Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dogs in Silly Outfits

As we discussed in agonizing detail last week, Jake the Three-Legged Wonder Wiener won first place in his first-ever wiener dog race at the Mardi Pals event held by Paw Pals.

I'm so proud!

But there was so much more to the day than just my dog winning a race. There was this:

This is Lily, in all of her royal finery.


Oh, my goodness. It's a good thing I had two dogs trying to actively rip my arm out of its socket, because otherwise I might have come home with this one. The pain radiating from my biceps kept me in check.


Actually, there were three of that. Even in our small town, the bun outfit is a big hit.


is an old girl in a faux sheepskin coat, riding in a baby stroller. This makes me smile.


Was the Queen of the Day. Really. The judges loved her.


Well, I'm not sure what that was, besides the tallest wiener dog I've ever seen. Her person swore up and down she was a purebred. Surprisingly, she didn't win any races, despite having a major leg up on the competition.


Was with this:

The husband is the Cubs fan. The wife, a Cards fan. The pets have been dragged into this sordid mess. Can't we all just get along?


was, hands down, The Kid's favorite dog. He stalked this poor, um, character? Yeah, he stalked this poor character for hours. By the end of the parade, this character was actively avoiding us.

And then there was this:

And that's all I have to say about that.

Jake and I have been invited to walk with Paw Pals, Inc. in the Annual Dogwood Parade this Saturday! If it's not raining, come out and see us! If it is raining, well, Jake's not a big fan of the wet drops falling from the sky. But if it's not raining, come out and see us!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Fling Play-by-Play

So here's how it went down.

4:30 a.m. Friday morning: Wake up with a start, heart racing, stomach churning. In other words, normal pre-conference stuff for me.

7:00: Donuts for The Kid. And the Husband.

7:10: Dogs deposited. We are officially on the road!

10:00: Arrive at Beloved In-Laws. The Kid deposited. I picked up my sister Hannah, and her husband Mr. Steve picked up the Husband. Eat snacks.

10:45: Finish snacks. Officially back on the road!

11:05: Realize The Kid's car seat is still in my car. Double back to Beloved In-Laws to deposit car seat.

11:25: Officially on the road again!

1:45: Realize there is no way in holy heck I can make the 1 p.m. meeting with my agent. Begin panicking.

2:25: Rediscover the joy of Chicago gridlock with over an hour of travel time left. Begin panicking in earnest.

3:45: Arrive in the hotel without getting lost. Victory!

3:50: Apply fastest coat of make-up and cowboy boots EVER.

4:15: Listen to the Headliners Panel, and immediately worship Julia Quinn for endorsing full-time daycare. Cherry Adair informs us that she's not supposed to abuse us on the first day.

5:30: Find my agent! Victory!

5:35: Adjourn for dinner. Sit at a table with Hannah, my agent, and a variety of women who are really excited about sitting at a table with an agent.

5:50: First dinner companion pitches my agent.

5:59: Second dinner companion pitches my agent.

6:07: Awkward silence descends over dinner table. Agent leans over and whispers "They all hate me now." I assure her that Hannah and I will still talk to her. 

7:00: Move to the Agent/Editor panel. Listen to the one editor say that sometimes, she just needs a book. Watch as four agents waver between lunging at her and throwing their cards at her. 

8:30: Now is officially the time for chocolate. We pick up A.J. Brower, a lovely woman named Marta Bliese, some wine, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

8:34: The following conversation (the first of many) occurs: "Hey! Sarah! It's so great to see you! Is this your agent?" Introductions follow.

8:43: My agent uses the word "anomaly" to describe me in a sentence. 

8:50: "Anomaly" again.

9:10 Photo!
Cast, in order of appearance: Laurie McLean, Andrea Dickinson, Sarah M. Anderson, Marta Bliese, A.J. Brower. Photo by Hannah Clampitt

9:20: Three firefighters, two EMTs, and two police officers roll in to assist someone in need. Everyone was okay, and we engaged in witty banter with men wearing sidearms. 

9:30: Three 'anomalies' later, my agent goes to bed. 

9:40: Marta reveals she's pitching my agent in the morning. We spend another glass of wine and half an hour workshopping her pitch. A key feature of her pitch is bringing my agent a Diet Coke. 

10:15: Hannah and I realize we've been awake since four something. Have another glass of wine, just to be sure.

11:45: Mr. Steve and the Husband return from Milwaukee, flush with a Cubs Victory.

And Scene. How did Marta's pitch go? Was I an example of author branding? Did my agent describe me as an 'anomaly' again? Tune in next Tuesday for the exciting Play-By-Play for the Saturday conclusion of Spring Fling!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jake the Three-Legged Wonder WINNER!

He won!

It's hard to build dramatic tension when I'm just so excited about something. But let me explain. Last Saturday, Paw Pals of Quincy held its third annual Mardi Pals in the District (which is downtown Quincy for those of you not from around here). There was a parade, a costume contest (more on that next week) and, most importantly for this household, wiener dog races.

The races were divided into three groups: The Cocktail Wieners (under 10 pounds), the Ballpark Wieners (11 to 20 pounds), and the Plumper Wieners (self-explanatory). Yes, these Paw Pals people have a sense of humor about this. Jake is somewhere between 13 and 15 pounds.

There were four heats for the Cocktails and Ballparks, but only one for the Plumpers. The winners of each heat ran in a final race to qualify for the championship race. Yes, the Plumpers had a leg up here--they only had to run one race, but then, that's probably for the best. Jake was in the third of the Ballpark heats.

The guy in green, there in the middle, was the announcer for the event. I wrote down Jake's whole name--the part about the three legs and the wonder wiener--and that guy read the whole thing. Now, I'd spent the previous two hours parading my dogs around and talking to people, so I already had built up my fan base. But when he read the Jake's whole name, he added, "Don't let the three legs fool you, folks. He's not slowed down by all those extra legs. He's built for speed!" The crowd loved it.

The dogs were all loaded into this plywood contraption. Envision, if you will, a horse-racing chute. Now envision it at 1/6 scale, with outhouse-style cutouts for each dog to see through. You get the idea.

Did I mention I was doing this with Gater, The Kid, a camera, and that's it? Next time, I'm bringing along an extra set of hands. But the park was filled with kind-hearted souls who held Gater for me while I filled out registration forms, went to the bathroom, and raced my wiener dog. God bless kind-hearted souls.

Anyway, on with the race!

Okay, we're set. We're on the finish line, The Kid had two treats cribbed from the Sam's Club display, and I'm ready with the camera. The crowd counted down from three, and the chute was open! And they're off!

See how the majestic wiener dogs spring forth and fly down the track (also known as Hampshire Street)! See their ears flop mightily in the racing wind! See the limbs moving so fast, it looks like they aren't even there!

(Eadweard J. Muybridge would have had a field day with this shot. Look! It proves a wiener dog can run with, um, let me count--ONE leg on the ground!)

The chalk was the finish line, and Jake was first by about three feet! Now, I don't necessarily think that he was faster than all the other dogs--but all the other dogs were slower.

Mommy? Why is everyone yelling? Did I do something good? Or something bad?

Wait--two treats? I DID GOOD!

Now, sadly, Jake bombed out in the finals round. The crowd was about five times louder, and he got completely discombobulated. So many people were yelling his name that he got turned around.

Note, if you will, the tail and ear in the forefront? That's the winner. Jake is aaaaalllllll the way in the back left corner, facing the wrong way. Yup. We lost that round, by about half a block. Da agony of Dafeet, ya know.

But we got a nifty, homemade, first-place ribbon! The Kid took a pretty good picture, huh? He's actually almost as good as I am half the time.

Finally, after a fun-filled four + hours of dogs in a park, we headed home to celebrate with . . .
The victory nap.

My little winner. I'm so proud!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring Fling is Almost HERE!

What to do? The Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling Schedule is out, and I have to make some tough calls.

I mean, seriously. Look at these choices! (Full text with times available here.) It's times like these where I'm like to be rent asunder trying to decide my schedule.

Yes, I mean decide it now. I'm one of those freaks of nature who carefully reviews the schedule for conferences in advance and decides where I can get the most bang for my buck. Normal people arrive on site, get their schedules, and then decide to go to whatever their friends are going to or, in case of writing conferences, who their favorite author is. For the RWA Nationals last year, I printed out my personalized schedule, with all available worksheets, a week in advance.

Yes, I'm a freak. I embrace the weirdness.

This is harder for me this time, because I actually know a fair number of these people, like Blythe and Courtney, have been to presentations I loved with others, like Allie Pleiter, and am facebook friends with a whole bunch of them. Plus, I volunteered to help out and will be moderating pitch sessions in the morning and helping out with the Silent Auction Saturday night. Oh, and my agent will be there, and we're going to chat about What Happens Next. Toss in a whole bunch of people I want to find because I haven't seen them in a year or two, and I'm going to be running ragged. But in a good way!

Adding to the fun, I'll be accompanied by my sister, Hannah Clampitt, of The Nanner Republic. She's testing the authorial waters, so to speak, with me as her Sherpa guide. (I believe that was the mother of all mixed metaphors.) Normally, she's all social-butterfly and I'm all stay-at-home-and-talk-to-imaginary-people (also known as characters, so don't get all weird on me), but our roles will be slightly reversed. Plus, my husband and her husband are dropping us off at the conference and then seeing the Chicago/Milwaukee sights (the Cubs are playing the Brewers) so that's an added level of crazy fun.

I find that sending your husband to a ball game with his brother-in-law while I network with my sister is the PERFECT way to spend an 8th anniversary, don't you? I love this conference, but the timing is a little lacking, personally. Oh, don't worry about The Kid. He's going to spend the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, being spoiled rotten and having his run of the family farm.

So stay tuned for next Tuesday, when I talk about what actually happened at the conference! I'm hoping for all good things.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eleanore Gray

I have a project. 

Oh, my, what a project it is. Allow me to explain. I'm a writer. Now, some people might wonder where I get all that natural creativity, but those people are not related to me. No, people I'm related to know exactly where I get any talent I possess. I get it from my Dad's mother, Goldie.

This is Goldie when she was quite young.

Backstory: (Yes, I have a backstory problem. Stick with me here.) Goldie was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks a long time ago. In fact, her family was displaced by the building of the Bagnell Dam and the creation of The Lake of the Ozarks. Goldie's whole family was inherently gifted with words. Her sisters wrote novels and poetry; Goldie herself wrote the poem that described the Lake as the Dragon Lake, which it's still known as today.

Goldie married Pop and together, they had nine kids.

My Dad is the second youngest. We used to go visit in the house he grew up in; by my modern standards, there was barely enough room for two people in that house, but Goldie and Pop raised all nine kids there.

Goldie's health failed her sooner than it should have, and she died when my Dad was 13. I never knew her. I knew Mema Maggie, who married Pop some years later and was a wonderful mother and grandmother. But even though Mema was the only grandmother I ever knew (on Dad's side; Gram is still alive and kicking!), I always knew about Goldie. My Aunt Naomi (the oldest girl out of the nine) gave me a cup from Goldie's china set when I graduated from high school.

A few months ago, I learned a lot more about Goldie. My Uncle Jim called me up one day, and said he had something he wanted to give me.

I'd always thought of Goldie as a poet, but that turned out to be wrong. When she died, she was working on a novel about an Ozark family displaced by the Bagnell Dam in the 1930s called Eleanore Gray. Uncle Jim had the whole darned thing in a box in the bottom of a closet.

Time was not kind to the book. The pages are crumbling, and, clearly, at some point a mouse made off with some action verbs.

Over the years, Uncle Jim had tried to do something--anything--with Goldie's last work. He'd had 'some gal' in Iowa finish it, but when Jim gave the completed manuscript to my father to read, my father found a mention of air conditioning in a car in the third paragraph, and the realization that the 'gal' hadn't done a stellar job of saving the book pretty much put the whole thing back in the box in the closet for another few years.

Enter me. I'm an author; I'm also a writer and editor at the day job. Uncle Jim's eyesight isn't what it used to be, so he decided to give the whole thing to me in hopes that I could turn 288 page handwritten manuscript into a book that we could all believe Goldie would have been proud of.

As I said, I never knew Goldie. But reading her book, I feel like I know her a whole lot better now.

For example, she only wrote on one side of each sheet of paper, saving the other side for edits or doodles. My grandparents were not rich; with nine kids to feed, they were probably danced around the poverty line. But Pop made sure Goldie had enough paper to write on. To me, it says if it was important to Goldie, it was important to Pop.

Goldie got stuck. And when she got stuck, she doodled.

I don't know if these women are supposed to be Eleanore or if they were just flights of fancy. Looking at them is like watching my grandmother think on paper.

Like I said, the book isn't finished. That's my job. This piece of Goldie is now a piece of me. She's got a real lyric way of turning a phrase, and the 'gal' from Iowa doesn't quite match Goldie's flow. I don't know if I can salvage Goldie's voice on the electronic copy my cousin Faith typed in, or if I've got to start over from the manuscript. I put each sheet in its own page protector, though, so hopefully no more action verbs fall off.

I'd like to get it done soon, because Goldie's kids--Dad included--aren't getting any younger. My plan is to publish it on Lulu so that everyone in the family can have a copy. I want to have it done by the end of the summer.

So, keep your eyes open for Eleanore Gray by Goldie Lucas and Sarah M. Anderson, coming soon!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Uplifting Take on Rejection

I was going to expand on Step Two of my super-simple, nine-step plan for What You Need to Get Published, "A Thick Skin (to deal with the multitude of rejections letters you're going to get)," but then Joelle Charbonneau went and did it better over at Do Some Damage in the blog Rejection: Motivator or Morale Breaker?

Ironically, I'm working on the second one of her list as well. Must be a thing about the number two. Is it a sign?

Either way, check out Rejection: Motivator or Morale Breaker? and keep your eye out for Joelle's debut, Skating Around the Law this summer!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Record Player

You know what's fun? Fun is letting The Kid rifle around my old closet back at Mom and Dad's house. The other day, he turned up this:

My old Fisher Price record player. Talk about a blast from the past! I hadn't seen that thing for decades.

The Kid was fascinated. He'd never seen one of these before, much less gotten to play with one. It took a lot of digging, but finally we found records he'd really enjoy listening to.

The Aristocats soundtrack:

And the Great Muppet Caper soundtrack:

So we fired that bad boy up and cranked it on. I had to ask my mom if the records were 33 rpm or 45 rpm. And then I had to ask her what 'rpm' stood for again. Man, it had been a long, long time.

I think The Kid has a future in DJ-ing, because he was scratching that needle like a professional. But I'll say this--that darned record player not only still worked after 30 years and a new Kid trying to kill it, but it still played amazingly decent sound. Who knew Fisher Price was all high-fidelity?

Then, things got hairy.

Literally. My mom's cats, Mama Kat, Bucky, and Tucker, had never seen a round, rotating disc thingie before.

And it was playing cat music! Extra bonus!

But, just like with The Kid, the 'new' wore off pretty quickly. Bucky (or is it Tucker?) got bored fast. He didn't care for singing frogs at all.

Mom offered to send the record player home with us, but I politely suggested that we make it a special treat when The Kid comes to visit his Mimi and PawPaw (i.e. Not a shot in Hell is that thing coming home with us!). Besides, we have exactly zero records in our house, whilst my parents still have every record they ever bought.

Next time, we're going to dig up Annie and Disco Donald Duck. I wonder if I can rig up a mirrored ball?

Do you still have a record player? Do you still play records on it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What You Need To Get Published

This is it, the one-stop shopping place for all the insider info that will get you published! It's a simple, nine-step process that will take you a long way in the publishing world.


What You Need To Get Published:

1. Patience;
2. A Thick Skin (to deal with the multitude of rejection letters you're going to get);
3. Patience;
4. A Good Idea (a great one is better);
5. Patience;
6. Dedication (to improving your craft);
7. Patience;
8. Free Time (to pursue your new writing career);
and lastly,
9. Patience (or, as I like to think of it, Patience to the Fifth Power).

That's it. Yes, having loads of talent will help you out, but you know what? If you have a thick enough skin to not be crushed by the rejections and the dedication to you improving your craft based on feedback you get from said rejections or readers, you can become a proficient writer.

Raw talent is nice, but raw talent will only take you so far. The genius writers of this world still need to have an idea that will convince editors the project will sell. They will be rejected. They will need to revise to meet market expectations, and they will need to find the time to do all of this.

If you look at the the Pillars of the Authorial World--your Stephen Kings, your J.K. Rowlings, even your Nicolas Sparks--you'll notice a reoccurring theme. Yes, we look at them now and see 'talent,' but all you have to do is go back and read about how they got started. King is famous for the spike he impaled his rejections on. Rowling refused to give up. Criticism bounces off Sparks like a rubber ball.

The trick of this is that no matter what you've got--talent coming out the wazoo or a laser-like dedication to your goals--more than anything else, you have to be patient. Nothing in the publishing world happens quickly.

Agents can take up to a year to reply to your queries. I got a rejection 13 months after I sent off my stuff, after my agent had already signed me.

Your readers, whether they are your mother or your critique group, all have their own lives. They do not sit around the computer, waiting on pins and needles for you to email them stuff so they can read it. (No, not even your mother.)

Editors take months to get back to agents. And then, when you finally get that contract, you've got another 18 to 24 months before that book makes it to a shelf near you (less for e-publishing, but not by a whole lot).

Patience is the rose-colored glass through which a pre-published author needs to view the world. Patience is what you really, truly need to get published.

So there ya go. What You Need To Get Published, in nine, super-simple steps.

You're welcome.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Annual Tradition

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a . . .


You know what this is?

This is Mother Nature saying, "Girl, it's ON." Or words to that effect.

This is just reward for a fall spent grubbing around in the dirt.

This is The Kid and the Girl Next Door's just reward for helping me grub around in the dirt. I told her she could pick some for her mommy. The Kid will take some to his GiGi, my Gram, tomorrow. That's called sharing the love.

Just wait until the tulips get going. This is floral art, au natural style.

This is . . .

 . . . a dog desecrating my floral art, au natural style. Rotten little dog!

Dang. So much for Zen and the art of daffodils.

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!