Tag Archives: success

More Than One Way to Interpret a Dream

I mentioned my dream house in my last post. I’d like to explain about that.

My purpose in life is not to build myself a giant house. The thought of having to clean it is not an issue since having the means to build the house would almost mean having the support to look after it.

No, I am a perpetual furniture re-arranger. Barely a week goes by that I’m not flipping a room this way or that, looking for a new feel, a better outlook. Drives my men nuts!

My ‘house’ is a set of floor plans that I designed – or started to design – when I was about 18. Yes, it’s big. But it’s efficient. No wasted space. Rooms and areas for specific tasks and interests. Views and windows, hi-tech features and down-home comfort. There are details that I incorporated long before they were invented – windows that automatically open and close with the weather, in-floor heating, a lap pool in the basement that doubles as the reservoir for the fire sprinkler system. All things I figured would be standard by the time I ever achieved the success I needed to build it.

Oddly, now, so many years later, it’s funny how much of that house has come true.

I designed it with a master bedroom and five bedrooms, some of which connect via bathrooms a la Brady Bunch style. I now have a husband and the exact number and configuration of children to fill all of those bedrooms, perfect right down to the boys sharing a bathroom, the girls sharing another, and the middle child, who shares nothing with anyone, holding her own.

The kitchen shows a table and chairs that you wouldn’t be able to find in any furniture store. During one of those summers that the plans spent packed in a box, I unconsciously built us a new kitchen set that turned out to be identical to that in the plans. It was the kids who pointed that out the next time the drawings made it back up on the wall.

Visitors to our home can’t help but notice the blueprints. They’re out in the open in my office as they enter. It is an impressive house, but it’s the details that grab. It’s also quite a fun place. I have placed post-it notes on Alex’s Office, the Music Room, the Crafting Room, and the Foyer that all say ‘You Are Here.’ (My current ‘office’ also houses the piano, my crafting supplies, and an oversized coat rack.)

The only drawback to having the plans out on display all the time like this is that inevitable comment, “Oh, you’ll just need to win the lottery, then.”

I sigh. “No,” I say patiently. “This is not a lottery house. This is a working house.”

What surprises me then is how many people just don’t get it.

This is a dream. A goal. I can’t win it. Winning it would devalue the entire purpose. This house must be earned.

My kids pout every time they hear me say this. Like there’s a better chance of winning the lottery than of Mommy making it big. Nice.

I’ve come to learn though, that it’s not the house that’s the goal. It’s what the house means that matters. What the house represents is what’s important.

For me to build that house, I had to have made one of my ideas work.

For that idea to work, it had to involve a lot of other people. It had to help other people. It had to make a positive difference. It had to be born, to grow, and to mature. It had to spawn other dreams, and other ambitions, and branch out into other areas of life and learning that I hadn’t imagined when I started. I had to grow and to learn and to evolve.

For that idea to work, I would have had to achieve balance in my life. Balance that would turn that dream house into a home beyond anything I could possibly deserve.

I am starting to realize that the dream house is not the goal, but the journey.

One of my adopted kids asked me one day why I keep the plans out in full view where everyone can see them. “Aren’t you embarrassed that people will think you’re an idiot?”

“No,” I told him. “The plans stay out so I keep working to get that house.”

Quietly he asked what the chances were that we would ever see it. “Mom,” he said, “if we had a hundred chances to get that house, how many times would we get it?”

I smiled at him – proud of his sudden grasp of probability.

“One,” I told him.

He sat in his chair looking completely deflated. He’d moved in feeling pretty excited about that house.

“But think about it a minute. Let’s say I put a hundred cards on the table, face down. 99 cards say, ‘Too Bad, Try Again.’ But 1 card, only one, says, ‘You Get the House.’ Would you start turning cards over?”

He nodded.

“How many cards would you turn over?”

“Until I found the house.”

“Exactly. So maybe you have to turn over 99 cards before you find the house. Or maybe you only have to turn over 2. Or 15. Or 23. But so long as you know that card is in there, you’ll keep turning over the cards, right?”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“Now, what if I told you there was no ‘house’ card on the table?”

“I wouldn’t even bother,” he admitted.

“That’s why I keep the plans in front of my face. If the house is in my mind, there’s one card on the table. If I put the house away, there’s none. And I stop trying.”

He rolled this over for a minute, finally nodding. Then one last question.

“What if you never find the ‘house’ card?”

“It’s not about finding the card, Babe. It’s about looking for it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under For Writers, Just a Thought

How to Measure Success

As we’re winding down to the last week and a half before the deadline of our first Writers’ Competition, I have to admit, I’m feeling the butterflies. Emotions are high on our end as we anticipate the results of three months of diligent searching for some very unique authors. We still have no idea how this will play out. We have a handful of entries already. And we’ve had several manuscripts submitted outside of the competition. All just a taste of what we could be in for over the next few months.

The excitement of seeing a submission in the mailbox is difficult to explain. There’s a clear sense of wonder at the reality of something that, up until six months ago, didn’t even exist. An overwhelming sense of awe at the fact that this is working!! There are people out there. We’ve connected. People I’ve never met have seen this vision and decided to join me. The responsibility weighs heavy, but the uncertainty keeps all senses on alert. There are so many possible outcomes.

And of course, for every possible outcome, there must be a plan in place for what we do next.

What if we only receive 5 viable entries? With seven prizes on the line and our need for dozens of stories, how will that work out?

Fifty entries would be fabulous. Ideal.

One hundred? Better still.

With five hundred, we could jump ahead a full year in our publishing plan.

With a thousand, we’re in deep, deep kaaka. What the heck would we do with a thousand stories!!

But then, that’s a problem I wouldn’t mind having.

There’s an awful lot of fear. I’ve been at this for quite some time now. I overheard the husband voice a concern the other day that I’m spending too much time on the computer. He’s always been so supportive of every idea I’ve ever run with. No matter how much it cost or how promising he thought it was. Silly man. So I sat him down and showed him how far Romantic Shorts has come along. Walked him through the emails, the website pages, the entries, the stories. He was quite dumbfounded. He’d seen me plugging away day after day, night after night. Come to think of it, he’d said, he hadn’t seen a crossword puzzle or television show on my screen for months.

Yesterday I heard him telling a co-worker all about my new business.

After almost 12 years as a stay-at-home mom of a brood of kids who have not only changed my life, but changed my very character, I’ve often felt that I’ve lost myself in the mix. I’ve found myself wondering who I will be when the kids are gone. What will I do when my credentials as a building inspector no longer hold up? How will I feel when I’ve left myself with nothing because I finished the enormous job of raising all of these adopted/special needs/gifted/athletic/talented kids, but never managed to see even one of my inventions/novels/ideas take flight… It’s been a very long and personal journey for me.

So to hear the man I love tell my story with pride, describing a genuine sense of accomplishment, without my having to prompt him from the wings, was a moment I treasure. I saw a validation of my efforts. I heard confirmation of my potential. I felt strength in my resolve. It was a perk I hadn’t expected.

Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, I have come to realize that I’ve finally come too far with one of my ideas. I have made commitments.  I have a created and idea that is now living, breathing on it’s own.

Sure it’s a baby and will need my tender loving care for the forseeable future. But that’s a job I’m eager to tackle. My kids are old enough. They don’t need me so much. And with all of this happening right under their noses, I have the added benefit of teaching them one of the most valuable lessons they will ever learn in life.

Mom’s following her dream. We’ve heard about it. We’ve been looking at those dream-house plans – on the wall, on another wall, in the trash, back on the wall, covered in coffee rings, covered in decor magazine clippings, under the clear vinyl tablecloth – all of our lives. She’s always talking about another idea. She’s always talking to us about making decisions for our future. “You don’t have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. You just have to decide what you want to do first.” Now she’s finally decided what she’s doing next.

They’ve been watching. They’ve been learning. And now they’re rooting.

Fear, butterflies, worry, excitement, awe, confidence, and confusion aside. By my definition of success, I’m well on my way!


Filed under For Writers, Just a Thought

Guidelines or Hard and Fast Rules

As a bit of an OCD/Perfectionist, I have always gone out of my way to adhere to the publisher’s guidelines to the letter when submitting my works for consideration. And I never failed to at least get a response with some kind of personal note attached.

So I could never understand, and truthfully, got quite bored, having to perpetually read through publishers’ warnings, blog posts, and books that went on and on about how important it was to follow the guidelines perfectly. While some publishers are bound to vary slightly, most have fairly standard requests as to how to set up the document (right down to margins and font size and style), the format of the submission, and the method by which authors submit their works. Really, I thought, who are they talking to?

Now, as a publisher on the receiving end of such submissions, I understand the stress placed on submission presentation.

As a writer, you must understand that the people reviewing your work on behalf of the publisher are just that – people. And they are busy people. Many of them come across hundreds of ‘masterpieces’ every year and must chose the best of the best. It would certainly be an impossible task if they didn’t start to find ways to filter out the worst submissions, so that they can get to the juicy stuff.

Imagine you had three manuscripts on your desk awaiting your attention. You barely have time for one. So you take the one that’s been printed double-sided, because you know that by the time you go over it with your red pen, the ink that will bleed through to the other side will cost you so much time in deciphering the material that it won’t be worth your effort. You put it aside. Time is everything. Take the second one that has no indents for the first paragraphs, making it look like one long sentence, and is single spaced, leaving no room for you to make comments. Pack them both up, give them to your assistant, and have her return them with a form rejection letter. No one even read the titles.

The third one looks promising. It’s stacked and tied with a rubber band. It’s not bound – making it physically easier to handle while reviewing with pen in hand. It’s printed on one side of the paper. All the information you need to know about the MSS is on the front page. Every page is headed with the title, author’s name, and page number – ’cause you know that someone could drop the whole thing on the floor. It looks clean, organized, and ready to read. Makes you think that the content will probably be as well written. And you settle in for a good story.

It should come as no surprise to me that most of what we have received at Romantic Shorts falls within the quality of the first two examples. Depending on time constraints, submissions that don’t follow the guidelines could be thoroughly reviewed. You could receive more than a simple reply. You may even receive a generic or even detailed comment sheet. More likely, if your submission is not perfectly in line our expectations, you will receive a rejection letter that has nothing to do with your writing. You simply did not pay enough attention to your presentation. It astounds me that authors who spend so much time, effort, and emotion in creating something spectacular, stop just short of the mark in their presentation. And because of that, no one ever reads their work.

This is life. Used-car dealers have a car wash right in their building. We would never look at a grubby car no matter how great it runs. So they clean them and we pay more. We like nice packaging; it speaks volumes to the quality of material within.

For a publisher to move through their submissions as efficiently as possible, a lot of good work gets trashed because it doesn’t look good. Don’t sell yourself short. Put more work into the polishing (grammar, spelling, structure) and presentation (follow those guidelines exactly) than you do in the actual creation of your work.

Make it look good.

Grab our attention.

Your work deserves your best foot forward.

Check out our submission guidelines. And be sure to check our Romantic Shorts Submission Sample. Use this sample as a template to format your work. It shows you what your work should look like while it describes the details of your format.

We want to hear your story. Make it stand out because of its great content, not because of its poor presentation.

Leave a comment

Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101