January 29, 2009

An Open Letter to…

Dear Dynagirl Knits,

Holy cows! You found the song that stumped Scott, and in about three seconds! Evil Horse/evil dog, Tomato/Tomahto. Whatever, this IS the song I liked that one time I liked a song:

OOOH SO thumpy!

Please email me your snail addy and say what prize you want and I will mail it as soon as ever I get out of pajamas. So…March?

Love,
Joshilyn at Joshilyn Jackson dotcom

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Dear Weight Watcher’s,

Let’s try again.

I am sorry I called you a “meticulous, tick-mark-obsessed rubricon for anal retentives with too much spare time.” I don’t even know what rubricon MEANS. I suspect it isn’t a word, and I just said it because it SOUNDS pejorative and I was angry. We BOTH said things we did not mean.

I am sure you, for example, didn’t mean to give me that judgmental flat line mouth icon TWO WEEKS IN A ROW because I had lost less than a pound. Just so our start is TRULY fresh and all past uglinesses are firmly behind us, I DO feel I should tell you that the loss of half a pound should be worth a full on smiley, if not the yellow victory trophy icon. That flat mouth guy just makes me feel judged, and also like punching you in the face. Let’s not see him anymore this time, okay?

But that is all in the past! I like your new orange anthropomorphized version of HUNGRY. VERY fetching. I am fetched! I like the new system where you make activity points weekly, so that I don’t feel obligated to go downstairs and gobble up four points of popcorn at 10 pm just so I won’t lose that day’s work out points. I can save them all up and have Like It Cake Batter Cold Stone Creamery Ice cream (10.5 points) with Cookie Dough (4 points) with you on Saturday, instead. GREAT IDEA!

In short, Weight Watcher’s, I like the cut of your new jib.

And do not even try to play coy! I know you want me back. You think QUITE fondly of me, especially considering the fact that I have continued to pay your monthly fee for six months even though were technically not speaking to each other and I told everyone that you sucked and I hated you and I wished you were deaddeaddead. I think we both know I did not mean that. Much. Maybe at the time. ANYWAY! I kept paying the fee as a way to, you know, keep in touch. I think we both knew we were destined to come back to each other, just as soon as my fat jeans got tight.

Come home, beloved, all is forgiven,
Joshilyn

PS There is NO FREAKIN’ WAY those two TINY chicken fajitas I had at church at last night cost ten points. If things are going to have a FAINT PRAYER of working out between us, you can’t be such a butthole.

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Dear South Beach Diet,

Hey! I ran into Amy at Boot Camp and she says you guys are back together and she seems so happy. Heh. How nice for her! And you! AND STUFF. It sure made me remember that beautiful summertime romance you and I had. With the nuts? And the way you were never once unreasonable about cheese? Good times.

You may have heard I am seeing WW again. Yeah. You know, WW and I, we have a history, and when it was good for us that one time, it was REALLY good.

You and me? Oh yes, we were good together too, but, you know, I AM seeing WW now. Although, not to be all GOSSIPY or talk behind WW’s back or anything, but WW did get just a little shirty about the cheese on my fajitas last night. Couple of tablespoons, tops, and WW acted like I had killed the fatted calf and eaten just the fatted parts. With mayo. What’s THAT about? But WW is really trying and um, yeah we are back together.

You and I should keep in touch, though. Definitely. Just, as FRIENDS, though, you know? No need to tell WW that you and I are back talking because WW can be silly about things like that and might totally get the wrong idea. You and I know it is harmless and doesn’t mean a THING. Not really. Okay well, text me back!

TTFN,
J

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Dear Double Chocolate Caramel Chip and Toffee Homemade Cookies,

I made you for the KID’S LUNCHES. How was I to know that this whole week was early release for student conferences and that there would BE no lunches packed. And now you sit in my pantry, seven points a serving, unattainable and beautiful and clearly mocking me. Get out! Get out of my LIFE! Get out of my PANTRY! Take the batch of extra dough that is sitting in the freezer right now WITH YOU.

But maybe I will come and, you know, give you a tiny tiny tiny lick goodbye. On your way out the door. A lick is probably zero points, and anyway we do not have to make a big thing and TELL WW, right? What’s a teeny little lick between friends…

J.

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Dear Weight Watcher’s Activity Tracker,

You do not have Boot Camp (Intense, Moderate, Light) listed in your database, and I cannot figure out how many points to award myself for Tuesday’s 60 minute session of alternating floor exercises with galloping around the church building and whining. For the record, you also do not have Calisthenics (Intense, Moderate, Light) listed, or Cross training (Intense, Moderate, Light) listed, nor any other synonym for Boot Camp.

While we are on the topic, I happened to notice you currently do not have a listing for sex (Intense, Moderate, Light). If you truly believe sex is not worth at LEAST one activity point, I respectfully submit to you that you are doing it wrong.

Love,
Joshilyn

Posted by joshilyn at 8:51 AM | Comments (19)

January 27, 2009

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Today I blogged over where my cool group of fellowSouthern Authors blog.

You should come on over – I have cleverly buried a contest under all the yapping.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:59 PM | Comments (4)

January 25, 2009

The Last of the WRITER'S FAQ

Wow. I actually seem to be following through on this FAQ business. It is astonishing.

Assuming I continue on this vague "If I glance up and happen to notice it is Monday or some other day that is NEAR Monday, write some FAQ" plan, then in a few more weeks the whole thing will be done, and then Scott can put the pages up. The fact that while I work on this new section the whole REST of the site is falling out of date is something we are all going to politely pretend not to notice. LOOK! OVER THERE! SOMETHING SHINY!

BUT HOW DO I FIND A WRITING GROUP?

At midnight on all hallow's eve you drag an unblemished goat to the black altar....okay maybe not. It IS hard, but I think you can do it without summoning the aid of demonic forces. Probably. You look in all the places where writers hang and writing groups tend to meet until you find your kind. Bookstores. Libraries. Schools. Coffee houses. Even wine bars. There will be creative writing classes offered ALL OVER your city or town. Test drive a few, until you find your posse.

If you live rural, then thank The Lord for the internet! Join writers groups online and read the posts carefully. Make friends with the folks who write good emails and who seem to be your kind. One of my best friends and a crit partners is a woman I met online several years before either of us was published.

I WROTE A NOVEL! HERE IT IS ATTACHED! CAN YOU PLEASE READ IT AND CRIT IT FOR ME AND HELP ME GET IT PUBLISHED? KTHANXBAI!

I do not read unpublished manuscripts or writing samples that do not come to me through a workshop/conference/class I am teaching or that are not already under contract for boring, stupid legal reasons. I have too many of my own ideas to need to steal anyone else's, but we live in litigious times and my agent prefers for me to tell people to query him directly. I am sorry.

If you want a mentor (and I always like to have one) I suggest you look locally for a class taught by a writer whose work you admire. It will probably be fun. If it is NOT, try a different class. You will learn a LOT from reading the work of your peers in a workshop situation. It’s easier to see errors in other’s work, and then when you get used to spotting them, you grow secret eyes (mine are on stalks!) that let you see the same mistakes on your own pages.

To be honest with you, even if I read it and liked it better than any book I had ever seen before, it wouldn't help you get published. Pulitzer prize winning genius and all around excellent human guy Rick Bragg tells how he (as a writing prof at an Alabama college) has tried to help over 100 MS-es find agents or publishers...he has succeeded once. And he has SO much more pull and influence and street cred than someone like me.

OKAY, BUT CAN YOU HELP ME GET AN AGENT?

Not really. I have sent MS-es that I fell for via writing groups and teaching writing workshops to my own agent probably 15 times --- he has never taken on one of them yet. Other writers are not going to be that useful to you once you are PAST the writing/critting stage....I can’t help you get an agent.

I got mine the old fashioned way: I got a writers market book and did everything it said. It took me 175 + query letters, and gods in Alabama was my THIRD novel, not my first --- gods was just the first one that sold. There is no fast track, if you aren't a celeb already with built in platform and don't live in NYC then in a lot of ways who you know means next to nothing, but breaking into the industry ABSOLUTELY can be done. Sign up for the free version of Publisher's Lunch and see the list of debuts sold by people just like you every week. You need to have a brave heart and the ability to bounce back after every no until you find your yes, and the ability to work on the NEXT book (which will be better----you have learned so much writing this one that the next will SHOCK you, I swear...) to work on the NEXT book while this one is making the rounds of agents.

Write well and query professionally, and hand to god, you can get an agent. People who say you can't and that it is "WHO YOU KNOW" tend to say that because THEY have not yet found an agent, and they stopped. If you want to publish, you cannot stop. You keep submitting, and if you get NO, rewrite, and if you get MORE no, put that book in a drawer and write the next one.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:50 PM | Comments (10)

January 21, 2009

To and From and Fro and Re:

This is the funniest thing I have read in a year. It is about this dog, who belongs to Lydia’s sister:

santashelperfromhell.jpg

SPEAKING OF DOGS, I have no way to make like ET and phone home here --- no cell signal, and the phone in the house is purely for local and 911 calls. SO Scott has been keeping me up to date on kids and pets via email. It’s been so cold our poor dog has been stuck in the house for 98% of the day, and he tends to get squirrelly and whine for the yard and eat shoes when he has to be inside all the time. I asked Scott how he was handling it, and got an update email.

Scott: Bagel has been inside and well behaved these past few days, if you discount the time he laid his head in my lap and threw up foam.

HEE. I DO discount it. Good dog!

Here one of the cats gets SO excited over wet foot he gobbles and throws up a little foam as well. This morning, stepping barefoot into his modest puff of hork, I thought, “This like a weird form of bonding, Scott in Georgia, me in NC, and both of us with carbonated pet vomit on our lower extremities.”

Then I thought, “WOW I am looking for a mystical marital link in the frothy upchucks of interspecies animals. I REALLY miss my husband. It is TIME TO GO HOME.”

I am going to finish this chapter and then get in MY motorized The Good Cat and hit road, snow or no snow.

SPEAKING OF EMAILS (you see how I am working these transitions? MASTERFUL! SO SEAMLESS! It’s like these stories actually GO together in some sort of thematic and relevant way. Except not. It only LOOKS like they go because the first one has a dog and the second has a dog and an email and the third has an e-mail.) yesterday I was exchanging emails (SEE?!) with a fellow novelist who is busy NAMING her characters. This is a delicate and endless process that requires cocktails and multiple conversations. At one point she said, “What if I name the narrator CECILY?”

I wrote back and said, “It’s a good name. I only have known one--- a VERY rowdy Cecily, back in my hometown. She was my mortal enemy in ninth grade and she was so rowdy her mother sent her to Catholic school. Then, senior year, all the local high schools arranged a trip to Europe for college credit and we both went and we ended up friends.

There was a terrifying nun named Sister Catherine who went along as a chaperone. TERRIFYING. She could shoot holy laser beams of righteous destruction from her eyeballs and insta-burn teenage girls into whimpering cinders of apology and woe.

Pensacola legend holds that Cecily did not get to walk at Graduation because about three weeks before the ceremony, she got veryveryveryrowdy indeed and had her boyfriend dangle her by the ankles over the old train trestle and she took red spray paint and wrote, “SISTER CATHERINE IS A SLUT” in foot high letters.

And SIGNED it.”

Then this morning I had a note from someone I think may be that same Cecily---I have not heard from her nor seen her in 18 years, but I have known no other Cecilys I can recall --- on Facebook.
The world is very small and getting smaller.
The world is also very weird, and it seems to be maintaining its weirdness at defcon 11.
(Most weirdnesses only go to ten, but this world? Is an 11.
That’s one louder.)

Posted by joshilyn at 2:04 PM | Comments (15)

January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

THANK you for the phone service help, and for all your suggestions for #9 in yesterday’s list, and PS, it seems 93% of you are filthy minded beasts. HEE. On retreat, with no working phone and no working PATHWORDS (my favorite Facebook app does NOT run on this laptop…) I am checking for new comments about four times an hour.

I am still in the North Caroline mountains, and today I woke up to discover I am snowed in! BY ACTUAL SNOW! Actual powdery white frozen water has stuck to the ground and snowed me in. I have only a few lean cuisines and no human company to Donnor party should the snow not dissipate.

On the other hand, it’s only an inch thick. (Some chick in Chicago just fell out of her chair laughing at me fluttering over an inch of snow, and she bruised her left buttock. “You deserve that bruise, young lady,” I say sternly, “and if you had ever seen Southerners try to DRIVE in snow, you would hole up and pray for bright yellow sunshine, too.”

The road will be full of skiddy hazardous soccer mothers on cell phones shrieking OH POO! I AM SKIDDING! SHOULD I PULL OVER??? …WHAT? HONEY?... WHAT’S A SNOW CHAIN? And Manly Men’s Mans who will go BARRELLING ALONG thinking a little snow will not affect their manlyman driving, and they will KEEP thinking it even as they slide sideways into me and make my pretty new car plummet off the mountainside and be SMASHED INTO TRAGIC ORANGE PIECES. As an added inconvenience, I will plummet and be smashed to pieces, too.

Bah. Snow.

If I can get a signal I will post a crappy quality cell phone picture of my car all SNOWED OVER. And then a picture of my car from the side, so you can see his gallant profile. Maybe one of him in a Speedo, or a slouchy hat, or one of him thinking deep and wistful thoughts against a backdrop of the blue ocean.

As you can see, my Romance with The Good Cat continues. I have never loved a motor vehicle with such passionate vehemence, and it is only partially because after DING DONG DEVIL VAN, a recalcitrant double humped camel in a saddle would have been a more acceptable, comfortable, and convenient conveyance. Even if the camel was a biter. AND A SPITTER.

The other part is how ORANGE he is. SO SO SATISFYINGLY ORANGE. Also, he has Lumbar support. In ding dong devil van, more than an hour of driving resulted in a deep ache in the spot where I once hurt my back falling off horses. I had to drive four hours to get up here, and even though I have been snowed in and am quite likely to die, I will go to my grave with NO LOWER BACK PAIN from the drive.

Also. Because of the Good Cat, I am now morally obligated to be completely fulfilled and actualized as a human being. And I AM. I TRULY AM. You have to understand the context okay?
Here is the context. You have to go read it for my next five words to resonate in the proper way. Go read it, and come back. I will make spoiler space.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Back? Okay. Here are the five words, though I am sure by now you have guessed them:
The Good Cat has ONstar.

We are trying it free for thirty days, and I have 24 left, and already I am willing to sell plasma to keep it. It is everything I always hoped. The ONstar peeps who answer your phone in the car are JUST AS FRIENDLY as the ONstar peeps in the commercials. No matter how many times you call. And YOU HAD BEST BELIEVE I AM GETTING MY FREE SAMPLES WORTH, Oh Best Beloveds. I am calling if I am lost (and I always am), but also if I need to, say, find a bookstore on my route to get an audiobook.

So, I have had the free trial for almost a week now, and YES I do understand that this obligates me to be utterly happy for the rest of my life. Since I am likely to die in the next day or two because of SNOW, that's not going to be a problem. Should I I survive, ONstar may not make me happy for the rest of my life, but it will for at LEAST the next 24 days.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:16 AM | Comments (20)

January 18, 2009

How Many Fingers?

1) For some reason, the last few days, I have had a HUGE desire to blog in LIST form. It seems so TIDY. I would like something to be tidy. My brain is not tidy.

2) I put out a distress beacon about needing a quiet place to go DRAFT and my friend Sara, who is currently at Disneyworld with her husband and kids, gave me her whole house.

3) Not to keep. Darn it.

4) This is number four on my tidy list, I am here drafting for 4 days, and Sara has four cats. Two I have cat-crushes on, one I quite like, and one who is full of evil in a very Boggart-y way. I find four to be an EXCELLENT and SOOTHING number, be it list entries, days or most especially cats. They pile around me on the sofa when I sit and slink around my legs like furry serpents when I get up.

5) I need to know---rawther desperately, plot pointily speaking---if *69 EXISTED in 1997. The wiki is full of dateless plagiarism on this topic. I cannot discover if everyone KNEW about it and it was widely available, or if it was NEW or if it was even in place. It seems LIKELY it existed in the world because there was a BAND named Star 69 who put out an ALBUM in England in 1997. So. ASSUMING the band was named after the phone feature, it existed. In England. The band never charted, so there is little info about them, and maybe they were named after a flaming ball of gas in space and a piece of well known slang for a page of the Kama Sutra. WHO KNOWS. Not me.

6) I fail google.

7) I think that if I put the name of a city and the name of a restaurant and the word MENU into google, it should give me THAT RESTAURANT’S website FIRST, or at least on page one. But instead I have to wade through 5 pages MASSIVE corporate sites like Menuism, citymenu, usdiners etcetc ETC ETC ET CETRA ETTTTTT CETTTTRAAAA on into perpetuity, on and on, FOR PAGES AND PAGES, the first 8 of which have NO info about the Sushi place I saw on the way in where I wish to purchase a take-out dinner tonight, but instead has a PLACE HOLDER PAGE with no menu, no directions, no reviews, in fact NO info at ALL, just ADS and a plaintive and vain hope that I might like be the first person to review this place.

8) Sometimes, Google fails me.

9) Please insert your OWN nine here, or put a possible 9 for me in the comments? THANKS!

10) Because I am out of things to say, and it’s tidier to have ten.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:18 PM | Comments (26)

January 16, 2009

In Which I Let my Attic Squirrels Go Ambling Past. On Crack.

1) Yesterday I decided to do the ab clinic at BOOT CAMP, I changed out of pajamas and into sweatpants---not a big change, granted, but definitely a move in the right direction, considering I had been in PJs for more than 72 hours and was beginning to creep along the baseboards muttering about wallpaper. Today, in spite of flabby evidence to the contrary, it appears I do actually possess some ABDOMINAL MUSCLES.

They cannot be seen, hidden as they are beneath a rounded lady belly, but they are THERE. Truthfully, I liked it better when my abdominal muscles were purely theoretical because the way they have chosen to prove their existence is via soreness. “I Ache, Therefore I am,” say my abs, and I say back, SHUT UP AND HAVE SOME MOTRIN OR I’LL DO MORE CRUNCHES.

2) Today, in an even more radical move, I put on ACTUAL PANTS. With a ZIPPER. And left the house before I became squirrelly enough to bake the cat. I am currently at Starbuck’s bitterly resenting my fellow Christians because they have asked Will to turn off the music so they can have a completely audible discussion about corporate policy vis-à-vis Jesus and I am HEARING EVERY FREAKING WORD.

I love Jesus, but I am SO not interested in corporate policy and although I can use it in a sentence I would be hard put to actually DEFINE what VIS-À-VIS means and I do not want to know. Not in any context. I generally love to work in coffee shops because the music and the talking and the WHHHHRRRRRR of the espresso maker all blend into a patina of general hubbub that busies my top brain and lets the underbrain work on books. BUT take out the music and fill the place with a single large group having a single conversation rife with frenchified phraseology, splashing things like VIS-À-VIS all over the tables, and I can’t NOT listen.

3) On the radio on the way over I heard that a new study shows drinking three or more cups of coffee (or it’s equivalent in caffeinated products) ups ones chances of experiencing hallucinations to a significant degree.

4) In completely unrelated news, I want to have a fourth shot in the dark (A cup of coffee with a shot of espresso dumped in for extra bitter black deliciousness), and I plan to order one, just as soon as I can wade through bloated corpses of the thousand multicolored rhinoceroses that have suddenly decided to bloom out of the floor.

5) I am approaching the end of this book in hurky fits and starts of word spewings, and I keep SIDETRACKING myself. I JUST spent 15 minutes on a meandering riff, trying to get the wording right on this image so that it is clear that this COMPLETELY NON ESSENTIAL librarian character DID NOT actually just make some sweaty sweaty lovin’ with a biker in the stacks. It’s just her hair looks like she might have done so. At some point.

5) So Jill called me --- now in my head every time I say the name Jill I think IDKMYBFFJILL? because I watch too much TV, or another way of saying that would be, I do not sleep enough---and she said HOW COME YOU NEVER COME OUT AS A GAMER ON YOUR BLOG AND ARE ALL SECRETIVE LIKE YOU ARE TOO COOL FOR MMORPGS WHEN REALLY ALL YOU DO THESE DAYS IS WRITE THAT BOOK AND THEN ESCAPE INTO LOERDERON AND DO YOU AT LEAST HAVE PANTS ON? And I said, Dood I have many times mentioned that I game on my blog. And she said BUT YOU NEVER GET ALL RAINBOW OUT ABOUT IT AND SAY I PLAY AN UNDEAD HOLY PRIEST ON WOW GO HORDE I HEAL ORCS I AM PROUD AND LOUD AND HAVE ROTTED OUT KNEE BONES IN THE GRAPHICS. And I said, because….that would be sososo weird? But then, look, I just told you. Also, Mr. T. Plays. SO. How weird can it be?

END QUERY: If the objective in coming to starbucks was not JUST to put on pants for the first time in close to 4 days, but RATHER was to go into PUBLIC as a way to TAMP DOWN THE BIG CRAZY, how do you think that is working, hmmmm?

Posted by joshilyn at 9:39 AM | Comments (22)

January 14, 2009

Hey, LOOK! More FAQ Happened (part 2)

HEY! Remember I am SLOWLY via blog entries that I was sposed to do once a week (HEH) building an FAQ that will eventually be a WHOLE PAGE unto itself? Me neither. But this morning I suddenly did remember, so here is another chunk of it.

This is some more of the FAQ for WRITERS. There will also be one for readers. I will continue to POST AS I GO and when I am done it will all MAGICALLY appear in the drop down menu. Right Scott? RIGHT!

Also I think when TGWSS launches in PAPERBACK I will add another weekly feature for 6 weeks with GIVEAWAYS every Monday. IF I REMEMBER. Remind me because I have a BUCKET of cool prizes on the shelf beside me that I keep forgetting exist. HEH.

I WROTE A BOOK AND I SHOPPED IT AND IT DIDN’T SELL AND I AM COINSIDERING GOING TO LIVE IUNDER THE BED UNTIL I DIE. CAN YOU OFFER ME SOME ADVICE?

If you want to be a writer, you have already succeeded. You finished a novel---congratulations. It's a huge accomplishment. Writing and publishing are NOT THE SAME THING. Get that tattooed on your body.

Now, if you want to PUBLISH, which is not the same thing at writing, remember? From your tattoo? Then my advice is "write another one." My first two novels are moldering away peacefully under the bed in lieu of my own personal sorrowful rejected corpse. They are likely to remain there. I think you have to write a novel or two or ten to learn how to write the dern things. The other route is, write the same one over and over for ten years...I am too impatient for that, but it worked for Donna Tart and both her novels make me want to die of love for her.

Also, get a writing group. I LOVE my writing group (or join a workshop at a local college or library or institute). It's fun, and a good set of peers will make you a better writer. A good set of peers is by definition keen eyed, supportive, honest, and made up of people whose work blows your mind --- people you suspect daily of being better writers than you are. They'll make you better, too.

If you are the best writer in your group…you are in the wrong group. Working with people who you KNOW make mistakes you are beyond won’t help you grow. It will just make you feel comfortable and superior and you won’t have to PUSH yourself to impress them. Get with folks that you have to PANT to keep up with. If they sometimes find themselves panting as they strive to keep up with you, they will want to be with you right back. These are your peers. This is your pack. You will grow and succeed as a group, most likely.

SAY I ACCEPT THAT WRITERS ARE SECRETLY PACK ANIMALS THAT NEED TO SNUFF AT THE MUSKS OF THEIIR PEERS IN ORDER TO ADVANCE. SO OKAY! I WILL GET A WRITING GROUP! SHUT UP ALREADY!

BUT WHAT ABOUT WRITER’S CONFERENCES? SHOULD I GO?

If you can afford it, go. Go for three reasons. First, to hang with writers who have made it in the industry, and ask them craft questions and be open to the answers. Also, to learn about how the publishing industry works for agents and editors, who will ALSO be at those conferences. Also, to meet peers who will make you grow as a writer.

When talking to agents and editors, remember that Writing is a maddening and delightful craft, and you can pursue it in your pajamas. Publishing sometimes requires a hairbrush and a big bucket in which to hide The Crazy while you front like Mental Health is your long time lover instead of a guy you saw on the bus one day and he looked kinda scared of you. Conferences help you practice the Fine Art of Not Looking Squirrelly.

When talking to published writers, talk 80% writing, 20% publishing, at most. Every writer I know that teaches at conferences has said, at one point or another, a variation on “HOLY COW! THAT WOMAN IN THE THIRD ROW! ASKED ME A QUESTION! ABOUT….WRITING!!!! And we say it withy starry eyes and we are impressed with that woman in the third row. Because she gets it. Publishing is a business, and yes it’s fun to drink a big cocktail and trade war stories and tell the drama of HOWIGOTANAGENT. But writers care about the WORK---the story – getting it out of the head and onto the page.

When with your peers, the focus is writing. Listen to crits without being defensive. Take what resonates with you, thank them for the rest and use it or not. You dontl;have to explain to them why they are wrong. Glean what you can get and make the book better. Fighting about whether or not they GET you wastes your crit time. When your work is ready to shop, there are a thousand books out there about how to get an agent. Don’t waste valuable workshop time on that crap. Get the work as good as you can make it.

When I was ready to shop, I used the Writers Market books (and website) to learn to write queries and such---you don't need connections, but once again, conferences where you meet agents and editors are fun and can be useful, both for finding a writing group or selling a piece.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:49 AM | Comments (12)

January 12, 2009

Time to Play with Picture Pages

Remember my mental illness number? You may have seen it passing yours in the last week or so, a white-streak of blazing light with a bumper sticker that reads, “Moon or bust. Or bust anyway. WHATEVER. SHUT UP, SHUT UP, YOU DEMON VOICES!”
My Deadline, she approacheth.

If my mental illness number HASN’T passed yours, and if, in fact, yours can look down and see mine zooming merrily upward toward it from where it sits fumigating deepest cold space with the kind of crazy rays that make folks on earth reach for their tinfoil hats, then get thee to a place where the walls are very soft. Hint: Not a nunnery.

In lieu of coherent thought --- beyond me on this cold and yak-cheese-level-smelly Monday --- here is the new, sharply focused PAPERBACK cover for The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. Whatcha think?

TGWSS%20PBcov%20blogsize.jpeg

It’s ACTUALLY from the same shoot as the pic on the hardback, which you can see in the thumbnail in the left sidebar. I like how the new, sharper version lets you see her chippy adolescent toe polish. AND I SAY THIS as a 40 year old woman who is currently sporting about TEN prime examples of chippy toe polish. BUT I AM BAT CRAP CRAZY just now, so, perhaps chippy toe polish has a more diverse demographic than “just for tweens.” I would guess it includes tweens and loons and busy people and women currently experiencing winter.

TGWSS launches in PB in May. May 26th. I linked to AMAZON because they are the only folks so far with it up for pre-order, and you know, when it comes to books, mine in particular, I think you should order early and often. *nodnodnod* If you haven’t read TGWSS yet, the character I love and hate very most in the book is named Thalia. (Pronounced THALE-ya) and I stole the name and the glorious blonde locks from a perfectly charming little girl who was my BFF for a week every summer when we met up at WIREGRASS CHRISTIAN YOUTH CAMP.

ANOTHER Me-n-Thalia photo has surfaced on facebook:

thalianjoss.jpg

I wish I knew where she ended up. I liked that chick so much as a kid. I hope she doesn’t mind I used her name for a wild actrss (but a pretty one! Also smart and savvy and, er, maybe just slightly nihilistic. And chock full of moral turpitude. Prone to violence and havoc. BUT PRETTY. Did I mention pretty?)

Just for funsies, let’s play a humiliating game of FIND THE DORK IN THIS PHOTO:

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Yes. You are correct, the dork is ME, the one in the stylin’ Gauchos with the Salad Bowl hair cut. I. Was. So. Cool. Even then! AND as you can imagine, I am ALMOST a little bit cooler than that NOW. Hard to believe, but TROO.

Last and least, a lolcat I liked so much, here on the eve of my fast approaching deadline, that I sent it to my editor:

funny pictures of cats with captions
more More lolcats here


Peace out.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:22 AM | Comments (17)

January 8, 2009

Lawn Fork PART THE SECOND

Not a lawn lover, me, but at some point, Sam shrugged off babyhood and became a rambunctious toddler, and our teeny starterhouse could not contain him. He wanted to expand his demesnes to OUTSIDE, and I had to go with him because he was at that age where one’s wonder at the discovery of new things causes one to give white dog poops an experimental lick, and when stomping headlong into the creek and either getting filthy or drowning seem like EQUALLY FINE ideas.

SO my dad came over from Alabama and he and Scott built a fine wooden play fort with attached swings, and I took Sam out to explore The WonderLawn daily, and all was good.

Sam’s first word was KITTY, by the way. Not Mama, Not Daddy (Daddy was Maisy’s) (Mama was the first word of my hypothetical THIRD child, the PERFECT one who is already at Stanford and he hasn't even been BORN yet. Nor will he be.) Sam’s was KITTY. Our kitty at the time was AWFUL WALLEY who was literally the worst cat to ever poo up this otherwise perfectly good planet. He made BOGGART look like a RANK amateur. Walley had a heart condition, so not only was he grumpy, hyper-sensitive, malfeasant, dishonest, vindictive and inconvenient, he was ALSO EXPENSIVE. And he hated babies. ALL babies, on general principle, but he loathed Sam in particular.

Sam. Loved. Him. Sam said Kitty every time Awful Walley came into the room. He said Kitty over and over again relentlessly, as long as he could see the cat. Awful Walley understood enough English KNOW he was the kitty being referred to, and he would widen his eyes in loathing and alarm as Sam chanted KITTYKITTYKITTY at him, and flee the scene lest the BABY touch him with his STICKY CLUTCHY BABY HANDS. Sam said KITTY in a delighted way when Walley appeared, called KITTYKITTYKITTY in coaxing hope as Walley slunk past, and then mournfully hooted kitty down the hall as Walley’s star shaped behind twinkled out of view. Kitty was his only word for WEEKS, and we got very tired of it. Not as tired as Walley, maybe, but pretty TIRED.

By the time we were doing Lawnsploration, though, Sam had a good 25 word working vocab, and his favorite word was, “Whazzat?”

Him: Whazzat?
Me: A plant.
Him: Whazzat?
Me: ANOTHER plant. Stinking things are everywhere, Sammy.
Him: Whazzat?
Me: Oh! That’s a---Hey! WAIT! GENTLE HANDS ON THE---! Okay, oops. Never mind. That’s half a worm.
Him: Whazzat?
Me: A rock.
Him: KITTY KITTY KITTY
Me; Yes, That is Kitty. HI KITTY.
Walley: *silently* I hate you.
Him: Whazzat?
Me: Well that’s…That is a lawn fork.

Lawn Fork was buried in leafy detritus under a bush. He had been there QUITE some time. Sam played with Lawn Fork with exclusive vehemence that day, and the Lawn Fork was toted into the house. At some point his popularity as a cat-stabber and dirt digger waned, and he got mixed in with the non LAWN forks and went to live among his near distant relations in the every day silverware drawer. Here is a picture --- a sample of our REAL forks is to the left. Lawn Fork is on the right.

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Sam is now almost 12, and we still have Lawn Fork. Over the last few months, my children have become VERY competitive about WHO gets to eat with Lawn Fork. SO competitive that I have threatened to make a refrigerator chart or to send everyone to bed hungry or to make Lawn Fork my own personal PERMA FORK if they do not STOP FIGHTING OVER HIM.

After one particularly intense battle, I said to Scott, “GREAT GOOGLE MCMOOGLE I am being driven MAD. WHY are THESE WEIRD LITTLE CHILDREN you FOSTERED upon my HELPLESS BODY so obsessed with Lawn Fork.”
He looked at me like I was CRAZY and said, “Gee. I don’t know. Why do you THINK, honey?”

All at once, like a series of slides, I saw a mental Lawn Fork retrospective. I saw ME lofting him up and dancing across the kitchen while saying, “IMMA EAT MY MEATLOAF WITH LAWN FORK!” or leaping up from the breakfast table that Scott had set and saying, “I GOT LAWN FORK! I GOT LAWNFORK! IT’S LIKE WINNING FORK LOTTO!” I even CLEARLY remembered taking a big bite of pasta and then saying, with an overfull mouth, “Everything tastes better ON LAWN FORK!” Lawn Fork is the only fork with a Gender and a capitalized moniker and a personal history. If Lawn Fork is the shiz, I have made him so.

I did this.
I DID THIS.
And you know the thing that REALLY Bugs me? For true? (This is SO SAD I hate to confess it) The REAL reason that I hate how much the kids like Lawn Fork now and how they take meticulous, charted turns eating with him?

I hardly EVER get Lawn Fork anymore. *sigh*

Posted by joshilyn at 7:18 AM | Comments (17)

January 6, 2009

The Story of Lawn Fork (PART 1)

A long time ago, in the way way back, when Maisy was only an unfertilized Maisy-egg and Sam was close to toddling, we bought our first house, a teeny weeny tiny starter home here in Georgia. It had a huge WILDERLAWN, which we left to run wild, and the flower beds sat fallow. I am not much of a gardener.

This is because I don’t like plants.

We have one plant in the house and I try to stay clear of it. It is SCOTT’s. He really likes to have a plant, which EW, but I have a current total of five furry pet friends, and in the past I have had as many as 7, so it is hard to begrudge him one measly creepy vine-looking leafetty-yick-yick. I give it a wide berth.

I don’t HATE plants when they are properly contained in the outside parts of the earth, and I feel only a minute squicky distaste toward house plants. I have a friend who REALLY for truly loathes all things green and potted---so much so that she willfully MURDERS them. I can’t tell you her name because her husband STILL has NO PROOF and I don’t want to rat her out…

Plants in her house must remain PRETURNTATURALLY green and bushy and fruitful and healthy looking or they drive her to BLEAK depression. One SPOT on a single otherwise verdant leaf, and she becomes convinced the plant is going DIE a slow agonizing nine week death that she must witness, and the very IDEA makes her want to go live under the bed and weep for Zion until it is over.

She too married a man who likes houseplants. Every now and again he used to bring one home all PERFECT from the nursery, and she would watch it carefully, and the second it showed ANY sort of malady or even seemed PALE, she would pour Lysol down into its roots or encourage the dog to dig it up and eviscerate it. She was a PLANT ASSASSIN for years – must have stealth murdered 50 plants before he decided he had a black thumb and bought a couple of really nice looking silk ficus trees.

Yes, I know, not liking plants or to garden is another sure sign that IHAVENOSOUL. Anyway. Some of the nicest dearest people I know are all about the wonders of the garden and how it provides a WEALTH of metaphors about life and growth and cycles and renewals and redemption, and I like life, growth, cycles, renewal, redemption AND Lord KNOWS I dig me some metaphors, truly, but out in the garden is where they keep the banana spiders.

GAHHHHHHHHeekno.jpg

GAHHHH lookit that thing. Also, roaches. No thank you. I can think about lovely metaphors in my air conditioned kitchen watching my girl-child slaughter the hapless denizens of the indoor herbal window box thing she got for Christmas. This is why I don’t like the houseplant. I suspect it of Harboring Bugs. That’s a felony, and the punishment is death.

DIGRESSION: Some plants are by DEFINITION roachy-looking, and I my negative feelings toward them intensify the closer I get to them. IVY is very roachy looking, as is kudzu, and I LOVE to see Kudzu when it is 100 yards away and I am in a car. I do not want to see kudzu TOUCHING MY ANKLE.

I can’t BEAR to stand in IVY either, because I am POSITIVE that Roaches will run out of the leaves and up my pants leg and attempt to CLIMB MY NAKED CALF with their scratchy awful clicky hairy little feet TOUCHING MY SKIN and then I will be forced to HACK the leg off, quite quickly, to try and save the knee joint. Because the higher the roach goes, the more pieces there are that can no longer be attached to me.

In theory, if I went and stood in ivy, and a Roach ran up out of the leaves (where one is EVEN NOW sitting NO DOUBT waiting for just such an opportunity) and went up my pants leg and scaled my hip and scuttled up my trunk to perch on my shoulder I would have to BEHEAD myself and then someone would have to carry my unroachtainted head away for proper burial and burn the rest. They might even have to go into orbit and nuke my headless roach-touched body from space.

It’s the only way to be SURE.

(Must take Maisy to the dentist for a cleaning… con’t tomorrow)

Posted by joshilyn at 12:07 PM | Comments (11)

January 4, 2009

Sock Monster

In January, I can buy my kids’ school uniforms for 20% off. Maisy was beginning to show her belly-button like a junior hoochie mama whenever she put her arms up over her head. Sam, with typical middle school manling aplomb, had one by one by one lost his shirts until he was down to TWO, both red. The serious need for new uniforms got seriouser and seriouser, and by late November had segued into DIRE…EVEN SO, knowing 20% of was 5 weeks away, I refused to order new uniforms until last Friday.

Unless you have your OWN shirt-losing middle school manling, you are thinking at me, right now, HOW has he lost shirts? Has the child been coming home, nips to the wind, shirtless? How did you, his mother, not notice he was wearing only his jacket, unzipped halfway to show those nine gold bling-y disco chains that make the 6th grade ladies go maaaaad?

No, no, I thought beam back atcha. He came home every day in a perfectly respectable uniform shirt. But at night, INSTEAD of hanging his shirts up, he apparently stuffed them into the handy Port to Another Dimension he keeps under the bed. I suspect a crotchety demi-god, no longer worshipped, is spending his bitter retirement millennia there. He is a green, petty, jealous creature. He used to be called THE EATER OF WORLDS, and lithe and winsome maidens, tear stained and delectable, were brought to his flaming mountain bi-annually and flung into his fire-slavered depths.

Now no one cares about him, and so he orchestrates small but regular clothing sacrifices to remain appeased. These days, he is known as THE EATER OF SOCKS. Oh how the mighty have fallen… when socks are in short supply, AS THEY SO OFTEN ARE HERE due to the near constant pan dimensional demi-god sock munching that goes on, he accepts school logo embroidered poly-cotton polo shirts. Which are more than twenty bucks each if purchased in a month that is not January. NEAT!

In Late November, a parental closet inventory revealed how dire Sam’s uniform shirt situation had become. He has four uniform days weekly, not five, as Friday is mercifully Casual Day. Even so…With only two shirts and a cheapskate thrifty mom, Sam had to put up with a HOST of new and very irritating rules. He had to eat breakfast BEFORE dressing, to avoid milk spatter. I placed cruel (I mean Nazi-level CRUEL) restrictions on lunch items with DRIP potential. (NEIN! NEIN! DER YOGURT IST VERBOTEN!) After school he had to IMMEDIATELY change out of school clothes and---this is really low of me– put his SHIRT on a hanger and then, and THEN! If that was not enough, hook the metal arc at the top of the hanger OVER the clothing bar in his CLOSET.

All this SHIRT CARE takes precious seconds away from Pokemon time. I might as well have nailed him to a door and lashed him with a cat-o-nine-tails. AND I MIGHT HAVE, too, believe me, except I don’t see how door nailings and beatings would work to make two shirts last four days each week. Also, I was worried he might bleed onto his uniform.

BUT NOW! 20% off month is here! HUZZAH! Oh Frabjous day! New uniform shirts will be navigating the postal system, destination Chez Jackson, next week. Upstairs, I can hear the demented cackling of the Eater-of-Socks, sensing new fibrous treats wending their way to Georgia. I am thinking my new evil rules (with the exception of the DRIPPY FOODS embargo) will remain in place into perpetuity, or until BOTH children get finished with being teenagers.

You hear that, I ululate to the black depths under the bed. DO YOU HEAR THAT? NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. And yet he is still cackling, as if he knows all my preparations and systems and rules and defenses will be for naught, as if he knows pricey logo shirts, liberally spiced with white child-foot-smelling cotton tubes, will be working their mysterious way down into his maw for many, many delicious years.

Yeah. This would probably be a good time to buy stock in Haines.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:14 PM | Comments (21)

January 1, 2009

Happy O CRAP I JUST WROTE 2008 ON MY CHECK Day


The kids and Scott are in Florida, celebrating a late Christmas and a timely New Years with Nana, but I had to stay home to work. The good news is I SEE THE END OF THE BOOK. Maybe. Sort of. Through a dark glass darkly with darkness because, see, the way I THOUGHT it ended was wrongwrongwrong. I was to this place, very late in the book, like almosy 80 thousand words in, and I didn’t even know what HAPPENED NEXT much less how it ended, so I was going to say OH HECK WITH IT and go to Nana’s too. But then The Bookly Angels came down and whispered and it was obvious and right, so I stayed home and I have been getting up every morning at 3:30 and 4 am and writing in the beautiful dark alone with just the monitor and the Christmas tree for lights.

Yesterday, my Irish friend Sheila Curran called and had to cancel our plans because, as she put it, a “bad case of Hypochondria” kept her home in Florida and away from her Irish family’s EXTREMELY Irish New Years celebration, and here we understand that Irish is a euphemism for “whiskey-fueled and debauchery laden.” As it usually is.

I DID want to toast the New Year, so yesterday I dropped by the liquor store to get one of those LEETLE champagne bottles---I think it’s called a SPLIT? I figured the trio of 1) DRINKING ALONE while 2) SITTING IN MY HOUSE 3) ON NEW YEAR’S EVE was just SO sad that opening a whole enormous bottle of something that can’t be recorked was TRULY courting alcoholism, or at least a pity fueled champers hangover.

So I got the little one, and the liquor store lady rang it up and handed me my mini-brown lunch bag. Then she looked at me with these HUGE SORROWING eyes and said, “Oh, honey. Surely you have a friend?”

When the liquor store owner is SO sorry for you that they try to STOP YOU from buying their wares and instead go someplace else….that is truly a new low place. I thought, “Well OKAY but surely that’s as low as I can go, I mean, this has to be ZERO. I can't possibly get UNDER this level on the thrillometer.”

BUT! I found myself popping the bottle at 8 PM, drinking it while watching half a CSI rerun, falling asleep by 8:30. HEE! YES! Turns out the thrillometer has negative numbers. I think I hit about minus 12.

Happy New Years, Best Beloveds, I hope yours was a little more action packed, but not so action packed that you got eaten by cannibals or arrested.
I would very much like to hear your resolutions! As for me…

I resolve to have no resolutions.

Oh. Oops.

Posted by joshilyn at 3:19 PM | Comments (22)