M.J. Pullen's Blog

November 17, 2014

Sometimes it's a little suspicious...

Sometimes it’s a little suspicious…


Because I think this issue is so important, I am taking time away from NaNoWriMo to re-post here what I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday. My friends and fellow authors, J.K. Barber, brought to my attention their post about a conversation with publicist Louise Carter; and I wanted to share it far and wide so other authors realize that this kind of stuff is not… well, it’s not Kosher.



In the post (see below) Katie shares screenshots of a conversation she had on Facebook with Carter who approached her to do a “review swap” with another author. When Katie said she’d be unable to read the book in question and politely declined, the publicist indicated that there was no reason Katie needed to read the book at all. She’d just send along a review she had already written and all Katie had to do was post it.  Katie told the woman she was reporting her to the other author, who did not know this was how his publicist was getting reviews for him.

Here’s what I wrote on Facebook, followed by the post from the Barbers. Elaboration below.

Yesterday in my self-publishing workshop, we talked about publishing ethics, and this kind of conversation is exactly why I bothered….I actually heard about another publicist encouraging this behavior at a conference recently, too. This kind of garbage breaks trust with readers and gives us ALL a bad name. Write a great book and stand by it. If you work hard promoting and give people a book worth sharing, the genuine reviews WILL come. If someone offers to “get you reviews” for money, make sure that you understand the way they are doing it. Review swaps are not okay if you haven’t actually read the work in question; and neither are phony reviews written by a publicist and distributed like this.



If you want to see the conversation, here is the post by J. K. Barber.

There are many opinions when it comes to ethics and reviews. And there are some gray areas. For example, some people are comfortable reminding/asking their fans to review books they’ve read; some are not. Some people think it’s unethical to solicit reviews in any way from anyone; and that if authors are really being ethical they won’t allow their friends and family to post reviews about their books online. (The question of how you stop friends from reviewing your books is a whole different barrel of monkeys).


Others, myself included, think it’s okay to allow or even ask friends to review your book IF they’ve read it and IF you can reasonably expect their review to be a true reflection of their opinion. What I mean by that is that if your good friend read your book and genuinely loved it, it’s okay for her to get online and say why she loved it. If she wants to say that she’s your friend or she was a beta reader to be absolutely transparent, great. If not, that’s not a big sticking point for me. Realistically I think the first few reviews for any book are going to come from people who are close to the author, whether personally close or just fans of his/her work. That’s who reads a book first, isn’t it? A discerning reader looking at those first few reviews can probably guess that they aren’t completely unbiased; but they hopefully still contain information that will help the reader decide whether or not to purchase the book.


And really, ALL reviews are biased. They’re opinions, they carry all kinds of bias with them no matter who writes them. My friend who was inclined to like my book because she already likes me is biased; and the reader who was disinclined to like it because she doesn’t like books with infidelity and alcohol in them is biased, too. That’s okay, it’s part of how the system works. After a few reviews, the various directions of bias begin to cancel one another out and you get an overall picture of what is likable and not likable about the book.


Which is what reviews are for.


The whole thing about having friends review your work is a matter for debate. Different authors can draw the line at different places and all still be acting within the realm of ethical behavior, provided that there is no dishonesty involved, no pressure, no fake book orgasms.

What is NOT in the realm of ethical behavior is reviewing or rating a book that you haven’t read in exchange for money or quid pro quo (or because it was written by a friend and you didn’t really make the time to read it even though you promised you would). It’s not okay to have a publicist do any of this on your behalf. It’s not okay to post a review that someone else has written for you, especially about a book you haven’t read. It’s not okay to put a 5-star rating on the book of the guy sitting next to you at the writer’s conference if he agrees to do the same for you — unless you read one another’s books first and promise to be honest and disclose your relationship in the review, in which case a sleazy tactic becomes a decent idea.


If promoters like Louise Carter feel the need to hide their methods from the authors they serve, that should be a red flag to all of us that this kind of thing is wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know anything about Louise other than this one Facebook conversation and the fact that I believe based on knowing Katie Barber personally that it is genuine. But I do know there are hundreds of ethical, creative ways to market books. Any publicist worth her salt should be finding, innovating and championing those methods for her clients.


Our little online community of authors and readers is based on trust, and reviews are one mechanism by which that trust is manifested. We trust readers to be as honest and fair as they can be when they review books; in turn, readers trust us to be transparent and let our work speak for itself. I’ll repeat here what I said in my self-publishing workshop: I know how hard it is to put that book out there and be sitting on six or ten reviews; when you need twenty (or more) to qualify for many promotional platforms or to have the credibility readers look for. I remember that anxiety, and I understand the temptation to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get those numbers up. Do something, but don’t do this. Don’t violate your integrity, and don’t let someone talk you into promoting your book by compromising your reputation.


Once it’s gone, it’s hard to get back.

______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!



The post Attention Writers: Don’t Accept Fake Reviews appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 17, 2014 07:30

November 12, 2014

Well, it’s more like Fender Ripper-Offer, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it?


Dramatization

Dramatization


I hurt my back two days ago, which I am going to pretend has nothing to do with the fact that I am now officially 39; and between that and the fact that Skywalker developed a 3 a.m. fever, I didn’t sleep much the night before last.


This means that Skywalker was stuck going to the chiropractor with me yesterday. On the way, I made a stupid but not serious miscalculation and got side-swiped by a passing construction trailer. The guy pulled over and I followed him, hating myself the whole way. Skywalker, thankfully, didn’t notice anything was wrong and kept telling me the story of how Darth Vader came about.


I got out of the car to look at the damage, which was limited to the fact that the whole front panel of Vaneschewitz was hanging off and you could see straight through to her washer fluid. I was kind of embarrassed for her, actually. Remember when cars had bumpers?


The guy I hit was all set to yell at me, he was defending himself by blaming me from the minute he got out of his truck. Why is this our first response after a car accident? I mean, clearly I was okay because I was up walking around, but dude, would it have killed you to ask? I’m staring at the van thinking, 30 seconds. I could’ve waited 30 seconds to get through traffic instead of rushing around and getting hit for no good reason.


So he’s explaining to me how this is all my fault and I can’t think what to do, because I know this already but that information doesn’t get me to the chiropractor or get my kid back home to bed, so I lift up Vanny’s sagging front and try to POP IT BACK ON. It’s plastic, so it should pop back on, right? Hmm…


“Can you help me?” I ask, and those are the magic words. He’s a construction guy or a landscape guy or something practical, and now I am speaking his language. Can this problem be solved? So he kneels down, blame forgotten, and tries my same approach. Then we try together. But it’s not popping back on and little chunks of gray plastic are hitting the pavement. It’s sort of gruesome and awful. I love that van. And I had a day planned today.


“Oh, there are pieces falling out,” he says, and I can see that he gets it now, because he might as well have said, “Oh, your leg is bleeding profusely.” I am trying hard not to cry. I have a rule about crying in front of strangers. And bosses. I’ve broken both, often, so I don’t know what it is I’m so worried about. I keep looking at the road ahead, trying to remember the distance from the parking lot we’re in to the chiropractor’s office, a gas station (did I mention I was almost out of gas?) or even the Starbucks across the street.


He looks in the back window. “Oh. And you have a kid in the car, too.”


Yeah, dude. I know most people use minivans to cart around portable orgies with sex and drugs and disco lights, but I use mine for hauling my kids. Go figure.


“Wait,” he says, and I can see that he’s torn between irritation that I’ve slowed him on his way to wherever he was hauling his equipment and sympathy at the realization that I am a real person and this ended much worse for me than for him. Then he utters the pass-phrase of manly men everywhere. “Let me get you a bungee cord.”


So, while I might wish he had done something more helpful (like talk me out of driving anywhere and asking if we needed a lift or a phone, or you know, NOTHING at all) I do appreciate in spirit that this man went to his truck, got a bright red bungee cord and strapped the front half of my car to the back half. The Beverly Hillbillies would’ve been proud. “That should hold long enough for you to get somewhere.”


I wasn’t even back in the van before he was gone; I can only assume his trailer was unscathed. Or that he likes it scathed. I hesitated only briefly, head beating softly on the steering wheel, before abandoning the relative safety of the shopping center parking lot for the open road, hoping to make it… somewhere. The dealership a few miles away? Maybe just to the chiropractor so I could get adjusted while I waited for a tow if it came to that. If I didn’t make it to the chiropractor, I knew there was a gas station a half mile up on the corner.


Um, yeah. I didn’t make it that far. Do you know what a huge plastic bumper sounds like as it scrapes the road repeatedly, threatening to fall off and be run over or possibly, I don’t know… melt? Skywalker and I do. It’s unnerving.


So it turns out the bungee cord was not the panacea we’d hoped and we found ourselves stranded in a tiny little subdivision a quarter mile away. I couldn’t reach Hubs and I hate, hate, hate feeling so helpless without him — even for a few minutes, and even though I knew he was too far away to be much help. That’s not the girl my Daddy raised. So I let myself cry in frustration for about 30 seconds, hugged Skywalker and told him he could relax and read his books. At least it was a beautiful day. Several phone calls and an hour of bored five-year old trapped in a car later, and we got to ride in the cab of a tow truck with the windows down while the truck driver told us about raising three boys on his own after a divorce. He gave Skywalker a lollipop and told him to listen to his mom before sending us on our way. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think maybe that made an impression because he was really well-behaved the rest of the morning.


Shuttling between the roadside and the repair shop, then the repair shop and the car rental place; waiting and then rushing and then waiting again; and moving the carseats from one car to the next to the next and feeling only slightly mortified at the number of crumbs and old Cheerios that fell out of one car seat every time anyone touched it; our morning was pretty much nonstop adventure. Our shuttle driver was from Glasgow and we managed to talk politics a little before he dropped us off.


“Did you know you’re on empty?” the collision guy said as he turned on the van to check the mileage. “Please tell me you were on your way to a gas station when this happened.”


“Did you know you don’t have rental car coverage?” The insurance guy said. “It would’ve been just a couple dollars a month.”


“Did you know you have a $1000 deductible?” The repairs are $1072, by the way.


So, okay. We didn’t knock it out of the park yesterday. I didn’t even make it to the chiropractor. And I prefer Vanischewitz with her front panel intact. But on the plus side, my back feels better. It turns out that bouncing up and down on a carseat with your hand wedged in the seat reaching for that damn LATCH clasp and saying my special magic car seat incantation (It goesFuckity Fucking Fuck Fuck” if you want to try it with your own car seat) is great for the lower back. And Skywalker was a major trooper the whole time, even though his nose was runny and he wanted to be home playing on the computer. And no one got hurt and we made it to pick up Fozzie on time with the rental car.


Plus, you know, free bungee cord. So there’s that.


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment. Like construction trailers.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!


 


The post Fender Bender appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 12, 2014 06:10 • 1 view

November 3, 2014

I love birthdays, and while I always thought 40 would have to claim me kicking and screaming, I’m surprisingly relaxed about turning 39 today. Life is pretty good at the end of this fourth decade, and I have more blessings than I can reasonably count.


SeanInTheMagicShopSMALLWe have some fun stuff planned to celebrate – a special dinner with my boys that will involve cake, a big dinner out with my friends that will involve wine, and just taking some time to enjoy life. As I do so, I will be thinking of a life close to ours that was cut very, very short in 2008 — a loss to our family and the music world at large.


I’ve written before about our wonderful family friend Sean Costello, whom I knew from the time he was ten years old and copying classic rock songs in our basement with my brother on the drums. In addition to being one of the most modest, self-effacing and adorable people I’ve ever known, Sean also happened to be a music prodigy. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame last month for his contributions to blues music, even though he had a painfully short time to make those contributions. Sean was fortunate in many ways: he had a family who loved and supported him unconditionally, he had a talent that was recognizable from the first twang of the guitar string, he had opportunities to play with some of the greatest musicians of our time.


Sean also had bipolar disorder. It’s a disorder that strikes a disproportionate number of creative people; the same people who may have less access to diagnosis and treatment because of their professions. Self-medication with drugs and alcohol is particularly dangerous for those individuals (and countless others with undiagnosed mental health disorders). For individuals living with bipolar disorder, sometimes even trying to get help can make things worse when there’s not enough of the right support, and treatment is not specialized and customized for the needs of creative people.


After his death — the day before his 29th birthday — Sean’s family set out to try to change the odds for others like him. They started the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research, an incredible organization seeking to get the word out to musicians, creatives and others about bipolar disorder, as well as to fund efforts to understand treat this disorder better.


Last month, a new album of Sean’s called In the Magic Shop (recorded in 2005 at The Magic Shop in New York City) was released. The album is a result of the efforts of many who knew and loved Sean and his music. If you are a fan of the blues, a supporter of mental health causes, or just want something amazing to play in the background while you’re cooking dinner and drinking a glass of wine, this is it. Buy it from the SCMF site and the proceeds go straight to the organization. While you’re there, get a bumper sticker or t-shirt or just tack on a donation and do some additional good.


I got my copy in the mail and have listened to it many times since. I can’t always listen to Sean’s work – hearing his voice belting out often-heartbreaking lyrics is sometimes too much for me to handle, even now. But this album is special in many ways, and I find I can’t get enough of it. The early tracks are signature Sean, bluesy and lively and beautiful. At the end of Track Seven, you can hear Sean’s laugh, which his mom Debbie shared is her favorite part of the album. His cover of Rod Stewart’s “You Wear it Well” will make you smile, and I hope you feel as I do that he’s singing directly to you. Because Angelina’s got nothing on you, either. :)


The last track, “Fool’s Paradise,” is poignant and hard for those of us who loved Sean to hear. At the very end you can hear Sean say “pretty good, huh?” as they wrap up the album, which will seem enormously modest after you’ve heard the rest. And that is my Sean Costello. That is how I will always remember him – a sweet boy with more talent in his pinky finger than most of us have in our entire being, with no real concept of his own amazingness. (And yeah, that’s not a word, but you get the idea).


As I lift a glass to celebrate my 39th, I’ll be thinking of the man who didn’t get to see his 29th: with love, with tears, with a smile, and always with amazing music. If you get the album, I hope it brings you half the joy it’s brought me.


xoxox


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!


The post Get Yourself a Treat for My Birthday appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 03, 2014 03:35

November 1, 2014

SortaNaNoWriMo


Okay, okay, okay. Fine. Whatever you say, non-existent people who are not remotely pressuring me to do NaNoWriMo. You got me. I’ll do it!


For those who don’t know, November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), during which thousands of  would-be novelists lock themselves in closets, bathrooms and heated minivans, and try to churn out the stated goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve participated a few times before and never “won,” because I can’t write 50,000 words in November in general. That speed just isn’t me. I write slowly, research as I go, and obsess over tiny things. And I still have to revise just as much as speed-writers. Ugh.


I have, however, frequently used NaNo as a launching pad to get lots of uncritical progress on a particular project. Regrets Only, the second book in the Marriage Pact trilogy, started substantially as a NaNo project. I’ve also spent lots of NaNoNovembers writing stuff that I later discarded or set aside. Or strapped into a car and sent to a fiery death over a cliff. But that’s just part of the process, too, and if you’re at that stage of the process, November is as good a time as any to turn off your inner editor, critic, and naysayer and churn out some work.


This November, it happens that I do have a project outlined and ready to go that I have just barely started. And with a few notable exceptions (like my self-publishing workshop mid-month) this actually is a good time for me to put some wear on the keyboard. With that in mind, I signed up to participate in NaNo this year, with the following caveats:



Technically I have already started this novel, which is against Pure NaNoWriMo protocol. Come and arrest me, NaNo Cops! I have about 1600 words in the books already. So that’s like, a day of progress already in place.
I have no real expectation of getting to 50,000 words by the end of November. Skywalker is out of school the entire week of Thanksgiving, and I am teaching the workshop on the 15th. It’s just not gonna happen.
I am shooting for 30,000 words this month, which is still ambitious given my schedule and would make me really happy.

So if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, whether the real version or my special brand of half-ass, stop by and visit and let me know how it’s going for you. I wish you nimble fingers, flowing creativity and many hours of literary fun!


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment. Or whatever I can remember to do.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!


 


The post NaNoWriMo – Half-Ass Edition appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 01, 2014 05:00

October 31, 2014

I want to thank everyone for all the love on yesterday’s post. I wanted to let you (and my sweet worried mother-in-law specifically – LOL) know that I am absolutely fine. I’m always happy to share my/our family’s human side with you, and hopefully you will laugh and cry with me and we’ll all feel a little less alone in our struggles. I promise that if I ever need extra support or a hug, I’ll come ask for them directly. Love y’all!


Hope you and your lovelies have a spooky, sugary weekend! I’ll be back next week with some pictures of our new addition (canine, not human)….



The post Happy Halloween! (with SNL video) appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 31, 2014 06:03 • 1 view

October 30, 2014

Dear Skywalker,


Sometimes I feel like I’m not winning at this game. It’s been a bit chaotic at our house this week and everyone seems a little off their A-game. The good news is that we’re getting a puppy, so that will make everything calmer and easier!


It seems so simple on Day One...

It seems so simple on Day One…


I was late to pick you up at the bus stop yesterday because I got busy and absorbed on a phone call (while Fozzie played with electronics to distract him – bonus points). One of the very kind neighborhood moms was getting ready to bring you home when I came flying up the street, your shoeless and confused brother in tow. This morning, the teacher at carpool shook her head almost imperceptibly when we realized we’d forgotten your backpack at dropoff. Maybe I imagined it. But who could blame her, right? It’s so simple. I was supposed to drop off two things: kid, backpack. Ten minutes before, I was so busy yelling at the two of you to quit messing around and get in the freaking car already that I didn’t notice we didn’t have it. Another parenting win.


Looking around, it seems like the Good Mommy prize goes to the organized and patient. I am neither. Not at ALL. Before you, I was always okay with this about myself. I could lose my patience on occasion, apologize, and then realize I was under too much stress. Now I know I’m under too much stress but that’s not changeable, so I’m just working on counting to ten instead. [Aside: To whoever decided counting to ten was a good way not to explode at your kids: I hate you. I'd like to tear your eyeballs out. That's healthy, right?] Or I’d lock my keys in the car, lose my purse somewhere, forget to charge my phone, and turn up to everything 10-15 minutes late. After a moment’s frustration, I’d sigh and smile at myself. Give a little sitcom shrug. “That’s just Manda!” It was all very cute.


Now that my disorganization affects you and Fozzie, though, and how people see my ability to parent you, it’s harder to shrug off. I’ve always seen my ADD-type brain as an asset, a part of my personality that allows me to see things in way that others can’t. It never bothered me that I wasn’t top of my class, despite all the “potential” that teachers and my father told me I wasn’t living up to. When I see notes come home from your teacher that you’re struggling with many of the same things I did (do), it breaks my heart for you and makes me sort of weirdly proud all at once. The challenges you are having now are inconvenient, because our schools were not designed for smart kids who think differently than other kids. Our schools were not designed for kids who don’t always fit in or who learn in different ways. Kids who need to be reminded in Kindergarten to go to the bathroom because your brain gets so busy it doesn’t talk to your body all the time. Kids who are creative, innovative and see things that others don’t because they are beyond ordinary.


Some schools try to “accommodate” kids like you are (and I was, and your uncle ten times as much). They test and pull you out into special classes and make you feel like something is wrong with you because of the way your brain works. But accommodation isn’t the answer. Redesign is the answer. Creating a new environment with flexible standards and empowered teachers is the answer, and as much as I’m able I’m going to fight for that for you, even though I often feel powerless to do so.


But I can’t fight for you if I feel ashamed of myself.


Yes, okay. I’m the mom who is going to forget that it’s Whatever Whatever Day at school and you were supposed to bring in BLANK from home, because apparently preschool and Kindergarten would be dull as hell if we didn’t do a special project each week requiring parents to send something in (which in my case usually means scrambling to the store or the closet the night before, or the morning of, to get or do or fake whatever it is).


I’m the mom who will forget you were supposed to be picked up early or at a different place, leaving some poor teacher or coach and you stranded together wondering what kind of idiot your mom is. I promise I will also forget to pack your lunch or replenish your lunch money. I’m going to careen — carefully — into the school parking lot on two wheels and fumes left in the gas tank, trying to get you in before the bell rings because I’m still in pajamas. There will be many runs to school because one of us has neglected to pack your gym clothes, your saxophone, your bas relief map of Europe.  At some point you’re going to show up for Picture Day wearing a ratty t-shirt and for P.E. with the wrong shoes. I can’t even imagine how many hats, jackets, scarves and mittens we will lose between us.


But listen to me, love: these things don’t matter. Teachers and school administrators and other parents can make their plans, and when we don’t measure up, they can look at me and you any way they want. All that has nothing to do with how much I love you or how devoted I am to seeing you grow up smart, loving, responsible and successful on your own terms. None of this is your destiny, no matter how many teachers write negative notes on your work because they couldn’t get a FIVE YEAR OLD BOY to sit still and listen to an assignment one day.


You are brilliant and talented, and so is your little brother. Both of you are the kinds of people other people will want to be around and work with for the rest of your lives. In twenty years, when you are out of college or have skipped college and are doing whatever it is you choose to do (this morning the plan was for you to be a security guard at Disney world and I say go for it), you will be amazing at it because you’ll choose something that plays to your strengths and passions, not because you busted your ass to be like everyone else. Like I do sometimes. Like I need to do less.


Average is fine. We are all average in some ways and exceptional in others. But don’t you dare let anyone shame you into thinking that because your exceptional brain works differently or at a different pace than other kids, you are somehow less. Average is nothing to strive for, son, no matter what anyone or any standardized test says. Our schools are set up to push all kids toward the middle, which is a damn shame, and to push them out of childhood and into “meeting expectations” from the earliest days. That’s even worse.


Now that I’m a parent with kids in schools, I’ve realized that I feel pushed toward meeting expectations, too. Maybe pushed by other adults, but mostly by myself and my INFINITE desire to do the right thing for my kids. But you know what? I don’t need to feel this way. I’m a mostly good person and at least a marginally competent parent; but one who loves you fiercely, supports you unconditionally and will fight for you — and sometimes with you — to help you find your way in the world. I love your dad and we respect each other, even when we disagree. We love your brain, we love you, and we’re always going to try to help you be the best version of yourself, not a score on a test or a name on a homework sheet. We aren’t giving you a perfect home, but our home is stable in its imperfection; it’s a safe and loving and loud place where your needs will always be met and a few of your wants, too. We all get mad, we sometimes yell and scream, we always apologize, and we try to look for a better way together. These are the things that matter.


Some moms are super-organized and cook every night, have things labeled and monogrammed and never miss a meeting or a special day. Some of them work outside the home and some don’t, but you can just tell when you meet them they’re on top of things. They have pinterest boards to organize their pinterest boards. Those are great moms. You’re going to meet a lot of them at soccer games and karate and drama practice, and you should make friends with them if you can. They will always have the good snacks. They’ll bring you home when I get caught up in a meeting or a story and manage to forget you.


Some of us moms are less organized, more distracted, and always behind the 8-ball of life. In our anxiety to make sure we’re taking good care of you, we sometimes compare ourselves to the organized, patient moms, and that is a depressing analysis. Add a disapproving look from a stranger in the grocery store or a shake of the head from a teacher at carpool, and we can make ourselves miserable. We assume because others don’t offer us grace when we come up short, it must mean we don’t deserve it. We translate little shortcomings into big, fat failure.


But I can’t do that. Because if I’m a failure that means you might see yourself that way, too. And that is NOT happening. Not on my watch.


Be yourself, kid. It’s trite, but it’s true and it’s something I haven’t modeled well for you lately. I wish I could say I will model it perfectly from here forward, but what I’m going to do is my best. That’s all any of us can ask of ourselves or each other.


With all the love in my imperfect heart,


Mommy


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment. Or whatever I can remember to do.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!


The post Dear Son – A Letter from your Scatterbrained Mom appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 30, 2014 09:35

October 28, 2014

For the record, he also thought giving himself this haircut was a good idea.

For the record, he also thought giving himself this haircut was a good idea.


So, you know that person who is always 2000% confident in themselves and their own knowledge? You know how, for some people, that confidence never seems to waver, regardless of the correctness or reliability of their beliefs? While it’s true, many of these folks are drawn to politics and therefore spend most of their time in Washington, we happen to have one such person living under our roof at the moment. If it weren’t so frustrating to have a conversation with him, it’d be hilarious. Or maybe it’s the other way around.


It’s just that he is so bossy and serious about it. Somehow, this kid with no mastery of pronouns (“Her going to get she jacket.”) and who literally has “hot” and “cold” reversed right now (how????), has taken to schooling all of us in the finer points of pronunciation. He does this through liberal use of the phrase “say after me.”


A recent example while driving home from preschool in Vaneschewitz:


Fozzie: Mommy, I need your help to sing this song.


Me: Okay. [sings] Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…


Fozzie: No, no, stop.


Me: Stop?


Fozzie: Say after me. “Row.”


Me: Row.


Fozzie: Row.


Me: [sighs] Row.


Fozzie: Row your boat.


Me: Row your boat.


Fozzie: Mentchly.


Me: Mentchly? You mean gently?


Fozzie: NO. MENTCHLY down to the stream!


Me: Are you sure it’s not gently? [hey, I was an English major. I can't always help myself.]


Fozzie: Mommy, say after me. “Mentchly down to the stream.”


Me: [hesitates]


Fozzie: Mommy!!


Me: [performs ongoing parental cost-benefit analysis of engaging with stubborn three year old] Okay, okay. Mentchly down the stream…


Fozzie: Mewinny mewinny, mewinny, mewinny


Both: Life’s a butter dream…*


It’s cute how wrong he is, and even cuter how positive he is that he’s right, despite all evidence to the contrary. In my three-year-old, that confidence is adorable. In adults, it’s attractive, but not always healthy. The whole exchange reminds me of that guy I used to play trivia with, that guy we have all played trivia with, the one who is absolutely, vehemently sure of every answer he suggests. So sure that he’s not really open to discussion. Other people offer alternatives and he rolls his eyes. Ask him how he knows he’s right and he shrugs. So you submit his answer and it’s right… about a third to a half of the time. Just often enough to make you listen to him and keep him on your team, not often enough to merit his blind confidence. Confidence, by the way, that often steamrolls the quieter folks on the team who are sometimes the subject matter experts. When someone else has that kind of confidence, it makes us doubt ourselves, and even set aside our own notions of what is real and right.


I got caught in this at trivia once, when someone who seemed very sure about a literature question managed to convince me of a wrong answer with blustery confidence; I knew the right answer and had even said it out loud, but since it had been sooooo many years since I’d studied the text in question, I doubted myself. Plus I had a fear of of being embarrassed. “You’re the English major and you advocated for the wrong answer, while this guy who hasn’t cracked a book in twenty years got it right?”


It was still embarrassing, by the way, that I didn’t stop him from giving the wrong answer, but that was a passive embarrassment that felt preferable to fighting hard for the potentially wrong answer. I don’t know. It made sense at the time. Don’t judge me!


The more fearful we are, the more appealing confidence in others is. We’re herd animals, and when we feel threatened or insecure, we’re attracted to those who seem to think they know where they’re going. It’s like, “Hey, the forest is burning all around us. Should we sit down and analyze the data on the best escape route, or should we follow this one dude who seems really, really sure?”


By the way, this really is why many politicians and pretty much all talk radio hosts have jobs. But it also applies to writing. When I’m writing the early drafts of a story, I have to channel my inner Rush Limbaugh and be supremely, blindly, sort of stupidly confident in myself. I have to move forward and put down whatever thoughts come into my little head, and not worry about filtering out the ridiculous or overwrought or just plain wrong stuff that comes out onto the page sometimes. I barely break for commercials, knowing that somewhere in those thousands of words, there will be a few worth keeping. This phase is sort of manic: my eyes get all big and twitchy and I don’t blink much. Or shower. I don’t worry about whether what I’m saying makes sense. You’ll see this version of me next month.


When editing, I have to channel my inner NPR. Soft and slow and conscientious. Giving lots of thought, maybe too much thought sometimes, to how everything sounds, and whether it’s right and makes sense and has foundation in the rest of the work. I research facts, look for coherence and make sure I’ve earned all those wildly emotional moments that came out in the first phase. This is also the phase in which I do a pledge drive and give away tote bags.


Finally, I try to balance the two. Confidence and caution both have their place in the writing process, and I have to give myself permission to be both of those things at the right times. In both phases, though, I have to be open to the weird little magic and mentchly things that are bound to happen.


And in life? I guess we all just have to practice being critical in the face of confidence. When someone is very sure about something (politics, business, local restaurants, book recommendations), they should be able to explain why, at least in a rudimentary way that has some kind of evidence or logic attached to it. Even when the forest is burning, it’s usually worth the extra few seconds to be sure you’re following the right path out.


*Skywalker actually gave us the last line of this song when he was the same age Fozzie is now and I love it so much it was the title of this blog for a while. I guess altering this one particular song to suit is a very specific part of our family identity development model. What would Jung say about that?


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment.


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels coming Fall 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in association with Macmillan Entertainment. If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list.  Thanks for reading!


The post On Radio Personalities and Why You Don’t Want My 3-Year Old on Your Trivia Team appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 28, 2014 07:05 • 4 views

October 15, 2014

atlwritersclubI’ll be doing the “Member Minute” talk at this month’s Atlanta Writer’s Club meeting, talking on the topic of “My Self-Publishing Success Story.” Despite a slight squeamishness at the term “success story” for my story, I still think it will be a fun talk and welcome those of you who are AWC members to come and support/heckle me as it moves you.


If you are not a member of the AWC, you can learn more about this terrific, century-old organization here: http://atlantawritersclub.org/index.s...


The meeting will be held this Saturday, October 18th at 1:30.

Georgia Perimeter College-Dunwoody

Building NC, Audtitorium 1100

2101 Womack Road

Dunwoody, Georgia 30338-4435


If you are a local author (fiction or non-fiction) and can’t make it to the AWC meeting, I invite you to check out my self-publishing workshop on Saturday, November 15, during which there will be MANY more opportunities for heckling.


The post Atlanta Writer’s Club Meeting Oct. 18th appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 15, 2014 07:26 • 1 view
Me and Hubs at Lambert Bridge Winery. Not pictured: Chaos.

Me and Hubs at Lambert Bridge Winery. Not pictured: Chaos.


Last week Hubs and I went out to California for a six-day vacation with some friends. It was the longest we’d been away from Fozzie and Skywalker, with both of us gone, and I am SO grateful for my mother-in-law and our amazing babysitter for making it possible. It was totally an “Eye of the Storm” vacation, which featured the two of us scrambling to recover from the High Holidays, get loose ends tied up and everything ready for someone else to be in charge of the chaos that is our household before we got on the plane; only to hit the ground running again as soon as we got back to Atlanta. In the meantime, we were supposed to drink wine, relax and enjoy this desperately needed (and, for us, pricey) vacation.


I don’t always do well with this kind of thing. Sort of like I don’t do well with meditation. I’m not always an “in the moment” kind of girl. Even on vacation, there’s a voice in my head, which I am totally going to pretend is NOT my father’s, saying “Do you have any idea how hard I worked to give you this time? Are you enjoying it to the fullest? What could you do to be enjoying it more? RELAX, DAMMIT!”







Loading




View on Instagram





I don’t know if it was the beautiful setting, the scrumptious wine, or the splendid company of Hubs and our friends, but I’m happy to report that I TOTALLY pulled it off. Maybe all that nervous energy dissipated when we went for a zipline canopy tour — nothing like swaying on a platform 200 feet up a redwood tree to put things in perspective — or maybe I just needed it so badly that I got out of my own way and really did relax. Which isn’t to say that my life is any less chaotic upon return or that I’m a working-mom zen master now, but I think there’s one spot behind my right shoulder blade that is SLIGHTLY less balled into a tiny little fist than it was two weeks ago. I’ll take it!


More on the trip later. In the meantime, I invite you to use “Relax, Dammit” as your personal mantra, too.


PS – I am officially the LAST person to join Instagram, but come find me there: mjpullenauthor


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment.


If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list. At the end of each month I do random drawings with various prizes for list subscribers, the friends who refer them, and everyone who comments on the blogs. Good luck with that!


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press. Thanks for reading!


 


The post Relax, Dammit appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 15, 2014 06:51 • 6 views

September 30, 2014

Disposable Coffee CupThere are the five old guys who meet faithfully on Monday mornings, laughing, reading aloud to one another, maybe praying (I try not to eavesdrop for that part) — heads bent together over empty plates and steaming mugs of coffee and then thrown back in joviality. Young people starting and running businesses. Women gossiping, talking about books, crocheting. Even little groups of writers. The lawyer and his wife-slash-assistant. The lady who is always cold and has what appears to have the world’s largest cardigan collection: I’ve never seen her wear the same one twice. Allen, the Harley-riding organizational consultant who read TMP out of curiosity. He says, “Next time, more car chases. And maybe some politics. Otherwise it was pretty good. I didn’t hate it.”


These are my coworkers, many days. They’re my ambiance and my connection to humanity. Some days we ignore one another entirely, other days there’s a wave or a smile or even a few minutes of small talk.


People joke about writers in coffee houses… like one of my favorite moments ever from Family Guy (pardon the weird echo, which I’m certain is NOT attributable to the fact that some guy recorded this clip with his phone while watching this episode in his living room).



With all due respect to Seth MacFarlane and this hilarious bit, I don’t agree that most people who write in coffee houses do so because they need to be seen writing. I say, if you want to be seen, try writing in a tree. Downtown. Naked. For me, and I suspect for others as well, we show up at the coffee house because writing and other solitary occupations are often excruciatingly isolating.


Once the kids are dropped at school and preschool, and Hubs has made his way to work, our house is suddenly and unbelievably… quiet. Maybe too quiet. As a mom of young children, a quiet house is sort of like the chicken tenders and ribs basket at Applebee’s. With french fries and honey mustard. You think you want it, almost desperately, until you actually get it. Then you’re reaching for your TUMS and looking across the table at your friend’s salad (or across the street at someplace that isn’t, you know, Applebee’s).


A quiet house is kind of a shock to the system when most of your days are filled with the sound of clashing plastic light sabers, followed by the invariable screams of outrage when one or both light sabers hits someone, and the unending chorus of “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy” and “I want, I need, I don’t.” I’m telling you, one of these days some unsuspecting adult person, not given to my care, is going to whine at me about something and I’m just going to punch them right in the mouth.


Exhausting as all that is, take away all of it at once, and the silence becomes deafening. It’s hard to be creative when you can hear your own damn heartbeat.


So the coffee shop is a refuge. The background noises, the occasional niceties with the other regulars. The weird couple in their 60′s feeling one another up at the table next to me.  Even though I wear headphones blaring my own music sometimes and can’t always hear the other conversations going on around me, it’s nice to know they’re there. There’s the coffee and food I don’t have to make myself. And overall a reduced risk that I will become a hermit and start talking to birds. Sweet.


Writers and all creative folks need communities, especially those of us that lean toward extroversion. We need people around us to encourage us, to steady us, to inspire us, and to generally acknowledge our existence. Sometimes it’s helpful if these folks are other writers – like in a critique group – but sometimes a mutual appreciation for human contact and a warm beverage is enough.


Cheers to all you coffee house workers – those who make it, those who serve it, and those who channel that delicious caffeine into whatever’s next.


______________________________________________


I’m M.J. (Manda) Pullen, an author and mom in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I blog about writing, publishing, motherhood, health, psychology and whatever else strikes me in the moment.


If you enjoyed this entry, please follow along or join my email list. At the end of each month I do random drawings with various prizes for list subscribers, the friends who refer them, and everyone who comments on the blogs. Good luck with that!


My books include The Marriage Pact series, a trilogy of funny, semi-realistic Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction novels forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press. Thanks for reading!


The post My Coffee House Family: Writing and Community appeared first on MJ Pullen.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on September 30, 2014 07:30 • 2 views