September 29, 2011

Writing Buddies, Unite!

In my friend Shari’s blog post, “When Inspiration Fades,” she writes about those times when writers feel like giving up. Like Shari, we all experience seasons of discouragement when our writing seems a little off. Characters we love become lifeless and boring. Plots fall flat. Words don’t flow as they should. Frustration sets in, and we ask ourselves, “Is all of this worth it?”

There’s a story in the Bible about Moses and the Israelites fighting a bunch of thugs called the Amalekites. Moses goes up a hill with the staff of God in his hands. As long as he holds the staff up, the Israelites win the battle. But when his arms get tired and he lowers the staff, the Amalekites wallop the Israelites. Moses’ friends Aaron and Hur see what’s going on, and they rush to his aid. They literally hold up Moses' hands until the Israelites conquer their enemies.

When we writers find ourselves in a battle of will, we need writing buddies to hold up our hands. Here are a few places to find them.

1. Writing Conferences. Whether you write for children or adults, there is a writers' group for you. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and American Christian Fiction Writers are just two of many groups who hold writers’ conferences all around the country. Attend conferences, and you’ll find plenty of Aarons and Hurs.

2. Facebook. If you choose your “friends” wisely, you can build a network of online writers who will be more than willing to hold up your hands. I’ve found some wonderful, supportive friends on Facebook. Many writers, published and unpublished, hang out there.

3. Local Writers’ Groups. Check with your public library about local writers’ groups. Most places have at least one where members can share and critique each other’s manuscripts and, of course, hold up each other’s hands.

In times of discouragement, remember these words from Vincent Van Gogh. “In spite of everything, I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”

How about you: Who holds up your hands?

September 20, 2011

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Me

I'm taking a short break from writing about writing to accept this challenge from my friend Susan Reinhardt, over at the Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Susan was inspired by her blog followers to share a little about her personal life. Susan, in turn, challenged her readers to do the same on their blogs. So here goes, my writer friends …

Here I Am From A to Z:

A. Age: Old enough to know now what I should have known 20 years ago.

Baked Goods: I wish I could taste my Grandma Fischer’s cornbread again. Even the best writer would be challenged to describe it. Oh, the smell of that cornbread baking in her oven!

C. Chore you hate: Any kind of paperwork. I’m a paperless writer, and I like it that way. I hate paper!

D. Dogs: I love big Golden Labs, but cats suit my lifestyle better, except when they want to hang out on my computer keyboard.

Essential start to your day: A morning prayer. Then coffee and writing.

. Favorite color: Shades of pale green.

Gold or silver: I prefer the warmth of the color gold.

Height: 5' 4." I wonder how tall I would look on the big screen. Have you ever seen an actor in person and said, “Whoa, he looks so much taller in the movies!”

I. Instruments you play: I played the flute in high school, and I was good at it. When I started college, I planned to be a band director. I played the clarinet semi-well and the piano not-so-well-at-all.

J. Job: Writer, writer, always a writer. Before I became self-employed, I worked as a writer/editor at Golden Books for almost 20 years.

K. Kids: Two cats and a ring-necked turtle dove.

L. Home: I’m a Midwest gal, and I must always be near water.

Mother: Betty Fischer What an amazing woman of God she was. Mom taught me about faith through her example, and she prayed me through life. I miss her.

Nickname: (Oh, dear)…. Jeanner Beanner.

Overnight hospital stay: Last year I had surgery for uterine cancer. I’ve been cancer free for 15 months, and I praise God every day for my restored health.

Pet peeve: When people are late.

Quote: "So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." Matthew 6:34

Right or left: Well, that depends on the topic. Like The Scarecrow said in The Wizard of Oz, “You could go this way, but that way is very nice, too.”

S. Siblings: None, but I have fantastic surrogates.

Time you wake up: I wake up when my alarm goes off and always with a protest. I’m not a morning person.

University you attended: The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Vegetable you dislike: Are cucumbers vegetables? Big dislike. I get hives.

What makes you late: I’m never late. (See the letter “P”)

X. X-rays: The idea of all that radiation scares me.

Yummy food: My name is Jean and I am an ice-cream addict and a coffee snob.

Zoo animal favorite: Big cats. I have a thing for cats’ paws. There’s something so perfect and lovely about them.

Were you surprised by any of my answers? If you want to do this exercise, jump right in either on your blog or a short version in the comments.

September 5, 2011

How Many Rejection Letters are Too Many?

Last week on my Facebook page I posted a link to an article: “Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller.” The post generated a lively discussion.

The article said that Kathryn finished her first version of “The Help,” sent it out to an agent, and received a rejection letter. She kept revising her manuscript and sending it out. After the fifteenth rejection, a friend suggested to Kathryn that maybe she should begin writing her next book. But Kathryn refused. She believed in her story, and she wanted to get THAT book published before she wrote another. She pressed on through 60 rejections until an agent sold “The Help” to Amy Einhorn Books—and the rest is history.

On Facebook, my friends discussed whether it was wise for Kathryn to put all of her hope into one manuscript. What do you think? How many rejection letters are enough to herald moving on to something else?

Best-selling Books Repeatedly Rejected by Publishers

Auntie Mame, (rejected 15 times)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (18)
Chicken Soup for the Soul (140)
Kon-Tiki (20)
Harry Potter (9)
Lorna Doone (18)
M*A*S*H* (21)
Carrie (30)
Gone With the Wind (38)
A Wrinkle in Time (26)

Read more about it.