Feb 26

(FYI: Come back Tuesday for a new feature… The Big Reveal)

Learning to read is hard. Or so I assume because I did it so long ago and can’t remember. But my kids are there now. One thing they don’t fully understand yet is abbreviations. I guess I shouldn’t expect much, they’re young.

A conversation held with my daughter.
Miranda: I know how to spell U-N-D
Me: Oh yeah, how?
Miranda: I don’t know. (With a confused look on her face.)

We had this conversation in the kitchen as she’s standing in front of Lincoln’s art project, a collage of
C-3PO. On it are a few Star Wars words but also the name of C-3PO, or as he attempted to write it: See-Three-Pee-O.

Abbreviations must be hard for kids when they’re first learning to read. They learn to sound out a word to spell it, and that obviously doesn’t work. A beginning reader might try spell it youndee. With Miranda, she knew UND refers to the school, but I’m sure she doesn’t know that it stands for the University of North Dakota shortened down.

So it got me thinking about how the abbreviations we use change over time. Lately I’ve been learning all the ones that writers use, but here are a few of the important ones from my life.

Life in the 80s
SCUBA: Thank you Alex P. Keaton. I will always remember what this means. Self contained underwater breathing apparatus, just in case you didn’t know.
AU: Although I have since memorized many elements from the periodic table, gold was one of the first thanks to Natalie and Tootie. (A U, give me back my gold). How I loved that show.
USSR: I remember being proud of knowing the difference between the USSR and Russia, which we discussed in 9th grade Global Ed with Mr. K. (So I was a little nerdy back then, who cares)
BFF & JK: Best friends forever and just kidding—the precursor to the :) . I was a ridiculously avid note writer in jr. high and high school—not sure how I got good grade, since apparently I was writing notes all the time. Being the pack rat I am, I still have the notes I got from my friends during those years. They’re HILARIOUS and reading them brings back many things I’d forgotten.

College Life
KAΘ: Kappa Alpha Theta, the women’s fraternity I belonged to.
ASCE: American Society of Civil Engineers. The student organizations I belonged to which brought us fun things such as the steel bridge competition and the concrete canoe contest. Did you know concrete floats? It does if you mix it right.
Diff EQ: This was one of the most dreaded math classes we engineering students took. (And trust me, there were plenty) Differential Equations. I still shudder at the thought.
FE: The Fundamentals of Engineering exam is a national test we took at the end of college. If you want to become a licensed professional engineer, this is the first step. This was one long test and it covered not only my discipline of engineering, but all those others I didn’t learn much about other than the random introductory class all engineering students took.

Worklife
PE: This is the professional engineers exam, and is a requirement if you want to become licensed, which I had to do. One long, tough test taken in your discipline. I’m registered in three states by the way.
CAD: Computer aided design. For years I got to draw at work. Okay, there was a little more to it, but that’s basically what CAD is.
RCP, PVC, CMP: Reinforced concrete pipe, polyvinyl chloride (plastic) pipe, and corrugated metal pipe. The pipes underground that transport water and other unmentionables in and around the city.

Life with young kids
SAHM: stay at home mom—a lot of my friends
DTP: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (one of many shots the kids cried over when receiving) and yes, buy now I know what DPT stands for. Back when Lincoln got his first shot, I probably didn’t.
bpA: Bisphenol A { (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2} Okay, I copied that out of Wikipedia; I didn’t know that. This is the dangerous compound used to make many of the plastics that my kids probably ate and drank out of. I’m not scared of it, but I’m glad they’re not using it like they used to.
SIDS: scary stuff, not much to say.

Life with Semi-Older kids
Pollys: Polly Pockets are the toys that live in our vacuum cleaner because they’re so darn small. Some moms throw out the shoes right away because a complete pair never lasts longs. I keep them. They can wear mis-matched shoes.
WWE: Wrestling. It’s not just for boys, girls like it too.
NCLB: No Children Left Behind. I won’t get into politics here, so we’ll leave it at that.
PS2: The video games my son loves to play: Playstation 2. Luckily we got it cheap and used from the neighbors.

Writing Life
SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Pretty self-explanatory.
MS: Manuscript, your story. (It’s not a book until it’s published.)
MC: Main character. One of the people who takes over your brain when you’re writing.
SS: Simultaneous submission. Submitting your work to different agents at the same time.
MS: Multiple submissions. Submitting multiple works to one agent. (Took me a while to figure out what these two meant). This is a no-no with literary agents. One ms at a time.

I’m not sure what the next stage will be. Most likely learning all the chatting codes. But luckily cell phone usage for my kids is a few years off.

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Oct 05

Last weekend I attended my first writers conference at UND. It was actually the 32nd Annual Writing for Children and Young Adults Conference. Yes, 32nd annual, and I just heard about it for the first time, thanks to my mom who spotted it in the newspaper.

I have absolutely nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was a good conference considering the size of UND/Grand Forks. They had three (the 4th cancelled last minute) editors from publishers that do children’s books. I’d never heard of the two companies, Flux and Egmont, but the other was Random House, which everyone knows. And the one who didn’t show was from Viking, which I recognize too.

There was also a local author of middle grade fiction, Kurtis Scaletta, who now lives in Minneapolis area. He lived in Grand Forks and attended UND.

The speakers were dynamic and interesting. And I met some nice people too who I will probably run into again.

The best thing was that being a small conference, 25ish people, you have access to these editors and the writer. They sat at lunch and dinner with us and would answer questions you might have. That might not happen in New York at a conference with hundreds of people.

Mr. Scaletta also offered to review query letters and offer suggestions since he’s dealt with them and literary agents. He thought mine looked good. It has been much revised and changed since I first started querying, so hopefully this might grab someone’s attention.

I was disappointed that I’d missed the deadline to submit a manuscript (10 pages) for evaluation by an editor. That would have been helpful. I also wished they would have had a literary agent (which the big conferences do).

But I will definitely go back.

I also hope to go to more conferences. Sioux Falls had one last spring and hopefully will again. Yes, the big jump from Grand Forks to Sioux Falls. Maybe I’ll take on Denver or New York or LA after that!

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