Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yes, Mom, I Have Been Writing

Okay, so not writing novels or short stories or things that will further the likelihood of getting published, but I HAVE been writing. And I'm sure you want to read it. Why else would you be hanging out here other than to read my inspirational words. So, here's what I've been doing:

1. I started a new blog, but it's all secretive because it's about WORK. Well, it's really more about EDUCATION. It's a blog where I talk about all the stupid things the state of Michigan is doing to education and how most of them will lead to, if not outright failure, a host of unintended consequences, some of which aren't that terrible (maybe even needed), but most of which will do nothing to improve education. It's political and opinionated and maybe even controversial, which means I have to keep my identity a secret. The problem is it's hard to get readers when you're a secret.

2. I've been writing things for the junk I'm selling on ebay. It struck me soon after I started my buying binge of Harry Potter action figures that the descriptions people right are dead boring. So I try to make mine not. Here are a few for items I have listed. Read them. Then, go buy my stuff.

You are bidding on an awesome Nutcracker Ornament, perfect for hanging in a prominent position on your Christmas tree or displaying on a shelf with other Nutcrackers where he will probably frighten the others because this Nutcracker is fierce. In fact, I have had to store him in his original box for 50 weeks of the year because if he's not hanging from the tree he rampages throughout the house, terrifying my cat, Captain Crunch, raiding the pantry for bags of Funyans, and howling at passersby. Curiously, he has never cracked a single nut. Be warned, therefore, that should you win this bad-ass you will have to keep him locked away in his box or displayed somewhere high, as he is scared of heights. Good luck, I think.

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Love S'mores but hate breathing in the noxious fumes of a bonfire? Or perhaps you love S'mores and bonfires but don't like people and would rather just eat your S'more in peace and quiet from the comfort of your own basement couch while playing World of Warcraft on your bad-ass computer. Or maybe you suck at starting fires, like my Uncle Glen, and don't want to go through all that rigmarole and embarrassment just for a delicious treat. Whatever the reason, we all sometimes just want to be able to make a S'more in a microwave and NOW YOU CAN!

This Micro S'mores S'more-maker comes new in the box. It has literally NEVER BEEN OPENED or used in anyway whatsoever. For example, I did not take the S'more maker out and dance with it or sing it songs or pet it lovingly. Really, I didn't do those things. Box comes with a "As Seen on TV" logo for those who like that sort of thing. Also comes with a recipe book for those morons who don't know how to make a friggin' S'more.
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You are bidding on a Wells Fargo & Co. Express sign. This is a reproduction made by Ande Rooney, who is not that annoying old dude on 60 Minutes who's always whining about magazine inserts or the price of women's stockings or whatever. This sign is metal with porcelain enamel to make it look extra awesome. Yeah, there are real signs out there that you can spend too much money on (one looking just like this one recently sold for $72 bucks on ebay) and then your wife would be all this and that, or you can buy this sign, tell people it's the real thing, and have a better marriage and a few extra dollars. You choose.

This is perfect for the father who wants to add a little verisimilitude to his son's train set. Hell, you could probably even tell the little tyke that it's the real thing, straight out of whatever station at the turn of the century or whenever Wells Fargo was a big deal.
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You are bidding on an Iroquois Beer and Ale reproduced sign by Ande Rooney. The sign is good quality and in very good condition. It's metal with porcelain enamel. I've never had an Iroquois Beer but I bet it's awesome. After all, it's named after the most bad-ass Indians to ever live. The Iroquois took no shit.

And neither should you. That's why you should buy this sign and display it boldly right on the front of your house to let people know you mean business, man. Let's face it, it takes a special kind of person in these pansy-assed politically correct times to display a sign that uses the likeness of an American Indian to sell beer. The value of this sign is probably priceless because there's no way in hell a beer company is ever going to get away with this again. Their lawyers wouldn't even let them bring up the idea in a marketing brainstorming session.

Be a rebel. Buy a sign with an Indian selling beer on it. And when you hang it on your porch, go stand in the road, admire it and the balls you had to display it, and, with your arm raised high in defiance of our grovelling culture, do the Tomahawk Chop. For just a second, you may feel like you're back in the America you grew up in--the racist, exploitative one where Indians could be used to sell just about anything.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I Am Not Looking for in an Agent

Since agents are always hopping on the social networks and telling writers what not to do (follow the guidelines, even if they are ridiculous; don't start your query with a rhetorical question; remember that a no from one is a no from all), I thought I'd get on here and tell my two readers what turns me off as a writer searching for an agent.

I've started my research with Agent Query, and have quickly realized there are some things an agent can list on their short bios that immediately make me scratch them off the list.

  • "Does not accept email queries"--This is like agents in the 1960s saying they'll only accept telegrams. The only reason I see to do this is to turn querying writers away, and if you're doing that, then I doubt you'll have much time for me anyway.
  • "Special interest in multi-cultural stories"---Ack! Look, I have nothing against characters of color, but a great story is a great story. If you're going to turn down the next Harry Potter because the kids are all white, then I have to question your judgment. Also, this kind of statement says a lot about an agent. To me, it says they're more interested in being an agent for social change than they are an agent who wants to sell a lot of books. But you can't really do the former without first doing the latter.
  • The agent who represents every genre under the sun---I think I read a lot. And I haven't come close to reading enough in a whole lot of genres to think I could ably guide someone in one of those genres. I want a little more specialization in my agent.
  • "Does not accept unsolicited submissions"--In other words, "I got more than enough on my plate already." In that case, I would assume you're somewhat successful and can afford an intern.
  • Overly picky agents--Yeah, I'm contradicting myself slightly, but while agents shouldn't represent EVERYTHING, they also shouldn't be so narrow-minded that they shut out what might be a great opportunity. One agent said, "No stories about talking animals." I don't blame her in a way, because a lot of people just starting out writing kids' books probably write what they think are cute stories about animals learning a lesson. On the other hand, this agent would have missed out on The Tale of Despereaux and Charlotte's Web.
  • And lastly, dear agents, it really isn't necessary to say you're attracted to "beautiful writing and compelling characters." You don't need to say you want stories that "keep you up all night turning pages." Most writers do not need to be told that agents want "memorable characters" and "a strong voice." We're reading your bios to find out whether you'd be a good match, so tell us something helpful, not something obvious. And in the tradition of social networking agents everywhere let me just say that this last one isn't an automatic no.