Thursday, May 24, 2012

Death By Formalwear... Remembering My Wedding

Fifteen years ago today I married my wonderful husband.   Anybody who knows the two of us will tell you: he definitely got the short end of that stick. Even my own parents would tell you that. Especially my own parents.  And they’d be right.

I don’t remember too much about my wedding day. I got married in Savannah, GA in May in an old church. Which was great and beautiful and atmospheric... until the air conditioning broke in the church on the morning of my wedding. So there I was in my long-sleeve wedding gown, sweating profusely, in front of a couple hundred of our closest friends and family.

About 10 minutes into the ceremony, my maid of honor handed me a handkerchief so I could mop the sweat dripping down my face dot my brow.  Upon seeing me bring a handkerchief to my eyes, the preacher, who had known me since I was a baby, thought I was crying, so he started crying. He could barely get through the rest of the service he was so overwhelmed with emotion.  Everybody thought it was sweet and wonderful.

Except me, who was too busy praying that God would intervene with a freak May blizzard or something.

A good friend – the one who introduced hubby and I – played guitar and sang during the lighting of the candles in the middle of our wedding.  People came up to me during the reception and said they loved how Kevin and I were saying words of love to one another as our mothers lit the candles.  In truth, our conversation was more like this:
“I think I might die, I’m so hot.”
“Me too. Just hang on a bit longer and we’ll get out of here.”
Maybe not true romance, but still true love.

Ends up almost no one else in the church even noticed it was hot. Of course, nobody else was wearing 18 layers of whatever-that-material-is-called under a wedding gown.  Or a three-piece suit, like poor hubby. 

But we made it. And we’re still making it. Although we haven’t faced anything as treacherous as death-by-formalwear-in-a-smoldering-church in quite a while.

And if I look a little shimmery in my wedding photos, that’s bridal glow, not dried sweat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb (#81)

#81: Spartacus (AFI) vs. All About Eve (IMDb) 

I never would’ve known that Kubrick directed Spartacus based on the film. After all, it made sense, had a coherent story, and reasonable characters.

Sadly, I still didn’t like Spartacus. Not because of Kubrick, but because of history. Like Titanic, history had already told me how this story ended – with a lot of dead people.  Knowing everybody dies horribly does not endear a movie to me.  Buzz kill. Seriously.

And while I didn’t have any real problem with the movie (besides the serious buzz kill) I did not see anything about it that suggested top 100 to me, either. It was just okay. I liked Ben Hur better.

Bette Davis
Bette Davis - not afraid to fight growing old.
But All About Eve… Well, All About Eve I loved. Truly, this film epitomizes why I’m doing this challenge in the first place.  A movie I had never seen, might never have seen apart from this challenge. I’m so glad I did. Witty. Fabulous.  Bette Davis. What’s not to love?

Some of the more superb quotes from All About Eve:
Heaven help me. I love a psychotic!

Funny business, a woman's career. The things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster? You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman.

Bill's thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked it five years ago, he'll look it twenty years from now. I hate men.

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!

So it’s no contest for me: All About Eve over Spartacus. All About Eve shows up again as AFI’s #28 against… wait for it… Se7en – David Fincher’s mindf… er, bender. 

AFI’s Top 100
IMDB’s Top 100 (as of 1/1/12)

Spartacus (1960)
All About Eve (1950)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Amadeus (1984)
Titanic (1997)
Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
Easy Rider (1969)
The Green Mile (1999)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Platoon (1986)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Great Dictator (1940)
Sixth Sense (1999)
Braveheart (1995)
Swing Time (1936)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
The Apartment (1960)
Up (2009)
Goodfellas (1990)
The French Connection (1971)
Downfall (2004)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Metropolis (1927)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
The Sting (1973)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gladiator (2000)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Toy Story (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Elephant Man (1980)

Next week my first of many repeats on the list: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment vs. the first truly foreign film on IMDb’s list: Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Navigating the Treacherous Romance Publishing Waters

As I mentioned in a post last month and in one of my (many) little side boxes, I sent a query letter about my first completed novel Unbreak My Heart off to a certain publisher in March, thinking I would hear back in 6-8 weeks. After all, it was only a one page letter and a three page story synopsis, how long could it take?

But surprise, surprise that’s not how it really goes at all in the world of publishing.

So in case any of you are thinking of submitting a manuscript to that huge Romance publisher (you know the one), here’s how the category romance publishing timeline really works:

Step 1) You send a query letter and synopsis. Average response time 3-9 months. TO A ONE-PAGE LETTER.
Possible Response #1 from publisher:  “Your query letter was terrible and your synopsis was boring. Please don’t bother us again with your nonsense.” 
Possible Response #2 from publisher: “Your query letter wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t good enough for us to want your entire manuscript. Send the first 3 chapters and we’ll see.” 
Possible Response  #3 from publisher: “Hey, nice query and synopsis, please send us your full novel right away! We like it and think it may work, but understand we’re not promising anything…”

Step 2) Based on what response you receive, you either commit Hara Kiri or send in the requested document. Let’s just assume you got response #3 above. (That would be the best possible news and all your writer friends would throw an online party for you.)

Then you wait another 6-9 months to get a response for that. 
Possible Response #1: The Bad Rejection Letter (aka, form letter rejection). This is the worst type of rejection, basically: “thanks but no thanks”. Letter is not personalized in any way. They don’t want to hear from you about this manuscript again; no matter what. Your status upon receipt: Distraught. Drink much wine. Consider never writing again.
Possible Response #2: Personalized brief rejection. “We liked your intriguing plot [or hero or internal conflict or whatever] but this manuscript won’t work for us for whatever reason [too many billionaire sheiks already in this year’s publishing schedule or whatever].” So yay, they read it, but they still don’t want it. Believe it or not, this is actually considered a good rejection. Status upon receipt: Sad. Drink a little wine. Consider never writing again. Or self-publishing.

Possible Response #3: Personalized extended rejection. This includes an extended list of all the things the publisher thinks are good and bad in your manuscript. They don’t want you to resubmit this book, but they do think that providing you with detailed feedback will help you write a better, more publishable book in the future.

The great thing about this rejection is that it usually includes the words: “If you have any other projects you feel would suit us, please send them directly to me.” This means you no longer have to start back at the beginning with a query letter the next time you write something. You have a contact person!  Status upon receipt: All your writing buddies are thrilled for you. This is huge! But on the inside you’re a little sad. It’s still a rejection. But after a little wine, you’re back to computer – you’ve got a new book to finish. And someone to send it to.

Possible Response #4: Revise and resubmit. Hooray!! Basically, a list of everything they want you to add, subtract or change PLUS an invitation to send it back once you’ve made the edits. Of course, that does often mean significant changes to your beloved book… Status upon receipt: Everybody, not just your writing buddies, should be happy for you. You should be thrilled yet a little nervous at all the work to be done. And the fact these editors tore your writing apart still has you reaching for the wine, but hey, you’ve accomplished more than most! Get working

Step 3) So, as you can see, even after 9-18 months of waiting, three out four responses lead to an outright rejection. Even a revise & resubmit response may still lead to a rejection even after you make the changes. But you keep writing and submitting until someday you reach the highpoint:

Step 4) The Call. An offer for your book is made. You are going to be a published author!

Where am I in this process? Well, still waiting to hear about about two separate manuscripts. One should be any day now (my fast track submission: Love & Other Dangerous Stunts). The other, Unbreak My Heart... well, it's been in Step 1 for two months now, so that may be awhile before I hear anything.

No matter what, publishing is not a quick process. That’s why the third piece of advice anyone will give you about writing is to start your next project immediately upon finishing your last one – don’t wait to hear from a publisher. (Second piece of advice: Write what you want to read. First piece of advice: Quit trying to make your first draft perfect; done is better than perfect. )

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Run Like a Mother Not A Jogger

This weekend a friend of mine in her mid-30s finished in the top 5% of women runners in a 5k race. Which is awesome, in and of itself. But she did it one month, to the day, after giving birth to her second child.

Just so we’re clear: this was pretty much me a month after my second child was born:  
Running a race? Oh hell no. Top 5%? Not in this lifetime. So yes, I pretty much am in awe of my friend, as everyone should be. That’s what I call running like a mother.

I will never forget Mother’s Day 2010. It was the first time I ever ran double digits mileage in a single run.  On that fateful day in May, I ran around and around a local lake and playground until I hit 10 miles. Ten miles exactly. Not a bit more.

I even did the last tenth of a mile in laps around my car so I could collapse into it as soon as I hit 10.0. And collapse I did – the entire run took me over two hours and I was exhausted when I finished.  But thrilled too. I’m sure I posted all over Facebook how fabulous I was.  The fact that I was running 12 minute miles did not alter my self-ascribed awesomeness.  

Since then, I’ve run my share of 10+ milers.  And thank goodness they became quicker than 12:00 minutes/mile.  For a while I was up to about 9:00 minute miles – which for me is lightening fast. (Like I said, top 5% in a race? – not in this lifetime.)

But about three months ago my hips and lower back really started giving me problems.  Running, the activity that had been such a joy to me for two years, became downright painful.  Pain while I was running and pain after.  Don’t get me wrong – running had always hurt in that hurts so good, I both love and hate this sort of way. But this was different. Real pain.

So, trying to be wise, I first significantly lowered my mileage, and slowed my pace. When that didn’t work, I forced myself to take a six-week sabbatical  from running. I switched to just using an elliptical – which I hate.  I also upped my yoga classes – which I now love (and will post about soon).

Lo and behold, when I went back out for a run about three weeks ago after my sabbatical, nothing hurt! Yay for me. I was truly relieved.

Since then I have been able to run without real pain, but I have been significantly slower.  Where I was once running 9:00-9:30minute/miles, I am now closer to 10:15 or even slower. And I can't seem to get any faster.

Pace this slow after running for so long was discouraging, even embarrassing.  And having friends running at breakneck speeds two hours after giving birth wasn’t helping me feel better.

Heaven help me, I worried that I was becoming a jogger. You know, someone who… jogs.  Putz-ing along… no real running effort, no real running purpose.

But then I found something I wrote a year or so ago, about the difference between a runner and a jogger.

From the very beginning I have termed myself a runner, not a jogger. On Daily Mile, one of the runner websites on which I regularly participate (think: Facebook for Runners), we once spent an entire day discussing the difference between runners and joggers. Some people said it was a specific speed that made you a runner, others said it was a certain distance.

This was my definition of a runner vs. a jogger:

If you ever done any of these: 1) kept going despite your body telling you to stop, 2) drank out of a garden hose of a complete stranger’s house during a run, 3) felt your heart leap with joy at the sight of a port-a-potty during a run, because you were prepared to duck behind some bushes, 4) completed a distance you never thought you’d be capable of… then you’re a RUNNER, not a jogger, no matter what your speed.

I’ve done all those, and am sure I will do them all again. It was all I needed to remind me that I am a runner not a jogger.

I run like a mother. No matter what my speed.