2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


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Revising, revising, revising and the Writing Geek returns


So Wordamour has been quiet the last several months, aside from occasional cross postings when I put up a Huffington Post Geeks Guide to the Writing Life essay (like I did today–if you’re interested in the story of my creative writing Ph.D. or considering one yourself).  That’s because I’ve been busy, busy, among several other projects (including directing the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop), adding 23,000 words to my novel, The Lost Son, under the advice of my agent.

Yes.  My agent.  I still say that with more than a touch of awe.  In fact, every time I email her and she replies, I think “Amazing.  She really does exist.  She really does.” (Writer friends with agents, did you go through this?  Does it ever go away? I kind of hope it doesn’t.).

Anyway, all of you Nanowrimo veterans (of which the novel is an alumnus) are probably thinking: “23,000 words? That’s nothing.  I can crank out 23,000 words in a long weekend.”  But this was a different type of writing, very focused on certain aspects of the novel and it took me 3 months. Well, really two months and a month of revising the new scenes and making sure they fit seamlessly with the old ones.  It was pretty intense and I was pretty exhausted by the end.  It would not be an understatment to say, however, that I loved every minute of it because I never forgot the reason why I was doing it.

Anyway, what’s interesting about revision is how it’s never finished.  For example, I read the entire novel aloud when I was doing line by line edits before I submitted to agents last summer.  It’s always the last thing I do to make sure I’ve caught everything and to make sure the lines sound the way I want them to.  It takes forever, though, at least a week of listening to the sound of my voice.  So this time I thought, “Well, since I’ve already done it once, maybe I can just read aloud the new scenes and go from there.”  I considered it but in the end, decided to start from the beginning and see what happened.

What happened was:  I caught about a dozen important typos in the first thirty pages (see the photo above with the sticky-flags; every flag represents an edit).  Mind you, this was already after the novel had been revised so many times I’d lost count AND read aloud once before.  In fact, the photo above shows the manuscript with all the edits I had uncovered after the final read aloud.

And those  are just my edits.  My agent’s response to the revision was enthusiastic  (yippee!) but she had some more suggestions.  Nothing serious but at least a few weeks worth of work, which I’m deep into right now, and STILL finding the occasional typo (although fortunately it’s become pretty rare).

So revision.  Never ending, but that is, I think, how it should be.   What writing is all about, really.

Bye for now, y’all


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A Literary Wedding

There’s a new Geeks Guide to the Writing Life Post up here at the Huffington Post.  But more importantly, former student, Brianne Spicer and her soul mate, Martin a.k.a. “Bear” Sharum got married today and my husband and I were lucky enough to be at their “literary themed” wedding.

One of the perks of teaching is that we sometimes get invited to our student’s weddings and let me tell you, it’s quite an honor, right up there with watching them graduate.  A couple of years ago we had two weddings in one day, fortunately timed so we could go from one to the other.  “How is this going to work?” we wondered.  It’s going to be crazy. But we’ll give it a try.

You know what?  Getting to watch two couples, two gifted students, begin their lives together, in one day was pretty darned awesome.  At the end of the day I realized: this opportunity may never come again and I was truly lucky I got to experience it.

Fortunately we still get invited to “one wedding at a time” events and those are darned awesome too.  I never get tired of being invited and we do our best to make every one we can.

A toast to you, Bri and Martin and a lifetime of happiness!

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September 11, Not Writing, and Revising

In honor of the anniversary, the Writing Geek has a post up on HP about not writing.

Eleven years ago this Tuesday.  And a Tuesday it was, a gorgeous Tuesday morning in Arkansas.  It’s hard to believe it’s only been 11 years–so much has happened.  And yet in those early days, weeks, months, it felt as if that dark time would last forever.  That it hasn’t is something to be thankful for, I suppose.  Toward the end of that month, I remember NPR playing this song and it had a whole new meaning.

In revision news, there have been some major breakthroughs, including a new motif that centers on a certain baroque napkin ring.  I just finished On Hitler’s Mountain: The Legacy of a Nazi Childhood which was absorbing and beautifully written and filled in some gaps  and I’m about to begin “I Must Be A Part of this War: A German American’s Fight against Hitler and Nazism.”  Yesterday, I liked “Quick German Recipes” on Facebook.

Those are your clues.  I’ll keep you posted.

Bye y’all,


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As promised. . .

Why I love editors, here.

The rain from Hurricane Isaac is proving highly conducive to revising.

Bye for now, y’all,


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What I did this summer. . .

Amazingly, I signed with an agent.  Anne Bohner, at Pen and Ink Literary.

The summer started off well enough.  I spent most of May, while my kids were in school and I was not, writing, with my faithful dog, Mario, at my side, finishing my book The Geeks Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for the Rest of Us (inspired by my HuffPo blogging) and sending out queries for my novel The Lost Son.

Then came June. I lost a lot of sleep in June and might as well have booked a ticket on the Mars Curiosity because that was where it felt like I woke up one day–it was a surreal and heartbreaking time for reasons I really can’t go into except to again reassure readers that, fortunately, my family is not involved. I somehow taught a class.  I managed to get about 30 queries out before we went on vacation in mid-July.  I got 3 requests for full manuscripts during this time, all of which were ultimately turned down, and after reading somewhere that the average writer gets ten requests for a full before she lands an agent and doing the math, figured at least another 60 queries were in my future when I got back from vacation.

Then, while I was away, I got another request for a full.  I happily sent it off and promptly put it in the back of my mind while I spent time with family and friends vacating in Nantucket,  Maryland and Upstate New York and getting my daily gossip fix as l’affaire d’Oxford American unfurled back home (Thank God for WiFi).

Then, when I got back I got an email from said agent wanting to set up a time to talk.  Um.  What?    The “talk” was set for two days hence–which gave me forty-eight hours to speculate and wonder and daydream.  Ultimately, though, I ended up steeling myself that this would be one of those “I “might” be interested in this if you do x number of revisions” conversation.   After all, an agent interested in my husband’s novel last year had put him through 3 rounds of intense revision and a long waiting period, only to decline representing him because his partner in the agency suddenly died, prompting him to decide he was too old to take on any new clients (he’s in his eighties and actually has a pretty illustrious  list).

Needless to say, I did a lot of googling before the phone call, sussing out the probable age of the person who’d be on the other end.  Conclusion: younger than I am but not too young.  Check!  Especially since all I was looking for was “has not outlived most of her clients.”

Still, after everything I’d read about the querying process, a “revise and resubmit and maybe I’ll be interested down the road” was what I was expecting.  What I was not expecting was a pretty delightful  forty five minute phone call. She said some really nice things about the novel.  Really nice–I mean, cue the Sally Field clip-type nice.  She was also upfront about what needed fixing, with some very specific ideas about how to do that.  And then. . .she offered to represent me.  I actually think I made her say it again because I couldn’t quite process what she was saying.

What needed fixing about the novel was that it’s too short.  I knew that. I had been despairing about it for almost a year.  I tend to write short–ask all the editors who have worked with me in the last ten years.  I know it’s a problem. To make matters worse, I’m a hatchet woman when I revise and on the last revision the book lost 5,000 words.  I knew it had been cut perhaps too close to the bone and that 45,000 words was way too short for a novel but I couldn’t see any way to add that wouldn’t seem like padding.  I was just too close to it. None of my beta readers had any ideas either.  Secretly, I prayed I might find an agent who believed in the book and who could tell me exactly how to expand it in ways that would make sense, that would not feel like padding.  But I also knew that the chances of that were about the same as winning the lottery.

Yet somehow that was exactly what I found.  Her suggestions made complete sense; she is a shrewd and perceptive editor–not surprisingly, since that’s what she was for ten years before becoming an agent.  I went back to the novel immediately knowing exactly what I wanted to do and feeling really good about it (knock wood).  I’ll have a piece coming out in the Huffington Post this week about all the reasons we should fear a world without editors–this is yet another reason why.  I’ll admit it, my name is Stephanie Vanderslice and I’m addicted to editors.

We have a lot in common; her father had a law practice in the Queens, NY neighborhood where the novel is set and where I spent much of my childhood, a place that still obsesses me, which is why it’s also the setting of the next novel.  And yes, we talked about that too . . . we talked about a lot of things; we talked about my writing career–in the present and future tense . . .  it was a very easy conversation.

(Note: As a teacher, I spend a lot of time talking to students about their future writing careers and I love every minute of it.  No lie. It’s one of the best parts of the job. But it was also pretty swell to be in a conversation with someone who wanted to talk about my career too.)

So I had a week to think about it and think about it I did.  I thought about when I’d first read the description of the agency and how it had struck a chord even then, in the blur of other agencies, as a place I’d really like to land.  I thought, a lot, about how this was exactly what I’d hoped would happen and yes, about proverbial gift horses, until it became absolutely clear what I was going to do.

And then I turned in my ticket.

From the land of revision–

bye y’all,



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Reporting live from Junker’s Paradise. . .Bargains Galore on 64 2012

Once a year I get to go to heaven–junker’s heaven, in the form of Bargain’s Galore on 64, an 160 mile yard sale on Route 64 in Arkansas, from east of Beebe in the  southeast central part of the state to Fort Smith in the Northwest corner.  Over the years I’ve narrowed my junking territory to between Conway and Ozark, an approximately 100 mile stretch that still takes all day to traverse.  This area seems to have the most charm and the highest number of centralized “market” type areas where dealers are more likely to set up with the good vintage stuff.  Highlights include the town of Ozark which hosts a lovely flea market right on the river that attracts great dealers, the nearby wine making village of Altus which doesn’t always have the best stuff but has a nice shady little town square to peruse, the ladies of Coal Hill, Clarksville and Morrilton, the last of which always boasts a great lineup of vintage dealers in front of the train depot as well as a trove of antiques stores across the street in case you need to cool off from the sun with a little air conditioning.

The ladies of Coal Hill bear special mention because their display is always a highlight of the trip.  My friend, junking extraordinaire Steve Lance, tipped me off to their compound some years back: several outbuildings and a middle area with their wares lovingly arranged like a photo shoot right out of Country Living magazine.  Once in Coal Hill you want to follow the signs off of Privet Road and I promise you won’t regret it–my heart always starts beating a little faster when I see the sign for Coal Hill.

I got some nice deals this year but I was more selective than in years past; I got rid of a huge lot of my own stuff in a yard sale at the end of June and nothing will make you pickier about what you bring home than two days out in 105 degree heat selling your own stuff.  Highlights this year were a nice black Coach tote for $5 that I’ve since seen on e-bay selling for $55-$105–it’ll be great for my work bag in the fall–a primitive wood wall hanging, and some great feed sack dishtowels that will go well with my mother’s new kitchen.  In the past I’ve scored some really great furniture–including a tin-topped kitchen island that is perfect for this bread maker and looks practically custom made for my kitchen.

I’m already strategizing for next year, when I think I’ll drive up to Ozark the night before and start there.  I used to start in Conway, hitting some side of the road sales on the right side on the way up and the left side on the way down but those side of the road sales are yielding less and less every year as, with a handful of exceptions,  the town sales in Ozark, Coal Hill, Altus and Morrilton become the go-to spots.  Might as well start out in Ozark fresh and energized–when it’s still relatively cool.

I’m also hoping to convince my younger son to come with me again and think an overnight in a hotel with a pool would be a good incentive.  He usually comes with me; it gives us some good one on one time and besides he’s developing an eye for junking like his mama, but he couldn’t come this year and I really missed our backseat/frontseat philosophical chats.

Here’s a pictorial of the day:

Gotta pack a good lunch, including plenty of water.

This spot in Clarksville, just west of town, is always good for furniture deals.

End of day ritual: cooling off with a Route 44 Diet Dr. Pepper at Sonic Happy Hour.

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