Friday, July 29, 2011

Okay, first the sob story:

This week's INFF was done in-person, which isn't a big deal, it just means I have to type up the interview from my meticulous handwritten notes. This takes time. I ran out of time. Time's up. Time flies. All that jazz.

As my peace offering, I submit the following bit of film magic. Created in 1940, this magnificent short film does the seemingly impossible: praise women for all the work they do while managing to repeatedly belittle them. The script and the narrator's tone of voice are so ridiculously condescending. The basic summary: "Look at all the neat-o things the dames do during their cute little days. It's too bad they are so frail and weak. Good thing we men invented important things to make their days easier!" Personally, I thought it was hilarious.

Enjoy (and don't take it too seriously ladies, or this will ruin your day -AND- if your husband/father/boyfriend isn't a neanderthal, be amazed by that, because obviously men have come a long way in only 70 years):


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I had a brief, but enlightening conversation on Twitter earlier today with the fantastic, Sara Megibow, literary agent with Nelson Literary Agency. I'm passing what I learned on to you because, if you are shopping around for an agent or know someone who is, this something you need to keep an eye out for.

The conversation began with a tweet Sara retweeted:
#dealbreaker RT @victoriastrauss Just saw agency contract language that imposes a $2,500 minimum commission fee, regardless of advance amt.
Essentially, this author's prospective agent would require at least $2500 in commission instead of using the standard % of an author's earnings. (ie, if Author gets a $15000 from the publisher, the agent would receive 15% of that [$2250])

So, I replied:
@SaraMegibow Woa. I've never heard of anything like that before. Does that show up in contracts often?
Here was Sara's response:
@SarahMEden no and it shouldn't. My realestate agent doesn't say "I'll shop your house, but if they pay <$200,00 I won't complete the sale"
Real estate agents, like literary agents, are paid a percentage of a sale. The sale price determines what their commission is.

If this agent who set a required minimum were earning off a regular percentage--we'll say 15% because that's relatively standard--they would have to sell their client's book for just over $16000 to earn that minimum. For some books, this would be an easy thing to do. But, not all books are going to get that advance--perhaps they are a better fit with a smaller publisher, or one that offers lower advance but better royalties, or the book is in a genre that doesn't sell in the big numbers that other genres do.

The agent may simply not close a smaller deal despite it being a better fit (or the only fit) because that commission is guaranteed them in the contract.

***Also: Please see Robin Week's excellent & insightful comment below for additional problems this scheme may create!!***

Minimum commission guarantees are not standard in agency contracts. If you see one in a contract, proceed with maximum caution!

Friday, July 22, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is Christy Dorrity, an author, dancer, mom, reader (and gal with fabulous taste in sweaters--you'll get that reference by the end of the interview). I first met Christy at the 2011 LDStorymakers Writers Conference in Salt Lake City.

Now, for the disclaimer: I was feeling pretty rotten the day of this interview. Rather than my usual perky self, I was just a touch grumpy/tired/yicky. Christy was a joy to interview & I enjoyed it a bunch, but I apologize if I didn't make sense/seem grumpy/whatever.

Alright. Here we go!

SME: Welcome to INFF, fellow mom writer!

Christy: Are you a nap time writer too?

SME: I was back when my kids took naps. Now I'm more of a "the kids are in bed and it's late and I should be sleeping but I'm writing instead" writer

Christy: aha. My brain shuts off at night so I have to write in the daytime.

SME: Mine does too. That's why most of what I write during the summer gets scrapped when I get back to daytime writing during the school year.

Christy: Ha. What are you working on now?

SME: A couple things. One is the next book in my *unofficial* Lancaster family series: a follow-up to "Courting Miss Lancaster" & "Seeking Persephone." And I'm writing a novel set in 1870s Wyoming.

Christy: Neat. I'm from Wyoming. There's a really cool old rock church in my hometown that was built in 1889.

SME: Are you? Very cool. You realize of course, this means I'll probably be emailing you with questions about it.

Christy: No problem. I love helping out with research.

SME: Hooray! How about you? What are you up to these days?

Christy: I just published my first book on Amazon in June and I've been busy with the launch tour. I've just finished about 2 years of planning on my YA novel and I'm ready to lay it all out on paper--starting with a retreat in two weeks.

SME: No rest for the weary, eh? But great things to be busy with.

Christy: True. From what other writers say we are all compelled to write, even if we don't want to.

SME: It's kind of like being followed around by a very loyal puppy, except the puppy has an unfortunate tendency to bite your ankles if you don't move fast enough.

Christy: And that puppy is so cute and so frustrating at the same time.

SME: Exactly. I do believe we have just created the world's next great writing metaphor

Christy: whala!

SME: Genius at work, right here! So I saw on your website that you are a dancer.

Christy: My entire family dances, it makes it so much easier. One day for lessons instead of 5 or 6 and everyone can compete at the same time.

SME: That is really cool. Do you travel a lot for competitions or are there a lot nearby?

Christy: A few more competitions have sprouted up locally so we stick around here with an occasional trip to Idaho or Colorado.

SME: I took my daughter to watch a Scottish dancing competition a few weeks ago, but we've never watched Irish dancing.

Christy: Have you ever seen Riverdance?

SME: Yes!! I guess that counts, doesn't it?! I was totally being a dance snob there and only counting what we've watched in person. Shame on me!

Christy: Irish dance is exactly what Riverdance is. And let me tell you, it's just as much fun to dance as it looks!

SME: Okay... I know probably everyone asks this, but I can't help myself. Why do Irish dancers keep their arms at their sides so much?

Christy: The arms at their sides thing is said to have been a tradition from way back when the Gaelic culture was under oppression and they had to keep a low profile. It's just one of those things that everyone says, "that's the way it's always been done."

SME: AND... why do the girls all wear their hair in those teeny, tiny ringlets?

Christy: Most people don't know that the girls are wearing wigs! Tradition says that the Irish girls used to dance after Sunday meetings when their hair was curled, but I think it's because it makes them appear to leap higher. Irish dance definitely has its own culture.
Some of the milieu of my WIP is Irish dancing.

SME: I noticed that too. I think it is fabulous (and so, so smart) when authors incorporate things they are already passionate about into their work.

Christy: I agree. When you can put your soul into your writing and love it, readers will love it too.
I heard that you are going to emcee Storymakers again next year, is that right?

SME: Ah, yes. The Storymakers Emcee rumor... totally true. I'm taking on the gig again next year.

Christy: Is it stressful and tons of work? You are such a natural for it and so much fun! Plus, your kids are hilarious! My hubby (also a writer) and I watched your "romance" video at home and laughed!

SME: Stressful? Yes. Tons of Work? Probably way more than anyone realizes. But it is a great deal of fun.

Christy: I'm sure. So much fun. It amazes me the many writerly folks in our area who are willing to share their expertise and mentor each other.

SME: I have to ask, 'cause, like Irish dancing, INFF has some "the way it's always been done" traditions... What's your favorite continent?

Christy: Well, the only continent I've ever been to is North America, but because of my heritage and also our love of Irish dancing, I will have to say The United Kingdom (is that a continent?)

SME: We'll say "Europe, with a particular partiality to The United Kingdom & Ireland." Does that work?

Christy: Perfect

SME: So, I drew a portrait of you (again, a tradition around here). Wanna see it?

Christy: Yes, I've been awaiting this moment all day!

*draws an amazing portrait*

Christy: Wow! Those are the best looking ghilllies I've seen in awhile!

SME: I was crossing my fingers you'd know what they were supposed to be. Yeah!!

Christy: Yipee!

Christy: My dress is so form fitting, it disappears!

SME: Yes, well... I can draw shoes, but not clothes. It's an odd quirk, I realize, but I'm a writer not an artist.

Christy: I can totally relate. I think your stick figures are lovely.

SME: Well, I do what I can.

Christy: You could always give her a really neato sweater that probably no one else will have a duplicate of.

SME: Heehee. For the sake of our readers: Christy and I sported identical sweaters at the STorymakers conference in May. This is how I knew we were destined to be friends.

Christy: Perhaps next year we should coordinate our wardrobe.

SME: Wouldn't that throw people off. We're walking around wearing the exact same clothes and people are like, "Wait a minute...."

Christy: I've always wanted to have red hair like Anne of Green Gables. I'd totally die my hair to match you.

SME: Nice. Or I could go blonde. Hmmm.... Such decisions!

Christy: But you are funny and I'm so not. So people would catch on right away.
But, if you need a stunt double while you are emceeing we could totally pull it off.

SME: I was just going to say... but you can reach the microphone and I can't always. A stunt double could solve that problem.

Christy: Sweet!

SME: Well, that brings us to the final question of the interview. Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

Christy: 1. I got to talk about Irish dancing and writing-my two passions.
2. Rubbing shoulders with Sarah and getting a signed portrait is priceless.
3. I got to listen to music and eat my chocolate while being interviewed and nobody is the wiser. oops, until now.

SME: (Me, too. Double oops.)

Christy: 4. I always laugh at the INFF and now others will get to laugh at mine (laugh nicely please)
5. I managed to procrastinate my writing once again (why do I do that?) but it was worth it.

SME: Totally worth it.
Thanks for for being my Friday Friend, Christy! This has been fun!

Christy: Thanks for having me Sarah! Such fun. Amazing how we can talk for an hour about absolutely nothing! Imagine if we had something to talk about!

SME: Whew. We might never stop. *cue exit music* This has been I Need Friends Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Okay. Remember that Lovin' Spoonful song, "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" Tell me you know this song, and I'm not the only one who sometimes listens to music recorded more than a decade before I was even born. Just in case, here's a refresher:

We're all on the same page now, right? Good.

This song is me right now. No, I'm not having relationship issues... not with people, anyway. I'm having author issues. I can't seem to focus on one project. I have 2 manuscripts I'm actively writing, 2 that need to be submitted to my publisher (along with a submission paperwork packet that makes the US tax code look short, simple and to the point), classes I'm preparing to teach, new projects hanging out in the back my of mind, etc., etc., etc.

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Pick up on one and leave the other behind
It's not often easy, and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Wow, Lovin' Spoonful, it's like you've been hanging out at my house and secretly watching me stew in my own indecisiveness.
Did you ever have to finally decide?
Say yes to one and let the other one ride
There's so many changes, and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide?
But how do you decide which one you say yes to and which one gets to ride for a while??
And then you know you better make up your mind
Pick up on one and leave the other one behind
It's not often easy, and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Easy? Kind? Not in this industry. *sigh*
Then you bet you'd better finally decide!
And say yes to one and let the other one ride
There's so many changes, and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide?
So that's where I am. I need to "finally decide" which project gets attention now and which one can wait until later.

How do you do that, decide between two things you want to work on? Especially when they're both good things, both important, both will bring rewards/satisfaction/enjoyment??

Monday, July 18, 2011

For this week's #PoetrySummer poem, I'm not actually doing an entire poem. Sue me. I figure since Dan Wells never reads this blog I can pretty much do whatever I want with his little "memorize a poem each week this summer" thing.

Did you read last week's poem? You should. It's one of my favorites and I've always wanted to memorize it. I was grateful for the excuse.

This week I'm going with another work by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (he wrote last week's poem). I'm only taking a single stanza of it, though, for many reasons that essentially boil down to: this is going to be a busy week and I don't have time.

This poem was written by Heaney about the death of his younger brother, who was killed in an accident.

from Mid-Term Break
Seamus Heaney

Wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in a cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Next week I'll try to pick something less depressing. Guess I'm just in a weird mood lately.

Follow along with the fun over on Twitter with the hashtag #PoetrySummer

Friday, July 15, 2011

So are you wondering what the announcement is? I bet you have some theories:

  • Another book coming out? Sure. A whole bunch. Several years worth. But that's not the announcement.
  • Working on something new and exciting? Yep. Two things, actually. But that's not it, either.
  • Podcast reached a milestone? Yeah. We posted our 23rd Episode this week. That's pretty cool. But it's not the announcement.
  • Doing a free online webinar in the very near future? I am, actually. Details to come. But that's not it.

Drum roll, please....

I have been asked and have accepted the great honor of being
The Master of Ceremonies for the
2012 LDStorymakers Writers Conference

This should be a whole lot of fun!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The poem I chose for this week's #PoetrySummer challenge brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat the very first time I heard it. In all honesty, that reaction hasn't lessened much since. This poem was written by renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney. The poem recounts the Battle of Vinegar Hill, part of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, a battle fought between the Irish Rebellion and the British Army.

Notice the first line, because it will make the last line heart-breakingly poignant. Also, the visual of "shaking scythes at cannons" is not a poetic image, but a faithful recounting of the situation.

Requiem for the Croppies
Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley--
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp--
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people, hardly marching--on the hike--
We found new tactics happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill, the fatal conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August the barley grew up out of the grave.

Every time I read this poem I am struck by both the sadness of the events it recounts and the painful beauty of Heaney's words.

Follow along with other participants in this poetry challenge over on Twitter, using the hashtag: #PoetrySummer

Friday, July 8, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF is a particularly fantastic one. I recently took my 8-year-old daughter to get her hair cut and, in a moment of lunacy, turned over the INFF reigns to her. She interviewed the wonderful stylist who cut her hair. And by wonderful I mean "patient." When I interviewed my darling daughter quite a while back I gave her a codename (this is the INFF Rule for Interviewing Minors--always give them a codename). That codename was Bertha, and I'm sticking with that for this interview, as well.

Take it away, Bertha.

Bertha: Are you good at cutting hair?

Amy: Yes I am.

SME: *thinks to herself this could be a really long interview*

Bertha: My mom says I have grown-up hair.

Amy: Why does she say that?

Bertha: Because there's lots of it. And because it's beautiful.

Amy: It is beautiful.

Bertha: Uh-huh. My mom also said that my hair is dead and that's why it doesn't hurt when it gets cut. And you're not killing it when you cut its head off, because its head is already dead.

SME: *that was a little bit morbid*

Amy: How old are you, Bertha?

Bertha: I'm eight years old. How old are you?

SME: *this isn't going well*

Amy: Older than eight.

SME: *nice save*

Bertha: My mom doesn't know how to cut hair. The only cut she can do is a buzz. I don't want a buzz.

Amy: We're not going to buzz your hair.

Bertha: Because it's beautiful.

Amy: Yup.

Bertha: My dad doesn't know anything about hair either.

Amy: What does your dad do for work?

Bertha: I don't really know. He just goes to his office and sits at his desk. I think he reads email. Maybe Twitter, too. I don't know.

SME: *Sorry, Honey. I'll defend your reputation later.*

Bertha: Maybe when I come back I can tell you what he does for his job. But I think it's something with computers. My dad really likes computers. Whenever there's a problem with the internet my mom always says, "Can you fix this? I don't know what's wrong." She never knows what's wrong. She doesn't know very much about computers.

SME: *Sorry, me. I'll defend my reputation later.*

Amy: Computers are tricky.

Bertha: Not really.

SME: *rethinking the whole "bring your daughter to INFF" thing*

Bertha: *watching Amy cut her hair* Have you ever done this haircut before?

Amy: Lots of times, it's very popular.

Bertha: So you probably won't do it wrong.

Amy: Probably not.

Bertha: Do you color your hair?

Amy: No.

Bertha: I don't think I'll color my hair until I have gray hair. My mom says she doesn't want gray hair. She likes her hair red.

Amy: She has very pretty hair.

Bertha: Like me.

Amy: Like you.

Bertha: My Aunt Liz cuts my hair sometimes. She lives in Idaho, so she doesn't cut it a lot. She used to work at a salon. It was really fancy. They had soda, and I got to have some when I got my hair cut there. Only the fancy salons have soda. Do you have soda here?

Amy: No, we don't.

Bertha: That's okay. Mom probably came here to save money. Fancy salons are expensive.

Amy: *looks at me, obviously unsure how to respond to that*

SME: *tries to convey with a look the appropriate degree of apology*

Bertha: We're having a girls' day out because my brother is at Scout camp.

Amy: How fun. Are you going anywhere after this?

Bertha: No. This is our whole girls' day out. It's not going to last long. Not a whole day. *looks annoyed*

Amy: But it's still fun, right?

Bertha: Yeah. And I'm going to look cute, so that's good. I won't look like a boy, will I?

Amy: No. You couldn't look like a boy even if I shaved your head.

Bertha: But what if I wore boy clothes?

Amy: Nope.

Bertha: What if I wore a mask?

Amy: But what about your cute girl voice?

Bertha: I could talk manly.

SME: *Please don't demo. Please don't demo.*

Bertha: *lowers voice to somewhere between Alvin the Chipmunk and an actual chipmunk* I'm a boy.

Amy: I still don't believe it. You're wearing flower earrings.

Bertha: What if I wore black earrings. And an earring in my nose?

Amy: Some girls wear earrings in their noses.

Bertha: I could get a tattoo. On my face. It could say "I'm a boy."

Amy: *obviously trying not to laugh* That might work.

SME: No it won't. *afraid she'll get ideas*

Bertha: I would have to not do this, though. *tips head to the side, shrugs shoulders and smiles coyly* Then everyone would know I'm a cute girl.

SME: *hangs head*

Amy: That would give it away.

Bertha: You have a lot of combs.

Amy: I cut a lot of hair.

Bertha: When I come back I'm going to say, "I want Amy to cut my hair."

Amy: I'm glad. I will look forward to seeing you again.

Bertha: Yah.

*we leave after her haircut*

SME: You didn't ask what her favorite continent is.

Bertha: That's a lame question, Mom.

SME: I ask it every week.


Got it. *cue exit music* Well, this has been a very special installment of "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Monday, July 4, 2011

For this week's #PoetrySummer challenge, I've gone all patriotic. This is a poem I had to read a couple times and really think about because it isn't super easy to understand from the outset (at least for me--shut up, Dan Wells. I know you got the first time.) It has a very free verse feel to it, which will make it a challenge for me--having a set rhythm helps me memorize. Ah well.


Walt Whitman

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.

Follow along with all the fun over on Twitter using the hashtag: #PoetrySummer

Friday, July 1, 2011

So, I Need Friends Friday didn't happen this week. Two reasons:
  1. I was finishing up final edits for Seeking Persephone, which I turned in like 5 minutes ago.
  2. I was finishing up an amazing project for TwHistory on the Battle of Waterloo. (Go look up TwHistory, it's a really fantastic approach to bringing historical events to life through new media)
I've spent a couple months immersed in letters, journals, memoirs, field reports, etc. from the famous Battle of Waterloo (and the battles in the 2 days leading up to it). This week was the final push to get it done.

So, in lieu of an interview, here's an excerpt from the memoir of Captain John Kincaid of the rifle brigade recounting his experience at Waterloo, in which his division, alone, suffered thousands of casualties in the ten-hour long battle.

I shall never forget the scene which the field of battle presented about seven in the evening. I felt weary and worn out, less from fatigue than anxiety. Our division, which had stood upwards of 5,000 men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishers. The 27th regiment were lying literally dead, in square, a few yards behind us. My horse had received another shot through the leg, and one through the flap of the saddle, which lodged in his body, sending him a step beyond the pension list. The smoke still hung so thick about us that we could see nothing. I walked a little way to each flank to endeavour to get a glimpse of what was going on; but nothing met my eye except the mangled remains of men and horses, and I was obliged to return to my post as wise as I went.
I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns . . .

Source: Kincaid, John. Adventures in the Rifle Brigade. London: Henry Frowde, Hodder, and Stoughton, 1900.


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