Adventures with Words, May 2023

Adventures with Words, May 2023

Hello from the wet side of Washington State where it is finally warm enough to wear shorts sometimes, the itch to garden has become irresistible and we’ve even had to wear sunscreen a couple of times. 

Writers Chat

I will be hosting a social gathering for introverts on Tuesday, May 9th. We will be at Northwest Beerwerks – in the ‘game room’ just off the front entrance. This month I’m excited that Lisa, one of my writing partners, will be joining us. I’m excited to finally see her in the flesh. 

(Note: as I’m completing this newsletter, I’m fully engaged in a battle for control over my sinuses. If I’m not feeling better by Tuesday, I’ll have to reschedule)

Working Toward a Deadline

I am in the thick of final revisions, tweaks and incorporating big ideas coming out of left field before handing If Elephant Ears Could Talk over to Jenny Bartoy for a manuscript evaluation. You may recall that we teamed up last summer for an evaluation of an earlier version of this story. The result of that feedback, and what I received from early readers, led me to make some pretty big changes to the story’s plot. I’m very excited to have Jenny and my early readers see what I’ve done with it. 


I’ve been doing this work since September of last year, with increasing time spent on the project since the first of the year. For the past several weeks, my story and characters have had an obsessive grip on me. I find myself mentally drifting during meetings and conversations, as ideas for revisions come to me. I am that spaced out writer who isn’t all here. And, honestly, I love it. I know it’s not great for conversations or any of the normal functions of a person with responsibilities. I know this, and still, I love being in this place with my work. When I’m digging into a scene and creating more havoc or fun for my characters, I’m a kid in a room full of toys. This is my happy place and the longer I am an adult in this world, the more time I want to spend in that place. 

Looking Ahead for Elephant Ears

At the recommendation of Jenny Bartoy, I’ve been listening to a podcast called ‘The Shit No One Tells You About Writing’ by Bianca Marais (author) and Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra (literary agents) to learn more about the next steps I’ll be taking for my novel. Episodes start with the lit agents reading query letters out loud and give feedback on them and the first 5 pages of the work. After some query feedback, there is a featured guest – typically a published author – talking about their process, the path they took to get published and related topics.

It’s a great podcast and I’ve gained tons of insight about the querying process. One of the chores I have to complete before querying agents is to come up with comps – comparative works – that I can relate or contrast my novel to. This isn’t an easy task, there are rules and standards for finding comps – they should be successful and well known, but not too big. You want 2 to 3 of them and they should be in the same genre as your work. You can choose comps that are similar to all or parts of  your story, or in contrast with parts of your book. 

My book is a YA murder mystery featuring nonbinary and queer characters. I have one comp on the basis of being a YA murder mystery featuring characters in the same age group and a mystery within the mystery – The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgo and Liz Lawson. There are books from other genres that I’ve looked to for examples of queer friend groups but I still need to find at least one other comp to list in my query letter. 

Finding an agent is a whole huge project of its own. You’ve got to write query letters that tune in on what that agent is looking for and their guidelines for querying. And I have a preference for someone who is queer and/or trans/nonbinary. Do I query only agents specializing in YA novels or just YA mystery? Do I look for people who are also looking for adult fiction, which would be helpful for my future work? Above all else, I’ve got to be ready for rejection or never hearing from the agent at all. Challenging yes, and also, I believe in my book and my future work. I’ve got to take this on like any other project that needs to be planned out and worked until completed. And I will benefit from the support of my muse, my family and all of you.

If all else fails, I can publish and market it myself. That’s my fall-back position. I really, really want to see if I can go the other route first.

Recently Read

My reading pace has slowed with the increased time spent in revision and editing. Since last month’s newsletter, I finished Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon and Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 edited by Bogi Takács.

Sorrowland is as dark and deep as its title suggests. I needed to read a couple of chapters before I was completely hooked, however, that also may be due to the other ways my brain has been occupied this month. This is the third novel by Rivers Solomon, a nonbinary intersex author who uses they/them and fae/faer pronouns. I think one of the interesting things about the characters in this novel is that regardless of the pronouns used and names given, I was not completely clear on their gender identities or physical formats. And I think that’s awesome. I have a curiosity and hunger for how other writers are creating gender non specific characters, non binary identities and the variations on how gender and sex physically manifest. I want to create this kind of fluidity and magic in my work.

Transcendent is a great anthology of short works by trans and nonbinary writers and another great resource for understanding and expanding awareness of how those identities present themselves in fictional worlds – and real ones.  There are three such anthologies. The first was also published in 2016, the third in 2018, the fourth and last in 2019 by Lethe Press.

The Front Yard Farm Report

Mol and I have done a lot in the garden this past month. We’ve planted out corn, cabbage and tomato starts. We’ve popped pea, cucumber, squash and flower seeds into the ground. We’ve gotten seed potatoes nestled in. We’ve still got two varieties of runner beans, greens and kale on the list. I am very fortunate to have a partner who is as enthusiastic about gardening as I am because we can still accomplish our goals when one of us (me) is sick.

Nico and Tyson

It doesn’t happen often, but I occasionally catch Tyson and Nico snuggling together, or Tyson holding the boy down to clean his head. One of Nico’s cool tricks is that he plays fetch. We have a length of paracord that he just loves. He picks it up and drags it around and purposefully (it seems) gets it tangled around chair legs. When he brings it to one of us and drops it on the floor at our feet, we know he wants to play fetch. Just pick up the cord, throw it and watch Nico go scrambling after it.  He trots back with the cord, tail up and obviously proud. He’ll do this over and over and over. It’s excruciatingly cute.

Ending on a Food Note

This month’s new food is sourdough crackers. Super simple to make, endless possibilities of toppings and all with the savory kick of sourdough. I’ve got wheat and spelt sourdough and I’ve topped them with salt, pepper, parmesan, garlic powder, and dried rosemary. Not all at once. If you’ve got a sourdough living in your kitchen and don’t always have time to make bread, here’s an easy way to use some of it:

  • Get your oven heated up to 325
  • 200 grams sourdough starter (straight out of the jar)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Mix together
  • Spread out on a tray, preferably lined with silicone… this is sticky stuff and parchment paper will not work as well.
  • Make it as thin as possible for crispy crackers
  • Top with your choice of seasonings and herbs
  • Bake for 10 min and then score your crackers. I cut my grid lines using a pastry scraper.
  • Bake for 20 more minutes. Optionally add 5 min at a time for increased crispiness but be careful – they are so thin, they can burn quickly.

I’d love to hear what flavor combos you try. Another variation is to stir seasoning and/or herbs into the batter. I haven’t tried that yet.

Making Contact

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