The Cat Ate My Homework

In the past I’ve been pretty lucky in the pets department. There are very few physical things I value highly in the world–the top three that come to mind are my shoes, my notebooks, and my books (both paper and electronic form)–and never before have I had a pet (read: dog, fish, bird, or turtle) interested in chewing my heels to a pulp or tearing through volumes of handwritten manuscript pages.

Enter, the new kitten, Gizmo, or as I ofttimes like to call him, Devil Kitten.

He looks deceptively cute, doesn't he?

Currently, he enjoys chewing everything: my clothes, my jewelry, my hair, cardboard boxes. And it’s even harder to protect these things from him because, unlike most dogs, he can get into high places, which means practically everything is within his reach. I hide electrical cords behind furniture so he can’t get them and put things away in drawers as soon as I’ve finished using them (this is actually making me quite a bit more organized, to be honest).

But yesterday, he dug his claws into a manuscript I had stacked neatly underneath my desk and within seconds two hundred pages were scattered across the floor, his wet nibble marks decorating the corners as he gnawed on the paper. His interest doesn’t end with the printed word, either. To his great delight, he’s nearly figured out how to consistently flip book pages on my Kindle Fire with the swipe of a paw and he apparently enjoys nothing more than leaping up onto my lap and quickly loosing my page, leaving me to hopelessly flip through, trying to find my place again, of course reading pages and paragraphs out of order that ruin future plot surprises in the process.

God, I hope this is a phase.

How did I manage to end up with probably the only cat in the world interested in destroying my personal library?

To the Former Owner of My New Home

blue living room, white fireplace, brown couch, parkay floors

My cool new condo and the most comfortable couch ever. See the snow out the windows?

I am officially a homeowner. Or, at least, a condo owner. I spent all of Friday scrubbing down every surface I could reach in preparation of move in (of course, on Saturday, aka Move-In Day, it snowed. What a pain). Though it’s a tiny place–not more than eight hundred square feet–and a little lacking in storage, the former owner still managed to leave behind some curious objects in the nooks and crannies:

  1. A plastic shoe horn;
  2. A box of trauma gauze (location: bottom shelf in the bedroom closet);
  3. An unopened package containing a cooking apron which is both waterproof and a “stylish look,” according to the label;
  4. An aluminum pot;
  5. An old National Geographic map with his life travels marked in red marker (Kiev, Czechoslovakia; Dublin, Ireland; and New York, New York); and, behind the map
  6. A single, colorful Czechoslovakian note/bill. Worth: unknown.

I wonder what the stories are behind all of that.

Dear 2011, You Win at Life: My Year in Review

The “Year in Review” has been a theme across the blogosphere this week and though I’m a bit belated—having been busy cramming some lovely last-minute activities into 2011 like skiing and fireworks in an area of the country where a good internet connection is hard to find—I thought that it was a worthy effort to give a fond farewell to all the excellent highlights of the past year.

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In the past twelve months, I got my very first publishing credit, followed by what was a welcome parade of several other acceptance letters (the only one currently available online is my academic paper, Lost in Translation: Retelling the Tale of Joan of Arc in the Honors Review), traveled to Boston, Massachusetts and to Savannah, Georgia for the first time, graduated with my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and History, lived in NYC, got a Certificate in Publishing from New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute, met Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner, and Frank Warren of Postsecret fame (on separate occasions), commuted nearly 10,000 miles (and listened to 18 audiobooks) in my first five months working at my job as an Assistant Editor at Transaction Publishers, wrote an entire 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel in the company of some great new local writer friends, won a few writing awards, and—we mustn’t forget!—since I started this blog in May, I’ve met lots of lovely new blogger friends, with a solid base of 32 lovely and loyal followers.*

‘tis been a good year indeed!

On a side note, over at Writer’s Relief, they’ve complied a round-up list of their best and most popular writing articles from 2011. I think it’s an excellent collection and they can help inspire some New Year’s resolutions for better writing and better submission habits. Another good resolution would be to sign up for the free Writer’s Digest newsletter! It’s chock-full of inspirational articles, writing prompts, and contest information. I know that since I graduated, I’ve been surrounded by less and less writing students, writing professors, and pressing due dates. Both of these newsletters do a good job of filling that hole by offering encouragement . . . or, when I’m more reluctant to compose something new, preferring to burrow under the covers and procrastinate with a book, the newsletters succeed at nagging me and reminding me of my writing goals.

Here’s wishing that 2012 is even better than the last!

*Waves at you through computer screen.

Writing Advice From Neil Gaiman

According to the Random Buzzers, it’s officially Writing Week.  They have a facebook page up called “Writing & Editing Advice from Around the Web” with a bunch of links up, so go check it out if you’re interested.  I’m providing you with one of the links right here because of my inexhaustible fondness for Neil Gaiman and his well-written advice:

How does one get published?

How do you do it? You do it.

You write.

You finish what you write.

You look for publishers who publish “that kind of thing”, whatever it is. You send them what you’ve done (a letter asking if they’d like to see a whole manuscript or a few chapters and an outline will always be welcome. And stamped self-addressed envelopes help keep the wheels turning.)

Sooner or later, if you don’t give up and you have some measurable amount of ability or talent or luck, you get published. But for people who don’t know where to begin, let me offer a few suggestions:

Stories that Haunt our Memories

“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”  –Neil Gaiman

I just found this quote for the first time and was completely struck by it.  Basing off the criteria that certain stories have had such a big impact on you that:

  1. You reread them at least once a year,
  2. You recommend them to anybody who stands still long enough next to you on the subway,
  3. The characters are so significant that they reserve sections in your memory as big and important as real people; and
  4. They changed the way you think and act in your own life…

I’m wondering what stories haunt you?  Did you read them forever ago or are you still having life-changing reading experiences?


  1. Peter Pan
  2. I Am the Messenger
  3. The Book Thief
  4. Together Apart
  5. Ella Enchanted

Even Ernest Hemingway Got Rejection Letters

To make you all feel a bit better about your most recent rejection letters, to keep you amused while you wait for some more rejection letters, and to encourage you to ignore those rejection letters and keep submitting your short stories and manuscripts anyway, I thought I’d provide a link to this rather hilarious article about Famous Author Rejection Letters.  My favorite is about how Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time got 26 rejections before it was accepted…and went on to become a Newberry Award winner.

Many new or mid-level writers have received nasty or rude rejection letters. But when famous author rejection letters come to light, people laugh and say “What were those editors (or literary agents) thinking?” Many big names faced the same kind of adversity (and even hostility) in rejection letters that you may be facing now. Famous author rejection letters teach us a lot!

When you get a harsh rejection letter, keep these famous author rejections in mind…

Check out these excerpts from REAL famous author rejections:

  1. Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
  2. Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
  3. J. G. Ballard: The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.
  4. Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
  5. Ernest Hemingway (regarding The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.

Learning the Nuts and Bolts to Getting Your Book Published

This is my understanding of the process and, thus, how I’m going about it personally.  Any disagreements?  Got any suggestions to add?

1.  Write the Book

The whole thing.  Agents and publishers are only interested in completed fiction.  They want to know the final word count and they want to start working on the project right away.  So don’t waste your time and there’s querying about an incomplete book.  Of course, there are exceptions.  Like with non-fiction projects.  Only write the first couple chapters and then write an outline for the rest when you query.  Find out more about that process here.

2.  Research Literary Agents

I recommend Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011.  There’s a new issue every year, so make sure you get the most recent copy.  Only submit to agents who are actively searching for your type of book.  If you have a YA book, don’t submit it to an agent who only does adult books.  First off, you’ll guaranteed get a rejection letter.  Second, you want the best agent possible for your manuscript.  You want a YA literary agent who has lots of contacts in the YA publishing world and lots of experience working with the genre, not some adult literary agent who is entering the field for the first time.

On that point, check out literary agent Mandy Hubbard who is a very active agent.  She recently posted some statistics on what she likes reading and her average query response time.  All nice things to know.

3.  Query Agents

See my previous post about how to write a query letter.

Honestly, I don’t know what happens after that, because I haven’t gotten that far.  I assume the literary agent takes the wheel for awhile and the writer gets to keep on waiting.  And revision, there’s probably going to be a lot of revision involved.  There’s another whole process for how to deal with revision letters from editors (better than a rejection letter, yes??).  The Writer’s Waiting Room never ceases to exist in some form.