Monday, August 13, 2012

I Love...Efficiency

Example One
I have a colleague at work who can write Excel macros that are pure magic. For work that would take me hours, maybe days, of manual checks and calculations, this whiz needs minutes.

It's such a talent that people from other departments try to borrow him constantly. Our boss finally had to put her foot down so he'd have time for his own work. I wonder if he shouldn't have his own department, providing business solutions to any group who needs them.

Example Two
Living in Germany, every family is responsible for their own elementary school supplies. You'd think Germany is extremely ordered – and it is. We have a list of twenty-one items to buy, described right down to the color and German Industry Norm number. I'm not kidding.

But that's not efficient. Every mother drives to the store and buys one German Industry Norm A5 Line Size 2 writing pad, one German Industry Norm A5 Line Size 5 writing pad, one German Industry Norm A4 Folder, brand Leitz, etc.

When I went to elementary school in the States, all the school supplies were provided in the classroom. That's efficiency. One mass order by the teacher. One delivery.

Example Three
Today, I sent a query to my dream literary agent. I've been reading his blogs and interviews for months. He's good at his job, freely dispenses helpful hints, and is downright funny. He's also known for getting back to everyone who queries him – something not every agent bothers to do.

Man, is he ever efficient. I sent my query at 1:38 PM today. He rejected it at 3:37 PM. He needed under two hours to determine that he's not interested in representing my 82,000 word novel.

Wait a minute – didn't this blog start out as one of my "I Loves"? Yes, it did. So here's the truth. As much as I'd fantasized that Dream Agent would offer to represent me, I love the fact that I'm not going to be sitting on pins and needles for the next 6-8 weeks, waiting for a response as described in the Literary Agency's website.

I love efficiency.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


About a week ago, my critique partner sent me the link to WriteOnCon – an online convention for children's and young adult authors.

The Con hasn't even started yet, and already, it's been indescribably helpful to me. I was able to get critiques on some of my work, my query and my synopsis.

If you've never heard of a query, it's like a commercial you send to a prospective literary agent. You attempt to sell your book within one page. No pressure there.

Wait – it gets worse. Whereas you can leave the end of the story open in the query (your goal is to make the agent want to read more), for a synopsis, you have to summarize your entire book. In one or two pages. Including the ending. Using beautiful language, it should make the agent care about the characters and the story should flow. Oh, and although you reduce the length by – say 81,000 words – it still has to make sense.

Writing mine was torture. I honestly wondered if I could find someone who'd written a beautiful synopsis and have her ghostwrite one for me. But that would be cheating. Plus doing it myself was good practice, right?

So I'm all the more grateful for the wonderful feedback I received from the other participants at the Con. As of today, my query, synopsis, first 250 words and first five pages are ready for review.

Starting Tuesday, Ninja Agents will begin trolling the forum, giving feedback and, for a lucky few, requesting manuscripts.

Just two more days.... Maybe I'll hear something. Maybe I'll hear nothing.

I have to admit, there's a tiny part of me nervous enough to want the latter. A friend of mine explained it this way – if I'm not successful, my life won't change. That's okay, because I love my life. I have a great family, a good job and a love of writing.

But if I am successful? I would be thrown into a whole new world. An exciting world. A gratifying world. But an unknown world all the same.

Deep breath.  Then another.

Okay, Ninja Agents. I'm ready.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It finally happened.

I'm an embarrassment to my kids.

Like hundreds of generations before, my daughter cringes when I do completely normal things and her friends are around.

We had an appointment the other day, so I picked her up with the car from school. In Germany, most kids ride their bikes to school, and as we crept past her friends riding home, she hissed, "Turn down your music! I don't want my friends to hear."

I didn't get defensive. I didn't say, "Hey, I'm listening to Breaking Benjamin, not The Carpenters or Olivia Newton-John." I just reduced the volume.

Then I told her it's tradition to be embarrassed by your parents. I don't remember my mom embarrassing me, but I can recall more than one mortifying moment caused by my dad.

Most notable was the evening he went after a friend of mine sporting a punk haircut - with a running weed whacker. Or was it a chainsaw?

Either way, a group of us had been having a mellow conversation sometime past midnight, and the sound had suddenly been deafening. We'd been lounging on the floor in my bedroom, for heaven's sake!

Now it's my turn to be the embarrassment. I'm waiting for the day when she begs me not to speak English in front of her friends.

My daughter's only consolation is that I'll probably never be able to rival my dad. Plus, I can at least learn from past experiences.

I'll surely make my own mistakes, but the weed whacker and the chainsaw will both stay out of the house.