Writer Questions for a Writers’ Retreat

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Hello, everyone!

Yes, I have been gone for several months, but I certainly hope I wasn’t forgotten. Life sometimes gets so busy, but I promised myself that I would try my best to write more often.

I do have some questions for all of you writers out there. I will be attending a writers’ retreat and need to know the proper requirements for sharing the first 500 words and first page. Do they both need the top 1/2 page information before skipping several lines to the title, or is it ok to put the title and begin the manuscript? I don’t want to come across like a new fish out of water. Oh, wait…I am!

My second question is about an original fairy tale. I have researched everywhere and don’t see any modern requirements as to length. My word count is 1,900. I have been reading a plethora of classic fairy tales but don’t have any original to compare mine with. Mine has more dialogue, but I recently edited out 600 words. I’m trying to shape it into a “classic” form, but are there any new “forms” out there that I just can’t find?

I would appreciate any suggestions or helpful hints.

Thank you,

~Manelli Bochelli~

Cutting the Apron Strings

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How does a writer know when to cut the apron strings from a finished piece?  This has recently been plaguing me and causing me to question myself about my finished fairytale.  How many readers do you send it to and let them critique it before you finally send it in to an agent? How many do I trust with my finished product? There are so many opinions about every little aspect, and it’s tough to know whom to trust and how many changes to make.

I have written a subversive fairytale that is five pages. I’m ready to let librarians, elementary school teachers,  and mothers of young children read it and critique it for me before I send it in.  Experienced writers, do you give a Starbuck’s gift card to readers? What have others given?

Please advise.  Am I making a mistake or an appropriate decision to put it out there for others to critique?

Thank you,

~Manelli Bochelli~

A Slice of Life while Shaking

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I had my own private earthquake the other day while teaching. One moment I was teaching, and the other moment I was shaking. My voice started shaking. I began shaking all over. It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on for the first and hope only time. I walked while shaking (that was a really weird feeling) to get my diabetes monitor and check my blood sugar. It was low at 69! I was so scared and did not want to fall on the floor, hit my head, and go into a diabetic coma and cause all kinds of drama around me. Immediately, I ate my glucose emergency tablets, string cheese, and had a few nuts, but I continued to shake. My students were “advanced” but were also freaking out a bit. I called the school secretary, the principal, and vice principal – but no one picked up! That terrified me. I felt trapped. Because my sugar was staying so low, I became a little confused and just stared at the phone. A minute later, the secretary returned my call and sent security to my room so I could go to the lounge, eat, and calm down. I bought a Coke full of sugar and drank a few ounces before I finally calmed down enough to eat my lunch.

What did I learn? I am extremely grateful for beginning a new lifestyle five weeks ago with insulin twice daily so that my numbers would go down, but I have to eat my snack at 10:00 and two handfuls of nuts 45 minutes later to stay stabilized. I don’t get to eat lunch until 12:45, so that is really too long to wait. Oh, well…I have to adapt to my new schedule.The last two days, I followed my snack plan and ended up with an 86 at both pre-lunch readings.

Bette Davis said that getting old ain’t for sissies. That is an understatement!!!!! I am beyond grateful that I am finally getting insulin to stabilize my sugar levels and shrink my body fat, but it has come with a price. This adventure in living requires more time to check blood levels four times a day, I give myself an insulin shot once in the morning and once at night before drinking a glass of milk before going to bed. The next morning, it all starts over again with the planning of more choices, more time spent on me, watching the clock for snack time, etc.  All these years of being overweight, I never had to think about food so much and actually monitor the ounces, portion, and timing of every bite, drink so much water, and sleep more. BUT—all of this is beginning to transform my body and reshape it – while getting me healthier.

I have a plan of action for my two classes before lunch, and they feel more empowered now and more confident about taking care of me if anything happens again. Now, I’ll have four ounces of Coke to drink immediately from my little refrigerator, and I’ll eat snacks in front of them. They don’t care, but a few have asked for some of the cheese and nuts.  My diabetic nurse agreed that those snacks were fine, but I’m going to look for others.

Onward…I shrink to live longer! I praise God for keeping me safe through this change!~

Knock Knock

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One of the delightful requirements of teaching middle school English is that I get to teach the literary term onomatopoeia. Since most students have no idea what it means, I wanted to make sure my students did this week. I told them that onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound. I gave examples like boom, meow, vrrrrmmm, pow, pop, moo, etc. and had them go around the room and tell a word that represents a sound. Everyone did such a marvelous job.

Next, I taught the definition of personification and discussed examples. Personification is when an inanimate object has human traits and qualities. I told them to look at the word “person” at the beginning for a hint. Something acts like a person but isn’t one. One of my favorite examples is: The sun smiled on me today so that I could go to the beach. Another example is: The moon waltzed by slowly. Students shared examples in their teams (pods of 4), and I had one person from each team stand and tell an example that was used in their team.

At the end of the period, I said, “Before we pass the review ball, I want to review the two terms we learned earlier. What is this an example of – knock, knock?” I looked out over the sea of eager faces and heard this response, “Who’s there?” Because I am a “seasoned” teacher, I knew not to laugh…but I couldn’t help it. I turned around so that they couldn’t see me and laughed. I turned my microphone off and continued to laugh. It hit my funny bone! A minute later, I turned around and faced them with a grin on my face. They had been laughing, too. I said, “Students, that was not supposed to be the beginning of a joke. I simply wanted you to tell me that it was an example of onomatopoeia.” We all laughed and laughed again. Who said that learning can’t be fun or funny sometimes?

They crack me up sometimes, so entertainment does play a role in education.

~Manelli Bochelli~

To See or not to See: Is that the Question?

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There are the “haves” and the “have-nots” in the world of seeing angels, demons, and talking to dead relatives, friends, or strangers. There – I said it. Many of us have had our own encounters, but we are too afraid to share them with others for fear of seeming, well – crazy or a religious freak.

I have had the fortunate experience of my own angel lift. I was at a camp for troubled kids in San Francisco years ago. As a counselor, I had to be present with the junior high girls at all times to protect them from anything. I even had to escort them from the cabin to the restroom down one flight of stairs and stand outside their stall door. After a week of not getting more than a few hours of sleep and experiencing physical fatigue by walking up and down the hills and a few flights of stairs several times a day, it finally happened. We were all down the hill eating breakfast when someone asked me to go up the hill to get a girl’s sleeping bag that she had used the bathroom in and bring it back down in seven minutes to wash it. At first, I envisioned climbing Mt. Everest and then responded that I would do my best before they were dismissed to go back to their cabins.

On the way up Mt. Everest, my legs grew extremely tired. I could barely move and pulled my jeans up by the legs to take a step. I reminded myself to pray for help to get up there so that poor girl wouldn’t be humiliated. Before I finished my prayer, I felt a lift off the road, and I was suddenly speeding up the hill. Trees were flying by me – sort of in a flash forward movement. Seconds later, I was retrieving the sleeping bag and went rushing down the hill. I had made the trip in five minutes! I was absolutely dazed because of the speed of the incident. The woman who had asked me to go looked shocked that I had returned so fast, so I told her, “I think I just had some help from some friends.” I hadn’t processed it all yet, and it wasn’t until later that I rationally attempted its meaning.

I have been saved from endless near accidents all of my life and have many more to share, but this one stunned me once I relived I, I can still remember the feeling of being lifted off the ground and propelled forward. That’s why I call it my “Angel Lift.” I must have some very buff angels. 🙂

Since then, I have heard endless stories of my students’ visits from dead relatives who tell them to make sure they study in school and behave. Many had appearances when they were nine years old. Interesting fact, huh? Some say that their grandmothers appear to them and encourage them, strangers (adults and children) “appear” in their houses to walk around or to scare them, shadows fly around the walls and go into their TV’s before they turn off, faces appear in pictures or mirrors, children appear in their bedrooms to talk to them, but others tell me about demonic appearances with bloody faces.

The demonic appearances are terrifying to my students, but they are counterparts to the more positive appearances. One boy shared with me how he looked outside his kitchen window one night and saw a demon. He walked outside the back door to get a better look and the demon threatened him. Another student’s bad-seed cousin who had died violently appeared at their house. He was dressed in black, had a black hood and red eyes; he said some unkind things to them before he left. Still others have mentioned how they have had their priests come to their house and cleanse it.

And yes, I have even had my own demonic presence a few feet from my front door one night. It was about 10 feet tall, hairy, and had red eyes. My daughter and I were about to enter our front door when something magnetized both our heads at the same time and caused our heads to turn its way. I saw it, but my daughter didn’t.  I confronted it and said, “Oh, no! Not in this house. We have angels all around our house!” I wanted to say more, but I opened the door and got my daughter in quickly. I know that I have the force with me, and I would have dealt with it more, but it left. Hint to the demons – I am a Christian Texan, so don’t mess with me! I have the force with me!

So, the questions for many people are simply, “Did you really see them or not? Was it just a projected memory? Was it because you have seen too many scary movies? Did you just WANT to see them and thought you did?” Having read the Bible, I do know that Satan and his angels are roaming the earth to try to get as many followers as he can to drag them into eternity with him, but there are also many angelic experiences and loving incidents with relatives who have passed and send touching messages or make themselves known in some form or fashion. I have more where that comment came from, but those will be saved for another day.

While I wanted this blog to be about writing, there are some days when experiences I share with my students cross another path because of a topic or theme we are discussing at school. I am trained to teach the Common Core Curriculum from bell to bell, but there are moments when my students are bubbling over and need to share a slice of life.  Living relatives tell them that they are crazy, but 1/3 of my students have had at least one experience with angelic, demonic, or relatives’ presences. To see or not to see: Is that the question of the day? No, I believe we need to share and let share because these moments terrify or comfort many who pass us by on a daily basis. While middle school students are struggling to find their own identity, many adults refuse to face theirs and lock memories inside until the pressure cooker explodes to relieve it.

God bless us all as we strive to survive being human aliens on this planet. I know this is not our home, but I do believe we need to make the best of it as we live our daily lives. Love to all!

~Manelli Bochelli~

LIfe’s Changes, Obligations, and Faith

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Life is full of changes, and I have certainly seen my share over the years. While fulfilling obligations I have at work, I also have obligations to my family, relatives, friends, dog, and myself.  It gets embarrassingly difficult sometimes to prioritize as the seconds of my life tick by one by one. Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.  Can you hear the song?

I have been pondering on things I have been changing within the last six months and am looking forward to more. What have I changed?  I have changed where I worship to a new family, gotten off sugar since Jan. 1, survived plantar fasciitis in my right heel (being on my feet all day as a teacher made that one more difficult, but the shot is helping to heal it), and have worked so hard to be disciplined enough to lower by blood sugar. Even though my doctor jokingly told me how sweet I was, it’s really no laughing matter. I miss being “normal” where people can eat in moderation but enjoy what they want. I won’t list my plethora of longings, but I will tell you that faith makes things possible, not easy. It has been possible to deny my cravings while I stay busy, but I’m wondering what the next step will be like.

I understand why we only get 24 hours in a day, but there are days when I just need a few more. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that this human didn’t need to accomplish more in a day.  There is so much to squeeze in after work. No wonder we Americans are exhausted from work, marriages, children, obesity, high blood sugars, stressing over things that are beyond our control, food preparation, appointments, parties, guests, attending work/church/school functions, eating out with friends, going to an occasional movie, tending to sick children and being a Stepford Wife, etc.

What I’m lacking in right now is to prioritize my time between my faith (Bible study, praying for others and myself), reading a self-help book called Calming your Anxious Mind and surviving my daily obligations with more joy. The book just arrived in the mail, but I have so many miles to go before I get to it.  I have to wear the teacher hat that allows me to grade and record papers for endless hours, try to be a Putzfrau and clean a bit, and fix dinner.  All of this has to be mixed with a little time to write in my blog and another fairy tale or two. lol

I’m a hot mess of so many things going on in my life right now. What have I learned from it all? I MUST get regular and extra sleep to function as a calm human so that I can make wise choices without the influences or indulgences in wine, chocolate, and other sugars.

Here’s to life!

~Manelli Bochelli~

Tranquility Found at Pismo Beach

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So there I was..we had arrived at the Sandcastle Inn in Room Tranquility on the second floor with an ocean view and only a few feet away from the sand. I could hardly get through the door before the ocean’s magnet sucked me out the screen door and to the edge of the balcony. Deep breath…ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. A smile wrapped around my face.  The sounds of the crashing ocean’s waves flooded my ears. Waves greeted me as they rolled from the left to the right and splashed the pier. Sunshine covered me with its warmth. I had finally arrived and new that those three days would not be wasted. As I absorbed the atmosphere of where God must go on vacation, I heard a message in my heart. It told me to breathe, relax, and let go of the stress that cripples my dreams, and as the tide came in and out, so did that stress. A second message tapped on my heart. It revealed that something big was going to happen in my life. I took an extra breath and wondered what it was going to be. There are several possibilities, so I’m going to go with happiness and success in several areas of my life – better health, an end to Lyme disease and its aftermath for our daughter, to get her book published, a great year at school with fresh ideas in my poetry class, my husband’s happiness and success at touching hearts at his school, maintained better health for my sister, and to get my fairy tale published. Those desires swirled around and solidified themselves as goals and deeper prayer requests. I need to move beyond the survival part and gain strength to realize these goals; therefore, this warrior took time to be still, rest, relax, and refocus.

My husband and I had to force ourselves to go inside to sleep that first night, but we let the sounds of the waves lure us to sleep with only the screen door between us and the ocean.

I waited until 6:15 the next morning to go down to the water’s edge. That is a magical time when the high tide has receded and left shells everywhere to gather. Only a few surfers, kayakers, and joggers, and dogs were there, so I wasP1210386 joyfully deafened by the awakening of the morning sounds. I closed my eyes and was enveloped by one of my favorite things – the ocean. No, I didn’t fall in, but the birds and I had to remain aware of just how much intensity we could withstand before being grasped by the ocean’s fingers in the tide. I opened my eyes to see dolphins playing near the surfers, whales in the distance, and sea lions swimming close to the shore. And it was good. I quickly made a happy heart sign and took a picture before it was washed away in seconds. Minutes turned into 1 1/2 hours of walking up and down the beach to enjoy it at different angles. And my heart smiled. I hope you enjoy the moments I captured.

Here I am with my Honey taking pictures.

~Manelli Bochelli~

Pismo Beach

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I’m listening to the ocean’s waves as I write, but I won’t be truly happy until it’s reality. I’m going with my husband on an anniversary trip to the Pismo Beach area. Ahhhhhhh….I can hear the ocean calling my name tonight. I hear it on Dreamsurf: Ocean Waves, The Reflections, Nature, 2001 tonight, but tomorrow night, I’ll hear it live. And I say, “Ahhhhh…” again. I can hardly wait to feel cooler temperatures in the upper 60’s by day and lower 50’s by night. Tomorrow night, I’ll sit out on the balcony with my honey and a small blanket to watch the beauty of forceful waves spilling over each other to rush and greet us. We’ll use the binoculars to bring the stars, moon, and surf a little closer and enjoy the nice fire in the fire pit that dares to be put out. The next morning, I’ll gather sea shells and create something fun while my mind is lost to its tranquil surroundings. Then, we’ll chill with the fresh smells of the sea and the sounds of shrieking birds that float by while making “M’s” in the sky. This process of relaxation will be repeated over a few days and nights until we are mush.

More than likely, we’ll have company though. There will be classes on lifeguard training and surfing 101, volleyball tournaments, and children building castles and running around screaming at their kites.

I found a poem by Gussie Osborne that spoke to my adventure in relaxation.

I sat on the beach and a beautiful wave,
Came tumbling right up to me.

It threw some pink shells on the sand at my feet,
Then hurried straight back out to the sea.

It ran away swiftly and leaped up in a foam,
It bumped other waves in its glee.

I think it was hurrying to gather more shells,
To bring as a present for me.

I’ll take a few pictures as the waves take my stress, add it to the ocean, and return with relaxing sounds that make my body dissolve into the lounge chair. As I leave, the ocean will wave good-bye to me until we meet again next summer.

~Manelli Bochelli~

Cleaning and Dirt

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Today’s focus is on cleaning. We all have to do it so that we will be separate from the beasts in the jungle who get to lie around on tree branches and slither around in the dirt, or the fishes in the sea who jump up and down, slide around, and sleep while motionless. As humans, we have to rely on vacuums, a huge Bissell, cleaning cloths, Windex or Pledge, and elbow grease.

We have company coming tomorrow, so today is being spent in cleaning mode. Do I love it? Absolutely not! When I’m done, I usually feel like the Bissell Queen, but sometimes I have to wonder what is wrong with me that makes me feel like I don’t have a clean house unless the floors have been thoroughly cleaned. This sickness reminds me of a poem I read years ago. The woman in it mentioned how you work so hard to clean up the dirt that covers your house just to be buried under it someday. Maybe the less you clean, the smaller amount of dirt will be thrown on you? Ok. I think I have dirt in my brain, and more is calling my name, so I will be sufficiently covered someday. Now, I’m off to get my pearls and heels.

~Manelli Bochelli~

Exclusive vs. Simultaneous Submission to Agents

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Along my journey of publishing, I’ve been reading about simultaneously submitting to agents, or sending queries to more than one agent at a time. I’m almost ready to submit my subversive fairy tale, but I’ve only seen one agent who specifically mentioned that she wanted that specific genre in an email query. Has anyone else had luck with their first bite? Do I have naïve dreams? I’m feeling a little alone as I dangle in the shark-infested waters of finding an agent and getting my first book published. All of you with experience, am I on the right track and just need to be patient, or is it wiser to submit my query in a batch to several agencies?

Have some of you had great success with your first attempt, or did it take months of submissions in batches?

~Manelli Bochelli~