Rick Najera & a New Shade of Green

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So, this one time I went to New Mexico for my first writing conference ever and I met a lot of people and one of them was Rick Najera. He doesn't remember it, he tells me, but that's okay with me. I'm lucky if I remember what I said five minutes ago, so I won't guilt-trip Rick into paying f0r my therapy sessions to make up for him forgetting me like that. 

Then, this other time, the internet proved the nay-sayers wrong. Turns out the world-wide web is just as round as the world itself. Rick Najera showed up in my tweet stream when somebody else retweeted something he happened to tweet when I happened to be around to see it, and then I found myself on a train to to NYC to speak at his #AlmostWhite book launch event and I called him Motivational and Not an Asshole. He's still talking to me, so there's something to be said for my broken filter.

What follows is an Op-Ed by Rick himself. He's going to be performing at The Americas Latino Eco Festival in Colorado this week. Because an arrogant reporter wanted to know Why, Rick decided this totally arrogant blog would be included on his list of the right places to respond.  (No, no, it's okay. It's not like I thought it was the ONLY place... Nope... I just need a minute....) 

And make sure to check back here for link details about tomorrow's #ChingonaFest Project Hangout at 2 p.m. EST. I've got exciting new segments planned, Rick's stopping by to talk about the Latino Eco Festival, and we've got four SIGNED copies of Almost White to give away live during the hangout. 

You're Welcome. 

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Recently, a reporter asked me why I was going to be performing at the Second Annual Americas Latino Eco Festival in Colorado. Billed as the “the new shade of green,” this festival asks for all Latinos to fight for our planet and become leaders in the ecological movement within the Americas. During the interview, the reporter asked me, “Rick, I did my research on you and noticed you were involved in Latino issues, and diversity issues and Hollywood issues but not ecology, or the environment or any other green issues. Why are you getting involved? Why is ecology and our planet so important to you?” He said the last part as a dramatic ‘I got you’ inflection. As if I have decided all at once to care about our environment like I was some kind of green movement carpetbagger just looking for some Hollywood Swag. I thought about his question long and hard.  And this is my answer,

First off, like most Latinos I believe more in environmental issues than most cultures. In fact 93 percent of Latinos believed in global warming While only 60 percent of Anglos believe in Global warming.

Latinos also have deep conviction that acting as environmental stewards is part of their moral duty. More than 92 percent of Latinos polled in a Sierra Club study said they “have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creations.” 94 percent of Latinos say that outdoor activities like fishing, picnics, camping and visiting national parks are important to them and their families.  Lastly Latinos are more affected by the environment

Asthma, for instance, is twice as likely in Latino children as it is in white children, according to an EPA study. Latinos live  in the environments effected by our pollution and lack of air quality.

“But Rick, what does this personally mean to you?” The reporter asked. Personally? I answer, personally I’ve seen our environment change first-hand during my own lifetime while growing up in San Diego. I remember the farms in Mission Valley, in San Diego, a chicken ranch down the street and even more farms littered up and down the coastline. I grew up with nature. I spent my weekends at the beach, feasting on freshly caught abalone. I trudged into the surf and sand with bonfires crackling in the background during summer night and gathered grunion. (A smelt like fish that came up on the beach to spawn.) I drove up and down along the coast in California with orange blossoms perfuming the air. For me, it seemed as if our world was a better, safer place back then. Now, the abalones have become rare and endangered. It’s rarer to find grunion as a kid, there were several creeks filled with crayfish, bullfrogs & all other kinds of aquatic life in my backyard. Those are all gone now.  As we enter in the second year of one of the worst droughts in California history, our state is becoming drier and drier. The Climate is changing. I’m seeing it first hand. Yes, It’s personal

I have personally added  new names and words to my vocabulary, words like: Fukishima, Katrina, Deepwater Horizon & Valdeez. Words I learned in my life time.  GMO’s, global warming, and cancer clusters.  New words new problems.  Now we have  Pesticides  that are sprayed on Genetic Modified produce, not just on farm workers, at an alarming rate, fisheries are being decimated, and more and more farms – the same places I remembered from my childhood – are being paved over in favor for the urban sprawl and profit. I remember drinking out of  cold mountain streams in the Sierra Mountains. I can’t do that anymore. It’s not safe.  And I don’t breath in air perfumed by orange blossoms anymore. I remember my childhood, and the nature I loved. That nature is in my culture and in my history. It’s in my blood and in my soul. Latinos have fought for the environment, and more importantly, we have worked in that environment. That nature is entrenched in each and every one of us. It’s part of our shared indigenous culture.

Why shouldn’t this Latino care? Why should we not lead this fight to save our planet?   In our  Latino culture, we have a belief that this world belongs to not one person or corporations  but all of us  and we are only stewards of this planet.

But most of all, It ‘s personal when look at my three children, and think what kind of world am I’m going to leave them? And that makes it very personal and this is why I’ll be in Colorado at the Americas Eco Latino Festival.  Because I’m hoping more people will begin to feel the same way.

 

Rick Najera will perform his one-man show one-man show based on his book Almost White at The Dairy Center For The Arts on September 13. On September 12, Rick will perform his Broadway show “Latinolouges”, including additional monologues with a green twist and featuring an all-Broadway cast. For tickets, visit here.

 

Rick Najera: Hollywood's Best Kept Spanglish Secret

Rick Najera

 

A few years ago, I had an idea for a book and a blog come to me while I was trying to fall asleep. Any writer will tell you that ideas are fleeting -- and that sleep is optional-- so I quietly slipped out of bed, tip-toed out of the room as to not wake the sleeping husband, and promptly grabbed my purse and my credit card before sitting down at the computer.

I had URLs to buy, dammit.

That's the night I launched Aspiring Mama and started working on the memoir I hope to publish one day. I didn't know any successful writers personally. I didn't even know any Pretty Shitty But Determined to Make it Happen writers. Hell, this was five years ago, people. That's a lifetime in the digital age. Twitter was a verb describing that noise birds make and Facebook was MySpace's slightly more respectable older cousin I didn't feel like wasting my time with.

It's okay. Obviously, I smartened up.

Back then, though, me and my Blackberry only knew how to make phone calls and I was still trying to figure out how to wash the used car salesman smell away from my soul after my previously brief (but highly convenient and yet utterly soul-sucking) foray into the world of blogging. The blog written from my dog's point of view was brilliant but I don't think the world was quite ready for that kind of genius. And the baby product review blogging phase means we scored free things like expensive car seats, but I walked away from it because I knew I needed the break to clear my head. My writing "voice", the one I had honed in the newsroom, had been lost in the free baby-carrier and teething jewelry carnage, you see.

Six months later, I was awake at 3 a.m. buying Aspiringmama.com and began working on the memoir I had titled "Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Weight Loss, & Trying to Stay Sane." (Think Erma Bombeck but with more "F" bombs.) It was this manuscript, coincidentally, that led me to Rick Najera and why I'm talking about his new book  -- Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood.

Buy it on principal, y'all. Because the title alone is fucking hilarious and that needs to be recognized.

 

Also important? I'll be speaking at Rick's April 3 reception celebrating his book launch in New York. Because that's not the kind of thing you almost forget to mention when writing about the event at which you happen to be speaking. But I digress...

I attended the National Latino Writer's Conference in New Mexico the following year and had been smart enough to sign up for a chance at a critique of the first 15 pages by two of the conference workshop teachers. I was already signed up for Rick Naerja's comedy writing workshop -- not because I knew who he was, mind you, but because comedy has always been a part of what I do -- so I figured, "What the hell? This guy might know something about being funny." And a few months later, there I was, sitting before Rick in our on-on-one session discussing my manuscript...and something amazing happened.

This Hollywood writer who, it turns out, is actually quite the big deal, told me I had a voice. And that it was a good one. Rick told me I was funny and more importantly, that I could write. I remember texting my husband frantically after my critique session to tell him that I had the potential to go mainstream ... because RICK NAJERA SAID SO.

I could feel The Husband smiling back as I read his response. He said he liked this Rick guy. He said Rick was smart.

I read between the lines. My husband was thanking Rick for giving me something he couldn't because This is GREAT, honey! is always suspect when sex is the end goal. While The Husband has told me from the beginning he believes in me and my words, the creative spirit in me needed the validation of an objective party. I needed to know the sleepless nights pounding away at the keyboard, the rejections, and the days where I kicked myself in the ass for thinking I could make something of this little dream, were all worth it.

It is worth it, by the way. I'm proud to be able to say to Rick that I listened, mainly because I don't do that very often. But this time, I did and I can say I'm Latina Magazine's Dimelo advice columnist because I kept at it. And y'all? Did you know you can actually get paid for telling people what to do while sitting on your couch without a bra on?  You can thank Rick for that visual, because he told me I had potential.

But I'm not the only one. Rick has played a crucial role in not only encouraging fellow Latino writers, actors, and comedians to not only fight for their dream, but also in creating opportunities focused on showcasing their talents. While picking up honors like earning a spot on Hispanic Business's 100 Most Influential Latinos in America, an Alma Award for Best Writer for the 2008 film Nothing Like the Holidays, and most recently, a nod from Latin Teen Heat Entertainment for being a Hot Hollywood Dad, Rick also has helped launch the careers of countless performers in his role as director of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. The 2014 Showcase alone delivered three writers to Saturday Night Live and 16 series regulars to TV. I'm sure, of course, that Rick also serving as coach, mentor, and teacher during the four months of preparation has something to do with that.

It's because he makes us laugh. You know that, right? Comedic writers wield a power like no other, because it is through laughter that so many of us are able to process and discuss controversial or difficult subject matter. If you've watched one episode of In Living Color, you know what I mean. Rick Najera is a master of comedic timing and knows exactly which buttons to push so that when we get to the punchline, we aren't just laughing...we're thinking, too.

"Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood". I'll give you the short version because I know you're already planning on buying the book -- which -- by the way, was just nominated for Most Inspirational Non Fiction Book by Int'l Latino Book Awards. Basically, Rick says dream big or go home. The focus, of course, is on the Dreaming Big part, because Rick is inspiring and not an asshole. When you want something, you make it happen.

Since we're talking about change and forging our own paths, let's talk about diversity and Latino representation in Hollywood. I've always subscribed to the Write What You Know philosophy. For a long time I think I had convinced myself that every writer thinks like this, but the truth is that white males dominate in the writer's rooms. Without real world experience from which to draw upon when creating the Latino characters and culturally-themed story-lines the public is calling for, their attempts fall flat and are oftentimes stereotypical and offensive.

Jesenia, Co-Creator of The Comedy Girls (and apparently too fancy for a last name) is another Latino fighting for more diversity. She's made it her personal mission to get a Latin American FEMALE cast member on SNL. She says, and I quote, "Because Latin Americans are only represented accurately when we are representing ourselves, we need to not only continue creating high quality, non-stereotype content - we also need to step out of constantly boxing ourselves into the Latino category, and instead create work that speaks to all audiences of every race."
I'll high five you Jesenia for that one later. Because what she says here is that the responsibility in how we are portrayed in the media is not one we can just pass off on Hollywood. And that, my friends, leads us right back to Rick, being Almost White in Hollywood, and encouraging Latin American writers to keep knocking on those closed doors. If it never opens, we knock a new hole in another wall, pull up a table and some chairs, and write the stories that we know need to be told.
***If you're in New York, I'd love to see you there! Click here for ticket information. I'm driving four hours to the closest train station so I can not have to think for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, so I don't want to hear bitching about how traffic in the city is a nightmare. Suck it up, show up, and a good time shall be had by all.

 

Robin O'Bryant and Ketchup is a Vegetable

  Robin O'Bryant

Back in November of 2011, I had the honor of pimpin' one of my favorite writer friend's new self-published book to you guys. The writer was a sweet and sassy mom writer I had connected with (and fallen in LOVE with) on twitter named Robin O'Bryant and the book was none other than Ketchup is a Vegetable (And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves).

I shared a book excerpt and a hilarious interview here on Aspiring Mama and then I stood back, grabbed a pen, and took some notes as I watched Robin show the world how self-publishing should be done. (I'll give you a hint: New York Times Bestseller List and a two book deal.)

But I'll let Robin tell you the rest. Just make sure to stick around for the entire post because Book Giveaway and SIGNED COPY, y'all. That's why.

You're Welcome.

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Pauline Campos: Let's just hit the ground running here, Robin. Exactly how many kinds of awesome are you?

Robin O'Bryant: I think maybe one shade, because I'm really excellent at doing nothing and being more than one shade seems like it'd be a lot of work. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I have the energy to read or if I'm just going to watch Netflix and drool.

 PC: I like the second option. But we can talk about movies later. I wanna know if I can be you when I grow up. You started with an an idea for a book that got you your agent, self-syndicated a very popular (and utterly hilarious) column, self-published Ketchup is a Vegetable, worked your ass off to make it to the New York Times bestsellers list, and earned a two-book deal for Ketchup and the forth-coming Are You There God? It's Me, Mommy-- all in a -- what is it now? -- four year's time span?

RO: Yep. I keep track because my youngest daughter was 1 when I started and is 5 now! It's been a whirlwind. 

PC: And somehow, with all of that husslin', you somehow managed to feed, clothe, and interact with your children, not alienate your non-writer friends, and your husband is still speaking to you? Not to outshine the major book drop news but exactly how does one replicate this? (I'm asking for a friend.)

RO: I answer a lot of those questions in "Are You There God?"-- it wasn't easy or effortless. I spent a lot of time feeling like a terrible wife and mother. But I'd say the short answer is: Jesus, Zoloft, therapy, yoga and a group of friends you wouldn't believe existed. 

 PC: I know you're a Christian woman and grace is a Big Thing for nice folks like you who don't drop F-bombs like drunken sailors *coughs* but I'm imaging Toby Keith's How Do You Like Me Now is on repeat in your writing playlist, like, ALLTHETIME. And before you answer, know that I'll be slightly less crushed if you say no than I was when I learned that reality TV is actually scripted.

RO: This is another thing I talk about in "Are You There God?"! I am a Christian but I cuss like a sailor in real life. For me, in my own writing, curse words seem to take away from my message. I just can't do it on the page, it distorts my voice. You should have seen all the words my beta reader took out of the next book! 

 I don't like Toby Keith's music-- I'm Southern but not that kind of Southern. But I definitely have moments when I feel like screaming, "IN YOUR FACE WORLD!! YOU SAID I COULDN'T DO IT AND I DID!"

 When I was first starting out I sent a piece to an online humor site and got a scathing reply from the editor telling me that I wasn't really writing humor because all I was doing was transcribing what my kids said. A few years later she started following me on a social media site. It took every bit of strength I had not to have a Pretty Woman moment with her and say, "Remember me?? Big mistake. Huge." 

 PC:  See? I was right. That felt just like I thought it would. Maybe there's still hope, though. I shared a room with you and Sister Wife once at a BlogHer conference. Do I get to call you Robin still? Or does the fact that you got to hear me snore mean I'm now to refer to you as Ms. O'Bryant?

 RO: Robin is fine. I'm just not sure you'll be able to call me roommate again. ; )

 PC: That one hurt, Robin. Seriously. But The Husband is currently sending virtual high-fives your way. Whatever THAT'S about. Anyway, finish this sentence:

 RO: I'm at the beach...

 PC: No, really. I totally got distracted by a squirrel just now. When you stop laughing at me, I'd really like you to finish that sentence.

 RO:...my plan is to drink coffee until lunch then switch to alkeehol. I'm going to get some Vitamin D and be in bed by 7:30. 

 PC: YOU DO LOVE ME! Okay, back to Ketchup. Remember when you first launched and then the government declared tomato sauce on pizza was considered a vegetable and I was all THE US GOVERNMENT HAS APPROVED THIS MESSAGE because BEST TIMING EVER? Good times, right?

RO:  Lol!! I know! I used it as a hook for my press release thanks to suggestions from Ariel Gore's "

 How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights, " which you recommended to me. 

 PC: I think I've read that book about 10 times. Obviously, you took way better notes than I did. Can I borrow them? And what's the game plan for the big Ketchup relaunch? A book tour? Who gets to play you in the eventual sit-com? Or would you rather go the RoseAnne Barr route and just play yourself?

RO: I am going on book tour, you can find all of the dates here. If I'm not going to be close to you, you can order books from my local indie store, Turnrow Books and I'll personalize them & they'll ship them to your front door!

AND I'm highly available for private speaking engagements, you can email me at robinschicks(at)gmail.com if you are interested. 

 Honestly, I used to fantasize about being an actress but it would be so weird to play me with Not Zeb, Not Aubrey, Not Emma, and Not Sadie. Zeb O'Bryant would die first and I don't have the money to spend to send all three girls to Promises for their 15th birthdays so I guess that job would be up for grabs. If, in some alternate universe, any of my stories were made into movies, I would want Jennifer Lawrence to play me because she's the only person I can think of who is as ridiculous as I am.

PC: Last one-- If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

RO: Absolutely not. I am so grateful for the way everything unfolded. Self-pubbing first gave me the opportunity to take baby-steps before I made the plunge into traditional publishing. I would have been lost in this process, but I'm more confident now. I've done this before, the only difference is that instead of it just being me and my agent, I have a whole TEAM of people who are helping me. I am so in love with every single person I've worked with at St Martin's Press.

***

Now for the giveaway details: St. Martin's Press is offering one copy of the shiny pretty new Ketchup and Robin has graciously offered to make sure it's personalized. Considering the fact that I forgot to bring my own copy to BlogHer in 2012 to get my ROOMMATE to sign for me, I think this is a pretty sweet deal for y'all.

How do you enter? Leave me a comment. It can be about anything, really, but bonus points will be given to those who say something that tells me and Robin that you do, in fact, realize this post had nothing to do with knitting turtle cozies or the earliest time of the day during which it is socially acceptable to add more vodka to your orange juice (The answer is: I'm not judging). The contest will close at midnight (EST) on Monday, March 31, and one winner will be randomly selected via twitter or email. And don't forget -- you can pre-order Ketchup is a Vegetable at major retailers right here!

Elizabeth Gilbert on Most in Show

You know what's refreshing? When a writer more famous than the rest of us actually takes the time to respond to something we've said on our various social media channels. That's the kind of stuff that makes us smile all day, brag to our friends that s0-and-so tagged us in a tweet or Facebook update or in response to our many fan-girly comments on instagram. No matter how many friends I see moving on to incredibly successful writing careers or how many times I have to pinch myself as my own career begins to be worthy of stuff to write home about, I'm always going to feel like I'm on top of the world when a name on a book in my shelves says hello. It's that important, this reaching out and connecting.

Today, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautifully written memory-snippet on her Facebook fan page about and clicked Like, along with thousands of other fans. I liked it so much, in fact, that I left a comment asking if I could share it here with you. And I promptly forgot about it because she's Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts played her in a movie based on her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, for crying out loud.

Until I saw that she replied. And she said yes.

 

I found this photo the other day at my mom's house, and I burst out laughing.

This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That's an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren't so familiar with 4-H.)

I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I'd been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.

My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.

I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn't really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)

After all that, I didn't win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don't even want to talk about it. I'm sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.

But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, "Oh my god, that poor pathetic child." Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: "MOST IN SHOW".

Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. "You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best...but, by god, you are the MOST."

But you know what? I've always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn't the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.

I'm not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I've got. In every category I can.

The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.

Because I just won't go away.

Not one of us should go away, not ever. Make up your own rules. Give what you love to do all you've got. Be Most in Show. Be fabulous.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your words, allowing me to share them in my own space, and for that Acknowledging My Presence Thing.
Yeah, especially that last one.
That was awesome.

Butterflies for Everyone!

If you're new to the blog, I'd like to welcome you with a little bit of awesome. As a pre-holiday thank you to my readers (and a little reminder to ourselves to be thankful for the bodies that carry us through our days) I've decided to make the Girl Body Pride Strong Like Butterfly anthology free on Smashwords through Sunday.

The anthology contains the work of many Girl Body Pride writers like Shoshana Rachel, Elan Morgan, and Jessie Sanfilippo, along with novelists Therese Walsh and Mercedes Yardley. Each story shared speaks to women struggling with body image issues. And each story is so beautifully told.

I'd like to invite you to take this opportunity to get your free copy of Strong Like Butterfly and, of course, to pass the information on to your friends. And please, know that I look forward to your thoughts after reading the book. It was an honor editing this collection. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I still do.

Ariel Gore on Girl Body Pride

 

Look closely. What do you see?

I see a woman. A smile that makes me want to know what was just said.

I see a name. I see stars. I see Ariel Gore on Girl Body Pride.

For those of you who don't know, Ariel is my writer crush. She has been since I read How to Become a Famous Famous Writer Before You're Dead: You're Words in Print and Your Name in Lights. Alongside Stephen King's On Writing, I consider to be the two best literary works on the art of writing and making something of it. Then I read her memoir, Atlas of the Human Heart, and I was in love.

Heard of the Hip Mama zine? That's Ariel.

Read Bluebird? Ariel again.

And now her words are on Girl Body Pride. I seriously think this is about as awesome as the fact that I can say Jenny Lawson pet my hair a women's bathroom once. I know, right?

I won't lie...this is one pf those moments where I have to pinch myself to find out if I'm awake...

Turns out I am and pinching myself hurts like a bitch.

Stop laughing.

Go read it.

And please, for the love of all things Holy, leave many comments and share the absolute shit out of this one. Ariel Gore is in the house.

Hell, Ariel Gore is in MY house.

Let's make sure she wants to come back for the next shindig, shall we?

A Thank You

 

Pretty sure I'm the coolest mom in Buttercup's little group of friends right now. That's what happens when you give signed author copies of a book that is so well-received by the kidlets that I was texted and emailed repeatedly about how they had to take away the book because their kids were, well, reading.

Good students, these kids. Usually pretty well behaved.

But this book made them into different people. It made them careless and forgetful and because they were too busy losing themselves in the pictures painted on the page with words that they were forgetting to do their homework. They were getting caught in the middle of the night with flashlights and their only defense was "But MOM! I want to find out what happens next!"

And they did. The next day, anyway. And when they were done they were so high on the adventures in their head and the rush that comes with having lived vicariously through characters they came to love and can't wait to see again that they did something unheard of these days.

They grabbed a thank you card, a stamp, and then put this in the mail box.

 

It gets even better. Because if the outside makes you smile, the inside makes you all giddy and think there is actually hope for humanity in the face of crap like Jersey Shore and the Kardashians because there are still words being put to paper and imaginations dancing with the images created within.

 

 

Congratulations on making your latest deadline, Shannon. You revel in that. I'm going back to smiling and feeling superior like my kid because her mama is  "friends" with all of these famous writers and Miss Shannon is one of them and that makes me kind of awesome.

World? Keeper of the Lost Cities IS as awesome as these kids say. I'm going at a much slower pace reading it to a five-year-old, but she is as caught up in it as I am. It's not just good. It's incredible. And I am looking forward to more. Order Keeper of  the Lost Cities here. And you're welcome.

 

The Me That I Am

I'm having a pretty shitty Writerly Ego day. Actually, it's kind of been a shitty Writerly Ego month, to be perfectly honest. And when I've shared this little emotional nugget with the BFF and The Husband, I've received a raised eyebrow and a "YOU HAVE A FUCKING AGENT" in response to my pity party. I get where it's coming from. I am in a position a lot of writers would kill for. I have a wonderful agent who thinks me and my writing are worth something and deserve a place on the shelves at Barnes & Noble next to writers I admire like Jenny Lawson Jill SmoklerRobin O'BryantAnna Lefler and Heather Armstrong. It seems, however, that the platform I am currently standing on may not big enough to get there. Or maybe it just feels like that because I'm a writer and us artistic types are moody and overly emotional and maybe I just need a vodka-flavored cookie. Because really? I'm pretty proud of my little platform. I bust my ass for free because writing is who I am and what I do and the writing part is actually more important than getting paid part...for my sanity, at least. The bills sitting on my desk waiting to be paid, however, would rather I stop trying to stay Not Crazy and just get a fucking job that probably wouldn't leave me the time to write for the awesome sites I contribute to.

I love sharing the funny on An Army of Ermas and Funny Not Slutty. Getting a spot on best-selling author Lissa Rankin's Owning Pink site is something I will forever be proud of. I've been published on Hippocampus Magazine and almost fell over when StoryBleed accepted the same piece for publication on their site. And then what I've got going on over here on this little ol' blog o' mine. I'm working on getting my name out there and my writing on more outlets, but these things take time. And Platforms don't build themselves overnight.

I'm by no means in the same stratosphere as the likes of Dooce or The Bloggess or Scary Mommy and that's okay with me. I'm not trying to be them. Just me. And hopefully the Me that I Am will one day be enough.

Maybe this sounds like a Poor Me post, but I don't mean it to. Instead, I wanted to let other aspiring writers out there know that the days of doubting yourself don't end the moment you sign that contract with your dream agent. And, I'm sure my published writer friends will tell me that they sure as hell don't end when a book deal is offered or the day their books were released or even the day they got their first glowing review. Because once someone Other Than You believes in your work, it's not just your ego riding on how many readers connect with that essay you got placed in that literary magazine that you love or how many hits per month your blog is getting or how much better you feel just for having taken the jumbled words out of your head and making some sense of them in a new piece you just started.

Every level of success reached is both a validation of our talents and a new reason to Freak the Fuck out, but it's a lesson in the writing life that I seem to keep having to be reminded of. Three months ago I was still waiting for the Moment All of My Dreams Would Come True and then the world turned upside down when they did because I signed with my agent. That singular moment took two years to make a reality. And you would be right of you guessed that the Freaking Out commenced after the shiny newness of my situation sunk in. It's not just me and my ego on the table anymore. It's me and my ego and my agent's time and effort and enthusiasm and Belief in What I Am and Have Yet to Become.

But if I think back, I probably went through the same little Self-Doubt Fest when I was accepted onto my college newspaper's staff and when I saw my first byline and when I was assigned to cover my first murder case at the city newspaper that hired me right out of college. And then again when I left the newspapers to freelance and when I started this blog and when I woke up this morning and my little girl told me that I'm the best mother in the world.

So maybe shitty Writerly Ego days are just part of the process and part of what makes us who -- and what -- we are. It's our literary equivalent of the trap women set for men when we ask if This Dress Makes Us Look Fat because we really only need to be reminded that in their eyes we are beautiful no matter what how that dress fits us. My platform is what it is. My ass? Probably looks horrible in that dress. But it's okay.

Because tomorrow I'm still going to write something. And someone is going to read it.

Because That Thing Your Kid Just Did Has a Name For It

Write what you know and make sure you write what you know for the audience you have in mind. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of all of the writing advice I've had thrown at me since I decided I wanted to work for peanuts for a living. And Eric Ruhalter is a prime example of how this whole thing works if you, you know, do that. Ruhalter is the author or the newly-released The Kid Dictionary: Hilarious Words to Describe the Indescribable Things Kids Do. Ever find yourself at a loss for words when some little punk blows out the candles at your kid's birthday party? That's what Ruhalter refers to as a "wishjack". Want to bitch and scream when you can't DVR American Idol or The Real Housewives of Plastic Surgery and Impossible Standards County because it's full of kid shows again? Just tell the kids you're tired of being "Spongebogged" feel good about not cursing (for once).

Want to know more? Of course you do. Read on for a short interview with Ruhalter and a chance to win your very own copy of The Kid Dictionary.

 

AspiringMama:  Gimme name, rank, and serial number.

Eric Ruhalter: Easily amused Man, Father, husband, Writer, Dreamer, Maker-Upper of Words.
I work in New York City at AMC Television, producing TV Promos, which are commercials that air on AMC about the shows and movies on AMC.  It may not earn me a Pulitzer, but I enjoy it, I love the people and rarely if ever does it put me in any physical danger. Nor is it one of those dirty jobs where my wife makes me leave my clothes on the porch every evening.

My wife Kara and I live in Morris Township, NJ and have 3 kids. 13 year old son and 10 year old son/daughter twins, a dog, and two cats. I like to write, edit video, play Frisbee and ping pong and surfing. And I’m really nice.

AM: Good. I don't interview assholes on my blog. So you being really nice is totally convenient for, like, both of us. Before I forget, I have to ask (because I ask this of all my interviewees) do you chew your ice cream? Bonus points if you say yes.

ER:  YES! YES I chew my ice cream!

Except i'm lying. I do not chew my ice cream.  I just wanted to impress you.  I had a very traumatic experience as a child where i thought you had to chew ice cream, and i did so despite the fact that it hurt my teeth. Ultimately i stopped eating ice cream for a large portion of my childhood. (Except for milkshakes, because they were already chewed.) Now Ice cream is one of my greatest taste-oriented pleasures. But i just let it melt in my mouth. That's how i roll.

AM: ok so you're a nice guy who doesn't chew his ice cream who wrote a funny book. Two outta three ain't bad. Tell the lovely people reading this how you came up with terms like "Curdler". Cuz, like, I've totally been there.
ER: I apologize about the ice cream thing. I’d really like to chew it, but I’m just not ready.
More than 90% of the words in The Kid Dictionary were inspired by things I saw with my own eyes, watching my own kids. There were countless scenarios that didn’t have names but needed them. I, the tireless philanthropist, made them up. And I like to think the world’s a better place.  Okay, maybe that’s overstating it, but I’m glad people like the book.
Okay, “CURDLER.” That one came about after repeated episodes of finding old Sippy Cups, usually containing milk that disappeared. Kids in the toddler phase are not much for rinsing out their cups and plates and stacking them neatly in the dishwasher. They’re more likely to throw it under the couch. And eventually you’ll find them, either by chance or by following their stench and they’ll look like there’s a scientific experiment going on in there. A fuzzy, pungent, moldy scientific experiment. I called them “Curdlers” because it seems as though the milk has turned to cheese. And I like cheese, but probably not that kind.
See? Told you the man knows his audience. Cuz? Raise your hand if you've been there.
Now for the fun part.
Sourcebooks, publisher of The Kid Dictionary, has graciously offered a copy for one Aspiring Mama reader. To enter, simply do one of the following (or more for extra entries!)
* Leave a comment for Eric on this blog post.

* Tweet, Facebook, Google +, or include a link to this post on your own blog. Each counts for it’s own entry, so be sure to leave me one comment letting me know what you did so I can add up points!

* Comments will be accepted through midnight, EST, on Wednesday, April 4.

* One winner will be selected via Random.org and will be announced here on Aspiring Mama shortly thereafter. And of course, if you don't win, The Kid Dictionary can be purchased at all major booksellers.

Because They'd Totally Be Sitting At My Lunch Table if This Was High School

I'm knee-deep in Crazy right now trying to finish my mom's taxes, not quite awake after an all-nighter with the idiot puppy Fezzik dog who decided a dropped pistachio shell might make for a fun $300 emergency trip to the all-night veterinarian, and still all googly-eyed over the I GOT AN AGENT thing. Then there's the Wishing My Proposal Would Revise Itself because *that's* a whole lot of Insane and it makes me want to chase my morning orange juice with a bottle of Nyquil. But there's no time to bury myself in a pile of despair! Not with Buttercup to keep busy and the dog to keep from costing me more money.

Also? My friends have been BUSY LITTLE BEES and I'm really only breaking my regular blogging schedule so I can do a Show and Tell showcasing their Awesomeness because these ladies would totally be sitting at my high school lunch table.

Ready? Here we go... 

Have you heard about CJ REDWINE and her debut YA book, DEFIANCE? It's amazing. Check out the official release info over at YA BOOKS and then click on over to CJ's blog to enter for a sweet chance at an autographed copy of DEFIANCE and some snazzy swag.

Remember my review of Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves by Robin O'Bryant? If not, read this author interview first to catch up with the rest of the class. Love it? Yeah, me too.

Hungry for more? Good. Robin has a Second Helping available for her fans on Amazon. The ebook is a collection of 22 of her reader's best loved pieces from her self-syndicated column. Oh and bonus? Prime members get to read it for free. No prime? No problem. Skip the tall skinny latte at Starbucks today and support an author today so you can say you knew her when tomorrow.

 

 

I (really) Suck at Follow Through

So this one time I interviewed an author and did an interview and hosted a giveaway for a signed copy of her book and people entered and then I totally forgot to choose a winner and put a pretty bow on the whole package? And then another time I did the exact same thing? Yeah...about that.

While I wait for word from Google about how long I have before I forget that I had laser eye surgery four years ago and push my imaginary glasses up the bridge of my nose again, I'll bide my time by announcing that Heiddi Zalamar is the incredibly lucky winner of an unigned copy of Jane Devin's powerful memoir, Elephant Girl.

Thank you all for entering and thank you, Jane, for allowing me the opportunity to share your words.

How I Got My Agent

So this one time a writer finished a book she thought was just dripping of awesomeness and, because she figured those silly old rules about letting the story sit and the very real need for multiple revisions and advice about maybe hiring an editor all applied to Writers Less Incredible Than She, the first set of top agents had said writer's query in their inbox faster than you can say "Rookie Mistake." Oh, and the one agent -- named Michele Martin from MDM Management -- that she was referred to by a pretty friend never actually got a query, but instead got a simple email stating that Tiffany Romero had referred her. Of course, she got turned down. By all five of the agents she had queried and had assumed were going to make her the next Exception to the Rule. BASTARDS! Didn't they know WHAT KIND OF TALENT THEY WERE DEALING WITH?

Obviously.....not.

The writer shook off the rejection (it MUST have been a glitch in How The Universe Operates, after all) and started researching the next five agents or so. And lo and behold, there was an email from the agent she had emailed on Tiffany's referral. The agent wanted to talk.

On. The. Phone.

With me. (I mean...oh screw it. It's hard writing about myself in third person without falling into a fit of girly giggles, so I'll stop.) So yeah....the agents wanted to talk with me! Maybe she was going to sign me! Maybe I was the exception to the rule. Maybe...

Maybe I needed to keep querying and slow down and practice not squealing while speaking with Michele the following day. Of course, there was no contract to sign after our conversation. There were suggestions to tighten the manuscript and how to make things work better and where I needed more and why this area needed much less and Just Cut That Part, Okay? So I sent out another few batches of query letters and tightened my work.

After the next batch of rejections, I figured my query sucked and wasn't getting past round 1 at the agencies they were going to, so I took a query workshop and came out on the other end with a query that sucked so little it was positively pretty.

So I sent that bad boy out to even more agents while I worked on making the manuscript Not Suck with Michele (turns out what I thought was literary gold was no more than first draft dribbles..who knew?). All told, she probably worked with me for three months before gently bursting my Bubble of Happiness by telling me that I had talent but the manuscript just wasn't ready. She suggested an editor and invited me to resubmit after I had revised. A Lot.

I told her to bite me (in my head) and thanked her for her time (in an email).

That's when I pulled the plug on queries and put my manuscript in a forgotten pile and went on with my life by keeping busy with the strangest hobby which involved writing more and submitting my work to Other People. I know, sounds strangely like work and building a platform, but don't let yourself be fooled. I was actually just pretending the book I had written didn't exist and this was just one way to stay crazy busy enough to do just that.

And then one day I found myself being offered a featured blogger spot at Lissa Rankin's Owning Pink.

Another found me giggling like a school girl in front of an ice cream truck when Leah Segedie asked if I wanted to be an editor on Bookieboo.

The email inviting me to bring some funny to An Army of Ermas had me at hello.

And the one asking if I was interested in contributing to 30 Second Mom would only have been answered faster if the subject line had read "A yes gets your face on an iPhone app."

And I guess all that got me enough confidence to start submitting individual pieces and that's when Hippocampus Magazine accepted an essay and Funny Not Slutty decided I was worthy and THE POINT IS I FINALLY GOT OFF MY ASS AND GOT TO WORK!

Somewhere in all that craziness I also put my ego away and reread my manuscript. You know, the one that Michele had said showed promise but wasn't ready? Yeah, funny thing. Turns out she was right. I mean, it not only sucked, it also S-U-C-K-E-D. So I took her advice, hired Brooke Warner to edit, and busted my booty turning that manuscript around.

Eventually, I found myself at the Point of No Return. My manuscript was ready to go out into the big wide world or back into hiding. I decided to put on my big girl panties.

That's when I got my pretty new(ish) query out and sent it off to five agents. Right after that I emailed Michele.

And on Valentine's Day I was signing a contract to be represented by Michele Martin of MDM Management, who was originally referred to me by Tiffany Romero of Bloggy Bootcamp and Other Social Media Awesomeness and also now represents Lissa Rankin, who runs Owning Pink, and the synchronicity of the whole bit tells me that some things are just meant to be.

Moral of the story?

It's entirely possible that my query letter still sucks. I wouldn't know. I got my agent with an email.

Class is Now In Session

Let's get down to brass tacks: My track record at getting agents' attention with a query kind of sucks (you'll have to come back for the punch line to that story on Friday). That makes me the least likely person to give you tips on how to write one that's not going to make you want to take your mother's favorite advice from your childhood and go play in traffic. (Or was that just mine?) But you know who is more than qualified to give you that kind of advice? CJ Redwine.

In her ebook, QUERY: Everything You Need to Get Started, Get Noticed, and Get Signed, Redwine covers everything from agent research to how to create an awesome hook and guides you through every step of the querying process.

Redwine also offers her Synopsis Workshop Handouts for sale on her blog under the Tools for Writer's tab on her blog. If you're new at this, let me just sum this up for you cuz I wasted two years thinking I only needed to tweet my way into an agent's timeline and get signed that way: I'm an idiot and these handouts are way more practical. Cuz CJ knows what she's doing and I just thought I did.

She's also got a major thing for were-llamas. I'm figuring it's part of her genius.

 

And for any readers who want to tighten up their writing skills, you need to check out my friend, Abigail Green. Remember her? I reviewed her ebook when she launched The Mama Insider and have always wished I could be the kind of writer she is when I grow up. The woman's been published in American Baby, The Smithsonian, on Babble.com, and a ton of other places. Also? Green is offering six-week online writing classes for writers of all levels with a focus on the personal essay. Coming off a two-year bender in which I was convinced I was The Chosen One and didn't need someone to guide me before finally realizing I was totally wrong and totally did, I'll happily suggest every single one of you click here and sign right the hell up. Reaching blindly through the craziness inside your head is so much more productive with an objective and experienced teacher to guide the way. And did I mention how many of Green's former students are now published?

You're Welcome.

 

Because I suck at follow through

It's true, y'all. I somehow managed to finish an entire manuscript and get started on a few more but The Husband is pissy that basket of folded laundry from three weeks ago is still sitting on the floor in our bedroom. I'm not sure what his problem is. I mean, I managed to remember to get the clothes into the washer, then the dryer, and then out of the dryer before folding them all nice and pretty. I'm all LET'S CELEBRATE THE POSITIVE and he's all I'M POSITIVE IT SHOULDN'T TAKE THREE WEEKS TO PUT A BASKET OF CLOTHES AWAY. And before anyone gets all What an ASSHOLE, let me present a few points. The first is that I knew he was an asshole when I married him. It's totally part of his charm. Trust me on this. Also? He has a J-O-B that keeps him busy and frees me up to try to earn that monkey I'm dreaming of, so we kind of made a deal that I'd take care of the house and kid and he'd, you know, go to that job thing.

My point is that I don't actually remember a time limit set upon each household responsibility so I'm totally in the right on this one.

And while that may be true, that's totally not even why I started writing this post and talking about sucking at follow through (HEY EVERYBODY! THE BLOG POST IS A VISUAL AID IN AND OF ITSELF! FUCKING GENIUS!). I'm here to tell you who won that drawing for The CHICKtionary by Anna Lefler.

 

Drum roll, please...

Is that a squirrel?

Never mind....

The winner is Beth Bartlett! Send me your address so I can tell my New Best Friend Anna where she gets to ship that signed copy.

 

Interview with a CHICKtionary

n: Lefler, Anna: 1. Award-winning writer with nationally syndicated essays whose work has appeared online at Salon.com, McSweeny's, The Big Jewel, and Funny Not Slutty. 2. Wife (see also: domestic partner and Queen of Your Heart) 3. Comedian (see also: Hilarious and Can I Be Your Biffle?) 4. Mother (see also: Superwoman) 5. Social Media Maven who is waiting to be cyber-stalked on her popular humor blog Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder and www.AnnaLefler.com and on twitter (@AnnaLefler). 6) Author of The CHICKtionary: From A-line to Z-snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know (see also: LOL funny, My New Bible, and Can You Be on my Team When We Play Dirty Minds?)

She's fun, funny, and it seems, funnier with every page. Trust me on this. Grab yourself a copy of The CHICKTionary, flip to a random page, and laugh out loud while you wish you had though to say what she just said first. And then do it again. And again. Really...it doesn't get old.

Sidebar: Let me interject on my own little gush-fest with my not so small print: While Anna was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to review her book on my blog, sent me a copy that I did not pay for, and has been kind enough not to issue a restraining order on me (see also: yet and cyber stalker), I like to stick to the Rule of Thumper, which pretty much dictates I pretend I never received the book and that all of Anna's emails went to spam when she asks why I haven't reviewed her book yet if I couldn't think of anything nice to say. But as I'm sure you can now guess, I actually thought of plenty....and then I realized Anna is much funnier than I am and decided to let her tell you just how she manages to be so much cooler than us and still make us love her at the same time.

Told you she was talented.

Aspiring Mama: Name. Rank. And serial number. Go!

Anna Lefler: Hmmm, I'm not sure about rank and serial number...but the name is Anna. Lefler, that is. (It helps to imagine the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme behind this. "Beverly. Hills, that is.")

AM: I see from your Chicktionary bio that you also go by MOOOOOOOM and Mrs.

Please tell Aspiring Mama readers a bit about what makes the Lefler clan click. Or, more specifically, do they take for granted how funny you actually are?

AL: I think we are pretty weird for a "normal" family, and I like it that way. I am fortunate in that my husband, daughter and son really get my humor and they are very supportive of my creative dreams. This is a gift for which I am grateful every day. They also think I'm a few doughnuts shy of a box, and they may be on to something with that. Now that the children are a little older - in middle school - the three of us can present a united front against my husband, who is by far the most grown-up person in the house. One of our favorite family activities is to embarrass him in public by, say, doing a spontaneous clog-dance in the lobby of IHOP. He's disavowed his connection to us on many occasions, but he's going to have to try harder than that if he wants out of this little cult.

AM: So we share the same philosophy on family. *Fist Pumps* Tell me, do these creative dreams include taking this little clog dancing act on the road? Or do you have other fun and interesting ways to not have any free time?

AL: Oh, you know me - I've always got something cooking. (I'm not referring to actual food, of course. I never have real food cooking. My family will back me up on this.) I'm polishing up a novel right now and I'm very excited about that. I've also got a couple of creative ideas that fall outside the writing world, but they're still in the planning stages. When I need some occupational therapy (or to ruminate on something), I make jewelry. Necklaces with semiprecious stones, mostly. I love working with my hands - it's good for my noggin.

AM: A novel in progress, a stand-up comedy career, and jewelry making. I think you just gave me a complex. Wait. No. That already happened while reading The CHICKtionary. What moment of genius spawned a book written in dictionary form for women ?

AL: I wish I could take credit for the idea! The notion of a funny women's dictionary came from the publisher, Adams Media. They saw some humorous pieces of mine on various websites and thought my voice would be a good match for the project, so they contacted me through my blog. Which is why, by the way, I tell people always to check their spam filter! You never know what you might find in there among the Viagra ads.

Anna has graciously offered a signed copy of The CHICKtionary: From A-Line to Z-snap, The Words Every Woman Should Know with one Aspiring Mama reader. To enter, simply do one of the following (or more for extra entries!)* Leave a comment for Anna on this blog post.

* Tweet, Facebook, Google +, or include a link to this post on your own blog. Each counts for it's own entry, so be sure to leave me one comment letting me know what you did so I can add up points!

* Comments will be accepted through midnight, EST, on Monday, February 8.

* One winner will be selected via Random.org and will be announced here on Aspiring Mama shortly thereafter.

***

I'd like to thank Anna Lefler for offering me the chance to share her book with all of you. And the not minding the fan-girl squee thing I've got going on right now. Yeah...especially that.

 

UPDATE: Because I'm obviously a dumbass in need of a calendar tattooed to my forehead, I've decided to extend the giveaway period for a chance at Anna's book. And no, this has nothing to do with Heather pointing out that I had the day AND date wrong in her comment. Nope. I figured this all out by myself. And that's a total lie. So come forth and comment. According to my calendar, you've now got until Sunday, February 12.

You're welcome

 

Inside the Mama Insider

I'm feeling pretty popular by association these days. I've got friends getting agents, signing book deals, and coming out with so many books these days that I'm thinking I need to rub them all on the head to see if I can send some of their luck (which really means hard work, y'all) my way.  

For now, I’m happy to cheer as loudly as I can from the stands when writer-friends do awesome things like self-publish an e-book called Mama Insider: Laughing (And Sometimes Crying) All the Way Through Pregnancy, Birth, and the First 3 Months.

 

INSERT DISCLAIMER HERE: While I call the Abigail Green a friend, AND got to read the ebook without paying for it, I wouldn’t be telling you it was awesome if it actually sucked. Because it doesn’t. And it doesn’t because Abby is one hell of a writer.

Mama Insider is short (50 pages) with short chapters (I think she wrote it with my four-year-old as the test subject for how long her attention span would allow me to read something that doesn’t rhyme) perfect for reading on a mobile device while waiting at the pediatrician for another well-baby check or while hiding in the bathroom while the significant other takes care of the little one(s) for five minutes. As indicated by the title, Abby gives it to new moms straight about what pregnancy and the first three months are actually like. As a formerly new mom myself, I can attest to laughing (a lot) and crying (also a lot) until about three days ago, so I’m thinking Abby deserves a high five on transparency alone.

The fact that Mama Insider is also a very informative read (because there really isn’t a need to cry over the size of your unborn baby’s nose, people…there really isn’t) and gives new mama’s to be a chance to skip some of the honey-covered truths presented in a lot of books for the realities of, you know, real life motherhood (‘cuz doulas sometimes do go on vacation when you are 10 days overdue), makes me love it even more. Because who else besides my girl Abby is going really tell you what “Me Time” looks like after you have the kid? (Hint: That may include a babysitter and you getting a cleaning at the dentist.)

While those who may have closed the baby-factory may find themselves outside of the intended target audience for Mama Insider, it’s definitely on the must read list for those just getting started.

 

***

Abby is graciously offering one Aspiring Mama reader the chance to win a copy of Mama Insider (either for themselves or to gift to a new mom in their lives). To enter, simply do one (or more if you want extra entries) of the following:

* Leave a comment for Abby on this blog post.

* Tweet, Facebook, Google +, or include a link to this post on your own blog. Each counts for it’s own entry, so be sure to leave me one comment letting me know what you did so I can add up points!

* Comments will be accepted through midnight, EST, on Monday, January 23.

* One winner will be selected via Random.org and will be announced here on Aspiring Mama shortly thereafter.

***

And a big thank you to Abby for allowing me to share Mama Insider with Aspiring Mama readers.

 

Happy Chaos and Punky Power

I grew up with jelly bracelets, bright neons, Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony, and everybody's favorite 80's kid, Punky Brewster. Surprisingly, I've never had the chance to name a dog Brandon. I'll have to remedy that. For now, I'll just focus on the fact that my childhood hero has grown up with me into a a powerhouse of a mom with two adorable little girls, her popular Moonfrye.com site, over a million twitter followers, an eco-friendly clothing line called The Little Seed, and her role as Target's Mommy Ambassador. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not one to run out and buy the latest celebrity memoir, but when I was offered the chance to read and review Soleil's new parenting book, Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and my Perfectly Imperfect Adventures In Between, I decided my childhood dream of becoming Punky's best friend was just a blog post away from coming true. I'll keep you posted on how that works out, y'all.

Happy Chaos shares stories from Soleil's childhood (she once had Johnny Depp show up as a surprise guest to a birthday party), precious moments with her children, and perhaps most importantly,  brings us non-celebrity moms right there with Soleil when she shares how she's learning to accept that the mom she thought she was going to be is not the mom she became once her children were born. The beauty of it all is in the journey of discovery with our children.

And while not every mom can relate to a roster of celebrity BFFs or boast about directing her first film at the age of 18, reading Happy Chaos reads more like a chat over a cup of coffee with a girlfriend than anything else. Part memoir and part parenting manual, Happy Chaos reminds us to embrace the crazy that motherhood brings while taking a moment to celebrate the magic of cutting an apple sideways just to show our children the star inside.

 

***

Soleil has graciously offered a signed copy of Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between with one Aspiring Mama reader. To enter, simply do one of the following (or more for extra entries!)

* Leave a comment for Soleil on this blog post.

* Tweet, Facebook, Google +, or include a link to this post on your own blog. Each counts for it's own entry, so be sure to leave me one comment letting me know what you did so I can add up points!

* Comments will be accepted through midnight, EST, on Monday, January 16.

* One winner will be selected via Random.org and will be announced here on Aspiring Mama shortly thereafter.

***

I'd like to thank Soleil Moon Frye for offering me the chance to share her book with all of you.

 

Reading during Drunch

My friend Jodie from The Drunch wants to know what your favorite books are. She has a post up called Book Prozac, Jodie has the following o say:

Y’all, I’ve just been introduced to the concept of Book Prozac by the lovely and amazing Rachel Hawkins, author of the highly entertaining Hex Hall series. Book Prozac are those wonderful tomes that let you get out of your head and into another world altogether. And when — sadly — they come to an end, you find yourself relaxed, refreshed and just a little bit better equipped to tackle reality. I’m not just making this up guys, I’ve got nearly applicable science to back it up.

Admittedly, I am a horrible blog commenter. I read and read, but I'm not always motivated to leave a comment worth anything while browsing my favorite blogs on my phone. So maybe the stars were properly aligned or Venus was in the seventh house of Saturn or whatever, but Jodie happened to catch me with this one when a) was actually on the computer and b) had 30 seconds to spare. Translation? I commented.

Here's the list I came up with in about the time it takes to blink twice because these titles have stayed with me.

1- The Narnia series 2- Eye of the Dragon by Stephen King 3- Fahrenheit 451 4- Flowers for Algernon 5- Harry Potter 6- NOT TWILIGHT 7-  did I say that out loud? 8-  Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor 9- Room 10- The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon 11- I can always get lost in any book by Nora Roberts 12- The Green Mile by Stephen King 13- Dances with Wolves *the book not the movie* 14- The Dragons Forever series by Eisley Jacobs *seriously people, AWESOME MG, people. AWESOME* 15- To Kill a Mockingbird

Do me a favor, will ya? If you feel inclined to add to this growing list o' awesomeness, please save the comment for Jodie's when you stop by for Drunch. Just click here and tell her Pauline sent ya.

Other People's Moments

Sometimes I forget. Maybe because it's easier to not think about the power each word can hold. When thought, when written, when shared with anyone who may read them. Maybe it's a defense mechanism. If I let myself concentrate on the fact that each time I write the moments that aren't designed to make you laugh but, rather, make you do anything but, I probably would have stopped writing long ago.

That's probably why I prefer to let myself believe that only faceless strangers read my words. I might know your twitter handle and talk to you on Facebook, but you don't know about the fact that, at six years old, I was terrified to go to sleep for fear of never waking up after attending my grandmother's funeral unless I tell you and not because you were actually there.

And therein lies the only sense of control I really need.

I choose what to reveal. I choose the tone. Will I strive for laughter or aim for angst-ridden tears? Will I share enough to be relatable or just enough to make you curious? I dunno...

It all depends on my mood.

That's not something I can control. Not when it comes to the pathways between my brain and my fingers, anyway. I might be cracking wise verbally and prepared for laughs when I sit down to write but that's not how it always happens. When my fingers connect with the keyboard something strange happens; my thoughts begin to sift through a sort of funnel that seems to be designed to only let through the ones that need to breathe because the rest can wait until another day. I write, sometimes not blinking until I've finished an essay or a blog post, all energy focused on telling whatever truth there is in the very moment I am trying to show you in the way it needs to be told.

I forget because I'm just doing what comes as naturally to me as breathing. I forget because that's how I write.

But then I read someone else's words and am brought into someone else's moment and that's when I remember.

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This post was inspired by an essay submitted to an anthology I'm working on putting together. Want to know the definition of really good writing? When your words inspire the birth of more words. Thank you, Mercedes. For inspiring me.

Elbow Grease and Fairy Tales

I wrote this on August 25 and it's been sitting in my draft folder for the right time to publish. Considering I am still at a loss for blog time while revising my manuscript with the help of a professional editor, the topic is beyond appropriate, especially considering I hired Brooke Warner after I wrote the post, which I just dug up because I don't have time to blog because I'm trying to make my book Not Suck. See? The Universe? It's all tied together, yo.

***

 

 

I've decided I don't give a shit anymore.

Not about an agent. Not about a book deal. Not about the number of blog hits I get. And not about the fact that my platform is barely big enough to reach the cookies on the top shelf.

I've had one dream since I was 8 years old: to become a published writer with a book of my own. My inspiration was Gordon Korman after my fifth grade class was assigned to read the book that got him a book deal when he was all of about 13.

I know. The pressure was on, yo.  And I had three years to deliver.

To say I had a midlife crisis at the age of 14 is an understatement. I was devastated in only the way a teenager with a broken dream can be. And please, let us not focus on the fact that I couldn't even blame the Man for keeping me down. Gordon Korman got a book deal because his English teacher was blown away by a writing assignment that turned into a manuscript that turned into a career that has spanned decades. I didn't have a book deal before getting my driver's license for the very obvious reason that I hadn't done any work to fucking earn it.

I got over myself for a while and moved on. There was middle school to deal with. And all the hell that comes with it.

And there was high school. That was a nightmare. So busy concentrating on the cliques I didn't qualify for to make many meaningful friendships with those who I could have. I joined student congress, played varsity tennis, was part of the Spanish club, played a few instruments in the concert and marching band, organized class trips to Cedar Pointe in the hopes of earning some cool points with the In Crowd...

And then I found myself holding in the tears when my speech wasn't selected for my classes graduation ceremony. I never wrote for the school paper. I wasn't an enterprising young writer with a check list of publications in which my work had been accepted. I was just a girl who wrote essays and shared them with friends on the phone at night who turned in what I assumed was a given for the commencement ceremony speech.

Are you following along with me, here? I assumed that because my dream was older, my visions of the future grander, and my ego bigger than was good for me, that I didn't need anything more than a bit of patience for the Universe to send a message to the right people about my hidden genius.

Stupid? Yes. And had I outgrown that thinking, it might have been excusable. To my credit, I did...for a little while. I was too busy to writing for the college paper and failing math classes and finally graduating with honors. Then I was too busy getting married and buying a house and working as a city editor for a small town newspaper. I was too busy to do much, really, until I left my job at a respected newspaper for bed rest, have the baby, survive the first two years of her life, lose my father, and move cross country.

That's about the time I decided to take a breath and start a blog to get my name out there for the book idea that had just come to me. Twitter was an obvious choice, and while other writers worked on multiple projects and vented about rejections from literary magazines, I happily wasted away hours online "building my platform"  and yes I totally just did air quotes because I still blindly thought that was all I needed. Surely an agent would stumble across my blog and discover me. Talent like this can't be ignored, right?

Every twitter follower gained was another reason to think I was more of a someone than I had been yesterday. Every blog hit a reason to think things were happening for me. And when I started querying my book, you can bet your ass I assumed I was going to be one of the lucky ones.

Multiple rejections?

My work not actually ready?

My query letter sucking?

Nah...

I was, quite obviously, wrong.

Just like the fourteen-year-old with the midlife crisis, I had no one to blame but myself for my misery. Dreams coming true are not usually the stuff of fairy tales. To happen, they take work on the part of the dreamer.

Do I still wish for a book deal? Sure. But I'm also very aware of the fact that focusing on the goal is not the point of The Writing Dream. The point is actually writing. Everything else is just gravy.