An Open Letter to Judy Blume

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Dear Judy,

So many times as a kid I wanted to write you. To me, you were like the “cool” aunt–somebody who understood me much better than I imagined my mother did. I’m not sure why I never did it, so I’m taking a moment to do that now.

Thank you for your books. Thank you for your frank point of view–you seemed to really get me. Perhaps you also had a bit of a hard time during your teens–but then most teens feel they have a hard time.

Thankfully, I never had to hide your books from my parents. They were pretty okay with me reading whatever I wanted. I began with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I loved that Margaret was much like me–worrying about getting my first period and the time it was taking for my boobs to grow in, hoping and praying my best friend wasn’t first! The horror! Isn’t that funny–what was I so excited about? Turns out, like a lot of things, it was a lot better in theory than in real life. I also learned a bit about Jewish culture (and New Jersey!) from Margaret. Growing up in small town Arkansas, I didn’t know any Jewish kids, and you showed me a glimpse into a girl who was very much like me. You helped open my mind to other viewpoints and lifestyles from my white bread, rural, Southern Baptist life. Nobody would have expected a children’s author to tread into such deep theological territory, but you did.Thank you for that.

Deeny was another favorite. Deeny explained to me a bit about scoliosis, which I was to develop a few years later, although very minor in comparison. My daughter as well has been diagnosed with it, and Deeny’s experience resonated in my mind. Because of your book, I knew a little about this beforehand.

When I became a mom myself, the first of your books I read to them was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. My son especially enjoyed Fudge’s personality (seeing that he was of similar nature, it’s no surprise), and so did my daughters. All my kids LOVED Otherwise Known Sheila The Great (which is still on our bookshelf, and my youngest is 16) the most, I think, and more than once I heard the favorite phrase “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” sang around the house.

I know parents and scholars alike have analyzed your work over and over–I’m far from the first. Thanks to you, my favorite childhood author, I began to write stories of my own, and my love of reading has never lessened.  I’m now an English teacher and author, in part to you and your influence.

For now, I think I’ll go buy your newest book In The Unlikely Event. I can’t wait to read it.

So thank you, Judy, for so many reasons. And here’s a confession for you: sometimes, when I’m alone, I yell “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” … just for fun.

How to Throw a Successful Book Signing

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You published a book, yay! Now what? Of course, the next step should be to put together a book signing. Book signings are different from book release parties, which are usually less formal. A book signing is imperative to getting your name out there into the public eye.

Read more on Freelancewriting.com:

http://goo.gl/y31dFW

War Eagle Women: It’s All About the Secrets

Name a Gothic novel without secrets. You can’t. Secrets are the core of all things Gothic.
I take that back. Secrets that refuse to be kept are the core of all things Gothic. And Southern Gothic? Of course! Even more so.
With perhaps the bloodiest non-war history of any other section of our country. I think the number one reason why the Gothic fits so well here is the history and geography both.

Think of the Old South. What do you see? Plantations in ruin, people starving, many homeless…especially those who had received their freedom from slavery–and very little else. The soil itself cries tears of blood straining to keep its past and present crimes a mystery.

But secrets are funny things. They are stubborn and unruly and don’t like to be kept. Especially in the deep mountains of Arkansas where few people have trod. Especially in the hidden caves next to the wild river. Especially, in the heart of a girl.

War a Eagle Women is now available in print.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/war-eagle-women-tina-coleman-bausinger/1120443907?ean=9781619355873

It’s Southern Gothic–Steel Magnolias, Heaven and Fried Green Tomatoes all rolled into one. How can one secret affect four generations of women? By refusing to be kept.

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Jerkwads and 1st World Problems

 

This guy.

I’m a reasonable person most of the time. I don’t have a record. I pay my taxes. I buy 2% milk and take vitamins and never litter. I follow the rules.

But when I see stuff like this…well, I feel a little like a vegan trapped at a Texas barbecue. That’s CRAZY.

Why do people think it’s ok to do stuff like this? And what’s more, when I put it on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with “Yeah! I saw that guy there LAST WEEK DOING THE SAME THING.” So this guy is a repeat offender! GRRRR!

I guess I just don’t understand this kind of entitled mentality…someone who says to himself, “You know what? Even though parking spots are rarer than a Longhorn fan in Razorback country, I DESERVE two spaces for my brand new, untagged vehicle. I JUST DO.”

I would NEVER double park my giant truck in front of a popular sushi restaurant! That is unacceptable; only the biggest jerkwads would do that! (My dad, who never cursed, would call people jerkwads.) I might have used another harsher term under my breath.

But wait. Am I REALLY complaining about having to search for a parking spot? Is this the worst thing I’ve had to endure today in my cushy world? Wahhhhhhhh!

Whenever it dawns on me that I’m just as bad as Rude Truck Guy… I’m ashamed.

I often hear people joking about “First World Problems.” That’s really a catch phrase for entitlement. I’m guilty of this, without even realizing it. If the lady at the drive-thru at Starbucks doesn’t immediately come on to take my order, I get miffed. Every second that ticks by I get more annoyed. What’s taking so long? I’m BUSY. I have classes to teach and minds to ignite with knowledge! I can’t be expected to work my magic without my triple capp frapp! THE HORROR. There are people going through serious health issues, mamas grieving their children taken too soon, children going hungry. These are the real tragedies.

How spoiled I am! Here I am, on my way to have dinner with one of my sweetest friends (you all know her as Leigh Ann), at my favorite restaurant that is NOT cheap. Minutes before, I was watching Oklahoma with my Mancub, cuddling with my chihuahua, listening to the rain fall softly on the window of my cozy house. Hours before that, I finished up my first week of my dream job teaching students the joy of writing. I have so many things to be thankful for, but what do I post on Facebook? My outrage at this guy.

Forgive me Jesus.

Thank you for my cozy house that I have the privilege of taking care of. Thank you for my sweet hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas and my obsession with writing and literature. Thank you for my beautiful girls laughing in the kitchen, giving each other a hard time. Thank you for Mancub, who is transforming into a Godly man right before my eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for these and many more blessings. Soften my heart and show me the ones in need you would have me help.

But listen, while I have you here, could you maybe send a little smiting Jerkwad’s way? Just the smallest smidge of smiting–like a giant bird doo on his precious window. If it’s not too much trouble. Amen!

 

Do you have a First World Pet Peeve you’d like to vent about? Go ahead! I’m with you, Sister!

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Guest Blog:Traci Borum

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Please enjoy this guest entry from my good friend Traci Borum. I’ve known her for eight years now…that can’t be possible! She was my creative writing teacher and a great source of encouragement as we both kept receiving rejection after rejection when we were both seeking publishers for our novels. We had a friendly “competition” wherein we sent each other copies of the most biting/most banal rejection letters, and laughed at the amount of rejections a person could receive in a week.
Her first novel, Painting the Moon, is getting rave reviews and the second installment is coming soon!

To Publish or Not to Publish… by Traci Borum

When I teach creative writing, I don’t spend much time discussing how to get published. I’d rather spend time teaching the nuts and bolts of technique or story structure, letting the writing itself be the main focus for students. But when I do talk about publication in the classroom, I always ask students a seemingly simple question: Why do you want to get published?

Sometimes, they actually don’t. Probably a third of all my students express no desire (at this stage of their lives, at least) to see their work in print. A decision I completely respect. These students tell me their reasons: that they’re shy about sharing their work with the public, or that publishing their work makes it less special somehow, or that selling their work makes them feel like they’re selling out.

Some writers simply enjoy the solitude and privacy of sharing their thoughts only with themselves. They want to protect what’s theirs, not let anyone else see it.

But for those who do wish to pursue publication, they first should know why. Is it for the money they think they’ll receive? The fame? Is it for validation of their work? Legitimacy? Because the answer to these questions will be the only things keeping you going when you receive rejection after rejection (or absolute silence, which has now become an acceptable form of rejection).

When you wonder why you’re spending dozens of hours researching agent and publisher submission guidelines if it all ends with no result. When your family and friends probably think you’re crazy for still submitting after all these years. And when you wonder, “How long is long enough? When do I quit trying?”

Here’s my own answer to that “why publish” question. For years, I’ve pursued publication for various reasons: wanting people’s genuine feedback, hoping readers gain some entertainment/escape from my books (just like I receive when I read fiction), and even something as simple as seeing my words bound in print form (opening up my own softback of Painting the Moon weeks ago was a highlight of my life—I felt like Charlie, opening his Wonka candy bar and finding the Golden Ticket peeking through the wrapper. Very surreal).

The weird thing about getting published is that the act of being published didn’t change my stories, didn’t suddenly make them more important or more valuable than when I first put them on paper. But, for me, my stories and characters did seem to gain a new “life,” a new energy, when others read them. One of my favorite quotes by author Kate Morton sums it up well: “No matter how much I adore writing, no matter the pleasure my stories give me, it isn’t until books are read that they really start to breathe.”

I admit—it’s a huge rush when a friend or relative or stranger reads my work and tells me about it. Through that experience, we’ve shared something unique. It’s like they’ve taken a peek into a very personal corner of who I am. There’s an invisible connection between a reader and author when a book is read. A connection that’s hard to explain, hard to pinpoint. And to me, that’s what ultimately makes getting published special. And worth all the effort.

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5 Reasons Why I Teach Stephen King’s “1408” To College Students

Have you ever thought of teaching Stephen King to college students? During my graduate work, I took an amazing class taught by Dr. Karen Sloan called American Gothic. It was one of my favorite classes of all time because it’s just right up my alley. I took it concurrently with Dr. Ross’s British Gothic and I learned so much about the roots of horror. Here’s 5 reasons why I teach “1408” in my English composition class.

1. It’s a great example of a short, well-written horror story that perfectly fits the Contemporary Gothic genre. King is the master of horror, and as much as I would like to teach an entire novel (The Shining, Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile would be great to dissect!), I just don’t have enough time in a composition class to cover it.

2. It’s a perfect King bite. A bit scary, but not too scary for the faint of heart and those who hate horror. “1408” is a delicious sample, like the ones they give away at Sam’s Club on Saturdays. I might not really WANT to buy a whole lasagna, but a bite or two is perfect!

3. I love surprising students with King’s literary depth. Many people underestimate King’s writing–even he does–as simple, popular mass market paperback books. Not so. They are chock full of well-crafted characters, action-packed plots and quotable lines. His works are so much more.

4. If there’s a literary device I want to teach (symbolism, foreshadowing, point of view, unreliable/reliable narrators), I have a full arsenal in “1408.” It’s densely packed with everything I need in less than 30 pages, and students who balk at traditionally taught literature seem to be more open to the Kingster. Yes, I just called him that.

5. Reading “1408” automatically gives me an excuse to watch John Cusack at his best. Enough said.

 

Just Ask! 5 Ways to Dreaming Big and Setting Goals

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In the past couple of years, I’ve had quite a few adventures. Many of these events in my life would not have happened had I listened to that voice in my head that says, “You can’t do that! Who do you think you are?” I hate that guy.

Here are some of the things I’ve been able to do by simply ASKING: writing a humor column for a college newspaper, speaking at a major writers’ conference in Dallas–twice. Writing book reviews for a magazine (where I get paid to read fabulous books, and get the books for free), and getting my novel published. A couple of times I’ve been on a talk show to promote my book.

If you’re wondering: I’m not great-looking, super smart or even well-spoken. I’m just bold and kind of tenacious and maybe a tad obsessive. But I also battle laziness and a dislike for rejection. But let me tell you: every time someone says “yes,” it feels like a million bucks.

Don’t get me wrong. Many times people say “No, you can’t do (fill in the blank).” Plenty of times I get ignored. When I decided to get serious about publishing my novel, War Eagle Women, I approached over 100 agents and publishers. 99 said “No.” But you know what? I only need the one to say “Yes!”

Here are 5 ways to encourage you to dream big.

1. List your craziest dreams. What have you always wanted to do?

2. Think about you as a kid. What were your dreams then? Did you love playing nurse and putting band aids on your stuffed animals? Did you tell your dolls stories every night before bed? Did you wish you had a treehouse?

3. Translate your kid wishes to adult. It’s not too late to go to nursing school. Why don’t you call around and inquire about some of the best programs right here in Tyler? Love to tell stories? Write one, or two, or a novel. Build a treehouse for your son or daughter–and you–to hang out in.

4. Up the ante. What is your crazy dream that you’ve never told anyone? Always wanted to be a stand-up comedian? So do it! Find an open-mike night at a local restaurant or club. Use your computer or phone to record yourself telling jokes to practice. Want to be a writer? Join a writers group and find accountability and friendship.

5. Don’t put it off. Set a date for the first step towards your goal and keep it. On Friday, I will apply to the nursing program. By next Tuesday, I will have finished this short story or poem and begin writing a new one. Find that writer’s group. This weekend, go to the hardware store and buy the materials for a treehouse. Take the first step!

I dare you to make your dreams come true!