Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Laura Pauling

Welcome to another Friday Feature! The post where I interview a writer somewhere along their journey towards publication and beyond. My guest today is the fantastic Laura Pauling. I find her blog to be fascinating. No matter how little time I have to spend on the internet, her creative blog post titles always compel me to click over. Many times she connects writing with seemingly unrelated life topics; church, sledding in the south, the Olympics and American Idol. My favorite of all of Laura's excellent posts? The one in which she turns into a crocodile. Seriously. It's great. So, please make her feel welcome by leaving her a question in the comments, and visiting her blog on the way out.

Welcome, Laura! Thanks for being here today. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

You can read an
official bio over at my blog. I'm a New Englander at heart and have lived in New England my whole life. Currently, I live in New Hampshire in the lakes region. I'm a mom (taxi driver). I'm a wife (picker up of junk in the dining room). I'm a friend. I'm active in church and teach children's church. And most recently, I have discovered a love for tween sitcoms and movies. (That's so Raven, The Suite Life, Wizards of Waverly place, Hannah Montana - how come they are so much funnier than adult sitcoms?) And obviously, I'm a writer.

So, Laura, what you are currently working on?

I am revising a middle grade contemporary fantasy titled, How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings. Twelve- year-old Bianca and her cousin, Melvin, enter an ancient Maya city to rescue their grandfather. Simple. Really. Or so she thinks. But her grandfather doesn't want to leave and a wanna-be king wants to serve her up to the gods as an appetizer.

What made you start to write seriously?

When my subscription to Taste of Home ran out. When I realized that scrapbooking was wicked expensive and I couldn't do it in front of the woodstove because the ink from the pictures got all over my fingers. When I realized that taking on a queen size quilt was way too ambitious after only completing a wall hanging. Seriously. I needed a creative outlet. I had started stories over the years and never finished. I was a stay at home mom. I loved reading, and writing seemed to be the next logical step. But I gave it a lot of thought before I started. I knew it was a commitment. I knew it wouldn't happen over night. And I wanted to make sure. Once I decided, I got serious about it.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I am in the final revisions before I enter queryland. It's going well. I've got an incredible crit group that has really helped me with the logic and flow. Not too much has surprised me in any stage. I've learned a lot about revision. I used to think it was just polishing sentences and looking for typos in my first draft. Ha. Ha. Now I know better. Before I enter any stage, I scour blogs and books so I know what I'm in for.

Your process seems very deliberate. And exceptionally smart! If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I love finding new writing blogs and meeting other writers, so I can't say I have a favorite there. But I guess, just like books, I'm attracted to the blogs where the person behind the blog is apparent. Where I find honesty, vulnerability, humor, and the writing isn't forced.

What is your favorite blog post that you have written?

Fortunately, I didn't have too many blog post to go through, since I just started blogging this past December. But my favorite is titled,
Characters to die for.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Camy Tang's
Story Sensei blog helped me the most in my early years. Her writing tips helped me understand about terms I'd only heard but didn't know how to apply to my writing. Even though she writes for adults, writing is writing. But there are others: Verla Kay, Critique Circle, agent blogs, editor blogs....

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

All writers experience trials. But looking back, my hardest was after I received a really harsh critique. I can't say the critter was wrong. The crit was just, well, harsh. I continued to revise, but for a while I was plain old depressed. But as with all trials, it helped me to develop thick skin. And now I know which crits to throw out and which to keep.

Developing that croc skin is so important--and something that's tough to do. Laura--what tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I usually don't have a problem with wanting to write or create. But if I do, it's because I'm starting a new wip or I'm struggling with a plot point. When that happens, sometimes, I just write through it, I work on something else, or I take time to catch up on my reading - while giving strict orders to my subconscious to start working on a solution. And sometimes discouragement can cause the love affair I have with my keyboard to fade, but I'm slowly learning to separate myself from the ups and downs and not take them seriously.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

In my early years, yes years,
Robert McKee's - STORY was a real eye opener. It is a technical book but full of wonderful wisdom.

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

My practical goal is whatever is in front of me that day - more revisions, working on my synopsis or query, outlining a new story. My fantastical goal would be signing with an agent and selling a successful book. And I think it would be really cool to get a letter from a child who'd read and liked my book.

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

That is a really tough question. Unfair really. I love learning new things. Whether its a leap of understanding in applying what I know to my writing, meeting writer friends, figuring out how to blog (still learning), or having fun with words.

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

Authors put their characters through such awful torturous things, I don't really think I'd want to be a character in a book. But one of my favorite books is the Count of Monte Cristo because I love stories of unfair imprisonment and revenge.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Dunkin Donuts. Black. Cinnamon. I get lost in Starbucks. I have to tell the person behind the counter - "just a normal coffee, please."

Laura--again--thanks for doing this interview! I loved hearing about your writing process. Everyone, please remember to leave Laura a comment or question in the comments, and she'll stop by to tell us even more!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Local Indie Bookstore Has a WHAT?!

The Wellesley Booksmith has a USED BOOKSTORE in the basement. Yes. A used bookstore. In it's basement. And I never realized until now. I immediately indulged, and purchased books for my kids and myself. My kids are earning their "new" books with chores, and I am just...reading. And the book that my ten-year-old son is drooling over? Rules, by Cynthia Lord. Yup, he's a cool kid. I'm engrossed in The Giver. And seriously looking forward to An Abundance of Katherines. I've read Linda Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect, but just had to own a copy, and think my son will love that as well. Plus, I met Linda at a conference, and she is just the nicest person ever.

What are you reading? Have you checked the basement of your Indie bookstore? No, really. Go take a look.

*Jon, I know you weren't thrilled with The Name of This Book is Secret, but we're giving it a go.
**Robert--notice the green box the books are on? I'm converting my file system to boxes, inspired by your office photo.
***Tracy, Anna, Casey, Tina, I'm finally reading The Giver. Woo-hoo!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Meeting

First, I want to say thanks to Paul for such a wonderful Friday Feature. For any of you who don't know, Friday Features are interviews with a writer somewhere along their journey toward publication and beyond. If you happened to miss one, check out the list above my blogroll. And, you are all cordially invited back on this Friday, for an interview with the knowledgeable American Idol junkie, Laura Pauling.

Monday Meeting:

Last week I got sucked into the whole children-home-from-school-vacation void. I played lots of games, but didn't advance the writing all that much. And, my head cold fogged up my brain. But now, my kids are back on a regular schedule, my head is clear, and I'm ready to get back into it. I'm hoping to finish (finish??!!) revising the beginning of my MG, and move on to the next section. I'm also going to play with the snowflake method over at Jon's.

At this point, finishing a revision seems a bit like a myth. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about where my WIP is, and where it's going. But there always seems to be a way to improve. I hope that I'll know when I get there, that sweet spot, that "done". Because I don't want to revise this work to death, and know that it is possible. So, several question for you this morning. What are your goals for this week, and how do you know that a part of your WIP is done? How do you prevent your overzealous editor within from killing your manuscript?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Paul Greci

Paul Greci really is a Northwriter. He blogs about living in Alaska, running in sub-zero weather, walking on a treadmill while writing, and seeing very cool cold weather phenomenon. He is an exceptionally creative and supportive writer, and a very respectful member of the writing blogosphere. His blog posts always contain elements of eye candy and food for thought. Okay, seriously, if you haven't yet clicked through to any of those links, go visit his blog--you won't be disappointed.

Paul Greci taught English in a Day Treatment School for fifteen years in Fairbanks, Alaska. He has also worked as a field biologist in remote parts of Alaska, and has led backpacking trips for teenagers. He enjoys sea kayaking, hiking, gardening, and long distance running as well as reading, cooking and writing. Now he is writing full-time and is represented by Jennifer DeChiara.

Welcome, Paul! It's great to have you here for the interview! Tell us--what are you currently working on?

I’m working on a young adult novel. It’s an adventure/survival story set on a remote Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

I imagine it would take a bit of gumption to survive on a remote island in Alaska. Sounds interesting! What made you start to write seriously?

I think my path to writing seriously was very gradual with a big leap at the end. I’ve been writing off and on for a long time. In college I wrote poetry and had a couple of poems published in a small literary magazine. After college I wrote some really horrible short stories. I always kept a journal of wilderness trips I’d been on.

I completed my first novel, which took about four years of very part-time writing, in 2006. I’d set it down and not come back to it for several months at a time.

When I started my second novel (fall 2006) I wrote almost every day, before and after work, and had a draft completed in a four months. I really enjoyed the process of being totally immersed in the story. I took a creative writing class (Spring 2007) and went to a writers conference (summer 2007). Then I had an idea for another book and decided to just go for it. So, I resigned from my job in August 2007 and wrote Placement. Here’s a short blurb about it:

PLACEMENT is a story about a bright but angry fifteen year-old boy stuck in two systems—special education and social services—and his quest to rise out of both of them.

Fifteen year-old Chad Carson just wants to be treated like a normal person but has been in Special Education for behavior problems since third grade and has lived his entire life with his alcoholic mother and her series of abusive boyfriends. When Chad threatens an obnoxious Teacher’s Aide he knows he’ll get suspended but doesn’t anticipate a referral to the Spruce Grove Academy—a program for the Baker, Michigan School District’s rejects. At Spruce Grove, Chad presumes he’s sunk to the bottom of the teenage hell-pit, but then his mother and her boyfriend are arrested and Chad is placed in an emergency shelter. In Chad’s twisted journey to normalcy he learns from the old and homeless, challenges the professionals, and finally stands on his own in a place he never expected to be and with a person he never expected to love.

Paul--I know this is a tough question, but, if you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

There are lots of awesome blogs out there but if I was only allowed to read one blog a day I’d read Betsy Lerner’s Blog. She’s an agent who used to be an editor, and she is also a writer so she’s a three for one deal in-terms-of perspective on writing and publishing. And most important, she’s really funny!!

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

What I’ve enjoyed most about my blog is matching photos and illustrations to the writing. If I had to choose one post it would be Moose on the Loose.

Paul--it's clear that you are wonderful at mirroring words with images on your blog. Tell us, what online resources have you found most helpful?

There are so many great resources. If I had to choose one I’d pick Jessica Faust’s blog. When I was querying I read her blog daily. Also, I found a subscription to Publishers Market Place to be a great tool for agent, editor, and author research.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

There are so many trials both long and short term and they change over time.

After I wrote my first book, I had no idea if I’d ever have another idea for another book. So, wanting to write, or wanting to try to be a writer was a huge trial because I didn’t have anything to write about. Many months later, I was at an education conference, and got an idea for another book.

Right now my biggest trial is concentrating on my current WIP while Placement is out on submission.

I know the feeling of stressing out about getting that next big idea. What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

When I resigned from my teaching job to write full-time I made writing my job. Luckily, in my two and a half years of full-time writing I haven’t had too many days when I didn’t feel up to writing.

I definitely have days when I feel that what I’ve written is horrible, but I tell myself that it’s a process and that I had to write those pages in order to write whatever is going to come next.

Oh! I’ve just discovered my trick: There are no short-cuts!

Sometimes, don't we all wish there was a short cut? Oh, well. Paul, please share with us how you connected with your agent, and how writing changed (or didn't change) for you after that point.

I connected with my agent, Jennifer DeChiara, through a cold query. I knew who Jennifer was because I’d met an agent, Steve Fraser, at a conference, who works with her. I also have a friend, Carol Lynch Williams, who is represented by Steve. And, I had used a couple of books in my classroom written by two of Jennifer’s clients. I didn’t mention any of this in my query letter.

When I queried my first book, I had a couple referrals and had met a couple of agents at a conference and everything turned into rejections. I realized that more than anything an agent really has to connect with the writing. So instead of crowding my query letter with people I knew who knew her, I focused on the story and my background.

I met Jennifer when I was in NYC over the holidays and we had a great meeting. Having her as as my agent has changed my writing in the sense that I know she will do all she can to find my writing a home. I don’t feel as isolated as I did before I signed with her.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. In Twisted I was struck by Laurie’s use of short, powerful, chapters sprinkled throughout the book. I think reading it helped free me up to follow my voice, to go with my instincts.

In terms of craft books, I’ve found Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass to be very helpful during revisions.

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

I want to write the best books that I can. If those books are published I hope they are attractive to both reluctant and voracious readers. And, I hope my books ring true on an emotional level.

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

The best part of my writing experience has been writing Placement. Taking a book that I twice thought was finished and revising it and making it better. When Jennifer offered me representation, she said that there was nothing plot or character related that I needed to do to the book before she submits it, and she is an editorial agent.

As a writer, it was satisfying to know that I’d taken an idea and turned it into a book that just needed some light editing before submission. That’s not to say that it won’t go through some edits if I am fortunate enough to secure a book deal.

Wow--that's wonderful, that your book was so polished when you queried your agent. Definitely something to shoot for! Do you have any advice for other writers?

To follow your dreams and to know that at any given moment, whether it’s difficult or easy, you are right where you need to be. Don’t give up.

Great advice, Paul! Thanks again for doing the interview! Everyone, please make Paul feel welcome by leaving him a comment or question in the comment section. He'll be stopping by today (when it's a decent hour in Alaska!) to answer them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I was so excited about yesterday's chocolates, that I forgot to highlight some things about this week.  So, here's a remedy post:

I would like to invite you all back on Friday for a fantastic Friday Feature:  an interview with Paul Greci, of Northwriter.  Please check out his blog, and think about good questions to ask him Friday.

And, I'm sure you already have heard, but in case you have been living ON a rock, there are simultaneous contests happening at Shelli's (Market My Words) and Elana's blogs.  And, the prizes are critiques and exposure to agents!  Check it out.  There's a SCAVENGER HUNT.  What's better than that?? (W.I.B.I.J.--I can hardly wait!) (And did you see how I linked to the last MG book I finished?  It was excellent. The linking, and the book.)

I'm sure there's more going on in the blogosphere that I should highlight, but I'm writing a NOVEL here, people!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Meeting: What's your Filling?

Phew! I'm still sparkling with the dusting of glitter showered on me from the interview last friday at Jon's. Thanks, everyone! And from the sugar rush that is Valentine's. Normally, I just get a tiny box of chocolates for each of my kids on Valentine's day, but this year, we graduated to a bigger box. Because Mom wanted More Chocolate. Yum. The fact that I went to bed nauseous does not detract from the experience. (But does tell you something about my self control...)

My favorite filling for Valentine chocolates is caramel. Although, to be perfectly honest, I prefer Lindt Truffles, but truffles are reserved for Christmas. To every season, you know. Turn, turn. There is a chocolate. So, returning to my Valentine's Day analogy: Friday I exposed my caramel during Jon's interview of me, by including my query. Funny that I would share so much personal information about myself, but that revealing my query makes me feel the most exposed.

So, tell me. What are you working on now? What story keeps you up at nights, writing, or keeps you refreshing your e-mail, waiting for a response from agents? Details, I want details! Why would I feel less uncomfortable if we're all exposed? Bad self control around chocolate, and bad logic around queries? Good stuff. But still, I'm going to ask; what's your filling?

And--my goals for the week: I'm not setting any. What?!

I'm chugging along on revisions, and just planning on getting much further along so that some time soon, I can send my filling to a caramel loving group of agents. What about you? What goals are you setting this week?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Jon Arntson

What to say about Jon? One day, he was just EVERYWHERE in the blogosphere. Leaving comments on everyone's blogs. Kind, amusing, supportive, and interesting comments. Glittery comments. So, I followed him back to his blog, and I found it an intriguing and fun place to be. A place I always want to visit. For the surprises. For the humor. For the friendship. His blog has an energy attached to it. And is clearly fueled by enthusiasm. If most blogs gain momentum like a snowball, his has gained momentum like an avalanche. Every time I go back to visit, I find something different and new. And, different and new in a way that makes me think about the world, and my writing with new perspective.

A thousand welcomes, Jon! Please tell us a little about yourself.

In September of 2009, I moved back to my childhood hometown, after leaving seven years ago, to pursue a writing career. I moved from a congested, frantic mid-sized city in the Midwest back to Ludington, Michigan. Ludington is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, abound with those little nooks off the road for regaining my focus and taking a deep breath. I am the fourth of five kids and I have eight nieces and nephews, ranging in age from nine months to fourteen years. My imagination runs wild like a cheetah. I am a habitual rambler and genetically a klutz. Also, my fingers move so much faster than my poor brain.

What are you currently working on?

I am going to sound like a freak, but I am actually working on, um, like thirty things. Okay, elaboration: my ADHD-self is working on those (picture books, middle grade, and young adult), I am working on a YA bildungsroman about two boys who become stepbrothers shortly after they both realize/accept that they are gay. I don't want to say too much about where their relationship goes, but I can tell you that they help each other deal with a lot crap, and there's a cool road trip involved. I also have three picture book manuscripts completed.

Recently, I began using the Snowflake Method to write a MG novel titled The Lemonade Stand. It's about a pair of twins who are mysteriously instructed to build a lemonade stand. They find themselves wrapped up in a war between two rivaling secret societies. The twins quickly become rivals amongst themselves. I am in the earliest stages, but the Snowflake Method has been helping a great deal!

Jon, What made you start to write seriously?

In July, I was bitten by a wasp for the first time ever. I had spent my whole life running from bees and wasps, whimpering like a little kid. Immediately after it happened, I thought, that was it? I went two days without anything more than a small, itchy bump. But, then, three days later, I woke up to a huge and achy hand. I went to my retail job, took my first Benadryl ever (there are a lot of firsts in this part), and proceeded to nearly pass out. I left work early, drove home, got stuck in a summertime traffic jam for an hour and a half, walked into my house, sat down and wrote my first book. The 920 word picture book has changed little since my medication-induced brainstorm and that also led me to realize several things. I like to write, I hate working retail, and sometimes the thing you fear the most (change, in my case) ends up saving you.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication?

I believe my answer to question #1 overlaps here, but I can also tell you that I have queried a few, very few, agents and received rejections from them all. Those rejections actually led me to the internet and the formation of my blog.

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

I am always seeking out new blogs and, therefore, finding new favorites. However, I can tell you that Bryan Bliss has made me laugh the most at Jedi! Ninja! Homeboy! and I have used up the most blogging hours at Paul Michael Murphy's blog Murphblog. Also, no one should miss Desperately Searching for my inner Mary Poppins.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Oh, gosh. Can, I shamelessly plug my contest that is going on there right now? Why is it my favorite post? Because I created all those covers on Wednesday morning and I really enjoy them and the fact that they are helping me to focus.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Nathan Bransford's blog has provided so many answers to my lingering questions. While I don't envy the responsibility he has taken on for his followers, his network is where I found almost every blog I enjoy. I also like to be unconventional and visit Wordle, The Vlog Brothers, and SCBWI, where I have yet to invest, but hope, in the next few months, to get ideas and a grasp on the literary world. I also spend years a week at Goodreads.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Getting over the fact that I, a twenty-four year old gay guy with no degree or noteworthy paper from high school to my name, have no idea what I am doing. Instead, I have been trying to focus on the fact that I love to write.

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

Geez, I am redundant, but aside from the resources mentioned above, I love to just grab a book from my WIP's genre and see what that author did right (and wrong). Specifically, I target the Lois Lowry, Trenton Lee Stewart, and John Green titles on my personal book shelves.

Jon, Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy literally changed the way I think. The honesty of his writing takes my breath away and the fact that his omission of general punctuation from this novel actually adds to the book is one of the most talented things I have ever witnessed.

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

Practically, I would like to find an agent for one or more of my picture books this year and have a published work in 2011. As for reaching for the stars, black holes, and tiny little space particles, I would like to publish a picture book, middle grade novel, and young adult novel, simultaneously.

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

Honestly? This part. This network of enthusiastic and appropriately pessimistic folk has opened my eyes, and heart, to the writing world. Six months ago, that wasp would've laughed at me if I'd told him he had crippled a writer's hands. These days, he's at my doorstep begging for a cameo.

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

I would love to be Tally Youngblood from Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (at hero status in my eyes). Her world, filled with hoverboards, maglevs, and bubbly for everyone, is for me.

What are the other distractions in your life?

I am so glad you asked. Recently, we had nine puppies at the house, but eight of them were permanently shipped off to boarding school a few weeks ago. Belle, the one we are keeping, is in the picture with me. I work at a movie rental store and we are required to view a million movies a week, of which I usually have time for one. Oh, and Facebook.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Ugh. I have to be so complicated about everything. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon (rarely), and coffee in the evening, but only with Carolans in it.

Oh, and Jon has been threatening to one-up me ever since the whole award boomerang fiasco. He's given me the head's up that TODAY is the day. So, after you ask him an awesome question in my comment section, (he'll be stopping by here to answer them) head on over and see if he really managed the feat!

Edited to add: Jon's one-up is an interview, a friday feature, of ME at HIS BLOG. Go check it out!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Letting The Balls Fall

I have to apologize. I have not been getting out and commenting on other blogs as much as I would like. I have been focused on writing and the things that come with that, and have slacked off a bit in the blogosphere. I have been reading all your blogs, in snatches of time, but not spending the time to formulate thoughts and leave comments. So, I apologize. Know that I'm supportively lurking. When I have more time on my hands, I'll leave you a thoughtful comment.

That's why my post today is about balance.

I have three children, and for each of them, balance means something different. My older son feels balanced when things go as he expects that they should. If something goes differently than he imagined, he feels very unsettled. My middle child requires a varied sensory diet to feel balanced. If he isn't touching, hearing and tasting enough interesting things, he feels out of sorts. My little girl needs postitive input. She feels unbalanced if I raise my voice, or give only negative feedback. Balancing all their different temperaments feels like juggling.

In many ways, this writing journey feels the same. My first child, my manuscript, needs constant attention for growth. And, it expects growth. Constantly. My second child, my blogging life, needs small bursts of attention and much input from all my senses. It needs me to be varied, imaginative and in touch at all times. My third writing child, my writing friendships, needs focus and feedback. Thoughtful, supportive feedback.

It's a juggling act, but not one that requires me to always have all balls in the air. It requires me to set supportive boundaries. If I need to focus on writing and friends, then I do, and respectfully let the blogging ball bounce by itself for a while. I don't, and shouldn't, have all those balls flying in the air at the same height at every moment. I would lose them all. And, sometimes, when my real children need more of me to keep them balanced, I let all those writing balls bounce for a while. Balance isn't keeping all the balls in the air. It's knowing when it's time to let them fall, and then letting them fall. That's balance.

What balls do you have in the air? What do you do when you're not writing? What's your day job, that you balance with your writing life? Do you feel compelled to keep juggling all the balls, all at once?

And, I would like to invite you all back on Friday, for a fantastic Friday Feature with the amazing Jon Arntson. He is a supremely excellent juggler. He gracefully juggles all the balls that he has up in the air, and is one of the most supportive and respectful people I've come to know in this blogosphere. Come read more about his journey toward publication and beyond. Plus, he always has something up his sleeve. It should be a rowdy time! And, if you've missed any of the past friday interviews, there is some lovely reading for you over on the right hand side of this blog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Meeting and Weekend Crash

Welcome everyone, to another Monday Meeting. Last week, I did a lot of writing related things, but not a lot of revising. I had big plans yesterday afternoon to get a lot of that revision done, but instead, I fell asleep. Crashed. I was seriously tired. But, before falling asleep, I reached for a comfort read. NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman. I did wake up later to watch parts of the Superbowl, specifically the commercials. I had been feeling so burned out and had been go-go-going for so long, that my body just needed to crash and reset. And, now, I'm great. Refreshed. Back in the game.

Or I was, until I had to confront the oil company this morning as to how it was possible that we ran out of oil Saturday. If you're wondering, evidently, it was our fault. Even though we're on automatic delivery, and have a credit balance, somehow we had used more oil than was expected, (mabye, possibly, because it was COLD) so the oil company was not to blame. Yup. I love it when people don't take responsibility for their actions. Argh. Letting it go. Letting it go. Deep breath.

On to the meeting:

This week, I'd like to get the next chunk of stuff revised for my Middle Grade project. And, I have a little voice in the back of my head telling me to draft the ending on my YA. I normally listen to the voices in my head when it comes to writing. But, I also have a meeting with Robert, so we'll see if my priorities this week will change after talking the projects out.

To sum up, I will revise at least two chapters on my Middle Grade, and do some drafting on my YA.

What about you? What book do you go to when you you need comfort? Do you heed the voices in your head? What are you setting out to accomplish this week?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: A. Grey

I am happy to welcome A. Grey to this week's Friday Feature. I stopped over at her blog a while back, and became instantly enamored with her funny blog posts. She is open and honest and boy, does she know how to tell a story! Make sure to click over and check it out (after reading through the interview and leaving her a question in the comments, of course).

Here's a glimpse: A. Grey is 29. She was raised running barefoot in the mountains and hollows (pronounced holler) with her identical twin sister and has been writing since she learned how to hold a pen. Her days are spent throwing hay bales, driving tractors, riding horses and working on an all-girl staffed farm. Her favorite word is indomitable and she prefers to hear women use it in three word sentences that begin with 'I am'.

Welcome, A. Grey. What are you currently working on?

Right now my two main WIPs are a retelling of Beauty and the Beast titled 'Thornbriar', and an urban fantasy titled 'I'll Love You Forever'. Both are YA. Thornbriar was born out of my love for the story of Beauty and the Beast, but also my frustrations with Beauty's perfection and the fact that the Beast (in almost every rendition of the story) is reduced to 'Mr. Perfect' by the end. In 'Thornbriar', Beauty is a haughty, egotistical young Lady sold into marriage with the Beast King by her father for a hefty profit. But there is more to the kingdom of Althea than any outsider could suspect. There is a curse and breaking it might well bring about the downfall of the entire kingdom.

'I'll Love You Forever' was a story that just flew into my head one day. It follows eighteen year old Perla as she struggles against a growing apathy towards the world around her brought on by the drunken, careless acts of a driver which left her father dead and her younger stepbrother in a coma. Although Perla's best friend Niamh tries to help her and warns Perla that her flippant remarks can hurt people or cause even worse trouble, Perla just doesn't care anymore. But when she promises to love a total stranger forever if he can make her brother wake up and recover, Perla finds out how right Niamh was. Trapped in a world parallel to her own, bound to the Goblin King by her brash vow and condemned to try and breech the massive Labyrinth that confines him and his minions Perla has no choice but to care what happens. If she succeeds in rescuing the Goblin King, her little brother will get his life back. But if she fails, they'll both die.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication?

At this point I'm shopping a YA titled 'Evernow' to prospective agents. I've had two requests for fulls. One of those ended in a pass, but the agent was very supportive and felt the manuscript is destined to both land me an agent and get published. That was great to hear, even if I was getting a pass. I haven't heard back from the other agent who requested a full yet, which I'm hoping is a good thing. I have several other queries out and I'm trying not to obsessively check my email. I think the only thing that has surprised me about this stage is how stressful it's been. It brings home to me how serious I am about my own success.

What made you start to write seriously?

Oddly enough, for me, writing has always been very serious. Not in the way of becoming a 'successful writer' but because writing is something fundamentally necessary for me to be happy. I wrote on and off as a child but began writing long, complicated stories when I was fourteen. The point at which it became something I knew I couldn't live without was when my father gave me a 'nice' Papermate pen when I was fifteen. It's been nothing but stacks of paper and ink-stained fingers since then.

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

One? ONE? Had to like my hand was going to get cut off if I didn't pick JUST ONE? *sigh* I'm going to go with Kristin Cashore's This Is My Secret. This is because I've learned so much, about Kristin, about writing, about the process of publication, about the planet, about EVERYTHING from her blog. It's a font of knowledge, a plethora of lessons about what it is to write and to be a writer. I can say easily that I wouldn't be where I am with my own writing if not for Kristin's graciously giving nature in her blog. Recently she has disabled comments on her blog (a temporary setting) so that she can focus on her current writing project and not be drawn into interacting with her blog readers, but I still recommend This Is My Secret to anyone interested in writing, just as I'd recommend Kristin's books 'Graceling' and 'Fire' to anyone who loves to read!

What is your favorite blog post that you have written?

I think I have to say it was one called Gutter Maintenance. It still makes me laugh now, which is always a good thing.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Does Blogger count? Because thus far I've met a lot of great people, learned a lot of great, important things (still learning) and been given some awesome opportunities, all through Blogger. Agent Query is a close second.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Just in the writing process itself? Technology! Without a doubt! I write longhand and love it. I don't even mind transcribing it to the computer because that's when I do my first big overhaul edit. But formatting, and manipulating the computer files? Not so much... Luckily my sister's hubby, code name Chucky Duck, is willing to constantly rescue me. Well, and commas. I stick them everywhere. I embarrass myself with my commas.

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

One trick I've nailed is that when I don't feel up to writing, I don't write. Instead, I edit. I fool myself into it by insisting that I'll just 'read this one section' (I go for something I've finished or something other than my main WIP) and once I start reading I inevitably start tweaking things and before I know it, I've gotten a bunch of 'boring' stuff done. I started doing this when I started looking at my writing as a business of sorts. I don't think you have to create every day if you don't 'feel' it. I actually passed up a full scholarship to an art college because they were so focused on 'produce, produce, produce'. Most of my friends who went to similar colleges burned out because of that commercial drive. But I DO believe that you have to do something every day to further your progress in some way. If you can't do that before you've landed and agent or publishing contract, how will you be able to afterwards?

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

The most profound would be Dragons of Autumn Twilight, along with the rest of the Dragonlance trilogy all by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They were the first books whose characters really took me with them on their adventures. They were the books that made me want other people to know MY characters that way. Right on top of the Dragonlance trilogy, and too close not to mention, is Villains by Necessity, by Eve Forward. This was the first book that made me sob for love of one of the characters, and tremble with fear of what might happen to him in the coming pages. I want people to cry for my characters. I want to move the 'here and now' with my writing.

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

My practical goal is to be successfully published. And by successful I mean successful enough that I can continue to be published for as long as I write. I don't need to be the next Stephen King, or randomly and wildly popular Stephenie Meyers. But it'd be nice to make enough to live quietly on. My reach-for-the-stars goal is to change people with my writing. If I find out some day that the course of a person's life was changed because of the way one of my books made them feel about themselves (obviously in a good way) that would be the ultimate. To think that something I wrote inspired them, or gave them strength or a sense of being. That'd be IT.

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

Meeting people and finding out, after thinking of myself as 'weird' my whole life, and then trying to 'fit in' when I started writing for fear of being dismissed, that weird is good in the writing world, and that people like you just fine that way.

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

Actually, I think I'd choose to be a character from one of my own manuscripts named Pony. She has this gregarious nature, and yet an assertive authority. She's very comfortable being loved by all her friends and family, never met a stranger and is a good judge of people. She can be fiercely protective and openly affectionate, sometimes at the same moment.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Oooh. Both! I love a good cup of joe, straight black and strong. Occasionally I'll go for a white chocolate mocha with hazelnut. But black's my go to. I do, however, adore tea as well. Usually when I eat out I'll have hot tea, and when it comes to writing in stints I drink tea more than coffee because I'm already amped up with the writing, so the tea smooths my energy transfer to the paper rather than making me jittery. But I have been known to sit into the wee hours with the coffee pot beside me...

A. Grey, Thanks for the insightful answers! Everyone, make her feel welcome by leaving a question in the comments--she'll be stopping by to answer them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Unfinished Blogo-Business

Last week, Casey so wonderfully gave me the Silver Lining Award. I promptly awarded it to four out of my five recipients. I held one out, because I wanted to award it to my fantastic critique partner Robert. I would not be where I am today in my writing without him. He gave me the courage and the support to get to the next level, to start taking my writing seriously. He jumped me over that "am I crazy?" gorge. Got me safely to the other side. And, he always makes me feel wonderful when we critique--while tearing my WIP to shreds. He even makes me feel like the next revision is doable. So, for that impossibly impossible task, I award the Silver Lining Award to Robert. Robert--now you just need to LAUNCH YOUR BLOG so you can accept this award. I'm nothing if not subtle. (Edited to add, that Robert has indeed launched his blog, so everyone please stop by and make him feel welcome! He even posted his workspace--which overlooks the Pacific. Go check it out! YAY!)

And, last week, I also awarded Jon the Silver Lining Award. Jon's response? He boomeranged the award back at me. Totally against the rules. Not even in the ball park of the rules. But, in his defense (I guess) I did tell my recipients that they could do what they wanted to with the award. And so he did.

So, now I have the award back, and should award it to five people. And so I shall.

Person number one: The Jon that visits blogs all over the blogosphere and leaves wonderfully supportive comments.

Person number two: The Jon that writes funny and interesting blog posts every single day of the week.

Person number three: The Jon that adds more blogging work onto his plate because of my whims. WIBIJ!

Person number four: The Jon who replies to every single comment left at his blog, and shows his genuine interest in all of his followers.

Person number five: The Jon who actively seeks out ways to help and support other writers.

See what I did there? Boomerang X5. So, Jon. Your turn. What are you going to do about it now???

And, Larissa has awarded me another award. The Your Blog Is Over the Top Award. Thanks Larissa! I have to answer the following questions using one word answers. OK.

Your Cell Phone? Cracked
Your Hair? Unruly
Your Mother? Hawaii
Your Father? Surprising
Your Favorite Food? Rangoons
Your Dream Last Night? Sleep?
Your Favorite Drink? Slurpee
Your Dream/Goal? Happiness
What Room Are You In? Own
Your Hobby? Rowing
Your Fear? Sadness
Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? Here
Where Were You Last Night? Meeting
Something That You Aren't? Alone
Muffins? AML's
Wish List Item? Peace
Where Did You Grow Up? Pennsylvania
Last Thing You Did? IM
What Are You Wearing? Robe
Your TV? On
Your Pets? Cantankerous
Friends? Connected
Your Life? Progressing
Your Mood? Invigorated
Missing Someone? Connected
Vehicle? Black
Something You Aren't Wearing? Armor
Your Favorite Store? Booksmith
Your Favorite Color? Purple
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? Yesterday
Last Time You Cried? Enough
Your Best Friend? Hubby
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? Revisonland
Facebook? Occasionally
Favorite Place To Eat? Vegas

I have decided to only award this award to one person. The five person thing feels too much like a chain letter to me, and someone else paved the way for this technique. (Hint, I already gave him five awards above.)

So, I am awarding this award to... Bryan Bliss. Because he doesn't post often, but when he does, his posts are chock-full of awesomeness. And to rebel against the seemingly girlish nature of this particular award.

And (here's where I get into trouble) Robert, Jon, and Bryan can do whatever they wish with the award.

And, because I like to check in--what are you blogging about this week? Awards? Writing? Life?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Meeting

Per Anita's prompt, here is my workspace. I'd like to point out the egg timer (courtesy of Anna's suggestion), a book that Tina referenced in her recent interview, the webcam that allowed me to talk cross country to my writing partner Robert this afternoon, and the dirty dishes stacked up on the counter around the corner. I did not straighten up for this photo! And my inspiration--a picture of my three kids standing at a sign at Walden Pond, which reads;


My workspace is right in the central traffic station of the house, and frequently, it attracts some unsavory characters.

Now that you've gotten your peek, on to the business at hand.

The Monday Meeting:

I am very happy with my writing rhythm, and would like to keep it up. I'd like to continue with my revisions on the Middle Grade novel, and I feel like I am making solid progress. So, my goal is to keep up the momentum. To keep rising early to write, and to keep my writing and writerly friends in the front of my mind. Balance is hard to maintain, but I think that I'm getting there.

I want to say a big welcome to all my new followers, but specifically to my friends Robert and Kerry. These two provide my days with support and focus.

And I invite you all to the Friday Feature interview this week. I will feature the interesting and fun A. Grey, who is querying a YA manuscript as we speak. I encourage you to stop by her blog, and do some research, so you can ask her a killer question!

So, are you finding balance in your life? What goals do you have this week? Did you clean up before posting your writing spot picture?