Adversity: Blessing or Curse? Hmmm.

I recently read MAO’S LAST DANCER, a memoir written by Li Cunxin and published in 2003. Talk about a perfect example of a Tenacity to Triumph Bad Ass!

Cunxin lived in a Chinese commune during Mao’s Cultural Revolution where his family of nine practically starved to death. At age eleven, he was sent away from home to Beijing to train as one of Madam Mao’s dancers. He worked his butt off to become the best dancer in the academy – through injuries, injustices, and crushing homesickness. A choreographer from the U.S. selected Cunxin to dance for the Houston Ballet in Texas – and Cunxin went on to become a world renowned ballet dancer, living a life he never dreamed possible.

Li Cunxin’s story is riveting from beginning to end, in my opinion, a recommended read for any aspiring bad ass.

But do we have to come from poverty or oppression to meet lofty goals? Luckily, it turns out gratefulness for each person, for each event no matter how annoying along the road to success can be as potent as adversity in exercising those tenacity muscles. In fact, gratitude has such power that the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of California, Davis—is launching a $5.6 million, three-year project, to expand the science and practice of gratitude to document and define its effect on society.

Whether you come from poverty, privilege, or grew up somewhere in the middle, remember Aesop’s lesson in The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow and steady wins the race.

The potholes and detours along the road to success test our meddle. Sometimes they steer our path in a slightly, or even wildly, different direction. Will you appreciate those unsuspected jaunts, or will you quit? Thinking about quitting doesn’t count. It’s a rare bad ass who never smacks so hard into a wall that continuing seems impossible for a bit. Then plodding toward the finish line commences once again. Go tortoises!

What is your dream? Has is morphed along the way? What has motivated you to power through the tough times?

Time May Not HEAL All Wounds, But it Helps

If you saw my last post about my disappointment in the critiques I received from an editor and a literary agent on the first fifteen pages of my novel a couple weeks ago, you know I stockvault-man-with-clock127680was ready to quit writing. Obviously, that wouldn’t have been the Bad Ass thing to do, so I decided to give myself a break from my novel for a couple weeks.

I recently read their comments again, and it’s amazing how differently I can see things with a little time buffer. Okay, so I’m not ecstatic that they didn’t love my pages and ask for the full manuscript, but they did give me some helpful suggestions, sure to strengthen the opening of TWO FEET, NO SHOES. Further, they clarified what Get Known Before the Book Deal - Katzwasn’t working in my synopsis with their feedback as to where they saw problems in story structure. Truthfully, the structure is solid, thanks to Larry Brooks and his book:  Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies. Writing a synopsis, on the other hand, is a skill in itself, and I haven’t totally gotten that down yet.

I’ve started revising, and now I can see how the things that were missing (that I didn’t realize were missing) needed to be there. It amazes me how I can see other writers’ work so clearly, yet my own can be so elusive.

Now I’m back in the saddle (more like my favorite chair at the formal dining room table), pounding the keys on my laptop, and lining up new readers to help me figure out when I’ve nailed it.

If anyone else out there has had a setback and is coming out of a slump, or you’ve made it through whatever difficulties you ran into, I’d love to hear about it. It can’t just be me who has experienced things like this, right?

Being a Bad-ass Isn’t Easy


Last Saturday, March 1, one of my favorite YA writing buddies and I met at the University of San Diego (USD) for the Society of Children’s Never Give UpBooks Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Inside Children’s Books conference. After lunch, a fabulous panel of agents and editors chose the first page of my YA novel, TWO FEET, NO SHOES, among those worthy to read to the entire group of more than a hundred authors and illustrators!

Whoo-hoo! Sounds great, right?

At the end of the conference, full of anticipation, we picked up our written critiques from the agents and editors on the first fifteen pages of our novels. We read my friend’s feedback first, as I’d coached her on improving her pages and line edited them. Both agents liked her writing enough to invite her to submit her manuscript when she felt it was ready for them to read it. I was thrilled for her – and still am.

Then we read my critiques. The feedback an editor from a mid-size publishing company in Boston gave me was unclear and unhelpful, other than the fact that she didn’t connect with my story. Comments I’d received from an agent based in San Diego, although explicit and helpful were fairly scathing. The only positive thing the editor and agent could agree on was that they liked my voice – which is something.

My friend looked at me and said, “I don’t understand. Your writing is so incredible.”

I could barely respond – or breathe. I considered quitting writing, since I seem to be so much better at improving other authors’ work.

To be fair, In October, an agent in San Francisco told me I had drawn compelling characters, she loved my premise and voice, but she thought I spent too much time setting up for fifteen-year-old Maya’s stealth trip from Los Angeles to Jalisco, Mexico to confront her deadbeat dad. This agent requested the full manuscript after reading the first hundred pages, but I have yet to hear from her.

It appears from these latest critiques that my effort to get Maya on the road in fewer pages has been a disaster. So it’s time to be a Bad-ass and suck it up. Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP got sixty rejections while she revised like crazy before someone took a chance on her. On Monday, I’ll look at the feedback again and get to work recreating the beginning of TWO FEET, NO SHOES. Hopefully, this draft will be the Momma Bear version: not too long or too short, not too much detail or too little, but the one that’s just right.