Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Glad I am Mom Didn't Bite the Dust

My fantastic (and sometimes drive me crazy) Mom just celebrated her one year anniversary on her liver transplant! In the world of transplants, this is a really big deal because the majority of "issues" happens within the first 12 months. And, with the anniversary, a flood of memories hit me (and all of us).

The trips to UVA with my pregnant sister taking turns driving. That first trip down after the call came there was a liver available, knowing my folks were an hour ahead of us on the very same road. Stopping to get a Starbucks to get us through. The dinner my dad, sister and I had after the surgery. Mom sent us out to get Bang Bang shrimp which she hadn't been able and wouldn't be able to have for quite some time. Barely noticing how good they were. Leaving my kids for 3 nights for the first time ever and hardly noticing. That was weird but when you're kids are well taken care of and your mom, sister and dad need you there, you don't notice how much you miss them.

Let me recap what happened a little over a year ago and explain how common transplants are for people who one day seem perfectly healthy and the next day need to be cut in half and have some one else's organ.

New Years 2008 my mom got a cold. Yes, a virus and that was all. She and my dad kept my kids so Nev and I could celebrate with friends in Richmond. They were up late. She was tired especially because she had a head cold. But, I didn't even blink an eye. Why? Because I have one of the sturdiest, most onry, healthy parents around. Or atleast until this very point in time.

Weeks later, she and Dad traveled to Miami with some of my family for their yearly fun weekend. She barely made it through. I barely blinked an eye. Why? Because she has always pushed herself too much. She and my dad could work circles around anyone else I know (safe most members of my own family).

She saw her family doctor (a man who eventually been part of the team to save her life). He thought she needed counseling for being over nervous. I didn't blink an eye. Why? Mom is a type A, over anxious kind of gal. It's why she gets so much done, takes ultimate care of two daughters, a husband, two grandchildren (at the time there were just mine), four horses, a burrow, 23 barn cats, and 3 dogs(oh, and anyone else needing care plus her sister's cats when she travels which is all the freakin time).

A few weeks later I saw she was turning yellow when I went to Front Royal to have lunch. I was blown away. Why? Because when your Mom turns yellow, it's a big, scary deal.

A few weeks later, she was in the emergency room in Winchester, Va. and her specialist was telling us she needed a liver transplant. I did feel like I was in a dream. It may be a cliche but hell, that's why their cliches. We made jokes, how I was going to write a Lifetime Movie. Mom wanted to be played by Diane Lane, George Clooney for my dad (he does indeed look like him just a little older w/ Carhart overalls!).

One week and a day after she met with her liver specialist (the head of the liver transplant dept. at UVA) she got the call saying basically, "Get your otherwise very healthy bod down here so we can fix the damn liver the virus attacked." The quickness of this is a testimony to just how sick she was, and how well she had taken care of herself for the 58 years prior. She was a perfect transplant candidate.

It was hell. One minute, your mom is going to live forever, helloooo, aren't they supposed to always be there? Then the next, you worrying you will have to start shopping for your own clothes and for your kids and what about your Dad? And, what about your kids' Grandmom?? And, what about my sister, prego with her first little one? And, of course, what about my dear mom who hadn't done anything selfish for herself (save buy a lot of good looking clothes) since she was twenty and a mom!

And, well, how can I explain the memories of being in UVA the night they took my mom back to basicaly cut her in half. She left us having the team of doctors (and I mean there were like 7 of them) in stitches, threatening that if they messed up her hair with the ugly cap they put on her, they were in trouble. So many coffees at the cafeteria. Bad french fries that first night but so hungry b/c we hadn't eaten. The clorox smell mixed with overcooked pizza and meds. Young doctors everywhere. The smell of needles. I swear you can. A totally sleepless night (even thoug we all tried) in the "family room". My dad's worry. How do you rest when you're Mom may not be with you in the morning and you know your dad is as worried as you've ever known him to be. He's not even consoling you b/c he can't. He's not the parent right now, he's just this really cool Dadthing you've known your entire life.

As you can imagine, I could go on and on. But, since it's an anniversary, I suppose I should look at what I've learned. I should say "not to take my mom for granted". But, hell, that only lasted for a few months. I am a little better. Maybe you'd think I have learned to value every day. Yeah, sure. I try like we all do. But, really, it's more along the lines of knowing you have to take care of yourself. Onry and tough are good companions. Because when some random unknown terrorist decides to have one of your organs for lunch, you better be as healthy as you can be so you get the next organ coming in. And, you better be as tough, wiry and hardheaded so you can make it back because it was hell for my mom. There were days I am sure she didn't think she could do it.

But, she did. One year later, she is on the lowest dose of anti-rejection drugs. And, boy am I thankful. To her. You rock Mom!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Script Writing Helps with Show Not Tell

You may recall I mentioned Syd Field's Screenplay The Foundations of Screenwriting in a previous post recently. Well, ScriptFrenzy (a sister to NanoWrimo) is coming up April 1! Now you may be saying, Jenn, I'm a novelist not a scriptwriter but hear me out:

Last year at this very same time of year, I got an email from ScriptFrenzy's Jennifer Arzt. I thought the same as you guys and came very close to sending the email, unread, into my trash but then I decided to read it first. And, I am glad I did because in that email something near and dear to me was mentioned. Learning to show instead of tell. Something many of us struggle with even if we're seasoned writers. Well, in a script, you must show. There is very little telling. So, ScriptFrenzy is more of a writing exercise to improve your novel writing! It requires you to see the scene and write succintly. And, it's a lot of fun.

Now you may be wondering how on earth you write a script. You can actually find many examples online. A quick Google search and you may be reading the script for one of your favorite movies. I also hit my local bookstore and ended up with Mr. Field's book which lays out script writing like a puzzle. It's wonderful!

Nev and I have decided to give this a try. We may not go the ScriptFrenzy route but we are beginning to write a script. We figured it was something fun to do after the kids went to bed.

Last night we designed most of our cast, chose two settings and outlined three scenes while sitting on our couch (me w/ pencil and paper and those index cards Syd swears by) and Nev excitedly telling me about how he had been pondering all these things while driving in and from work. The cocktails lubricated our imaginations and we had a total blast! Then we watched a movie and discussed it's Act I, Plot Point I, and the Key Incident.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Writing Contest and Some Thoughts on Work

Writer's Digest has a contest coming up. Entry submission deadline is May 14, 2010. The contest includes just about every genre so check it out!

As for me, I've been submerged in my decision about work. Should I give freelance writing a go? Can I be successful and make any money at it? Or should I go back into real estate? Residential this time. I worked in commercial management and leasing for over 8 years but there isn't much of that here in the Piedmont and I think I prefer the flexibility of residential anyway. I've been doing some research on freelancing to get a handle on it. It's all a little confusing.

I continue to write real estate articles for an agent in the mid-west. Funny how the internet can connect you with unlikely acquaintences! But, I got my first check and boy it is nice to be paid for your writing. Even if it will only pay for lunch. At a mediocre place!

Goodluck on the contest!

Friday, March 5, 2010

What a Difference a Nice Rejection Letter Can Make

I recently sent the first 3 chapters of Homer and Rosie to 3 editors who attended the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic conference in Arlington last November. The first 2 haven't responded but the editor who would have received hers last, sent a nice note back. Granted it included that she didn't have the space in her small imprint to include my MS but that was something I already knew. Even as the kids and I kissed each of the envelopes for goodluck before slipping them into the post office mailbox, I knew it would be rejection letters in my mailbox.

The main reason I know this is because I haven't sent it out nearly enough. Maybe to 5 agents and these were my first round of editors. But, also, because the tale is not going to be an easy sale. My middle grader includes talking animals. Something that is taboo these days but I didn't care because it was the story I wanted to tell. And, although I am sure it could still be edited a thousand times, I'm proud of it. It's my first novel and I actually finished it. That's a big deal to me.

As my kids kissed those envelopes I know what they were thinking. Macy: "Please let Mom get this book published so I can get a dog, finally!" (We have to buy a hypoallergenic dog due to my husband's allergies and those suckers are expensive) Julian: "When are we going home so I can play with my pirates!?". I was thinking: "Please let me actually receive the rejection letters". Yes, that is what I was thinking. Well, I did have one positive moment. But, the letters are really what I was hoping for because honestly, I didn't receive responses from most of the agents I sent to on round one.

But, here's the best part of the letter. It wasn't a form letter!! I know this because she referred to the conference, suggested it would be great to meet at another, said my work had merit and that she hoped I found a home for it. Now, I'm sure all these phrases are ones she has used thousands of times. But, it gave me hope. And, it also brought back the wonderfully inspiring memories of attending my first writer's conference.

And, that's a truly great thing. I have the silly letter stuck to my bedroom mirror next to my husbands gift tag that came on my netbook this Christmas which read, "Finish those books hon." Whatever it takes to keep you going, right?!! I remember reading Stephen King hung his rejection letters all over his bedroom as a kid. Works for me!

I'm looking forward to hanging those rejection letters everywhere. That way, I know I'm a little closer to actually being published!