Friday, April 27, 2012

What's In A Name?

You may notice a change on my blog...then again you may not.

After much internal debating, I have decided to change the name I use for my blog from my formal given name to the nickname that I have been called ever since I can recall. I've never really used my given name...ever. Not really. I've heard it called out at graduations and during the roll call on the first day of class. "Johanna," the teacher would call out. "Here," I'd say, "but please call me Josie." More than once I've wondered why I wasn't named Josie in the first place.

When I had my own children, I named them each with the intention of avoiding nicknames completely. I thought I could avoid the same pitfall of confusion for them. Did it work? Not really. I've discovered that no matter what the name, kids will find a way to change it. They'll find a way to customize it to their liking. Name your daughter Emily and she'll become Em. Stewart becomes Stew. Even when you think it can't be done, they find a way...even if they have to elongate it to be different. Suddenly they'll become Paulie instead of Paul. I think kids do it just to claim their own identity. They need to let us as their parents know that although we gave them the name in the first place, they will tweak it a little just to say they did. Just to claim that little bit of independence.

But that wasn't my situation. I doubt I was ever called my given name since the day I was born. My formal name was just that...a formality.

So when I began to submit my books to agents, I thought using my given name would be the thing to do. It sounded more writerly I thought. But lately, it's gotten confusing -it just doesn't feel like me. And frankly, nobody I know would even recognize it. So I've decided to become more authentic. I've decided to just be little 'ol me. Josie.

After all, how important is a name anyway?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

3 Reasons Why I Love Reality TV

Hi. My name is Johanna and I'm a reality TV junkie.

Ok. I said it. The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? For years now I've tuned in and followed the Bachelor from lonely lost soul to giddy, hopeless romantic. I've followed stressed out designers on Project Runway as Heidi Klum unabashedly tells them "You're Out" and kissed them auf wiedersehen. I've watched with baited breath as Ryan Seacrest dimmed the lights and crushed the dreams of American Idol hopefuls. But in the past year, my addiction to the genre has grown worse. Lately it seems that there is no shortage of reality show offerings. Now there's a Real Housewife for virtually every city, Top Chef and Cupcake Wars, Top Models and too many singing competitions to count. There's Jersey Shore and Survivor and the Amazing Race and Million Dollar Listing and the list goes on and on and on (and on...)Anyway, you get the idea.

So what's a girl to do? I will no longer deny it. I will no longer tape and TIVO my favorites only to watch them in private moments when no one is looking. In fact, I will embrace Reality TV for three good reasons:

 1. Truth is Stranger than Fiction:

 It's true. As a writer, I could never dream up the plot twists and turns that show up on reality TV. I spend months plotting my books and trying to figure out what my characters will do, who they will be drawn to...what will really tick them off. And even with all my plotting, I'd never be able to write the lines that I hear uttered from these people. Often I can predict next week's episode of Greys or how The Good Wife will end. But reality TV is a roller coaster that keeps me guessing from minute to minute and I LOVE the simple complexity of the whole thing.

2. Character Fodder:

Watching a few reality TV shows can be like doing a whole month's worth of research into a character. Want to write a story set the South? You'll find a host of characters with the tell tale drawl and lingo right on the living room screen. Tempted to touch on a western romance? Reality TV will provide the authentic dress and scenery for your new setting. Reality stars are larger than life, but for a writer the secret is in the details that we see underneath the surface and bring to light in our own characters.

3. Trade Secrets

Watching reality TV gives me a glimpse into many worlds as yet unexplored and unavailable to me. I'm fascinated by the life of a high stakes NY realtor. I'm intrigued by how an Executive Chef runs his kitchen in a five star restaurant. And even on the Bachelor, I have learned a little about the life on vineyard and the inner workings of a funeral home. I find so much great information that I just tuck away in the funnel. Who knows? One of these tidbits just might pop up in my next novel.

So today I've come out of hiding and admitted to the world that I am a reality TV junkie. I've made peace with it and will hold my head high as I watch Theresa Guidice flip her next table or Jeff Probst announce: The tribe has spoken. I will accept it as a professional hazard that I cannot turn away from a great character...even if it makes me cringe just a little.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Query's like getting my kid to eat his peas

I am in that no man's land between finishing a piece of work and looking for a publisher. You know how it spend a year (or more) pouring the creative contents of your mind onto paper and then months proofing it for spelling and grammar. And then, at is done. You print it out and hold the finished manuscript in your hands and just can't believe that you created this work of art. Each and every word is yours. It feels like the end of a great labor. But in reality, every writer knows this is just the beginning of an even more arduous task: the search for an agent.

This time, writing my query letter proved a bit easier than last time. Thankfully, it does seem that it becomes less daunting with practice. Even writing the god-awful synopsis wasn't quite as painful. The stressful part was clicking send on the email to that first agent. But I lived through it and sent out about twenty queries. I figured I'd wait for the twenty rejections and then send out another batch. (Yes, I'm generally a glass half full kind of gal.) If I reached the end of my agent wish list without a bite, then I'd move on to the self-publishing route. This was my plan.

What I hadn't planned on was getting a request for a full read within 24 hours...or two more requests for partials within 36 more. What I hadn't planned on was the glimmer of hope. The hoping is the hardest part. What happens if you allow yourself to hope and then get that dreaded rejection? It's one thing to be rejected from a simple query letter. But isn't it worse, in a way, to hear that an agent didn't like your work after actually reading it?

It's like when my son asks "what's for dinner" and I say "peas". Sometimes it is better when he just groans and says he doesn't like it before he even sits down. But when he waits until the peas are in his mouth and then makes a production of gagging and uttering his distaste, it makes the agony of feeding him even worse.

But I guess no one ever said writing was an easy profession. Publication was never a guarantee. But the love of the art is so strong and the satisfaction I get from finishing each book so powerful, that I know I'll never stop trying. Just like I'll never stop trying to get that stubborn child of mine to eat something green!

So for now I've given in to hope and I've begun to let myself believe that becoming published isn't just a dream. How did you find the route to publication?