Query letter never to be sent

query-letter31

Dear Someday Agent or Editor,

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve got something you would really like. I just don’t know who you are. I know that to get your attention I have to write a knock-out query that grabs your attention. Good writers do that.

But I’m the kind of person who upon a first meeting will trip over my two left feet, wear spinach between my teeth, and knock myself out trying to go out the in door. First impressions terrify me.

Dear Someday Agent or Editor, I don’t write because I want to get rich. My goodness. I spend everything I make from writing and much I make from my full-time job learning how to be, not a good writer, but a great writer. I wish I could make you believe in me. I’ve always been a worthy investment.

In the past, it seems as if almost everything I tried turned to gold. I didn’t understand what a rejection letter was. God has been so good.

But God knows how to temper his child. I walked into my first ACFW conference thinking I would walk out with a contract. I walked out acknowledging I had a lot to learn. But God is good like that. He didn’t humiliate me. He surrounded me with other Christian writers who shared wisdom about the craft. They weren’t arrogant or condescending. They were compassionate and encouraging. Someday, given the chance, I will do the same.

And so I joined a writers group who patiently taught me, and I entered the Genesis contest. I was a semi-finalist. The next year I finaled with a different manuscript!

But Dear Potential Agent or Editor, the bottom of my world dropped out. I lost my mom and dad. Becoming a semi-finalist just wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped it would be compared to my grief. I entered again this year, but the pain still hasn’t gone away after two years.

Dear Potential Agent or Editor, I feel as though I can’t find you. I’m like a traveler who missed the train. I’m sitting at the depot, wondering if I should board the next train or just go home.

I wish you could find me, but it doesn’t work that way. All of my writing friends have gone on with their lives, and I’m still at the station, watching the clock. To board or not to board. That is the question.

Dear Agent or Editor, I don’t want your sympathy. I just want to board that train, and I hope that when I will arrive, you will be at the station.

Please overlook the spinach and my two left feet. May it be my head that the door bops and not yours when I go in the wrong way.

Very sincerely yours,
Teresa Lockhart

Advertisements

Random word poetry

poetry

Today my creative writing students and I talked about juxtaposition–the art or act of placing two (usually abstract) things beside or near each other.

When we create, we form something new. Sometimes the thing that is “new” is a thought that arrives after seeing something in a new light. Placing two things together that don’t ordinarly sit side by side makes us re-focus. We create new meaning. We create.

Years ago I bought a magnetic poetry board and placed it  on my desk. Whenever students came up to talk to me, they couldn’t help but sort through the words in the dish and place their chosen words side by side on the magnetic board to create a poem.

I have seen minature magnetic poetry boards, but I have never seen them affordable enough to buy for individual members of a class. I decided to make my own. I bought a couple of packs of unlined index cards and asked students from another class to write down both mundane and creative words on the cards. I mixed the cards in a bag and then threw them out in an open space so that the students would have easy access.

When I said go, the students grabbed 20 random cards. Then they took their cards to a lonely spot against the wall in the hallway, and they wrote a poem in their hookbooks (to be later put up on their blogs). Students were allowed to use as many of the 20 words as they wanted, but they had to have at least four lines of poetry, and they couldn’t just list the words randomly down the page.

Do these poems have to make sense?

Every time I do this exercise, students always ask me this question. The answer? Of course!

But what makes sense to the writer may not immediately make sense to the reader. We place the words side by side for a reason. Our juxtaposition is important to the meaning. The readers may have to study the poem for it to make sense to them–if it ever does.

Life is like that. We are given random situations, and it’s up to us to make sense of them.  We can’t choose the details, but it’s up to us to put the details of our life side by side to create some kind of meaning. It may not make sense to others, but it should make sense to us.

I took the words that were left. Here is my attempt at random word poetry.

Green.

New York guitar.

The pain marker.

Prison.

Blue.

Door knob

Shout through

Create.

Because?

Write beautiful music.

Majestic.

Purple.

The trademark “game” Magnetic Poetry is still around. Check this link to purchase your own copy: http://magneticpoetry.com/ . According to the website designers, most of these games are for adults. However, there is a special edition for writers under the age of 18. Adult writers can also “play” the game online. Please share your poetry in the comments section.

Gold at the end of the rainbow

rainbow

Here I sit on St. Patrick’s Day, my favorite dreamy day of the year. There will be no celebrations. No parties. No special foods, well, maybe McCreary’s fish and chips. No ticker tape. The only way I celebrate, have ever celebrated, is in my head. I think. I imagine. I wish. I hope. I dream.

I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the Irish. I latch on to fads every now and then, but I’ve been this way ever since I was a little kid. I guess I have this hope that I will serendipitously find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I will. Maybe I have already. Would I even know?

As I grow older, I realize my wishes are numbered. Will I ever make it to Ireland? Maybe.

That’s a strong maybe. A year ago I would have never gotten on a plane to fly by myself. Last September I traveled to Dallas alone. Nice trip.

Life is full of changes. I’ve never been one to like change, but I can’t change change.

Five years ago I imagined myself teaching journalism until my last breathe in classroom. I couldn’t imagine ever giving up the newspaper.

But next year I’m passing the torch to someone else. Whom? I don’t know. But it feels good. It’s time. I took the advice of a lady who is in her 90s, a veteran teacher who gave up her teaching career to become a technical writer. She knew when it was time for her to move on when she knew she didn’t want to be a fixture.

I don’t want to be a fixture. I don’t want to force myself where I’m not wanted or needed.

I haven’t quit my day job. I’m still teaching, but I don’t want to die before I get my second wind. I’m just taking a different direction, putting my focus in a new direction.

Will I make it as a writer? Will I ever see my novels published? Maybe.

I’ll admit I have felt like giving up, especially when I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the writing process. And then, I started to doubt my ability and the worth of my story. But if it didn’t have promise, I wouldn’t have made it to the finals last September, would I? I will never “arrive” as a writer, but I have to keep on keeping on. I have so many books in my head. I need to get my motivation on and just do it.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, I start thinking about the new, not the old, the possibilities, not the dead ends.

I’m still looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow. But I will never steal it. I will never beg for it. I will have to serendipitously stumble across it and know for sure that it is mine.

My voice

sorrow-captured-in-stone-forever-gun-legler

I really should be in bed, but I assigned my students to comment on my blog.

It would be great if I had WRITTEN the blog.

I’m supposed to write about voice. All serious writers strive to develop their own unique voice that speaks from the page. It’s hard to do. Julia Cameron says you have to write from the gut. Tennessee poet laureate Maggie Vaughn says, “You have to have fire in the belly”—like those old pot-bellied stoves.

It’s true. To write with passion, your inner being has to burn with passion. You can’t NOT write whatever it is you have to wite. Passion produces voice. Voice stems from emotion.

My motto is, “Laughter good. Tears bad.”  And there are those days when the motto isn’t worth diddly squat.

I steer clear from the tears. I’d much rather make people laugh, but today has been an off day. And I don’t have anything silly to say.

My day is a by-product of my procrastination. I have been putting off going through stacks and stacks and stacks of paper and mementos I have saved. But today was deep house cleaning day. I couldn’t put it off.

So with much ado, I finally got around to sifting and sorting. I found a HUGE stack of sympathy cards my dad had bundled together after my mother died. She always took care of the storing of cards. When I was moving things out of their house, I found a portable filing system. She must have saved every birthday card, every Christmas card, every Valentine’s Day card, the boys and I ever gave them.

But what do I do with the sympathy cards? I don’t know these people who sent them. I have no use for them, but to throw them away seems thoughtless. Neither of the boys will know what to do with them. I have made scrapbooks for them so that they and their children can look back to their elementary school years and reminisce about what it was like back then.

But maybe they don’t want to. I guess they’ll be like me, wondering what to do with all the “stuff.”

I also found a stack of Christmas cards, addressed to me, unopened. My heart dropped because I was going through such a sad time that I didn’t even realize I had Christmas cards. So what do I do with them now? It’s kind of late to show them off on the stair railing as I’ve done in the past, and I can’t send a Christmas card in return. I never even got the chance to say thank you. Too late.

I hate those words. If ever I wrote with a fire in the belly it’s now. I can click on Facebook and find at least a dozen or more nifty pictures to repost that say, “It’s never too late to ___.” You can fill in the blank. But the truth is, yeah, there is a time when it’s too late.

Sifting through all those papers made me remember the worst day in my life, the day I was supposed to call my dad.

I didn’t remember until it was late. When I didn’t get an answer, my worst fear came true. It was too late. We confirmed my fears by driving up to the house. It was a terrible night. And then there was the police, the ambulance, the trip to the hospital, the night, and the next morning.

I threw away the Van Halen shirt I had been wearing. I didn’t want any reminders.

But I’m reminded all the time. I have sifted and sorted my dad’s papers, and I put them back in the boxes I found them. Birth certificates, a marriage license, deeds, warranties, military papers, etc. What do I do with all that? Where will it end up?

I think I should want to travel lightly. Two guitars. A baseball. Scrapbooks for the boys. Everything else can go. No need to ask. No need to wonder. No need to hang on to anything material.

The important things can’t be saved for later. They should be taken care of now, said now, done now, for tomorrow may be too late.

So, dear ones, if you should wonder what my voice is. This is it, a desperate plea for you to pay attention to what matters most in life, the people you love.

Yes, I do love to laugh. I love to make others laugh, but nothing is more important to letting others know how much you love.

Mood and drama

door

When I was earning my Master’s degree from the University of Missouri, one of my many writing classes required me to read and write from Julia Cameron’s Right to Write. I liked the book so much that I now require my creative writing students to read particular chapters and to respond to Cameron’s Initiation Tools, in other words, her writing prompts. Our last lesson covered mood and drama.

My students expect me to put forth as much effort as they do, so here I am. Writing about what else? Mood and drama. What can I say?

Well, for one, I can admit I’m guilty as charged.

Mood? Yes. My moods definitely affect my writing.

Drama. Ugg. I can’t stand it. But drama, nevertheless, affects my writing because it always affects my mood. I don’t want to write when there is drama in my life.

For the last two years my life has been an uphill journey similar to what one might find on slippery slope of a Scottish crag. I have always been pretty good at keeping my emotions tucked away. But eventually, a person has to face emotions head on. It’s normal, just not pleasant. And on the worst days, I don’t want to write.

Nay, let me rephrase that. I WANT to write, but I don’t feel like it. I’m not in the mood to write. How many times have you said that, comrades? Julia Cameron challenges her writers to write for ten minutes and then to check their moods.

Writing is kind of like exercising. Maybe writing releases endorphins as does exercise. But then again, so do crises and stress. Back in the day, I used to work with students who got a rush from meeting deadlines. We would stay late and work nonstop until we met deadline.

Not so much anymore. But I do remember what an adrenaline rush feels like.

Writing for me now, however, is more therapeutic and cathartic. It brings about a cleansing, purification. I can release whatever negative emotions I have onto the page, and I feel better. But first I have to get over my “mood.” And the drama.

Cameron says we need our own space to write so that we can shut the door to the world—and the drama—so we can focus on our writing.

Amen. Preach it, sister.

I used to have a closed door at my house, but I moved my writing station to the “music” room. I like the vibe that comes with being surrounded by guitars, a piano and drums. But the room is a thoroughfare to the upstairs and kitchen. And you know what that means. Boy/boys in. Boy/boys out. Lots of noise. Questions. Sometimes hugs. But I’m NEVER too busy for hugs.

Even my warthog Scottish Terrier creates a disturbance with her scratching and scavenging the cat’s food.

But Cameron says, “Keep the drama on the page.” Focus. Focus. Focus.

And then there are the characters in my life. I love me some protagonists. But antagonists? They don’t have to be in the room. They just have to be in my head. They may be relatives, friends, co-workers or acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. Whenever these antagonists antagonize me to the point that I can’t write, it’s time to take a tip from Cameron.

“Keep the drama on the page.” Cameron says personal drama is “creative poison.”

The antidote?

Focus. Focus. And more focus. And three simple words for whoever is driving me nuts—leave me alone.

We have the choice to let other people’s negativity into our life. We must close the door, if not literally, metaphorically, and keep the drama on the page (not in our heads).

Cameron also suggests we write a list of 100 things we love, and every time we feel stressed we pull this list from our pocket and read it. When we do, we’ll settle down in our spirits and think about our blessings instead of the negatives. I won’t indulge myself with 100 on this blog, but I will give you 10 if you will give me 10.

TEN THINGS I LOVE

  1. My guitars
  2. Horses
  3. Ireland
  4. St. Patrick’s Day
  5. Sunrises
  6. Coffee shops
  7. Blues
  8. Mosaics
  9. Candles
  10. Campfires

Feeling stressed? Want to keep the drama on the page and out of your life? Take a moment and write down ten things you love.