Archive for April, 2008

There are four — and only four — general measures of output. These four are Quality, Quantity, Cost, and Timeliness. Notice that the last measure is “timeliness,” not “time.” That’s because in measuring output, it’s more useful to focus on timeliness — adherence to schedule, meeting deadlines — than it is to think about clock and calendar time. Dick Grote

 I try to apply aphorisms that catch my eye to the way I’m approaching writing at that very moment.

Of the four measures of output, I think I do pretty well on quality, okay on quantity, not so great on cost (I love my gadgets and books) and timeliness?

Timeliness is definitely a bugaboo.

I constantly /feel/ behind. There’s a plethora of cool books that have come out or will come out soon by FilAms and about FilAm history. It’s a great thing, quite the change from 10 years ago when I was lucky to stumble on anyone at a bookstore, even Carlos Bulosan or Peter Bacho. If I’m very smart or very lucky, I might get a picture book out in the mainstream before the turn of the next decade. I have to fight to stop berating myself for not taking risks sooner, for not following this path more vigorously when I first thought about applying to VC back in the late ’90s.

But letting that go and turning it around is more productive – there’s books out there that will support my books. Our nearly invisible face is coming around and being seen. The FilAm literary community is gaining strength and recognition, and folks are starting to see that FilAm lit has been around for quite a few decades and will continue to grow and expand under that momentum.

Getting back to the personal – meeting deadlines, adhearing to a schedule, creating and meeting attainable goals, and most importantly /tracking/ those milestones – all these things about timeliness will be something I will be bringing into my practice, right along with refining quality and quantity, and monitoring costs carefully. 

I wonder if there’s software out there for this sort of thing… ?


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Headed out this weekend to attend SCBWI Western Washington Conference…which I see is sold out. Whoa. I’m glad I got my reg. in a few weeks back.

I want to pitch a couple of picture books, but I registered late and didn’t get any pitch appointments with agents/eds. I feel like I need to bring /something/ though, so I’ll bring copies of the manuscripts at least. I’m also trying to remember how to do a cold pitch letter. I learned about cold pitches the last time I was at a SCBWI conference… ten years ago in Honolulu… So to the Intertubes I go tonight.

Came across  this terrific article on Query Letters by Nathan Bransford of the Curtis-Brown Agency. It’s got the skinny on the hook-line-and-sinker of how to capture an agent’s attention with a simple 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. If nothing else, I have a template to use when I send queries out after the conference. 

I know publication isn’t the focus for the MFA program at VC, but it’s something I have/want to keep my feelers into while I’m in the program. It’s a way to understand the audience you’re approaching, I think. I don’t want to become market driven, but knowing what’s out there, what’s worked, and what’s being looked for will help me develop ideas more carefully, I think. 

I’ve been updating my Goodreads Blog complete with a few annotations. So many books to read before the residency starts. Just counting the faculty books at one each is 17 books and in many cases of authors that are doing work I’m interesting in producing, I’m hoping to read at least two books, maybe three.  In the meantime, I’ve been tagged by Dawn, one of my future classmates with the following meme:

  • Grab your WIP (work-in-progress)
  • Find page 30 of the MS or page 3 for PBs
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the next three sentences.
  • Tag five people 
  • So, from my WIP which I may/may not work on during VC: She eyed the other two again. “Well, I got corn fritters cooling on the table and hot coffee if you don’t mind the burn.” She stepped out of the house and started shooing them in as if they were chickens. “No need to be hanging on my doorstop like a bunch of vagabonds,” she muttered, then shut the door behind them once they’d all crossed the threshold.

    Betty is such a cool character.

    Alrighty – I don’t have five fiction folks linked to this blog yet, so if you’re here, consider yourself tagged.

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    Here be a list of authors I’d like to study and emulate. This will be an ongoing list, updated periodically.

    Lawrence Yep

    Eve Bunting

    Jane Yolen

    Charles DeLint

    Neil Gaiman

    Harold and the Purple Crayon series

    Moonbear series

    Christopher Paul Curtis

    Tony Robles

    Growing Up Filipino I and II

    Kate DeCamillo

    Paul Gobel

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    Packing List

    Been spending the last few days reading the listserve forum for the VC program. Pretty overwhelming at first reading everyone’s posts and trying to figure out what I need to do next. 

    First, of course, is getting my manuscript done, which I think will require a bit more thought than I had originally planned… I’m going to take a few risks, I think, and hopefully not fall flat on the first residency out. But the pieces I have finished really are as finished as I think they need to be before sending out queries, so that means drafting new work and that’s a good thing. 

    Second ought to be getting my plane tickets and housing arranged, but I haven’t gotten any details on financial aid disbursements yet, and I want to be sure about that before committing my credit card to anything unrefundable. 

    So instead, here’s the start of a list of things I know I’ll need to bring (besides the obvious stuff):

    Mosquito repellant (because they love me)
    Flip Flops
    Manuscripts to read for open mic’s
    One good FilAm history book
    Laundry Soap
    Money for Ben and Jerrys (yay!)
    Flash Drive(s)
    Cel phone charger
    Gal bags for ice packs
    Quarters (thanks Dawn!)
    Sunscreen (added 4/24)
    Hat with wide brim (added 4/24)
    Small umbrella (added 4/24)
    Walking shoes (added 6/23)
    Flashlight & Batteries (added 6/23)
    Watch (added 6/23)
    Alarm clock (added 6/23)
    Dramamine/Sea-bands (added 6/23)
    Tylenol/Claritin/Rx (added 6/23)
    Small First Aid kit (added 6/23)
    Laundry bag (added 6/23)

    (check out Travel and Packing Hints, One Bag, and Rick Steves)

    That’s the list so far. Digging into details today has helped me with the nervousness. 

    Action disperses fear. Another good aphorism. 


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    Weekend busy-ness turned to workweek busy-ness spiced with disappointment and more risk-taking. 

    I had to shift my sights to adjust to part of the MFA plan not coming together as I had hoped while still making sure the goal stayed in sight. Back to that not-giving-up, thing. It’s been slow going, getting my feet back under me, but tonight I signed up for the MFA listserve and continued to compile a list of books I’d like to buy and read before the residency.

    I’m planning on attending the regional SCBWI conference at the end of the month, so I’m saving my pennies until then since I know I’ll want to buy up the entire exhibit floor once I arrive. The downside to the timing though is that I’ll be missing one of the two school theater performances that likely one or both of my daughters will be performing in. 

    So starts the next stage in the delicate balance between being a mom and being a writer. The residency this summer also crosses over their theater camp, although from this side of the calendar, it looks like I’ll be home in time for a few of the weekend performances. 

    I broke the news of my return to school to my boss and coworkers today. In general everyone was really supportive – okay on coworker looked at me like I was nuts, but she’s recently graduated from her MA program and knows how demanding school can be. The whole working full time, two kids, full time school thing sort of boggles her mind.

    Boggles mine too. 

    So why an MFA and why now?

    I know what writing classes do to boost both my writing and my skills – I need that crucible to develop new material and get into that space of acting like a writer. As for why now, why not? 

    It’s not convenient, but when is life really convenient? I’ve known folk who tried to plan their lives out to fit perfectly, convenient, paced lives… and either threw in the towel in frustration or realized that they’d missed out on a great many things in the meanwhile. 

    Would I rather have waited until I won the lottery or rather have started sooner (say two decades maybe)? Sure, who wouldn’t? 

    But here’s what I’ve got – a marriage, two kids, a mortgage, a full time job, and an unending desire to be a better writer. 

    So the better question has emerged: How can we make this happen now? 

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    Came home late tonight after working all day, taking the family out for dinner and catching the First Friday Concert by Swil Kanim.

    Swil is a musician, storyteller, and philosopher who’s name is Richard Marshall but who /is/ Swil Kanim – Works for the People. 

    I’ve seen Swil perform off an on for years, ever since seeing him in the Business of Fancydancing and finding out he played not only locally, but monthly at a local coffeeshop. He plays for free and liberates his CDs for free, and folks donate what they can, when they can to help he and his wife keep being who they are – artists and ardent supporters of human beings. 

    I always learn something from Swil, even if the set pieces are the similar. I learn about how to be a better artist, be a more excellent person, live with failure, and live with passion. Tonight, I learned about the importance of collaboration between artists, how we need to encourage each other to honor our gifts, support each other, give each other a safe place to be the artists we are. I also offered my own gift to him, offered my experience as a writer to get one of his stories made into a children’s picture book. It might be in the works already, but it was important for me to connect and offer what I had after he had given so much of who he was to me and to others. 

    That’s the medicine of Swil Kanim, the ability to create connections, heart to heart and keep that going, performance after performance. To witness to gift giving and gift receiving, and call our attention to it so we can all be grateful together. 

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    Sent notes off to the other program I’ve decided not to attend even after acceptance the other day, as well as a note to the VC faculty for non-fiction I was in contact with earlier this year, Sue Silverman. She’s very kind and encouraging and I’m hopeful we can keep in contact even though I’m not in the non-fiction track right now. Her memoir Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You carries themes I hope to have the courage to write about one day. I’m still uncertain, but also hopeful I can find away to express my experiences eloquently and honestly also.


    I’m getting a bit backlogged on projects again. It happens when my schedule gets a bit wonky. Been doing the parenting thing mostly while DH has been down with the flu. I keep trying to write a list of everything that needs to be done, but I only get half way, lose the list, start over, get half way, find the first list, lose the second list… onward and repeat. All the while gathering new information that needs to be culled and processed. 


    Glad tomorrow is Friday, then, so I can hopefully get a bit of rest and organizing time this weekend. 


    I think I’ll jot my lists down here. Perhaps I’ll be less likely to lose them part way through!


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