Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Meeting

My goals for this week are the same as last week-- finish the first half of revisions and sew the pieces back together. I had a wonderful meeting with my critique partner, and am very excited with the direction the book is going. THANKS, R! That being said, I could use a bit more time to work on it. But, not all days are conducive to writing. I am in the final days of getting my kids ready for the new year at school.

Today it even feels like fall. I love the relaxed days of summer, but the quick pace change in September really gets me moving. Hopefully it gets my writing going, too.

September also, more than January brings about goal setting for the year. I'm definitely on the school calendar. What are my hopes for my children this year? What do we want to accomplish? What do I want to accomplish? It's a time of new beginnings.

I read a short interview with Author Sara Zarr, and I love how she describes earthly happiness as "living in the moment with no shame about the past or fear for the future." I think that pretty well describes success.

So, I'm aiming for that kind of success for this year, and to finish those pesky revisions this week.

How about you?

Friday, August 28, 2009


The basic miracle of Callahan's Place, the greatest lesson this joint has taught us (is) that there's nothing in the human heart or mind, no place no matter how twisted or secret, that can't be endured--if you have someone to share it with. That's what this place is all about: helping people to open up whatever cabinets in their heads holds their most dangerous secrets, and let 'em out. If you've got a hurt and I've got a hurt and we share 'em, some-crazy-how or other we each end up with less than half a hurt apiece.

(Excerpt from Spider Robinson's CALLAHAN AND COMPANY: The Complete Chronicles of the Crosstime Saloon.)

I remember, especially during my teenage years, the feeling that the characters in the books I read truly understood me. Yeah, my friends 'got me', but I could really be myself with the characters in the books by Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz, Robert Heinlein, Madeleine L'Engle, Lucy Maud Montgomery and yes, even Stephen King. (Especially Stephen King? I have yet to be convinced that the people who populate his books don't exist somewhere.) Those characters rode the highs and lows with me, and some-crazy-how, they Knew Me.

If my Crosstime Saloon existed, it would be populated by imaginary and real characters alike. Anne would sit next to Kelsen, who would hang with Meg and they would all buy a round for my flesh and blood friends.

Do characters live on with you after you turn the last page? Who would populate your Crosstime Saloon?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pushing Up Daffodils

Writing takes a long time. Revising takes a long time. The whole process takes a long time. And, what waits for us at the end of that rainbow of blood, sweat, and tears? Rejection. The road to publication is paved with rejection. And there are no guarantees that success (or publication) will ever follow.

Writing reminds me of that Japanese game show, Hai, Majide, but with less goo and chicken feathers. The title loosely translates as 'you've got to be crazy to do that'. Prince of All Agents, Nathan Bransford agrees, and marvels that we all stick with it. And he wants us to be happy along the way. He really is a prince, isn't he?

I find I have to push past the doubts and the feelings of being a little crazy, and just know that if I write deliberately then it will be worth it in the end. And, since it keeps me sane, then it is really worth it now, as well. (Ironic, that doing something a bit crazy keeps me sane...) I leave you now with a quote about having the courage to push forth.

A daffodil pushing up through the dark earth to the spring, knowing somehow deep in its roots that spring and light and sunshine will come, has more courage and more knowledge of the value of life than any human being I've ever met. Model yourself after the daffodil... have the courage to push your head up out of the darkness. (Madeleine L'Engle, CAMILLA)

Deep in my roots, I know that sunshine will be there when I push through.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I am carrying around a rock. No, I didn't just start a load of laundry and find a rock in my son's pocket. No, I didn't just raid my son's treasure chest and nab one of his golden leprechaun rocks (bless those teachers for painting and hiding them on St. Patrick's day--there is absolutely nothing better to a five-year-old than GOLD).

I am working on a revision in my novel and a character gives my mc a rock. As a kind of good luck charm. So, I am carrying one around to get the details right. And to trigger my brain to think about the scene when I'm not writing. Because there is a lot of not writing going on. (Curse the week before school starts!)

Every day that I spend with my kids reminds me that in their world, it is all about the details. Sandwiches in the shape of snowman. Drinking water from a tiny tea cup. Wearing superman socks. These are things that make up the best days.

What do you do to get the details right? Anyone else carrying around a rock?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Meeting

It's almost back to school time for my kids, so this week will be about getting them back onto the school schedule. And about getting me into a more structured writing schedule.

My rewrite is going well, slowly. I have almost balanced the parts between my two main characters, and hopefully after this week, I will be able to sew them back together.


1. Finish advancing two main characters to the meeting point
2. Polish to that point
3. Transitions/ notes

I think I can accomplish those goals. What goals do you have?

Friday, August 21, 2009

All Replete With Very Me

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hold Madeleine L'Engle in the highest regard.
And, if you think that she just wrote A Wrinkle In Time, look again at the 60+ books that she authored.

Some of you know that stuff has been going on in my life for the past year. Everyone has stuff going on. And, sometimes that stuff gets the better of me. And, then, I remember this poem. Madeleine included it in one of my favorites books--A Ring of Endless Light. She attributed this poem to Sir Thomas Browne. In her book, it's etched on the wall of the room that the kids sleep in at their grandfather's house on the beach. It has always been a secret desire for me to wallpaper my walls with words. Maybe I will.

If thoust could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say "This is not dead."
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes he says "This is enow,
Unto itself--'twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."

It reminds me that being very full of me doesn't allow room for anything else. And I think that real living only happens when I am open to receiving whatever the universe wants to throw my way.

How's everyone else doing, today?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sum of Parts

Some things are more than the sum of their parts. Most books, in fact.

I am knee deep in 'parts' right now. My revision process includes cutting my manuscript into distinct parts, dissecting those parts, rearranging them, and, hopefully, putting them back together to equal some magical sum.

This process actually has brought to my mind an ancestor of mine. Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, arranged districts in 1812 to benefit his political party during elections. They named it gerrymandering (pronounced with a hard G), because the resultant district looked like a "mythical salamander". It was not illegal at the time, merely creative. By changing those lines, he got something that was more than the sum of its parts-- and a mythical salamander, to boot.

I am hoping that the creative sum of my novel's parts build into some mythical creature as well. Hopefully that knack is in the genes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I think that what Lisa Hannigan does with music and book is amazing.

And, paper as well.

And, just because this is a music post, I have to include Falling Slowly from Once.

I have a 'soundtrack' for my middle grade novel. When I hit play on my playlist and put on my headphones, I am immediately taken into my novel. This saves me precious time of having to 'get into the mood' to write. It works for me.

What inspires you? What gets those creative juices running?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Meeting

Is it really Monday?

Okay, new goals for the week:

1. Re-read what I revised last week.
2. Continue revising. Let's go for chapters two and three.
3. Remember notes--hole in shoe, slipstream.

So, this is where I am in revisions:

I have revised the first chapter, and moved things around a bit. I've added another 'scene', adding depth. I call it my Expand and Contract method of revision. There is a lot that needs to be refined, but a bit that needs to be expanded for character development. It's a lengthy process. Especially since after I expand during revision, I have to go back and revise what I've expanded. Anyone confused?

After this full revision, I will have at least one more short revision left before trying to find an agent.

I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped in carving out time each day to write--or think about writing, but I'm not going to worry about that--as long as I have momentum, I'm fine.

Does anyone have goals for the week?

Seeing Things

So, I was having coffee this morning with the gang over at Erica Orloff's blogspot (my favorite morning virtual cafe), and Erica blogged about how she wonders if people see colors differently. Is the blue that I see the same blue that you see? Immediately my mind wandered, and I had two thoughts.

Can someone have simultaneous thoughts?

One: It reminded me of Wendy Mass' book, A Mango-Shaped Space, one of my favorite middle grade books. The book is about a girl, Mia, who thinks that she is normal until math class one day, when she tells the teacher that it would be easier for her to get the correct answer if she wrote the numbers in their proper colors. She actually sees numbers and letters and sounds with different colors.

"Everyone thinks I named my cat Mango because of his orange eyes, but that's not the case. I named him Mango because the sounds of his purrs and his wheezes and his meows are all various shades of yellow orange."

And in real life, it is a real thing-- called synesthesia. In the beginning of understanding synesthesia, doctors thought that maybe there really is a color signature attached to different letters, numbers, sounds and tastes. For example, that the letter 'G' is always bright blue. However, there was no consensus of color signature. Different synesthetes experienced different colors for 'G'--and everything else. I imagine that experiencing life with this added sense is both disruptive and amazing all at once. Naturally, there are artists and authors who have experienced life in this fascinating way.

Two: My second thought was about how everyone has a blindspot in the center of their vision. The brain unconsciously fills this in, so we never know what it is that we aren't seeing. I have been kicking this idea around for a while--there is a main character in my head who is blind, but thinks he can see. (I've been trying to change him to a female, but he won't budge. He's stubborn as well). But, that character is going to have to wait-- he's two books down the queue of books that I'm writing.

But I have to ask, what do you think is in your blind spot?

Friday, August 14, 2009


Want some warm fuzzies? Here's Dancing Matt .

Deep down we're all connected. Connected on even a more basic level than facebook. We're all made of the same stuff, and born of the stars--but that is a topic for another time.

And, for those cynics out there, here he is explaining how he does it (and he gets more people to dance at the end.) Good stuff.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Writing, The Rhythm Method

My life has a rhythm to it. There are a few days each month when I am super introspective. There are a few days when I am super organized. There are a few days when I want to reach out and talk with friends. And there are a few days when I want to reach out and strangle my husband. (I always resist!)

This affects my writing. On the days that I want to create, line edits are painful. There is merit to figuring out my creative rhythm. And, I think that finding out about underlying influences is interesting.

Warning to the guys (R, B, M, and whoever else may be lurking out there), the following has to do with understanding hormones--but stick around--it's not just about women. Men have hormonal shifts as well, and times when creativity may be at it's highest point in any given time of day or cycle.

General disclaimer--all the clicks below lead to unsubstantiated internet information, but we all know that everything on the internet is 100% accurate, right? Proceed at your own risk.

It seems that hormonal fluctuations help bring on creative impulses. That when hormones fall, creativity goes up. What if our hormones predispose us to certain work during certain days, or certain hours in each day? What if, by understanding ourselves, we can be more productive?

I hope that the experience of this poor author is atypical. I don't want to lose my creativity just as I finally have more time on my hands! In fact, my college professor, Terry Arendell, postulated that a hormonal shift in women during menopause pushed them to start a new creative life for themselves. (Those women she spoke to actually divorced their husbands in order to do this. She focused on the experience of the husbands in this book).

Women, check out this quiz. Just scroll to the bottom, if you want to get straight to the answers. The answers illustrate how different weeks in the hormonal cycle may lend themselves to different activities.

Okay, guys, tune back in. Here's your cycle. (Ignore the fact that the author of this website believes that only women will read this page.) I find it interesting that external stimuli can so readily affect male hormones.

In fact, it appears that women have it easy, as far as fluctuating hormones go. Check out this post (scroll down to the numbered list, halfway down), which suggests that men have hormonal fluctuations within each hour, each day, each month, and even each season.

Of course, the adrenaline produced by actually having a deadline is another influence on the body, which probably overrides the influence of hormones.

So, does anyone else cycle through creativity?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What It's All About

So, recently, I came out of the closet about writing. The first question people normally ask is "Will you try to get published?" and the second is, "Well, what are you writing about?". So, here is the 'what'.

The children's novel that I am revising now is about the magical connections that make life wonderful. Since it is a middle grade novel (for pre-teens) it is really about an adventure between a boy and a star. That's right, it's about a star.

This is the query (the letter to a literary agent) that explains the premise:

When a thirteen-year-old boy has no one left to turn to, and a Star just won't accept her place in the universe, two worlds collide with a big bang.

Most stars are born ready for the mundane jobs of keeping the universe in order and balance--patrolling space, banishing rogue comets, and monitoring life on planets. But not Star. Born of a wonder and fueled by thoughts, she flies when she should hover, and bumps into things which should never be disturbed. Chances are she'll go supernova before long. She's expected to settle into being a student at the school of Earth. But she's not the settling type.

For a thirteen-year-old, he's got some cosmic problems of his own. His older brother is sick, his mom has checked out of life, and his sister is supremely annoying. Fresh from a visit to his brother in the hospital, the boy wishes the wish that pulls Star down to Earth. He races to fix the mess he made, and finds he has to be more than just a little brother to right the world. It is up to him to keep his fallen Star from going Supernova, and from destroying,well, his entire universe.

So, that's it, in a nutshell (or query). Questions? Comments? Comets? Criticisms?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Laughing Now

Earlier, I was looking for a laugh, and now I've found one. Who knew unnecessary quotation marks were so funny?

Looking For a Laugh

Maybe there was a full moon last night, I'm not sure, but my night consisted of the sleepover friend of my son needing to be walked home at midnight, and my daughter waking up repeatedly, crying and needing comfort most of the night. So, I'm looking for a laugh to start my day.

Also somewhat frustrated with some dialogue, so this seems appropriate.

And, who doesn't need a fix of Mike Birbiglia to start the day? Here's Sleepy Karl, and What I Should Have Said Was Nothing.

I think I'm going to sleepwalk through my day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Meeting

Monday meetings are quiet affairs. It's just me, and the voices in my head.

Goals for this week:

1. Thank beta reader for jumping me over that stump. Because, wow, was I stumped. (Thanks! You're fantastic.)

(First goal, accomplished)

2. Carve out more writing time, while simultaneously keeping next novel at bay, so that I can plow forward with revisions.

3. Build momentum with the revising process. No worries about how many pages I'm getting through.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Writing Like a Girl

I spent a good part of my youth trying not to be a girl. Had I lived in a pre-feminist era, I might have spent a great deal more of my life trying not to be a woman.

I am at home in my own skin, now, and thinking hard about my responsibilities as a writer to write characters of different background, race, gender, and sexuality. A lot of books out there are very white, and very straight.

I hope at some point to follow in such footsteps as Ellen Whittlinger, Erica Orloff, and Justine Larbalestier, who have eclectic casts of characters.

And I feel badly for this writer, who didn't have a history, really of trying not to be a girl. Bias, anyone?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Hook

I have been working on my hook and query letter as I revise my manuscript. I think that next time, I'm going to write the hook and query first, before I am mired in details from the actual work. Here are some good places for information on writing hooks:

Agent Colleen Lindsay talks about the importance of the hook--beyond getting an agent. She also links to Prince of All Agents, Nathan Bransford, and his discussion of the hook, here. blogspot has examples of hooks.

Now, there are some differences in semantics in the examples above. The hook does not necessarily need to be included in the query, but it is the main conflict that can explain the selling idea of your book to everyone, starting with an agent. Querytracker explains the hook as the grabber in the query letter, and I don't see why you wouldn't put your hook in the query.

Some people call the whole query letter the "hook". There are whole contests around these 250-word hooks.

As if we don't have enough pressure to develop good hooks, Agent Jessica Faust piles it on.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Meeting

Goals, anyone?

This week, I am going to...

1. Look at the first 20 pages, revise, and insert notes (hole in shoe, running notes from the weekend)

2. Plot character note cards. (I love index cards!)

3. Dialogue!

4. Try to get into some sort of writing schedule.

Unicorns are Too Big for Pet Stores

One of my kids told me this today, followed up with a "right mom?"

Now, I honestly don't know his feeling on the matter. He might have been joking, or saying something for the benefit of his younger sister.

Or, most likely, he knows.

I love the idea of knowing that something is real, and fitting it into the reality around you. It's such an innocent idea that we lose (maybe) somewhere on the road to adulthood.

The only reason why we don't see unicorns at pet stores is because that would be impractical. Unicorns are just too big.

It reminds me of the children's story, Many Moons, by James Thurber and Louis Slobodkin. The only thing that will save a girl from illness is for her father to capture the moon and place it on a necklace for the girl to wear (she knows that the moon is the size of the tip of her finger). Her father, the king, finally gets someone to make a tiny replica of the moon and threads it on a string, and then goes to great lengths to hide the real moon from her daughter. If she sees it, she'll know that the one around her neck is fake, and fall sick again. But, she does see the real moon hanging in the sky, and all is well, since the little girl knows that the moon grows back.
Don't you?

Fitting made-up ideas and people into the fabric of our understanding of reality is a lot of what fiction writing is all about. Listening to children might help us do it with grace.

I hope to have some of this perspective in my life, and in my writing.