Too many “don’ts” and not enough “do-s”

Writing submissions and slush piles are about to drive me crazy.  I have written and crafted illustrations for a Bible storybook which I have entitled The Creation. Now I am trying to figure out which publisher(s) to submit it to.   I went to Books a Million and to Barnes and Nobles to see which Christian publishers were represented there and to locate books that were most similar to what I am writing or planning to write.  Then I went home and looked up what I thought were the best matches in my Children’s Writers and Illustrators Marketto learn the particulars on how to submit my manuscript.  Every publisher I had selected was either not included in the book or had statements saying they were not accepting unsolicited or un-agented manuscripts. 

I cried. 

I posted my frustrations on my writing groups’ forums. 

I’ve been advised to attend conferences so I can “pitch” my manuscripts directly to some publishers.  I’ve only attended one such conference, and at that conference we were told specifically not to try to pitch our manuscripts to the publishers present.  We were told that it was rude.  But the lady I shared my motel room with encouraged me to look for Christian conferences.   I can’t afford the conference in Florida that she recommended, but I plan to apply for a scholarship for one that is closer to where I live and hope I will be able to get off work to attend it.  That one isn’t until May. 

Another option that was suggested to me was to send my manuscript to The Writer’s Edge.  If it was good enough it would be pitched to the publishers.  I studied their web page and everything looked good.  I was willing to spend the money to get a foot in the door with these publishers, and was preparing my manuscript and filling out the form to send it in.  Then I did a search on one of my forums and found all the reasons why I shouldn’t waste my money on it.  I’m looking a little at another similar writers’ service, but they expect money up-front as well.  The writers on the forum said that they heard publishers say at the conferences that they seldom look at the pitches on the printouts they get from these places.  I almost cried except I was relieved I didn’t have to spend all that money.

So here I sit at ground zero with a manuscript that I think is absolutely wonderful and I’m wondering how I’m going to get an editor to even look at it.  I don’t have a string of published work to brag on though I’ve done a lot of writing.  I have written feature articles for newspapers and have self-published some family books.  I was published once in a take-home story paper through the United Methodist Publishing House, but that was several years ago. 

I worked at the UMPH a short time while everyone still used typewriters and from that experience I understand about the slush piles.  I have personally separated the junk from the usable material for one of the editors there.  I also know that if I had sent something that had the quality of the book I am submitting, it would have been considered seriously.   

I suspect that the use of computers to make writing and editing your work easier before printing it on paper has played a major part in the tremendous slush piles that have become a burden to the editors.  It was my interest in writing that led me to spend over $2,000 for one of the first IBM PCs thinking which I thought I would use forever.  That was the first of many computers I have owned, my next one was a fantastic step up with a  hard drive that held a whole 40MG–enough room for all my software and files!  Unfortunately there have been many distractions in my life coupled with bad advice (like don’t send your best manuscripts first), and I have failed to persist in submitting the manuscripts I have written.   I have always found the hardest part of writing is researching the publishers and keeping the submissions in the mail.

So here I sit, highly frustrated, wishing I could think of some way to get my manuscript on a few editors’ desks.  I have a 2008 Christian Writer’s Market on order which will be delivered in the middle of January.  It may give me some more ideas.  But my restless A.D.D. spirit wants to do something NOW.  Why do I keep learning what not to do without finding what I can do?

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Too many "don'ts" and not enough "do-s"

Writing submissions and slush piles are about to drive me crazy.  I have written and crafted illustrations for a Bible storybook which I have entitled The Creation. Now I am trying to figure out which publisher(s) to submit it to.   I went to Books a Million and to Barnes and Nobles to see which Christian publishers were represented there and to locate books that were most similar to what I am writing or planning to write.  Then I went home and looked up what I thought were the best matches in my Children’s Writers and Illustrators Marketto learn the particulars on how to submit my manuscript.  Every publisher I had selected was either not included in the book or had statements saying they were not accepting unsolicited or un-agented manuscripts. 

I cried. 

I posted my frustrations on my writing groups’ forums. 

I’ve been advised to attend conferences so I can “pitch” my manuscripts directly to some publishers.  I’ve only attended one such conference, and at that conference we were told specifically not to try to pitch our manuscripts to the publishers present.  We were told that it was rude.  But the lady I shared my motel room with encouraged me to look for Christian conferences.   I can’t afford the conference in Florida that she recommended, but I plan to apply for a scholarship for one that is closer to where I live and hope I will be able to get off work to attend it.  That one isn’t until May. 

Another option that was suggested to me was to send my manuscript to The Writer’s Edge.  If it was good enough it would be pitched to the publishers.  I studied their web page and everything looked good.  I was willing to spend the money to get a foot in the door with these publishers, and was preparing my manuscript and filling out the form to send it in.  Then I did a search on one of my forums and found all the reasons why I shouldn’t waste my money on it.  I’m looking a little at another similar writers’ service, but they expect money up-front as well.  The writers on the forum said that they heard publishers say at the conferences that they seldom look at the pitches on the printouts they get from these places.  I almost cried except I was relieved I didn’t have to spend all that money.

So here I sit at ground zero with a manuscript that I think is absolutely wonderful and I’m wondering how I’m going to get an editor to even look at it.  I don’t have a string of published work to brag on though I’ve done a lot of writing.  I have written feature articles for newspapers and have self-published some family books.  I was published once in a take-home story paper through the United Methodist Publishing House, but that was several years ago. 

I worked at the UMPH a short time while everyone still used typewriters and from that experience I understand about the slush piles.  I have personally separated the junk from the usable material for one of the editors there.  I also know that if I had sent something that had the quality of the book I am submitting, it would have been considered seriously.   

I suspect that the use of computers to make writing and editing your work easier before printing it on paper has played a major part in the tremendous slush piles that have become a burden to the editors.  It was my interest in writing that led me to spend over $2,000 for one of the first IBM PCs thinking which I thought I would use forever.  That was the first of many computers I have owned, my next one was a fantastic step up with a  hard drive that held a whole 40MG–enough room for all my software and files!  Unfortunately there have been many distractions in my life coupled with bad advice (like don’t send your best manuscripts first), and I have failed to persist in submitting the manuscripts I have written.   I have always found the hardest part of writing is researching the publishers and keeping the submissions in the mail.

So here I sit, highly frustrated, wishing I could think of some way to get my manuscript on a few editors’ desks.  I have a 2008 Christian Writer’s Market on order which will be delivered in the middle of January.  It may give me some more ideas.  But my restless A.D.D. spirit wants to do something NOW.  Why do I keep learning what not to do without finding what I can do?

How to Wash Dishes Once a Week

How to Wash Dishes Once a Week
(And Get Away With It!)
© 2002, 2004 by Janice Green
It’s All About Focus…
Part I: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week
Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.
I envy people who have spotless homes and can leave their curtains pulled back and their front doors open without shame. I’ve even taken a stab at getting it together with the help of one of the housekeeping experts, “Fly Lady” (www.flylady.com), on the Web.

But for me, I’ve decided it’s a matter of focusing on what is truly important. As a school librarian, I have a whole summer ahead of me, and I don’t want to spend it all trying to catch up on nine months of housekeeping neglect. I love projects. I love to knit and to sew. I enjoy writing and have wanted to get my writing published for years, but something always comes along to snatch my time away. This summer is going to be different!

Part 1: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week

Our children have left the nest so we are only washing dishes for two. If you still have children at home, you must consider a different strategy–the children take turns washing them during the week and you wash them on weekends. If the children are small, put your breakable dishes on a very high cabinet shelf and buy plastic dishes. You may need to involve your husband, especially if you have male children. He must help set the example by taking a turn once in a while. If he protests, remind him that no husband has ever been shot by his wife while washing the dishes!

If your kitchen is conspicuous to your living room or front door, move to another house or put up a three-panel screen to block the view!

Now keep in mind that the purpose in all of this procrastination is to help you focus on your “matter of great importance.” Watching TV or videos doesn’t count, neither does sitting at the computer in chat rooms. If that’s your goal, get off your derriere and wash your dishes–every day!

Plan ahead on meals and make it as easy as possible. Eat boiled eggs and yogurt for breakfast. The pan doesn’t need washing, just empty it out and put it up. Once a week prepare a large pot of goulash or stew. Then cover the leftovers, still in the pot, and put them in the fridge. The next day dip out what you need and heat it up in the microwave. Also keep plenty of hot dogs, pot pies, and TV dinners available to avoid making a big mess cooking. Eat lots of fruit and raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Bake potatoes on a napkin in the microwave. Napkins are great throw-away dishes! Eat out once or twice a week where you will have a good choice of vegetables to help compensate for irregularities in your diet.

A major problem in this plan can be one of running out of dishes before the week is up. Take an inventory to be sure you have a reasonable number of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware. If you don’t have at least service for 8-12, you may need to add to your supply. Keep in mind those dishes you use most and buy extras. You may also have to learn to settle for a plate instead of a bowl for goulash.

It is forgivable to make up a very small amount of dishwater in a bowl or large cup to dawdle out a few clean spoons or a few bowls or glasses. But remember, this is only for the purpose of enabling you to focus on your “matter of great importance.” No fair if you are only watching the soaps.

Managing the sink may become a problem as the dishes pile up. It helps to keep all the dirty dishes on one side of a double sink as much as possible so you can still wash your hands and fill a glass with water without bumping into other dishes. It also helps to make some attempt at keeping them stacked in an orderly way.

OK! So far, so good. You are approaching the end of the week. The second sink is beginning to accumulate dishes and there is probably a shortage of countertop space by the sink as well by now. You are ready for Part II.

Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.

Visually size up the mess. Don’t start stacking and re-arranging yet, it can be too overwhelming and you might just walk away and never come back. Before your husband divorces you over this, you must keep your cool.

Locate your largest container, preferably a dirty pan like your goulash pot that holds a gallon of liquid. That is the first thing you will wash. First rinse out any loose mess, and then fill it with hot dishwater. If you don’t have one such container among your dirty dishes, use a clean one. Balance it by setting it at the front of your double sink with the side farthest away from you supported by the divider. That should provide stable support. Then pick out the largest, most obnoxious pieces to wash next. These are the pieces that fill up your dish rack so fast it will make your head swim. Mixing bowls, plastic storage containers, yogurt cups you are saving for temporary flower pots, pans… These pieces are the ones that are always in your way, so don’t save them ’til last, get them washed, and out of your way. It’s amazing how quickly this will trim the rest of the job down to size. This is also a good time to pick out your silverware and wash it, though it can wait with the other dishes as well. Finish washing the big pan, dry it and put it away.

Now you have more wiggle space and you can begin to stack and get your sink ready for more serious dishwashing. Put everything in one side of the sink while you rinse out the other side eliminating the gunky stuff you don’t want in your dishwater. Then fill the empty side with dishwater and transfer your dishes into it beginning with silverware if you haven’t already washed it, then dinner plates, smaller plates and ending with glasses.

While these dishes are soaking, dry the odd dishes and pans in your dish rack. They should have had time to partially dry already, especially if you rinsed them in very hot water. The hotter your dishes get when you rinse them, the faster they dry. Always keep this in mind when you are in a hurry. Don’t dry yogurt cups and stuff like that–give them a shake and set them out on your table to finish drying, or better yet, throw them away–you really don’t need them anyway.

Wash your glasses next and put them steaming hot into the dish rack, bottoms up. As they begin to drip dry, wash the bowls. Then back to the glasses, dry only the outside of the glasses and the top rim and put them right side up in your cabinets. They can finish drying there as easily as in your dish rack and nothing wet is touching the cabinet. Next rinse your bowls in steamy hot water and space them out across your dish rack to maximize the air flow around them as you begin washing your plates. Put plates in the rack so they stand up straight–don’t lean them against one another or they will take much longer to dry. Hand dry only as much as necessary to get them into the rack.

Somewhere at this point in the process you may want to take a short break. Treat yourself to a bowl of strawberry shortcake or ice cream while you can still wash the bowl and spoon. That gives you a head start on next week’s dishes. (Then again, you could just eat out of the container and only have to wash the spoon.) But beware, if you are inclined to forget to return to the task at hand you may need to skip the break, or tie yourself to the faucet with a long string so you won’t forget to return.

If you still have silverware to wash, it should be next. Then catch any odd pieces you may still have overlooked the first time around. Wash the counter tops, the stove top, empty and rinse your sink, and then wipe it dry ’til it shines–for the “Fly Lady!”

The first time you try this, you may have to keep your mind on the method, but once you are practiced up at it you may be able to plan your next great project from beginning to end or think through an article to write about as you wash so many dishes. How do you think I thought this one up?

Keep in mind that the only way you will ever get away with this excuse for putting off washing dishes is that you are making time to do your “matter of great importance.” Religious people fast to find more time to focus on God. Think of this procrastination as a “fast” of a different sort that enables you to focus on something really great. Reach for the stars!!!

Fasting…, hmmm, now there’s a thought… Maybe we can get this down to washing dishes every other week!

A Backwards Party in a Hoghouse

From my Family Heritage Album 

© 2002 by Janice Green

Among my earliest memories of writing my own thoughts and ideas I find myself playing with secret codes when I was in about the second grade.  My older brother, Keith, had been using secret codes to share messages with Ronnie who lived up the road, and I thought it looked like fun.

The easiest code they were writing called for two sheets of paper and a piece of carbon paper.  The trick was getting the papers in the right position before starting to write–an original copy on top, a second sheet under that which would carry the encoded message, and beneath it all was a sheet of carbon paper with the carbon side up.  Then when you wrote the message correctly on the top sheet of paper, it would appear backwards on the backside of the second sheet of paper.  It was a great trick!

I discovered two problems with my newfound trick.  The first was figuring out whom to write a message to since my older brother preferred writing to the neighbor boy, and my younger brothers and sister couldn’t read yet.  Then the second problem was figuring out what to say in my secret message if I did figure out whom to send it to.  This was probably my first encounter with writer’s block.

That’s when the idea of writing an invitation to a party came to me.  Since the writing was all backwards, it seemed perfect for an invitation to a backwards party.  There had been a backwards Sunday School party at church recently where everyone dressed with their clothes on backwards or wrong side out, and with their shoes on the wrong feet.  My family had recently moved to the farm in Rochester, Indiana, that had been in my father’s family for generations.  There was also a new family who had moved into the farmhouse across the road and they had four young children.  We could invite them to join us for a backwards party in our clubhouse.  With Mama’s permission, I wrote the invitation, in code of course, and took it to Mrs. Ogle across the road.  She didn’t understand it, so I showed her how to hold it up to a mirror to read it.  And what joy!  She said they would come to my party!

When the day arrived for the party, the girls, Carol, Doris, and Sandy came in dresses, though I don’t recall what her son, Donnie, wore.  They didn’t wear anything wrong side out or backwards.  I panicked!  I guess in all the excitement I had forgotten to explain to her about the clubhouse. Our clubhouse was nothing more than the old 5 by 7 foot abandoned hog-house behind the barn.  To fix it up for the party we had brushed out the spider webs and used some crepe paper to attempt to make it more festive.  I had also planned an activity or two to play in it.  But I would NEVER wear one of my dresses to play in the clubhouse!  We even had to climb in through the door in the roof!

If it bothered Mrs. Ogle, she never let on.  She let the children take their clothes off and put them back on wrong side out and backwards.  And the party began!  I was quite proud to have pulled off the party, but I also learned something about the importance of including all the important details in an invitation that day.

Writing your family history

I wish I knew what my grandparents were like since all but one died before I was three years old.  What were my great grandparents like? Or my great, great grandfather who I’ve learned was a pastor who rode a horse from one church to another in his circuit?  It is one thing to learn the names of my ancestors, but to me this has little meaning without some indication of their personalities.  I wish I could enjoy a long conversation with them.  Where did they live?  When did they get electricity?  How did they provide clothing for their families? 

For my father’s 90th birthday I made an attempt to put together pictures and information to tell his life story, and I put it into web page form to share with guests at his birthday celebration.  He helped me to write and edit some of his memories as I picked his brain for anything and everything he could tell me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the project; however, it was a temporary disappointment. Daddy’s health was deteriorating to the point that we decided to spread out the birthday celebration over three days with a series of drop-ins so he wouldn’t become too overwhelmed with so many people all at one time.  This plan gave him more time to enjoy all of his guests.  But as it turned out, there was no appropriate time to present the web page, and few guests took the time to sit at my computer and read what was written there.

I transferred the web page onto my father’s computer before I left Murfreesboro to return to my home in South Carolina.  The more I thought about it I realized that the web page was not a good solution for my father as he was no longer able to sit at his computer and navigate through the web page to read what was there.  Around Thanksgiving following my father’s June birthday celebration I began considering the possibility of putting the same files and pictures into a book he could hold while sitting in his recliner, so I began making Google searches for ways to self-publish a book.  It wasn’t long before I discovered Lulu.com, an online book printing (print-on-demand or POD) website, and I realized that I could pull it off in a very short time.  Since I was planning another trip home for Christmas, I hurriedly began the cut and paste process of transferring my web page text and picture files into a Word document that could be uploaded to Lulu.  Within two weeks I had created a file for the first draft of Dad’s book.  I hurriedly uploaded it to Lulu and put in my order for one copy to be delivered to my parents’ home in Murfreesboro before packing my clothes and driving to Tennessee.

Before I left South Carolina I learned that Dad was in the hospital, and  while I was driving through Atlanta I got a call on my cell phone that Dad was taking a turn for the worse and I should drive straight to the hospital as fast as possible.  Dad pulled through that crisis and after my second day in Murfreesboro, I was able to present him with the professional looking first draft of his book which had come in the mail.  Nothing could have made him more proud.  He showed it to every person–visitor or hospital staff–who came into his room explaining that it was a book about himself.  He read the entire book carefully and gave me more information that I added to the finished edition later.  Having taught high school English, he was also a fantastic proofreader. 

Dad never saw the final draft of his book, but he died feeling very important and appreciated.  I believe he lived an extra two weeks on the energy he gained from reading and showing the book to his guests.  Dad died in mid-January.

I share this story because I want to encourage others to write about their ancestors.  There are too many wonderful stories that die every time a person dies, even more so, the oldest among us.  Their lives have gone through so many changes as the world has gone from pre-electricity to laptops, cell phones, I-pods and MP3 players to name only a few recent advancements.  They have lived through the days of horse-drawn carriages and have seen astronauts walk on the moon and repair satellites in space.  Few children born in the last 20 years will ever know what it is like to create their own fun without TV or the latest computer games.  Those who are willing to do so can have a part in preserving the heritage that their children and grandchildren will wonder about when they are older.

Learn about your ancestors while your grandparents, aunts and uncles are still around to tell you about them.  Make a list of things to ask and write a little at a time.  Some items in your list might include:

  • Ancestry/genealogy
  • Home place(s) 
  • Childhood toys, activities, and playmates
  • Childhood chores
  • Clothing
  • School stories
  • Courtship
  • College
  • Jobs/career path
  • Transportation
  • Electricity, lighting, TV…
  • Travel

Use a recorder and take notes.  Write down the events and arrange them to suit your fancy.  Make scans of pictures and include them in your writings.  If you don’t feel like publishing the stories in a book, put them into a ring-binder notebook and continue adding to your collection of stories.  Save your computer files for sharing with family members or for making a book at some date in the future.  I will be sharing some of my memories from my own “Family Heritage Album” in the future as part of my blog.

Christmas Eve musings

It’s Christmas Eve.  I hear a lot of firecrackers from every direction in our neighborhood.  I lament that most of the Christmas decorations in people’s front lawns have little or nothing to do with the baby Jesus. 

I have truly enjoyed participating in various activities leading up to Christmas–decorating the church, practicing for the choir Christmas program, I even helped make my own opportunity to go Christmas caroling this year, something that is almost a thing of the past.  This evening we had our annual Christmas Eve Communion Service that was especially nice.

But inside I am wrestling with so many things.  I am envious of those who are able to keep a nice house and decorate it for Christmas.  This gift has elluded me as I spend so much of my free-time in front of my computer trying to make things happen.  I seem to stay head-over-heals in one project or another.  I finished knitting my black sweater Saturday night so I could wear it on Sunday.  I have a picture book manuscript and illustrations ready to send out to a publisher, but have found myself turned upside down when it comes to submitting it.  I did my homework and went to the bookstores to see which publishers come closest to making a good fit for my book.  But when I searched for each publisher online I came to the same dead end… They are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Or they will only consider agented authors.  I’ve only contacted one agent so far, but he says he will not work with picture books because they are not lucrative.  He left me with the impression that no agents want to work with picture books.  My book is very good and it is part of a larger project that includes a very unique marketing plan.  I have been working on this project for a year and a half.  It is not half-baked.  I believe God gave me this vision for a reason, I just don’t understand all the dead ends.  I’ve had to be careful not to lean over my keyboard so I wouldn’t drip tears into it.  This has been a very blue day.

As I knelt at the kneeling rail for communion I saw the reflection of my face in the cross on the altar.  I believe God was reminding me that he cares for me and he hasn’t abandoned me.  I must continue to trust in him and remember that he is in control.  “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to his purpose.”  I’m asking for prayers of any who read this post.

I think I’ll dig out a few Christmas decorations and put them up in my house.  After all, Christmas is tomorrow.