caralongwrites

Not Where I Thought I’d Be October 17, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 4:38 pm

I’m walking the halls of a middle school headed into the Media Center (what used to be called the Library) where I work. As I open the door I’m surrounded by books. Thousands of them. Written by writers I admire, and some that I don’t. I can’t help but think about the millions of words that have been placed carefully beside one another, to form the sentences, that create the stories, that light up the eyes of the twelve to fifteen year olds that check them out. They talk about them, share which they think their friends should read, and which they don’t. They fall in love with the characters, they hate the antagonists with a passion, eagerly awaiting the next in a series, or devastated when they realize it’s over.

This isn’t where I thought I’d find myself when I daydreamed through class a mere forty years ago, when I was thirteen-and pretty much every day since. No, I was going to be a star. I have proof of that-in a folder, tucked into a filing cabinet, holding a letter hand written to Henry Winkler. (Happy Days and the Fonz were very big back then). If I’d had the nerve to send the letter, instead of throwing it away-where where my mom found it, smoothed it out and put it in the folder-I’m sure he’d have given me the chance I begged for-to let me have a walk on part. That’s all I needed. I would have done it for free, because in my dream my talents were so great I would then be discovered in the midst of the extras. My star-light shining bright. Instead, today I shelved the book we have in the library he co-authored with Lin Oliver running my finger over what might have been.

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What Students Really Need to Hear April 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 12:36 pm

So, do yourself a favor: Man up. Woman up. No more excuses. No more justifications. No blaming. No quitting. Just pick your head up. Rip the cords out of your ears. Grab the frickin’ pencil and let’s do this.-C. mielke

AFFECTIVE LIVING

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Wrinkle Blanket December 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 11:27 pm

As I look into her face, a face I have been looking into since I was born, I lose myself in her wrinkles.  Some fine and barely there, others etched in as deep as if carved there by a stone-cutter.  To her the wrinkles are sometimes valued; but mostly unwanted as they mark the passing of time and reality sets in that her youth might finally be gone. The wrinkles that cross her face are like blankets to me, something I can crawl into…cover myself with…. comfort myself in…memories and the people that created them.  Looking into the mirror I see my own wrinkles that are being fashioned.  Some around my eyes, some near my lips and my neckline is beginning to show the roadways created by age.  

I have heard her voice say, as she looks in a mirror, “I don’t even recognize myself sometimes”.  I tell her…and it is true, “I don’t even see them.”  When I look at her, generally, I see her from my own youthful eyes and memories.  I see her from the stories my dad told of seeing her around a corner as he decided if he was going to actually meet her and how taken he was by her beautiful auburn hair. I see her from the pictures of her youth; as beautiful as any Hollywood movie star and twice as glamorous. Picking me up from school, attending my concerts and plays.  I see her making dinners for family and standing by the sink cleaning the dishes after our big, loud family has gathered. I see her caring for us when we are sick.  I see her worried about how she will feed us but never turning anyone away from a meal in our home.  I see her arms open with a hug. Running after grandchildren, sitting in a chair in the corner crocheting Christmas stockings to hang by the fire.  I see her regret when she has said or done the wrong thing.  I see her too proud to say I’m sorry and I see her pride when she sees what we have accomplished.

I see her up late at night waiting for us to arrive home.  I see her when she worried about the choices we were making.  I see her folding laundry while my sister and I told her about our day. I see her when I would lay my head in her lap weeping over some sadness or some dumb boy and feel those hands caressing my head while she told me how amazing I was and that everything would be ok.

Now, as time rushes by and each day becomes more precious than the last, I see her as someone that needs me as much as I need her.  I trace those wrinkles and hope that I can trace them again tomorrow. I see those wrinkles and wonder if I will ever know the tale of each wrinkle or how it got there.  While to her each wrinkle proves she is old to me each wrinkle tells a story.  Each wrinkle holds a lesson.  If we could touch the wrinkle and go back in time we could see if they were created by laughter, tears, worry, fears or joy, pride, relief and happiness.  Now, facing my own aging battles, what I do know…what I am sure of…is that each wrinkle holds the love of a mother locked deep inside.

 

Passion or Hobby February 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 5:59 pm

I like to think I am passionate about most things.  After all isn’t that what we try to teach people, or for me, my children?  Do something you love or are passionate about and you will have success and be happy in life.  What I wonder is, “Am I passionate about writing?”  I feel like I am an idea girl.  I have great ideas and burst of energy to get it started so I have learned to surround myself with people that follow through or at least make me follow through.

This is how I feel about my books.  I get great bursts of ideas and can write the whole children’s book in one sitting.  Than it is time for the details…revisions, editing, illustrations and working with the team that it takes for me to self-publish.   That is where, so far, I have lacked passion. Follow through.  That is when I begin to wonder…is this a passion or just a hobby that is an outlet for my creativity while I raise children?

I have decided I am passionate about the words I want to get out there.  I am in a learning process to be passionate about details and follow through.  A couple of things I have learned since starting this adventure.

1.  Take each thing I am doing one step at a time.  I have to see the big picture to stay passionate but break it down to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

2.  Do something.  I have to work on something everyday to be able to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

3.  Finally, set aside time.  This is the biggie for me.  I have to make it a priority everyday which, for me, means setting aside specific times to work to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

So, I am passionate…and because I am, I have changed myself and become more organized and focused.  I have published and sold one book and I am working on my second one.  I have submitted poems to magazines and written the start of a novel.  I am seeing my dreams of being an artist come to fruition…not in the way I expected but in a way which brings me great joy!  And, my passion lets me enjoy, and sometimes include, my favorite hobby of travel as I market the books and read at libraries.  I get to bring my family and see this great country, for which I also have a great passion.   I get to include my children and be inspired by them and share their lessons in the messages of the books.

 

Waiting October 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 5:39 pm

I have been waiting for three days for the proof of the book to review.  Finger-biting kind of waiting.  I want it to look good.  I want to fall in love with the final product.  Lightning Source posted that the proof was out so I was positive I would recieve it within two days.  Nothing.  I have checked the mailbox twice a day for the last three days (even though I know we only receive one shipment a day here).  I spent one morning in tears worried I would hate it and it would be revealed that the book stinks…what was really revealed, by that, was my low self-esteem from the past rearing its ugly, horn toed head again.  Anyway, there is not much to add here, except that it still has not arrived so on Monday I will be calling to see where it might have gotten to.  I tried the tracking number they sent me with USPS, FedEx and UPS but could not even find who it was shipped through.

So keep me in your positive thoughts and I hope it gets here soon.  I am almost out of nails!

 

The Cookbook

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 5:38 pm

I am updating a family cookbook for an upcoming family reunion.  This isn’t writing, per se.  More like copying old recipes my mother had written down and given to us years ago.  We have added about 80 family members since then so I felt like we needed to add new family recipes to the ones she had given us in the past.  It, also, give us a chance to get the old cookbook out to the next generation.  The reason I have decided to write about it is, because, initially I was just going to type the recipes and notate who gave them to us. However, as I started typing I realized what gems were inside.

 

I began with the first recipe and found this “prenote” (is that a word?) typed in by my mom:

 

This is not authentic chili.  Just a recipe from my canning book but when I served it at an Empty Nester’s meeting, all the men love it. It was the first to go.  It is the same one I have always made. 

 

and on Baked Potato Soup:

 

This is from the newspaper but Cara says it tastes like Black Angus potato soup.

 

I have seen these notes often as I use this book every week…at least once.  But, it really wasn’t until I was going to be efficient and just re-type recipes for printing that I realized we would lose something from the cookbook if I did not type these notes also.  This keeps my mother alive and lets others see the funny things she did or said, or, really, just how she thought about things.  For example, I am pretty sure my family doesn’t believe I am a potato soup expert so they probably don’t or didn’t really care what I thought but I love that my mom thought it was important enough to note.

 

Following a peanut butter candy recipe she added:

 

If you buy exact sizes of peanut butter and marshmallow cream, there is very little measuring.

 

and regarding peanut butter, in general:

 

For peanut butter and crackers, any peanut butter will do but for cooking, cookies, fudge, etc., only Jif–it has the best flavor.

 

Now…did you know that?  Did you know it would matter what brand it was once you mixed the peanut butter into the batter?  It does, though, so I only use Jif.  This is what I am saying…easy hints and the knowledge of exactly what kind of peanut butter to use.  These side notes bring smiles to our family and give us an opportunity to remember what my mom was like and share that with our children.  They will help when mom is gone and, possibly, make the food taste just that much sweeter because each bite is filled with a memory and the love that went into the cooking in the first place.

 

Rejections

Filed under: Uncategorized — caralongwrites @ 5:37 pm

Rejection is a funny thing.  When you are a child and are trying to talk to your parents and they are distracted you feel unimportant.  When you are a parent and your child gets too old for hugs and kisses when you drop them off for school you are sad and realize they are growing up.  When you are dating and someone breaks up you feel like your heart will break and wonder what is wrong with you. But, when you are a writer trying to get published rejection takes on a whole new meaning.  Let me explain…


When you decide you have a manuscript the world must see you enter the new world of rejection.  You send this manuscript to agents, publishers, editors…anyone that might see what you felt and realize the impact this book will have on readers everywhere if they will just give it a chance.  Then you wait for the replies…and, sometimes, wait and wait.  (This process can take anywhere from 1 day to 12 weeks.)  Also, you are really only supposed to send it to a few of these people at a time so the process can really drag on.  OK, now you start to receive replies to your inquiries.  These are generally rejections, at first.  Now, I guess, these can come in many forms but mine so far have felt pretty generic.  I am sharing this one word for word so you can see what I mean but, for the most part, all of mine have said the same thing more or less.

 

Dear Cara Long,

 

Thank you for your submission, which we’ve now had the chance to share and discuss.  We appreciate the opportunity to review your work.  However, we do not feel that we can be of further assistance in placing it at this time.

 

Thank you again for thinking of us in connection with your work and we wish you the best of luck.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

So you see this is where this new rejection gets tricky…what does this really mean?  Does it mean, “your manuscript stinks and we can’t believe you really think you are a writer” or “hey, with a little more work and polish this could really go somewhere” or “this really just isn’t for us because we already have too many children’s book authors on our lists but it isn’t bad”.  It is hard to know from these generic rejections what the thoughts really are.  Now, I understand these publishing houses, editors and agents receive hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts to read each year (most unsolicited) but maybe they could write these generic rejections more specifically using the ideas I mentioned above and attach them to how they feel about each manuscript.  

 

Because, here is the thing, most authors will be rejected a lot.  Hundreds, if not thousands of times…unfortunately with no guidance to possibly make them better writers or just to know if maybe that agent was having a bad day with no coffee when they picked up my manuscript.  Becoming published really does feel like the luck of the draw…your manuscript hits the desk of someone at the right place and right time.  Because opinion is relative…I mean 10 people will read the same book and have many differing opinions.  Some will love it…some will find it too slow or graphic or not a genre they enjoy and others will just like it.  But all will have received a different impact and gotten from it something meant just for them.  That is the beauty of books and imagination.  So, as a new author, you keep moving forward hoping for that one desk of an agent, editor, or publisher that sees your vision for your manuscript. 

 

The rejections, maybe, weed out the weak.  I am only working on my first book and, even though, the rejections are not specific about me being a terrible author they hit at my heart a little.  But mostly I just wonder if I should keep going. Even though they are not the same rejections that are pointedly about you, like children, dating, etc…they are rejections. You have to decide if you keep going and plugging away and mailing in the manuscripts.  Therein is the true author…you have to do it because you love it because, in reality, it may be…that no one ever sees it.