Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Official

I did not win. Turns out I did remember to send a SASE to the folks at Delacorte, because today I received notice that I did not win the prize. I guess that's the bad news. To be honest, it's not really bad news unless you expect something different, and I knew when I sent it that the manuscript had some flaws and needed a few more months worth of editing. Deadlines are deadlines, though.

The good news is that I just now received my rejection when I know others received theirs some time ago. I am telling myself this is because my story at least made it through the weeding out round. That I have no idea if there even is a weeding out round means nothing. Writers need approbation and we're perfectly willing to supply ourselves.

The other good news is something that all writers crave while they're busy being rejected: a personal comment. I was sent the same rejection form as everyone else who lost, but one of the editors added a two sentence hand-written note to the bottom. She commented on how she enjoyed my main character's voice, but the piece as a whole wasn't strong enough to win, which I already sort of knew. She also told me to "Keep writing," which I fully intend to do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Randy Whitforth Daniel Gray (a poem)

I wrote this poem a while back and rediscovered it while going through the files today. It's one that I'm never going to submit because of 1. it's length and 2. the fact that it's pretty much a total rip off of Shel Silverstein's "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout."

Randy Whitforth Daniel Gray

Randy Whitforth Daniel Gray
Did not brush his teeth today.
He did not brush the day before,
He said, "I won't brush anymore!"
His mother pleaded, his father raged
And after dinner, a war was waged.
But Randy kept his mouth shut tight,
His toothbrush stayed well out of sight.

In the morning, when he awoke,
His father said, "This is a joke!
Your mouth is gross, you're coming with me!
If you won't brush them, we'll see Dr. Lee."

The dentist said, "Now open wide."
He leaned in close to look inside.
The teeth were yellow and coated in gunk,
There was leftover food and the breath really stunk.
There were pieces of fish and small bits of egg,
And the crusty remains of an old chicken leg.
Some green stuff was growing on parts of the gums,
And when Randy sneezed, out flew some crumbs.

The dentist chiseled and scraped and drilled.
He found six holes that had to be filled.
After three hours, Dr. Lee was done.
He'd cleaned every tooth, one by one.
Randy leaped from the chair in a rush.
Where was he going? Straight home to brush.


Got going again on my writing "hobby" a little this week and worked on some poems to submit. I like to write poems, but I have to be in a certain frame of mind to write anything decent. I often just stare at the blank screen. I've tried picking topics out of thin air and forcing myself to write a poem about them, but that never works. Something's either there or it isn't.

For this batch of submissions, I wrote three new ones and picked out five older ones that haven't yet made all the rounds. (Or maybe they have, I'm not sure. When the old computer died I lost my submission tracking file, so I hope these aren't resends. Although even if they are, the worst they can do is reject them again, right?) The new ones include a poem about a wagon ride, one about a Spanish duck with a sense of humor, and another about a kid who decides to stay in bed because of his allergies.

I'd like to think I have some idea of which things I've written are publish-worthy and which are not, but it's not much of a science. I usually have a pretty good idea when I've written a stinker and I can't say I'm surprised at any of the three that have been accepted, but I still think I've got about five poems that could be accepted if the timing and the publisher were right. One of the good things I've learned about publishing is that it's a lot like the weather in Michigan--if you don't like it, just wait a while, because change is coming. So even if the poems can't land a home right now, in a few years all the editors will have moved on to different jobs and I can send them all again!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Revising, Yet Again

I have, for the time being, tabled my middle-grade manuscript, FARVE CASTLE LETS IT GO to once again revise my young-adult story, UP NORTH: THE VACATION JOURNAL OF FINLEY S. JACOBSON. My original plan to was get FARVE in tip-top shape and begin the process of shopping it to agents. However, I was able to gain some distance from the work after not looking at it for a period of about three months and I've noticed some things that are going to need more than just a simple band-aid. So it looks like it's going to be a longer revision than originally planned.

The other issue is that Delacorte, the same folks I sent FARVE to, also runs a contest for young-adult stories and I would like to enter UP NORTH in it. The deadline to enter is December 31, so time is limited. I've revised it a couple of times already, but they were mostly surface revisions--a sentence here and there, tweaking the dialogue, adding some description--you know, all the anal, doesn't quite sound right when I reread it stuff. It has larger problems that I hope I can rectify in a month.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"They found me, Marty. I don't know how, but they found me."

Except they called me Patti and there's a typo in the poem itself. The Free Library, an online depository of all things printed in the magazine world (okay, not all, but close enough for guv'ment work.) has printed my poem "Snowman With Wings." I'm not exactly sure how this site manages getting around copyrights, (well, all right, they probably have permission from the publishers, but it's a lot more fun to think they're doing something illegal) but I'm certainly not alone in the violated department. In fact, I should probably be ashamed to admit that I've used the site to research the kinds of things certain magazines like to publish. You can find pretty much everything Highlights has printed in the last few years. Anyway, if you'd like to read my poem, it can be found here:

Snowman With Wings

Just look for Patti Murphy

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


1. Some Things Never Change

Grown-ups, as smart as they think they are, are actually pretty stupid. And somebody must have decided that the stupidest of the grown-ups should work in schools, because here at Jefferson Elementary we’ve got some real doozies, like Mr. Clark, my fifth grade teacher. You want proof? Well, way back on the first day of school, before I’d even done anything yet, Mr. Clark lined everybody up in alphabetical order. Everybody except me. When he got to me he said, “Farve, why don’t you just head to the back. There’s no point in delaying the inevitable.”

I didn’t have the foggiest what that meant, but I went. And now, with just three weeks of school left, that’s still right where I’m standing, staring at the back of Randy Washington’s head, sweat running down my butt crack, thinking about how stupid Mr. Clark and all the rest of the grown-ups are.

Because what Mr. Clark doesn’t realize is that there’s nothing wrong with the back of the line. He’s way up there at the front, and with twenty-three kids between us, there’s no way he can see what I’m up to. You’d think teachers would figure this out, but Mr. Clark is the sixth teacher I’ve had that’s put me at the back. Now if that doesn’t prove how stupid grown-ups are, nothing will.

Today we’re off to the computer lab, and as we slog past our red lockers, Mrs. Kile’s head comes bobbing down the hall toward us. Mrs. Kile was my second grade teacher, so I know that by this time of year she’ll have a kid like me at the back of her line. I lean out to get a look at him. He’s this little runt of a sawed-off thing who doesn’t seem to care that he’s lagging behind his class by about ten feet. Sand-colored bangs hang in his face and his dirty tennis shoes are untied. It’s amazing he can walk without tripping.

Seeing those shoes gives me an idea, and as the class shuffles past I do some quick surveillance to make sure the coast is clear. Then, when that little midget comes scuffling alongside me, eyes glued to the hallway floor, I stick out my left foot and catch him flush on his ankle. He never sees it coming. Goes sprawling to the floor with a surprised little yelp. I prepare my “who me?” face and wait for him to cry out or yell, but he doesn’t say a thing, just sits there rocking with his hands wrapped around the top of his untied Nikes.

As we file into the computer lab the cold air from the A/C hits me, and I hear Mrs. Kile from down the hall. “Donnie!” she snarls. “Get up! How many times have I told you to tie those shoes? Maybe now you’ll listen!”

I smile. Some things never change.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the Hunt

So since I was a bonehead and misinterpreted the guidelines for the Delacorte Yearling Contest for a First Middle Grade Novel and failed to include an SASE, I have been spending entirely too much time checking their site to see if they've announced a winner yet. They haven't.

I think I'm safe in assuming I did not win.

Therefore, I have been preparing to query agents. Last week, I reread the manuscript (again) and tweaked a few things here and there. Since it was in pretty decent shape for the contest, most of it was just wordsmithing (a term which really annoys me, but for which I've yet to find a suitable substitute). I've never liked the ending and so I just deleted it today. It's easier to revise something when you have no choice.

I've also started working more on the business end of this whole, well, business. This past week I've been playing with a query letter and I threw my rather haphazardly constructed first attempt up on Verla's Blue Board where it was promptly and deservedly torn to ribbons. The criticism was extremely helpful and although I'm not quite done tinkering, I think I've now got something that agents won't pass around the office and snicker (or worse) at.

Now starts the process of researching agents. Today I started with the following gents: Josh Getzler, Daniel Lazar, Stephen Barbara, and Steven Malk. Thanks largely to blog interviews, there's an unbelievable amount of information out there. Like everything else in writing, this is going to take a while.