Message to Amazon: moms are Kindle people too

Hey you!
Amazon!
Kindle makers!
Over here!
Look at me!
Okay, so I’m not a business traveler looking for a good airplane read; I’m not a corporate something-or-another perusing stock quotes while racing to yoga class; and I’m not a techie who needs the latest gadget.
I’m a mom, a mom of four young kids.
And I am your market.
You just don’t know it yet.
Think about it.
I had a career once. I was a journalist. I was in the know all the time and it was great. I was childless too and, in my spare time, when I wasn’t running or hiking or barbecuing or taking classes, I was reading novels.
I miss it.
I still read the newspaper every day, or at least some of it.
I read magazines in the kitchen while I’m cooking, or in bed at night when I can’t fall asleep.
I still read novels.
I need novels.
Sometimes, I keep one on each floor of the house so I can pick up a book whenever I get a few minutes.
What I don’t have is something small and convenient that I can pull out of my purse (or diaper bag) on a rainy day while the twins are watching Blues Clues on the DVD player and I’m waiting behind the wheel for the school bus, which seems to always be late on rainy days.
I don’t have anything for traffic jams, or for Jump Joey’s when the twins are having so much fun on the play mats in the fully enclosed room that I actually find I have a few minutes or maybe even an hour to myself.
I don’t have anything for the doctor’s office (the grown-up kind) when I’m so engrossed in giving directions to the sitter as I slip out the door that I forget to bring a book. I don’t have anything for those days when I finish a novel and I can’t get to the library or the bookstore immediately to pick up another.
And I need another.
Now.
I don’t want to read news shorts on a Blackberry or check my email from my cell phone or sing along with Blues Clues.
I don’t want to chat on my cell phone with a friend.
I want to choose a novel, download it immediately and read it right away.
I want a Kindle.
Are you listening?
Are you looking?
Please?
Can I have a Kindle?

Sniffling gets you nowhere

To pass the time while waiting for the next round of cuts in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, many of us 500 quarterfinalists chatted on an ABNA online forum. A common topic was whether we would be upset if we made it no further.
Most of us agreed that we’d be thrilled regardless.
Our novels had been selected from a pool of up to 10,000 first-time novelists. That earned us critiques of our excerpts from two Amazon reviewers and, we would soon be receiving full manuscript reviews from editors at Publishers Weekly.
The reviews alone, we said with skin thicker than armadillos, were worth it. We couldn’t wait to read the critiques from Publishers Weekly, we wrote. And most all of us agreed that harsher was better. What good was a pat on the back? We wanted to know how to make our novels better.
Bring it on, Publishers Weekly editors.
Bring it on.
So they did, and virtual lips started quivering.
Not all of them.
Most folks took it well and vowed to move forward.
But the volume of the sniffling few hurt my ears.
One woman wanted to throw in the towel because, amid all the compliments, a reviewer wrote that her novel suffered from disorganization. Gee. A disorganized first novel? Writing takes skill and talent. Organization is simply hard work.
My advice to her?
Get working.
Disorganization is fixable.
From what I read, every criticism by the Publishers Weekly reviewers focused on an issue that could be addressed: organization, depth of characters, pace. Now I didn’t read them all, but I didn’t find any that bashed a writer for lousy writing.
A successful writer needs thick skin and an open mind. And, for that reason, I have a feeling that the loudest of those rejected and dejected contestants will never be successful. That’s a shame. They had some good stuff there.
My own review was everything I had hoped for.
Before entering the contest, I had shelved Spring Melt for further revisions. Too much back story, especially in the second chapter, I figured. I had wanted to rip those parts up and incorporate the same information more smoothly and at a faster pace throughout. But I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing.
Then I saw the announcement for the contest. Entry was free and, with each round of cuts, contestants got more reviews.
Why not?
With the first cut, I learned that my pitch (the general storyline) and my first 17 pages were good enough to attract professional attention. That was, for me, the validation I needed that my novel was worth my time and effort.
(As the rejections pile up, you start to wonder, you know?)
On April 15, I learned that I did not make the semifinals, where the field was trimmed to 100, but I did get that Publishers Weekly review last week. That single paragraph consisted mostly of a well-written synopsis.
But, in that paragraph was a one-sentence gem.
A precious one:

“At times muddied with flashbacks and digressions, this is still a solid story with believable characters and a pleasant and surprising resolution.”

Those words –“muddied with flashbacks and digressions”– were the words I was looking for. That meant that I was on the right track. That meant that If I could just resolve that issue, I would probably have a pretty good book on my hands.
I wasn’t just guessing any more.
Now I have to admit that my skin is not thick all over. I’m more like a well-frozen river. I’m super thick-skinned in most areas of criticism, but my skin gets dangerously thin in those few areas where currents run fast underneath.
I’m human, afterall.
But the folks at Publishers Weekly knew just where to skate.
My lips didn’t quiver. I didn’t start sniffling. I didn’t throw any towels.
I did, immediately and with renewed enthusiasm, started tearing my novel part.
So thank you Amazon.
Thank you Create Space.
Thank you Penguin.
And thank you friends, family and strangers who posted encouraging reviews.
I lost.
And I feel good.

Giddy

For 11 years, I saw my name in print most every day.
Sometimes, I had several stories in one edition; I believe my record was eight.
I loved it, not because people knew my name, but because I believed in the power of writing. I believed in newspapers (and still do). I believed I was changing lives, even if sometimes that change was barely perceptible to most.
But none of that compares to the rush I got today when I received an email from an editor at Aethlon, a literary sports journal centered at East Tennessee State University. My short story, “Conquering Iwo Jima,” has been accepted for publication.
I was giddy.
Really giddy.
(Okay, so I’d had a little wine before I checked my email!)
This is different.
Different because this is fiction.
And this is my first.
I had stopped writing short stories soon after I finished my thesis for Binghamton University in 2000. My first son was two months old when I earned my degree and I had started teaching as an adjunct English instructor four months later. Then along came my daughter and, after she was born, I started the novel.
I freelanced (changed diapers), taught (changed diapers), and freelanced some more while I worked on the novel. Five years later, after a weekend of revisions, I was finally done.
Then I learned I was pregnant again.
No biggie, I thought (after the shock wore off).
Nothing was going to stop me.
Nothing except maybe twins.
They kind of brought things to a crawl.
But now they are two and, slowly, I am started to emerge from my mommy fog. One day in November, through that fog, I spied a folder on my laptop marked “short stories.” I read through a few of them, made a some minor revisions and started searching for appropriate markets on Duotrope.com.
Within 30 minutes, I found Aethlon.
I submitted “Conquering Iwo Jima” in November and forgot about it.
Then came the email.
And the giddiness.
Just a few weeks earlier, I learned that my novel, Spring Melt, had made the quarterfinals for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I’m competing against 499 other writers, so my chances are slim. But I get at least one professional review of my full manuscript out of the deal and validation that I’ve got something good going here.
That makes it worth it.
I still love writing nonfiction.
I still love interviewing, investigating, creating.
But writing fiction is, for me, like that second child that you love with the same strength as the first, but you love differently. It offers a different path to change. Not better. Just different.
Fiction is a passion for me and one that I have not had the opportunity to pursue as fully as nonfiction. The giddiness comes from the realization that I might, just possibly might, finally get my chance.