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Bitterness Isn’t Sexy

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about humility being sexy. Today, a little time on the flip-side with what isn’t sexy.

The writing/publishing world is an easy one to get bitter in. No matter our route and no matter where we are in our journey, there’s always someone who’s gone further faster, gotten more, done better.

A fellow querying writer who gets a gazillion requests on a derivative story with a so-so query while you can’t get a peep out of agents.

A fellow self-publisher who races to #1 on the charts without seeming to lift a finger.

A fellow agented author whose novel sells in days while your agent has been shopping your second manuscript for six months after striking out with the first.

A fellow published author who gets the red-carpet treatment from their publisher while you have to pound the pavement yourself if anyone’s even going to hear about your book.

So what do we do about it?

Some people send nasty replies to agents’ form rejections. Some leave bad reviews on their “competitions'” books. Some just plain badmouth their peers. Some chat-bomb Twitter events that industry professionals have given up their scant free time to host and do little more than spew venom.

What good did any of that ever do anyone? I have a hard time believing it even makes the perpetrator feel better—not in any real way.

Here’s what it’s not going to do: Endear you to other writers. Or agents. Or editors.

Or readers.

Did you notice something in the list I gave earlier? All those people are supposed to be our “fellows.” How about we treat them like it? We can be happy for them while hoping to soon be a bit happier for ourselves.

If nothing else, it’s got to be better for your mental health.

Something is Usually Better Than Nothing

I’m back after a week off from blogging. Last week was mostly spent getting ready for Parent-Teacher Conference, which meant getting tests graded before then. Approximately two hundred of them. Afterwards, I decided some basic test-taking advice was in order. Nothing beats preparation and true understanding, but in the spirit of “something is better than nothing,” these tips could certainly inch scores up a few percentage points.

Read the Instructions
I think teachers have been trying to get all students to do this since written language was invented. Yet some students persist in ignoring them. Thus perfectly capable people lose points because they only gave half of what the problem was looking for.

Use Common Sense
Even if you don’t remember how to do a particular problem, you can at least apply common sense and avoid some obviously wrong tactics. If a problem asks for a distance, don’t give me coordinates for a point. If it asks for an angle, don’t tell me a line. If you’re supposed to justify steps for solving an algebra equation, don’t use geometry postulates and definitions.

Give Me Something … Anything
It’s true that if you write random numbers and such for every question, you’re not going to get any credit for it. But by and large, students who at least attempted something got at least a point for showing a tiny bit of understanding. And that’s more than a student who left pretty much everything blank will get. (A student who thought he didn’t know anything but tried anyway actually did about as well as the class average.)

Take Advantage of Advantages
It continues to boggle my mind that I can give a review with problems mirroring what’s on the test and make the test open-note, yet some students still do miserably. But I know at least part of it. They didn’t bring their notes, or they didn’t take notes in the first place. So they’re automatically at a disadvantage.

The Last Minute is Too Late
I had a student who was frustrated when she got her test back. “I thought I did so well! I even studied!” Her version of studying was coming in after school the day before the test and saying, “Teach me everything.” As in, the whole chapter we’d been studying for the past 3-4 weeks. I did a quick overview of each section, but there was no way she was going to meaningfully absorb it all in a single afternoon. Still, she probably did better than she would’ve if she hadn’t come in at all.

Hopefully I can get some of these messages through before the next test.

Recover and Recharge

The weekend always strikes me as a time of recovery. This may be reflective of my day job, but this week there seems to be a lot to recover from.

Valentine’s Day being yesterday means today my students will be crashing from their sugar high, and I’ll still be finding candy wrappers in the strangest nooks and crannies of my classroom.

Yesterday was also our inaugural PAPfest. We’re recovering from running it. Some of our participants are recovering from the excitement. Others are recovering from the disappointment. (For the latter, be sure to check my post from Wednesday if you haven’t already.)

Today is mid-term, so I have a ton of grading to do. I don’t get to recover from that until it’s done. My back hurts just thinking about it. (I’m more likely to actually get grading done at school than at home, but if at school, it means being hunched over a desk while doing it. Definite dilemma there.)

One the plus side, it’s a three-day weekend. On the minus side, parent-teacher conference is coming up on Thursday. I actually like the chatting-with-the-parents part. The be-at-school-until-8pm part isn’t my favorite.

So the plan for the weekend is to do more than recover. It’s to recharge. And I think I’ll best accomplish that by engaging the writer-side a little more. Do a little reading for once. Do some work on either a revision or a rewrite of one project or another. Things that are a little less frustrating than grading quizzes where some kids did great, and others … still didn’t.

If you’re looking for something happy to get your recovery going this weekend, keep an eye on Young Adult Books Central today. They’ll be revealing the cover for Mindy McGinnis’s debut Not a Drop to Drink, which is less than seven months away from publication.

And that right there makes up for the empty cotton candy bag shoved between books on my shelf.

PAPfest is LIVE!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the PAPfest! We had some wonderful entries and are looking for great things to come from the writers who were selected to move on to the agent judging round. Our lovely agents—Adriann Ranta, Tina Wexler, Jennifer Laughran, Suzie Townsend, Laura Bradford and Pooja Menon—will be cruising the entries and making their requests in the comments of the entries until 9 PM EST tonight.

Don’t forget the entries are spread out over my co-hosts blogs as well. MarcyKate Connolly and Mindy McGinnis have PAPfest entries, too, so don’t miss out on some excellent new MG and YA voices being hosted over on their blogs.

But please, NO COMMENTS on the entries until the agents have made their rounds (so not until 9 PM EST tonight).

Enjoy!

The PAPteam

R.C. Lewis
Mindy McGinnis
MarcyKate Connolly

PAPfest Entry – DARK WATERS

TITLE: DARK WATERS

GENRE: YA Fantasy (set in today’s world)

WORD COUNT: 70,000

QUERY:

Sixteen-year-old Allura comes from a long line of man-eaters.

Her all-female race of Femina Mari lost their hunger for flesh a few hundred years ago, after her folkloric ancestors decided the best way to hide from humans was to live among them. And while they still enjoy tree-jumping under the shroud of night, the Council’s policy against man-eating is strictly enforced.

But the Council has just elected a new leader, and she’s set on resurrecting the old ways. So when Allura starts developing the abilities of her foremothers, her caretaker aunts notice. She’s the first in generations to show true Femina Mari tendencies—the desire and prowess to prey on men. According to her aunts, if she embraces her cravings, she can awaken the carnal hunger within her sisters, putting her species back where they belong, at the top of the food chain. Allura wants what’s best for her kind, but going from zero to monster overnight can leave a girl’s head spinning.

When Allura falls for David, the delicious-looking guy she’s supposed to be hunting, her feelings for him complicate matters … a ton. If Allura obeys her aunts, the cravings will intensify with each kill. And unleashing the flesh-hungry side of her sisters can’t be good for mankind. But if she defies her aunts, they’ll destroy David, her human stumbling block.

Too bad falling for the enemy never tasted so good.

The fierce-female story elements of DARK WATERS will appeal to fans of Andrea Cremer’s NIGHTSHADE and Julie Kagawa’s THE IMMORTAL RULES. I envision it the first in a series, though it can stand alone.

I am a PRO member of Evergreen RWA. DARK WATERS won second place in the Seattle RWA’s E.C.O. contest. My credits include an article on marketing strategies, Guest Speaking to Get the Word Out, published in the spring edition of the C.A.P.P.A. newsletter.

FIRST 200:

My nails dug into the bark as I clung to the pine tree and swung myself up to a higher branch. “I’m thinking the forest is a lost cause tonight, sisters.” I lifted my nose and took another whiff. Just to double check. “There’s nothing to hunt here.” The three female teens waiting in the nearby trees were the daughters of my aunts, but I’d never call them cousins. We were more like sisters.

Arlana crouched on the solid branch of a towering evergreen and shook her head. “Allura, why do you keep picking the thinnest limbs?” she said in a voice barely louder than a whisper, ignoring my food comment. Our hearing was more than impeccable. We could almost feel the vibration of sound.

“What’s the fun in catapulting from the thick ones?” I pulled my body low, positioning to leap from the narrow limb to a thread of a twig ten feet higher, on a nearby tree.

“Um, I’d say not falling on your ass when the tiny, weak branch breaks!” Celine laughed and rested her hand on her hip as she watched me prepare to make the jump.

PAPfest Entry – WAR PROJECT 7

TITLE: WAR PROJECT 7

GENRE: YA Sci-Fi

WORD COUNT: 105,000

QUERY:

Set on a far distant planet in the future, WAR PROJECT 7 is a young adult sci-fi novel with fantasy elements about a seventeen-year-old female soldier. Raised on a battlefield alongside other child-warriors, Mara lives to Protect. Her actions as a fighter, and now a leader, daily determine who lives and who dies.

Actions off the field have consequences as well, and the senior officers punish those with questioning minds, no matter the intent behind the questions. When Mara is wounded in battle and an enemy fighter not only heals her injury, but promises answers about the war, she’s compelled to risk treason and travel with him beyond the boundaries of her known world.

That the war is not a true war, but a war experiment, is the first in a series of challenging discoveries as new knowledge reshapes Mara’s identity and new alliances work to shatter a system that values experimental design over human life.

This book would be a great match for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Beth Revis, and James Dashner because of the strong female main character, the action, and the scale of the conflict.

During the summer I teach classes to budding novelists in grades 5-8. I am a fellow of the Denver Writing Project and a member of RWA, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. I am a state and national-level presenter in gifted education, a black belt in Taekwando, and a former middle school English teacher.

FIRST 200:

Mara stared down the line of her fellow Protectors. Young faces looked back at her, expectant. Anyone over fifteen watched the trees and the shadows underneath the huge branches.

“Helmets,” she called. The Gaishan would appear by sunset, boiling onto the battlefield like ants from an anthill.

She nudged her horse through the ranks to the newest fighters. How many would be lost tonight? She stopped in front of a brother and sister she’d taught in combat class. Both clutched their long staffs. Both faces were blotchy with fear.

“Trust your training,” Mara said. When the two children just stared at her with wide amber eyes, she leaned out of the saddle. “Keep your staff between you and the enemy. If they hit you with powder, if you’re cut or touched with a weapon, run for the edge of the fight and don’t let anyone near, not even family, until a healer clears you.”

The small girl cast a worried look at her brother. “Yes, ma’am.”

Mara made her way back to the center aisle and stood up on the stirrups. This plus her own nearly two meters in height provided a view of her entire cohort.

“There’s six hundred Protectors out here tonight. And a hundred fifty is us, the Greens,” she yelled.

Someone in the middle rows whooped. A few laughed.

“We got a lot of new fighters with us. First fight,” Mara continued.

The standing soldiers shuffled like rows of plants in the wind. “First fight,” repeated along the lines.