ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

The latest: Boot Camp

I learned so much from Agent One-on-One Bootcamp!  This is an online class offered by Writer’s Digest University. I have lots to say, nearly all of it positive.

Probably best of all was that her feedback on my strengths matched what I’ve been told by others (including at Denver and Jackson Hole conferences).  Voice, dialogue, and character seem to be my strong points.

Anyway, the agent in question answered me promptly and sent my first ten pages back well in advance of the deadline. She was approachable and professional during the discussion, and her presentation on beginnings was very useful and valuable. I have to say if anyone is on the fence about trying one of these, this is the second one I’ve done and both were worthwhile. They might seem a little pricey, but not when compared to the costs of going to a conference.

The only complaint I have is that I thought there would be discussion with the other students and it was minimal. The course description encouraged people to share their writing and to carry on discussions, and I posted a few invitations, but no one was interested. I really need to get moving on finding a writing group!

In other news, my non-writing life continues busy. My kids have too many activities (all together, not individually) and I have too much housework and not enough time. So, what else is new? I’m still writing.

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Things I Like That Other People Hate

When I opened my e-mail today I had a banner ad telling me that Nickelback tickets are on sale now.  And I got to thinking about how some things have inexplicably bad reputations but that I still enjoy.

Some of these things end up on lists of “guilty pleasures.” I don’t really know how I feel about that; would you feel differently about me if I said that I listen to Nickelback sometimes?  What if I said I play it when I’m writing about a fraternity party or spring break or something?

Someday I might have to post about getting inspiration from other media, especially music.

Or what about the movie Cutthroat Island?  People had serious criticisms about that.  As far as I can figure out, the problem was that it was very expensive to make.  But I loved the idea of a movie about a girl pirate–and more than that, the movie itself was engaging and fun.  I wasn’t expecting it to be scenes from Shakespeare or anything.  Why are we all so quick to criticize other people’s art?

I love Glee, too.  But I think that too many people don’t understand what it’s really about.  It isn’t about a high school show choir; it’s about how we write and think about young people in this country.  Every character on the show starts out as a stereotype; Sue Sylvester (surely one of the best TV characters in the history of ever) even says in one of the early episodes, “You see, that’s the problem with your generation.  You’re obsessed with labels.” Do the kids choose their own labels, or do peers (and by extension viewers) choose for you?  Honestly, they are making Art right on my TV.  The unfortunate loss of Cory Monteith removed the moral center of the show; it meant they had to find a new center, not that they quit.  How inspiring is that?

Now, there are things people hate that are legitimately awful (I’m looking at you, Waterworld).  And there are some kinds of art that make me want to take a shower, like movies made by Terry Gilliam. But I do think we all throw our criticism around too easily. It’s hard to remember that everything started out as somebody’s dream project (even Waterworld).

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Wow, I’ve been neglecting this blog!

I didn’t even notice!  Anyway, I was trying to compete in NaNoWriMo, but have had to give it up due to having youngest child at home for nearly two weeks.  First she was home for a week while the teachers moved into the new building, and then she went to school for half a day, and now she’s been home for two days sick with a bad cold/fever/sore throat.  She doesn’t have strep but she’s in a lot of pain and cries a lot.  So I’ve been pretty much holding her on my lap and watching Spongebob.  I didn’t finish last year either; November is just a busy month around here.  I’m thinking of doing it on my own in February instead.  At least I figured out that even for a World War II book that has a clear and obvious enemy, I’m going to need one who is closer to home.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard back from the agent who had my first thousand words (it was part of a class I took).  He had 8 comments, nearly all of them positive.  One noted that I had already ushered a character off the stage and she speaks again; one suggested I was using a few unnecessary words; the rest appreciated my sense of humor and phrasing and closeness to the character’s viewpoint.  All in all, I thought it was valuable feedback–but it wasn’t clear to me why he didn’t ask me for more pages.  So I’m debating sending him an e-mail to ask for that clarification.  And I’m considering workshopping those first ten pages again; in my heart I still think my “executive summary” isn’t doing its job.

I’m also gearing up to try to sell this book myself.  I KNOW it’s a good book and I’m not sure I’m patient enough to jump through the hoops that seem to be required to land agent and/or editor.  And New Adult readers don’t seem to be picky about self vs. traditionally-published books.  So I’m going to start posting to Goodreads more and maybe take on being a Beta reader for other writers.  At least I’ll be able to help them with grammar (I was a really good proofreader, in another life).

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