Monday Museletter May 7 (Rejection Sucks)


Rejection Sucks

Not only does rejection suck in seventh grade, but it sucks in my thirties,  I got rejected by an agent for a gift book (The Original Journal).  The bright side is I am sending out queries and my proposal for the book.  The bad news is I got a rejection email from an agent.  Simple and to the point: “Hi Megan. I’m afraid this doesn’t feel like a match for me, but thank you so much for the look, I appreciate it.”  The bright side — I worked really hard on the query letter and now I have a finished query letter to send to a whole bunch of other agents.  The bad news — I have to most likely go through rejection again.

If you are interested in learning more about the book, you can go to the website at The Original Journal or the Facebook page.

I have never been a fan of rejection. Who is, really?  Anyway, it’s part of the process and this is just part of the process — the sucky part of the process, but I am moving forward.

Perspective

I host brain tumor patient profiles on my blog on Thursdays.  I do not have a brain tumor, but my mother has two.  You can read more about this project here. Anyway, reading these stories has given me perspective that the things I complain about are ridiculous.  Life is a beautiful thing.  And I should be thankful for each second I have.  I have a beautiful family and really, that is all that matters.  I have my health and I take that for granted, which I am learning not to.  I know life is about balance, but the most important thing (for me) is family.  I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful son, who fills me with wonder and love (and frustration — he is a toddler after all).  I am trying to enjoy the little things more.  I was sitting on the front porch at my in-laws house, after our Sunday dinnerl last night, and Ben and I were eating ice cream.  Sitting side by side, it was one of those magic moments.  Then fifteen minutes later, he was having a meltdown because he couldn’t play “Car.”  Such is life.

Writing

It’s time to dig deep and write the memoir.  I am dragging my feet on this project.  But I have the stories and the layers, I just need to start.  The first 11 pages are done.

I have a really good writer friend, Debra Elramey, who writes at Pure and Simple, and if I ever preface our conversation with, “This is a really good story.”  She’ll say, “Write it down.  Don’t waste it.”  Then she’ll tell me, “You can tell me the story after you write it.”  She always encourages me to write what I know and see in my life.  Her encouragement is constant and simple.  I think I tend to complicate things to avoid doing them.  Example — writing my memoir.

Anyway, it’s time to buckle down.  I need to follow Anne Lamott’s advice too — take it Bird by Bird.

Anne signed my journal (The Original Journal project).  I was the last person to leave the bookstore.  I gave her my journal and told her the three principles of the project:

1. There is a Front Door, rated PG-13

2. There is a Back Door, Not Yet Rated

3. There are no rules.

I left the journal on the table, peering over at her, in admiration and a smidge of stalker writer love.  A single brown dread, lose from her pink and white headband, dangled near her shoulder as she wrote, she looked up and the turned to her right towards the book store owner, “Is that everyone?  I am bushed. ”  She smiled and gave me back the journal.  Her signature was simple and accurate:

Bird by Bird is good advice writer to writer – Anne Lamott signed this in my journal

My friend, Debra, who I mentioned above, called me at 4 pm and said Anne would be reading at 7 pm at Quail Ridge Books.  Debra could not make it, but wanted a local writer to represent our small town.  I was on it.  I was on the phone with my husband to watch our son, and out the door at 6 pm.  I stalked a little to get my books signed (Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions, and Imperfect Birds).

I lingered here and I lingered there before the reading, to get closer to Anne. I inched forward, I side-wiggled through crowded rows of knees smooshed up against chairs.  But alas, I found my open river current, and jumped in.  The flow of the current opened up to a half-moon space where Anne stood.  I was four deep in line and I said to the woman in front of me, “I feel like I am stalking Anne.”  She replied, “We’re all stalking Anne.”  Another cheerful Anne Lamott fan, saw my camera and exclaimed, “Do you want me to take your picture with Anne?”  I was like, “Yes, please.!”  Then we giggled and chatted about our excitement.

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This is a photo of Anne and me at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, as well as, our happy Anne Lamott stalking crew.  The other photo, I think I freaked Anne out because I told her I was going to put my arm around her.

Beginners

This video is of Ira Glass speaking directly to you. Speaking directly to me.  Speaking to all artists and creatives!  Great inspiration.  I have also included the quote below from the first half of this video.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass

This is a good way to end the Monday Museletter.  Enjoy your week.

Keep creating.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

~ memomuse

In 100 Years, I Want to Know I Gave 100%


Well folks, I’ve reached 100 likes on my blog posts.  Don’t I feel special!

Italicized writing from this website: Within My Power – The Power of One Man Print E-mail

The following was written by Forest E. Witcraft (1894 – 1967), a scholar, teacher, and Boy Scout administrator and first published in the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine.

Forest E. WitcraftI am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated. I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.

Yet I may someday mould destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a Troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout Troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.

These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.

All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.

***

I find this interesting that when you search for this poem, some sites recognize it as anonymous.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

  – Anonymous

The above text quote is from this website.

You would think they would credit the author, Forest Whitcraft.  Someone changed the last word from “boy” to “child” and now Forest Whitcraft loses credit for profound statement.  He seems like the type that wouldn’t care too much about that.  Well me, I am not that evolved.  I work hard as an artist (photographer and writer) and I want credit for my work. I also like validation.  You’ll have to buy my memoir to find out about the deep seeded reason for that! But I think everyone loves validation.

I have been using Pinterest and I am still so new to the site, that I am not sure how I feel about it.  I worked really hard to upload watermarked images, but I am still finding people using my photos that do not have the watermark on them.  I am reporting people to Pinterest that do that.  I feel bad about it though, like “Oh, how can I be your friend still, even though you are stealing my photos and not crediting me?”  Like, I ‘ll lose a precious fan or potential customer.  News flash — if people steal the photos and don’t credit me, it is safe to say, they are not going to buy a photo. Dah! I am also looking out for other photographers.

I had a mini discussion with a photographer about photo piracy on Twitter, when he posted that this photo had been pirated. This is what he said,

@memomuse1 Sorry I didn’t get back sooner but I once heard this: once you put a photo on the web you no longer control it. You can always control how put it there but once it’s up assume it can and will be taken.

@memomuse1 I do post on Flickr & on my site & a few other places that people can see my stuff. I don’t watermark anymore & just accept fate.

@memomuse1 Not a big fan of watermarks because they detract from the pic. Flickr has some protection at least. So I roll mostly w/Flickr
 
@PositivePauly You are an artist Paul and I agree with you on watermarks, but I guess it is part of the dealio these days as a photographer
 
@memomuse1 I do post on Flickr & on my site & a few other places that people can see my stuff. I don’t watermark anymore & just accept fate.

Why does this have to be the case?  Should we just give into plagiarism and photo piracy?  I have come to the conclusion, I will make a living as a teacher, educator, and hopefully someday, as a writer.  Now, as a stay-at-home mom, I am not bringing in an income.  I do have assignments that pay as a freelance writer and photographer, but as far as my art goes, I do it because I love it.  An old friend of mine, asked me recently, “Are you making money with your art?”  I responded, “Well, it depends on what you define as making money.”  This bothered me, mostly because, it reinforced the fact I am not making money.  But that is not my incentive.  I guess what fuels me most is when someone appreciates the art in a photo or one of my blog posts moves someone enough to take extra time to comment on my blog.

I don’t really have a plan yet on what I am exactly trying to do.  Yes, it would nice if I sold some photos at my art online gallery at Artflakes.com and yes, it would super awesome to go viral on Pinterest as the awesome cowboy and rodeo photographer lady. But the truth is, I am slowly building a platform, of real people (like you who actually read my blog) who actually like my blog because they really do like it.  I have been caught up in forcing all my work out there that is even annoys me how I am marketing myself.  Little known secret — I was an elementary and special education major in college and I have a Master’s in English (Creative Writing), so I have no idea what I am doing on the business/marketing side.  I just am feeling the intensity of the NOW of the internet and social media, especially along the lines of platform.  But I have so much to learn still.  My good friend sent me this article, which might be of help to you if you are trying to build a platform, as well.

I feel the internet makes me fall into old mind traps of how I will get discovered instantly and then I can write thank you notes to all my people. Ha.  It’s so funny, sometimes I really think I have nailed it.  Like this attempt I had last night to channel Don Draper and write copy on Pinterest to get some traffic to my Talenthouse portfolio, ultimately to get more supporters to vote for my photo of Chris LeDoux.  Ha.  I guess nobody wants my ugly mug sitting on their pretty Pinterest boards (I would have uploaded an image of an attractive cowboy, cowgirl, or horse if I could have, but Pinterest only found the image of me sitting in a barn with my typewriter on my lap).

Yep, that's Memomuse, with her typewriter and a whole lot of hay! Photo by Sara Turner http://www.sturnerphotos.com

This was my advertising copy:

There’s a whole barn full of cowboys here in my portfolio at Talenthouse (click on my photo). And they all tell a story — hop in the truck and let’s take a ride to Wyoming to see the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the United States! Hell yeah, hop in and let’s put some gravel in our travels.

×Thumbnail of Megan OteriMegan Oteri
Photos of Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Chris LeDoux, JB Mauney, Clint Craig, Brian Canter, cowboys, cowgirls, and broncs and bulls, and scenic Wyoming. Black and white photos with an artistic perspective. I’d love to get your feedback, so be sure to leave a comment if you have time. Thanks for stopping by my photo ranch!So, there you have it — I am really good at photography, writing, and teaching.  Advertising and marketing — well, I think Don Draper would take pleasure in firing me.I changed the Pinterest photo and copy (my husband helped me rewrite it).  He has more sense than me.It now reads: There’s a whole lot of cowboys here at my ranch. Visit them at my portfolio at Talenthouse (click on photo). And they all tell a story — hop in the truck and let’s kick up some dust and take a ride to Wyoming to see the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the United States! Let’s go to the Daddy of em’ All!And I put this photo in instead of my ugly mug!

FYI:  To make the © symbol: Press the Alt key and “0169” at the same time.  My husband helped me with that.  I do an inner “high-five” via my left brain every time I execute that simple, but at one time, completely foreign and unreachable to my right brain mind.

Photo by my Awesome husband (my #1 cowboy) © Awesome husband All Rights Reserved
Memomuse's hand - high fiving all you right brains (and left brains and whole brains)

I actually met with a literary agent at the 2011 South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, and after two rejections of my gift book, The Original Journal (see tab above if you are not familiar with that project), I decided the third pitch needed to be something else, or my ego would literally strangle me with its wounded limbs.  So, I pitched my memoir.  The agent put her business card on the table.  I had no idea what that meant, having suffered (cue ego sad music) two rejections from other agents.

She said, “My next appointment has cancelled, so do you have questions about the publishing business and process?”

I searched my mind and had one thing on my mind, “How did my pitch go?”

She smiled, she is from the Mid-West, and so down to earth and said, “I gave you my card.”

I was like, “Yeah, OK, what does that mean?”

She laughed kindly and looked me dead in the eye (this time I wasn’t about to cry like after the rejection from the last two agents), and said, “I want to see the first 30 pages.”

I think I could have hugged her.  I really wanted to.  I was on top of the world.

I have several drafts, and as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, I certainly have a shitty first draft.  And a shitty second draft.  I am working on the second two chapters. I finished the first chapter.

So I have a tangible lead — but I get caught up in the get-discovered-via-the-all-mighty-internet scheme very easily. I know it happens — Julie and Julia, the lady who makes stuffed animals from children’s illustrations, and Justin Bieber.  Granted I don’t have a YouTube channel and I don’t write about food (hell, I hardly cook) and I couldn’t sew a button on a jacket to save my life.  I write. I take photographs. I am memomuse.  That should be enough.  But I really do want to get discovered.  Fast. Like now.  But I am doing what I do and eventually it will take where I’m supposed to go.

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”
― Natalie Goldberg

And I am taking baby steps to figure out the rest, or sometimes I jump into the internet pool and Cannonball!  Sorry if I have splashed you while you were relaxing and sunbathing quietly.  I just have no idea what I am doing.

In 100 years, I want to know I gave it 100%.

Have a great weekend.  Voting starts for the photo of Chris LeDoux on Talenthouse on Monday.  I will put a link in the Monday Museletter.  I will also be posting a story about meeting Chris LeDoux at Cheyenne Frontier Days.  Those sparkly Wyoming cowboy eyes sure can make a cowgirl blush!

Steal Like a Thief


Photo by Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

A good thief leaves no trace and leaves with a bounty. 

I say, steal time away like a thief. 

I just read a great article by my writing and personal inspiration, Anne Lamott. She wrote this article in Sunset magazine.  I was lucky enough to meet her recently.  She came to Raleigh, which is 45 minutes away.  I got the call from my writer friend, Debi Elramey (you can read her wonderful blog here, “Pure and Simple” at 4:30 in the afternoon. She told me Anne was coming.  I asked her if she was going and she could not get away.  But she said, with her curious giggle and enchanting smile I could hear through the phone, “You should go and represent our town.” 

Our tiny town in Eastern North Carolina.

I said, “I’ll represent proudly.”

Debi is a recluse and takes pride in this.  As she should.  She teaches piano during the day; she writes through the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes, there simply is no time to chatter. 

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ Copyright 2011

I write this post as I look at the clock.  Aware that my son will wake soon.  Oh, that is him right now.  I ignore the sounds of morning milk wants and continue writing, thinking to myself, perhaps I could give him a gulp of breast milk and be on my way back to the keyboard, back to the muse. Back to my post, that I ride like a proud cowgirl, on top of my gallant horse.  But mom duty calls and I will honor it.  But I plan to improve my thief skills.  I will steal away more moments.  I will make a plan.  I will practice.  Because as Anne says in her article, life is too precious to multitask.  I want to wander, daydream, create, be filled with muse.  And I will have to steal away moments to do this.  Not always, as many moments are there for the taking if we are truly present. 

But it helps to know how to pocket an hour in your sleeve without a soul knowing.  These early morning hours are delicious to me.  They taste like caviar.  Like picnics.

I was lucky enough to meet Anne at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.  It was a delightful evening.  I got the call from Debi at 4:30 PM.  By 4:45 I was off the phone and had called my husband at work and made plans for him to watch our son.  I was in the car by 5:30 and off to Raleigh singing songs of wonder and excitement.  Alone, but in company of thousands, on the highway, in the city, at the bookstore, I was present.  I was able to get the last copy of her new book, which she was promoting, Imperfect Birds.  Now, that was a sign.

I had my camera in hand.  I saw her.  There she was, greeting her fans like Jesus.  Holding hands, hugging.  The crowd was kind, and aware of something.  They had made the time to come see her.  Many stealing away from their husbands, children, jobs, energy, housework.  But they were there.  I was lucky enough to get a photo with her. 

I snuck into a cove of crowded people.  I am a fire sign, so when I have my eye on something, you better watch out.  I’m an Aries to boot. And I lack a filter of sorts, thanks to my New Yorker mom and South Side of Chicago dad.  And time living in Wyoming. And the years in-between.

I inched my way closer, squeezing through  a narrow path.  You know, suck in your gut, squeeze in your buttocks, and scoot your way through a wormhole tiny.  Yep, that is what I did.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m so sorry,” dressed in a hopeful smile.  Inside thinking, “Yikes, I’m lucky someone doesn’t purposefully trip me, I am so annoying.”

The target was seen.  I was so close.  I stopped to gather more strength.  I was this close, I was going in.

Anne was greeting her fans still. Smiles were contagious.  Everyone was high off Anne. High off her energy.  High off the fact she is an icon for recovering addicts and alcoholics, one herself. 

Her dreads dangled in her purply pink hair bandana, tied in a triangle around her fluffy head, soft with the brittle looking combs of dreads.  She is simply beautiful.

Her wrinkles were within eye looking distance.  I took a deep breath and spoke shortly with a pretentious looking woman.  Well, it was more of how she reacted to me that thinks that.

I forgot what I asked her.  But she responded with, “I’ve been following Anne for a long time.”  In a deep husky patronizing snobbery way. thick with black wire rim glasses and some sort of grey black yogenia outfit.  She had grey hair too. 

It’s not what she said, but how she said it.  But I don’t blame her for being rude to me.  I was a bull in a China shop and she was a porcelain jar I had just tipped over.

Oops. Sorry.

Moving on, I jimmied my way through another batch of woman.  This time a circle of more stout and plump women.  I had my work cut out for me.  I was between the rotating cards on their display racks and a table of discounted books.  I picked one up to be inconspicuous.  My camera was around my neck.  A woman smiled at me from across the room.  She was me, only five steps closer, already one step away from Anne’s embrace.  I put the discounted book on travels in Ireland down.  The stout, plump women smiled at me.  They moved their dangling legs off the discount book table top to make room for my eager ram horns wiggling by the discount book table and the greeting cards.

Photo by Megan Oteri All Right Reserved

“Thank you so much.  I appreciate you letting me by, since it is pretty tight quarters?”  They laughed, poised in their make shift seats on the discount book table. 

I stood about four people deep from Anne.  I said to the woman in front of me, “I’m stalking Anne,” as I clutched to my copies of Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions (which was a saving grace to me as a new mom) and Imperfect Birds. Anne was scribbling away her name in black thick Sharpie ink, talking and chatting as she wrote.  Her smile thick was like a blanket for many.

So, there I was.  So close.  The woman I said that to said, “We’re all stalking Anne.”  I looked around the room and sure enough, we were.

A cute little spit fire of a five foot nothing gal, looked into my eager eyes, and saw my camera dangling.  She said, do you want me to take your picture with Anne?”

“Ah, yeah.  Word.  Thank you so much. Do you have a camera?  I will take yours with her.”

“Nope, I’m all set.  But thanks.”

See, there you have it – the Anne fans. 

Since a picture is worth a thousand words and it is time for this thief to make her getaway, since I have a nice size essay in my pocket.

I will leave you with this photo. 

Photo by awesome Anne fan who took photo

But before we take care of that.  Do me a favor.  Read the article in Sunset that Anne wrote about making time for your muse.  Whatever it is you do, do it.  Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of it.  Steal away the time like a thief in the night.  There is no time stealing police.  Only responsibilities and multitasking that need to get the hand.  Talk to the hand.  Go ahead and put that hand up like you are some bitchy high school girl.  (hand motion – wrist circle and up it goes — “Talk to the hand.”)

Find the time.  Because what fills you up fullest is often empty from external and material view.

Always,

memomuse