Becca Wilhite Blog

April 29, 2012

New York Today

Filed under: character,debts to the Universe,happiness — becca @ 2:48 pm

So I’m standing on the East Balcony in Grand Central Station. Why, you ask? Because I am a Tourist. Also I love pretty buildings, and I like to go inside them. Also? The Apple Store does free wifi, unlike my otherwise totally charming upper easy side hotel.

Shall I give you a taste? Italian food. French food. Deli food. Pizza by the slice. Gelato. Bread. Favcy-pants omelets. And I’ve stopped eating now and then for other nice things. The met. Lunch with a friend who lives and works here. Spiderman the musical. Walking through Central Park in the rain. Owning the subway transfers. Meeting the lovely Agent Meredith. Times Square. Union Square. The Jewish museum. Meeting another friend (who just happened to be here) for lunch. Seeing “Once.” going to church in Manhattan. FAO Schwartz. A rat in the subway. Or several. Seeing “Newsies,” and being part of the most adoring crowd.

Want details? Come back in a couple of days. I’ll expound. You’ll be enlightened. We will all be glad.

April 23, 2012

Weekend Update

Filed under: Dads,familyness,priorities — becca @ 6:45 am

I feel like Dennis Miller. Remember Weekend Update on SNL — back in the day before I was too old to either stay awake for or enjoy the humor thereof? Yeah. Me, too.

I picked our winners for TELL ME WHO I AM. They are Janna and Brittany. (It was random. Kid 2 did the picking. From a pile of paper cutouts. They just so happen to both be CA girls. Whom I love. Lucky that way.)

Prom. It happened, and it was good (for the Kid, you understand. I don’t want to make it sound like I was actually there… although I did get a look at all the juniors, and a few of the other kids). Kid 1 was lovely. See?

 

Her cousin D said, “She’s a *real* princess.” Well played, D. Well played.

I can’t explain the headless one. I tried to crop. Nor can I explain why there are 2 copies of the other shot. Except that it’s my favorite. I don’t know photos. Clearly my talents lie elsewhere… I hope. So the way I saw everyone in the junior class: It’s like this. Their high school has this tradition of a Promenade (which sounds kind of like, duh, but I don’t know how many schools do them) and the junior class parades out of this backdrop thingie, one couple at a time, and they’re introduced, and their parents are named (a Requirement in this town), and then the couples do a choreographed dance. When all the participating juniors have done so, there’s a daddy-daughter dance, and after that, the moms come down and dance with their sons. It was fun — kind of a princess-themed fashion show. And the whispers and the oohs and aahs. And the muttering about the one girl whose dress cost $x,xxx, really. (And everyone, EVERYONE, I tell you, seemed to know this. As though it had been advertised or something.) And the poor girl who vomited in the garbage can, not really out of sight of anyone. And the poor friend who stood beside her and received something that was not thanks. All over the skirt of her dress. (Hello, story material!) (But only because it was not MY Kid.) And the couple of boys who looked like their dates had gone all kung-fu on them, but really one kneed himself in the face in a trampoline-house situation and the other got several eyebrow stitches as the result of a ninja move in an epic game of Capture the Flag. And the seniors and the sophomores and even the freshmen who came to watch, all dolled up and lovely. This little valley has some really beautiful kids in it. Many of Kid 1’s friends came to visit  me in the gym (did I mention that this took place in the basketball gym? It did.) (I was conveniently located), and I was again glad that they are good people. And even though we probably could have found other things to do that evening, it was fun to see Husband dance with his baby girl. And also this: The Prom Queen is the cutest junior class girl… with Down’s Syndrome. She wore a knee-length tulle confection in shades of purple with light-up tennis shoes. She was precious. And props to the committee and all the voters for that outcome.

I would like to know: Are you a napper or a non-napper?

We can still be friends if you’re a non. But don’t come over here on a Sunday afternoon expecting to be entertained. Just saying. It was REALLY quiet here yesterday. Ahh.

And. My friend Steph is in the running for a really good prize with her video-story/confession of maternal ickiness. Check it here, and push the orange thumbs-up button to give her a vote. (You don’t even have to watch it. But it’s pretty darn funny, I tell you.)

The writing is going well. I’m filling up pages with words. That, for the moment, is a measure of success.

So, how was YOUR weekend?

April 18, 2012

Wherein I Use Many Words to Say Few Things of Significance

Filed under: books,Fifth Gift,giving,school,word count,writing process — becca @ 8:26 am

Today is the last day to enter to win TELL ME WHO I AM. So get on over and enter, if you haven’t. Because WINNING IS FUN. Remember that?

Also, New York. I am going. (Coming?) Soon. In a week I will be there. And I am excited more than I am nervous. Remember how I gave up fear for Lent? Still doing well with that, even though Lent is over. And hooray for me. I can ride a subway (or two or three)  alone. I can eat alone. I can buy an app that will tell me where to find one of the very few public restrooms in the Great City. (And possibly I can go a week without drinking any water, but probably not.) I can walk through Central Park alone. I can go see two (2) shows alone. I can write many words alone, when nobody is there to help me count them. [1] And I can be productive for hours and hours at a time. Especially when I’m not being tempted to watch period pieces on Netflix, due to the cost of wifi in the hotel.

(Sidenote: If you run an expensive, classy hotel, why do you charge for wifi? I’m just wondering. Wifi seems like one of those things, like oxygen, that should just come with your room these days. End sidenote.)

Prom is Saturday. Kid 1 has a pair of sparkly silver shoes and a web browser full of Prom Hair Ideas. Also a lovely borrowed dress. Photos to come, if you like.

I’m working on a new book. (It’s the one that follows the current book that is in the hands of Agent Meredith.) Maybe. I’ve never written a sequel before. Actually, that’s not true. I have 2 different series in my drafts folder. Each of them has at least three volumes started. And… None of them is publishable. So maybe what I’m saying is that I don’t know HOW to write a sequel, a series, a follow-up. I think it’s hard work. And we all know how I feel about hard work. But I’m learning how. By doing it (again). And it’s not so bad, in a first-draft/so-far-fewer-than-10,000-words kind of way. Not necessarily good, is what I’m saying, but not entirely bad.

Tomorrow I get to return to Mrs. G’s class to give them a pump-up cheer on their NaNoWriMo project. (Remember I told you they’re writing a book in a month? In 8th grade? Because Mrs. G is awesome?) I’m probably going to get a lot of questions like, “What do I do now? I can’t think of what should happen next.” And I’ll tell them to make something explode. Which is only half a joke. The other half of it is true: in a story, a great number of things can explode in order to move the plot along. Physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically… explosions make for great conflict, and conflict will move your story forward. (My own written explosions tend to be emotional and psychological, with an occasional social one. I should branch out into the physical explosion world. But that’s not really my style. We shall see…)

I am reading GRACELING. Because Agent Meredith suggested it. Someone with whom she was discussing my submission said it reminded her of Graceling. So I got it. And I’m reading it. Have you? Have your kids/neighbors/acquaintences, if you’re not a teenage-book reader? I have heard one amazing review of book 3 in the series (that comes out later this month), but little else about the series. And there is certainly an element that is similar to FIFTH GIFT. I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished it. Meanwhile, you tell me (you know, if you read it…)

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of TELL ME WHO I AM — do it today.

(Sorry. Sometimes I channel Señorita Bossy Pants. I’ll try to reign it in.)

[1] This is usual, actually. I don’t really write with other people around. Because I am easily distracted, that’s why. And I listen and talk and prepare snacks instead of pushing keys. But I might have to

April 16, 2012

Monday. It really is.

Filed under: books,familyness,giving — becca @ 8:04 am

Spring Break is over. The rain, the snow, the sun, the lazy, the productive, the hilarious, the movies, the competitions, the adventures, the mistakes. It was good, and I’m glad we had it. And I’m glad we didn’t plan anything or really try to go anywhere farther away than 30 miles. I might have exploded with the craziness of it all.

The back-yard daffodils bloomed in the snow this week. It was glorious, I’m telling you.

Back to school today, and we’re all trying to be glad. I am. I get to teach Kid 3’s Class of Fifth Grade Brilliance. Seriously, this class is amazing. The most well-behaved, intelligent, eager kids. We’re going to have some fun, I’m telling you. And later this week, I get to go back to Mrs. G’s 8th grade honors literature classes and see how they’re doing on their April version of NaNoWriMo. It was a blast to teach them “how to write a novel in a month,” even if I offended their sensibilities by telling them that at the end of April, they’d have a grand sense of accomplishment and a really terrible draft of a novel. (Most of them forgave me for saying so.)

Keep the comments coming for the giveaway, and I’ll draw a winner or two (two — you knew that already) on Wednesday.

Happy Monday. Hope it really is.

April 13, 2012

Win Free Book (x2)

Filed under: books,giving — becca @ 6:27 am

***UPDATED to announce winners: JANNA and BRITTANY L. Right on. Go, California!**

 

So a few weeks ago, a nice lady from town (one of the nice ladies I’d never met or heard of) called me up on the phone.

Her: Hello, Becca?

Me: Yes.

Her: This is Maxine from the Seniors’.
(I have lived here long enough to know that means Senior Citizens’ Center, the wild and crazy hub of adventure for local over-60s.)

Me: Hi. What can I do for you?

Her: ____ gave me your name and said that your family is incredibly talented.
(At this point I looked for cameras, bugs, and studio audiences.)
We’d like you to come perform for a Seniors’ Family Night.

(Family Night is a Mormon thing — Monday nights we pass on other obligations and spend the evening with our families. Unless the Seniors want us to come to them. We’re down with that. The Wilhites are all about taking Family Night on the road.)

Me: Love to.

So she gave me instructions (when, where, how long and not a minute shorter). We did a dry-run (to time everything and avoid falling short of our 55 minute mark) of piano pieces, violin pieces, dramatic recitations, and vocal solos. And Monday came and I realized that I hadn’t prepared anything. Which was fine and stuff, because this sort of thing should be all about the kids, but we were short by a few minutes.

Enter The Book.

A whole box full arrived Monday afternoon. (Coincidence, if you believe in such things…) And I was able to read a couple of my essays from the book as my “talent” for the Seniors. Mostly they liked it. But a few of them said to me afterward, “Hey, we thought you were going to sing for us.” I told them I’d do that next time. They acted pacified, but one never knows.

Anyway, the book. I’ve told you about it before, but I think I should tell you about it again, right now, because I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU TWO CHANCES TO WIN IT. (Did you hear me?)

It’s a book of essays. (I wrote about it HERE.) Kind of like following a string of blog posts without the sidebar advertisements. Or the needless clicking. There’s comedy and tragedy, and I’m not being flippant. There really is. There’s good stuff in here, and I want to share it with you. So here is a sitewhere you can run out and buy yourself a copy, or order one for your mom (hello, Mothers’ Day, right around the corner!) or your neighbor who wonders what in the world those Mormons are really all about. (Also on my sidebar, you can order through Amazon, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Or, if you prefer your books to be free, we can arrange that, too. WAYS TO WIN: Leave me a comment. How bout this: Tell me one thing that makes you who you are. AND: Like my FaceBook Author page (I know. I’m giving in to the dark side. Sorry. But it’s easy for you. Right there on my lower left sidebar, there’s a little FB like-y thingie. Click it, and whoever is logged in to FB on your computer will automatically like me. Join the Revolution, or something. All the cool kids are doing it.)

Let’s be clear: You can win a free copy of TELL ME WHO I AM. ($15 value) Two people will win. You can enter twice (tell me you liked my author page = one, comment = two). I will mail a copy to you if you live in the US or in Canada. If you don’t, you’re already the Cool Kids, so no worries.

I’ll go first. Hi, my name is Becca, and I liked my FB Author Page (oh, yes, I did). And something that makes me who I am is that I love to have my family all home, as often as possible, and that’s because having them here is what makes it home in the first place.

See how easy?

April 12, 2012

How do I tell it?

Filed under: musings,spring is coming — becca @ 11:56 am

Hard to describe
— Impossible, maybe —
How that particular patch
Of sunlight
On that particular patch
Of grass, just greening out of the
Winter-gray field
Made my heart lurch
With joy.

Maybe it was the cow,
Bending over to slurp a mouthful
Of gorgeous green.
But it was only a cow.

Cows are everywhere,
(at least around here)
And rarely make me

Almost-cry.

I nearly pulled out my phone
To take a photo.
But I knew it would be
Like it always it
When I see a thing in the
Natural world that
Snatches my breath:

Later, it’s just a photo.

Of a cow.

If I could paint,
Would my painting breathe
And glow
Like the new spring
And the sunlight and the grass and the life?

Maybe it would, but I can’t.

So I just hold the memory
Of the time
When sun and earth and life
Met together for a perfect,
Soul-strengthening
Moment.

Glad,
So glad
that I was there to see it.

April 9, 2012

Publishing Path: Story Time

Filed under: publishing,writing process — becca @ 6:38 am

Once upon a time [1], I got a literary agent. This is one of those things that if you’re not (A) a writer (B) the parent of a writer or (C) married to a writer, you just probably don’t care about. But if you are (A) (B) or (C) (Mostly A, let’s not kid ourselves) then you know that’s a pretty big deal.

For those of us who are (D) (other), here’s the thing. A writer writes and writes and writes, cringes and revises and swears to never try again, revises and cringes and laughs out loud, dares to share the words with readers, cries for a while, revises some more, attempts to maintain composure and refrain from out-loud offensive language, and finally has a “finished” manuscript.

So what then? How does this thing that the writer alternately adores and despises become a book? With pages (or pixels) that someone can buy or borrow?

Enter the Agent.

The Agent is the go-between for author and publisher.

*Question: Does a writer need to have an agent?

*Answer: No. Or else Yes.

I didn’t have an agent until last week. And I’m an author, right? I have books — published, bound, for-sale books (and ebooks, too). I didn’t have an agent for the first years of my writing journey, and it was great, and it worked. But then I did what I do best and decided that I wanted more. Even though I’ve had a great experience with my first publisher, and through my interactions with them have made some Very Dear Friends, when my contract was fulfilled, I knew it was time for more. Here’s the more: I want my next thing to be bigger in scope, more national, from a bigger publisher with a longer reach. I want hardback (but, you know, I’m flexible). I want to stretch to the next level.

And in order to Next-Level it, I need an agent. In general, the Big Guys national publishers don’t accept submissions without an agent. (Not always true. I know. That’s why I said “In general,” you see.)

* Question: Where do you even begin to find agents?

* Answer: The Internet, my friends. The Internet.

See, there’s a wealth of agent-related information out there. Several years ago, I started with AgentQuery.com, where I looked up agents based on books I already liked, authors I knew, and the two agents I’d heard of. Then by genre, then by recommendation, then I sort of started getting the hang of it all. This time around, I knew a little more. I’d had a very kind agent send me a list of possibilities (who I then began to stalk [politely, you know] around the internet). There are agents who blog regularly, who have FaceBook profiles, who answer a great many questions that I don’t actually ask, but I wonder about these things. And there’s the Writer’s Digest website in general, and the Guide to Agents section in particular.

And then there’s the keeping it all inside my head, which is, obviously, never going to happen. So I tried out QueryTracker.com. It’s not the world’s most beautiful site, but it has what I needed to organize. It’s useful, you know, to keep track of everything. And it does keep track of everything. And there’s a community aspect to it (which I never used) where you can chat with other people who are in the Query Zone, compare notes on agents’ replies and response times, and give virtual high-fives and pats on the back.

* Question: So how does a writer get an agent?

* Answer: I’m glad you asked.

Here’s a short list of things you need in order to make it happen: A “finished” novel, a query letter, a thick skin, and a vast deal of patience.

First let’s talk about the “finished” novel. Are you tired of the “quote marks” yet? Me, too. But the thing is, you’re not really finished writing your novel yet. BUT. You should get to the point where you can’t make it any better yourself or with the help of your Very Helpful Critique Partners [2]. Then you sit on it for a while — a week or a month. Then read it again and polish. Trust me, you’ll be surprised how much there is to polish.

Then you do a query letter. This is painful and horrifying, I’m not going to lie to you. HERE is a place I talked about this once before.

Thick skin. Yeah. Writers talk about this one a lot. Because, apparently, you really need it. Here’s the thing. It’s PERSONAL. The book you just wrote was pushed out of your pores like sweat, and it is a little (or huge) part of you. Then a whole bunch of very nice agents and their assistants tell you it’s not (not even in the slightest) interesting to them. Ouch. This is why I went with the Large Pool theory. I submitted my query and pages (whatever the nice agents were asking for, exactly as they asked for it) to a whole lot of agents. I had a goal for 5 a day on non-work days and 3 a day on days I had a job. Then, when the rejections started coming in (and coming, and coming), there were moments of surprising pleasantness, too, like a request for a partial manuscript, or (insert Angel Choir) a full manuscript. [3]

The patience goes along with the replies. Some people (me?) might spend hours and days glued to the email, waiting for that magic reply. The one that says, “You’re brilliant! I love it! Send me more!” But the chances of the instant reply being a “no, thanks” are much higher, in my little experience.

And even the ones who tell you it’s brilliant and they want more… well, they have to do their jobs, so it takes a while. I decided before I started this process that I wanted to work with an agent who would be careful and aggressive with my story, once I was his or her client. But that implies that I understand that the current clients get first dibs on the agent’s attention, see? And as a querying writer, I was low down on the totem of the agents’ priorities. And I should be. I was lucky. I got replies and responses now and then. A request for a partial, then a different agent would request a full. Then a few form rejections. Then another request for a full, or more from the partial, then another handful of rejections. An excited response from a reading agent, then a few more rejections. And it really only took a couple of months. Agent Meredith and I had a phone conversation after she finished reading my full manuscript (three weeks or so into the querying process), in which she answered my questions, asked some of her own, and requested a fairly light rewrite [4]. I crossed my fingers for luck and plunged back in. The rejections and long pauses in replies were much easier to take at that point. Are you surprised?

Fast forward a few more weeks, and Agent Meredith made me an offer of representation. At which point I contacted the few agents who still had my manuscript and (this is protocol, no matter how weird it feels) let them know I had an offer. I think some people would have contacted all the agents who didn’t actively say no, but I just went with the ones who bothered to try me out. I told them that someone was interested. They replied, congratulations — go for it. Actually, I did get the nicest rejection at this point. It was so nice, in fact, that it felt like an acceptance.

Hi Becca, I am so sorry to have taken so long. I have been torn. There really was so much here that I admired– especially your writing and style. But something is holding me back from being confident enough that I am the perfect fit. I am so glad you have found an agent, and not at all surprised. Will be watching your career with interest! Thank you for considering me. All my best, (The Nice Agent Who Has A Bird Name)

Then I waited a few more weeks while Agent Meredith got settled in her new agency (she’d been six years with one and is now with another), and then we spoke on the phone again, and now we’re ready to hit this thing. She’s preparing another (more deep, more encompassing) editorial letter (some agents do that, some don’t — I’m happy to have her help) and then I’ll rewrite again. When I get it right, she’ll begin submitting to editors, and that will be another long story, I’d imagine, with another hefty dose of patience required.

And I’m ready to go. Working on some other writing, in the mean time. Reading. Playing. Dabbling in poetry [5]. Finding joy in the new laptop. Like that. But I wanted to share my story, because it’s really happy-making for me, and exciting, and Next-Levelish.

—-

[1] last week

[2] Once you’ve written and revised your book all by yourself a few times (I usually do 3 or 4 passes before I inflict it on my friends), you let someone else read it. Then you tape your mouth shut and listen to their questions, comments, and concerns. You can nod your head at this point, but no talking back.

[3] If you’re interested in numbers like I’m interested in numbers, you may be interested to know that I sent queries to 29 agents. There were more on the list, but those are the ones I started with. Seven of those (eventually) asked for full manuscripts. Many of them sent polite (form email) rejections. A few sent personal rejections. Many didn’t send anything at all, which is accepted code for “no thanks, unless we lost your submission, but you’ll never know unless you pester us, which we wish you wouldn’t.”

[4] It was a DivaCheck. She was seeing if I would be willing to take editorial direction. I was.

[5] Don’t worry. I’m fine. It’s happy poetry.

April 4, 2012

Bummer

Filed under: anxiety,emotion — becca @ 7:53 pm

You know those times when nothing is wrong, but for some reason, things don’t feel right?

(And you know how I don’t love those times?)

Angst. Please. I’m so too old for angst. Did you know that in German angst means fearfulness? And how I don’t do fear anymore? Nobody told the angst. It’s like that soul-weariness you get when things are Just Too Hard, minus the hard parts. Nothing is wrong. It just feels like it is, or it might be, or it will be soon.

I’m coming to grips with my own psychological regression. And recognizing the fact that although I am not, and have not for DECADES been, sixteen years old, I can still remember what it feels like, to the point of cringing.

Also, possibly I’ve been spending a whole lot of time in the high school.

Maybe that sort of thing is contagious.

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