Monthly Archives: August 2012

Bad Poetry Friday

During my junior year of high school I was obsessed with this magnetic poetry set I got from Barnes and Noble. Many of my bad poems stem from those evenings alone in my bedroom waiting for a boy to call while moving around the words on a filing cabinet. There were also many nights spent singing in front of a mirror to Jewel and The Indigo Girls and Lisa Loeb and Sheryl Crow and pretending I was in a music video, but that’s a story for another day.

The following is a magnetic poetry poem from the spring of 1998. Judging from the tone I’d say it was probably early March. A tumultuous time that resulted in a lot of angsty poems. This is actually one of my favorites.


MAGAZINE (1998)

I no longer give a damn
the romance is over
He says to me
“You’re a contradiction
return to zero.”
Who knew love gives
red blood?
This is why we exist.

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Writing life: On dealing with rejection part 1

“Your success is directly proportional to your ability to handle rejection,” (from the panel at the SCBWI Conference, NY 2012).

Writing is not easy. Or always fun. It is not all sunshine and rainbows and instant bestsellers. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into it. Sometimes those injuries come from a paper cut on your tongue or under your thumb nail. Sometimes you drop a dictionary on you bare foot. Sometimes you get your heart broken.

When I dreamed of writing as a viable career choice as a teen (and then as an adult), I never considered rejection. Perhaps it was false confidence or my naiveté, but it never crossed my mind that someone wouldn’t like my writing style or my voice. I’d always assumed I was good.

Everyone told me so and I believed them.

That is until I went to college.

I took a number of creative writing classes in college (I was an English major after all). During my junior year I took a short story class and poured my heart and soul into my first piece of YA lit.

My teacher hated it.

I don’t mean that he just didn’t like it. He called it trite and told me I was wasting my time (and his).

I wrote another short story, a funny chick lit piece (it was the early ’00’s. Chick lit was huge). He nearly exploded with hatred. The rest of the class thought it was okay, but my teacher, who had published a book of Serious Short Stories, took me aside and suggested that I try something else because to be honest, “you’ll never make it as a writer.”

I cried after that and cursed him. But I didn’t stop writing. The following year I took another short story class with a different teacher. He praised my work. He called me “deadpan on wry” and encouraged me to keep it up. Later that year my first short story was published in the school’s literary journal. I also took a memoir class and wrote the start of a memoir. That teacher read THE ENTIRE THING aloud to the class. He didn’t read anything else aloud.

I was on the right track.

A few years later, after library school, I took a short fiction class held at a community college. It was fun and I started to figure out my voice. I wrote a ton of short stories and tried to shop some of them around. They all got rejected and I stashed them away.

I didn’t write fiction for over four years. I spent that time writing a cooking blog, and doing community journalism, and travel writing, and book reviews.

Then one Nanowrimo (2009) I wrote a novel. It was a crappy romance novel, but I completed it. Then I wrote a YA novel. Then another. And another. And started another. I was hooked.

I tried to shop my first one around but it was too quiet and probably too autobiographical. I got nothing but rejection letter after rejection letter. Some were nice, but most were blunt. I cried a little bit.

I’ve since shopped other manuscripts around. There were a lot of close calls, and to be honest, those rejections really stung. Thinking I was thisclose and then finding out I wasn’t was hard to swallow. There were more tears.

Then I came across Florence and The Machine’s song “Shake it Out” and it spoke volumes to me. There was no point in dwelling on the rejections because someone would eventually say yes. This business is subjective and hard to break into, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying your damnedest to get your foot in the door.

The key is to keep writing. Take a break if you need to, but in my experience you’ll wish you had kept writing. stomach hurts when I think of those lost four years of writing fiction. And when a rejection or bad review or snarky comment has you feeling down, there’s only one thing to do: blast a song from my rejection playlist and dance it out.

You’ll feel better. Trust me.

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Mortification Monday

The ongoing drama of Kyle n’ Danielle

11-6-1993

Dear Diary,

Well Kyle didn’t break up with me. He understood. Kyle walks me to my classes and we talk. Yesterday he walked me to my bus. We said goodbye.

Love,

Danielle



11-10-1993

Dear Diary,

I’m writin’ in the dark. Yesterday was Kyle and my 1st week anniversary! I gave him a nickname “Bashful” cause he’s so shy. My nickname is “Happy.” Bashful wrote me a note. It was so sweet! I talked with Tracy for one hour today. Half day of school today. Way cool!

Catechism is boring but fun. Mad as hell at mom.. Krystal beat the crap out of Gary today in 4th. Bloody nose. Referral and suspension. poor Krystal! If someone put ink in my hair I’d give them a fat lip, dislocated jaw, black eyes, broken nose, and more.


Bye!

Danielle

11-11-93

Dear Diary,

Krystal got suspended from school. 3 days! Gary showed up at school today. Mr. C. is leaving to teach 6th grade. I will miss him. I really like Kyle. I asked told him his best features were his eyes, smile, and dimples. I asked him what my best features was. He said my hair, when my face turns red, and my smile. Isn’t that so sweet? I think so.

Love,
Danielle

Notes on the above entries:

1) Krystal and I were pretty tight but she was also kind of a bully. For the most part she had my back. She was in band with me. She played the trumpet or trombone. I don’t remember.
2) If I remember correctly hat kid Gary was a total tool. He had it coming. Not that violence is ever the answer but sometimes you have to defend yourself.
3) Fun fact: In first grade I broke a kid’s nose. My parents always said that if I boy tried to kiss you and you didn’t want him to you could punch him in the nose. So I did. This also happened my senior year in high school, only I just gave a guy a bloody nose.
4) Looks like Kyle and I are going pretty strong if he’s walking me to my bus and I’m giving him a corny nickname. But there might be trouble on the horizon.
5) Also, I don’t know why I would say Catechism was boring and fun. That doesn’t make a lick of sense.
6) I couldn’t tell you who Mr. C. was or what he taught. He made that much of an impact I guess.
7) I used to be really shy and get embarrassed easily. Whenever that happened my face turned bright red. It also turned that color when I lied. Fortunately, my emotions are quite as colorful now.

Will Kyle and I make it to our two week anniversary? That’s the big question.

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Rejection Playlist Volume 1, Track 4: “I Hate Everyone”

Some days just blow. It takes too much effort to remain positive. Instead, you just want to punch everyone in the face. For those days I give you Get Set Go’s “I Hate Everyone.” The chorus is especially catchy.

 

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Bad Poetry Friday

There’s something about me being lovesick that made me write scores of bad poetry. And for the record, I was lovesick a lot. The following three poems were all written in late December 1997. They are all written about the same guy, a counselor  at a summer camp I attended in the North Carolina mountains. It was totally unrequited love. Being 16 sucked. And yes, they are all equally terrible.

Nathan (12/97)

I’m an hour and six minutes away from you
I’m crying tears I swore were gone
What would you do if I came to your door again?
Would you be shocked?
Pleasantly surprised?
Kiss me open mouthed with tears in your eyes?

Untitled (12/97)
It’s 34 in Ashville
and I know you must be cold
It’s been six months
since I last saw you
Now it snows
It was was always sunny
that summer you broke my heart

Untitled (12/97)

I have the picture
from the day we left
tears rolling down my face
my heart about to break
You’re singing our song
You told me you loved me
I guess I was wrong

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Writing Life: Everything Is Inspiration

As a writer, I’m often asked where I get my inspiration. My answer? Everywhere.

No, really.

I’m a walking hurricane. True story: I once got into two car accidents in two hours. I once slipped in a mud puddle while wearing platform shoes and a suede skirt and fell on my my arse in front of a guy I liked. I’ve also driven into a neighborhood sign, had a rabbit run into my car tire and die (while I stopped for it to cross) and had to bury it, and I recently locked myself out of the house and had to squeeze through a small basement window and dive onto a nearby futon. If a character in one of my novels is doing something really stupid, chances are I did something similar. I can’t make this crap up. One time I stuck my finger into an immersion blender while it was still plugged in. Then I hot the “on button (Don’t worry, I still have my finger). For reals

My point is all of these would make great scenes in a book. In fact, I could probably write an entire book of my bad driving stories. Sometimes I’ll forget things and then I’ll have a conversation with my grandma or my sister and they’ll be all, “remember that time you were skinny dipping in the pool and there was a snake?” And the next thing I know that has become a scene in my current manuscript (for the skinny dipping snake scene see the rom-com I wrote last nanowrimo with the title, “No One Will Ever Want To Read This Piece Of Crap So I Won’t Bother Giving It A Title,” (Just 19 out of my 50,000 words).

Or I steal other people’s stories. Fir example, the other week my sister was telling me about this friend of hers who she suspected might be plotting a creative way to kill her off (death by camping/ alligators) and I said, “You just gave me the best idea.” Note: My sister’s friend is not trying to kill her, my sister just reads too many detective/ mystery novels set in the Everglades.

There’s also eavesdropping which is great for dialogue. Public transportation is the best for that. The most romantic thing I ever overheard was a guy on his cellphone on my bus to work who said “My bed is an ocean without her in it.” *swoon*

I keep a notebook with me at all times to write ideas/ conversations/ juicy dialogue down. You never know when it’ll come in handy.

My advice to writers: keep a notebook to keep track of your ideas. If you are ever stuck/ suffering from writer’s block, ask yourself or your sister or your best friend to dish out an embarrassing memory (journals are good for this. Spoiler: you’ll see my most embarrassing memory in a few journal entries, so stay tuned). Then take poetic license and embellish the hell out of it. Boom. Writer’s block is banished.

That said, I’m just waiting for the day when something hilarious happens and my sister or husband says, “You better not put that in your novel.” Touche.

Prompt: Where do you get your inspiration? What was the best dialogue you ever overheard? (Keep it relatively clean, people!)

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Mortification Monday

The entries are a little out of order, but hopefully the drama still makes sense.

 

11-3-1993


Dear Diary,

I have a lot of things to say. First Kyle asked me out. I said yes of course. I feel so good. It all started one week ago. Krystal asked Kyle if he liked me. He said I was pretty, he liked me, but didn’t think I liked him. This happened in World Cultures [class]. After 3rd Jimmy asked me if I liked Kyle. I said yes. He said Kyle liked me and wanted to ask me out but didn’t want to ask me out.

Thursday nothing happened. Friday in band Jimmy asked if I wanted to go out with him [Kyle] I said yes. But when Jimmy told Kyle I liked him and said yes Kyle didn’t believe me so he was going to ask me out himself and he did.

Love,
Danielle

11-4-1993

Dear Diary,

I think Kyle may break up with me. I’m afraid he thinks I stood him up. I didn’t. I don’t really want to write now.

Love,
Danielle

Thoughts on the entry above:
1) Seventh grade was hysterical with all the messengers running around “do you like him” and “he likes you.” There was so much drama for a bunch of thirteen year-olds who didn’t even hold hands.
2) This poor Jimmy must have been exhausted running back and forth.
3) I “played” bass clarinet in band. And by play I mean I pretended to play and let the kid next to me make all the noise. I was terrible.
4) I have no idea the things we learned in World Cultures. It sounds like a very early 90’s class.
5) Will Kyle break up with me? Guess you’ll have to come back next week to find out.

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Rejection Playlist Volume 1, Track 3: “It’s Only Life”

This song really isn’t about rejection, but keeping positive when everything is a sh*tstorm. Both the song and the video break me every time, but the lyrics always seem to ring true:

Well I guess it’s only life, it’s only natural
We all spend a little while going down the rabbit hole
The things they taught you, they’re lining up to haunt you
You got your back against the wall
I call you on the telephone, won’t you pick up the receiver?

I’ve been down the very road you’re walking now
It doesn’t have to be so dark and lonesome
It takes a while but we can figure this thing out
And turn it back around

 

Pretty powerful stuff, but thing again it is The Shins and I’ve never not loved something they did.

So the next time you’re riding a tidal wave in a sh*tstorm hurricane and you feel like you’ve sunk as far down the rabbit hole as you can get before entering Hell, remember things will turn around and you’re not the only one dealing with this.

 

 

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Bad Poetry Friday

Remember that poem from last week? Here’s another one from that bad breakup:

Untitled (9/19/99)

You have this way
of making me feel like shit
You dumped me for
another bitch
didn’t you think
I wasn’t ever
gonna let you
down
Looks like you
broke the promise

Author’s note: Can you tell I was still angry?

And finally a happy poem.

Tell Me (1998)

Tell me about the time you fell in love
Feet over head
Heart beating millionmilesaminute
Losing your breath
I’ll tell you how I
Found wings when you held my hand.

Author’s note: This is probably one of the better poems you’ll ever see written by me.

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Mortification Monday

9-10-93

Dear Diary,

I’m so mad I could scream…actually I did. Into my pillow. I had a bad day.
1. I messed up on a math test major league! I think I even failed it.
2. I did just as bad on a Spanish test.
3. I am so mad at my sister. I am even pissed off at her.
4. Also I probably have to take Serteen instead of country line dancing.
5. I don’t have a diary anymore.


I have a 93.25 in Language Arts. I was stuck in the corner 3 times by mom. I have a baby turtle. I call him Antonio. Everybody else calls him “Little Guy.” My sister now has a fish and a turtle and I have nothing. Notcha. Zippo. K.C. the cat is an old hag. KK broke her ankle. I only have $9.25. Not enough. Babysitting the brats. Looking forward to it. Not. Well, mainly the cash.


See ya,
Danielle


A few notes on the above entry:
a) My middle school offered country line dancing as an extra curricular, I kid you not.
b) I was obsessed with country music almost as much as I was about baseball.
c) I really didn’t hate babysitting. I totally stole the babysitting box idea from The Babysitter’s Club and took it whenever I babysat.
d) Four years later I got my own cat, Ally. She promptly knocked “Little Guy’s” habitat over and killed him.

A few corrections from my sister who apparently has a better memory than I do:

“Your recollection of the fact for D were slightly off (or just plain wrong). Yes, Ally did knock over Little Guy’s habitat once but we found him in the family room. it was YOU who killed him. He had a nice 10gallon tank until you dropped it while cleaning out your hamster cage. (yes you had pets of your own, you had Mulder and Scully or whatever there names were). Your hamster couldn’t live in its ball forever, so Little Guy got downgraded to his original pond that was too shallow for him, he would get flipped over and get stuck upside down. He drowned in his small cage…I just wanted you to have the correct facts and I just thought you should be reminded of what really went down.”

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