Category Archives: Writing

News and a Giveaway

I really need to be better about consistently blogging, but lately, I’ve been putting everything I have to say in the YA I’m working on. You can catch me at The Writing Bug, however, every other Wednesday. But while I’m words-smithing away, the writing world keeps spinning, so here’s some newsworthy tidbits to pass along. Plus, I’m giving away a copy of Bobbing for Watermelons . . .

2015_Hot-Chocolate-Press-Library

My Bobbing publisher, Kerrie Flanagan of Hot Chocolate Press is at Patricia Stoltey’s blog today discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a small publisher. It’s a great interview, plus Kerrie is giving away a book, so head over and leave a comment.

The Water Holds No Scars

The Water Holds No Scars: Fly Fishing Stories of Rivers & Rejuvenation, edited by Dean K. Miller, is  now available from Tulip Tree Publishing. This is a compilation of essays from various authors about their healing experiences of fly fishing. Proceeds benefit the Platte Rivers Chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.  I’m anxiously awaiting my copy to arrive in the mail.

 

 

The Devil's Lament

I highly recommend Kenneth W. Harmon’s ebook, The Devil’s Lament. Ken is a longtime member of my critique group and this book has always been one of my favorites of his. He set is aside for a few years, so I was thrilled when he finally decided to shop it. It didn’t take long for his publisher, Winlock Press to snag it. “It is 1932. The world has turned to dust. Lucifer stills walks among us, testing the faithful at every turn. Then he discovers the reincarnation of Eve in a Dust Bowl revival tent … and their ancient passion threatens the world again. When Lucifer and Eve were together in Eden, their relationship changed the fate of humanity.” An excellent read.

 

NCW Top of the Mountain Book AwardThe 2016 Top of the Mountain Book Award is underway. Deadline is February 1, 2016, but wouldn’t it be great to get your submission in before the craziness of the holidays? Top prize is $1,000 given in two categories: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction. Fiction entries tend to outnumber the nonfiction ones, so please pass along the contest to all your memoir writers!

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

Finally, what  you’ve all been waiting for, right? I’m giving away a copy of Bobbing for Watermelons to one (outrageously) lucky and (obviously) smart reader. Just leave a comment (preferably a nice one) by next Monday, the 7th at midnight, PST. Open to U.S. residents only.

And if you read any of these books I mentioned (or any book for that matter) leave an honest review on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and/or Goodreads. It helps authors out a great deal, especially considering there are roughly 750,000 books published a year!

Happy reading!

UnWine with Books on September 24th

D's Boutique, September 24, 2015I’ll be joining fellow author, Kelly Baugh on September 24th at D’s Boutique in Berthoud, CO for a night of wine and readings. If you’re in the area, come say hello. Kelly will be reading from her women’s fiction, Miss You Once Again, an engaging story with memorable characters and a twist of Southern charm. And of course, I’ll be reading from Bobbing for Watermelons—no Southern charm in this one, but plenty of Midwest snark.

Would love to see you there.

The Purpose of a Critique Group

Earlier this week, Katherine from my critique group, sent a link to a post by Rachelle Gardner about developing a thick skin as a writer. Gardner points out that it will likely never happen, but that you will survive. 

I’ve been in the Raintree Writers since 2003 and myself and author, Patricia Stoltey, are the only original members (we’ve obviously scared everyone off). We’ve had to learn to not only take criticism, but to give feedback in a constructive way. Over the years, there might have been a tear or two shed by members (and it’s not because someone ate the last piece of chocolate on the table). It’s because writing is a personal endeavor and when you’re first starting out, it’s like watching your toddler trip and fall on the playground for the first time. You want to yell at whoever left the little dump truck half buried in the sand for your two-and-a-half foot tall cherub to trip over. Then you want to cry (which you probably will do). 

There’s no crying in critique group. Unless they’re tears of joy, no one should cry. You’re there to give honest, but constructive feedback. Always include positive comments interspersed in  your critique and approach your concerns with sensitivity. Chances are, if it’s something that needs addressing, others will chime in, too, so don’t channel your inner Simon Cowell. I also think it’s important to never should on anyone. You should have the aliens invade before the birthday party, or You should make this character funnier.

Laura Powers, one of our critique group members, said it best:

“You can’t let others dictate your story. Fellow writers are great for offering another perspective, spotting problems, sharing techniques, and helping you through creative blocks, but we are just passengers on your ride. You are driving the bus.”

And I’ll leave you with that. 

Happy writing.

You Gonna Edit That?

Grammar Books -- April J. MooreWhen our son was little and we’d eat out, he often saved his French fries for last. The untouched fries would drive my husband bananas. You gonna eat those? He clung to the hope that our son would be too full to finish them once he finally got around to it. More often than not, our son, right before jetting off to the playground, would pass the few cold, remaining fries to his dad. All was right in the world again.

I’m the same way with editing. I like to organize and clean things up, so when it comes to editing, I bask in grammar glory that there are rules about such things. And yes, I know it comes off as annoying to some, but whether you like it or not, these editing shenanigans matter. They can make or break you as a successful writer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always adhere to these rules and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, those mistakes are fixable and over the years, I’ve learned a great deal. I love reading manuscripts and offering content and copy edits. When I catch plot mishaps and dangling modifiers in a piece of writing, all is right my world again.

There are computer nerds, science nerds, and there are word nerds. That’s me. So I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m now offering editing services. You thought my Grammar Nazi ways were obnoxious already . . .

You see, I just want to get paid for being obnoxious. But helpful and professional, too. Whether it’s a full or partial manuscript, or an essay, or short story, I want to help. Visit my editing services page to learn more about what I can do to help bring your writing project to the next level.

And, on a somewhat unrelated matter, here is the Northern Colorado Writers podcast where Kelly Baugh and I discuss our latest books, our creative influences, and a hot new genre we are very excited about.

Mid-week Updates

Even though I’m taking a bit of a break these last several weeks, the world apparently keeps turning. I wanted to let you in a few tidbits of happenings. 
goodreads

First, head on over to Goodreads and enter a chance to win my latest novel, Bobbing for Watermelons. The fact that it’s National Watermelon Month ought to enhance your reading experience, right? 

This week, I’m at The Writing Bug ranting about rules. I like rules . . . just don’t ask me to adhere to them playing Monopoly, because I won’t. 

My flash fiction piece, “An Affair to Forget” is in Baby Shoes: 100 Stories by 100 Authors, available for pre-order and can be yours on July 20th. There are some amazing authors featured in the book and I’m excited to check them out. And flash fiction—how fun is that to read?!

And finally, check out the NCW Podcast where Rich Keller speaks to authors, industry professionals, and everything writing. I’ll be on an upcoming episode with my fellow Hot Chocolate Press author, Kelly Baugh. We discussed Geriatric Erotica . . . seriously. So look out for that episode.

Happy writing! 

B is for Bad Habits

B is for Bad Habits, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

This picture was taken by my grandfather. In fact, many of the pictures you’ll see this month from me, were taken by him. He was an amateur photographer and myself, along with my sister and all of our cousins, were the subjects of hundreds and hundreds of pictures taken by him over many years—same with our kids. He was also (and still is) a smoker. The glasses in the picture belonged to my grandmother. Despite not being a fan of cigarettes and smoking, I like this picture. It’s a slice of life within a slice of time that holds a lot of great memories for me. (It makes for a great writing prompt, too.)

Bad habits can be hard to break. We know this as writers. These habits can pertain to writing itself, such as improper comma usage, passive voice, or run-on sentences. Other bad habits can sabotage our efforts to write in the first place. Fortunately, unlike smoking, I think these habits are a little easier to break.

Playing it safe. We don’t always take risks as writers and push ourselves, or our characters, to new limits. If we don’t, we’ll never see what we’re capable of. Try writing in a different genre, or in a different style; write characters who scare you, or write about a subject matter that makes you uncomfortable. You can take risks in lots of different ways to beef up your writing and show readers what you’re capable of.

Not setting a writing schedule. I’m certainly guilty of this. Sometimes, I only write when I’m feeling it. Such a lame excuse. Just the act of sitting down and free writing can make you feel it. It’s the same when I’m not “inspired” to hit the gym, but when I force myself to, it doesn’t take long for those endorphins to kick in and I end up being happy I dragged myself out of bed. If we all waited until inspiration struck, we’d rarely produce any work. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron urges us to keep “morning pages,” in which we free write at the same time every morning, typically after we wake up. Writing is the fuel for our creativity.

Quitting when the going gets tough. It’s so easy to say, “Screw it!” when things don’t turn out the way we want, or we come upon a difficult scene to write. We oftentimes want to throw in the towel when we start accumulating the rejections, but that’s when it’s time to either trudge through that difficult scene, or to take another look at the query letter. Something may not be working, so look into another way of doing it. 

Comparing yourself and your work to others. We all have authors we admire and even emulate, and that’s okay; we can learn a lot from them. The problem is that we can fall into the trap of thinking we need to be them in order to be respected as writers. Other times, it’s easy to get wrapped up in jealousy of fellow writers who are enjoying success. It’s natural to get sucked into all of this, but we need to embrace the reasons we’re different from those authors and start channeling that envious energy toward mastering the craft, as well as your own unique style.

Being negative. Stop beating yourself up! Many writers, whether they say it to themselves, or to others, the constant, “I’m never going  be good enough,” or “I suck,” does nothing but create this dark cloud hovering over your head. Plus, it annoys the hell out of those around you. If you think you’re so terrible, try to pinpoint what areas you think you need help in and focus on that area: go to the library and check out reference books, enlist a friend to help read over a troublesome chapter, take a class through the local writing organization. Even getting away from your WIP and trying something new can rejuvenate your writing mojo and cast that black cloud away.

These are just a few of the bad habits we as writers can easily fall victim to. What are some others and how do you just say no to them?

A to Z Challenge 2015

A is for Androgynous

A is for Androgynous A to Z Challenge, April J. Moore

Oh, goodness. 1989, aged 12. Around this time, I had been in California visiting family and spent a day playing with a kid named Ray, a friend of my cousin’s. Apparently, the whole afternoon, he thought I was a boy. He obviously hadn’t caught my name, so when it came time to leave, something came up about names. “April? But that’s a girl’s name,” he said. Androgyny happens . . . especially when sporting a pre-pubescent short haircut. But I think I could go either way in this picture.

In 1832, poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous.”

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf interpreted Coleridge’s quote by saying, “And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female . . . The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating . . . Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine . . .”

Woolf asserted that “an androgynous mind is present when one is working at the absence of sex-consciousness, thus producing output at its highest capacity, without impediment and free from gender-biasness.” (source) Woolf believed that “to write without consciousness of sex is to see the piece of work for itself not as its author.” Much of this theory stems from the sexist treatment she and other women writers had endured. 

Woolf received a great deal of criticism for this view, resulting in a ping-ponging of arguments, but the whole idea of having an androgynous mind is fascinating to me. Recently, author, Andrew Smith got speared for some comments he made when asked why his books lack female characters:

“I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though. 

A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.”

Some authors accused him of calling women “less than human,” while others said Smith was only being honest; that the underpinning issue is that as a culture, a book’s default is to feature white males.

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not entirely sure, but I found Woolf’s theory intriguing. Can “a single person of either sex  [embody] the full range of human character traits, despite cultural attempts to render some exclusively feminine and some exclusively masculine?” And thus, create authentic emotions and insights of characters of both genders? Is it even possible? Or are we merely guessing when we write the viewpoints of the opposite sex? 

I wasn’t offended by Smith’s comments. I think he unintentionally kicked a beehive. I’d be interested to hear what Woolf would say, however. Are authors (particularly male authors) obligated to include female characters in their books? (And of course, they can’t be gun-toting, bikini-wearing blondes, right?) 

I realize this is a much deeper issue than what I’m making it out to be, but in order to scratch the surface, I’d like to know, 1.) Is it possible to write with androgyny? and 2.) Are we being sexist if we don’t?

A to Z Challenge 2015

Blogging A to Z Challenge

A to Z ChallengeI will be participating in my first A to Z Challenge beginning tomorrow, April 1st. I’ll be posting old family photos and writing about how these old memories (some, painfully embarrassing) pertain to writing—which I hope will be of help to all of you. I’m looking forward to checking out the many other bloggers who are participating in this alphabetical challenge. If you’re also a blogger taking part in the challenge, let me know so I can be sure to include you on my blog travels.

Old pictures--April J. MooreBest of luck to everyone who signed  up for the challenge!

Good, Clean Fun

This Clean Reader debacle has become quite humorous. So the app only works on books you purchase through Clean Reader’s store and can be turned off if you so wish. Set to “Squeaky Clean” mode, the app thoroughly searches for words Clean Reader deems offensive and replaces them with words they’ve chosen for the offending word. They change the word “breasts” to “chest,” but are unable to distinguish between “chicken breasts” and women’s breasts. 

Hilarious. 

Let’s cook up some chicken chests tonight.

“Vagina” is changed to “bottom,” and “penis” has been relegated to a “groin.” “Christ” is changed to “gosh,” but Passion of the Gosh just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And praise Jesus, doesn’t feel the same as “praise Gee.” 

So bottom-line (that’s vagina-line to us UnClean Readers) is that readers can do whatever they want with books they purchase, and perhaps readers want someone to bleep out their books for them—and that’s fine. What really bugs me, is that Clean Reader is making their own determinations, or judgments, on what is profane and what words they choose to replace the profanity with. It’s not just curse words, but words describing body parts. A penis is a penis; a vagina is a vagina; they’re real words for real parts of the body, so why can’t they be called what they are? If you’re over a certain age, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the names of body parts. You’re not having to say them aloud; you’re reading them. It’s a stupid app. If you can’t handle profanity, then don’t read romance, erotica, or other books you know will likely be riddled with “offensive” words. In many cases, changing the wording fucks with freaks with the context, rendering the text confusing and oftentimes, comical. 

Again, it’s a reader’s choice to do what they want with a book they’ve purchased and we have the choice to think it’s stupid. I do think this is something to keep a watchful eye on, as I can see this easily turning into a issue where sanitized books will be resold without author consent. Just saying. 

If anything, the app brings MORE attention to the profanity by replacing these words with hilariously ill-suited words. Beware, if your characters order “beans and wieners” at their favorite hot dog joint, I hope they don’t mind getting beans and groins.

 

Washing A Book’s Mouth Out with Soap; There’s an App for That

profanityMy, my, sometimes nothing sums up a situation, emotion, or feeling, like a good old fashioned f-word. I’m no stranger to throwing in some profanity into blog posts and stories; these wicked little words are part of our language and culture and they serve a purpose. 

It appears that an app called Clean Reader allows readers to replace/hide all profanity in books. And they’re not calling it what it is: censorship and copyright infringement. Text is changed/edited without the author’s consent. 

I first heard about this over at Chuck Wendig’s site, who wrote a fantastic commentary about this growing issue and I urge you to check it out. I also encourage you to read an email that author Joanne Harris received from Clean Reader and her stellar response

Regardless of how you feel about profanity, is it right for anyone to alter someone’s book? Fuck no.

UPDATE: I should note that Clean Reader only allows readers to change words/text after they’ve purchased the book and are reading it on their own private devices. Sure, anyone can do anything to a book after it’s purchased, and according to Clean Readers, they’ve consulted with a gaggle of attorneys to ensure copyrights are not infringed upon, but something about this still irks me. There’s also a rumor floating around that the developers of Clean Reader are reselling “scrubbed up” versions of books . . . it’s worth investigating.

Here’s another take on the issue I recommend checking out.

My Early Work . . .

Clearly, writing drew me in at an early age . . . specifically, first or second grade. 
Oh, geez, what can I say?!I find it difficult to believe I came up with this myself (even though there was a lovely pussy willow tree in the backyard of the house I grew up in), but I also have a hard time envisioning a teacher picking out this poem for the class to write. In either case, it must have triggered a lively discussion in the teachers’ lounge. 

Happy Monday.

Which Came First: The Character or the Plot?

Oh, the age-old question . . . or something like that.

When you started your fiction work-in-progress, did you begin with your character? Or your plot? Maybe both? My forthcoming novel, Bobbing for Watermelons, began with a quirky housewife and I left the rest up to her. “Do your thing, you crazy lady. Make a story.” From there, I wrote the book chapter by chapter, with no road map or compass. I was having fun putting her in sticky situations, but where was it going? If I wasn’t careful, her antics would wear thin with the reader. I quickly learned that characters need direction—a place to “do their thing.” Fortunately, I got it together and gave my character a path to follow in a fun world I created just for her. 

Conversely, if you’ve come up with a unique plot with twists, turns, and an ending that kicks ass, do you have enough left in you to create a memorable character who’s thrown into your well-thought out story? For another novel I started working on last year, I came up with the plot first and my characters last, who frankly, are as boring as watching golf. (Yes, I said that, and yes, I meant it.)

Based on my own experiences, I’m theorizing that the first born tends to be stronger. It used to be we heard the terms, “character-driven,” and “plot-driven,” when it came to books. Perhaps we still do, but it seems to me, readers want both, and why should’t they? Some believe plot is more important in an action-packed thriller (who cares if the guy in the midst of the action hasn’t an emotional marble in his head, he sure looks good in a suit). He’s only there to carry out the action, right? 

Well, I’m no expert, but I’m getting the feeling that readers want it all: character and plot, packaged together and wrapped with pretty paper. Quality writing notwithstanding. (That’s another blog post.) So,what’s the point of all this? I’m not entirely sure, but I’d like to know which came first for you: the character or the plot and is it stronger than the other? 

 

Friday News: Flash Fiction Anthology Update

baby shoes

I’m thrilled to announce that Baby Shoes: Celebrating Flash Fiction has made its e-book funding goal! Woot-woot! There are ten days left and we hope to  make it to $2200 so that we can do a print run as well. Thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out this amazing project that will be featuring 100 authors and 100 flash fiction stories. You’ll find some familiar names among the author list such as Linda Needham, Joe Lansdale, Danika Dinsmore, and Walter J. Williams. Yours truly will have a piece in the book called “An Affair to Forget.” I’m also honored to be among some of my favorite local authors, Katherine ValdezShelley Widhalm, and he who shall not be named . . . because he’s using a pen name. 😉 Thanks again for the support.

Anthology, Conference, and Contest . . .Oh My

So I have just a few reminders for you. . .

baby shoes

First, the Kickstarter for Baby Shoes: A Flash Fiction Anthology will be relaunching this Friday. In the meantime, check out the Facebook Page for it. My piece, “An Affair to Forget,” about a man who sees his imaginary girlfriend deep in conversation with his wife, will be nestled among 99 other authors who are participating, like Linda Needham, Joe Lansdale, Danika Dinsmore, and Walter J. Williams. This will be a great project to support, so I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

10th Annual NCW Conference March 27-28 2015The Northern Colorado Writers Conference is open for registration. This is the 10th annual conference and as part of the Conference Creative Team, I can tell you, it’s going to be one hell of a party conference. 

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

And that’s a good segue into the 4th annual Top of the Mountain Book Award that we  give out at the conference. You don’t have to be an NCW member (or even a Colorado resident) to enter, and the contest is open to both published and unpublished authors. You also don’t have to attend the conference to enter. Submit the first 20 pages of your fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript, plus a 3-page synopsis by February 1st, and you could win $1000. It’s so easy it’s ridiculous.  

That’s it for now.

Happy writing!

Sunday Inspiration

Something to get you writing today (and hopefully, everyday) . . .

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

~ Alan Watts

What is one of your favorite writing quotes?

Interview with Literary Fort Collins

Literary Fort CollinsRecently, I’ve had the honor of being interviewed by Emily Wenzl of Literary Fort Collins. Wenzl discusses (as you might guess) everything literary about this fabulous Northern Colorado city. I talk about . . . ah, me pretty much. Okay, a bit about how friggin’ hard writing can be, and I also dote on my critique group a little too. Anyway, check out Wenzl’s great blog if you get the chance.

Happy New Year!

My New Writing Gig

Northern Colorado Writers

The Writing Bug

If you’re not completely sick of me, then I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know that I’ll be a regular contributor to the Northern Colorado Writers blog, The Writing Bug starting January 14th. I’ll be sharing Wednesdays with the talented JC Lynn. I’m excited for this new endeavor and I hope you guys can find the time to stop by and visit me, JC, and the other amazing authors at The Writing Bug. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve already been told that I have to keep my trucker mouth in check while I’m over there.)

And if you’re really not sick of me yet, you can see me with my fellow Conference Creative Team members in a trailer for the 2015 NCW Conference on March 27-28. Have you signed up yet? It’ll be a smashing good time! (Click above, not on the video pic).
NCW Conference Trailer

American English vs. British English

vs

There are many differences between the U.S. and our pals across the pond, one of which, being the use of language and grammar. Many British readers of The Guardian, a U.K.-based publication, have complained about the paper’s use of “ugly Americanisms,” mostly slang terms such as “mojo,” “dweeb,” and “double-dip.” (Thanks, Seinfeld.) One reader even said, “I am not anti-American, but I do not see why our language should be corrupted by sloppy writing.” Another called the American use of “authorities” as a “dreadfully ugly American import from the land without style.” Ouch. Sloppy writing? Without style? Those are fightin’ words! Once bickering over taxes and tea, we’re now going to duke it out (another so-called American grammatical atrocity) over commas and quotations. 

I’ll just focus on spelling and punctuation. Most of these we know. Admittedly, I’m guilty of consorting with the enemy on their spelling of “dialogue,” rather than the American English version of “dialog.” It’s just looks prettier, doesn’t it? Okay, okay, I’ve learnt my lesson. Or is it learned? Damn. Here’s a small sampling:
AE BE Spelling

The other big difference is, of course, the placement of quotation marks. Both sides argue that their version is correct, however, Ben Yagoda of Slate, calls the British way of placing commas and periods after the quotation marks, logical, surmising that the American version is more for aesthetics. He says,  “If you put a period or comma inside quotation marks, you are wrongly suggesting that the period or comma is part of the quoted material, and thus you have “changed” it.” Logical or not, it’s up for debate. Likely, whichever method you grew up with, is the most comfortable, or “right” way of doing it. 

What about your audience? Do you tailor your writing based on your readership? U.K. readers feel that The Guardian, their homegrown publication, should stick to British English. What about American journalists and authors? If you live and write in the U.S., can you get away with writing “grey” instead of “gray?” What about “there”, “their”, and “they’re”? Oh, I can’t stand looking at that! (You know where I stand on that issue.) 

One thing I will say, is I’m cheering for the British for omitting the apostrophe for dates (e.g., 1990s), which makes the most sense. It’s plural, not possessive. 

Because of the World Wide Web, these once distinct differences, are now melding together and clearly causing havoc. I think it pisses the Brits off more, whereas Americans seem lackadaisical about the whole thing, often interchanging them willy-nilly. My thought is that if you live and write in the U.S., stick with the American English rules, and vice versa. If anything, just pick one and use it consistently, and ideally, have a reason for your choice. I suspect that one day, there will be a meeting of the minds (whose minds is yet to be determined) and a definitive language style will result—a treaty will ensue. As for the style it’ll be written in . . . well, that’s another story.

What do you think? Keep both language styles separate? Or go to war?

The Effect of Andrew McCarthy on the Female Brain, by Guest Author Katherine Valdez

Oh, Andrew . . .
My guest author, the talented Katherine Valdez, had an opportunity to chat with actor/director/author Andrew McCarthy earlier this year. I had also met him at the same event, and I think Katherine perfectly captured the essence of what it means to have “brain melt.”

Andrew McCarthy 719

As teenaged girls, we swooned over him and Rob Lowe getting into trouble in “Class,” romancing Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink,” and falling in love with Kim Cattrall in “Mannequin.”

We feel like we know him. We refer to him by his first name. And when we see him in real life, part of our brain melts.

This is the effect of Andrew McCarthy on the female brain, a.k.a Brain Melt. I know it’s real, because it happened to me.

Earlier this year, I attended the Northern Colorado Writers conference, featuring actor/director-turned-bestselling-author Andrew McCarthy as the keynote speaker.

I joked a couple of times with NCW Director Kerrie Flanagan about picking him up at the airport, a challenging task she had selflessly decided to take on despite her hectic schedule. I volunteered to put my heart on the line, too. “If you need help, I’m available,” I emailed, punctuating my offer with a smiley face.

Still, when I attended the volunteer training – a dozen of us answered Kerrie’s request for help as “ambassadors” – I was surprised to see my name printed on the assignment sheet next to the task “Book Signing.”

Kerrie requested one more volunteer for that task, and my friend Dori added her name. We chatted calmly about Meeting a Famous Actor, and pretended the teenybopper part of our brains wasn’t screaming and jumping up and down.

The big day arrived. I spotted him walking through the hotel lobby. In a burst of confidence, I called out his name.

“Andrew!”

He stopped and smiled.

“Hi, I’m Katherine. I’m going to assist you with your book signing tonight.”

“Hi.”

“Your essay ‘Going Back In’ really spoke to me,” I said, referring to his first-person account of a young woman’s death years ago in Wyoming during an outdoors leadership backpacking trip. “I backpacked the Wind River Range once with my husband. I mean, my ex-husband. I’m divorced.” I realized I was babbling. “We saw a lot more people than we wanted to.”

“The Wind sees a lot of people. I’ve spent a lot of time in Lander going on trips,” he said, mentioning the town where backpackers launch their expeditions.

“We hiked in about 12 miles and there were crowds,” I said. “We even saw a Paris Hilton-type girl carrying her little dog.”

He smiled, as though he sympathized with our quest for solitude.

“We went up Fremont Peak and there was only one other person, so it was nice to get away for a while.”

He said something about the mountain, but I can’t remember, because I was too busy thinking I’M TALKING WITH ANDREW MCCARTHY!

“You know Fremont?” I asked him. “You’ve been up it?”

“Yeah.”

“The summit is so exposed, like ‘I don’t want to look down,’ ” I said with an embarrassed laugh.

Aware that I was starting to make a fool of myself, I said in closing, “I hope you have a chance to explore a bit before you leave town.”

He perked up. “What do you recommend?

“A good hike with a view of the whole city is hiking up to the “A” above the football stadium. You go all the way west on Prospect…” I pointed in the wrong direction.

“This way is west?” He pointed in the opposite direction.

“Yes, all the way west on Prospect and there’s a gate and you walk up a hill that leads to the trailhead, and you hike up the ridge to the white “A” painted on the hill above the stadium, and you get a view of the entire city.”

“How long does it take?”

“If you hike at a brisk pace, about a half-hour one way. So, go all the way east on Prospect…”

“East or West?” He smiled.

The painful realization struck me: I was suffering from Brain Melt.

“I’m sorry, West,” I said. I need to stop talking, NOW.

Andrew wore a slight smile on this face during our entire conversation, as though he knows the effect he has on women. No doubt he’s witnessed Brain Melt many times.

The irony is I hate the idea of being star-struck. When I see ordinary people screaming and falling all over themselves in the presence of a celebrity, I think, “C’mon, he’s Just a Normal Person.”

What the heck was I thinking? Of course he’s not Just a Normal Person. He’s a Movie Star. He traveled to India in search of the perfect cup of tea, went diving for black pearls in French Polynesia, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and published articles about these adventures and more. And, of course, he’s the author of a best-selling memoir, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down.

The best possible thing happened next. He turned away from my Advanced Brain Melt deteriorated state to talk with two female writers who waited patiently at his side.

I was so relieved. And just a tiny bit disappointed. But mostly grateful this episode of epic humiliation had come to an end.* Note to Self: Don’t ever talk to a famous person again. Ever.**

Later, Dori and I showed up at the book signing table, only to find that a vivacious redhead had appointed herself Andrew’s assistant, single-handedly corralled everyone into a line, and asked them to open their copies of Andrew’s memoir to the title page, ready for him to sign.

Dori and I swallowed our disappointment, and exchanged amused smiles. Brain Melt had claimed another victim.

—-

Katherine Valdez is the author of “Close Encounters with David Sedaris” and “Little Red Riding Hood Seeks Vengeance.” If you subscribe to her blog and like her author Facebook page, she would be glad to entertain you with more embarrassing, true stories.
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 Footnotes:

 *With a fist bump to Aisha Tyler, comedian and author of Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation

 **With apologies to Taylor Swift, “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together.”

 

Baby who? (And a book tour)

If you’re able to tear yourself away from The Royal Birth Coverage, I’d love to share with you the equally exciting news of Folsom’s 93 book tour thus far. Check it out HERE. You can see me chat on Good Day Sacramento and if you’re not sick of me by then, you can listen to a public radio interview as well.

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(A bundle of nerves before the interview)

The. Book. Is. Here.

Remember how excited I got when the UPS man dropped by back in April? Well, that was nothing compared to his visit today. Don’t you love the smell of fresh ink?

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Not only that . . . my publisher was at the Barnes & Noble in Fresno, CA and sent me this beautiful picture . . .

Folsom's 93 in the wild

Not bad for a Monday.

 

An Author and Her Book

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I got to borrow my friend’s review copy of my book for this picture. That’s right . . . I don’t even have my own copy yet. She had to pry it out of my hands. You too can get a copy and have a moment like this . . . at least I hope you do.

Check out more at Folsom’s 93.

First Published Essay . . . well, in a very long time

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So it’s been years since I queried magazine editors. I’ve always enjoyed writing personal essays in particular, and as a writer, there are things that happen in life that prompt me to say, “Oh, I need to write about this.” I’m such my father’s daughter. My late father’s essays are legendary, as were his letters to the editor. One of my favorites is a letter he wrote in 1991 to the traffic engineer of our city. This is just an excerpt of the two-page letter:

“Dear Sir,

Every morning at five-thirty I leave for work via West Mulberry near Overland Trail, and continue on Mulberry to nearly I-25. At the early hour the traffic signals are still on their “nightly mode.” It’s their modus operandi that has has finally driven me to make this written appeal for more humane treatment from your office. Traveling east on Mulberry, the first light is at Taft Hill Rd., and as I arrive at the crosswalk, the light immediately begins to change. It works beautifully . . . unless there is another motorist more than a quarter block behind me. He or she would hardly see any beauty in the way the light turns red in three or four seconds. This is one of those “you had to be there lights.” Now, that trailing motorist will have to wait for some specified “recycle” time before the light will change again.  .  .

. . . The next three signals, at Loomis, Howes and Mason, appear to be set on a timer, stopping vehicles on Mulberry at prescribed intervals. At this hour there is NEVER (99.9%) any cross-traffic at any of these intersections, prompting some motorists to actually consider committing a misdemeanor. Oh, yes! And, if one’s timing is particularly unfortunate, the result could be a rapid erosion of an otherwise cheery disposition.”

A couple of days later my father received a phone call from the chief traffic engineer who said, “I just wanted to let you know I got your letter and really enjoyed it!” Enjoyed it?! was my dad’s reaction. Enjoyed it?! The traffic lights remained on the same idiotic timing (and do so to this day). Maybe I have his same angst-y traffic genes, but I often find myself mentally composing a letter to the traffic engineers about the nonsensical and mind-numbing system our traffic lights seem to be on, as I sit at one of those idiotically-timed lights. See? I just got myself going . . .

So, I guess it came as no surprise to me that a car-related situation prompted me to immediately take notes for an essay. Last fall, I had a moment where I went environmentally militant on a complete stranger; a parent at my son’s school, to be exact. Her daily 45-minutes of idling in the school’s pickup lane could no longer go ignored. Her response surprised me. So anyway . . . long story short, if you feel so inclined, you can read about my experience at Whole Life Times. Don’t worry, it’s only a page. Scroll to page 42—the very last page called BackWords. This concludes my shameless self promotion. Thank you.