Janet Sumner Johnson
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Challenging Ourselves

Feb

03, 2014 |

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With some challenging revisions ahead of me, I’ve been feeling a bit daunted. Then today, I read this quote:

“Find [work] that challenges you, that raises you to higher levels of performance. It may be harder, but you will grow, develop better, and contribute more good. You really have no idea yet who you are and what you can accomplish in life. You have great potential far beyond what you can imagine today.”

-Richard G. Scott
 
Love this! Love the idea that we have all this potential that is buried in us and that we must work to discover. I shall not be afraid of hard work! Because no matter what happens, it will always lead me to a better place.
 
What is challenging you?
 
P.S. Have you all heard of Sharon Mayhew’s contest with literary agent Terrie Wolf? February is for Picture Books, but Middle Grade and YA works will each have their turn come March and April. Go check it out! It’s a seriously awesome opportunity. 🙂

Speak up:

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In Which We Eat Ice Cream

May

13, 2013 |

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We did it.

We came.

We saw.
We got on Skype at the same time (even though Amy’s mic was broken so I had to talk to her on the phone).

We even had the same kind of ice cream.

And our nine-year-old boys STUFFED OUR FACES. (Mine may have enjoyed it a little too much. If you listen closely, you can hear him cry with wicked glee, “This is the most amazing day of my life!” Uh huh.)

Here’s my video evidence of the grand competition.


But we have a little problem. Amy and I are in grave disagreement about who won. Amy says I ate the most ice cream. I say she ate the most ice cream. We need your help.

Who ate the most? Watch Amy’s video here to decide and leave a comment on one of our blogs. We’ll add up the votes and make our decision on Wednesday. Then we’ll announce the ULTIMATE WINNER of our blog competition next Monday (find out what the awesome prizes are here).

And one last congrats to all our friends! You KNOW we love you after seeing these videos, right? 😉

P.S. I sense questions coming over the little cutie trying to get in on the ice cream eating action. Her arm, you ask? Yup, it’s newly broken. But it’s just a hairline fracture, and she’s a trooper. She’s more upset by the splint than the break. She’ll be back to good health before you can blink. 🙂

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Ice-Cream Eating Celebration Contest!

May

06, 2013 |

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Holy Cow, has it really been a MONTH since I posted?!
Unbelievable. So I stayed busy doing this:

And this:

 

Not to mention THIS:

 

And while I didn’t really think ya’ll would be stagnant
while I was gone, all kinds of good things happened:

One of our very own members of the HackySack Club, MelissaSarno, just SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!!, so head on over to her blog and read about it!

Note: New members to the Hacky Sack Club are always
welcome and we DO seem to have some good mojo going. Just saying.

Also, my Hacky Sack Club partner in crime, Amy Sonnichsen’s
Fablulous CP, Krista VanDolzer [of Mother.Write. (Repeat.)] announced theBOOK DEAL she just signed!!

And JessieHumphries, from my NaNoRevMo group, announced herawesome TWO-BOOK DEAL with Amazon.

Anyhoo . . . so much good stuff going on for our friends that
Amy and I couldn’t just let it slide. We are holding a Celebration Contest!

And since all good celebrations need ice-cream, we are
having an Ice-Cream Eating Celebration Contest! Woo hoo!

So here’s how it works:

Amy and I are going to battle it out to see who can eat the
most ice-cream
in 20 seconds. Too easy, you say? Our 9-year olds are going to
be the ones stuffing the ice-cream in. Still too easy? Another child will hold
our hands behind our backs to keep us from cheating. 

And you’ll get to see the whole thing on video!! How cool is
that?!

BUT, it gets better. There will be PRIZES!!

All you have to do is guess who will win. Me? (uh,
yeah). Or Amy?

Everyone who guesses right (on either blog) will be entered
into a drawing for your choice of

a)     
 a 10-page
critique from BOTH Amy and I,

OR

b)     
Surprise Package D (gosh I love me a surprise
package). Could be a book. Or two. Or a gift card. Or, who knows? Maybe even A
BRAND NEW HACKY SACK! Heehee.

Just post your guess in a comment before
Sunday, May 12, midnight EDT
, and come back next Monday, May 13th,
for the ice-cream eating event! Winners will be posted shortly thereafter.

So go on, take a guess! But just know . . . this is me,
Toughest, Ice-cream eating-est, Brain-freezing-est contestant around! Just
saying.

Speak up:

11 comments

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Nostalgia Contest

Feb

09, 2012 |

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In December I read a book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
It takes place in a not-so-distant futuristic United States where most people spend the bulk of their time in OASIS, which is a virtual on-line world. Think virtual reality helmets, only cooler.
In  this book, James Halliday, the co-inventor of OASIS and lover of all things 80’s, dies and leaves a virtual easter egg for someone to find which will give them control of Halliday’s company. The better you know your 80’s culture, the better your chance of finding it.
As you can guess, it’s a deadly fight to the end, but I won’t spoil the fun.
What I really loved about this book was the nostaligic romp through the culture of my childhood. It made me want my Atari system back to see if I could still win at Pac-man with my joystick upside down. For all you kids out there who don’t remember this stuff, that’s how we made video games exciting back then.
So no, I won’t torture you with a run-down of all the things I miss from my childhood (leg-warmers, big hair, and hammer pants . . . yeah, go google that if you don’t know what I’m talking about. You won’t regret it). BUT, I will tell you that when I discovered packs of Garbage Pail Kids at the local Five Below, I snatched some up. Double packs, because I knew I’d have to share these with my bloggy friends.
I chose a tame one for you to view, and I have to confess, they can be kindof disgusting, but these things were BIG. I’m talking B-I-G! If you didn’t have these to trade, you could plan on spending your recesses with the outcasts. Not that I condone that sort of behavior, of course, just telling it like it was.
So here’s the contest part:
Share one thing you’re nostalgic for from your childhood, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. Two lucky winners will get a pack of Garbage Pail Kids in the mail.
Aren’t you all dying of excitement?! I thought about offering the “Jem and the Holograms, Season 1” DVD-set I found, but I knew I could never part with it. *Sigh of happy nostalgia*
Last day to enter is Saturday, February 18th, by midnight EST.

Speak up:

12 comments

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Brawl ‘n Haul Winners!

Apr

04, 2011 |

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First, thank you to everyone who stopped in last week and participated. Vicki and I had a great time battling it out and reading all the votes and comments. You guys are a total riot!

So without further ado, here are the brawl results and winners:

Mock Me Monday:

Total votes: 49

Vicki’s BAD story : 40 votes; 82%
Janet’s eruption: 9 votes; 18%

And Vicki is the winner! Man, I knew I’d lost as soon as I read hers. She’s just too good! So head on over to Vicki’s blog for Monday’s daily winner.

Testing Tuesday:

Total quizzes taken: 27

Vicki’s Grade: 36/60; 60%
Janet’s Grade: 56/75; 75%

And I’m the winner! Woo hoo! You guys are awesome for pulling this one out for me. 😀

And the winner of the day is Lenny Lee! Congratulations, Lenny! Here is the fabulous daily prize he won. I know, you’re all jealous. But every good writer needs some snacks to pull through those rough patches. 😉

The answers to Vicki’s quiz are:

1. Which of the following celebrities have NOT been mentioned on Vicki’s blog?
b. Mark Wahlburg

2. The artist who painted the picture Vicki uses as her icon is :
c. Alfred Gockel

3. Ever the fan of odd writing analogies, which of the following has Vicki NOT used?
c. Writing is like popping a zit

4. Which of the following was NOT a title of a post?
c. Tickling Turtles

5. What is the working title of Vicki’s WIP?
b. Porcelain God

The answers to my quiz are:

1. Which This vs. That debate has NOT been featured on Janet’s blog?
c. Spring vs. Summer

2. Janet professes to speak another language. Which one?
a. French

3. What obsession (besides writing) does Janet constantly blog about?
b. license plates

4. What celebrity does Janet pose with in her profile picture?
d. Oscar the Grouch

5. Janet did a 4-part series on what topic?
b. Clichés

Wacky Wednesday:

Total votes: 35

Vicki’s POLLTREE: 0 votes; 0%
Janet’s BITE ME: 35 votes; 100%

Ouch! I think this was a combination punch. Poor Vicki, she never stood a chance. 😉

And the winner of the day is Yat-Yee! Congratulations, Yat-Yee! And here is a sneak preview of what you’ll be receiving in the mail. Because every good writer needs a handy-dandy mini notebook to jot down all those fabulous ideas that hit at the oddest moments. And of course pens you can trust to actually write when you need them. (I didn’t defend pen and paper for nothing!)

This vs. That Thursday:

Total votes: 46

Vicki’s Laptop: 33 votes; 72%
Janet’s Pen & Paper: 13 votes; 28%

Yikes, I really thought I stood a better chance, but alas. I guess even I can’t stop the steamroller that is technology. But I can admit defeat, so head on over to Vicki’s blog for Thursday’s daily winner.

Before announcing the Grand Prize winners, I had to show you how I’m feeling after a week of duking it out with Vicki:

 
Photo courtesy of Reb’s Photo World 

She’s a hard hitter and a worthy opponent. I suppose technically we’re at a stalemate, having each won 2/4, but for future reference, I’ll think twice before messing with her!

Okay, now on to the part you’ve all been waiting for. The Grand Prize Winners!

Grand Prize #1: Ten-page Critique by Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown!

Katie Kelly! 

Grand Prize #2: Gift Basket including a $40 Gift Card to Amazon!

Margo Berendsen!

Congratulations to the winners! Please contact me as soon as possible with my “Contact Me” tab, and I will get you taken care of.

Also, I want to thank Vicki for playing along with me all week, and I want to thank Sarah for so generously offering a ten-page critique! I’m kindof sad this has come to an end. 🙁

And finally, my big news is that I’m heading off to France tomorrow (squee!) so I won’t be around the blogosphere for the next little while. But, darling husband has agreed to peek in from time to time and fill in for me. I have no idea what he’ll say. I might be a little worried. Wish me luck!

Speak up:

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Brawl ‘n Haul Contest: Interview with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown

Apr

01, 2011 |

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Today, Vicki and I divide and conquer. The fabulous Vicki is hosting a Blackjack game where you can win more entries into the Grand Prize drawing of your choice. Some lucky players will also win a prize! If you haven’t done this with her, it’s super fun! I was giggling all through her first ever Blackjack contest. 

Here, I am hosting an interview with Agent Awesome, Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown. Vicki and I were thrilled at this opportunity! If you write YA or Adult, you definitely need to read on to see if your work is right for her. She has been wonderful to work with and would make a great agent for anyone lucky enough to get her!

So, first her blurb from the Curtis Brown website, then on to the interview.

Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions at sl@cbltd.com.

Please note: Sarah prefers e-mail queries!

Me: How did you decide you wanted to be an agent?

I wish I could have one of those stories where I wanted to be an agent from the time I could read a book and moved to New York in a dramatic fashion to follow my dream. Truthfully, I didn’t know what an agent was until I was about 19 or 20 and even then it wasn’t explained to me very well. So when I moved to New York for my MFA program, I started interning at agencies (the “working in publishing” dream was real!).

Once I started learning what an agent actually did and how excited it could be to help build an unpublished writer’s career, I gave up on any previous romanticized notions I might have had about publishing. (The three martini lunch in the offices of Random House was very appealing until I learned it didn’t exist.) So, I kept applying to agencies and got used to being asked “so, what do you do again?” by my family. 

Me: Do your clients have any upcoming releases you want to share?

My fabulous client, K.M. Walton’s debut YA, CRACKED (Simon Pulse) is being released in Spring 2012.

Me: I love that you showcase new writers on your blog, Glass Cases. How did you come up
with that idea?

I started the blog before I became an agent. If anything, it was an effort to hold on to my writerly roots and support the unpublished who either have no interest in traditional publishing or are ready to query. Stories are posted once a week and the rest of the time I like giving writing or query advice or just waxing philosophic on various literary or pop culture-related things.

Once I became an agent, I very much wanted to keep the blog going with my original intent. There is a very strict “no crossover” rule, meaning anyone who sends me a query via the blog gets deleted immediately. Contributors to the blog are welcome to query me as an agent, as long as they do so through the appropriate channels. So far, it’s been a success and the writers have been very understanding about that, so I am grateful.

Vicki: What types of submissions do you wish you saw more of? Less of?

I really want to see more horror, dark mystery, and fairytales (fractured or otherwise) for YA. Dark mysteries for adult would be great too. Also, adult dystopian, as long as it’s original in execution.

On the “less of” side, I am still getting vampire queries, so that makes me cringe. Anything with “creatures of the night” I stay away from. I also steer clear of anything labeled “women’s fiction,” which for some reason I get a lot of. Anything written with the intention of excluding half your audience not only makes little sense, but usually ends up being rife with gender stereotypes.

Vicki: What’s the craziest book idea you’ve come across in the slush pile?

I can’t share anything specific, but a general idea of what I consider “crazy” is when people combine genres for the sake of combining genres. I guess to cover all bases, but it always fails.

For instance:
Timmy is caught in a well…in 1942…and Nazis might kill his parents…and it’s up to a werewolf and an angel to stop them and rescue Timmy…who turns out to be a ghost. For the record, I completely made that example up, but you get the idea.

That said, I do like when people play with genre and incorporate different elements into one novel, but what you decide to use should go together in some way.

Vicki: What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen/heard an author do trying to get noticed?

I will never understand why writers include pictures of themselves with their kids or pets with their queries. Or send a large FedEx envelope with one sheet of paper in it. Once I open it and see it’s a query, it will go into the pile with everyone else. It doesn’t matter how you ship it.

Me: What is the best way to catch your eye in a query (in a good way)?

Be succinct and get to the point. Before I even read a query, if I see it is only two or three paragraphs, I am already relieved. And if the first paragraph is a three to five sentence plot overview, even better. All I do is search for that anyway, so you might as well put it up front.

Me: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see in queries?

Like I mentioned above, the biggest mistake I see in queries is when a writer fails to mention what their project is about. There can be long lists of publication credits and how their own lives have prepared them to write their story – and all of those things might be impressive – but without knowing what that story is, why would I request it?

Vicki: For books you read for fun, what influences your choice the most (title, cover art, back description, excerpt, word of mouth, reviews)?

If I’m browsing in a bookstore, a good title will grab my attention. I pay attention to reviews, but not closely. Word of mouth by people I trust (Twitter pals, literary friends, and publishing folk) is usually what influences me most. Also, if I know an author I admire likes a particular author I haven’t read yet, I will check them out.

Vicki: What book title (real or imagined) best reflects your life?

Ooh, good question. Even though it makes me sound like a complete literary snob, I will say Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion (essays count, yes?). Content-wise, it’s not really relevant to my life, but the title suggests consciously starting a new chapter in life while remaining slightly nostalgic, which I think I do a lot.

Me: On my blog, I have a bit of an obsession with personalized license plates. What would yours be? You have 8 spaces.

MsGeek2U


Sarah, I love the license plate! Thank you for the wealth of information here.

As we’ve mentioned, in addition to the interview, Sarah has offered a ten-page critique for one of our lucky contest participants who write YA or Adult (sorry all those MG and PB writers!).

In your comment, be sure to mention that you want to win the critique (Prize #1), otherwise we’ll put you in for the alternate Grand Prize (Prize #2 – which is nothing to sneeze at, either). And if you haven’t already, let us know if you spread the word in any way shape or form (Twitter, Blog, Sidebar, Facebook, etc.) and we’ll give you an additional +5 entries in the drawing.


And if you’re just joining us, here are the rules for our Brawl ‘n Haul contest. For a longer explanation and the posting schedule for the contest, click here.

Rules:

  1. You must be a follower of both blogs
  2. When you comment, let us know if you prefer Grand Prize #1 – 10-page critique by Sarah LaPolla (Note: your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work) or Grand Prize #2 – A Prize-filled Gift Basket. If you don’t mention one or the other, we’ll put you in for #2.
  3. You can earn 5 bonus entries for the grand prize by spreading the word in any way shape or form (twitter, blogs, facebook, sidebar, etc.). Just let us know!
  4. This is open internationally! Woo hoo!
  5. Contest Closes Saturday 2 April at midnight EST. All winners will be announced Monday, 4 April 2011.

Speak up:

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Brawl ‘n Haul Contest: This vs. That Thursday

Mar

31, 2011 |

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For today’s contest, Vicki and I will each debate a side on a This vs. That vote. Read my arguments here, then go read Vicki’s on her blog, and don’t forget to vote on both blogs for whichever side is more convincing!

Debate:

Laptop 
vs. 
Pen and Paper

I will be defending the archaic Pen and Paper. Now I know we all have to eventually use a computer to type in our pages. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when you need to sit and write. You need to simply get words down on paper. And I am going to convince you with the TOP TEN REASONS for choosing Pen and Paper, David Letterman style.

Reason #10: No internet to distract you.

Reason #9: No blogs to distract you.

Reason #8: No e-mail to distract you.

Reason #7: Saves electricity.

Reason #6: Pen and Paper is lightweight and travels easily.

Reason #5: You have a hard copy of your work if your computer dies. (!!!)

Reason #4: The smell of paper is a sentient reminder of the goal of being published.

Reason #3: Builds two talents at once: 1) writing and 2) penmanship.

Reason #2: Builds the calluses on your hand which builds your Street Cred as a writer.

And the #1 reason to use Pen and Paper?: When you don’t like your work, it’s SO much more satisfying to crumple up your paper than to simply hit delete.

Now that you’re all convinced, go check out Vicki’s side of things, but be sure to vote on both blogs! And don’t forget, you have until midnight on April 2 to vote on any of our brawls.


And if you’re just joining us, here are the rules for our Brawl ‘n Haul contest. For a longer explanation and the posting schedule for the contest, click here.

Rules:

  1. You must be a follower of both blogs
  2. When you comment, let us know if you prefer Grand Prize #1 – 10-page critique by Sarah LaPolla (Note: your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work) or Grand Prize #2 – A Prize-filled Gift Basket
  3. You can earn 5 bonus entries for the grand prize by spreading the word in any way shape or form (twitter, blogs, facebook, sidebar, etc.). Just let us know!
  4. This is open internationally! Woo hoo!
  5. Contest Closes Saturday 2 April at midnight EST. All winners will be announced Monday, 4 April

Speak up:

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Brawl ‘n Haul Contest: Wacky License Plate Wednesday

Mar

30, 2011 |

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You knew we had to have something associated with license plates, right? So today, Vicki and I are each posting personalized plates for this car:

 Vote on which plates you prefer in the comments. Here’s mine:

BITE ME

Now, off with you to Vicki’s blog to see her plates, just be sure to come back here and vote.

And just for fun, here’s another wacky car we liked. Give us your plates!


And if you’re just joining us, here are the rules for our Brawl ‘n Haul contest. For a longer explanation and the posting schedule for the contest, click here.

Rules:

  1. You must be a follower of both blogs
  2. When you comment, let us know if you prefer Grand Prize #1 – 10-page critique by Sarah LaPolla (Note: your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work) or Grand Prize #2 – A Prize-filled Gift Basket
  3. You can earn 5 bonus entries for the grand prize by spreading the word in any way shape or form (twitter, blogs, facebook, sidebar, etc.)
  4. This is open internationally! Woo hoo!
  5. Contest Closes Saturday 2 April at midnight EST. All winners will be announced Monday, 4 April 

Speak up:

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Brawl ‘n Haul Contest: Testing Tuesday

Mar

29, 2011 |

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For Testing Tuesday, we wanted to see how much our commenters know about us and who is better known between us. And of course, a commenter from the winning blog will be randomly chosen to win a prize.

A little nerve-wracking here because we have no control. It’s all up to you, people! So, click over to Vicki’s blog to show how much you know about me, and below is a quiz on Vicki. Have at it!

1. Which of the following celebrities have NOT been mentioned on Vicki’s blog?
a. Anna Nicole Smith
b. Mark Wahlburg
c. Zac Efron
d. Jennifer Jason Leigh

2. The artist who painted the picture Vicki uses as her icon is:
a. Wassily Kandinsky
b. Henri Matisse
c. Alfred Gockel
d. Pablo Picasso

3. Ever the fan of odd writing analogies, which of the following has Vicki NOT used?
a. Writing is like getting dressed
b. Writing is like the Antiques Roadshow
c. Writing is like popping a zit
d. Writing is like telemarketing

4. Which of the following was NOT a title of a post?
a. The truth about the chicken
b. Kissing the parrot snake
c. Tickling Turtles
d. Appeasing the Voyeur

5. What is the working title of Vicki’s WIP?
a. Murphy’s Law
b. Porcelain God
c. Creditable
d. Waiting for the Sky to Fall

Now don’t forget to head over to Vicki’s blog!


And if you’re just joining us, here are the rules for our Brawl ‘n Haul contest. For a longer explanation and the posting schedule for the contest, click here.

Rules:

  1. You must be a follower of both blogs
  2. When you comment, let us know if you prefer Grand Prize #1 – 10-page critique by Sarah LaPolla (Note: your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work) or Grand Prize #2 – A Prize-filled Gift Basket
  3. You can earn 5 bonus entries for the grand prize by spreading the word in any way shape or form (twitter, blogs, facebook, sidebar, etc.). Just let us know!
  4. This is open internationally! Woo hoo!
  5. Contest Closes Saturday 2 April at midnight EST. All winners will be announced Monday, 4 April

Speak up:

17 comments

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Brawl ‘n Haul Contest: Mock Me Monday

Mar

28, 2011 |

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Today is the day! The Brawl begins. If you haven’t heard, The FABULOUS Vicki at Rambles and Randomness and I are hosting the Brawl ‘n Haul contest this week.  We brawl and you haul away the loot!

Vicki and I will duke it out Monday through Thursday in some wacky contests, and you guys decide who wins. That’s right, you! 

Each day, one lucky commenter on the winning blog will win a prize, and at the end of the week, we have not one, but TWO Grand Prizes to award. And every comment this week (on both blogs) is worth one entry, so comment away!

Grand Prize # 1:
A ten-page critique from the fabulous Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown! (Note: Your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work)

Grand Prize #2:
An exciting themed gift basket including a $40 gift certificate to Amazon!

Every good contest needs some rules, so here are ours:

Rules:

  1. You must be a follower of both blogs
  2. When you comment, let us know if you prefer Grand Prize #1 – 10-page critique by Sarah LaPolla (Note: your ten pages must be for a YA or Adult work) or Grand Prize #2 – A Prize-filled Gift Basket
  3. You can earn 5 bonus entries for the grand prize by spreading the word in any way shape or form (twitter, blogs, facebook, sidebar, etc.)
  4. This is open internationally! Woo hoo!
  5. Contest Closes Saturday 2 April at midnight EST. All winners will be announced Monday, 4 April 

Okay, as Jillian Michaels would say, “Enough talking! Let’s do this thing!”


So Vicki totally has the advantage on Mock Me Monday, since she’s been doing this weekly for a year now. To make sure my moment was mock-worthy enough, I tested a few on my husband, and this one finally got a belly laugh. I’m feeling confident!
(Note: No husbands were harmed in the testing of these mock-me moments.)

When I was 12ish, my family had just gotten back from Church and we were all foraging in the kitchen. I had grabbed a glass of milk (yeah, you see where this is going) to go with my toast.

Just as I took a long drink, my brother made some absurd comment. I knew I was in trouble.

The smart thing to do would have been to spit the milk back into my glass. But ewww! That would ruin the rest of the milk, and how wasteful is that?

And I didn’t want to just spit because I knew my mom would be M-A-D.

So what did I do?

Wait for it . . .

I looked up.

Yep. Krakatoa II.

Milk exploded upward and came pouring down. All. Over. Me.

On the bright side, I didn’t get in trouble because the whole family was too busy rolling on the ground, laughing. And yeah, that would be AT me, not with.

Now, be sure and go read Vicki’s Mock-me moment, vote there, then come back and vote here, because a winner will be chosen from the comments on only the winning blog!

Speak up:

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