Travelogue

Blue Suitcase
Ready for anything.

So yesterday was…interesting.

I discovered that

1) the Ohio River had flooded Louisville and Cincinnati and all points in between this past week, which it so rarely does and

2) getting on the plane from Houston to DC for the Pony Club horse management judge training that I rearranged whole chunks of my life to get to was a really bad idea.

My first clue that All Was Not Well was when my flight out of Houston was delayed two hours by weather. The Delta app oh-so-helpfully had a pop-up button that allowed me to rebook myself on a connecting flight out of Atlanta with plenty of time to spare, and I settled in to get a huge amount of work done. (Pats self on back!)

Then they delayed my flight again. No pop up button appeared and there were no later flights available to DC from Atlanta. I crossed my fingers that the gates would be close together.

Then they made me check my carry-on bag. While I might could sprint from plane to plane, the baggage handlers have a ton of other bags to handle, so I quickly repacked my carry on, and wore or carried all the things I had to have for my seminar. So, instead of my nice walking shoes, I then had on paddock boots, a barn coat, and a shoulder bag with about 20 pounds of horse management junk in it. My carry-on/checked bag was almost empty. I took a photo of it, since it had been awhile since I had a record of what this bag looked like, and got on the plane to Atlanta. Texted my husband a funny update about it all. Congratulated myself on how well I’d thought all that through.

Smooth flight. We landed, taxied….and stopped about a hundred feet from the gate. And sat there for 30 minutes while I watched my Delta app for signs that the connecting flight (Only two gates down the terminal!!) was also delayed. Boarding, it kept saying, right up til after I got to the gate to see the jetway door still open — but they had “released” my seat because I wasn’t there, and they put standby folks on the plane instead of me. Texted my husband in frustration. Thank goodness someone listened to me!

Delta baggage handler are stellar because they managed to “expedite” my bag from the Houston plane to the DC-bound plane, so I got to wave goodbye to my almost empty bag and lug my horse stuff down to the long line of folks trying to find a seat out of Atlanta. Two hours later I had learned there were no flights to the northeast part of the country because of a storm but they could get me on an evening flight to Houston Hobby. (My car was parked at Intercontinental on the north side of Houston,but hey, NOT Atlanta.) Texted new flight info back to Houston to husband.

That thing I usually do before packing? Checking the regional weather before I go. Didn’t do. At least I had a way out of Atlanta. Fretted a bit about this expensive round trip ticket to mayhem, but decided to drown my sorrows in more work. (Aren’t I a good little writer!)

Before I got on the plane to Houston three hours later, I called and left a message on the husband’s cell because I hadn’t gotten any return texts. “See you at Hobby at 8?” and watched Justice League all the way back home. (So the day was not all bad. Haven’t sat still long enough to watch a movie in quite awhile.)

Turned my phone on to find a text from my husband in response to my phone call that he’d see me at Hobby on Sunday and thanks for the update!! He had not gotten any of my texts, but assumed the voice mail from me was about my original return date. He too was unaware of the storm on the east coast.

The hour it took for Paul to get to Hobby gave me enough time to discover that 1) Delta employees are really kind. They would bring my bag to my house when it got back 24 hours from when I got back so that I would not have to go to both Houston airports today to collect my car (Intercontinental) and my bag (Hobby). and 2) Check my e-mail to discover that Delta had credited me the entire price of the ticket.

And I now have two entire days I didn’t have before, so I’m headed out to do spring cleaning of the barn and mow the pastures, and brush the horses.

Weather here? Delightful.

Travelogue out.

Julie the traveling fool

Reimagine

At our SCBWI meeting this month, three Houston SCBWI writers, Vonna Carter, Millie Martin and  Lynne Kelly Hoenig discussed a Darcy Pattison seminar they had attended on rewriting their books.

Interestingly enough, the spin that this seminar put on their revision was using a ton of wonderfully useful exercises to evaluate their manuscript. (It sounded so wonderful in fact, that I have my reserve-my-space e-mail already written and timed to go out on the day registration opens for the Houston SCBWI-sponsored seminar later this year.) But even better than the tales of revising and camaraderie was one of the things one of our speakers said that caught my imagination.

She used the term ‘re-imagine’ in place of ‘revision’.

This word opened up a whole new line of thinking about my work-in-progress. Instead of having to re-do, I can step back, walk around the piece a bit, see how it looks from a distance, and then put my imagination to work again to strengthen the work a bit more.

Learning how to write for a Middle Grade audience has been daunting. Not only does a twelve-year-old think differently than an adult, everything is different, right down to the line of sight from which a twelve-year-old sees the world.

I started the story in third person. Finished it that way too. Mistake number one. Third person isn’t as popular with that age group because it’s harder to connect with.

Rewrote the story in first person. This improved the story tremendously, but…not enough. I was deep into the characters and the emotional investment that six months of working on the book gives me. Second mistake: no perspective.

I struggled both times to make it through the middle of the book to a happy ending. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out why that pesky middle section was so darn hard. Third mistake! In the process of writing the book, I’d fallen in love with what I’d written and couldn’t see past the work I’d already put into it to identify the problem myself. It took an insightful critique by Abby Ranger from Hyperion to give me the Eureka! moment necessary to identify the deficit in the manuscript. The problem I’d set for my character to solve wasn’t a strong enough problem to carry the book.

Ms. Ranger had the distance (and skill) to re-imagine “what if” my Suzie faced a bigger problem. “What if” the problem was bigger and badder than the financial one I’d set for Suzie and “what if” she was able to find a strength that moved her twelve-year-old self from ordinary to extraordinary.

Poof! As soon as I left the meeting, I too began to re-imagine the story. What if Suzie’s financial trouble was because her mother was in trouble. What if…Mom’s job was gone because her place of work burned down? What if…Suzie and her friends found out who really set the fires?What if…the person setting the fires was close to Suzie and discovering who it was could hurt everyone? What if…Suzie’s journey to clear her mom brought her closer to being independent, but also confirmed her love for family and friends?

Ah, ha! Re-imagining this story has brought me another boatload of work to do — but it’s work I’m happy to have because it will make this story stronger, better, something I’ll be proud of having written and closer to being something that will sell.

Fingers crossed…at least when I’m not typing madly away.

Persistence

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The logan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

– Calvin Coolidge

 

And a shorter, but equally worthy quote from the same source:

 

I have found it advisable not to give too much heed to what people say when I am trying to accomplish something of consequence. Invariably they proclaim it can’t be done. I deem that the very best time to make the effort.
– Calvin Coolidge