Archives for June 2011


Chickens at my local county fair

Chickens at my local county fair

I spent much of yesterday writing a short story for a competition. Not only is the competition FREE (and you know I like free), but the concept is exciting: craft a story in response to a photograph. Seeing how much I enjoy photography, the competition was right up my alley.

So, I thought I would challenge my readers similarly today! The assignment: think up a story in response to one of my photographs. Your story doesn’t really need to have anything to do with the photo itself, but it does have to be inspired by it.  I dare you to try.


That’s right, chickens. Aren’t they beautiful? (check out the eye of the chicken closest to the camera!)

Come up with a story yet?

If not, let me give you a tip, a process I used yesterday to discover my story for the competition. One way to approach the task is to write down some of the elements of the picture and do word associations. Let your mind roll along. Here’s my attempt with two elements:

Cage – captive, fugitive, freedom, 4th of July, fireworks, hot dogs…
Chicken – running despite cut-off-head, ruffled feathers, clucking, birds of a feather…, are you chicken?, cowardice…

Other observations: The head comb and the wattle (the fleshy growth under the beak – had to look that one up…) look a little like a mohawk and beard, respectively.

My story idea: On a dare, motorcycle gang member Carl Muffler – recently escaped from prison -enters the annual 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Brooklyn without knowing it will be televised nationally, finding fireworks and redemption as he saves Minna Minh, the ruling female hot dog eating champion, from choking on her twenty-ninth hot dog.

Take a wild guess what Carl Muffler looks like?

I know, it needs refinement…(the tag line AND the story)

What did you come up with?



envelopesSo, I sent out my two picture book manuscripts to several publishers on Friday. The picture shows the stack of submissions, minus several query letters I sent out earlier that day. 

Wow, was that intense or what? A lot more so than I anticipated. I would love to have an assistant (or an agent!) do this for me. Maybe one day?

Although I sent the manuscripts to several publishers, this stack is actually the result of a significant narrowing process. I’m so glad I used Writer’s Market and checked publisher websites for current submission guidelines – I would have hated to discover that some of the publishers I submitted to don’t even publish picture books, don’t accept unsolicited/unagented manuscripts, or have other guidelines that would automatically disqualify my submissions.

A few additional things I learned:

-If the publisher asks for a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), make sure to jot down the publisher’s name as the sender on the envelope (if you’re doing multiple submissions). I received one of my SASE’s in the mail, with nothing in it! (in fact, it wasn’t even sealed) I have no idea if one of the publishers sent it to me as a confirmation they had received my submission, or if a SASE slipped out of a burst-open submissions envelope. I sincerely hope it wasn’t the second, because then one of my submissions didn’t reach a publisher – and because I didn’t mark the SASE I don’t know which one!

-There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet (surprise, surprise!). One website said that sending more than one manuscript at a time to a publisher is fine, or even positive because it shows them you are not just interested in being a one-time-only author. Another website said to NEVER send more than one manuscript at a time. As it turns out, the second site is more reputable. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the second site until AFTER I had mailed all my manuscripts. Oops.

-Finding the name  of an editor to send your manuscript to is sometimes tricky, even if you’re armed with the Writer’s Market guide (especially if you have an older version because people come and go). I tried calling a few publishers to ask for specific names but the ones I called only had an automated messaging service. As a side note, the next time I send something out to book publishers, I will probably purchase the online version of Writer’s Market because it has the most current information available.

Anyway, I did it, and it’s done! Now I just have to wait! (and wait, and wait, and wait…)

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

dadLittle L wants to say something to the best dad in the whole wide world (interpreted by mom):

Happy Father’s Day!!!

Thank you for playing with me. I especially like that new game where we touch index fingers and you go “bzzzz.”

Thank you for letting me chew on the enormous cucumber slice at the restaurant we went to the other day.

Thank you for showing me the turkey and all those other funny animals at the county fair.

Thank you for taking me on my first train ride – I really was a silly sausage on the way back home, wasn’t I? (who can blame me though: it was way past my bedtime!)

Thank you for not getting mad at me when I grabbed a hold of my food (while you looked away for one millisecond) and spilled it all over the linen table cloth at that fancy restaurant we went to on Saturday to celebrate Father’s Day. In my defense, I thought orange would look good on white.

I will thank you one day for not letting me climb out of my high chair, fall down to the floor, and break my neck. And for digging various objects out of my mouth (dirt and wood chips look like food, ok?)

Most of all, thank you for loving me and my mom! We love you, too!
P.S. I’m sorry that the first thing I did on Father’s Day was to spit up on you. Oops.

What’s in a name?

As I’m sending off my manuscripts to publishers, I keep seeing and signing my name…And I wonder, is it a good one?

I have two friends in the vicinity with writerly intentions. One of them recently finished a novel, which her agent is now circulating in the publishing houses (so happy for you, L!) She has a great name for a writer; snappy, crisp, and an alliterating one at that! (L.L. – isn’t that perfection?)

Then, there’s my other friend, S.B, who is in the beginning process of writing, trying to carve out time and get going already! Her name is a great one, too. Not because of alliteration, but because it’s unusual, yet memorable. Plus, her last name is, frankly, deliciously gothic. Too bad she doesn’t seem interested in writing a vampire romance novel (or are you, SB?).

And then there’s me. Angelica Hagman. It has potential, I admit. The name Angelica means angelic, which carries certain allure. Hagman…hmm, a solid name, to be sure, but maybe not as…ethereal?

The question is, should I write under a pen name? 

And if so, what would that pen name be?

Archer Bowstaff?
Cornelia Camelot?
Frank Incense?
Reed Mee?
Wry T. Err?

The possibilities are endless… 

No rejections!?

It seems I have to rethink the acquisition of the “rejection file” I mentioned in my previous post. As it turns out, most publishers I’m submitting my stories to have stopped sending out rejection letters! Instead, they contact the author only if they are interested in the manuscript. 

I don’t know if I’m peeved or relieved at this information. For one, how am I supposed to make rejection letter art if I don’t receive any rejection letters? And although I can certainly count the number of publishers that chose not to respond to my submission, it just doesn’t have the same “oompf” as a papier mache tower of rejection-letter terror.


Other than the rejection letter surprise, I learned yesterday that submitting a manuscript takes incredible amounts of time. Researching publishers and their submission guidelines, writing cover letters, addressing envelopes…In addition, Not only do very few publishers accept email submissions, but many don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts, which means query letter writing. Long story short, yesterday I spent close to 16 hours (off and on so I didn’t totally neglect my poor baby) preparing my submissions. And I’m still not done. My number one issue right now is not being able to find specific editors to submit the manuscripts to. I’ll give that issue one more go today.

Oh, and I probably need to get an agent since many publishers only accept agented submissions. Double hrmpf.

But I’m not complaining, no I’m not! But I’m pretty sure I would if it weren’t for the fact that one of my manuscripts is about a chronic complainer!    

I’m finally going to take the plunge…

…into the deep, dark pool of book submitters! 

Although I’ve been tinkering on several novels for the past three years (that’s how long I’ve been writing with the intention of publishing one day), I haven’t gotten to the point of submitting any of them to publishers yet. Novels are much like monsters that need to be trained before you let them into society. (And yes, feel free to quote me on that one, haha). And that’s after they’re fully hatched and matured, which may take a loooong time.

Lately, however, I’ve been working on some board/picture books for young children. Writing this type of book certainly brings with it its own challenges, but – in my limited experience – there is one major advantage to the picture book format:

It’s SHORT. And therefore, for me at least, more manageable=less overwhelming (sense a theme in my posts yet??).

Unfortunately – and perhaps due to the reason above – board/picture book competition is fierce. Rejection is to be expected.

I. Don’t. Care. 

No, that’s not true, I do. A lot, actually. But I’m not going to let the fear of failing stop me this time, no I won’t. As soon as I’ve tightened two of the stories I’ve been working on (*cross your fingers for this week*), I’m going to send them off like birds send off their young from the nest. 

Let’s just hope my babies don’t all crash to the ground and break their necks. Not after I spend all that money on postage.

Remember, Angelica: one acceptance letter is all that’s needed!

While I wait for replies (which can take up to six months or more!!), I’m preparing a “rejection file” to comfortably house all the rejection slips that will be raining in by way of my mailbox. At least I’ll have something tangible to show for my blood, sweat, and tears, right?

Wish me luck and let’s hope I don’t drown in that murky submitter pool!

WriteOnCon – a writing conference with a nice price!

I stumbled on this gem of a writing resource (for Children’s/YA writers) just recently and I’m quite excited about it.

WriteOnCon, according to their website, is “an Online Children’s Writers Conference (rated MC-18, for Main Characters under 18 only) created by writers, for writers.”

The best part about this online conference? It’s free. That’s right, FREE (eeeeee)! Anyone who knows anything about writing conferences knows how expensive (as in “ouch” expensive) they can be. The conference is held August 16 – 18, 2011 – even if you’re a “casual” writer, you may want to look into this one!, aside from hosting the conference, every once in a while conducts live chats on the website with publishers, agents, and authors. Transcripts are even provided after each event. Extremely helpful and informative!

Thanks WriteOnCon! Free is a mighty nice price!

Spilling Ink

spillinginkWriting Handbooks: I generally don’t like reading them that much. Not because they’re not well-written or instructive – they usually are – but because of the way I feel when I read them (or, truthfully, even think about reading them). Despite this non-preference for writing guides, I generally pick up at least one when I’m at the library, often several. Then, after two renewals, I dutifully return them, largely unread or only hastily glanced through.

You see, I get overwhelmed. There is so much (SO much!) to consider when writing a short story or a novel: plot, description, setting, characterization, dialogue, point of view, pacing, outlining, tone, voice, audience, genre, beginnings, middles, ends, revision…and that’s just the beginning! Then there’s the other half of the writing life: query letters, agents, submissions, publishing…And as if that’s not enough, then you have to actually sit down and write, which is often a gargantuan struggle in itself.

See, overwhelming!

Enter “Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook,” by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. As suggested by the title, this handbook targets younger audiences – my guess is tweens and teenagers, perhaps even younger ages. However, I prefer to think of the term “young writer” in another sense – as a beginning writer (I started writing with a serious writing intention almost three years ago), I feel that this book is spot on! Just what I needed right now: something breezy, humorous, and encouraging that still delves into the basic elements of writing (although not so much the post-revision process, which is fine by me…).

Even if you’re someone with only a recreational interest in writing, Spilling Ink is a great way to learn more about the basic elements of creative writing.

Although I won’t go into the book in detail, I just have to dish out one quote as a teaser. This quote comes from the section on metaphors and similes (“Shape Shifters,” as the authors call them), and is part of a discussion on how to craft effective metaphors:

“You never know when a cat’s paw is a snow flake, when an old man is an unmatched sock, or when loneliness is a coral reef.” (p.149)

Oh, yeah.

Anne and Ellen: I hope to someday meet you in person, maybe at a writing conference or something – you both seem so delightful and funny!   Oh, and thank you so much for keeping my anxiety level at a minimum and for helping me feel less overwhelmed by the writing process!

Working 9 to 5

Ideas: oh how I love it when they come to me! (instead of me having to chase after themas if they were super speedy crawling babies…)

Except…well, imagine this:

It’s 2:04am. Baby wakes up. Go feed baby. Go back to bed. Await sleep. Baby doesn’t quite settle. Get up, help baby fall asleep. Slip back into bed, await sleep once more. And then…

*BAM!* Ideas attack me from all sides like killer birds, pecking, pecking, pecking.

Okay, it wasn’t that intense (or uncomfortable), but you get the picture. Here my mind is, reeling with ideas about my future writer website and blog posts, and I can’t stop the flow! Besides, it’s one of those nights – too hot with the cover, too cold without. Aargh!

Last time I checked the clock, it was 5:21am. Three hours of trying to fall back asleep, alternating between welcoming and batting away those pesky little idea birds.

I probably fell asleep around 5:30am or so. Naturally, baby awakes at 5:49am. Oh well…at least I had time to dream about a 4th of July celebration on the beach. Pretty sweet, right? I thought so too until I stepped too close to the water, got sucked down into the sharply downward-sloping sand (while holding baby, no less). Fortunately, however, after being slapped around by tornado-like waves the size of Texas, I realized I must be dreaming and pushed myself out of the dream. Then, I awoke from “being awake.” Is that how the movie Inception came to be, I wonder?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m grateful for every idea I can get my hands on. But, to those new ideas contemplating a visit – please consider arriving between 9 to 5 – from 9am to 5pm, that is, not from 9pm to 5am!!