Month: June 2014

Hear That?

It’s my sigh of almost relief.  Not quite, but getting closer.  We’ve had a few beautiful days in the neighborhood, so a photo post today.

Even the pigeons shut up to enjoy a perfect moment in the sun.

Even the pigeons shut up to enjoy a perfect moment in the sun.

The light was unbelievable here.

The light was unbelievable here.

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Yesterday, Art Child and I ran away for a couple of hours.  We got on the train and headed to Brooklyn.  Come ride with us, and enjoy the sights as seen by the group of young women sitting across from us, excited by their intention to walk the boardwalk–each one carrying a purse that I’m fairly certain cost more than my entire wardrobe, and each one wearing more makeup than I own–or can identify.

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Oh, dirty sand and ocean, aggressive seagulls and competing radios, how I’ve missed you…beach!

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After way too short an afternoon, on the way home again.

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Happy Last Day of School!

The presentation isn't much, but what do you want at 6am?

The presentation isn’t much, but what do you want at 6am?

Felt like we’d never get to this day–or to warm weather, but here we are.  Figs with ricotta and honey for everyone, a perfect summer breakfast.

And speaking of summer foods, there’s a great, brand new blog I recommend, Resident Cook.  It’s a cooking blog, geared towards cooking in college dorms, which to me = not only college students but anyone with a limited budget and limited space–my two primary concerns for recipes.

Traditionally, summer is a time for Art Child and I to rest and recup, soak up the sun and store energy for the fall.  This summer, Art Child will be taking an art intensive class.  Just a month, a few times a week, but it changes the dynamic.  There was even an orientation for the class.

End of year mama brain is like damp cotton candy–if you poke it, it disappears.  I saved the email about orientation, certain it was last Thursday afternoon.  So Thursday morning, I pulled up the email to check where it was going to be, and print the registration papers.  Doesn’t everyone do their paperwork at 5am? Oh shit.  Tuesday.  It was Tuesday.  Imagine Mrs Fringe freaking out, trying to decide how serious they were about the orientation being mandatory.  I get in the shower, and I’m seeing that email in my mind.  And realize I didn’t miss it.  I did indeed have the day wrong, but I also had the week wrong, it was this past Tuesday.  Didn’t miss it. If I didn’t already mention it, I hate cotton candy.

And I’ve been thinking.  There’s a manuscript I have started and abandoned many times over the last humenahhumenah years.  I’ve deleted triple the number of words that are actually in the file.  But maybe.  Maybe once I get some rest and some sun, maybe I’ll play with it.

Gah!  I can’t think about it now, first I need some real beach time. Tomorrow, if it isn’t raining, Mrs Fringe will be found with toes in the sand, listening to the sweet sounds of sweaty guys hawking warm beer, and toddlers screaming that they don’t want to go in the water.  Coney Island has missed me, I’m certain of it.


And Mrs Fringe’s Blood Pressure Skyrockets

I know, it’s predictable.  If I’m posting a second time in one day, you know it’s a rant.

It’s a crowded city.  Part of living here without losing your mind is the ability to block out what isn’t your business.  The man next door might be cooking something that smells phenomenal, but you can’t knock on his door at dinnertime. Just because you can hear your neighbors argue doesn’t mean you’re invited to join the debate.

I just returned from picking up Art Child.  When we left her school, there was a young woman in an “argument” with a young man.  I put argument in quotes, because she was quiet, trying to get him to calm down, and he was all up in her face, backing her against a fence. Boyfriend? Husband? Brother? I don’t know.

Then he shoved her.

Yes, one woman was calling the police before I could get my phone out, when she was put on hold I got one of the police officers from Art Child’s school.

This block has not just one school, but 4 schools on it.  This is pick up time, a beautiful Friday afternoon.  Hundreds of children/adolescents to see this model of “relationship.”  No.  No. No. No.

Most domestic violence incidents are never reported.

This young woman looked fit and strong.  I’m pretty sure she could kick my ass without breaking a sweat. But so much of domestic violence isn’t about the physical, it’s the mental/emotional. It’s the cancerous belief that this is part of being in a relationship.  It’s the sad and horrifying fact that too many parents don’t have anywhere to go if they leave, except maybe, if they’re lucky, a shelter.

The stats I’ve seen say 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  That’s in the US. Worldwide, the statistic is 1 in 3. Every year, close to 1/3 of women who are victims of homicide are killed by their former or current partner.

I recently saw something saying more American women have been killed by domestic violence than troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the same time period.  I’m not 100% sure of the fact checking on this one, so don’t assume it’s accurate. 

Look at the numbers. This isn’t something that only occurs in other parts of the world (whatever country you’re reading this from)/other states/among certain races/religions/socioeconomic groups.  This isn’t somebody else’s problem.  It’s our problem.

Domestic Violence Hotline:  1-800-621-HOPE


What Cannot Be Controlled

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Is there a 12 step meeting for queriers?  Except I’m not really querying now, just waiting for responses on requested material.

Every afternoon, when it’s 6PM and I don’t have any responses in my inbox, I think, “Tonight after Art Child goes to bed I’m going to have a drink, so I will relax and remember only that it’s out of my control at this point.”  I even bought lemonade to go with the gin. Instead, by the time I would do this, I walk the beasts, have my 8000th cup of coffee or tea and go to sleep.  Art Child and Nerd Child have enjoyed the virgin lemonade.

The other day a comment was made by someone on the writers’ forum, to the effect of if the manuscript is good enough and the query letter is good enough, you only need one agent to request…if that agent rejects, the manuscript isn’t good enough.  The type of comment that always makes me freaking nuts. a) It reeks of sanctimonious superiority, and b) it isn’t true.  There are many reasons why a manuscript can be rejected, and not all of them have to do with the writing/story. I didn’t respond to the post, because I know I’m feeling overly sensitive right now as I wait for replies, and didn’t trust myself to do more than splutter.

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I walked past a local church and saw several people waiting to go in the side door.  I assumed for a 12 step meeting, but it could have been Bingo. Or something.  Anyway, it had me thinking about the whole Let Go and Let God approach to what’s out of our control.

Step 12.  Oh 12.  That’s the spiritual awakening.  What is the equivalent of the spiritual awakening here?  It could be an offer of rep, but it could also be the acceptance of when it’s time to trunk the manuscript and move on.  Maybe it’s the (to me) mythical ideal of writing only for oneself, being satisfied with or without validation. Damn. I’m gonna be asleep forever.  Spiritual coma?

To decide to write a book, to do so, to tell people you’re doing it…all of this requires not just a leap of faith but big brass ones.  To query, well, that means polishing them up to put them on display.  But then once the work is out, humility.

For the moment, I will contemplate cleaning the bathroom, and decide what to cook with the goodies I bought at the farmer’s market this morning.  And blast the iPod.  Nerd Child always has interesting new (to me) music.


Backwards Skate

Hellooo Fringelings!

It’s been a little bit since I last posted.  You know what they say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then shut the fuck up.  Really it’s just been hectic.  Nerd Child is home for the summer, which is wonderful, and Mother in Law is in the hospital, not wonderful.  On the bright side, she’s recuperating, getting stronger each day.  Art Child is not finished with school yet, the NYC public schools are in session until the end of June every year.  Just making sure that even with a late start to summer weather, the kids and teachers have plenty of sweltering days in the classrooms.

This has, of course, all involved a lot of back and forth and running around.  Yesterday, Mother in Law told me I need roller skates.  I agree, and would like the ones I had in middle school/high school, with the emerald green wheels and matching green sparkle laces and furry green pom poms.  Yes indeed, I was stylin’ those Friday Nights at the Roller Palace.  For some reason, my clearest memories involve the inevitable point in the night when someone’s wheel would bust off, and there would suddenly be a thousand little ball bearings rolling across the floor.

Alas, my wheels are long misplaced, and I suspect if I tried, I’d be skating backwards when I tried to go forward.

Yesterday Man Child called me to touch base, and maybe, just maybe, give me a little nudge along the lines of, “Hey Ma, wtf?!  You haven’t blogged.”  So I brought my camera earlier today, to catch a few pics of St John The Divine, and the assault construction taking place on its grounds right now.  In my opinion, this cathedral (Episcopal) is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, in the city.  Interesting, too.  Construction began in 1892, and has yet to be completed. The campus involves something like 11 acres, and they offer a lot of free or inexpensive programs and classes for the public.  They also house one of the fancy private schools of NY.  Somehow, they’ve found themselves running with a deficit.  There was a huge fire over ten years ago, and if I had to guess, I’d say they’re still trying to make up for the cost of restoration and clean up.  Several years ago they leased a corner of the property, and allowed an apartment building to be put up.  Now comes another one, this one much closer to the church itself.  As I walked around with my camera, able to see in through the back along Morningside Ave, it broke my heart a little.  They don’t have official landmark status, and I’m not familiar with the politics of this type of thing to know why, but somehow, seeing the excavation for the foundation up against the gorgeous granite and carvings, it feels wrong.

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Hey, You Never Know

Dollar and a dream, dollar and a delusion?

Dollar and a dream, dollar and a delusion?

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with a writing friend about the query process. Surprising, it isn’t like I’m obsessed or anything.  Sigh. And by conversation, I mean I said something like, “It’s never going to happen, I have a better chance of winning the lottery, blahblahsuckageblah.  And my friend said something lovely and supportive like, “Oh, Mrs Fringe. Don’t say that. It can happen for you, it will happen for both of us, you have to have faith.”

I don’t play the lottery on a regular basis, maybe I’ve purchased five tickets over the course of my life.  I wasn’t disappointed when I checked the numbers for the same reason I don’t play regularly–I don’t expect to win.  I’m no math whiz, but I can look at the odds and know this is not a sensible way to spend a dollar.

I was saying there’s a specific aspect to querying that’s completely illogical, no different than playing the lottery, and yet here I am–hoping to “win,” even sometimes believing I have a shot.  My guess (I’m not looking up the numbers and doing math) is that my odds are even worse than if I bought a lottery ticket for every query I send.  If you pick the “right” numbers, you win your money, less the government’s share.  Fair enough.  But if a wannabe claws their way through the slush pile with sharp words and a clear, enticing plot to receive an offer of representation from a reputable agent, that’s just the first step.  Because the jackpot (for a wannabe who wants to be traditionally published) isn’t receiving an offer of rep, it’s seeing your book in print, in a bookstore.  So step two is the agent querying editors, in hopes of a publishing offer.  Only a percentage of agented debut writers/manuscripts actually see a publishing contract. Step three is (hopefully) revisions with an editor and an advance, and then if nothing goes awry–step four, publication. That’s the winning ticket.  Golden ticket is if the book actually takes off and you see good sales numbers.

There’s a disconnect, and even a wacky old gal like myself can see it.  Too practical to buy lottery tickets, but oh yeah, I’ll query.    And I’m lucky.  Lucky to be receiving requests from agents to see the full.  I wonder if full requests are like winning $2 on a scratch-off ticket, just enough to entice me to keep trying.  Each request is a step, but quite far from an offer of rep–not to mention the neuron marbles lost with every ping of my email as I check to see if it’s an agent response.  Patience, Mrs Fringe.  Patience and faith.

Because I don’t play, I don’t know–do people have systems for playing the lottery, formulas and equations, the way people sit with the racing form at the track?  I admit, I used to enjoy going to the track, where I had an elegant formula for which horse to bet on, using the names I liked the best.

My query formula

My query formula

Above is my system.  Sure I use the laptop to write and edit, but it’s a basic composition book for notes on the manuscript, and keeping track of queries.  With, of course, my lucky pencil.  Yes, it’s true, it’s that one specific type of pencil, exclusive to a Staples near you (maybe, they could be in other office supply stores also).

I had pushed this line of thinking out of my mind, but this morning on Twitter, I saw a tweet from an agent I follow. I think he’s an agent, he tweets anonymously as Agent Vader. For all I know he’s another wannabe, or a she, or the real Darth Vader, or the most powerful literary agent in existence.  I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t send me to Jabba the Hutt in metal underwear. He’s often funny, and offers many great one liners about this whole business.  Today he tweeted, “Writing is art. Art is subject to perception. This is a lottery. Most people don’t win the lottery.”

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes. But I’ve got this little pile of winning scratch-off tickets that say please send me the full. And I’ve got beta readers and family and friends and Fringelings who say keep going.  I’m even fortunate enough to have a couple of experienced, knowledgable-about-writing-and-the-publishing-industry friends who have read my work and tell me to keep going.  But I’ll be honest, seeing and hearing the realities of this business, the long, long odds that involve the magical combination of writing that’s good enough, story that’s good enough, landing on the right desk at the right time, making the right numbers on a projected Profit and Loss statement in a publishing house, these are equally important.  I’m wacky enough to believe I have a real shot, but need to keep my eyes on the sanity of facts and odds at the same time.

(I’ve posted this song/video before, but can’t think of anything more appropriate)