Thursday, June 26, 2008

Launch Parties

The topic of the week on my writers' loop this week was launch parties. Who would you invite and what would you do? I hadn't thought about it before, but once I did, I surely had fun. Tangled Strands will make wonderful launch parties! Below is what I wrote up for the Loop.

My story, Tangled Strands, is set in the late '50s, so it will be huge fun to plan a launch party. I'll be able to dig out my beautiful black-and-red-hibiscus circle skirt (yes, I still have it!), though my granddaughter will have to wear it, not me. If I can't find anyone else with circle skirts, I could make a couple. Anybody have one of those with a poodle? Of course we'll have to have some in those amazing crinolines we used to wear--and saddle shoes.

We'll have wonderful music like "Love Me Tender," "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," and "Moments to Remember," and of course we'll have to have hula hoops (again I'll defer to the grandchildren). Depending on the crowd, maybe we'll have some sing-along time with the music. I know the seniors at our church here could pull it off with class.

A theme of my story is watching God straighten things out after we've messed up, or tangled, the strands of our lives. Crocheting as an analogy is threaded through it (unintended pun, but it works for me). So at the launch party I'll have drawings for bud-vase doilies I've crocheted (I haven't decided on a pattern yet) and a grand prize of a larger one.

Who will I invite? Now that is a challenge because, as a missionary for many years, I have good friends scattered from Florida to Washington state, from the panhandle of Texas to the Hudson Valley. Even our children are in three states many hours apart. So I may need to do this launch party on a small scale in a number of places. I'll have to have lots of postcards for invitations, and I imagine a doily will be a motif on them.

I'm excited about the possibilities. Anyone ready to sign up for one?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Editors, Agents, and Conference

Registration opened last week for the ACFW writers’ conference in Minneapolis in September. It took a little scrambling for me to make final decisions on which editors and agents to request to see, but I took my courage in hand and got registered before the first day was over.

Even before registration opened, the conference buzz had begun on the forums. Pre-conference weight-loss challenge? Hone your tag line? (A tag line is a 20-words-or-less teaser for what your book is about.) Discussions of conference clothes? Searches for roommates, discussions of airline tickets—-everyone is getting into the mix.

With the registration fee, one gets a fifteen-minute appointment with one editor (from a major publishing house) and one agent (remember that agents are almost essential these days since publishers no longer accept unsolicited materials). On the registration form, you get to list four of each, putting your four in order of your choices (first, second, etc.). Between now and September, a scheduler works it all out.

I did my homework by reading the online descriptions given with each editor and agent. Those descriptions gave an idea of what a publishing house is looking for or what genre of fiction an agent represents. I say I did my homework, but that didn’t guarantee anything. Only God knows whom I should talk to, so when it came right down to it, I had to use my best judgment for my choices and then leave it in His capable hands.

The good news is that those fifteen-minute conferences aren’t the only times one can speak to a faculty member. Each dining table carries the name of an editor or agent, so we get to mix with them at meals, asking questions and learning from answers given to others. I’m told the faculty often go around the table asking each writer for a nutshell about his or her book. That’s one of those times when we have to be ready to pull out those one-sentence taglines--and then see where the conversation goes from there. I’m told we’re free to talk to editors and agents most any time during the conference—except we’re not to follow them in the restrooms to sneak a little one-on-one time. Horrors! I hope not.

Curious about my tagline? This is only one version of it, but it is one I hope will stir curiosity. “She tossed his love aside for a ride on a whirlwind—-until her iridescent bubble burst in the wind.” Now if I can just become comfortable enough with those first words to be able to launch into them on a moment’s notice. Hopefully by September . . . .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tangling the Threads

I have been crocheting since I was a child. For many years it was with yarn and a fat hook. Then it was with big balls of thread bought at Wal-Mart. Now I do it with finer thread from spools my sister buys in South America, using a hook whose point is as fine or finer than the lead on a pencil.

In recent months as I’ve stared at my hook sliding into a space between threads, grabbing a strand of thread and pulling it back through, I’ve not been able to escape the impression that what I was simply “tangling” the thread. Oh, I was tangling it in a very organized manner, but nevertheless I was mixing those threads in a way that one could consider to be “tangling.”

Sometimes I tangle them in a wrong way. When I do that, I end up pulling the strands of thread out, sometimes several rows. I fix the mistake and start “building” all over again. When that happens, it isn’t fun, but if I want a satisfactory result, or end product, it is necessary. Of course if I would follow the pattern more carefully in the first place, I could avoid having to pull things out and having to start over.

I imagine by now you have an idea where I am going with this. Tangled threads? Tangled strands? There had to be an analogy in there somewhere. As I lay awake in the wee hours of one morning recently, the analogy sorted its way through the fog.

As we humans live our lives, we are the ones doing the “crocheting.” If we follow the patterns set by our Creator in the Book He has given us, we can produce, or build, a life that is beautiful and useful. Being human, however, we often mess up. When we do, we need to back track, maybe undo, unravel, and start afresh.

That’s what happens to the main character in my Tangled Strands story. As my “tagline” puts it, “She tossed his love aside for a ride on a whirlwind—until her iridescent bubble burst in the storm.” What happens when she comes back, how she has to unravel, undo, and “rebuild,” makes up the bulk of the story.

I’m confident the story line and the crochet analogy will work well together. All I have to do is find effective ways to make that happen. I’m working on it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Retreat in the Smoky Mountains

The first week of June this year was one I will never forget. Our family gathered at a pine lodge in the Smokies as an advance celebration of my husband’s and my 50th anniversary a couple of months from now. We were eight adults, six kids, and three dogs in five roomy bedrooms. The two on either side of the game room downstairs each had two queen-size bunk beds, if you can picture that.

The setting was magnificent. To get to the lodge, we drove up and up and up a steep, curvy road till we were close to the top of one of the foothills of the national park. The view from the decks included nearby forest and in the distance ridge after ridge in fading hues of smoky blue,. The Big Dipper was directly overhead, and the stars were brighter than in the cities where we live. Quiet times with God in the mornings were especially treasured.

We hiked a couple of days and hit the nearby towns a couple other days for shopping and savoring the Smoky-Mountains atmosphere. We had six laptops among us, so we were able to keep tabs on our e-mail; for several of us it was work related. The kids and dads played hours of laser tag.

Three evenings after supper, the rest of the group indulged me in requested time to focus on some family history. The first evening I produced our wedding invitation, reception napkins, laminated newspaper stories of the wedding, the orchid from the center of my bouquet, and of course pictures. Most, including the professional ones, were black and white, but Grandpa Gross had a wonderful new innovation called colored film, and all the pictures he took have now come to us. One evening the two youngest put on a “party” that got all of us down into the game room trying out the various game equipment. Another evening we played a version of the old Newlywed Game. We who had fifty years’ to remember … lost. Oh, well.

So did I get any writing done during those six days? Are you kidding? Did I do any thinking about Tangled Strands? You’d better believe it. Have I had a chance since then to add action to my thoughts? Don’t I wish . But I’m looking forward to it, and it will come.