Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Hour Of Unplugging

Everyday, I go to the office (google chat) to discuss my WIR (work in revision) with my Co workers (Jon and Tina).  I set goals each morning, talk about what is and isn't working, and then I set a up a time to 'unplug'--an hour of uninterrupted (well, kinda--I have small children) writing time.

Here's what it looks like for me:
10:50: At the office.  Discuss with Tina and Jon what I'm going to accomplish during the hour.  Find out what they are working on.  Know that no matter what, I have to come back and tell them that I did indeed write (or organize or plot, or whatever needs to be done in my WIP) for a solid hour.  And, this is a morning that I would rather do anything than unplug.  I am horribly opposed to writing.  But I have no option--I said I'd do it, and I have to follow through.  Sigh.  Maybe I'll just go through the motions...

11:00: Open up word processor.  Phew.  Manuscript is still there in all it's glory.  My worry that one day it'll disappear is assuaged for another moment.

11:01: Get up and mix some ice tea.  Can't unplug while thirsty!

11:02: Explain to Cowgirl what a corncob pipe is (cowgirl is amusing herself by sticking stickers on a snowman paper doll).

11:03: Back to work.  Fire up iPod.  Pause a-Ha as it comes on when I hit 'play music' instead of 'play playlist'.  Have to find some awesome music group that begins with 'A' so that comes up every time instead of Take On Me.  Find Fallen Star playlist, and fall into the world of my WIP.

11:04:  Pick up stickinote riddled hard copy of ms. Sip ice tea.  Read the first part, and start making changes on the computer. Smile.  I forgot how much I like this part.  Maybe this won't be so bad.  And within moments, I'm in the groove, and lose track of music, sounds, children, time... just writing.

11:28:  After I don't know how many "Mommy's" I admire daughter's snowwoman, and put on a television show for her to watch.

11:29:  Try to take a sip out of empty tea glass.  When did I drink that?  Notice the song on the iPod--on my playlist.  It gets me thinking about the ms.  Look back at open word document.  Which (almost against my will)

11:43: Finished a small section of revision.  Walk to other room to retrieve journal to cross it off of my to do list.  Progress!

11:45: Attack next part.  But... I wonder if the part that I just finished is now too long.  I read it back. I took out adjectives, and tightened language, and then added full paragraphs.  Maybe that was too much.  Should I go back and re-revise?

11:49: Try to ignore doubts, and try to work forward.

11:59: Another page done.  Yay.  RELIEVED that the time is now over, ready to plug back in.  Fire up google to check in with writing partners...

12:00: Back at the office, providing support and getting it from co-workers!

I am not someone who believes that writing is a solitary venture.  Without these unpluggings, and co-worker support, some weeks I would be wallowing in my not-wanting-to-write-itis.  You know, when you hit a snag, and don't know how to work around it, and writing becomes even more difficult, and a chore.  Those are times when I only write because I know that at the end of an hour, I am accountable to someone.  And instead of getting stuck for weeks on end, I am writing through it each day.  Because of the support of other writers.

The most amazing thing about this process is that my co-worker Tina is developing a Practice Room, where people can go and find coworkers for themselves.  A place to unplug, and discuss.  A place to promote forward progress for everyone, no matter what the stage of writing.  A place to become unstuck, or to just feel a part of a writing group.  Isn't she awesome?!  Check out her post about it today, and keep an eye out for when the Practice Room opens up!

So tell me--what gets you writing when you are frustrated?  How do you work through the sticky parts?  What routines do you have to write?  And, what works for you?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Meeting and Turning the Page

Welcome to another Monday Meeting, where we all chime in with our goals.  I wanted to say thanks to all my fantastic followers--I'm up over a hundred, so I thought I'd bring some brownies to our meeting.  Feel free to munch on a few while discussing what you want to accomplish this week. (You can see I've already started us off, and mmm.  They're yummy!)

This week is a flip-over week.  You know, a week where the month ends in the middle of the week, and I have to flip over my date book page halfway through.  I'm a month-at-a-glance kinda gal.  So, I always find these weeks disconcerting.  Like I need to live simultaneously in two different weeks.  I always lose track of something, and feel much better when I turn the page.

I'll feel relieved when I turn the page on this revision, too.  I am nearing a major turning point in the novel (which happens 2/3rds into the novel), and very excited to get there.  My revisions are running smoothly, and I don't have to force myself to unplug--I'm enjoying the unplugging (more on that on Wednesday, so please stop by!).  I'm also able to get more things done in small bursts, which means that things are progressing faster.

Okay, my goals for the week:  To finish this huge section of revisions.  To get to the 2/3rds mark in the novel. Which is a very big deal.  There were lots and lots of problems that I needed to iron out in the first 2/3rds, and to be almost to the end of that feels amazing.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be completely polished up when done with this revision, but I will be so much closer.  And, ready for another round of betas to give me feedback.  Can you feel the excitement in the air? :)

I had an April first deadline to finish this round of revisions--to get to the actual end of the novel.  I'm letting that go.  But I'm not letting go of this momentum. I feel like I'm really narrowing in on the end of a major part of this revision--everything will be easier after this.  I'm almost to the top of the hill!  So, have a brownie, maybe grab some milk or coffee, and tell me.  What are your goals for the week?  How are you feeling with your writing?  Are you climbing up hill or coasting down?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Dena Daw

I first found out about Dena through a mutual friend (thanks Jon!), and began lurking at her very funny blog only to find out that she was lurking at mine.  Dena's voice is so clear in everything that she writes, that I feel like I can actually hear it through the computer screen.  I have no doubt that Dena will go far with her writing.  She's also the reigning Queen of WIBIJ--will nobody take her down?  And her blog is fantastically funny.  And she's not afraid to ask for stuff.  Go check it out!  (No, seriously, I'll wait.)  Are you back?  Great.  

Welcome Dena!  Thanks for doing this interview--and start off by telling us a little about yourself!

I'm Dena, also known as "D." I've been writing for as long as I can remember but recently I've enjoyed writing for my two kids. I have a degree in Journalism and International Politics from the University of South Carolina.  I am married to a Brit  (who moved across the world JUST for me!)  and we have a spunky 4 year old and sweet 1 1/2 year old to show for it.  I spend my days blogging, writing, and putting out pint-sized fires. I also enjoy writing adult short stories (an indulgence of mine). One such indulgence is published online with Black Lantern Publishing.

Dena, share with us what you are currently working on.

Currently my brain is working on a lot of things.  Literally, not that much.  I recently finished revising my first picture book which I am absolutely paranoid of sending out to publishers. I have written a few more picture books (some yet to be critiqued), as well as a few children's short stories that I plan on submitting to various children's magazines. I'm also halfway through a YA novel as well as a historical mystery. I have a horrible habit of not finishing what I start, so honestly I have half-written manuscripts that date back to the 1990's.  Although I'm not currently not working on them, my brain is.  Picture books and short stories are right up my alley- they're finished before I have time to second guess myself and put them on the shelf.

What made you start to write seriously?

My husband.  He's been reading my secretive short stories for years and he's always encouraged me to go for it.  For a long time I ignored him, paranoid of rejection.  The thing is, writing is the only thing I think I'm really good at.  It's one of the few things I truly enjoy.  If I fail at this then it confirms my deepest fear: squirrels are organized.  Oops, I mean my 2nd deepest fear:  that I really suck at writing. Thankfully, my husband urged me on.  He knew one day I'd only hate myself for not trying.  So here I am. Trying.

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?

Well, here's the thing...I tend to do things backwards.  When I first decided to "go for it," I really went for it.  I mean I stupidly went for it.  I tend to throw myself into things without the proper research and preparation.  That's exactly what I did with "Sally Circle," my first picture book.  I submitted that bad boy to like 7 publishing houses and several agencies.  UN-CRITIQUED.  Yeah, you heard me right.  Then I started blogging.  Wow, it didn't take me long to realize the gravity of my mistake.  Luckily I had a lot of help from my followers and since then I've learned a tremendous amount. I am now a member of an extremely supportive 6-person picture book critique group as well as a card carrying member of SCBWI.  So now I'm at the beginning of the journey toward publication.  Still haven't submitted my revised version of "Sally Circle" or any subsequent PB's. Although I have recently submitted a children's short story to Highlights.

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

Wow, this is a really hard one!!!  Honestly, my favorite blog is one that doesn't really exist anymore.  Well, it still exists...but it is no longer being updated. Still, I get a LOT of laughs and advice out of her archives.  Go and meet Miss Snark.  I think she should come out of retirement!

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Without a doubt this is the most informative, helpful, awe-inspiring blog post I've ever posted.  I've heard it even brought Jonathon Arntson to tears.

 What online resource have you found most helpful?

Jacketflap. It's the first resource I ever used and it basically has a list of all the publishing houses listed in the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.  Not as up to date, but it's a great source if you just want to take have a look at publisher's websites.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?  

TIME.  With two kids and a house that looks like a toy bomb exploded, time is my biggest enemy.  My second biggest enemy is my own insecurity.  Sometimes it's hard for me to forget about the fact that someone will be critiquing it and I draw a blank.

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

I go and read your blog, as well as hundreds of other writer's blogs.  Everyone in this "writing blogosphere" inspires me.  Whenever I don't feel like writing, I go and read about what everyone else is doing, what stage they're at, what inspires them...and it lights the fire under my butt.  But that might just be the curry.

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

I remember reading "Gone with the Wind" when I was in middle school. I stayed up all night reading that book.  It took me to a different place- a different time, a different world.  Middle school was hard for me and it helped me escape.  I wanted to create that same escape for others.  I wanted to take people to a different world, just like Margaret Mitchell had done for me.

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

My goal right now: to get better.
My dream goal: I want my grandkids to check my books out at the library one day.

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

Finally meeting people who don't think my dreams are unrealistic or childish.  Thanks to all of you.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

A squirrel free zone.  Oak trees and Spanish moss.  Free drinks.

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

I can't really say.  I'm not sure I'd want to be any particular character because I could do without the conflict in their lives. Without conflict, you lose a good story.

What other distractions are in your life?   

Laundry, dishes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, diapers, get the idea.

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

Creamer...with a little bit of coffee.

Dena--so many of your answers struck a chord with me.  I'm so glad that you are going for it, in your writing life.  That takes guts!  Thank you so much for your honesty.  

Everyone, make Dena feel welcome by leaving a note or question in the comments, Dena will be stopping by (when she's not making an appearance at the award ceremony for WIBIJ!--I told you she was reigning Queen!)  And make sure to check out her blog and give her some love there as well! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cordially Invited

You, my favorite followers, (and all my fabulous lurkers) are all cordially invited to two very fun events.

One event is happening in mere moments.  It's the second official game of WIBIJ, and it begins TODAY at 1PM EST.  It's a crazy scavenger hunt designed to promote community and connect people to cool blogs.  And it's a great way to blow off steam from writing.  Everyone is welcome.  We talk about it here.  Thanks Casey!  The fast track speed game (sounds awesome, doesn't it?) goes from 1:00-2:00.  The first contestant to submit an unscrambled clue wins the First Place Award.  The game continues for 24 hours, so people can play at their leisure and submit really awesome comments at all the game blogs.  The person with the most amazing comment (after 24 hours) wins the Best Comment Award.  And, signing your blog up for a future game is a good way to get more traffic to your blog!  Come join in the fun!

And, the second event is a very awesome Friday Feature, here on this blog, this friday--an interview with the wonderful Dena.  She writes picture books, and is subbing one right now to publishers.  And, she just sold a short story!  This writer is moving and shaking!  Check out her blog, so you can ask an informed question on Friday--she'll be by to answer.

And--I just want to say a big thank you to everyone for creating such an awesome community here.  I don't think I say thank you enough.  Thank you for supporting each and every writer that I interview.  It means a lot to me that you ask such great questions and are genuinely interested in their writing methods and writing journey!

And I thank you all for embracing WIBIJ.  I hope you have as much fun with it as I do!

See you there!  

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Meeting

So.  *sigh*  I had a little meltdown at the end of the week, when I put too much pressure on myself to revise.  Lesson learned.  I spent the weekend healing from it, and am now, slowly getting back in the saddle.

My goals for the week are to build my momentum back up, and to not assign myself unattainable goals. At some point last week, I decided that I would get one chapter a day done, and that was too much.  It may not seem like too much, but I'm averaging one chapter in about four hours, and that is too much time to devote to writing, based on how much time I need to spend with children and husband and laundry. :)  So, seriously, lesson learned.  What I couldn't have predicted was my brain leakage from the stress--stress that I applied myself.  Jeez.

So, instead of entertaining you with a fabulous post, I'm just going to get back to my writing.  And if you need some alternate form of entertainment, here's WIBIJ!  An hour jam-packed with the most fun you could have in the blogosphere--game starting at 1PM EST on Wednesday.

I'll even lend you my own personal Storm Trooper to keep you on your writing goals this week--and to make sure that you don't get in over your head.  (Okay, for any of you Star Wars geeks out there, I know this particular character is not a Storm Trooper.  However, I'm old school Star Wars, and I am pretending that I, II, and III, never actually happened.  Horrible movies.  Anakin who???)

So, what lessons have you learned about your limit for writing each week?  What happens when you cross your limit? Do you apply unnecessary stress on yourself?  How do you heal from that? (I think I read three books this weekend.)  What are your goals for the week?  And, most importantly, will I see you over at WIBIJ on some point on Wednesday?  The Storm Trooper insists on your presence! :)    

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Kelly Polark

I am dancing around the room with excitement to introduce you to Kelly Polark.   She's a wonderful blogger, writer, mom, and someday she's going to teach me to dance so I no longer embarrass myself!  Seriously, she's my number one pick of blogging friends to go clubbing with.  And, she might just be the next big singing sensation. She's just one of those people who you know that if you needed something, you could rely on her.  I'm so glad she's in the blogging world!  

Kelly, thanks so much for stopping by to do this interview!  Please, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Midwestern married mother of three. I used to teach grade school, but have been fortunate enough to stay home with my children for the last ten years. I am easing myself back into education by substitute teaching occasionally. I have written manuscripts in the genres of poetry, picture books, and chapter books. I love to laugh. My entertainment of choice is a rock concert (where I sing at the top of my lungs)!

What are you currently working on?

In the last month I finished final revisions and the query letter for a chapter book titled, "Rock 'n' Roll Princesses Wear Black." I adore my main character! I have recently sent out a query to a few agents. I was honestly sweating when I hit send. While I anxiously await a response from agents, I want to work on a few magazine submissions and revisit a collection of poetry I started last summer.

What made you start to write seriously?

I've been a stay at home mom for 10+ years. About four years ago, I felt I needed something extra to stimulate my creativity. As a former teacher and a mom who loves to read to her children, I wanted to be a part of the world of children's literature. I joined SCBWI and started taking online writing classes and went from there.

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 queried a few agents for the first time ever, and it is nervewracking. I have researched various agents and query letters for many weeks now. My critique group has helped me strengthen my story and my query letter. I sometimes find it surprising when my critique group suggests something to change and I think, "Why didn't I think of that?!" It is so beneficial to get feedback of your work from a variety of people.

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

I have many blogs that I enjoy for different reasons, but my favorites are probably ones that make me giggle because I can be immature like that. I really enjoy the supportive blogging/writing community.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I don't have a particular favorite, but the ones that have gotten the most traffic by far are the two where I posted a video of me dancing. If you make a fool of yourself, people will come see it! 

Come to think of it, my personal favorite is a post about my children's answers to questions I asked them about me. Some were so darn cute!  If you have small children, do this and save it for giggles later!  I printed their answers and have it in a keepsake box.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

I learned about Verla Kay's message boards at a local SCBWI meeting, and I have learned more there about writing and the publishing business than anywhere else. I continue to learn from different blogs on a weekly basis!

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Making time to do it. I really need to make a schedule and stick to it.

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

I put on some Avenged Sevenfold or Motley Crue, headbang to a song, splash my face with ice water, go outside and run around the house once and sit down with my notebook and the ideas just start coming. I'm just kidding, I have no tricks except sometimes I set it aside for a few days (even a week) and go back to it and just make myself do it. I dreaded making a few major changes to my manuscript after my writing group critiqued it, but once I sat down to do it, it was much easier than I thought!

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

I would say "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein made the biggest impact on my life. I have read that book so many times as a child and an adult. I have several poems memorized from childhood. He is the reason I love poetry (and I really liked his Playboy articles as well...just kidding!).

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

Last year my practical goal was to be published in magazines. I was very happy to reach that goal in a variety of magazines. This year's goal is to get an agent that loves my work and sells my book! My reach for the stars goal is to be on a daytime talk show for my book. There are so many stay at home moms that watch those shows (though I have to say I don't as much anymore as I did when I had infants). Why don't they cater to these moms with interviews with children's authors and book recommendations for children? Like once a week for five minutes?? And I'd love to hype my book on The Soup on E!, because it's my favorite show (and I don't even think they hype books on it, but this is my reach for the stars dream).

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

I feel very satisfied when I finish a manuscript, and it is submittance ready. Acceptances (on magazines so far) are fulfilling and help boost my confidence, but I have to say the supportive writing/blogging community is pretty freaking awesome. I sure do like my blogger buddies!

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

I love my life and wouldn't want to be anyone else ever. And I am a very cautious person so would not have any sort of crazy adventures like in many books. I know, I'm a chicken!

What are the other distractions in your life?

My family (not exactly a distraction, but my main focus in life!), Facebook, and the pile of laundry I'm ignoring right now.

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

I dislike coffee. My morning beverage of choice is a small OJ and a small chocolate milk or skim milk. But I do enjoy green tea occasionally too!

Thanks Kelly!  You are so right about the daytime talk show thing.  That's an untapped market of moms!   Everyone, show Kelly some love by leaving her a question in the comment section--she'll be stopping by to answer them.  And, make sure to visit her blog on the way out.  You won't be disappointed!  

And, after that, I'd love it if you stopped by Casey's blog, Literary Rambles.  Jon, Tina, and I are there to discuss the newest internet sensation, W.I.B.I.J.?!.  Everything you wanted to know (and more).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What in the World is W.I.B.I.J.?!

So, there have been hints, here and there, and some blatant early unveiling.  And, today, it's official.  Today, we reveal what in the world is WIBIJ.  WIBIJ is an action packed fun filled game of follow the clues, blogger scavenger style.

In January, we all started noticing one blogger in particular covering a lot of ground in the writing blogosphere.  Jon seemed to be everywhere at once, leaving amazing, glittery comments.  And, Jon, Tina and myself thought, hey, it would be fun to create a game around trying to find out Where in the Blogosphere is Jon?!  And thus, the race begins.  On Wednesday, March 24th at 1 PM EST.  

I would explain it all here, but it is so much better for you to just go check it out for yourself.  Head over to the W.I.B.I.J. blog, and peruse the circus tent.  Dig around.  Click like you've never clicked before.  Sign your blog up to be a stop on a future race.  Put the date and time in your iPhone.  And then show up on race day, a few minutes early (you can sign in up to ten minutes ahead of time), if you plan on doing the high octane, fully loaded and caffeinated race.  And if you want to hear from a WIBIJ first place winner, check this out!  Thanks Dena!

If you want to play the decaf version without the time pressure (still totally fun), then show up any time in the 24 hours after 1 PM on Wednesday.  The speed game takes about an hour, so anytime after two, you can take your time, not feel rushed and figure out the clues on your own time table.  And, there is a second, just as (if not more) awesome award--the Best Comment Award.  C'mon, we know you're writers.  Show us your best stuff!

Speaking of the Best Comment Award, Casey, at Literary Rambles won that coveted award last week, and our unveiling continues, in full force, at her blog tomorrow, where she was sweet enough to let us discuss WIBIJ.  

And, in case you need more proof that this game is the most fun you can possibly have in the blogosphere (a virtual Amazing Race!), here is a clue, to whet your appetite.  Follow this clue to an amazing blogger (and friend), who just might be talking about something pretty darn cool.  Get your google on, and GO!

A clue in rhyme in WIBIJ style, 
Hopefully it won't take you a while,
To find our fearless commentator,
And watch her practice, now and later.

If this clue leaves you in wonder,
Shivering in questions, all assunder,
Know that she's great with reviews of each book.
Kelly Link's most recent--go take a look!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Conversation with Kelly Link, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare

I never dream about my characters unless I dream that they are ahead of me in line at the supermarket and they have too many items and I'm annoyed. --Cassandra Clare

Recently I had the pleasure of being in a room with Kelly Link, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare.  I shared the room with many fans and aspiring writers, and with a hat passed around for questions.  And the proceeds benefited a local children's hospital, and it took place in the sister store of my favorite Indie bookstore.  It really doesn't get much better than that.  A couple of things became abundantly clear during the course of the evening.  One:  These three authors are excellent at what they do.  Two: They are each very funny in their own right.  Three: They chose to pursue writing not as a solitary effort, but as a career with coworkers.

That last one was an invaluable piece of confirmation for me.  Since I started writing with coworkers--and I don't mean Alpha's and Beta's and people who from time-to-time read my writing, and tell me when I've jumped the shark or used passive voice--my writing has really gotten back on track.  Our office is a virtual one, but nonetheless, being able to bounce questions and ideas and frustrations off other writers is immensely helpful.  

Cassandra Clare, Kelly Link and Holly Black like to share office space with one another, or at least work in the same building.  They talked about running ideas past each other before they put words on the paper.  About passing notebooks and computers around.  About helping each other not get into the solitary writing process that can make you get snagged on a single sentence and not move forward.

Other nuggets of wisdom by the fantastic three:

I think you write the book that you wish someone else had written for you so you wouldn't have to write it yourself.--Holly Black

You wouldn't want to eat a bucket of frosting.--Cassandra Clare (in answer to the question about writing a book based on a secondary character)

And, when someone in the audience asked if writing novels ever gets any easier, Cassandra answered that everyone has that voice that tells you to just give up.  That voice never goes away, especially when you try to write something new or different.  She expounded on the importance of crit partners and relying on them to tell you when you're writing is going astray.  She said that she doesn't believe that it get's any easier, but that if you've finished writing a book, then you are in the top 2% of people out there writing. You can tell yourself that if you've done it once, then you can do it again.  Holly Black chimed in to say that the first book is the toughest, since it teaches you how to write a book.  She says that it is never that hard again.

Kelly Link talked about how important it is to develop an intuition about what is useful with critiques.  To trust your instincts.

Cassandra followed that up by paraphrasing Neil Gaiman, who said that when someone tells you something is wrong, they're probably right.  And when they tell you how to fix it, they are probably wrong.  I loved that!

I also loved hearing these women talk about their personal writing processes--Cassandra uses only two fingers to type, and outlines using a "micro plot" which goes scene by scene through the book, chronologically, and she bounces these scenes off of other writers.  Kelly Link stressed how she likes to talk with other writers about ideas before even starting a story, to pass her computer around, and ask questions to other writers when she hits snags.  Holly Black talked about how she writes the first chapter, then revises it, writes the second chapter, then re-revises the first and the second, and then writes the third...and that talking to other writers throughout the process is crucial.

Did I mention that they were really funny, and likened a critique group with fight club?

I have been a big fan of Holly Black's works (as is my oldest son), and Cassandra Clare's first book of The Mortal Instruments, CITY OF BONES was one of my favorite reads of 2009.  I didn't know much about Kelly Link, aside from some quick research I did before going to the book signing, but fellow blogger Tina raves about Kelly, and even offered to do a post about her books, so, please check it out!

Did I mention that there were Lindor Truffles (my favorite!) at the signing, and that I won a book bag?  Yes, it was an awesome night.  My only regrets are that I forgot to snap a picture of these awesome ladies, and that I got all tongue tied when it was my turn to get my books signed.  Seriously, I should get out of the blogosphere more often.  It was a bit embarrassing.  I think I told Kelly Link that her book's pages were just the right shade of white.  I mean really?!  Honestly, the stress of coming up with something worthwhile to say, coupled with the pressure I feel to not take up too much time out of respect for the people behind me in line, really fries my brain.

So, tell me.  What are your favorite books by these three?  What do you ask or talk about when you have 30 seconds of an author's ear?  What was your biggest author related faux pas?  C'mon!  Make me feel better!

Heather's disclaimer:  I tried to get the quotes as close to verbatim as possible, but I was taking notes with pen and paper.  I apologize in advance for any mistakes in the quotes, or in my interpretation of the authors' answers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Meeting

I'm excited.  The revision ball is rolling, and I'm running to keep up.  Although, I'm finding that revising is seeping into my pleasure reading.  I'm asking questions of the authors.  It's terribly annoying.  I'm asking them to quicken the plot, get to action. Was that scene really necessary?  Develop that character.  Are you missing an opportunity here?

Except when I started (and quickly finished) Catching Fire, which kept me up at nights, flying through the pages.  I loved it.  Not great to come upon daylight savings sleep deprived.  And now I'm reading Mortal Instruments, Book II, City of Ashes.  Signed by the author!  I went to an amazing question-and-answer book signing last week, with Cassandra Clare, Kelly Link, and Holly Black.  Super wonderful, super fun writers.  Stop back here on Wednesday, and I'll tell you more about it.

This week, I'm planning on revising the rest of the first two-thirds of my MG book.  I'm at chapter five, and really enjoying what's coming out of this revision.  If you're curious, the pink stickies represent things that pull me out of the story, green stickies are missed opportunities, and the orange are line edits.  I really need to revise on paper to see what's going on.  I'm recycling a lot these days!

I also want to invite you back this Friday for a fantastic interview with that dancing fiend, Kelly.  Stop by her blog so that you can ask an informed question!

So, what are your goals for this week?  Does your writing impact your reading?  Do you revise on paper or computer?  What are you reading?       

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Vision of Things to Come?

In case you need something to captivate you this Saturday, I'm pointing you in the direction of a very cool on-line book experience.  Amazing graphics, strong writing, suspenseful plots, and eerie music.  Casey at Literary Rambles first introduced me to this link, and with all the discussion of e-books happening right now, I'm revisiting it as a vision of things to come.  It's called Inanimate Alice, and the first four episodes are free to view on-line.  And very cool.  The episodes get longer as you go, and the puzzles get more difficult.  I can imagine this sort of multimedia book becoming very popular once e-readers evolve.  The words are written by Kate Pullinger, who has done another digital work called Flight Paths.  The digital artist on both works?  Chris Joseph.  

What do you think?   Would you write something which could be transformed into this sort of interactive book experience?  Do you think this is one of the directions that books are moving in?  Do we need to adapt as writers?  (I think that writers are already adapting to the amount of self-promoting and internet presence that seems to be required these days.)  I think that thinking about the future of publishing scares me a little, but imagining writing an Inanimate Alice story isn't scary at all.  It's just cool. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Jo Ramsey

Hello everyone! Welcome to another Friday Feature. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of having Terry Lynn Johnson on the blog. She is publishing her book, Dogsled Dreams, in 2011 with an indie publisher, and I thought that it would be great to be able to support other authors publishing with small presses. Please give them some love over at Indie-Debut 2010

I invited all the authors over to come for an interview, to talk about their books and their journeys toward publication and beyond! So, today, I am featuring Jo Ramsey, an author from that group, whose book, Connection, was released recently through Jupiter Gardens Press.

Welcome, Jo. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I've been writing since age five. From middle school through college, I wrote about 20 YA novels, all longhand in spiral notebooks that now reside in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. They're really not that good... I took a few years' break from writing, then returned to it in 2004. Since then, I've written 45 YA manuscripts, some of which I'm now revising. I live in Massachusetts with my soon-to-be husband (the wedding is April 17), my two daughters, two cats, and a fish.

Jo, your book, Connection, is currently out. Tell us a little about that book.

Connection is the story of Shanna Bailey, a 14-year-old girl with a not-so-good home life. Her mother is verbally and sometimes physically abusive, and her father pretty much ignores her. Shanna's also bullied at school, and so is scared to begin high school. On her first day of ninth grade, she meets Jonah Leighton, a junior who is also picked on, among other reasons because he tends to meditate in the school lobby. The two become friends, and when a demon threatens the most popular girl in school, Shanna and Jonah are the only ones who can help her.

What is your writing process like? How did Connection come about?

My writing process varies from project to project. Sometimes I have a fairly detailed idea of the plot; other times I just have a beginning and start writing to see what happens. Connection, which is the first book in a 10-book series, is semi-autobiographical, based on some events and some things I learned as a child and as an adult. Jonah is based on a friend I had from 2005-2007 (we lost touch after that), and Shanna, of course, is me. I chose to write them as teenagers because I thought teens would enjoy the content more than adults would.

How did you connect with the publishing house which published Connection?

Under a different name, I write romance novels. Through a writing friend, I found a romance publisher that I enjoyed working with. The romance imprint is only one imprint of that company; the other imprint is Jupiter Gardens Press, which published Connection. When I discovered Jupiter Gardens, I felt that Connection and the rest of the Reality Shift series would be a good fit, and the publisher agreed.

What are you currently working on?

Hmm... I'm working on a few projects right now, one in YA and three in romance (under my pen name). So this one's kind of hard to answer.

What made you start to write seriously?

I learned to read before I was three. I had a great imagination, and once I figured out that the stories in books came from other people's imaginations, I knew I wanted to see my stories in books someday too.

What, if anything, has surprised you about your journey toward publication and beyond?

Nothing surprises me. I've enjoyed people's reactions to my writing, though. Apparently they think it's better than I think it is.

What type of publicity have you done to get the word out about your book? What has worked? What hasn't?

For Connection, I've done several blog interviews, and was also interviewed on the Book Bites for Kids blog talk radio show. I'm doing a book signing in my town on March 13, and I'll be at a church fair on March 27. I've posted promos about Connection on a few Yahoo loops I belong to, and I have my own website where I talk about my books and other things.  I've also done a few school visits, and hope to do more; there's an information page on my website about what I do for visits. All of those things have worked.

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

Can I say my own? LOL

What online resource have you found most helpful?

There are two: The Absolute Write Water Cooler and Verla Kay's Blue Board. Each forum has a vast amount of information for writers at every level.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Overcoming my fear of rejection to actually submit things.

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

Playing cyber chess helps. If I'm really blocked or just don't feel like it, I don't force it. I just give myself a day off and remind myself that the world won't end if I go a day without writing.

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

I can't think of any in particular.

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, between the YA and romance, is to have a total of 8 new releases or at least contracts for 2010. (Not unrealistic; I had 8 for 2009.) My reach for the stars goal is a paranormal novel I wrote, which I want to see picked up by one of the major publishing houses and have it be my breakthrough novel.

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

Seeing my stuff published.

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

I'd rather just be myself.

What other distractions do you have in your life?

I'm getting remarried in April 2010, so planning for that wedding's been a pretty big distraction. My fiance is sometimes too, though he completely supports my writing, so he tries not to distract me too much. I also have two daughters, ages 14 and 11. And a cat who loves to initiate games of fetch with me right when I'm in the middle of a writing flow.

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

Coffee. Gotta have the caffeine to kick my brain into gear.

Thanks for the interview, Jo.  I know that you wanted me to mention that you are very excited for your book signing, tomorrow, March 13th, from 10-1 at the Winthrop Book Depot, 11 Somerset Ave., Winthrop, MA. Which sounds so wonderful!  Good luck!  Thanks again for the interview.  Everyone, please remember that Jo will be around to answer questions.  Leave them in the comments for her.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fun, Fun, Fun and What in the World is That W.I.B.I.J.?! Thing They Are Talking About?

Well, not only have I been furiously working on revisions, but Jon, Tina, and I have been working on a "secret" project. A super fun, secret project. W.I.B.I.J.?!-- Where In the Blogosphere is Jon?! It was inspired by how prolific and glittery Jon is about blog commenting.

It's a crazy game to get some traffic to your own blog, discover some blogs you've never been to before, and just blow off stream from this roller coaster called writing. I invite all of you to go and check it out. There is a game in progress until 1 PM EST today (so you've gotta head over there quick!) Poke around and play, and have some fun. See if you can win the Award for Best Comment.

We are going to properly unveil it at a later date, but I wanted to give my loyal followers a sneak peek!

Come back and tell me what you think! (And feel free to leave comments there, as well, and fill out the feedback form. We're crazy about feedback!)

Also, I just registered for the NESCBWI spring conference. Who's with me?

And, I've been having fun reading about the journeys of the published writers at Teen Fiction Cafe. Some very truthful and revealing stories there.

Oh--and in the excitement about W.I.B.I.J.?! I almost forgot to mention the awesomely cool event I'm attending on Thursday night. Authors Kelly Link, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black will be there! And it's a fundraiser for a children's hospital! Didn't I tell you how wonderful my local Indie bookstore was??

What kind of fun are you having this week?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Meeting and Eye Candy

I thought that I might give you some eye candy (since candy seems to be a theme here these days!) Northwriter style.  This weekend, we took a hike around Walden Pond.  It was a fantastically gorgeous day.  It must have been close to 50 degrees.
The pond was covered by a precarious shelf of ice.

Beautiful ice.  Superman was the first to point out the obviously insane fishermen out on the middle of the pond.

Okay, so sometimes in life, as in writing, you have to break the rules, 

              And, look the audience straight on.

Never, ever hide.  (Except from the internet, when you need to get some work done!)

Rest a bit when the going gets tough.

          Throw your arms out wide...

...and go after the prize.

In this case:  ice cream.  (Homemade, "Superman" ice cream, if you're wondering!  I'm serious, it's named "Superman".)  In my opinion, ice cream is even better than candy. 

Okay, so I know that my kids were blocking all the beautiful Walden scenes :).  Hopefully you could see enough around the edges to be inspired to make writing progress this week.  And for those of you who really pay attention, and who may be concerned about the lack of picture time for my oldest child, let me reassure you, he chose to play with friends during our ice walk.  And, he's a bit shy about appearing on the blog.  

So, I am busy going after the prize, and keeping my blogging to a minimum (hence the pictures-say-a-thousand-words post).  

What are you accomplishing this week?  What inspires you?  Broken any good rules lately?

I also want to say thanks to Anita for an excellent interview this past Friday.  And be sure to come back this Friday for the prolific Jo Ramsey!  She has recently published a YA book.  Come by and check out her story.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Anita Miller

Anita's cat (seen here tuning a guitar) is currently editing Anita's book.

Welcome everyone, to another Friday Feature interview. Please check out the previous interviews, listed above my blog roll. And, please give a hearty welcome to Anita Miller. I love her blog, which is a mixture of professionalism, quirky fun, and intelligence. And, Anita's comments on other blogs get me laughing every time.

In her own words: Anita Miller is a freelance writer, mother of four and wife of one in Colorado Springs. She writes a book recommendation column for her local paper, and is working on her first middle grade mystery.

Anita, Welcome! What are you currently working on?

I am a freelance writer, and so I'm constantly working on freelance projects. My biggest projects right now are CURRENT, INC. greeting cards and my book recommendation column for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. I am also working my booty off on revisions to my middle grade mystery.

What made you start to write seriously?

I have no freaking idea. I've had entire dinner parties at my home that I do not remember, so there's no way I can remember how I started writing. I do know that I've read some really horrible books and thought, "I can do that." Of course there are also books that make me want to stick to writing my signature.

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 have one complete manuscript (a cozy mystery) that I shopped to agents and a publisher for about a year. I had a couple of big bites, including with the publisher, but now the book is under the bed. I'm glad it didn't sell. Seriously. And I'm surprised I feel that way. But, really, the book just wasn't what I want to start my career with, you know? Anyway, I should be ready to query my MG by the end of February.

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

Murphblog, but don't tell him.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I posted something short once about Medal of Honor Winner Lt. Michael P. Murphy. Murphy won the medal after dying in Afghanistan. He and the three members of his SEAL team were in a battle with about 100 Taliban. Murphy left his position of cover and went right out in the open so he could have reception to make a call for support. While he was being shot, he calmly communicated the team's situation and location. When the communication was complete, he went back to his cover position and continued fighting until succumbing to his wounds. After I wrote the post about Murphy, his dad emailed me. That's why it's my favorite post.

What online resource have you found most helpful?


What has been your biggest trial in writing?

The television. When I finally get my kiddos to bed, I just want to veg in front of the tube. And then I ask myself, "Do you want to be entertained, or be the entertainer?" So maybe it's that question that's really my trial.

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

I've never missed a deadline with my freelance work, so with the fiction writing, I give myself a deadline.

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

I admire books with great voice...DENNIS LEHANE, BARBARA PARKS, CORMAC MCCARTHY, JANET EVANOVICH (a strange assortment of authors) all have great voice. But the really horrible books are the ones which have had the most impact on my writing; they convince me I can get published. Yay, you stinky books!

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

I love reading and writing so much. I want to be published, so that I can have more cred and be able to offer classes, workshops, etc., about reading and writing.

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

Hmmm. I like pay checks. Also, I like interviewing authors. I've interviewed JOHN GREEN, DAVID BALDACCI, JODI PICOULT, HARLAN COBEN, JANET EVANOVICH and a bunch of others. With my fiction writing, I love seeing how practice (actually sitting there and typing away) improves my writing. I'm getting better and that's very cool.

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

Have you ever read ARE YOU MY MOTHER? The mother bird feels her egg cracking and she LEAVES the nest. Then the poor baby hatches and can't find his mother. What's up with that? I'd like to be the mother bird in the book and stay in the freakin nest. Also, SCOUT and HARRY POTTER.

What are the other distractions in your life?

Husband, kiddos, food, want of sleep, blogs and television. Also, I love long walks. Hard to write when you're walking.

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

I start and end my days with tea. In the middle, I drink coffee. We sleep very few hours in our house. We will spend twice as many waking hours on this earth as the average person, and we will drink three times as many caffeinated beverages.

Anita, Thanks so much for the fantastic interview. I'm still laughing about "stinky" books, and staying "in the freakin nest". It's that kind of honesty that I find so appealing about your blog and comments! Everyone, please make Anita feel at home, and leave a question in the comments, Anita will stop by to answer them. And, make sure to stop by her blog on the way out!