Stepping Up and Stepping Out: The Mark of a Man Blogfest

I recently participated in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest with my post, Don’t Hate the Skinny Girl. Today’s special entry is part of The Mark of a Man Blogfest hosted by fellow author David N. Walker.

I. Love. Men.

businessmanThere, I’ve said it. I really do. I think men are awesome. From the way their Adam’s apples bob up and down pushing against the flesh of their throats, to the shoulders that are broad like fortress walls, to their hands that are thicker, rougher, and have visible veins like tributaries of a river, to their hips that land in a completely different place than women’s. I like their lower voices–tenors, baritones, basses–that can sound so commanding at times and melodious at others. I like that they think differently, in ways that make me imagine a puzzle in their brain that I can’t quite get all the pieces to complete.

I like that men can debate, argue, and even fist fight one minute, and be friends ten minutes later. I like that men generally take more risks, push their bodies and their fears. I like that men often use their strength to protect others, whether in the military, as a father, or as a shield for their woman (see Aurora heroes: Three who gave their lives).

So I guess I was in the perfect position to end up as the mother of boys. Thus, my household consists of three men…and me. I have a front-row seat for how my sons toy with what the mark of a man is–what makes a guy a man.

Two movie moments immediately came to mind when I thought about this.

Lars and the Real Girl (1997) was an excellent film. At one point, Lars (Ryan Gosling) asks his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) what it means to be a man. Gus’s answer starts with the usual stuff, but ends up with him communicating that it’s much more.

The full clip is HERE (which I couldn’t get to play on this site). But, when pressed, Gus goes on to answer:

Gus: Okay, you know, I can only give you my opinion.

Lars: That’s all I want.

Gus: Well, it’s not like you’re all one thing or the other, okay? There’s still a kid inside, but you grow up when you decide to do right, okay? And not what’s right for you, what’s right for everybody, even when it hurts.

Lars: Okay, like what?

Gus: Like, you know, like, you don’t jerk people around, you know? And you don’t cheat on your woman. And you take care of your family. You know, you’d admit when you’re wrong, or you try to anyways. That’s all I can think of. It sounds like it’s easy, and for some reason it’s not.

Gus tells his brother that the mark of a man is stepping up–doing the right thing.

Lloyd & CoreyThe second, oddly enough, is a scene that has stuck with me since I saw this film ONCE in 1989. Say Anything is about Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) risking himself for love. At one point, he’s talking with his good friend Corey (played by the fabulous Lili Taylor), and this exchange occurs:

D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?

Lloyd Dobler: ‘Cause I’m a guy. I have pride.

Corey Flood: You’re not a guy.

Lloyd Dobler: I am.

Corey Flood: No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.

Corey encourages Lloyd to step out–to be different and better.

Indeed, Corey, the world is full of guys. And sadly, guys who cheat on their women or don’t take care of their family. Or measure themselves in all the wrong ways–by their financial means, their muscles, their sexual prowess, etc.

But the true mark of a man is doing the right thing. Stepping up and stepping out. We know it when we see it–in the tearful eyes of a soldier saying goodbye to his family to do his duty abroad, in the resolute jaw of the father working 50 hours a week so that his family can be fed and his kids can go to college, in the broad hand of an elderly husband who reaches out to hold the hand of his wife of many years, in the small kindnesses shown by personal generosity and looking out for others among your family, friends, and acquaintances.

True men are still out there. The world may be full of “guys,” but I know many men who do the right thing–who step up and step out day-in and day-out. They live out the mark of a man.

And I salute them all. Because it’s not easy; yet you do it anyway.

Share your thoughts on what the mark of a man is.

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What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences 😉 , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.) Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert panel); Writing Love Scenes (Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch (Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing (Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!