Apr. 7th, 2009 | 10:08 am
As I was driving home from dropping off my son, I was mulling over a problem in my latest wip. It's a static scene that takes place in a car, and I wanted more physical tension. Apparently driving and thinking at the same time triggered a good response, because I've been playing with a solution ever since. Nope. Not telling. You'll have to wait for the book.
Apr. 5th, 2009 | 10:51 pm
I know, I know, I've been away about a year. But I'm going to try to be better at this journaling. Really. I am.
For instance, today I mastered the blind hem stitch on my sewing machine so I can "professionally" attach the bindings, and I figured out, with the help from YouTube, how to hide the final seam on a binding. I need to watch someone do stuff like that, so I googled what I wanted to do, and voila! There were multiple choices.
I also picked up Zulu, our latest goat from Persimmon Grove Clark Farm. She's a cutie! Black and white and feisty. She'll be joined by Leif the Lucky and Onyx in about a month, also from PCGF. I wanted to add some black to our herd, and when I saw Leif, I fell in love. He has a black eye patch, just like the buck we lost last year. Onyx is black in front and white in back, with some mixed up spots between.
As for writing: I'm less than forty pages from the end of my revision and should finish it this week. Yay!
Jun. 14th, 2008 | 10:41 am
I've loved quotes forever. I used to copy my favorites from Reader's Digest into notebooks. Not that I ever did anything with them. I'm not sure I even reread them. But they frequently inspired me in weird ways. A good quote still will. It's almost like I capture a theme for a story from a group of well-chosen words. Funny how the mind works! Now I use them as story starters.
Jun. 13th, 2008 | 12:06 am
Kids can be amazing workers given the right circumstances and motivation. Mine moved 100 forty to fifty pound bales of hay from a field two miles away to our barn in a little over an hour. They threw them onto a rented trailer, stacked them so they wouldn't spill on the ride home, then unloaded them and restacked them at our barn. We did two loads. My daughter spent some of the time fighting off the curious and greedy horses, which her older brothers didn't want to do, and I excused my youngest son when he couldn't lift anymore bales, but at the field they were awesome. I kept thinking of spiders or maybe swarms as they rushed at the piles of bales and tried to load them as fast as they could. They were on a mission! Did I mention it was 95 degrees? They're great.
This might seem totally off my usual writing topics, but I can connect this to writing. How often have you heard something like, "Kids don't do things like haying or a multitude of other old-fashioned things anymore?" from some well meaning critic. I didn't pay my kids. I did say we had to do it, and we'll do it again later this summer. The kids, however, did the work with only one minor fight before we began. Could I make an editor believe they worked so happily, though? Hmmmmm. Probably not a majority of NYC editors. I've been told, "Most kids don't know what a barn smells like," or "Homecoming isn't a big thing anymore." I want to say, "Come visit the rest of the country. Please." Because a lot of our readers live in the vast space between our coasts, and a lot of them do know what barns smell like. Sure, maybe only a few know it's better to be sweating in long sleeves when stacking hay bales than have your arms riddled with scratches from needle sharp hay, but some do. As for the rest? They might like to learn about it, given the right story.
As for our horses? They gobbled the loose hay until we arrived with the second load and I released the herd's lead mare. She didn't want to stand in the sun chewing drying grass. She wanted the fresh grass under the trees in the pasture. She led, the rest followed. The grass is always greener . . .
Jun. 6th, 2008 | 03:53 pm
It's been quite a while since I last wrote, but I have a very good explanation for that. I cut out all my procrastination techniques (well, not all, but most of them and the ones I kept I do after my writing for the day), and I made myself write before I did anything but the necessities of keeping my family on track. Where did my new found energy come from? Kindling Words West, of course.
I spent a marvelous week in the company of 37 writers and illustrators in the mountains and mesas of New Mexico admiring the scenery, taking walks with and without friends, and thinking. And writing of course. I roomed next to Tim Wynne Jones and he also took the time to do a lot of work. He was drafting a new novel, while I was revising. I kept thinking it unfair that there's no phrase to describe the amount of work accomplished for revision like the phrase, "I wrote ten pages today." I did cut a lot of crap from the book and refocused my energy and the characters. I feel I got a great handle on the book at last.
Amazingly, the energy from my week has carried through to my home. I've nearly completed a quilt I was working on there. I need to finish making the label and the four beaded loops for hanging it. I'll post a picture when it's done. I've made significant progress on the wedding quilt for a good friend and designed the quilt for the blocks I've been happily making. Might be wise to do the project the other way around, but who says you have to be linear?
And I've written nearly everyday. Today is the first day I truly indulged myself with non-family distractions. I washed three of our seven horses and I'm posting here. Then I'm writing until dinner or later if my family doesn't get too restless.
Also, check out my biggest distraction, born June 1, at 5:10 in the morning. My youngest son and I saw his entire birth, and my daughter and husband got there just as he arrived in the world. Isn't he adorable? His registered name will be Smoken Dragon King and we've dubbed him Trouble for his barn name. Today he lived up to it. He discovered bucking and kicking. Watch out for those little hooves!
Apr. 30th, 2008 | 11:31 pm
I am anxiously awaiting Saturday and taking off for KW West. I wrote out my packing list today and started on my to-do before going list. How I wish I didn't have to worry about the whole family and what they're eating and wearing while I'm gone, but I do. Of course, once I'm on my way, I won't worry anymore, it's just the pre-leaving preparations that are so exhausting. It'll be great to be with other writers and illustrators too, and I've got a date with my WIP. It will be hammered while I'm there.
See, I've set this goal. I want this manuscript to be at my agent's by the end of May, so I can move on. There. I've said it in public, so it's now a deadline. I've made quite a bit of progress on it lately, and I feel more confident in it, so here's hoping that what I've done is good enough.
Also here's to a week of work with no laundry, cooking, errands, barn chores (but I'll miss riding), yard work, taxi service for kids, social planning for family, and all the other things that being a "mom" means. Oh, and I get to come home to Mother's Day! They'll have a week to plan. Wander what they'll do?
Apr. 25th, 2008 | 10:58 pm
I spent the last few evenings in wonderful company, that of Nancy Werlin and her wonderful new novel, Impossible. I snagged an ARC at he Texas Librarian's Association meeting, and I'm glad I did. Impossible's quite different than Nancy's other books, but it's just as well written. I was drawn into the book immediately, and I loved the characters, especially Lucy and Zach. I don't want to reveal any spoilers here. I simply wanted to let you all know that when the book hits the bookstore and library shelves, read it! Congrats on a job well done, Nancy. Your mother should be proud of "her" book.
Apr. 18th, 2008 | 10:52 pm
What fun this week has been. I attended the Texas Librarians' Association Meeting in Dallas, and I loved it. Tons of people scoping out the new books, all those nifty products for displaying books, magazines, and newspapers, and best of all, thousands of readers. I loved it. I worked for a couple of hours at the SCBWI booth on Wednesday and buzzed through part of the Exhibits. I was somewhat stumped by my family schedule which meant I couldn't just take off for the whole three days, but that's life. I did go back on Friday morning for a fast visit before the hall closed. I caught Gene Luen Yang's talk on graphic novels, and even snagged a personally signed copy when I bumped into him at his publisher's booth. I also went to the 25th celebration of Hank the Cow Dog's series of books. It was lots of fun, and I loved hearing John Erickson singing some of Hank's songs.
Best of all, I got to catch up with Cinda Chima and she gave me an ARC of her newest book, Dragon Heir. More on that later, when I've had a chance to read it. My son also put it on his list of reading material. The cover's beautiful, btw.
An added bonus: I can't wait to get back to my novel so I can get it out to my readers ASAP. Nothing like a couple of librarians asking what you're working on and when it will be out to inspire you!
Apr. 16th, 2008 | 01:12 am
So, I spent the morning working on my class, which is technically writing, is it not? Then I brought in my babies, i.e., my horses, before they got sunburned. White faces, noses, and spots are great, but there's pink skin underneath, and boy does it burn down here in Texas. I also had to catch Rebel, which is turning out to be a good name for the little %*!#, as he keeps breaking and/or removing his halter and lead. It wouldn't be so bad if the little bugger actually let you walk up to him consistently, but have you tried to catch a yearling Arabian horse who has no desire to be caught? They run, fast.
That left the afternoon. More class stuff, then, bliss. An hour to work on my book before I had to leave, and what do I end up doing? Talking to Verizon trying to straighten out an internet issue for me and my son. We've been sharing a wireless card since our airport broke (ask the kids, I wasn't home) and this guy in NY suggested a solution that isn't even possible, which I found out when I had the second modem in my hands and tried to activate it. I barely made it to class on time and I still haven't solved our internet issue. Maybe I'll have to go back to Mac and the airport.
Needless to say, I didn't write today. Yet I did writing stuff. Same place, lots of work later. Maybe I'm Alice after all.
Apr. 10th, 2008 | 12:34 pm
I almost wrote "New Goad" instead of "New Goal." In a way, it would fit as well since I've decided to work on short stories in addition to my novels as of last night. I started an idea file both on the computer and in hard copy, and last night, I typed up the rough draft of a story I wrote during my class Tuesday night. I always write along with my students. Sometimes I end up with pretty good beginnings of something but I've never done anything with them. Sometimes, like Tuesday night, I write a complete, if rough, story. So why not develop them and then try to sell them? I don't know. Maybe I was lazy. Maybe it wasn't YA, so I thought I shouldn't. But hey! Writing is writing, and who knows? I may sell a few. Gotta try.
Apr. 10th, 2008 | 12:26 am
I've been struggling with my current WIP since my move, but my life has been too full of craziness to allow me the space and energy to let the book grow. Then yesterday I was working on a presentation on characterization for a class I'm teaching and I realized what was missing from my WIP. Not only that, but I figured out how to fix it. Just like that. And I was still reading about characterization and taking notes for my class. Guess I need to free up that subconscious mind a bit more often! Now to find the time to implement the changes!
In case you were wondering what I was reading that provoked my brain storm, it was some articles by Lee Masterson I'd found years ago on the web and saved for my reference. They must have inspired me when I decided to save them. I know they did this time around. I liked the one on the eight basic character types the best if you go looking for it.
Mar. 30th, 2008 | 11:30 pm
I've been researching on the internet, which can mean that I'm surfing the web or browsing eBay for buys on my favorite stuff, but I really was working. And it was fun. My class Tuesday is on inspiration and research, and I wanted to show how easy it is to come up with ideas in everyday situations, like reading the newspaper. Of course, my husband read the newspaper at a store instead of buying it today (didn't the magazine police come out of the racks and yell at him?), so I resorted to web browsing.
In the process I stumbled on the mother lode of weird stuff, and I only talked one site on weird news. I also didn't go to more than a third of the posted archives, but I still found twelve pages of story starters for my students. Humans are the oddest critters. If I weren't supposed to be finishing my WIP, I'd co-opt a few of those articles and get moving on a new story!
Best thing about today, though, was that I finally braved riding my mare again after two and a half months of sore hands. She was cooperative, although a bit frisky, but no big bad things happened so I guess I can keep riding. Except that blasted Western saddle weighs so much! I had to apologize to Sweetie for conking her on the back with the stirrup when I tried to heft it up there. Two and a half months sure does turn arms into flab!
I'm off to input the corrections I did earlier to my paper draft.
Mar. 30th, 2008 | 01:13 am
I spent the day in the company of teen-aged girls trolling the mall for bargains and things that otherwise can't be lived without, and in the process did some of my usual spying on life. In other words, I eavesdropped and watched people going about their business in the hopes of gleaning some interesting tidbit, scene, or dialog to use in the future. The most interesting, and definitely risque thing, was when a couple took over a dressing room next to mine so that she could try on prom dresses. I think they thought the dressing rooms were empty not having spotted my stocking-clad feet under the door. They blabbed on and on despite my sniffs and hanger rattling to let them know they weren't alone. When they finished, they marched out in front of a group of women who'd come in further down the aisle of stalls. I knew they were leaving by the embarrassed chorus of "hombre!" coming from the Spanish-speaking women.
I'm not sure where this scene will go or if it will ever be used by me, but I claim it, so don't go stealing it! It'll never appear as it actually happened anyway, but this is a perfect example of one of the best writing tips around. Study, ie spy on, your fellow citizens. You'll never run out of ideas if you do.
Mar. 27th, 2008 | 11:56 am
BIC. Makes me think of that Michael Jackson song, PYT, Pretty Young Thing. Sort of rhymes with it, but unfortunately, it doesn't have the same upbeat connotation for me right now. I've had my butt in a chair all right, but it was the car's driver seat and it was for 23 hours of cross-country road tripping. And I was the only driver, thanks to the rental car company that wouldn't let my son, even with his permit in hand, spell me behind the wheel. So what's worse? A tired, grumpy driver with a license or a teen with a permit? Don't answer.
But I'm home now. I've cleaned up most of the pet related disasters and I'm largely unpacked. I've refilled the frig so everyone can stop bugging me that there's nothing to eat, and I've planted my BIC. Is your butt in your chair? If so, are you writing or internet cruising? Never mind. You're reading this, so I don't need an answer. Then again, I'm writing this, so you know I'm procrastinating, too. But I'm off to my WIP, which I missed. More on that later.
Mar. 10th, 2008 | 08:43 pm
I had a wonderful time this past weekend at the Writing Down the Brazos conference here in Granbury, TX. We had a marvelous agent, Jennie Dunham, come and speak. We also had several editors speak, including Erin Garrow from Boyds Mills and Paula Murphy from Boys' Life Magazine. We talked and exchanged news with many wonderful participants, and I felt that they came away with lots of good information to help them in their writing careers.
Oddly, though, I feel as inspired as if I'd been a participant at the conference instead of a speaker. I love meeting other writers and sharing my passion with them. It's amazing how so many writers, agents, and editors are willing to help each other fulfill their dreams. I especially enjoyed this conference because we tried to focus on craft, something all writers work at and need to learn before they can succeed.
I came home with new work resolutions and have held to them. Hope everyone who attended was equally inspired!
Mar. 8th, 2008 | 12:08 am
So, I read this really good book last night. Kept me up way past my bedtime when I was supposed to be preparing for a conference, but it was worth it. It's a lot of fun, and I happen to know the author, which isn't why I'm saying all this. It's because it's a great book for kids and I'm hoping it does really well. BTW, I met the agent who sold it today and she's as excited as the author who wrote it! Way to go Jody! Don't blush, you deserve it. Check it out! It's the Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman.
Mar. 5th, 2008 | 12:23 am
I went tonight to the Ft Worth/Dallas Regional Science Fair Awards with my youngest son to see if he won anything. He learned some valuable lessons about doing your best and that sometimes, you can't win everything. His visions of going on to State's crushed, he managed to teach me a lesson: don't give up. As we walked out of the building lugging his massive, school-bought board and box of medieval, scale-model weaponry, he began to plan what he would do next year.
And so it goes with writing. Even as we're in the middle of one book, another beckons. We've barely completed the first round of revisions, and we're longing to be done and working on another project. We still need to balance that with doing our best, though.
Two lessons in one night, although mine may have been more reminder than lesson. In order to succeed in this business, writers, like twelve year olds, need to retain the persistence and hope that next year or our next book will garner better reviews, more awards, larger sales.
So we begin again.
Feb. 21st, 2008 | 10:07 pm
That is, both my hands are sore and protesting since my second carpal tunnel surgery this year. My left went under the knife on Feb. 2 and I lost the pseudo cast on Valentine's Day. Nice present. I got to see the bruises running half way up my arm and try to keep the not-so healed incision from breaking open. Needless to say, I haven't been doing much typing.
So I went eBaying. I sold a bunch of fabric, a spare Harry Potter, and a dress form. Now I have a balance at Paypal I don't know how to transfer into my account. The world's largest rummage sale all teched out.
In addition to missing my writing, I also miss my horses. I think they miss me too. Or maybe they just miss their grooming, which is like an all over body massage and scratching. They love it. Their lower lips get all big and blubbery, and they stick them out like a baboon that's pouting, except that's how horses look when they're relaxed.
I have kept busy though. I've been helping plan Writing Down the Brazos, a writing conference in my new home town, and I've been working on a mailing to introduce myself to Texan High School Librarians. I sent the first batch two days ago, then cradled my hands for the rest of the day. But good news! I heard from a librarian today about a school visit next year. Beat that Pennsylvania! Texas rocks!
Jan. 22nd, 2008 | 06:59 pm
I've been busy helping to plan a writing conference here in my new home town in Texas. We'll have an agent, Jennie Dunham, a book editor, Erin Garrow of Boyds Mills, a poet, Alan Birkelbach, and a senior editor from Boys' Life. It should be lots of fun, plus I'm speaking on young adult novels and crafting novels. It's March 7 & 8 if you're interested in coming. I'm looking forward to it.
Jan. 9th, 2008 | 11:37 pm
I finished reading Ironside last night and I loved it. The only reason I didn't read it in one night is that I started too late to finish. I looked up at one a.m. Monday night and said I have to go to bed sometime soon or I'll fall asleep while they're shaving my tooth to a nub tomorrow, i.e., getting a crown. So I read until Luis, Corny, and Kaye were someplace relatively safe, then went to bed. I finished it last night at two a.m. If you like fantasy, read all three of Holly's books: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside.
Jan. 9th, 2008 | 02:10 pm
I've been working, on and off, on a mailing since I moved to Texas. I'm now down to getting a cover letter ready to send to my chosen victims, but since I want a little pizzazz I decided to try iPages. The program kept crashing when I'd try to save. So, fed up with it, I downloaded Adobe Creative Suite on my extra hard drive so I could work on it, then went off to the dentist to have a tooth ground away for a crown. Ugly experience involving hideous smells, rinse water slopping over the side of my mouth, the dentist so intent on getting done that he doesn't notice I need to swallow, and me choking. When I came home, my oldest son had downloaded the new Mac operating system, which has since continued to tell me that I have a bazillion un-sync-able functions on my computer every time I step away from it, changed all my icons to things I don't recognize, asked to wipe my extra hard drive so it can do the time machine backup, and generally clogged up my life and work.
Needless to say, I feel like making a poster a la fifth grade crayons and markers and taking it to Kinkos (which I can do now!) and printing that out. Somehow, I don't think it will convince the ALA to sell me an address list if I do. Sigh. Back to the technology morass.
Jan. 7th, 2008 | 01:50 am
The New Year is supposed to be a time for change, and 2008 has started out in a grand way. After struggling to maintain enough strength and pain-free time for writing for several years, I've given in and had the first of two surgeries to repair the carpal tunnel in my right hand. I spent the last few weeks trying to get as much hard copy down on my WIP progress as I could, figuring I'd be able to read and edit it easier than typing new pages. As you can see, I can type, although it's fairly limited time wise, but I can't hold a pen for anything! So much for my plans! I've resorted to reading and just finished The Kite Runner, which I loved. What a beautiful writer! I felt I was wholly in Afganistan with Amir and Hasson. It's a sad book, but worth the read. I don't know if I'll see the movie. They so rarely live up to the book.
I was also able to sew simple seams, so I finished some quilt blocks I cut out today. Trimming them to the correct size is difficult since I can't use scissors without pain, and I can't press on the ruler with my right hand very hard so using the rotary cutter is hard too. So they're sewn and ironed (left-handed of course), and when I can use my hand again, I'll start putting them together.
I miss my horses the most. I don't want to do too much with them because my hand's in a splint and I don't want it dirty and smelly since it's staying splinted until the 15th. Guess I'll have to read and watch them play in the warm Texas weather!
Dec. 14th, 2007 | 01:01 am
I couldn't resist a little pun in the title. Last night when my two youngest kids and I returned from school and shopping, the stray dog was gone. His owners showed up and were delighted to find him safe and happy at our house. He was delighted to see them according to my second oldest son, Ben. The odd thing was that the dog, who we'd been calling Toby for some reason, was named Ben. He probably thought we were nuts not calling him by name when we obviously knew it all along. So yay! We're back to four dogs and the only one who seems to miss him is my daughter. He left his mark, though. He dug a hole to our neighbors and now our littlest dog can squish under the fence and go visiting.
As far as writing goes, I have half of my new publication stuff done. The other half I need to fix and I haven't had the heart or energy to work on it right now. Tomorrow I'll do it. I was so happy that I'd finished the postcards, etc, and I could move on to other things. Then they came back via email demanding another round with photoshop. I'll be so sick of them, I won't want to see them when they finally arrive.
I did some writing yesterday and today. The first two days of the week were spent on designing and tinkering with said promotional materials. I wish I could hire them out, but I can't afford that and the fees to print them, so I guess I'll have to do it.
Writer's Digest also published a short article on the woes of having too many ideas that I snapped up. I always see stories large, never small. Everything is a book and everything triggers a book. I've stopped doing free association exercises because I don't want any more ideas begging to be written. The multitude I have waiting for attention are enough.
Happy Christmas preparing to everyone and a belated happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends!
Dec. 5th, 2007 | 03:05 pm
I've been getting into a good routine finally post-move with my writing. I was averaging four pages per day at least three days a week, which is good compared to what I had been doing. Then my daughter downloaded some pictures onto my computer and spilled a glass of water on my keyboard. I dumped water out of it later when I discovered it wasn't working. It's drying out now and I dug out an old keyboard to use. First, though, I switched to my laptop to revise my postcards—something I've been meaning to do since I moved.
What could go wrong? Weeeellllll, the jpeg of Pin's cover refused to stretch to cover the front of the postcard. The company I'm ordering from is looking into it and is getting back to me on how to make it work. So I didn't finish those either. I so wanted to scratch that off my list.
Meanwhile, I woke up yesterday with my whole right arm numb and tingling. Not to worry. I know what it is. I have carpal tunnel, and I've been rationing my hands for writing purposes and avoiding as much else as I can until I can have the surgery. Something I did had aggravated it and made it much worse. This bumped up the need to have the surgery a.s.a.p., though. It's better today, but I'm not going to type at the computer for hours and aggravate it more. I'm thinking of doing both hands at once to cut down on recuperation time. Wonder if the doctor will do that?
Needless to say, my writing routine has been shot to h***. Maybe I can get some pages written tonight when the kids have settled down from their activities and I'm not chasing behind them. Or trying to figure out what to do with the stray dog my daughter brought home that started marking his territory inside the house. The shelters are full, so we're hanging posters and hoping to get rid of it that way. I do not want another dog. We already have four.
Oct. 22nd, 2007
Lots of readers have asked me what happens to various characters after my books end. Mostly readers want to know what Zoe does next or if she and Chard get together. It's weird, but I never thought beyond the book's end when I wrote it. That was for the reader to imagine and decide. Then came the emails asking me if I was going to write a sequel and if not, would I tell what happens next. They probably think I'm nuts not to know, but the end's where Zoe left me. Right there, with her realization that it was her turn now. For me, that line meant that it was her turn to live, to make mistakes, to see what she could make of herself. She's never told me what she did next.
So, as an interesting game, I'd like to hear what readers think happens next to Zoe and Chard and all the rest in Aimee or to Michael and Josh in On the Head of a Pin. I'd also like to hear about other books that wouldn't let you go, that is, kept you wondering what happened next (or what just happened in the case of books like The Giver, although Lois Lowry answered that question in her later novels). If you're an author, do you have the same experience with your books as I do? Do they stop in your mind with that last page, or do you know everything the characters did and became later in life?
October 18, 2007
My son and I have a date four nights a week. We meet in front of the television set at ten o'clock (we're Central time now) and watch John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. My favorite show is Stephen Colbert's. The things he says and yet keeps a straight face! Love it. His announcement this week that he's running for President in South Carolina as both a Republican and a Democrat made us laugh, as did all the jokes he's been making about it this week.
The odd thing is that I hope he wins. I'm a die-hard underdog fan (sorry Stephen you're an underdog despite being S. Carolina's favorite son) and I hate the way our political system works. His segment last night on filling out the applications to register for the primary was enough to prove that. For the Republicans, the cost was $25000 plus a late fee of $10000. The Democrats were $2500, but that could be waived in favor of 3000 South Carolina Democrats signing a petition and submitting it to the party. At least a poor (in political terms) person has a minimum chance of running, but no way could such a person run for Republican office. That's a full year's salary for some people I know. Maybe they could run for a lesser office, but those postcards you get from state candidates or local candidates? They probably cost around $500 for 1000, and that's not including postage.
So what does this have to do with writing? Not much other than I think Stephen Colbert is writing a political satire by doing this. His "life" has become a story very different than it would have been had he not been so disgusted with our political system (and full of himself, right Stephen?).
Oh, and by the way, Stephen, I could use a bump up on the best seller list. Care to share some of the advertising budget for your book with mine? My son and I have both listened to your audiobook. Sorry. We shared one download.
Lost in Texas
Aug. 27th, 2007
After a wild, hectic summer, I've resurfaced to find myself in Texas. It's been a long and stressful move that is still not complete. My horses are still in New York, just over the border from our old Pennsylvania home, but they will be reunited with us around September 7. Not a day too soon for my flabby thighs. We also still own our PA house, so if anyone is looking for a restful house far from anywhere, have I got a place for you.
Since I transported belongings, kids, and animals (minus said horses) two thousand miles to a completely different ecosystem, climate, and state, this is the first moment I've had to look around and ask, "How the hell did I get here?"
I did want to move, don't get me wrong. The huge reality of moving so far away from everyone I know hit me square in the solar plexus when I enrolled my kids at school. I had no one to put down in the emergency contact space because I know no one here. I'll meet people, find the thriving writers' communities I know are down here, but I'm an introvert. I don't mind idly chatting to strangers in the grocery line, but I don't like going around trying to make new friends. It's stressful and fraught with rejection, and as a writer, I get enough of that.
On the positive side, I have five and a half hours before I have to pick the kids up from school, and I can write for the first time in months. Unpacking be damned! I'm going to write! I'll take comfort among the familiar faces in my novels.
Tell an author you care day
Jul. 16th, 2007
Thank you, Whimsybooks, aka Emily for pointing out that today is Tell an author you care day! It's also my birthday, so we're birthday friends, too.
I've been incredibly busy getting ready to move to the Fort Worth area of Texas, specifically Granbury. I've already found several authors in that area, and I am so excited to be moving to where the SCBWI is active and alive. Right now, I drive to Rochester for a "writing" fix, which means I don't get to talk to fellow writers often enough.
Weirdly, when I discovered today's official status, I was answering a group of teens' emails whom I haven't had time to answer this past month or so. It's the best feeling in the writing world when someone takes the time to praise your work. So thank you, all my reader friends, for letting me know you like my books. It makes stealing fifteen minutes here and there this summer to keep writing worthwhile.
Now if only moving day meant the end of my work!
Back at work
Jun. 11th, 2007
Today was the first time in a month that I've been able to work. It's a lovely day and I so wanted to go and ride my horses, plus I still have some gardening to do, but I was able to say (and justify it) that I had to write first. This means the endless round of cleaning is officially over. Not that I don't have pockets of my house that still need sorting pre-move. I can ignore them now, though because they are less visible. Anybody want to buy a house in Coudersport, PA?
The hardest part about sitting down to write was that in all the confusion a few weeks ago, I lost fifteen pages of my WIP. I'd finally felt like I was on the right track and that the work was flowing, and in an attempt to back up while being bugged by my hubbie about how to use a printer that he's used dozens of times, I accidentally replaced the new copy with the old. I could've cried. I think that has a lot to do with my not writing. I'm not sure, since it was so new, what I'd written, and I want to know, word for word, what I've lost. Now I have to recreate it or write it in a completely different way. I'm scared that I won't be able to do either. Or at least not do it well. So I'm out of excuses and I'm back at work. I keep telling myself, I can do this.
And I can.
Moving to Texas
Jun. 5th, 2007
Today is the first day since we decided to move that I could sit at my computer and do more than skim my emails and put out fires in this chaotic process called moving. Instead, I've been cleaning, sorting, and trashing tons of stuff. Anything worth keeping but that I don't want, I've given away. The hardest part has been to sort and reduce my book stash. I've lived without a good public library so long, that I'm no longer in the habit of going to the library to research or even to find a good book to read. That's going to change now.
Our new home is in the Fort Worth part of Texas and I'm looking forward to it. Don't tell my daughter, though. She's trying to stay behind with her friends. What else do kids do when they're thirteen? I'm looking forward to joining a close SCBWI group (by close I mean one that's closer than two and a half hours away). I've enjoyed traveling to Rochester for meetings and the people there are great, but it's hard to be a full member of a group you can't do much to help.
I'm also looking forward to having more time to write and sew my quilts. In the massive clean up of our house, I've acquired both a writing and a sewing room. I've shoved the kids back into their rooms, and put my stuff in one place so our house looks less like forty people live here and more like five. I'll have a little less than two months to enjoy the space. I'd be bummed but I'm getting a library in the move! Whooppeee! That takes the sting out of moving, doesn't it.
I'll update my journey as I go.
Feb. 6th, 2007
If silence is golden, why haven't I been able to write much these past few months? The reason is that I've been very involved in "life"--the thing writers hate to admit they have when they're answering questions about how often they write. Well, I freely admit to having a life, and it's taken over big time. A move to another part of the state and a different part of the American cultural landscape looms in my near future. I will be leaving a town of three thousand, which is the county seat in a county the size of Rhode Island. We have two traffic lights in the entire county. Imagine Rhode Island with two traffic lights! I will be moving to a place where traffic lights are as common as deer and definitely more predictable.
The best thing about all this turmoil, which includes thinning out our possessions (the better to move with), is that I get to think about writing while appearing to do something else. Half of my writing occurs in my head. That's where my characters grow, where they tell me their problems and their dreams. It's where I decide that a plot twist isn't working and where I remember that I forgot about the main character's dog for thirty pages. (I actually did that once.) If I didn't spend so much time thinking, it would take me even longer to finish a book, and I take long enough as it is.
Another good thing about moving is the house hunting. I love seeing how other people live. I have a bit of the voyeur in me, and opening stranger's cupboards under the pretense of seeing how much stuff I can cram into them satisfies that urge. House hunting also gives me ideas for settings as well as characters. I've been tempted to go house shopping just to satisfy these two needs except I live in a town of three thousand and people would get suspicious. Now when I move to Pittsburgh. . . Just kidding. I think.
January 2, 2007
"Fiction is a lie. Never in its inside thoughts, always in its outside dress." Eudora Welty
This line struck me as particularly true last night when I was reading Eudora Welty's The Eye of the Story. I read a little every night, sort of as a cool down exercise or maybe as a prompt to my subconscious. I've worked my way through quite a few writing books like this in the past year, but not everything I read strikes me as this line did.
So why did this phrase hit home? Because I think of books this way. Writing a book is a thinly disguised adventure that the author either wants to take or is forced into taking. My last book, On the Head of a Pin, definitely comes under the last definition, and probably Aimee does too. The novel I'm working on now, Doing the Catwalk, is an adventure I wanted, even craved, after the emotional toll of my earlier books. I wanted to go someplace funny and I did.
But I still needed the inside thoughts, the truth. I created a beautiful, funny outside dress, but I designed it for a mannequin. I needed to find the person the dress fit. It's taken a few revisions, but I think I've found it. Let's hope my editor agrees!
So what do I think Eudora Welty meant when she said the inside thoughts were never a lie? That the heart of the story is a truth that every person can recognize either in their hearts or in the heart of another. That the characters act and think as real people act and think. That there are no gods pulling the plot cart. That when the reader closes the book, there are no "Buts—" in their heads. The whole book holds together on the skeleton of truth.
Sounds mystical, doesn't it. It's not. When you finally get it, you know it. Sort of like you know a friend from childhood in a way you don't know a friend you met a year ago.
How do I start writing/publishing?
December 15, 2006
I've received several emails about how to get started in both writing and in publishing. I thought this would be a perfect subject to address here.
I believe these two things are related and that one flows from the other. Beginning writers shouldn’t seek publication until they’ve done everything in their power to perfect their writing. This isn’t always what writers want to hear. Frequently, we writers think our first drafts are wonderful and don’t need much revision—if any. This is where two things become important. The first is time. When a piece of writing seems finished to the writer, it should be tucked away and forgotten for several days for shorter pieces, up to three months for longer works. Don’t think this means that the time between writing something and its publication will be shorter. In fact, if the time is taken to let a work sit and to allow the writer to develop a fresh perspective, the time between the first draft and publication will probably be shorter.
Why? When a writer puts something away, say a novel, and goes on to work on something else, she is frequently improving her skills on her next piece. She is also allowing her subconscious to reconsider everything about the dormant work from plot to characters to voice. When she reopens that document, many flaws from grammatical and spelling mistakes to factual errors or inconsistencies in the story will jump out at her. She has developed the second important thing that putting the piece aside gives: perspective. Parts of the manuscript that once seemed fresh will now seem trite or boring. Characters that had seemed fully developed appear to be stereotypes or two-dimensional. The writer can correct these problems before submitting her manuscript to an editor.
But why does this shorten the time between finishing a manuscript and being published? Because editors no longer have the time or the authority to take on a rough manuscript that shows promise and work with the author until the novel is perfect or as close to perfect as possible. A manuscript that shows promise will in all likelihood be rejected. The competition for publication is huge. Manuscripts need to be great to stand out among the thousands of other submissions.
As far as starting a novel or a project, I tend to plunge in and see where the story takes me. Sometimes I have to backtrack and fix things when the story veers away from where it should have gone. This usually happens when I don’t trust my characters and listen to what they would do in a situation. Instead I make them do what I want them to do to make a situation happen.
It sounds simple. It’s not. It’s intimidating to start a long work, but the only way it will be written is one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page, and one chapter at a time. There is no right or wrong way to finish a draft. It takes willpower and commitment. A writer has to want to write more than watch television, call a friend, or play video games. He needs to put his “butt in his chair,” or BIC, and do it. Editing usually isn’t part of this process. It can, in fact, stifle it. He must simply tell his story and leave the perfecting of it until later. This is hard to do, but it’s a skill writers need to develop.
One other thing that the emails hinted at is writing something based on experience. Writers need to take care not to write “fiction” that follows life too closely. People should not be able to identify themselves or other people they know in the characters. If they can, the writer can be sued. More than the person’s name and age should be changed. Their sex, age, and appearance should also be altered. A writer can give people different hobbies or jobs. If he is writing about someone who is selfish or an abuser, he should create different situations than what actually happened to show his characters’ flaws. If writing a memoir, the writer has to be equally careful not to embellish the truth to make the story better. Only the facts belong in a memoir, along with the narrator’s reaction to events both in the past and now. The recent rash of such “embellished” books has tainted the genre of memoir writing.
I hope this helps. Thanks Melissa and Jamie for your emails.
Keep your questions coming, and I’ll keep trying to answer them!
November 14, 2006
I added a plog to Amazon.com that I would be doing a blog on writing, but I didn't check first to see if this was up and running. Lesson number one: Do your homework. I now have to add a comment to my plog saying that this blog is up on my website. Feel free to ask questions about writing, and I'll try to answer them here.
I love photographs that could be story starters or settings. The photograph above is of Easter Island—the island off Chile that has all those weird monoliths built sometime in the distant past by a people long lost to recorded history. Jared Diamond talks about this in his book, Collapse, which I listened to a while ago. It's a fascinating book on culture and humans in general, especially for those of you who are interested in writing science fiction or fantasy. Reading anthropology, sociology, and psychology books are one of the best ways to prepare yourself for writing. They look at humans in all their various facets and make you think about how people tick. Knowing what motivates and impedes people is important to making believable characters. So pick out an interesting book and start reading. Of course, the key word here is interesting. Some are little more than text books—boring, dry, and sleep-inducing. Look for books that have case studies and include sections written by or quoted from actual people. I love sneaking peeks into the inner workings of people's minds. Maybe that's why my books have a distinctive psychological bent to them.
What do you like about people? What prompts you to think something would be a cool story? Does the desolation of Easter Island's beach with its natural rock sculpture inspire you more than a picture of the squat rows of men in the more commonly seen photos? Think about it and let me know.
November 8, 2006
Many of you have written that you want to be writers as well as readers. Some of you have begun to chase your dream by writing poems, short stories and even novels. I thought it would be cool to provide a place where you could ask questions about writing and I'd try to respond. Right now, this site isn't set up as a blog in that you can't respond to my posts on this page. However, if you go to the contact page and type in your comments or questions, I'll post them here. I'd love to see a dialogue open up among teen writers as well as established writers. I'll also be trying to set this up as a real blog with the help of my web designer. I'd like to keep the blog here, but it may have to move to another site. If that happens, I'll post the link here. I'll be checking out the various sites available for my blog in the next few weeks. If you have any suggestions, let me know. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!