Friday, April 29, 2005

From the Mouths of Babes

We’re talking about education over dinner tonight when my 15-year-old son says, “You spend the first half of your life gaining all this knowledge and then you spend the last half of it losing it.” I just about spit my coffee across the table.

My son has always had a witty way with language. For the longest time he swore he could see out my belly button when he was in my womb, often describing events that happened before he was born. He’s the one who at four-years-old determined that women weren’t human. Men were humans. Women were ladies. Then there was the time he came running into the kitchen, his face fraught with fear, “Mommy, did you know John Wayne Bobbitt's wife cut of his penis?” A row of question marks followed by exclamation points chased his expression. He was certain that OJ didn’t kill Nicole, because, “A football player would never do that.” And of course, he thought we could get rich just by talking to Larry H. Parker. “Just call him mom, ‘he can get us 1.5 million, cause he fights for you.”

I was lusting for a brownie during one of my ongoing diets when he told me, “Just eat it and then call 1-800-JENNY.” That was when he was about three. When he was about nine or ten he had an epiphany after viewing yet another diet pill commercial promising quick weight loss. “Mom, if losing weight were as easy as taking a pill, the world would be full of skinny people.”

My son, witty with words, is a child of the media. He learned to use a mouse before he could hold a pencil. He grew up with Maria and Luis and all of the Sesame Street friends, had lunch every day with Mr. Rodgers and cut his teeth on Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael. Not the Renaissance artists; those slimy green reptiles, aka Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I’d like to think I formed in him a love for literature when I read aloud all of the Little House on the Prairie books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Madeline L’Engle's Wrinkle in Time series, he still buries himself in computer games. He became a Rollercoaster Tychoon, lived wild Sims lives, raised NeoPets, conquered known and mythical worlds in Age of Empires, and is now a RuneScape warrior. But he still loves words.

Last week on the way home from our Las Vegas adventure, he began writing a movie treatment. At first I thought he just wanted to mess around on my laptop to wile away the hours, while lamenting his forgetting to bring the DVDs to watch. He fiddled around for more than an hour, when he began asking me questions. Intelligent questions about characterization and backstory, and plot and structure. By the time we got home he had sketched the characters and created a scenario to save the world.

Ovations to my son for his youthful way with words. I hope he stores up enough knowledge and wittiness to carry him past the half-way mark in life.

What witty remarks have you caught the wonderful children in your life saying? Click the COMMENT button below and let us laugh with you.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Where is the Nexus?

It took nine months to write THE NEXUS. My daughter graduated eighth grade the day I put the last period on the final sentence. She's a HS senior now, graduating in June and THE NEXUS is still in The Well of Lost Plots (tipping my hat to Jasper Fforde). I began querying literary agents to represent me after my second draft and in three years of queries, revised up to draft number nine. I queried a few agents after each revision; agents I felt were interested in my kind of book. The declines became more encouraging with each pass, often with comments that I took into the next revision. While still querying for THE NEXUS and in between revisions, I began writing book number two. I suppose some authors might have tabled novel number one after the third or forth draft. But I believed in my story and wanted to improve it after each pass.

I believe something mysical happens when you just let go of the anxiety about the future. I hadn't queried any literary agents in several months when I first queried my agency. I had been busy caring for my mother in her last days and then working through the grief of the loss when I finally resumed the agent search. I sent two queries. One to an agency who'd been recommended by a friend, and another to an agency that I'd read was considered one of the top "up and coming" agencies. This agency had become one of my top picks for a number of reasons. It was small, it was family oriented, it was run by women, and it had a track history of sales in my genre. In the age of email, that is was not located in NYC made little difference. The agency my friend recommended turned me down, but the up-and-coming agency opened a dialog over my manuscript that would take nearly a year to finalize. My agent called me to ask about representation and queried me about several career issues. But I had questions of my own. After a lively discussion about the industry, genres, revisions, and the like, I realized that my agent got my novel. I mean she got it. She was as enthusiastic about it as I was.

THE NEXUS is out of my hands now. That’s why we get literary agents. Because the road to publishing in the traditional marketplace is riddled with rules. THE NEXUS us still on submission, a term used in this industry to say the agent’s sent the manuscript around to selected publishing house editors for evaluation. There’s a chain of acceptance that manuscripts must undergo before an offer is made, and it can take a few months. THE NEXUS went out in mid-March. We’re nearing six weeks now. Three passes have come in. Like every debut author who has gone through the submission process, I have to realize that this novel may not sell. Many authors of household name have experienced that reality. But I know it's a good book and I believe when the time is right, it will be published. And it might not be until after my next book, or my next one after that. But I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ovation to the Earth

Photo, verse, and design by Carolyn Burns Bass.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Welcome to Ovations

Well-earned praise is a strong motivator. When people feel good about themselves they perform better in work, enjoy life, and are more satisfied in love. Individuals are threads on a cosmic loom, each one contributing to a glorious tapestry yet to be revealed. Ovations is your chance to crow, to shine, to receive applause. And to offer applause without reservation to everyone else.

Send me stories of people you know who’ve done something remarkable, interesting or just plain funny. Tell us about everyday heroes in your community. Talk about great books, new movies, favorite songs. Ovations is a cyber auditorium for extolling praise as well, as a virtual café with an open mic. Click on "Comments" below each topic to join the conversation. Come on in and give everyone a hand.


Month at a Glance

This is a new blog. It doesn't have months of posts to draw you inside and keep you reading. Until you post your stories, the best I can offer in leading ovations is a look back at the month of April. Below are some highlights from my life, from those around me, and from the world.

A Tribute
The world lost a formidable leader and compassionate man of faith with the passing of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005. Born Karol Józef Wojtyłaon May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland, Pope John Paul II saw himself as a man of faith with a mission of peace. In addition to heading the powerful Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II was a diplomat, a visionary, an evangelist, an activist, and a poet. Read more about about John Paul II in this PBS Frontline retrospective on his life.

Over This, Your White Grave
By Pope John Paul II, Krakow, Spring 1939

Over this, your white grave
the flowers of life in white--
so many years without you--
how many have passed out of sight?
Over this your white grave
covered for years, there is a stir
in the air, something uplifting
and, like death, beyond comprehension.
Over this your white grave
oh, mother, can such loving cease?
for all his filial adoration
a prayer:
Give her eternal peace.

Charity Begins With Me

I am grateful for the grace of charity. This month I had the opportunity to donate skills to two exceptional non-profit organizations. On April 14 I attended a fundraiser for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society held at Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood. The month previous to the event I'd worked with the Society to publish the sponsor's journal that was given to each attendee. I'd accepted the gig because my grandmother died of lymphoma 15 years ago. The world is full of irony, however, as a week after I began putting the journal together, my father-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. The reality of blood cancers hit home again.

Last week I attended a wine-tasting fundraiser thrown by the Jordan Property Group, a major real estate and mortgage corporation in Orange County, CA. Beneficiaries of the event were Outreach to Africa and Fields of Life, two non-profit organizations dedicated to building schools, providing shelter, food and AIDS education in Africa. Eric Rigler, the piper of Braveheart, Titanic and Million Dollar Baby regaled the attendees on the Irish pipes. My friend and colleague, Kathi Winter of Global Incentives, invited me to the event, anxious to share her passion for AIDS/HIV education. Attending events like these are grounding experiences. Not everyone can work the mission field, live on a non-profit's salary, or produce charity events. But we can donate our time, our talents, and even a buck or twenty. And it feels so good when you do.

Ovations for Academic Achievement

Good parents love to talk about their children. No different am I. While I never gushed over their drool, I've dabbed my eyes a few times over their accomplishments. My firstborn, a daughter, is 17 and about to graduate HS. Last week she had two opportunities to shine.

On Tuesday she took third place in the Bank America Achievement Awards, Liberal Arts. She spun her essay around Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallott, which she had to compose on the spot from a blind theme.

Friday was Renaissance day when the high school throws a pep-rally for academic achievement. Although she'd been gunning for the big V since kindergarten, last semester she got a B in AP Calculus. With a 4.45 GPA she tied for salutatorian. She’s entering a University of California school in the fall. Ovations to our firstborn!

The Long Way to Vegas

Last weekend my hubby ran a leg of the notorious Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. It's a footrace through Death Valley, 120 miles of desert sun, biting wind, midnight chill and final finishes. The annual event breaks the 120 miles into 20 legs, kicking off at 3 p.m. with the speediest teams finishing around 6:30 a.m. the following morning. Sponsored by and for law enforcement agencies, the race draws teams from around the world. My hubby's team came in 19th in their division this year, earning them one of the giant beer mug trophies. Of course, after the awards were handed out, they had "mug shots" taken.