Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: The Knife and the Butterfly

This book was recommended to me by my critique partner, as inspiration and comparison to my super secret work in progress.

Skewed to a younger reader, “The Knife and the Butterfly,” written by Ashley Hope Perez, is a story about a tough young boy named Azael in some sort of detention hold after a gang fight. He is ordered to watch a girl named Lexi sit in a room, sometimes talking to counselors, sometimes just sitting there. Throughout the book, he is trying to figure out why he is watching her, and where he is. People come and go, with adults being mostly mysterious, except for the dependable guy who brings the food and Lexi’s notebook.

Gritty, mysterious and surprising, this is a great story that can be sometimes hard to read. It ends in a way that made me want to read it again from the beginning. I can’t tell you why, because that would ruin it for you. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring is Here, Somewhere

It has rained nearly every day for a week. Not only is it rainy, but it is as cold as possible for April, with highs in the 40s. My dearest wish is to put away my winter coat, hat and mittens. That isn’t happening.

While it might not look like spring outside, it is going strong inside. Last fall, I was certified as a master gardener. They gave us seeds as a graduation present. I know enough that seeds don’t last forever (really, they don’t, I had some for 10 years or more because I never thought about that). So, I decided to plant the seeds I got as a present, dragging my reluctant family to the Garden Expo to buy some plats to accommodate all these seeds. The seedlings are coming along and turning into flowers. There were some bumps along the way with cats eating my sprouts, knocking over the plats, cold and gray days and no grow lights. I may not try this again without grow lights. They look fairly cheap to make, and I would recommend them to anyone trying to grow from seed. Marigolds are pretty easy, but aren’t exactly thriving with just a sometimes sunny window.

Yesterday, I was separating garlic cloves to make lunch and noticed green on one of the cloves. Since I am in this growing phase, I dug my decorative tulips that had expired out of their pot and planted the sprouting garlic clove. It has grown an inch, maybe two since I planted it yesterday. I think it grew half of that while I was writing this post. This store bought garlic clove is going nuts. I have never heard of anyone growing garlic in a pot, so I might be breaking ground here.

I haven’t seen a single tulip growing in its natural environment this year. The snow barely melted and April refuses to warm up. But I have some stuff growing inside. If I am stuck here for the next 10 days because of more rain and 40 degree weather, I may as well have some green to keep me company.

It’s spring in here! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Common advice tells us that confidence can make a difference in how people perceive you and contribute to success in all areas of our lives. Dress for success!

It is good advice. We should all take it, even the writers among us.

Confidence can be fleeting when your life is filled with rejection, published reviews and constant self doubt. I used to keep a file folder of rejection letters. At first, I kept all of them. In those days, queries were sent by snail mail with a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). Weeks or months later, I would find a 9x12 envelope in my mailbox with my handwriting on it. Usually it was a form letter rejection attached to my manuscript.

When the personal letters of rejection started coming, it could make my day. My husband would stand next to me, perplexed as to why I was so excited about getting rejected. You don’t understand, I said. He still doesn’t.

A high point of these rejections was one I received on a picture book submission. It was a personal rejection, in the form of a handwritten note scribbled on letterhead. Even more exciting, there were pencil marks all over the manuscript itself. Someone at this big 6 publishing house took the time to work on my manuscript. I was over the moon!

I stopped saving those rejections. Queries shifted to email, which don’t have the same signature impact as a personalized note penned by an editor. I am pretty sure I saved my acceptance letter from Solstice Publishing in my email box, which doesn’t have the same nostalgic feel as a file drawer of yellowing paper.

Writers face a lot of obstacles in our careers, and we are constantly seeking validation. It has to be one of the professions most mired in self doubt. This problem doesn’t end with publication. Then we worry if people will like the book, if it will sell enough, if the next book will be any good, or if that one will sell. 

Back in the day, I gained confidence when an editor gave my work thought enough to write a personalized note. These days, I gain my confidence from my readers. They are my most important critics now. For all those who shared reviews and ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere, thank you. It is fuel for the writer’s soul.