation. Things get personal as he deals with the repercussions of  doing his job. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so it’s just a small section. Sage isn’t the kind of guy to shrink back, so he takes protecting himself to a whole different level.

March 5, 2014, so I came up with 14 multiplied by 3=page 42 and 5+3=8 sentences or so.  Enjoy!

Intruder

#Sage

Sage grabbed his book bag off the floor, unzipped it frantically, searching for his gun. His finger tips grazed the cold, hard plastic; carefully he gripped it in both hands, marveling at the black semi-automatic. He stood up, feeling the air move quicker through his lungs. In a fury he swung around, holding the gun out like he was about to shoot a target at close range. He felt as if the gun was just an extension of his body, as he turned to face his mirror. He blinked the wetness from his eyes as reality sunk deep into his stomach. They’d been in his house, unnoticed.

*******

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds tomorrow. And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading and let’s all keep writing!

Here’s a photo from an incredibly successful passive RA program with a great message.

RA program Mirrorless Monday.

RA program Mirrorless Monday.

I’m off to campus for the night. 🙂

Photo Credit: http://whatwecallreslife.tumblr.com

A Dream in Me and the Must-See Project

“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid” ~ Lupita Nyong’o

Early on as an RA I knew my job would never be in jeopardy (with this economy I wish I had that kind of job security now).  The dean of students pulled us together to go over university budget cuts. I know, budget cuts in education—such a shocker. At the time, I hardly cared, being a sophomore, and more concerned with classes I needed to study for than sitting through another department meeting.  But a fellow RA asked the dean if we would lose our job, if that was part of the budget cut.

I can still see the peculiar smile that spread across the dean’s face as he said, “Oh, no—you don’t have to worry about losing your job.  Your position is irreplaceable.”

Those words really caught my attention. Just a few weeks into being an RA, I wasn’t really sure what the dean meant. By the sixth time I was on RA duty, I knew exactly why my role was so important.

RAs:

 Train twelve’s hours a day for a week or more during the summer, Spend all day moving in their residents, Live with their co-workers and customers (residents),  Handle more paperwork than most secretaries, Serve on-call, confronting just about any student or building issue, Counsels the homesick, confused, abused, and I-just-need-someone-to-talk-to kind of students, Write up the drunk student and befriend them at the same time by inviting them to a program, Teach all sorts of life skills, Make the building pretty with bulletin boards and door tags, Have lots of meetings, some at odd hours of the night, All this while getting a degree and trying to balance that thing we call, “life.”

Q: I mean, who does this?

A: My Dean was right, this role is so important to the university.

For one day, I wish every college student could experience RA life. It’s a unique, unforgettable, unbelievable college adventure.  So much so, I had to write a book about it—had to! RAs are some of the greatest students I know.

My dream is to see Reslife go mainstream, past the halls, past college life, and into living rooms everywhere. Even if my novels aren’t the breakthrough project to do it—I still want Reslife to be celebrated.  I’ve always thought Reslife would make a stellar TV show, it’s like a Glee meets Grey’s Anatomy dipped in a little Friday Night Lights. I know, I sound like a Reslife fan and that’s… correct.  It may be a small dream, but it’s a dream in me. So, I couldn’t be more excited to share with you, Res-Life: The Musical. Chad King, RA and director, created a story that takes place in the upbeat world of Residence Life. A team of dedicated students are helping him put it all together. Here’s the synopsis:

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

Starry-eyed resident advisor Oliver seemingly manages to have it all while looking after the first-year students in his hall. But when he is stuck on duty during campus-wide Date Night, an unexpected breakup with his boyfriend catapults Oliver into an emotional crisis.

Now, he must decide if his busy job is worth the stress if it means losing the love he so desperately wants. Meanwhile, his resident Leah struggles to make college feel like home. Singing, dancing, and important realizations ensue as both Oliver and Leah attempt to find love over the course of an unforgettable night.

For more details, check out Res-Life: The Musical on Kickstarter.

As with any film, funding is a huge aspect: stage set, costumes, equipment, and practice locations. This can all get pretty expensive, so they’re asking for support. Helping others live out their dream is a wonderful gift. However big or small the help, it provides the artist with hope. As artists, writers, and dreamers hope is something we always need!