"What we do in this life, echoes in eternity."
Maximus, Gladiator
"Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Contest and my first page

Shelly Waters is holding an amazing contest. Again. This time we have to post the first page of our book for an opportunity to have ten pages critiqued by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates!

I know I've had this page, chapter and book critiqued to death. But several extra eyes won't hurt! Thanks for taking the time to read my entry. I'll hop blogs to leave my critique too.

Genre: YA Literary Fiction
Word Count: 87,000 words

Lies have short legs. I’ve known this ominous proverb since before I could speak.
    Who among my ancestors brought the saying across the Atlantic all the way to Argentina?
    My Russian great-grandmother embroidered it on a pillow after her first boyfriend broke her heart. My Palestinian grandfather whispered it to me every time my mom found his stash of wine bottles hidden in the unlikeliest places, like underneath my bed. My Andalusian grandmother repeated it like a mantra, lost in her old woman insanity, before her memories and regrets called her to the next life.
    Perhaps the saying doesn’t belong to any language, and sprouted from this land the early explorers thought encrusted with silver, and my immigrant family adopted the expression like its own.  
    In spite of seventeen years of practice, my lies’ legs haven’t grown stronger or faster. I know the consequences of lying to my father. A reflex slap that will leave my face burning for hours. A session of yelling and blaming his worries on a daughter who’s not as beautiful as her mother nor as smart as he is. A litany of all the reasons he gave my mom for not having any more children after Pablo—perfect, beautiful Pablo—was born.
     With all these thoughts clamoring in my head, I still went to the stadium to watch my brother play in the Scoundrels’ opening match of the season. My brother and that other boy whom the press calls the Titan because on the pitch, he’s more than a god. Diego Ferrari.


I'm not perfect doing my Insanity workout. But I do it every day, and I enjoy it. I promise I do. And I do pretty well on my diet, except on Sundays or when my mom cooks and makes the most delicious food in the world.

Today I can't blame my mom. It's May 29th, and in Argentina ("and now here in Utah," Chubbers said) we have the tradition of making gnocchi (potato dumplings) and putting a one dollar bill underneath each plate. Every January I resolve to follow this tradition, and each 29th goes by and I forget all about it. It's May, but it's still a month closer to 2011 than to 2012. I'm already doing better than ever.

As soon as my daughters saw me don my apron, they ran to put theirs on.
Making gnocchi is dirty business: floured counter tops el Cagri blew on every time he walked past, sticky hands, dogs underfoot hoping to catch a fallen ball of dough. But the girls' faces as they were helping roll the balls and make the little shells was priceless. I don't have a lot of memories of my grandmother Elena. She wasn't the grandmotherly kind. But I remember going to her house on Sundays, and looking at her hands transform a glob of potato, eggs and flour into a delicacy. I never knew how she could knead so fast. I guess that after seven kids (six of whom were boys), she learned to work fast.

 I'm not sure my gnocchi turned out as Abuela Elena's, but they were delicious. I see something of Abuela in Chubbers and Swan. Maybe Perfection skipped a generation.

And last but not least, I can't talk of perfection and not mention Lio Messi's goal yesterday against Manchester United for the Europe Champion League's Final. He's personified perfection, the god of futbol. Maybe in the future, someone will write a biography of the best futbol player that has ever existed--him--and I'll be shocked to find out crazy things about him. Maybe not. For now, he's perfect, the reason futbol even exists. Take a look at his work of art. It makes me cry.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Flaws in my favorites

Last weekend I read a very popular YA Contemporary author for the first time. I write in the same genre, and I was curious to learn how her books became such favorites. So with pen in hand (I always take notes on my books; that's why I like to buy my own), I dove into the story.

It took me a while to get into it. But before I realized what time it was, or what page number I was in and still no major Plot Turning Point, I was already in love with the characters, and I really wanted them to succeed and achieve their goals, AKA, each other.

And when I finished the book, the characters stayed with me, and I was mad at myself for finishing the book so fast. Now, I want to get this author's other books, and see if they make a cameo appearance in another story (I read they do! And I'm so excited to see them again even if it's not in their stories).

My favorite author is Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His book aren't structurally perfect. There's some telling, some repetition, but I love his characters; I think about them all the time.

In preparation for the WIFYR conference, I also read Keturah And Lord Death. Again. It's the perfect book. I didn't find a single thing that could even be questionable. I love the dialog, the characters, the subtle descriptions that make my mind take flights and fill in the blanks. The beautiful, lyrical language. I love Lord Death.

That's why I love to read. To lose myself into someone else's world for a few hours and when I'm finished, love or hate those characters that are now a part of me.

I'm working on my second draft of HEAR YE MORTALS, my Gothic YA with a boy main character, and I'm having a hard time with it. There's so many rules to follow, my inner editor is so loud that my creative side of me has been a little  muffled lately. So this week, I plan on letting myself go, let these characters take life again, live outside of the charts and outlines. Maybe some day another person will love them (or hate them) as much as I love them. Because I love these people that speak in my mind, even the bad guy, because I know his motivations and where he comes from.

Do you love any stories even though you find flaws in them? Which ones?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

LDStorymakers 2011 and my winner first chapter

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the LDStorymakers 2011 writers' conference. If you attend one conference a year, this is the one you should choose. The tuition was very affordable, with options for people who could only attend one day or all three.

I have a wonderful critique group that I treasure. My partners are all incredibly talented, supportive, and knowledgeable. They're usually the ones who read the earlier drafts of my books, and I trust them to offer helpful but kind criticism. Sometimes it's also very helpful to have people whom you don't know and don't know you read your work too. During bootcamp and the Publication Primer classes, all my companions offered invaluable advice, and even if in a couple of instances I didn't agree with something right away, as the days went by, I recalled their words and read their comments and realized that they might be right! Or I saw my chapter from another perspective. That, is gold for the writers' mind.

Due to some scheduling conflicts, I wasn't able to attend Larry Brooks' class(yes, the guy who writes storyfix.com, the best writers' reference blog out there, in my opinion), but he gave the keynote address. Larry is a pragmatic kind of guy but an advocate for being a prepared writer, or a writer with a plan, even if it's only just in your mind. I loved that he said we all have the tools to succeed as writers, we just need to learn the craft.

I also had the chance to pitch agent Becca Stumpf, from the Prospect Agency. I wasn't dying of anxiety because right before my pitch appointment, I attended a class by her, and she's a lovely person. She was very enthusiastic about my project, and made the ten minutes pass by like a breeze.

On Saturday during lunch, the first chapter contest winners were announced. I really didn't have a lot of hope. But I'm a Saggitarius, I can't help being optimistic :-) so every time I thought about the announcement, I had butterflies in my stomach.

They started by announcing fifth place. There were so many entries for YA Fiction. My name wasn't in fifth, fourth, third, and then for the second place, they announced A BLIND EYE, from none other than my dear friend Julie Daines! I was so happy I teared up. Last year she won first place. So when they announced her name, I told her, "You're the queen of first chapters."
And then, I saw my title on the screen, SOUTHERN CROSS, and my name right beneath it. They announced my chapter as the winner. Let me tell you, I totally knew what Harry Potter was feeling on the way to professor Dumbledore when his name came out of the Globet of Fire!

I don't remember how I made it all the way to the podium. My friend Julie gave me a hug, and I cried a little. In fact, when I told my brother later on the phone, the first thing he asked was "Did you cry?"

The best part of all was coming home and finding this from my kids:
And later my friend Julie and her husband brought me more ballons:
And I promise I've been trying not to stare at this certificate all week (I don't know how to turn the pic on this program!)
Most of all, I have hope again for this story. I only queried a few agents, but without any good response. This week, I re-wrote my query letter and I'm working on a few more revisions before I send SOUTHERN CROSS out into the world. If you're interested in reading my first chapter, it's posted on the LDStorymakers site for a month. Click here. Look for Youth Fiction (all other genres besides Fantasy) and you'll see my name, Yamile Mendez. It's still there, so I guess it's true I won :-)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Because I loved Richard Bach's books when I was little.

I remember one day, bored at my aunt's house. My two older cousins were probably out with girlfriends, and the little ones were taking naps. A small, wobbly bookshelf full of books called me into the semi-darkness of the living room--a welcome invitation in a hot summer day.

And there, wedged between two fat books I can't remember was Richard's Bach Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul. I think I was in fifth grade, because my next memory is of reading passages of it to my desk partner, a girl named Florencia who smiled like an angel. I read her passages of the book, so excited to share the gems that made my heart burn with the discovery of so many wonderful possibilities. That we can do whatever we set our minds to, that we have no idea of our potential, that I could materialize anything I wanted into my life.

Over the years, I've met a lot of people who read Richard's books. Some of them are still great friends of mine. One of the things he mentioned in one of his books--because after Messiah, I devoured them all--was the concept of parallel universes, of what you could tell your younger self if you could.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I thought of this concept.

During family dinner the kids were asking me about all the pets I had in my life. I don't know why, but I told them about Pamela, a tiny dachshund that my father gave me when I was seven. She was a pest. I see it now that I'm a mother. But back then, I couldn't understand why my mom, tired of cleaning after the dog, gave her away.

When I finished telling the story, I realized my Chubbers was gone. I found her crying in her room. When she saw me, she ran to me and hugged me so, so tight. "I'm so sorry about your dog, mami," she said between hiccups.

Maybe in a parallel universe, a seven year-old Yamile is crying her heart out over her little dog. I hope she can feel the chubby arms around her neck, and the wet kiss on the cheek trying to console her.