Monthly Archives: January 2008

197905

Tonight during tell stories about Mary Beth time Mama said she learned early on never to spank me when she was angry.
I laughed because boy, do I remember it differently.
Okay, so it was just once, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget Mary Beth and the Great Adventures of BandAid Woman.
I’m not real sure what my fascination was with BandAids. I remember begging my mom to buy the real kind not the sticky ones that hurt and I remember her saying no, they cost too much.
So when she came home with a giant box of the good kind, I was ecstatic.
Back then I had quite the imagination. Need a Gypsy Queen, I was your girl. A TV reporter? Yep, that was me. A monster? Whatever, you want me green or blue?
But a Super Hero? Never. And man, I wanted to be a Super Hero. Wonder Woman was all the rage. I wanted the plane, the lasso, the handcuffs. I wanted to be her little sister.
Those BandAids called me.
One minute, I stood there, Mary Beth Hagberg, 2nd grade nobody and the next…a GENIUS.
I grabbed the box and slowly, carefully covered every inch of my body.
I knew my mom would applaud my creativity.
Running into the living room, I waved my hands and ta-da-da-da-ta-da’d then planted my BandAid covered body in front of Young and the Restless yelling “Here’s BandAid Woman.” (Think Here’s Johnny)
I don’t remember ever seeing my mother move so fast.
One minute she was watching Victor holding Nicky hostage in a basement and the next she was running after me yelling “Mary Elizabeth Hagberg, you get back here right now.” She wasn’t applauding my creativity. I was in trouble. Deep trouble. Might be dead kind of trouble, and all those Band Aids covering my body? Yeah, completely worthless.
My response: RUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!
My mom’s response: She chased me.
I did the only thing any self respecting super hero could do. I dove under my brand new pink canopy bed and prayed she’d get over her anger.
Nope. She picked up the bed.
And then, she spanked my bottom and with every swat she said: I. Told. You. To. Stay. Out. Of. The. BandAids!
Thus ended my reign as super hero.
I never tried that one again. 🙂
I did however think I was a Broadway star. My dad said he was thrilled the day he came home from work to find me, his 7-yr-old daughter, standing on the side of the road singing “VD is for Everybody” at the top of her lungs.
Man, the stories you hear at birthdays. Joy, joy.
You don’t remember the song: check it out:

b’day musings

Back in the olden days I knew this girl.
Wal-Mart was the ultimate cuss word in her universe. She swore the blue and white vests, yellow smiley faces and black and white LOWER PRICES markers were signs of the anti-Christ. She wondered if I was going to hell for shopping there and even asked her youth minister for prayer once when she knew I was picking up groceries that day.
She cried if I served hamburgers and asked about the “poor cows.”
She walked by Abercrombie and said something about clones.
She asked if she could dye her hair pink and swore boys were evil spawns of Satan.
When I watched Laguna Beach, she yawned and asked what was playing on CNBC.
And then….
she grew up.
She still equates Wal-Mart with the anti-Christ.
But that’s it.
She’s marched to the beat of a different drummer and been proud of it for so long, it scares me to see that changing.
But she’s my daughter and I’ll love her in Hollister or Goodwill. Doesn’t matter to me. I’m not real sure she gets that. Sometimes I see her looking at me with this worried little frown and when I ask her what’s up the frown disappears and she says nothing and goes into her room to text her boyfriend.
Wasn’t too long ago she told me everything, even things I didn’t want to know.
I don’t know how or when it happened, but she’s not my baby girl. She’s her own person.
And while I’m thankful burgers are no longer served with a side of tears, I’m also sad that the little kid days are over.
wah.

Happy Birthday to me

and many more.
This is my last year in the 30s. I sure hope I sell a book. 🙂

Karen Kelley & High Concept

North Texas Writer Karen Kelley Lives Dream and Encourages Others
By Mary Beth Lee

Waiting.
For six years Karen Kelley wrote, sent out her work and prayed this would be it. This would be the one that ended with a phone call from an editor asking to buy her book.
But that fateful day another envelope came in the mail. And once again Kelley opened it to find a rejection.
A nice rejection, but the end result was the same.
Once again, the answer was no.
And this time her mother, sick and frail and tired of seeing her daughter so upset by rejection, said the words Kelley’d been thinking herself.
Maybe it was time to quit.
A full-time LVN, Kelley worked at the small hospital in her hometown. Nursing provided a guaranteed paycheck. Writing provided guaranteed heartbreak with every one of those self-addressed stamped rejections.
That’s what she told herself those dark days when she tried to quit.
But the dream born after years of reading the romances she loved, the dream that led her to write four novels in spite of rejection, the dream that had sustained her for years, refused to die.
The characters refused to stop talking, the plotlines demanded to be put down on paper.
And so she sat at the computer and continued to write. And finally, that determination paid off.
She still remembers what it was like to get the call from an editor who wanted to buy her book.
“I became a babbling idiot as soon as the editor said ‘I just read the cutest book, and I want to make an offer for it’,” Kelley said. “I cried, I screamed, I jumped up and down and the poor editor stayed on the phone with me the whole time. I still remember every second of that conversation. It was fantastic.”
Her first publication should have been a happy time. Instead, Kelley says it was “bittersweet” after her mother’s death three months before.
Now several books into a burgeoning romance novelist career, Kelley’s nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for her book Close Encounters of the Sexy Kind.
Looking back on her early days of writing, Kelley laughs at what she calls her naiveté.
“A couple of years after I started reading romances, I decided I could write one,” she said.  “How hard could it be? I realized very quickly that it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.”
For years Kelley says she heard published authors dispense the same words of advise on how to get published.
“The speakers who came to our group always closed with these words: write every day,” she said.  “I thought it was so we would finish a book.  It took me a few years to realize that in everything you do, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.”
Now she tells aspiring writers the same thing. The key to getting published: “Writing!  And lots of it,” she says.
Kelley said writing was easy at first.
“As inexperienced as I was, writing those first few pages opened up a wonderful new world for me,” Kelley said. “I could let my imagination soar.”
She says that feeling is still just as strong today, and she says the best part of actually living her dream is, “Holding one of my books in my hands, being able to make up stories and actually getting paid for it, driving down the road and realizing that, hey, I’m a published author—that’s just so cool!”
For those who dream of one day seeing their book in stores, Karen has some advice.
“Never give up, believe in yourself–in your dreams, join a writers group,” she said. “I could never have done this without Red River Romance Writers, and write every day.”
Karen Kelley will be teaching about High Concept at the Red River Romance Writers meeting Feb. 9 at the Wichita Falls Public Library in room 204 from 10:30-12:00. Guests are welcome. For more information, check out her website: http://www.authorkarenkelley.com or http://www.redriverromancewriters.com.

The cover gods love Karen!

196912

On the corner of my desk sits a ceramic heart container filled with paper clips.
The heart came from a girl years ago in a class I volunteered to teach.
Only the day I got my roll sheets, I almost quit.
Three years into teaching I’d discovered I LOVED kids who hated school.
When the incredibly smart, genius-loving teachers suggested we split English into three levels so their honors classes wouldn’t be filled with the riff-raff, students  who didn’t belong in honors, I passionately fought the change.
See, for five years, I’d watched my strong kids pulling up my weak kids. Back then I had one-two, maybe three low-level kids and five or six strong students who could’ve been in honors, but they didn’t want to do the work, and everyone else was normal. And every time those strong kids raised the level of all the kids in the room.
But I wasn’t an honors teacher. And the honors teachers won. We split into three levels: honors, academic and regular. They might’ve called it REGULAR, but everyone knew what REGULAR stood for. It stood for stupid. I knew what it stood for because once upon a time, I’d been in the stupid group, they just called it the red group, and I still remember how mortifying it was to be in the red group.
Still the regular group was created, and in my fury, I volunteered to teach those classes. When they created the three levels, administrators and honors teachers promised those “regular” classes would be small–15 students tops–so the teachers could work one-on-one with the kids “who needed so much help.” In my heart, I knew all the one-on-one help in the world wouldn’t work without the strong kids to pull them up, but still I raised my hand when they asked who wanted the classes. One other person raised her hand too. So TWO of us volunteered for these “classes that were so good for the REGULAR kids,” and off we went on summer vacation.
When the new school year rolled around I picked up my roll sheets and laughed. My class counts: the smallest was 29, the largest 32. So much for all that one-on-one help. And the 32 class, yeah, everyone who looked at the roll sheet shuddered.
One of my friends laughingly called it the prep-for-prison class.
I laughed back before I knew the kids, before I knew myself, back when I thought those types of comments were perfectly fine.
I survived the first day. Not sure how, really. I guess because they looked at me and I looked at them and they knew who was in control. Them.
The second week one of my students ate a page out of his book trying to get kicked out of the class, but by then, my stubborn nature had kicked in and I’d decided none of these kids was getting out of the sentence called junior English, so when he asked why I wasn’t sending him to the office, I just laughed and told him paper was a great source of fiber. Then I gave him a copy of The Last Picture Show and asked him to try reading it before eating it, but, I warned him, it was pretty racy.
He didn’t eat anymore books, but he kept my copy of The Last Picture Show after asking. And then he read Horseman Pass By. And a few other books. He never did the work I assigned, but he learned, and I was okay with that.
Unfortunately, his sixth period classmates weren’t so inclined.
Three weeks in I was clueless how to reach them. My mentors suggested keeping a stack of referrals signed and ready to go to the office, but these kids lived in the office, so I didn’t see how that would work.
Instead, I tried my own thing. After a day of complete disaster, I rolled out the butcher paper and used black marker to create a sign.
The next day, the students walked in and found me sitting on the floor holding the giant sign in front of me.
I didn’t say a word. The sign spoke for me. The words: I AM CRAZY.
One boy, a big, black, (one of the reasons the color is important here is almost EVERY one of the very few black students atvmy school that year was in the REGULAR levels…how about that?) multiple-offender who I actually liked, walked in the room laughing, but stopped when he saw me on the floor. “Miss,” he said. “You know you on the floor?”
I didn’t even smile. I just held up the sign.
The bell rang, I stood up, walked to one of our the second story classroom windows, opened it and then stood on my desk and recited Stephen Crane’s A Man Said to the Universe.

             A man said to the universe:
                “Sir, I exist!”
                “However,” replied the universe,
                “The fact has not created in me
                A sense of obligation.”

When I climbed on the desk, there were more than a few twitters of laughter, but there were more curious looks than anything else. When I yelled the words, Sir, I exist, the laughter stopped. When I quietly spoke the universe’s reply and climbed off the desk, they didn’t say a word. Until I asked them about desperation when it seems no one cares.
I gained control of sixth period that day.
Actually, they let me gain control.
After that I didn’t assign a lot of homework, but we wrote poetry and read short stories and re-enacted scenes from Red Badge of Courage. We were loud and unruly–enough that TWO of those honors teachers complained that I had no classroom control. Fortunately my principal understood that the noise level in my room was EXCITEMENT not misbehavior.
Soon, I grew to love that class, and they loved me. It was apparent.
They didn’t like any other teachers in my class, though. I went to a conference once and they were terrible for the sub. They THREW HER shoes out the window.
But when I came back and let them have it and ended with notice we’d have a week of quiet writing at our desks AND they would write letters of apology to the sub, one of the young men in the class teared up. That almost made me cry–until he said something about the sub having blue hair and calling many of them “boy” or “you there” even though she knew their names. Then I was offended on their behalves, but I couldn’t let their behavior pass. So they wrote their letters, I delivered them and after that quiet week, we went back to business as usual.
That Christmas, one girl, I don’t even remember her name, but I remember exactly what she looked like: long brown hair, big brown eyes, soft southern drawl, boots or tennis shoes every day and button down shirts almost always–gave me the ceramic heart and told me it reminded her of my heart.
I cried and gave her a real hug even though high school teachers aren’t supposed to do that. I gave a lot of real hugs in that class.
That year was the hardest teaching experience of my life. It was also one of the most rewarding.
I’d like to say there’s a real happy ending like in the books I write or Stand and Deliver or Freedom Writers, but I know at least five of those kids did go to prison. Several of the girls got pregnant and didn’t finish their senior years. Two went into academic classes the next year, one advanced to honors.
But in my heart I KNOW they all could’ve made it, they ALL could’ve been successful if they hadn’t been “boys” or “you there’s” or stupid…I mean…REGULARS.
And that heart on my desk reminds me of that lesson every day.

Decisions

I have three strong chapters, a detailed synopsis and a complete draft of my psychic book done.
Now to figure out if I should keep working on it or move on to a new book.
On the one hand, I have two completes out right now, so I should probably wait to send this partial in.
On the other, hey, those editors could take forever and Intrigue gets back on partials within 3 months. I should go ahead and send this to them. But editors for all H/s lines can acquire for all H/S lines, so sending in a manuscript to another editor would be a bad thing IF the other two sell or even if one of them does.
Then there’s the whole time issue.
Finishing the revisions on a story that might not grab her attention could be a bad thing,
And I could be working on something new.
BUT as I flesh out this draft, who knows how it will change?
Ugh.
I know they only buy complete books.
But should I try to complete a book they might turn down?
But I learn so much when I write the book.
But I’m obviously missing some big points in all this editorless learning I’m doing since I’ve earned a heck of a lot of rejections for a million different reasons.
Ugh.
I felt so great about this project last night.
HOW did it change so fast?
I think I’m bi-polar about my writing. 🙂
Yesterday I sent my friend an e-mail saying this one is going to sell.
Today I still love the book, but I have no idea what to do with it.
Maybe I’ll send it to agents. 🙂
But (Hey, I’m getting used to that word!) it’s category. I don’t need an agent for category and good luck getting one without a contract.
But if I got an agent, maybe then I’d have a direction.
Only shouldn’t I have a direction anyway?

So I’m right back to the beginning. A long time ago an editor told me my plot was eliptical. Since that time I;ve worked to correct that problem. Obviously though, my mind works in circles.
Ugh.
Man, when I first started writing a million and twelve years ago, I would’ve just sent the book in. I wouldn’t know anything about editors and acquiring. Heck, my first synopsis was a playbill and when the editor requested the full she just asked for a real synopsis. I didn’t think about anything. I just sent the book in.

If everyone agrees

I teach newspaper so I encourage healthy debate on a regular basis. In the last week I’ve written this or something similar four times: twice in education, twice in romance, but I think it’s worth repeating.
Disagreement is not a bad thing. If we all fall in line and “do what we’re told” without question and discussion, our world suffers. Taking the disagreement personally is a waste of good energy.
At work, we’re looking at a new schedule the teachers on site based aren’t happy with, but we met with our assistant principal and principal and laid out our concerns then started looking for solutions to our problems. Will the schedule we’re not happy with be put in place? Quite possibly. But if we had stood silently by and let it happen without discussion, the consequences would be even worse. My current principal is the one who helped me learn this lesson. He encourages discussion and often takes our suggestions into consideration when he makes a decision. Some people in the district call him a weak principal because he doesn’t whip us into shape. He doesn’t make us toe the line. Guess what? Our test scores are the highest in the district and we win the choice war every year.
In romance it’s quite a bit different because often the disagreements aren’t really vocalized in a professional setting, so people get their feelings hurt and take things personally. Because of the constant debate in school (that I love, that keeps me invigorated!), I forget the whole hurt feelings thing, and I state an opinion that might be in direct opposition to another out there and suddenly I’ve hurt someone personally when I meant it totally as criticism of an idea or event. My criticism doesn’t mean I’m right. It means I’m tossing out an opposing viewpoint and waiting for the discussion to ensue.

Fall in Love at the Falls

Permission granted to forward)

Red River Romance Writers presents the Fall in Love at the Falls mini-conference featuring authors USA Today and New York Times best-selling author Gena Showalter, Jill Monroe, Linda Goodnight and Jordan Dane June 7 from 8:30-5:00.
Registration includes breakfast and lunch June 7 plus conference. Rooms at conference site available.
Booksigning June 6 from 7-8:30 featuring conference speakers plus Red River Romance Writers’ published authors and others. All registrants are invited to take part in the booksigning. Just fill out the information on the registration form.
Where: The Holiday Inn, Wichita Falls, TX; rooms start at $70 a night. The Holiday Inn 100 Central Freeway, Wichita Falls, TX 76306 (940) 761-6000, ask for the Red River Romance Writers conference rate.

Conference cost: $25 RRRW members regular registration $40 non-member regular registration $50 late registration Regular registration runs until March 30. Late registration runs from then until May 15.

 Registration forms and more available online at www.redriverromancewriters.com

A prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for reminding me that my place in the classroom does make a difference, that the newsroom I love must be a place devoted to making a difference in the lives of students, that I can be an effective leader in the midst of turmoil and still be positive, that when I walk through the doors of my school the kids must come first, and that when I walk out, I must put you & my family first. That writing does have a place in my life.

I don’t know why I even try…

Me vs. the kitchen part 2038.7

So the other night I was exhausted, grumpy and cold and we had nothing in the house to cook for supper except macaroni, Velveeta, hamburger meat and a ton of canned veggies.
I have no idea why, but the ingredients reminded me of the olden days of first apartments when those ingredients added up to the scrumptious meal of cheeseburger macaroni. A sort of homemade Hamburger Helper we ate all the time when we were broke and enjoying every minute of  our first tastes of freedom.
So I threw it all together, heated up some corn and green beans and prepared to dig in to…
the worst meal I’ve made in years. Ugh. It was so gross.
It was like cheese flavored paste with nasty nuggets of ground beef thrown in for flavor.

Tonight’s chili. Chili I can do.

Great news, we are off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Today some commentors to the local paper’s online edition said teachers needed to quit whining. Sometimes, I have to agree. We are a whiny bunch!
Today my friend and I spent about an hour brainstorming ways to make next year’s credit requirements work within the framework of our school day. No griping, only solutions allowed. It was invigorating. Suddenly a week’s worth of waah, waah, waah was replaced with we can do this. It’s just like in a book. You know when you’re writing and you suddenly have no idea where your characters are going next. They can’t move forward. So you step back a scene and let the characters turn right instead of left and suddenly it’s all better? Yep. Same thing. We just needed to look right instead of left.