Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Meeting

Phew. Thanksgiving is over. It was a big blur--the days are racing past. Before I know it, more holidays will be upon us.

But before they are, we have this week to write. So, here are my goals:

1. Finish my Nano novel. I hit 50,000 after a sketchy Thanksgiving week, but am still maybe 10,000 words off finishing.

2. Write myself an editorial letter to get me back into revising my MG. This is a good week to organize what the revision is going to look like. December is looking like a PriNoRevisMo for me (private novel revision month).

3. Shelf the Nano YA (when complete) until MG novel is revised.

Plus--I have a big treat for you all at the end of the week. Friday's Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond will spotlight the funny and down-to-earth Paul Murphy. Come stop by, post a question, meet Paul.

So, tell me. What goals are you gearing toward this week?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Links

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Instead of an actual interview, I've decided to link to some interviews with authors talking about their writing process.


Maya Angelou in an interview at newsun:

Growing up is admitting that there are demons you cannot overcome. You wrestle with the, oh, yes, like the prophet with the angel, you know: "I will not let you go until you tell me something." But sometimes that's what causes the tired person to become an insomniac, because the demons are so thick around the head.

An interview with Neil Gaiman:

I like making things up. I want to know who the characters are and just the broadest of broad strokes, where it ends and what is happening in the middle. Once I have that, I want to just start writing, because I figure it's a voyage of discovery.

Neil Gaiman writing about Terry Pratchet:

He was having fun. Then again, Terry is that rarity, the kind of author who likes writing, not having written, or Being a Writer, but the actual sitting there and making things up in front of a screen.

Interview with Toni Morrison:

But the writing was mine, so that I stole. I stole away from the world.

An interview with Stephen King:

I had a period where I thought I might not be good enough to publish. I started to sell short fiction to men's magazines while I was in college. I got married six or seven months after graduating, and for two years I sold maybe six stories a year, and I had the money I was making teaching, too, and it was a decent income. And then I sort of got out of the Zone. And for a year or so, I couldn't sell anything, and I was drinking a lot, wasn't drugging, couldn't afford it, and I was writing mostly shit, and then Carrie came along and I was OK again. But during that one year, I just thought I'm going to be a high school teacher, and nothing's ever going to happen to me.

My mother said that when she was pregnant with me she'd go out to the road and take the tar up, and chew the tar, because there was something in that tar, that, she, I, needed. It's like a craving. We like to think about how smart we are. But I think talent as a writer is hard-wired in, it's all there, at least the basic elements of it. You can't change it any more than you can choose whether to be right handed or left handed.

An interview with Shannon Hale:

I don't know where my characters come from. Honestly (and this may sound silly) but they seem to grow organically from the story. A character is what she says and does, and that means I have to write a story first to see what the character says and does. Then she gets formed by many, many rewrites (thirty for The Goose Girl).
I have to say, though, that I don't think I'm trying to write strong girls--I think I'm writing realistic ones. Every girl and woman I know personally is extremely powerful in her own way.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Meeting

This week got off to a rocky start, so rocky, in fact, that I didn't check in yesterday to see what everyone had planned for the week. It's never too late to have a Monday Meeting, so here goes:

This week I am planning on finishing my NaNo novel. I wrote a good chunk yesterday, but started floundering. I had some plot decisions to make. So this morning, I took some time out to work out the end of the book. I decided to add another character, which would make the climax bigger. I'm at 41,000 and excited to add the character, and then finish the rough draft. So, aside from celebrating Thanksgiving, I'll finish the novel. And put it away for awhile and into the revision queue.

And Thanksgiving this year? We're ordering the sides pre-cooked from a local market. There has been way too much stuff going on in the family to make a big production out of it. Good food and family. And no stress. Good times.

What are you doing with your writing, with your family, with Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Bryan Bliss

It's Friday, so time for another Friday Feature. Today, we have the pleasure of an interview and questions and answers from a recently agented Bryan Bliss. I first connected with Bryan while I was cheerleading for his agent search at Verla Kay's blueboards. He made me laugh. So, I followed him over to his blog, and he made me laugh more. Read on. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Bryan, thanks for doing this interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up outside of Chicago until my senior year of high school when I moved to....da-dum-dum!.....North Carolina. I’d never seen a gun rack, eaten a corn nugget, or drank a Sun Drop. But NC is good people, so I stayed in-state and went to college in the mountains, where tried my best to be radical and go to law school, but ended up failing on both counts. After college, I worked as a waiter, a newspaper reporter, a park ranger, a Denim Expert (don’t ask), and somehow managed to convince a number of theological graduate programs that I wasn’t a heathen (little did I know that these liberal schools search out apostates such as myself.) Now I work as a youth pastor, something that I really sometimes have a hard time getting my head around. But at least I get to do it in Oregon with my wife. Wait. That sounded wrong. At least I get to LIVE in Oregon with my wife and kids while being a youth pastor. Phew. (Now you know why my church work makes life interesting....)

Bryan, what are you currently working on?

It seems like I’ve been working on the same book forever. But, honestly, it’s only been about a year. I don’t know if YA is considered a genre or not, but it is young adult fiction. Contemporary, realistic, you’ll-get-no-vampires-here young adult fiction. Basically, it’s about a guy who’s seen too many movies and develops a “John Cusack Philosophy”. It’s got true love, movies quotes, swashbuckling, and ninjas. (Without the swashbuckling).

What made you start to write seriously?

Honestly, I think it started when I was in seminary. I fell in with a group of people who, like me, I think, weren’t sure why they were surrounded by all these people who seemed pre-ordained to look good in robes. Every one of them were creative, funny, and a bit irreverent. I had been writing for some time, but thanks to their help (and a couple of great teachers), I really started to find my voice and gain confidence in my writing.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I like my friend Ray Veen’s blog, He’s funny, almost as good looking as me, and his mom sometimes comments and ruins his street cred. Really, it’s like a party over there. Seriously, Ray’s been a huge help in my writing life and - even though we’ve never, officially met - has become a good friend.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I wrote a post a while back about National Poetry Day, and it served as a time machine back to college. I took a poetry class, and while I am an awful poet (Charles Bukowski actually made a trip to NC to slap me around for trying...), the experience wasn’t a total loss. For one, it helped me realize that fiction can be poetic. Second, it helped me discover some great poets. Gary Snyder’s “Poems for Robin” ripped something apart inside me the first time I read them. Even now, I’m trying to right something that connects with such powerful emotion.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Verla Kay’s message board. If you write for children, middle grade, or teenagers you need to check it out. It makes me sing that song from Karate Kid in my head.... “You’re the best one’s ever gonna get you down...You're the best...” Okay, I’ll stop.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Trying to avoid perfection. In my mind, I hear it in all kinds of songs (Warren Zevon’s ‘Keep Me in Your Hear’), see it in movies (Most recently, “Away We Go”) and obviously in books (like the CESSNAB part of Libba Bray’s “Going Bovine”). Of course, the trick is realizing that many (if not all) of these people can look at stuff they’ve created and feel the devil of perfectionism poking.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

For me, it’s been trying to find a writing schedule that works. You’ll hear people scream stuff like, “Write every day!” And that’s great advice. However, I’ve found that I end up doing more damage to my writing than good if I force myself to write when I’m not feeling it. Of course, that can be dangerous because you can wake up and discover you haven’t written anything in a month. Basically, I write Monday through Friday and give myself a free pass on the weekends. If I’m feeling particularly inspired, I write. If not, I watch movies (which I call research.)

Tell us about a book (or author/ who) that has impacted your writing life.

I hate to seem typical and drop John Green, but its the truth. My wife read LOOKING FOR ALASKA and I, obviously, laughed. Teen Fiction? *scoff* Should I get you some Babysitters Club books too? Hardeeharhar.... At the time, I was finishing the same book I’m revising now (just written for adults), but something was off....the MC seemed immature and not believable. I don’t know how it happened, but for some reason I picked up ALASKA and read it. Things happened quick after that...I realized my writing was so much better suited for younger audiences. I had the voice of a teenager down (a benefit from hanging with teens all week....) and, after reading a lot of YA, I realized how much I enjoy the books out there. Two years later, and I’m not sure I’ve read an adult fiction title.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

My biggest practical goal is to write something that connects with people. Something that’s real. That’s, honestly, my reach-for-the-stars goal too. I’d love to write full time and make lots of money and maybe be voted king of something. But the connection part is what I’m really hoping for.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

Having people say things like, “This part made me laugh...” or “This IS good...” Also, really getting to ‘know’ my characters. I feel like I could write any scene for the two main characters of my book. This scares me too, because I don’t want every other book I write to be derivatives of the same voice.

Bryan, you have recently connected with an agent. Would you mind telling us how that came about? (It's such a great story!)

Well, let me start by saying if you don’t like annoying tales of dudes who don’t have to suffer through long, excruciating periods of waiting - don’t read this.
My whole query process took 16 days, and saying something like that in a room full of writers is the kind of thing that will start a brawl. Or at the very least, some muttered metaphors. I believe I queried 13 agents, but there might have been a couple more. The next week was a flurry of requests and e-mailing (not to mention Facebook updates.) I received 9 requests for full submissions and one request for a partial. One agent rejected without a request and I never heard back from two more. I was feeling like a rock star until the first rejection came. Then the second. And then a third. With each one, I felt a tiny piece of my soul die. (Okay, not really - but it still sucked.) A couple more rejections came my way and I decided to read my manuscript.

Big. Mistake.

All I could see were issues. And by ‘issues’, of course I mean that the entire thing was utter crap. It didn’t help that I got a few more rejections that day. I did end up speaking with a few of the agents, and one offered representation almost immediately. While the agent was very nice, their ideas about the book and the stuff I felt was really important didn’t connect. I was already thinking it wasn’t a good match during the call, but I decided to let things settle a bit in my mind. Not jumping at the agent’s offer felt like Tom Cruise, Risky Business-type stuff (but without the prostitutes and me sliding across the floor in my underwear.) But the book is really important to me, and I wanted to make sure that this agent’s suggestions wouldn’t take away the parts I felt were necessary.

I did, however, contact the remaining agents who were reading and let them know I had an offer of representation. At first, I wasn’t going to based on my feelings during the phone call. But all my friends said I needed to really consider my options and give other agents a chance to consider the book.

The story ends with me speaking with Michael Bourret of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. The whole thing was a bit blurry, but it seems like the first 20 minutes were spent discussing all the things I needed to change about my book. Unlike the other conversation, everything Michael said was like, Yes! The phone call ended with him saying something like, “Well, I think the book is about two strong revisions away from editors being able to see it.” Then silence. So I said, “Do you want me to revise it and re-submit it?”

His answer almost made me do flips and slide across the floors of our house in my underwear: “No, I want to sign you as a client.”

I ended up speaking to two different agents, but both conversations felt polite and obligatory after speaking with Michael. He just got my premise, got the writing, and the whole thing felt comfortable. The following Monday, I E-mailed him and accepted his offer of representation.

How has your writing life changed since snagging an agent?

Not much, honestly. It still feels surreal. I’ve got a whole lot more work to do on my book now. And, of course, whenever I go out for dinner and the waiter asks me what I’d like to drink I say something like, “Well, what WOULD a guy with an amazing LITERARY AGENT want to drink?” But, really, nothing has changed much.

If you could be any character from a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Harry Potter. Because I would rule at Quidditch.

Thanks for the great interview Bryan! Everyone--make Bryan feel at home by posting a question or comment for him. He'll be stopping by. Maybe he'll even tell us what position he plays in Quidditch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Simple Act of Writing

Well, you never achieve everything you wanted to. It's the simple act of writing. You begin with a platonic ideal that is a shimmering tower carved out of pure diamond, that is this perfect thing that stands there unfouled by gravity and the weather. And, then, the thing that you build is this thing that you have to build out of whatever is at hand and you use empty sushi boxes and chairs and get friends to hold it up and try to make it look like it's standing. And at the end of it, people look at it and they say, "It's amazing." And you say, "Yes, but if only I could have done the thing that is in my head."

--Neil Gaiman, Hanging Out with the Dream King, Conversations with Neil Gaiman and His Collaborators.

This quote was Neil's answer to whether he had achieved everything he wanted to with The Sandman. And I love what he says for so many reasons.

I recently went to a local NaNo Write In, and one of the women talked about how she's scared try to write because she's scared her writing won't be perfect. That drive towards perfection is something that immobilizes a lot of people I know. It's why NaNo can be good--it unfreezes writers because first drafts aren't perfect. Can't be perfect. It's the simple act of writing.

I love how Neil attributes his friends as the ones who holds up his works. You just can't do it without friends. It's the simple act of writing.

And I absolutely love his description of an idea--"...a shimmering tower carved out of pure diamond...this perfect thing that stands there, unfouled by gravity." I love the implication that once an idea is introduced to the real world--taken out of the mind--then it is marred by gravity. By the weather. That we lack raw idea material--pure diamond. That we have to use what is at hand to mold our idea. The simple act of writing.

I've never felt as though writing was simple. But if I sit down at my computer or with pen and paper with an idea in my head, then I write. And maybe it is. The simple act of writing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Torn in Transit

Yesterday, Erica's blog post got me thinking. Nothing out of the ordinary in that. But it also made me remember. I remembered the first piece of art that really spoke to me--this piece. It's called Torn in Transit, by John Haberle (1890). I saw it at a local art museum, the Brandywine River Museum, when I was growing up. I didn't know much about art; I still don't. I didn't know if it was 'good' or not. But it spoke to me. Haunted me. I couldn't keep my eyes from it. I'd try to leave the room to see other paintings, but it called me back. I wanted to keep it--to own it--but alas, there were no postcards of it at the museum. And now, here it is.

In Erica's post, she posed the question: Is art a conversation?

I thought of the conversation that I had with this painting, over fifteen years ago. And I thought about what I'm writing now, and I realized that this painting is there, in that writing. Not literally, of course--but the idea of why this painting fascinated me is in my writing. And yet, I didn't remember this painting at all, until I read Erica's blog post. And the best thing? This painting will be in Connecticut in the beginning of December, at the New Britain Museum of American Art. I don't have to trek back to PA. It's traveling to me. Coincidence, I think not.

Continue the conversation. What art has inspired, questioned, stretched you? Anyone want to road trip to Connecticut?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Meeting

Monday again. My goals include the following:

1. Get close to finishing my YA NaNo novel. I am right on target with my word count. I can taste where the novel is going right now, and I am excited to bring it home.

2. I am also thrilled about making some changes with my MG WIR (that's Work In Revision). I'm hoping to advance that work as well this week.

3. And, although this is out of my control, I am hoping to exorcise the illness that has invaded the house.

*And, look for a special treat on Friday--an interview with the awesome Bryan Bliss. I'm thrilled, and you should be too!

Let's get the ball rolling and have a great week. What are you working on? What are your goals?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Erica Orloff

I love to find out where writers and authors are on their journey of writing. So, this is a new semi-regular post on the blog--featuring writers all along the journeys towards publication and beyond.

I am kicking this feature off with a bang, with an interview with the fantastic, versatile author, Erica Orloff. She has definitely made it to the category of "beyond publication".

Perhaps backwards, I found Erica's blog first, discovered what a warm and knowledgeable person she is, and then found all of her unique books. Many days her blog is like a master's class in writing--with thought provoking blog posts and many knowledgeable writers who stop by to comment.

Today, I am spotlighting her recent award winning MG book--Magickeepers. But check out her website for a complete list of titles. Erica's books move at a splendid pace, and are populated by characters quirky enough to exist in real life--reclusive writers, blues singers, mafia members, FBI agents, drag queens, shock jocks and angels. And she balances her writing world with characters of all different races and backgrounds and sexual orientation. Erica makes a living with her writing. No small feat in today's publishing climate.

Magickeepers was her first foray writing for the Middle Grade audience. It was such a hit at my house that we had two copies floating around at once, to satisfy the three readers. Nobody wanted to wait for their 'turn'. Magickeepers is a fantastic story about a boy who discovers that he belongs to an actual magical family.
Thanks, Erica for doing this interview for the blog!

Erica, briefly, tell us about the road you took to first get published.

I had been in writers' groups since I was 20 . . . but never actively tried to get published. I worked as a book editor . . . and I was at a conference and ran into an agent I knew from attending the Book Expo in L.A. with a client of mine. I mentioned I had completed a novel . . . he asked to read it. He sold it to the fifth house he submitted it to (Red Dress Ink). That was 20 books ago . . . I HATE telling my "path to publication" story because it sounds too easy and wasn't fraught with rejection. But I had worked at craft for ten years before I even thought I had something to show an editor.

In the past, you have written a bunch of adult books. Please tell us what was different about writing a Middle Grade book. Was it harder? Easier? Were your children involved in the process?

It was harder, I think. Just making sure I was in the mindset of a 13-year-old boy. My kids helped name characters . . . and would read over my shoulder sometimes. There has also been some arguments over a few plot points.

The locales of your books are almost another character--New York, New Orleans, and for MagicKeepers: Las Vegas. How do you bring them to life--do you visit the settings, do you do Internet research, do you rely on memory?

If it's New York, then that's my hometown. The other places I have never been to. I rely on talking to people who live there or have lived there in the past, the Internet . . . and "vibe." I know jazz, for example, so that was a huge part of my New Orleans thing. I know the energy of a place like Las Vegas, how it never sleeps. So I rely on both instinct and research.

Your main character Nick can read the future--What magic skill would you want to have if you could?

I already have a magic skill. As a mother, I have eyes on the back of my head and uncanny listening skills, as well as a sixth sense when the house gets "too quiet."

One of my favorite things about Magickeepers is the history involved--while the book is fantastical, it is anchored in Russian history and magical history, with cameos from Houdini and historical figures. How did you choose these elements, and what kind of research was involved?

My father's family is Russian and I grew up listening to my grandmother tell me about her life there, plus Russian history sort of being "pushed" on me in the form of books and things. So I had a lot of it as a part of my background. As for specific characters, like Rasputin, that was research. The other thing was just how Russians are . . . you know movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding are stereotypes, but if you are Greek, you SEE part of your family in it. It was the same way with the Russian elements. It's just traits and things that bear an uncanny resemblance to people I know.

How much of your own children live within the characters in the book?

Nick is not like my son very much. My son is a motivated student, something Nicholai is not. But the fact that Nick like anime (a couple of obscure references here and there) is my nod to him. And Isabella is VERY much like my younger daughter. She is spunky and can be bossy, and also fearless about protecting animals. Their appearances mirror my children almost exactly, and the cover is fun to see because of that.

How has being a mom influenced the writing in this book?

I wanted to protect Nicholai. He is a lonely boy who doesn't have a mother. Something about that is very poignant to me. Being a mother is everything to me, and I think not having a mother would be crushing. So there is this element to that of his loneliness and my maternal feelings toward him.

Aside from the Magickeepers series, do you have any other children's books in the works?

No, but I have a YA coming out in 2011 called Star-crossed . . . and after my final Magickeepers, I am sure I will try to write another middle-grade series again.

How do you find the time to write, while raising a spirited family? Do you have any special writing routines?

No routines. Lots of coffee. And I also had to learn to give up what I thought I "needed" to write--silence, long stretches of uninterrupted time. I write when I can, very intensely, and KNOW I will be interrupted.

How about any superstitions-- do you have anything that you do when you send off a manuscript, or when a book is released?

No. But if I feel blocked, I talk to my late grandmother, whose picture is on my desk. Sometimes I will put on a lucky bathrobe that belonged to my grandfather. I light candles, too, and keep them burning to signify creative energy.

What is your favorite thing that a child has written or said to you in the aftermath of Magickeepers?

Oh gosh . . . it's so hard to even pick one because the letters are great. I have one girl who writes me every week about her life. But one boy . . . he wrote me to say he was a reluctant reader and HATED reading and Magickeepers made him not hate reading. That made me cry with happiness.

You are a dedicated blog writer--I actually picked up your books after following your awesome blog. What does writing a blog mean for a you, as a writer?

It's my journal of life as a writer. I write it without editing, first thing in the morning. I don't think when I started it, 1,000+ entries ago, that I expected it to become part of my "discipline" (or lack thereof) of being a writer. But I like it as a way to clear my mind in the morning.

Which author(s) or books have influenced your writing or world view?

The Little Prince, for its whimsy. Neil Gaiman for a sense of possibility. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl . . . for how I live my entire life as a human being.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you, and how do you work through that difficulty?

In all honesty, I think it's become, sad to say, fatigue. I am a mother of four and it feels like my personal life is very full. I work through it with coffee. The other difficult thing is self-doubt. Sometimes I just . . . hate what I write. And I just have to push through and pep talk myself. As someone once said . . . get the words down. You can always fix crap.

You are a full time writer--how many books to do publish each year?

Anywhere from one to four. It depends. Right now, I am completing my YA rewrite and then it will be time to do new proposals . . . plus Magickeepers III.

When can we expect the next Magickeepers book to come out?

April for the trade paperback version. May for Book II, The Pyramid of Souls. Expect to meet Sir Isaac Newton, P.T. Barnum, and others. :-)

Thanks so much for the wonderful interview, Erica. Blog readers, please make Erica feel welcome by posting a great question or comment for her--she'll be stopping by to answer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


When I'm writing I almost always "discover" a song that I already know. I hear it in a new light, and it makes me think. I become obsessed.

My current obsession song? Bouncing off Clouds. I'm sure it surprises nobody that it happens to be a Tori song. I look to Tori Amos for inspiration as I look to Madeleine L'Engle. And I'm never left wanting. Here are some of the lyrics that I'm obsessing over:

Make it easy
Make this easy
We could make this easy...
It's not as heavy as it seems

I like the simple idea that sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. That we can make things easier. That bouncing on clouds is a choice we can make.

You say you're waiting on fate
But I think fate is now
I think fate is now
Waiting on us

Fate isn't set, and it is in fact waiting. For us. How interesting an idea is that?

To deepen and widen the obsession with Tori--here is an interview with her describing her dive into sorrow to come out with her song, Tear in Your Hand. Years ago, this song introduced me to Neil (Gaiman) with the lyrics:

"If you need me, Me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the dream king. Neil says hi, by the way."

At the time, I started reading Neil Gaiman, and loved his stuff. And I discovered Tori as a tree in Neil's book Stardust. (Here's Neil reading the first chapter.) I spent a few happy years looking for references for Neil in Tori's songs and Tori in Neil's works.

Further fodder for the obsession: Here's an interview with Tori explaining her process writing the song, Happy Phantom.

What do you obsess over, if anything, while writing? Do you find that the process of others--writers, artists--makes you expand your own process?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Meeting

Hello all. This week I am hoping to rock out more words for my NaNo Novel. In that vein--here is the first song on my NaNo novel's soundtrack. This song, aside from some of the words, has more meaning for me than my MC (normally the songs on my soundtrack relate to the emotional journey of my characters). It's for me to feel like I can be a bad ass. (Whatever gets the words to page, right?) I finished the week ahead on my word count, but took yesterday off, to throw a fourth birthday party for Cowgirl.
So, this week, I plan on getting my momentum back, getting to the halfway point on my YA novel, and adding to my main character's arc in my MG novel. I am also going to go easy on myself this week, as the flu ramped up its clutches on my daughter. This is her second illness in less than a week--I'm wondering if she actually still had the flu on her symptomless days.

I am also launching a new feature this week on this blog. I would like to invite you all to stop by Friday for an interview and Q/A session with fantastic author Erica Orloff. It'll be tons of fun. The Friday interviews will feature writers all along the journey towards publication and beyond. I hope you stop by!

And a poem to further inspire (me):

What would I discover about the cotton woods if when I walked to the mailbox,
I listened to them instead of looked at them?
What would I find out about the rain if I didn’t run inside?
And is it possible that a sunrise would refresh me more than sleep?
It’s this simple:
If I never try anything, I never learn anything.
If I never take a risk, I stay where I am.
Today a friend wrote me, “Do you think you are a mistake,
just because you made one?"

There is no such thing as a mistake, there is only what happens.

--Hugh Kratz

Thanks, JD for reading that poem onto a mix tape for me so many years ago (mix tape--am I dating myself, or what?)

So, what are the goals you have set for yourself this week? What inspirations are you using to stay on track?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hodge Podge

Since this is a post about random, unconnected things, it seemed reasonable to include this picture. It's a photo of my oldest child, playing his Euphonium. For unknown reasons, this is what he chose to play in band this year. Unlike the 12 boys who chose the drums, he gets a private lesson. He's the only one in the school who chose this heavy and unwieldy instrument (which I lug to school twice a week). This particular son could multiply before he hit kindergarten, and taught himself to read--all as I watched, fascinated. Although, I think it's safe to say that I watch each of my kids with fascination. Now, on to the hodge podge:

Frequent Visitors (because aren't you all reptiles from another world masquerading as peaceful friends?) may wonder why I haven't followed up with my Buy-A-Book Club recently. Well, it's because I have sheepishly over-bought in October. I think my tally topped 20 books. Once I get over my shame over being thoroughly unable to stick to a budget, I'll tell you about some of them.

Yesterday I clicked over from Northwriter's fantastically visual blog to this beautiful blog, written by Natasha Fondren while she travels across the United States. How cool is that? And, her post 'It's Not Normal' is not to be missed. I mean it. Go check it out. NOW!

I also followed a click through Editorial Ass' blog to author Aprilynne Pike's post about not just breaking into publication, but breaking in with the right first novel. Food for thought.

And today on Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog is a guest post by Henriette Power. Anyone who is a writer and rower is cool in my book.

And for anyone wondering, if I seem less lucid today, it is because the flu has completely taken over my house. Superman has been lying on the couch for 5 days now. This elicits much sadness from everyone who knows him. I think he has spent more time lying still in the past few days than he has (while awake) in his entire lifetime. It's weird to see his body at rest.

Now my Cowgirl has succumbed, and says things like "I want a cold blanket, mommy," followed seconds later with "I want a WARM blanket MOMMY!" and "That Gatorade made me sick," followed by, "I'm NOT SICK!"

So, back to the reason for my questionable lucidity--when my kids are sick, I gather them into bed with me at night. Nighttime is scary. It's when fevers spike and I feel compelled to check every few moments to make sure my sick kids are still breathing. But last night, Superman decided to sleep in his brother's room, then halfway through the night moved to the living room couch. So I was up all night wandering between him and Cowgirl. I haven't slept well in days.

And while Cowgirl is sick, I don't have the comic relief of watching her dance to this video.

But maybe lack of lucidity is exactly what I need to plunge forward into my NaNo novel. Today my MC is arriving at her Dream World.

What about your lucidity? Are there occasions that you can't write because your mind isn't in the right place? What state of mind helps you get words onto the page?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Upping the Ante

My general philosophy is that if you put things out into the universe, the universe replies in kind. I don't mean that I get back everything that I want, because I'm not omniscient (or wise enough to know what I should be wanting). But if I don't risk, then I don't gain. We're all connected, and the world works most effectively when we act that way.

The story of how my blog came to be supports my vision of connectedness--of getting what you need when you need it from the universe. (Note that I only provide examples of proof of this belief--I don't illustrate the many instances of things that just don't add up--I'm human that way.)

I started following some blogs--of an author, some industry people, some fellow writers--and decided to start my own blog privately, to journal about writing and to track my goals. It's always best for me to write things down. Things stick better when they're in black and white.

My writing partner started reading blogs, so I opened up my blog for one day, to let him take a peek. On that one day, the author whose blog I was following commented on my blog. Now I had a conundrum. It seemed too rude to close my blog again, especially when Erica Orloff (the author) was such a gracious hostess to me when I was at her blog. So, not so gracefully, I went public with my blog.

It's always great when someone ups the ante for you.

I needed a push at that moment. A push is what I got. Would I have asked for that particular push? No way. And yet the universe delivered.

But that is what writing is all about--continually upping the ante. It's what good critique partners should do. It's what every revision should be. It's what every new project is about. Upping the ante. Writing better. Taking risks. And when you can't do it yourself, I'll send Erica your way.

How are you upping the ante with your writing?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dashings and Crashings

I just borrowed Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron from the library.

Now it's your turn to ask (incredulously), "Are you seriously telling me that you don't own that book? What credentials do you have to be blogging, let alone writing?"

Let me reassure you--I indeed own this book. I own, in fact, the whole series, but sadly all my books are in boxes at my in-law's house. We did a renovation a year ago, and we haven't retrieved the books. We finally cleaned out the garage, so we could get to the bookshelves, which are finally back in the house. It's a long story.

And, perhaps this book doesn't have the same weight for you as it does for me. Perhaps you would be able to utter the above question devoid of incredulity. But not me. This novel was my FIRST.

My brother read it to me before I could read. Reading was new to him, and at times he took long pauses as he wrestled with a word. I sat fuming. Couldn't he read faster? I had to know what happened next! My brother did voices for each of the characters. A voice for Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, for Fflewddur, for Eilonwy.

And a spectacularly guttural voice for Gurgi, to say fantastic things like, "Oh, great, brave, and wise master! Gurgi is thankful! His poor tender head is spared from terrible dashings and crashings!"

I think I can manage Taran (Assistant Pig-Keeper) and Fflewddur, and I know I've got Eilonwy down pat. But I think I'm going to have to call my brother to do the part of Gurgi. It just wouldn't be the same.

I always thought it normal for a big brother to read to his younger sister (my brother is only three years my senior), but once I had kids, I realized how spectacular that nightly routine really was. I owe my brother a debt of gratitude. Taran, Eilonwy and especially Gurgi, filtered through my brother's imagination, are the reason I write today. Thanks B!

Do you remember your First?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Meeting

Wow, Monday again. And last week was a piddly one on my blog--only one blog post. Some weeks are like that. I got sucked into the Halloween tornado and rode it until Saturday, and then started NaNo on Sunday. So, my goal this week is simply to add word count to my new YA fantasy, and to continue to edit my MG fantasy. Just that. And I'm pretty sure that the H1N1 has invaded my household--two sick kids. But still, I press on.

My blog this morning is actually a sign post, which reads 'Go directly to Erica Orloff's blog' (Do not pass Go...) If you are like me, you have already been there--coffee isn't coffee anymore unless I'm hanging out at Erica's. Erica has a vibrant interview with Alex M Liuzzi, a very unique and interesting writer who has carved out his own way. Go now, check it out!

Oh, before you go...what goals do you have this week?