Friday, September 30, 2016

Write What You Know

Slow Down, Dammit. Slow Down!

Last weekend, I did a very stupid thing.

Previous to last weekend, I’d done well in an online contest wherein authors were encouraged to post a query letter and the first 250 words of an unpublished novel. I entered hoping to get something out of it, but never dreaming I’d come out of it with requests from two traditional publication editors to receive my work.

Here’s where the stupid thing came in:

I sent them the wrong version of my story.

How is that possible?

Well, I’ve only got fifteen versions of my story – revisions, actually – on my computer. And in my excitement at doing well in the contest, I dug into a folder I’d used for a previous submission and sent the requested files off electronically.

Then the day after, as I was re-reading old blog posts, I realized I’d sent the wrong version when I stumbled across a new introductory chapter. That I had *not* sent.


So that night I leapt into action like a cheetah on a trampoline.

I re-sent the files, explaining my mistake. And hoped for the best.

And I’m still hoping. It can take editors up to three months to swim through queries, even those they requested. So I’ll have to stew in my own juices for the next few weeks or months to see if my attempt at rectifying the mistake paid off, and if my work meets muster.

Still, I feel rather stupid. And it’s humbling. Kinda know how the coyote feels after he gets blowed up:

After the anxiety wore off, I began a-thinking: What can I learn from this, aside from fixing my filing system?

First of all, slow down.

I heard about the contest at the last minute. I panicked to get an entry in – and used an older version of my story as the entry.

I’m reminded of something President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said recently: 

When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.

One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

Entering the contest was a complication. I rushed it. I’m still glad I did it – I would not have two requests for manuscripts otherwise – but slowing down even by a matter of minutes would have likely made my resubmit not necessary.

I thought I was right – but I was not. And I should have known it, since I’d made great pains earlier this year in re-writing that manuscript, including a more riveting opening chapter.

I Muschged myself.

I’ll let Thomas Plummer explain:

When I was in graduate school, I took a seminar on Heinrich von Kleist from Bernhard Blume, one of the grand ole men of German scholarship. One day we were to discuss a paper by a classmate, ken Tigar, on Keleist’s play, Der zerbrochene Krug. The paper seemed sound enough to the rest of us. Tigar’s argument was based on a description written by Professor Walter Muschg, the great Kleist scholar at the University of Basel, of a plate with figures engraved on it. Professor Blume came to class with a large volume under his arm. He opened it to a picture of the plate that Muschg had described and passed it around.

"Well,” he asked, “what do you see?"

No one saw anything.

"Does the woman look pregnant to you ?” he asked.

Ken’s face blanched.

Professor Blume continued, “No, but Muschg says she is pregnant, and Mr. Tigar’s paper rests on that premise.”

Ken stammered, “I just through Muschg would be right."

Professor Blume shut the took and said, “Let that be a lesson to you. Never trust anyone. You must examine the source yourself."

I should from now on follow Blume’s advice. I should have known when I submitted my entry that I was using an older manuscript – one that had been rejected by a publisher and one I had spent at least four months revising.

Next time, I will question what I’m doing. I’ll slow down for those precious minutes.
Maybe nothing will come of my error. I hope something comes of my attempt to fix it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Information-Free News!

This article is a little noodle-scratcher.

It’s supposed to be a news story. But it appears to be devoid of actual news.

Let me tell you’ I’ve been there. Spent ten years as a journalist covering small-town news. Spent a lot – and I mean a LOT – of time listening to city council deliberations, which should be filed under cruel and unusual punishment. And I’m sure if I went through the tons of articles I shoveled out, I could probably find a few nearly as information-free as this one. So I’m the pot calling the kettle black.

Still, damn.

So. The council wants to change the enforcement part of its nuisance ordinance. What those changes might be, well, that’s left to the imagination.

I get that there’s no draft. I get that there’s not even a deadline set to have a draft of what might be changed.

But news articles are meant to inform, not be vignettes of moments in time at a city council meeting. I want that, I’ll do this:

And I understand the journalist’s pain.

City Council don’t wanna say anything because the journalist is going to write it down and print it, and we all know what happens then:

"In my experience Miss Crisplock tends to write down exactly what one says," Vetinari observed. "It's a terrible thing when journalists do that. It spoils the fun. One feels instinctively that it's cheating somehow."

Same for the city employee. One word gets out to the public and KABOOM. What’s said becomes the OFFICIAL PUBLIC WORD ® and NOBODY – REPEAT NOBODY – will believe anything otherwise, even if angels descend from the clouds with a new version of the nuisance ordinance. So since there’s nothing of substance to write about, clearly this should be a news brief.

But . . .

The journalist writes an information-free article with a chiche in the headline. And dammit if he’s not going to get a byline. He sat in that city council meeting for HOURS. 

And an editor saw it, and it was good.

And the world goes on spinning because there’s another newspaper to FILL FILL FILL.

Again, can’t say I miss the newspaper business at all.

NOTE: I’m not saying every journalist out there does this. Frequently. But every journalist out there has done an article or two like this. And if they tell you otherwise . . .

City of Ammon, Dig A Little Deeper

While I’m happy to hear that improvements are coming quickly to the intersection of Hitt Road and 17th Street, I have some concerns with the project’s apparent lack of support by the City of Ammon.
How can I say the city isn’t supporting the project when the city has committed $1 million to it? Well, this little snippet from the PostRegister tells me something:

(Apologies if you can’t read the link; sometimes they’re free, sometimes they’re not.)

The northern, western and southern legs of the intersection will be expanded to include two through lanes, two dedicated left turn lanes and one dedicated right turn lane each. There will be fewer improvements to the eastern leg of the intersection in Ammon.

Now, maybe the lack of improvements on the Ammon leg have to do with property acquisition. Or maybe the lack of improvements on the Ammon leg have to do with the City of Ammon not putting enough money into the project.

I don’t have enough information to answer either question. Perhaps those in the know can shed a bit of light on the situation.

I just know as a regular user of both this intersection and the intersection at Hitt and Sunnyside, it’s the intersection at Hitt and Sunnyside I prefer – because it has the two-two-one configuration that three legs of the Hitt/17th intersection will have.

And while the improvements planned at Hitt and 17th are sorely needed and will make using that intersection much easier, I have to wonder why the Ammon leg is being left out.

City of Ammon, can we get an answer?

My question has less to do with the typical sniping between the cities and city residents over the perception/reality that Ammon pays less than its fair share for improvements on Hitt Road. As the Post Register points out, the road is the dividing line between the city – but Idaho Falls lays claim to the road itself. If Idaho Falls residents have complaints about how costs are divided along the road, perhaps they ought to ask their own city council about this arrangement.

As a resident of the city of Ammon, however, and as a regular user of Hitt between 17th and Sunnyside, I’d really like the intersection at Hitt and 17th to match what’s been done at Hitt and Sunnyside. The reality is, petty squabbling aside, this intersection needs improvements on all four legs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016 Goals Revisited

So. I wrote this back in January.

How am I doing on these so-called 2016 goals?
  1. Publish Doleful Creatures one way or another. Well, it’s been rejected by Shadow Mountain, But I’ve submitted it (just this week) to two other publishers thanks to #sonofapiatch. I’m not going to be published this year. But I’m working on it.
  2. Edit the Hermit of Iapetus. Hahaha. Not happening. But that’s mostly because of No. 1.
  3. Prep for NaNoWriMo. Maybe. I’ve got a few ideas that could go somewhere. It would be good to have another something else in the hopper. But No. 1 still looms large. I’ve already got a few other somethings in the hopper. But a writer writes. Always.
  4. Write a poem or short story a week. Nope. Thanks to Erin on Facebook, however, I’ve done a few writing prompts that could lead to something for No. 3.
  5. Files for the BYU-Idaho classes. Did that. Then they changed the curriculum and I’m back to square one, and feeling pretty helpless.
A mixed bag, at best. But importantly: The bag is NOT empty.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Doleful Creatures: To the Editors!

So, it's done.

Two requests. Which is two more than I expected to get out of this. And they're in the editors' hands. Who knows what will come of it? The eternal pessimist in me says nothing, as I know the book is light years from the looks of Mel Gibson. But maybe one of these nice ladies will see something in Doleful Creatures that I don't.

One can hope.

The Bells of Hell . . .

So. Maybe I found a new song for the Hermit of Iapetus to sing. And, good news, it's in the public domain!