Sunday, August 30, 2009
This is all just picked from my neighbors big garden. I just walk over any time I want and help myself. This is the raw material for a very good, fresh Ratatouille. I already have a pepper I picked a couple of days ago and a Vidalia onion I picked up at the grocery store. This will feed me for days and I'll share a little with friends. I can serve it over rice or pasta, but tonight, I'm just having a big bowl of just ratatouille.
The only thing I won't use is the little spaghetti squash. I'll cook the squash and have ratatouille on it like it was spaghetti.
First I'll make a tomato sauce. While its cooking I'll slice and salt the eggplant. Pat and wipe off moisture, turn and salt. Repeat.
Then cube big and gently brown in olive oil.
the rest is easy as pie. Oh next week I'll make eggplant pie.
Posted by Chuck
Think of a query as a three-part monster, broken down into three paragraphs. At the top of the page, you will have your contact info, as well as the mailing address info for the agency and the date. After that, you have your three paragraphs:
1. Explain what the work is. So - what are you writing? What is the genre? The length? The title? Is it complete? State all the basic info upfront so the agent will immediately know if this is a type of work that she represents.
2. Explain why you're contacting this agent. Did you meet them at a conference? Were they recommended by a friend? Did you see an interview online where they said they were looking for steamy romances and you're writing one such steamy romance? Show them why you picked them out of the big pile, so they have a reason to pick you out of a big pile.
1. Pitch Your Work. This is the most difficult part. You have to boil your book down to about 3-6 sentences and explain what makes the story interesting. You've got to get to the hook. What is the irony - the catch - that makes this story interesting? If your story is simply about a police officer who retires and adjusts to a new lifestyle, that has no hook. But if you say that this newly retired police officer decides to get a sex change, and finds that the police union wants to cancel his pension, and his old friends won't speak to him - then you've got a hook. You've got a unique, interesting idea for a story.
1. Explain who you are and why you're qualified to write this work. Do you have publishing credits? Are you a journalist? Have you won any awards? Have you had short stories published? If you're pitching nonfiction, this becomes the most important section of the query because you will have to prove that you are the ideal person to write this particular book.
Keep in mind that if you don't have anything to say or brag about, you can just keep this section short. Tout your accomplishments quickly and humbly. You want to say "I'm not brand new and I take writing seriously." You don't want to say "Yoo-hoo! Look at my accolades! I'm the man, if you didn't know it, sucka."
2. Thank them. Thank the agent for considering your project. Ask them if you can send more. "Can I send you the first few chapters or some pages?" "Can I send you the full book proposal?"
Want more on this subject?
- There are lots of articles about queries on this GLA blog. See the whole category here.
- The newest issue of Writer's Digest (September) has some real query letters that worked to snag agents, as well as tips on writing good queries. If you're not subscribed to the magazine, please sign up.
- Looking for a literary agent for your work? I'm teaching an awesome webinar on Thursday, Aug. 27, called "How to Land a Literary Agent." Sign up today!
Queries and Synopses and Proposals
Saturday, August 29, 2009
crickets chirping and the low murmur of voices waiting at the gravesite.
I, an unbeliever, was moved to tears by the prayers and answered aloud
Hear our prayer
Hear our prayer
It grew dark and lightening off in the distance over the hill where
A lone soldier stood gun held in white gloved hands waiting for the
Final Salute flashed off and on as a gentle wind blew the
Eternal flame in the growing darkness
And then it was over
Friday, August 28, 2009
Oh, Kay. Greg Mankiw looks at a graph showing that children of high-income families do better on tests, and suggests that it’s largely about inherited talent: smart people make lots of money, and also have smart kids.
But, you know, there’s lots of evidence that there’s more to it than that. For example: students with low test scores from high-income families are slightly more likely to finish college than students with high test scores from low-income families.
It’s comforting to think that we live in a meritocracy. But we don’t.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I've stopped visiting most of you or only spottily, now and then. So obsessed with the news, that I tape all my favorite news shows so I can watch them without the commercials. Yet most of the day I'm tweeting with the news playing in the background. I'd be better served by listening to NPR or AirAmerica, rather than listening to what I'll watch later.
There is a bit of method in the madness to my obsessive tweeting. There are so many literary agents and publishers on twitter. They tweet tips for first time novelists. It's due to these tips that I decided to rewrite the first chapter of the the novel, The Narcissist.
I know, it was Maggy, but I like the ambiguity of The Narcissist. Who is the narcissist in this book? Judy, Maggy, or is it Chuck or Brent? Is Gramps the first and most important of the men, or is it Brent, probably the most damaged of the very damaged men who populate this novel? Men like those who, sadly, have populated my rather emotionally barren life. I say barren because sadness and failure do not make for a rich and happy emotional life nor do these emotions feel like healthy children. Fearing and eventually disliking the men you live with does not make for a happy life, and no matter what the other successes or adventures I've had, it's those failed relationships with men that have been most painful. But trapped like a bug in pine pitch my relationship with my interesting and difficult mother sent me on the search for men as damaged as the men in her life, the men who fathered me and later in her life, the men who tried to get between us. Families are sure full of good material.
If you have time and the inclination, take a look at the newley edited first chapter and tell me what you think. Is it better or worse for my tinkering? Leave bread crumbs.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Statement from The Kennedy Family
August 26, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”
Anthony Coley/Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633
"The work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on," - Ted Kennedy
Monday, August 24, 2009
I called my therapist Fred, the minute I realized what I'd done. I left him a message. He'll check with my psychiatrist to confirm my decision skip my usual evening dose since I took it this morningish. I'm going to try to avoid double dosing if possible. The worst that will happen if I take another Doxepin will be a mild hypomania. And like most normal people I kind of like a little hypomania. It sure won't kill me and I just might finally get my house clean. I was going to grocery shop today, but now I don't think driving is wise, so I'm going to stay close to my bed as I may be flopping down and sleeping as if this day were night.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Many of the readers were men, and even the men said, "This is my family you're writing about." That seems to be the most common comment. Readers can relate to my characters. So now what? Can I market a memoir as a novel or should I look for an agent who specializes in memoir? I can't really write my query until this question is settled. Can I call it Autobiographical Fiction?
I was married to a writer who called his writing Autobiographical Realism. It got him a PhD and a life of slavery as a university professor. That was not the life I wanted. I just wanted to write. Now that I've been writing for 20 years I want to publish. Any suggestions?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Dental care is way too expensive. I know. I've poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into my mouth. And now even the teeth that have had root canal therapy and porcelain crowns abscessing in the bone. Currently the last three bottom molars on the right lower side are abscessed and the whole right jaw and lymph node on that side are swollen and tender to the touch. I grind my teeth in my sleep, but every mouthguard I had made ($100+ a pop) needed to be replaced with every bit of subsequent dental work.
I am trying to hang onto these bottom molars since they are my only remaining chewing surface. It is your bottom molars that really take a beating in chewing. When a tooth abscesses under the tooth in the bone, the tooth rises slightly making any contact that much more painful. This is probably the tenth time I've gone through this trauma with these teeth. I should have had them pulled a couple of years ago, but a round or two of antibiotics gives me another few months. And since my last experience of having teeth pulled and replaced with a thing like a retainer with teeth has been a complete disaster, I am loathe to lose these teeth. I like chewing. I hate pain. And this time it's really painful. It used to be that if you lost your molars, you got a partial plate and that was that. No more cavities. But like watch makers, it's a dying art.
Now dentists are all about the implants. An implant starts at $2,500. That's just for the tooth. These are the variables. The implanting itself is a separate charge from the implant. You may need bone grafts. You may get infection, and you may have problems of alignment. I can't afford any of this and I'm not sure if I could afford it I'd risk bone grafts. My jaw is rather delicate.
What I need is a dentist who is a partial plate artist. I just don't know how to find such a dentist. In the meantime, I'm on antibiotics again and in pain again. Thank god for Compazine and Hydrocodon. I'm sedated, the pain is still there, but I don't mind quite so much and I'm sure to start itching soon. And day after tomorrow I'll be able to chew again for a month or so.
Dental care is the next big need for the elderly, the poor, and children. Dental infection can kill you. And if you can't eat, you won't survive.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
For every cause there are a group of tweeters who make it their own, who do the research, follow the news for up-to-the-second updates, and for every profession there are tweet networks. I think it was just a few months ago I started tweeting and now I have almost 400 followers. I wake up every morning to 10 invites to follow other tweeters. Throughout my day at twitter I find smart and interesting tweets from people I follow home to follow, then next morning there they are, following me. I think this is what they call "going viral." I could be wrong; I often am.
For every interest there is a twitter network. I'm following reporters, and pundits. For instance I follow Rachel Maddow, David Shuster, Don Lemon, Anna Marie Cox, Contessa Brewer, Jake Tapper, and many many more. I follow the NY Times, The Nation, NPR, MSNBC, CNN, The LA Times, The Washington Post and more. I follow too many news sources to remember them all first thing in the mid-day upon just waking. Twitter's an interesting place. I could follow Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and every other right wing nut job if I choose, but I let others follow the crackpots and relish their skirmishes with them. It's a fast, wild ride on twitter.
I tend to be a bit long winded when I write. That's one of the reasons writing a one or two page query letter is such agony. So much to say, so little space to say it. Twitter forces me to condense my writing. I think it's a good discipline for me.
And after I have an experience like getting together with an important person from my youth to find myself shaken to my core, twitter is the kind of meditation that keeps me focused for a day on something else and breaks the cycle of painful looking back and wondering why.
There are twitter rooms for those with very specialized interests. I have found agents, publishers and other writers. I even follow The Writers Digest. The networking aspect is one of the reasons for tweeting. Find an agent who handles the type of fiction or non-fiction you write and then follow them to their blog site where you will be able to read about all the agents in their agency and what each is looking for. I've found tips on how to write a query letter and who accepts chapters with a query letter. I can't imagine another social networking site that would let me move so quickly and freely through these many diverse worlds.
Some of you have invited me to join FaceBook. I tried it once and then realized quickly that I didn't want any of the people I knew in High School or College to find me. I've been hiding from them for fifty years. And social networking takes time. So choose the place you want to spend your time and jump in with both feet. Hope to see you on the twitter.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Back then when we were young and after I'd had a lover or two
I wasn't looking for a man at all but if I were I'd want one
Who didn't want to fuck me
Like looking for an honest man in college or a bar or a truck stop
But you found the glance with slit eye and the slow slide down
Found your body of great richness and utility anywhere like
The wall of the bar just outside the back door, the bushes plumped
Like pillows for your hips. Strange men, old friends, ex lovers,
All comers. You fascinated me so unlike were we
I was the girl they all wanted to fuck
You were the woman who fucked them all
Married with children, it didn't change a thing
You were the one expelled from the campus coffee shop
Obscene language, solicitation and other outrages and I
Worshipped you. Let me live with you.
I'll watch the children, I'll wash the dishes, I'll be the nanny
I'll be the bait and then we'll switch
You read the Tarot Cards and you were the Queen of Cups.
You drew the The Tower reversed, bodies flying through the air
You insisted I was only a Page. I'd had no children. I would always
Be a page, a child, childless, no matter what my age. A Page
I drew the Devil upright and the Hierophant reversed
For a costume party you would go as Medusa, and knew
Enough to call me Persephone. I was that girl, the mere Page
Carried to the underworld by Hades, another name for Daddy
(I told no one your real identity, Daddy, King of the Underworld)
And yet the Queen of Cups knew the ghost of you in the circles
Under my troubled eyes too damn pretty to really be seen.
Ice girl Holding The Devil's hand wearing a well pressed black dress
The Page of Swords in love with the Queen of Cups
I still am.
Where ever you are, Happy Birthday!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have raided the large garden next door; I gathered loads of fresh organic eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, parsley, and basil. The bag of purloined vegetables had to weight at least fifteen pounds. Yesterday, after my doctor appointment (I am still clotted just right) I stopped at a fruit stand and bought a Utah watermelon, two cantaloupes and five peaches. I have enough food for a small army, but I just want to feed these two very important women a lovely lunch. I'll fix a very fresh eggplant parmigiana, a fresh chilled melon plate, and fresh peach cobbler for dessert. My bar is well stocked and there is beer in the fridge. I have soft drinks and two varieties of iced tea. I could fix a great iced coffee. And last but not least, I have a HUGE bouquet of late summer flowers. I think I've got all the bases covered.
It cooled off for a few days last week, but it's very hot again now. Our days are in the 90s; our nights in the high 60s. It's too hot to do a lot of cooking in the middle of the day, so I'll probably get up very early Friday morning to cook the peach cobbler. I will make the tomato sauce this evening. Then while the cobbler is in the over Friday morning, I'll cook the eggplant and assemble the eggplant parmigiana. Once the cobbler comes out of the oven, I'll slip the eggplant dish in the oven for about a half hour--long enough to melt and lightly brown the cheeses. Then a quick shower for me, and I'll be ready. Even if neither of them feels like eating, it won't be wasted effort. My friend Tracy and I shared the last fresh eggplant parmigiana I made. She's ready for another such treat, and her husband, who didn't even get a taste of it last time, is planning on leftovers this time.
I am frantic to get my house clean, but things just keep popping up that can't be ignored. Am I making excuses? Probably. I used to go to group therapy where one of the women in the group always talked about getting up and vacuuming and mopping all the rooms in her house, cleaning all the bathrooms and doing laundry EVERY DAY! I thought she was especially crazy.
I'm a once a week sort of cleaning lady. I change the bed, clean the bathroom, vacuum and dust and call it good. Then another day I do laundry and think I've done a good days work. I try to keep things neat, but I hate vacuuming and mopping floors. I just don't ever plan on eating off my floor. I would like to get all the windows clean, but that's optionaly given time constraints.
For some odd reason I seem to be very popular the last little while. Phillip is coming back for another pit stop on his way back to San Francisco, and Larry, my boyfriend when I was twelve, is also coming to town for the reunion. It's a hive of activity here, and drastically cutting into my blog reading time. I've become an addicted tweeter too. I need a little cooling off time there.
Z is having a very rough time of it right now. She has radiation burns on her chest and back. She's allergic to sulfa drugs and when they treated her burns they didn't check her chart and put sulfa/antibiotics in a salve on the burns. She had a very bad reaction: high fever, chills and shaking, and extreme pain. All of this makes her dislike of western medicine more intense. She hates them all. It was a nurse who dressed her burns with the sulfa drug and didn't check her chart for allergies. Every interaction with a medical professional turns into another trauma. She is going to take a radiation break this week. She still has two weeks to go on radiation, but just can't take it anymore. I'm not sure she's going to feel well enough to get together. I'll just have to clean house with my fingers crossed.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I do believe that the novel I've written has something that almost everyone can relate to. We all have crazy families. Maybe not this crazy, but crazy enough that almost everyone can relate to a mother like Maggy, the mother in my book. Almost everyone has been through some aspect of divorce and the fracturing of a family. There has to be at least one narcissist in every family. Doesn't there? I'm betting on it.
The other kind of universal experience that I tell in excruciating detail is the care and feeding of a parent with dementia, on the long slow slide to brain dead; perhaps a parent who potty trained you and who now needs you to change her diapers for years, and is like any toddler, surly about giving up the shit. However, a toddler and a grown up the same size as you, are not the same to change. And if you are the least bit phobic about grownup's poop, it will turn your stomach and test your patience long past your patience's limit. Somehow a mean parent just gets meaner with dementia. Odd how that works. The very sweet seem to just grow sweeter. The marginally mean can turn into remorseless sadists, slowly, over a too short time that seems to never end, until you are changing the diapers of a person who has no idea who you are, but knows he doesn't like you, in fact hates you, and the struggle to keep his shit seems like a matter of life and death to him.
I won't say Maggy is a how-to-book on surviving taking care of crazy momma. But it is a book about a very dysfunctional family told from the point of view of the baby who is saddled with the worst jobs of all. I'm betting it doesn't hurt to know what's coming down the road as momma and daddy start going batty, giving the farm away to scam artists, and crapping their pants in public. And my generation, the baby boomers, are now going batty at an alarming rate. We are the most populous of generations. Think about that my darlings, while you ponder your future as you lie in bed worried about your children's education, their prospects for a job, your ability to keep your job as the economy goes to hell and the next generation is bringing its freshly minted graduate degrees to your boss, offering to work for less, and your daddy is now alone and not doing so well. Sleep well. Then tomorrow, tell me Maggy isn't a horror story.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Today it will only reach 80 degrees and I'm actually going to be able to take Marley for a walk. Yes, I am going to get a little exercise. Shut up! No one likes a smart ass.
I'm also getting my head shrunk at 3:00 this afternoon. I'll come home and take a picture so you call tell me how my smaller head looks. There will be a few errands run on the way home from the therapist's.
Phillip of Sitenoise is stopping off here for a very short visit, so I'll be baking brownies and getting questions written so while he's here I can get a wee bit of help with my first submission to a Literary Agency.
It's a busier day than usual, so I'm off to take Marly on her walk.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
The result you advertisers want (which I assume is to grab our attention so we will actually listen to what you're hawking) does exactly the opposite of what you intend. I do not listen to the screaming ads; I mute the screaming ads. Ill say it again. If your ad is louder than the program I'm watching, I mute your ads.
The worst offenders are local advertisers. The national ads start at programing volume, but each successive ad gets a little louder. By the fourth ad the volume is so high I have no choice but to mute them. So if you don't want us to listen to your ads or buy your products Advertisers, keep it up. If you do want us to listen to your ads, try whispering. I might even lean in a little to listen to your soft spoken spokesperson.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
When I first signed up for coverage in the '80s there was only one insurance company offering individual coverage in Utah, and that was United Healthcare. My premiums started in the $300 range. I thought that was high but it was the only game in town. As long as my internist proscribed my antidepressant, United Healthcare covered my treatment. It was when my depression wasn't responding to the antidepressant I was on, and my internist referred me to a psychiatrist, that United Healthcare began increasing my deductible and co-payments at an alarming rate. I began to see my insurance provider as my adversary. Every year my premium went up close to $100 a month. My copay went from $5 to $10 and then $20. I knew I was bipolar, but my primary symptom, or at least the one that made working impossible, was severe depression. Until I started seeing a psychiatrist I had been able to keep the word "bipolar" out of my medical records. Once that diagnosis started appearing in my records, my premium doubled. In one month it went from $500 a month to $1,000 a month. At that point I had to give up coverage.
It was just prior to that last doubling of my premium that my biggest client went out of business. This decreased my income 80%. So, I had to drop my insurance; I simply couldn't afford the premium anymore. Then I discovered that my mother had vascular dementia. As her only living relative I became her only caregiver, the one person responsible for her. So she became my full time job, a job that is depressing even for those not inclined to depression.
Without my medications, caring for my mother drove me over the edge into psychosis. I was hospitalized at the University of Utah adult psych ward for two weeks. This was the beginning of the precipitous plunge into bankruptcy. I couldn't afford the drugs I was on. At this point my drug bill was almost $1,000 a month. I couldn't afford to pay my medical bills. So next came the slow process of applying for disability. Within one year I was bankrupt and disabled. And then I started getting the help I needed to stay somewhere close to the balance point of the seesaw I was living on.
Once I started getting a monthly check from Social Security Disability and getting 80% of my medical bills paid, I was able to hang on by my fingernails. Without that public option I don't think I would have survived that terrible time in my life. It is one thing to have an illness that is expensive, incurable, and tricky to treat; it is another thing to be treated like a deadbeat who can't pay her medical bills and doesn't deserve to live.
Even with the public option of Medicare, I have to make difficult choices regarding the allocation of scarce dollars. My illness is still expensive, but as long as I make a good faith effort to pay my bills, I am treated like a person with value and dignity. I'm never refused treatment. I choose my own doctors. My drugs are now affordable because of Medicare part D and the extra help I get with drug costs because of my low income--no donut-hole for me, thank god.
I can't work anymore. But I can tell my story. And it's a common story. I am not alone. Anyone who has lost benefits when they lost a job, knows what I'm talking about. If you have children, insurance is an absolute necessity. Children cannot go without some kind of health insurance. And we should never have to choose whether we get the medicine we need or buy food. It's that basic for a lot of our citizens. We have reached the bottom line. We need single payer healthcare. But if that's off the table, we must have a public option for those of us most at risk. Healthcare shouldn't be a choice, it should be a human right.