Friday, December 25, 2009

Madeleine L 'Engle

What have I been doing? Reading my large stack of books and magazines (the writing variety), and working on CLAIRELEE A.D. (AFTER DISASTER). I sense the passage of time slipping, while I'm able to take advantage of these winter months of little outdoor work.

CLAD is coming along, as I read Madeleine L 'Engle {Herself}. She is teaching me to get out of my own way in my writing ClaireLee's story. To have faith in my creation. I do, but then I don't. So, the I don't needs to flee from me, so the story can grow.

I've changed the ending, given it more layers, as my friend, Siri, suggested. Will I never be done with this novel? How soon will I dislike it, once again? When that happens, I write through that disliking time and then work on something else to let my distastes simmer.

Ms. 'Engle also says, "To be creative is to die to self." Is that why sometimes I walk around feeling out of touch with all around me, yet more connected than before?

I understand that I will always write, even if I never get a book published.


Until next time . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Chosen One: A review

Rarely, do I read a book like The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams and then begin it over, again. A few days after the first reading.

I would like to see this book win the Newbery Medal Award in 2010.

James S. Jacobs, wrote this on the back jacket, "No one can get inside the head and heart of a thirteen-year-old girl better than Carol Lynch Williams, and I mean no one."

Mr. Jacobs was spot on correct.

I read The Chosen One through for the story. Now I'm reading it again to see just how Ms. Williams was able to ". . . get inside the head and heart of a thirteen-year-old . . ." I want to learn from her.

The book is intense, to be sure. It is also beautifully written. It made me grit my teeth in some scenes. It made me sad, but when Kyra found her courage to act, I rooted for her with a smile and a nod.

The one thing that caught me off guard, even on the second reading, is that Kyra is only thirteen. She seems so much more mature for her age, but then, children who are eldest of many children usually are.

The only disappointment was the ending, but it may not be an actual disappointment if Ms. Williams writes a sequel.

Great job, Ms. Williams, for a fine and wonderful story. And thank you for the message. I'm crossing my fingers The Chosen One is nominated and wins the 2010 Newbery Medal.

You can read more about the facts and history of the Newbery Medal.

Until next time . . . I'll be working through my winter reading pile. How about you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A New Genre? New Adult Fiction, Good News For Young Adult Writers

I do weekly research on the publishing industry and anything writing related. I came across this news about a new genre at jmeadows.livejournal. Read here where the "New Adult" fiction is better explained. And further reading on where NA might go on the book shelves.

It appears to be a genre between young adult and adult, ranging around 20-26 years old. Not completely adult stories, but closer to adult than young adult in ideas and writing.

Personally, I'm glad to hear of this. I've been a bit concerned that younger, and younger children are reading adult level books. For years, I've believed there is a hole in age level reading for what I originally understood as Young Adult. And am I remembering it right that young adult used to be between 20-27? Just because "the powers that be" lowered the age level for a legal adult from 21 to 18, doesn't mean that young people zap into adults at age 18.

Of course as children mature at different levels, some young people are ready for some adult books. But, with many adult literature, children are not mature enough to be processing what it means to deal with grown up issues. Children have enough to handle just being children right where they are emotionally, with the overload of work they take home from school and after school activities. We already know many can be overwhelmed from this alone, not to mention those who return at night to their broken down families. Then, they deal with that.

I'm not one who thinks we should pamper our children and not require responsibility from them, but why would we want our young people struggling to find something to read and choosing a book that's too advanced? And whatever happened to the librarians and teacher's warnings that this is "too advanced" for your age group while learning to read?

Don't you think when a child learns to read well, it shouldn't mean they are ready emotionally for any all all adult themes? From my perspective, I am delighted this new genre seems to be forming. You can be sure that I am eager to see how quickly or not so quickly it takes root.

Any comments on this interesting new genre? I would love to hear from you.

Until next time . . . Write and write daily (during a work week), even it's it one sentence.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Introducing . . . ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation)

ClaireLee gazed at shiny buttons all the way up the wool pea jacket, to the scarred face of a tall girl. Her voice boomed like a sports coach in the hall outside of class. “Are ya in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade?” ClaireLee should have looked away. The girl tapped a finger on her chin, cocking a brow. “Lemme guess, ya must be in fourth.”

The girl’s scar fascinated ClaireLee, pushing her good manners out of the nest. Tall girl’s droopy eyelid sagged further. “Whatcha gawkin’ at, squirt?”

ClaireLee’s face warmed. She’d been caught.

Saved by the moving line, ClaireLee walked through the opened door with the other students. Kids settled behind their desks. She found an empty one and slid on in. The teacher, Mrs. Reed, began roll call. ClaireLee’s stomach nose-dived. Please voice; don’t squeak when I say here.

Teacher got to the M’s and said, “ClaireLee Monteiro?”

Her throat froze. She couldn’t even speak, and kids giggled. Mrs. Reed smiled. “ClaireLee is our new sixth grader. Welcome to Gallagher Springs Elementary. I’m assigning Belinda Cruz to show you around.” She pointed toward the back. “Belinda, stand please.”

ClaireLee glanced at the row of desks.

The tall girl stood, staring at ClaireLee. “We already met.”

Mrs. Reed linked her fingers. “How nice. ClaireLee, stick with Belinda until you’re comfortable with the new surroundings.” The teacher clapped. “Okay class, let’s begin with math.” She handed a new book to ClaireLee. “For sixth grade, we left off on page twenty.”

ClaireLee didn’t understand numbers, but that was the least of her problems. She flipped through the pages, feeling Belinda’s stare. ClaireLee planned on learning the layout of the school in record-breaking time.

Okay, this is a bold move on my part. I've pasted my novel's first scene, which earned Letter of Merit in SCBWI's Grant Competition during the years 2004 and 2009.

Now, I'll go hide.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Middle Grade Or Young Adult

I recently read a post about the difference between middle grade and young adult books. You may read the blog post here.

I was especially interested in the topic of MG versus YA. My novel in the making has been a YA. I had to make changes to fit this in MG category, but after years of flip flopping and unsure, ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation) is an upper middle grade novel.

My character has been eleven, twelve, and now she's thirteen. Yes, my story has undergone much transformation over the eleven years. And yes, again, I have written and published articles and short stories, and started many, many works-in-progress during this time. My recent work, Granny and the Road Trip, is my first contemporary story. It is not a heavy topic like CLAD, and I laughed with pleasure as I wrote the first draft. This time, the age group is easy to figure, it is for upper middle grade, again.

I think that's my audience for now. Since I'm not book published, I'll write where I'm most comfortable. As to whether or not an editor would decide differently and categorize CLAD or Road Trip as YA, is up to them. I'm not the expert on this decision, as I write from the heart and show determination as I plant myself in the chair and work.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Writer's Life: What I Am Doing

Now that summer is over and fall is winding down, I've squeezed in more time to write and to take care of the business side of writing. I've begun to send out another round of queries for my story, ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation).

The declines have been kind with a few of them personal notes. The agents are thoughtful and their professional courtesy makes me wish they would take me and my project on. Agents have to be extra careful when acquiring a new client, because selling books to publishers is harder in this publishing climate. Although I read last week on Publishers Weekly that young adult sales will increase, where as the adult book buying market is expected to decline.

Since ClaireLee A.D. won a Letter of Merit, I know my story has a chance. But, I must work harder, continuing to sharpen my craft. Giving my writing the editorial eye is an absolute must. As I go through the manuscript once again, I pretend I am the editor that has my first twenty pages. She's going to be critical as she reads. I, too, must be critical, as I read the rest of the manuscript.

I've found myself slashing out more lines that don't move the story. Words and sentences I've hung onto for a decade. This is hard, but I ask: Do I want to amuse myself or get my story out for children to read? I must remember my audience is more than me, myself, and I.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Average Books Can Teach

I've read many, many award winning books and just plain wonderful reads. I've read a few average written books, also.

Like the award winning and just plain great books, I take the average written book reading experience and use it for my learning curve. Because when I sit down to work on my manuscripts, my poorly written sentences and paragraphs leap out at me.

That doesn't mean I don't grit my teeth, and want to sling some books through the air. I actually threw a self-published book across the room once, grumbling as it soared. I was outraged that a publisher took the money and embarrassed the author with all the GLARING errors on the pages. It was truly sad. I finished it with respect to the author.

Now don't take me wrong. I have a friend, Cathe Olson, who has written and self-published her healthy eating books (check out her blog!). She had them professionally edited and it shows. She's a smart business woman with a talent for words, and that produces books that sell.

That's my take on award winning, great, and average books. Now if I come across a book that is WAY too boring? I won't read past the third page.

Back to my manuscript with my own wordy phrases and long narratives, and snip, snip, snip I go, with hope on my trail!

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation) Placed LETTER OF MERIT

I'm pleased to announce that my upper middle grade novel, ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation) placed Letter of Merit in the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant.

Here is the letter I received from SCBWI.

Dear Jean

Though you were not a recipient of one of this year's Work-in-Progress Grants we are pleased to be able to present you with this LETTER OF MERIT as one of the finalists in the 2009 competition. Your work was one of just thirteen entries out of the more than four hundred received to gain Letter of Merit honors.

Congratulations and best wishes for the eventual publication of your book.

What is nice is this same concept of a story, before it was edited by a freelancer, placed Letter of Merit five years ago. This story idea still has a chance. And now, I'll make a copy of this letter and send it along with my partial to the publisher that is waiting for my completed changes of ClaireLee A.D.

Following, is a list of the winners and runners-up:

Nearly 400 entries were received from this year's Work-In-Progress Grants.

Previously unpublished is winner Tracy Clark, of Gardnerville, Nevada. Runner-up went to Jeff Hirsch of Astoria, New York.

General Work-in-Progress Grant winner was Brad Strickland of Oakwood, Georgia. Runner-up grant goes to Rebecca Hogue Wojahn of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The SCBWI Anna Cross Giblin Nonfiction Research Grant, funded by James Cross Giblin is awarded this year to Laura Anne Woollett of Waltham, Massachusetts. Runner-up grant has been presented to Betsy Rosenthal of Pacific Palisades, California.

The 2009 SCBWI Contemporary Novel Grant goes to Angelina Corallo Hansen of Maple Falls, Washington. Tina Tocco of Pleasantville, New York is recipient of the Runner-up grant.

On their Website, SCBWI posted this news under What's New?, so take a look at their winning titles. You'll also find the names of those who placed Letter of Merit. I am in good company. Cynthia Bates and Charlie Perryess also placed Letter of Merit. The fun part is we were in the same writers group several years back, and before I moved to Oregon.

I say good writers groups can and do work.

My present Internet writing group has also helped to stretch me to dig deeper to what I mean to say. And they won't let me give up on ClaireLee A.D. (After Dislocation). Thank you writing buddies! I love you bunches!

Until next time . . .

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm Comming Out With What I'm Writing

Well, okay . . . after over a year of blogging, I think I have the nerve to tell a little bit about my novel. The one I've worked on for almost eleven, yes that's correct, 11 years.

Logline: With the help of a friend, a thirteen-year-old girl is determined to keep her family together when her mother slips from a bad case of the baby blues into full blown mental illness.

There, now, that's not so bad. I stuck my neck out.

I've learned so much over the years I've worked on this story, CLAIRELEE A.D. (AFTER DISLOCATION). This novel is my first serious work, but not my last. I have another older middle-grade novel-in-progress about a road trip three girls take with their granny.

Presently, I am doing a complete edit of CLAIRELEE A.D., switching from first to third person, present to past tense, and other suggestions from a publisher I met at a conference. I have my fingers crossed, but not while typing, that the edits I do for the editor will please her.

Now, I must get back to work on CLAIRELEE A.D.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writing & the Rough Edge of Life

During this busy harvesting and canning season, I still manage to write. I have to rise early or stay up later, but I write. I'm even working on two novels at the same time, something I haven't been able to accomplish since our son, Joshua, passed away over five years ago.

At this point, I believe my ability to multi-task returns. My single most important focus since Joshua left us has been to breathe. Just breathe. Writing? That has been my one constant in life. I thank the Lord that I still enjoy words and can create a story from thin air.

How to begin to write about our loss from suicide, is taking form inside my head. Sometimes I am frightened, though, and find myself asking, "Am I really up to this, even after five years?" I believe I am. Josh left reams of journals, and I'm certain he left those for me to share with the world.

My friend said it best about how my husband and I must feel. "You wake up every day, knowing your world is off center and nothing can be the same without your son, Josh."

Wise woman!

I'm sure there are many, many writers walking around wounded. And I say, why not take that experience and help people who walk wounded? Know what? That takes a load of courage.

And I ask, "Am I courageous?"

Until next time . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"The 7 Biggest Myths About Publishing (Know the Truth)"

Hi readers,

I just read this article at _ lu0x_ ( lu0x from Writer's Digest. As a pre-book published writer, I appreciated reading it. Most of it I'd heard before, but some I wondered about when I would hear other writer's talking about their 'baby', another words, their story.

This article made me think of a conference I attended eight years ago featuring guest speaker Harold Underdown. Harold never pulls any punches, and I appreciated his honesty about the publishing industry.

Not so of two ladies I overheard talking. It went somethng like this:

"That was the most discouraging talk I've been to."
"That's for sure."
"Makes me want to quit writing."
"Yeah, why bother after the picture he painted?"

I was a bit amazed at their attitude. What Harold did for me is make me want to work harder.

Do I ever get discouraged? Yes. Does it make me want to quit writing? Yes. But when I imagine not writing? My mind can't wrap itself around that concept. I have to write, and I will even if I never am book published.

I'd enjoy comments from those who read this article.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reviewing a Book

Good morning all,

Over the years I've reveiwed books, but it's been a while. Bonnie Bruno, a writer from one of my listserves, put out a call to review her new book, "Weird & Wacky, Strange & Slimy." After reading the first two pages, I'm going to enjoy this fun read for children.

Once, a company contacted me to review a book. This would lead to me reviewing other books, they said. I stated one negative thing (in a nice way) about it and never heard from them again. Reviewing is a touchy thing, especially if you are honest. You can be nice but honest.

Okay, I must get back to watering my garden, and also working on my own story.

Until next time . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

A New Season in the Wind

Good morning to all!

The wind is blowing here in Southern Oregon, and I sense fall in the air. We've been here a year now, and I'm eyeballing the leaves to see the first signs of yellowing leaves. I see a hint on the edges of green.

My company, children and grandchildren, left four days ago, and after feeling blue, I'm ready to get back to a routine of work. Just my husband and me.

I've thought and thought about what to blog on my first day back after a month. Whew that was a long break and I feel badly about that. But. I did loads of laundry, cooked, and cleaned up after nine of us the last two weeks they all were here (we started out with two granddaughters and the rest of the family came in batches). I had much help and still it was a lot of work, but I loved it. Every single minute of my time with my daughter and her family was good. I am blessed!

I think I'll touch upon projects undone and a new project I want to slowly work on.

My first novel-in-progress, the one that I've worked on for over ten years, has an interested editor. I've worked on that for the editor and have only twenty pages left of changes she'd like to see. The first twenty pages I'll look over one more time before I send them to her as she requested, but not before I've got that last twenty done. Just in case she likes what she sees and requests a full.

The other project I need to work on is my contemporary middle grade novel that is only a first draft. I haven't looked at it in months and it's time. Once I get the first one out, I plan to begin the revisions of this second book.

The third project is much more difficult to tackle. It has to do with my son's life and death at age 25. I've got reams of journals he's left and want to read them and sort out how to begin his story. I think I'm ready. I think! I want to help other parents who've lost children to suicide, but needed time to heal enough to read what I know Joshua left for me. What I think he would want me to write about. It's been five and a half years. I need prayer for that project.

Anyhow, it is a new season blowing in the wind, and I'm ready for it.

Until next time . . .

Monday, July 27, 2009

Busy Summer!

Hi readers,

I'm sorry to not have had a post in a long while. I'm having a wonderful drove of company and am busy playing with my grandchildren.

I have been working, though, with my granddaughters helping me make my story much more kid friendly. What brilliant writers they are!

Until next time . . .

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Memories in the Making

Summer is finally here, and best of all; we are having six weeks of company from our daughter’s family.

Our daughter's family will come in twos and threes until all seven of them are in our home. Visiting right now is two of our granddaughters. So far, we’ve worked in the vegetable garden; walked through a ghost town; made meals together; slept outside on the lawn (until the dog’s constant barking at raccoons drove us inside); and swam in the neighbor’s creek.

As my teen granddaughter picked blackberries at the creek, she said, “Nana, you’ll have to write about this.”

Yes, yes, I will. Life is fodder for writing.

My teen granddaughter knows I have a passion for blackberries. I make a big deal about picking them and cooking on-top-of-the-stove cobbler. She knew; picking these berries was unique. Not only were these berries the first of the season, but where she picked them rated pretty special. In the creek in waist deep water, she held onto a maple tree branch with one hand and reached for the berries that hung over the side of the bank. She encouraged me to come over from where I sat on the other side.

When I did, she made sure she shared the fruit with me. It was indeed a sweet moment.

Until next time . . . I hope you are able to make summertime memories.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Show Don’t Tell: Silent Pictures

Recently, I watched a friend’s silent video of what was happening at the moment inside her store during business hours. A young woman inside the store approached an older woman and they spoke. The young woman twirled her car keys. Soon, she slumped her shoulders, and she looked around and chewed her gum. The words casual and bored came to mind. The older woman at one point turned her back and smiled at something the young lady said. That smile reminded me of one I reserved for when my children have said something a little off the wall.

The two carried on more conversation, and I noticed they favored each other in appearance. Hmm, this is showing me a new clue. Then, the young woman kissed the older one on the cheek. Aha! Could they be related?

When I asked my friend about it later, and had described the young woman, my friend said yes indeed they were mother and daughter.

That whole silent movie scene taught me a bunch about “show don’t tell.” I had a wonderful lesson, for free I might add, and one that caught me by surprise in my otherwise busy schedule. A nice writer’s realization.

If you are like me and tend to go into too much telling, turn off the sound on a movie and you’ll see what I mean. I plan to watch something from time to time without sound, just to keep my bearings about this whole overdoing of “show don’t tell” in my writing.

By the way, don't forget to people watch from afar. That's another wonderful way to learn from body language.

I hope you’re enjoying your first days of summer. And keep an eye out for ideas during next winter's writing, so keep a note pad and pen handy.

Until next time . . ., blessings to my readers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Writer Critique Groups

There are many reasons we should be in a well-organized writer’s critique group. I’ve been in several with one group having around ten members, and one made up of just me and another writer. I have grown as a writer from belonging to each of these groups.

My current group has been going strong for seven years, and I’ve been with them from the beginning. There are six of us ladies, and two are illustrators as well. We critique one another’s work by way of Email. We’ve been fortunate to meet from time to time at various Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators workshops, retreats, and conferences. Sadly, all six of us haven’t been together at the same time. I had just moved to Oregon the last time the other five met for a SCBWI function.

Within our group, some are book published, and some are magazine and/or newsletter published. We come from various backgrounds and levels of education. We are moms. The tie that binds us together, though, is the reason we are a group: to see our words in print.

One of the needs for a successful critique group is to have respect for one another’s work. Easily done in our group of ladies. Also, we discuss the business end of writing and the craft of writing. We share information on agents and editors when we think it will help the group or individuals. It’s also nice to share in an occasional chat about daily life going on around us. My group has been there for me through several hardships, even. They are my good friends.

I read somewhere that when a writer gives a suggestion that something is not working within the story, they better suggest a way it might work. I like this thought, but sometimes we don’t always know why something isn’t working. I remember early on in my writing career, I never knew why my critique partner’s work felt off here or there within the story. She said it didn’t matter, she would figure out what to do. Just the fact I knew something didn’t ring true helped her. She found that every time I sensed an off part in the story, she discovered a problem within the manuscript.

I think it played out that way because before I wrote stories, I read a lot. This goes to show that if you care about words and wish to join a group, you can contribute. No matter that you are a beginning writer.

When I joined the SCBWI over thirteen years ago, they sent a nice packet of information. One article showed how to start a critique group. Also occasionally, there are articles about writer’s groups in the SCBWI Bulletin. Also, Ann Whitford Paul’s newest book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication has a chapter on critique groups. It’s getting good reviews so you may want to read it.

There are tried and true rules and room for flexibility to a well-run writer's group. Once that is understood, we’re able to enjoy, learn, and contribute our best as writers.

Until next time . . .


Monday, June 1, 2009

June, the Busy Month

My writer friends and I speak of the woes of less time to write, during this end of the school year and into the full swing of outdoor work.

What to do?

Well, my thoughts go something like this: Do what you can. Sometimes we really must put life first. Writing is not the life, really. It is our passion, our joy, and a job for many. But it is not living breathing life where we grow as characters here on earth.

Busy life can and will give us more fodder for our stories. Whether we are suffering loss, or celebrating a birth, or a graduation. This stuff of life goes into our thoughts bank where we draw from as needed.

Children’s writers draw from childhood at various stages. I find I draw from current relationships, struggles, and experiences all around me, also. I think this happens more, though, as I grow as a writer, and as I grow older.

Take time to be still and that may well be only when you sit down to write. I’ve found myself snatching fifteen minutes here. A page there. Some people may say if they can’t sit down for two hours, it’s not going to happen. I find working even for fifteen minutes moves my story forward an inch and, best of all, keeps my creative or editorial juices flowing for the next day’s work.

A tip to help you grow excited for the next day's work: stop at a point in your story that needs more of your attention.

We must not despair! Time will be on our side once more. Live life. Enjoy family. Experience it all as God intended.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Afterward: SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference

I truly enjoyed the SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference. Everyone that made this event possible did a great job. Thank you to Judi Gardiner and Robin Koontz who greeted us and pointed the attendees in the right directions. Also, ladies, your hard work showed by how wonderful the conference flowed.

The speakers taught me much.

Author Cheryl Coupe and I talked a bit in between classes, and she shines in kindness and warmth. In her Master Class, she taught us about secondary characters. I was pleased to find that her talked coincided with my critique session. Stepping out of Cheryl’s class for a few minutes for my session appointment, the person who critiqued my manuscript pages gave me valuable suggestions. Several that Cheryl repeated with excellent examples when I returned to her class. I’d say that was perfect timing!

Miriam Hees, Publisher of Blooming Tree Press, spoke on “Story Structure—Taking An Idea Into a Workable Story.” As a fun aside,  Ms. Hees made us laugh, which loosened us up and made it easier to learn.

Elana Roth, Agent at Caren Johnson Literary Agency, talked about the author/agent business relationship. Very insightful, with humor sprinkled about.

Abigail Samoun, Editor of Tricycle Press, spoke on the picture book process. She gave an informative slide show from draft to submission-ready story.

Marianne Monson, freelance editor and author, taught a class on nonfiction books. You could easily tell she enjoys history and teaching how to write story (I’m with Marianne’s camp on how fascinating history can be). She kept me mezmerized the entire class period.

Last but not least, Noa Wheeler, Editor of Henry Holt, spoke on “Writing Around Character.” Her enthusiasm showed for the characters of books she used as examples.

During the conference, I took loads of notes and stashed away good memories of the conversations I had with folks. I asked questions from several of the speakers and got to know them and the business side of writing better. This was by far one of the best conferences I’ve participated in. I plan to go next year.

Until next time . . .


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Writing Like Gardening Comes in Stages

Spring is in full force here in Oregon. I worked the ground for weeks now, and as I pulled the first weeds around the peas, I realized writing is like gardening. Add your own stages to mine, but this is my comparison.

As a teen, two dreams of mine were to own a large vegetable garden and to write a novel. Now, I have land to work the garden. Fifteen years ago, I developed an idea for the story.

As I planned the garden, I read how to care for the ground, what will grow here, and what seeds I may wish to buy. Before I wrote a word of my middle grade novel, I read on craft, took writing classes, attended the Society of Book Writer’s & Illustrators workshops. Then, I decided on the main character, and who were the secondary characters. 

I chose their names.

When the rains took a break, I tilled the land. I pulled weeds and lugged out rocks. For my story, I went back in my memories. I remembered the joys of being a child here in Oregon. I recalled the difficult changes as a pre-teen when the weeds and stones collected in my heart. An ongoing process, it’s a struggle to rid garbage from my soul and come to terms with the rest.

Fodder for writing.

I fertilized my garden, tossing about the dark compost. Smelly, but rich in nutrients for my plants. Bending over, I poked seeds into earth. Story-wise, I chose which joys and hardships I’d relate to from childhood to create a tale. I titled my story and sat down to write the first draft. I dove into that task with raw creative juices, using the craft rules. 

I wrote thirty pages within two weeks.

Around my vegetables, the weeds came up. The rains came down. Weeds grew thick between the tender shoots. I pulled up the offenders, and I thinned out the crowded veggie plants. After I completed the first draft, I edited. I cut out this and added that. I changed my characters around. I deleted a character here and deleted one there. I wrote out wordy prose, and started all over again. All the while, I ponder on how to raise the stakes to make my readers cry.

How can I make my readers laugh?

Now, I water the plants and watch them grow. My novel is in the process of its umpteen millionth editing trim.

At harvest time, I will pick vegetables to sell, give away, and eat. My book’s harvest is yet to come. Busy writing queries to chosen agents, my story makes the rounds. When declines come in, I work to perfect my query. I fine tune the novel; taking suggestions the dear agents took time to give. One day, if do the best job possible, I’ll see this story in book bound and on shelves for young readers to enjoy.

Only then will I see my goal to entertain and encourage a child along her way.

Until next time, dear readers, plant thyself into thy chair and write . . .

Monday, May 4, 2009

Literary Consultant Jeffrey Moores

Last week, I participated in two nights of live chat hosted by with guest speaker Literary Consultant Jeffrey Moores. To introduce Jeff, his consulting advice is more market specific than other freelance editors. Advises on editorial and agenting. Line and developmental editing is flavored by knowledge of the current market.

Jeff led lively and informative discussions, first on the business industry and then on craft. We threw out our questions and here's a few of his comments.

Jeff says to approach our query in a nonfiction way even for fiction; letter more about where we fit in the market, who our audience is. He suggests we personalize our approaches briefly. Personalize: Quick and simple explanation why approaching a specific agent. Example: “I’m contacting you because of your work with Alice Sebold’s THE LOVELY BONES, whose readers I feel would enjoy my novel.” 

From here, be professional and convey a sense of confidence in our own writing. Doing our “homework” should include a broader explanation of our book within the market. More important to make wide comparisons to novel (thematically, etc.) rather than waste page on drawn-out plot synopsis.

Here’s another tip from Jeff. The best way to “establish” your voice is to first, foremost, FIND your voice. Exercise one’s skill until it’s easily controllable. To a certain extent, voice can be taught. It’s what makes the difference between published and unpublished writers.

Jeff also believes that in this economic climate, it is best to concentrate on our craft rather than an immediate goal for publication. Isn’t this what many of us are reading about and hearing these days?

Jeff recommends an exercise: Write a one-sentence description of book. Then do it again. Then, again. Write 5-10 different one-sentence descriptions of your book. Play with the syntax and don’t be afraid to dig.

One last tip: If you’ve received a slightly personalized decline, chances are it has at least been across an agent’s desk.

To learn more about Jeffrey Moores and his new literary consultant business, visit his site here.

Writerly friends; keep writing and keep reading. Until next time . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

Agent Buzz, Do We Need One?

The last few months, I’ve read various blogs and articles on well-established agencies hiring new agents. Some editors who lost their jobs are now agents. I’ve also read opinions from editors and others about how necessary it is to have an agent. And it’s true they now do the work editors once did decades ago.

 There is one article that sticks for me. The editor that stated if we are unagented and we send our work to publishers, the editors figure our work is not worthy. 

Now, I’m wondering if she speaks mainly of adult work.

If we’re paying attention, though, we see more children’s houses taking only agented work. I think with all the economic changes, which affects the publishing industry, we will see more and more children’s departments requiring agented only. Really, before the doom and gloom, we’ve seen this over the last decade or so.

 There is much discussion in my writer’s group about this topic. We’ve decided to work at acquiring an agent. Most of us will hold off submitting to publishers, because we don’t want an agent to think our work has seen the rounds. There’s nowhere else to send.

In saying this, I still believe there are a few (a very few) children’s houses that would rather not work with agented material. I have targeted one and do plan to submit to them after the SCBWI Spring Conference in Portland, Oregon. 

 Until next time . . . write away!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Harper Lee, The One Book Wonder?

Recently, I’ve thought much about the saying, ‘You don’t want to be a one-book wonder.’ I have a friend who had only one paperback book in her. Then she was done. I thought about who else had only one book.

Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Nelle (pronounced “Nail”) Harper Lee, to my way of thinking, wrote one of the best fiction books ever. I saw the movie first when my children were coming along, and then about fifteen years ago, read the book. Marvelous, gripping story.

I must say, if Ms. Lee never publishes another book, she has accomplished more than most of us can only dream of. She wrote from her heart. She wrote a story loosely based on her childhood. Ms. Lee did in her first, and so far only book, what I strive to in my stories; plunk the reader down in a place and keep them there for the journey of that time. I’d say, Ms. Lee did her job and did it very well.

Ms. Lee lives in Monroeville, Alabama with her sister, according to last accounts. She doesn’t care for publicity, giving only a sentence here and there of a speech over the decades. There is one account that her cousin, Richard Williams, of Williams Pharmacy, asked Ms. Lee the question all wish to know.

He says this, “I asked her, ‘When are you going to come out with another book?” And she said, ‘Richard, when you’re at the top there’s only one way to go.’”

Can this be true?

One other quote I found from Ms. Lee gives me hope she’s not done with writing. Even in her early eighties, she may be creating another story. A lawyer in Alexander City, Alabama, Tom Radney said, “I know for a fact she’s been working on another story for 12 years.” He loaned Ms. Lee his files on a case involving six deaths. Mr. Radney said, “She called me at Christmas, and said, ‘You won’t believe it, I’m working on that book.’”

I hope after all this time Ms. Lee will be able to give the world another story.

Don’t you?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pencil Appreciation Day

One of my teacher friends wrote and said today is Pencil Appreciation Day.

I smiled.

Ever since I was a first grade student, I had to have a very sharp pencil lead. Nothing less would do. That was one strange bit of behavior, even I noticed as a first grader.

I even got in trouble for going to the sharpener. The teacher thought it wasteful use of a pencil.


Today, I still have to have a sharp lead to write. I don't care if I'm ready and sitting down to work, if my pencil is not tack-sharp, I get up and sharpen the thing.

It's my tool. My tools have to be top-notch working order. Especially the pencil.

My hat's off to Pencil Appreciation Day. But, I won't hug my pencil. I'll use it, wisely. Like write.

Until next time . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another C.B.I Interview: Author and Critic Betsy Hearne

I sure like my Children’s Book Insider “In Their Own Words” booklet. I’d like to share another favorite, this time with Betsy Hearne, who interviewed with CBI back in January 2000.

What stood out most to me is when CBI asked, “Do you have suggestions for books beginning authors should study?”

Betsy replied, giving a few picks. Then she said this, “Although writing ultimately represents faith in expression, one of the most important things writers can do is listen to silence.”

At that last bit of advice, I scratched my head. Listen to silence? Never heard of that before. I hoped I would get what she meant.

A few days later, I worked outside doing chores that took some thought. I hauled leaves and pine needles for the compost bin. Fixed my fallen down scarecrow near pea patch. I hauled wood to the porch from woodpile. I was so energized I chopped kindling.

Towards the end of the kindling job, my eyes wandered to my tiny tulip garden only two feet away. Even though it rained lightly off and on, I tackled the grass coming up around my tulip stems and this is when I didn’t have to think. I hummed. I took my time. I thought of only the grass and weeds. I worked the ground with joy for the promised tulips to come. Then thought of dirt, and soon I entered a safe place I cannot describe. All I know is it happens when I dig up the dirt in my flower beds. I had forgotten this.

Suddenly, about twenty minutes into the job, without conscious decision, I began thinking of story ideas that never crossed my mind before. When I was almost done with deweeding, it hit me. This is what Betsy meant: listen to silence.

Smart woman!

Go to CBI’s Web page and learn more about this wonderful children's organization.

Until next time . . .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sent Off My Package To Attend The Oregon SCBWI Conference

I checked the Web site on Sunday, March 15th, and sure enough the conference Web site moderator posted the registration form as promised. I filled out the form with care, read over my manuscript pages one more time, and stuffed the envelope.

The registration instructions say that someone will be sending me an email to confirm they received my packet. When I mailed it off, I paid a little more for tracking just for my own peace of mind.

Oh, and as soon as the motel accommodations were posted days before, I reserved the room. My job is over and now I wait until May 15th when I look forward to attending the SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Horn Book

I've received my first two issues of Horn Book and truly enjoy them. I'm gobbling up the articles by authors and the reviews on books. I appreciate this little magazine and wonder why I didn't subscribe before now.

I tried to spread out my time with this second issue over a few readings, but, no. I couldn't put this one down. I enjoyed the snippets of several versions of "The Three Little Pigs" books. Ingenuous writers indeed. Great article, also!

After I finished the whole magazine in one sitting, I sensed the excitement and desire to do a retelling of my favorite tale. Hmmm, maybe "Little Red Riding Hood?" I'll do my research and find out if I can do my own unique take on that little girl's story.

To surf the Horn Book site and see the many wonderful offers to get your own subscription online or by mail, click HERE.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Step in the Write Direction: The 2009 SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference

The 2009 brochure and information with facility lineup are available here. The registrations will be posted on the site on Sunday, March 15 at noon. The conference is Friday & Saturday, May 15 & 16.

Since we have so little time to get that registration in if you want to land a spot for an editorial critique, I’ve got my envelope, synopsis (for the editor I’m choosing), and the manuscript pages ready. Before the 15th, I’ll go over the pages that I printed off the site, and choose my editors in order of preference, along with a few others after those choices. A few days before registration is available, I’ll print out my pages and have my package ready.

The reason I haven’t printed out my pages? I want to read them one more time (you know how it is with us writers, “just one more time”) in case I find mistakes.

I’m planning to attend all day Saturday, and possibly one class on Friday. We can drive up early Friday morning and I could catch the afternoon session. I’m excited! The only problem? I won’t know a soul there. I’ve talked on the phone with Robin Koontz, but otherwise, I’m new to this region of writers. Come May 1st, I’ll be picking out my comfy clothes to wear and packing my bags, ready to meet and greet fellow writers and make new acquaintances. And best of all? I plan to learn more about the craft of writing for children.

Until next time . . . Keep writing away or reading about writing nearly every day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Oregon Spring Conference

Recently, I checked Oregon's SCBWI Web page for this year’s conference information at this site:

The conference is scheduled for Friday & Saturday, May 15 & 16, 2009 at the Shilo Inn Airport, Portland, Oregon. There is no requirement for two-day registration, but you may attend both if you’re able.

The coordinators will send registrations to Oregon and S. Washington SCBWI members and Oregon subscribers in mid-March. The focus this year is on craft. The purpose for this is to help writers and illustrators during a time of publishing woes. Otherwise known as, harder to get a foot in the door.

The editors will present attendees with craft-oriented not market-oriented information. The workshops are planned around two hour long master-craft sessions on picture books, early readers, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction with time for important faculty critiques. Attendees, be prepared to work.

Coordinators expanded the Friday first-page sessions, and either an editor and an agent or two editors will lead them.

Also, it’s good to note, many opportunities for individual critiques with agents/editors will be open to all attendees. However, Saturday attendance is required in order to receive your individual paid-in-advance critique.

Coordinators are allowing one-day attendance, but preference for the Friday sessions given only to the two-day attendees. Friday’s sessions are a-la-carte at $35.00 each (including snacks) and Saturday’s cost includes continental breakfast and lunch at $135.00.

Coming soon! Check on the SCBWI Oregon Web site for agenda and faculty bios.

Listed below is the 2009 faculty:

Cheryl Coupe, Author
Heather Frederick, Author
Lori Ries, Author
Susan Blackaby, Author
Robin Koontz, Illustrator/Author
Marianne Monson, Author/Editor
Elana Roth, Agent: Caren Johnson Literary Agency
Miriam Hees, Editor: Blooming Tree
Abigail Samoun, Editor: Tricycle Books
Noa Wheeler, Editor: Henry Holt

I’ll keep track and post notes here for some final information of the Oregon Spring Conference. Maybe it will garner interest and folks will check out the site.

As an inspiring writer, I’m looking forward to this conference. I plan to research the faculty members to get a feel of their likes and dislikes. The research also allows me to choose an editor for the one on one critique, and for the many opportunities to visit with each faculty member. Best of all, knowing a little about each member allows me to feel comfortable with them and yet be professional.

More to come . . .

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Important Person From My Teen Years

I recently visited my friend at her mother's home in our hometown. It was a great get away of two days and nights. We reminisced of our past and shed a few tears over our families losses, and played a dice game that I won on the first round.

It was late afternoon on the day before we would part ways. My friend took me to the spot where their old home used to be. It had burned five years ago, and my friend's mother barely got out in time. I stood on that cleaned site, not a charcoal lump anywhere.

My childhood tumbled over me in a rush of emotion. Happy times on that property whirled like a dusty wind. Their home was at one time a safe haven for me as a teen. So the loss of its structure overwhelmed. My friend became sad to see me cry, so I wiped off the tears and turned my attention to the old scraggly apple trees.

My friend reminded me of all the apples we picked and pies we helped her mom make. I had forgotten, and stood there not remembering. What I remembered was the love her mom showed to me. The way she reigned me in as one of her children with hugs, scoldings, and chores. I shared in their laughter, a family of six children, with me number seven on the weekends.

This is also true of characters in novels. The plot is not what we recall best, but the people that we've spent time with during the world the author places us into the middle of. My friend's mom made the biggest impression on me during a tumultuous time in my life. I shall never forget.

After we left the old home site, we continued on our walk and came across an Alpaca farm. I had brought my camera and got a few shots of the animals. My favorite one is of a nursing mama I call Dolly. She captivated me with her genteel look and her curiosity of us humans at her fence.

I wanted to honor her with the above photo from a lighthearted moment I experienced at the end of the day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review of "Write Away"

Elizabeth George, author of books of psychological suspense, does a wonderful job on the craft and art of writing in her how to book "Write Away."

I've read dozens of writing books. Few hit home for me like George's. Her conversational style, and the book's depth of the subject, and the many paragraphs of examples of what she is teaching helps me grasp her points. Her honesty about her own fears as a writer hit home for me.

The book is of medium thickness, and is packed with easy logical chapters of what and how she teaches writing in her classroom settings.

Some of her chapters titles are:Story Is Character; Setting Is Story; Plotting:"It Is the Cause, My Soul"; Voice: You Gotta Have 'Tude; The Value of Bum Glue; Turning Places into Settings, just to name a few.

I highly recommend this book and want to thank Elizabeth for taking the time from her busy life to write this helpful book. To learn more about Elizabeth go to her site:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

At Times, Writing Time Is More Than Writing

Learning the craft of writing has covered over fourteen years for this student.

Before that, seeds of the desire to write began when I was a teenager. I wrote horrible poetry and immersed myself in exciting Nancy Drew stories. Then I raised my family and had a small home business. At night, though, I read to my children the now classics about a poky little puppy, a little engine that could, a tawny, scrawny lion, and the Egermeyers Bible Story Book.

When my youngest child was fifteen, I had a car accident that left me flat on my back. I couldn't’t move without help. I remember the happy day when I walked from the living room to the front door without any help.

About three weeks into the recovery, I began to feel sad. I had garden vegetables that needed picking, a house going to dust, and I was bored, bored, bored. I called my daughter, who was pregnant with our first grandchild. I told her I didn’t want to become depressed but what did God have for me now? It was obvious my energetic body would never work the same.

What she suggested changed my life. She didn’t miss a beat. “Write a book, Mom, you always wanted to be a writer.”

But for whom I asked her? She responded that I could write for adults, but I wrinkled my nose at that idea. “I know,” I said, “I’d love to write for children.”

Was this God’s way to allow me to realize my dream? I was never one to sit very long, except to nurse my babies. Now, I would sit long (in this case, at first, lay still) and read books on how to write, and then one day I’d write a story.

The next week, I had my husband drive me to the library. I was in tremendous pain, so I pointed at the books I wanted. He picked them off the shelf and carried them for me. He was intrigued, saying things like, “This is a lot of books isn’t it? Do you really need that one?” I told him I was grabbing anything that looked like it covered the craft of writing. When I got home, my husband stacked the books on the coffee table. The books stacked three feet high; I couldn’t see the TV from where I lay. Fine with me.

I’ve told that story to say that over the years, I’ve had feast time to write, with jobs coming that gave me longs hours to work and decent pay. And then there’s been famine, with no jobs, but I still wrote and stayed busy with the community of children's writers. I’ve read hundred’s of children’s books and been in several critique groups. I've sat in writer's workshops, taking notes, then, I coordinated writer’s workshops for SCBWI. Later, I took editing courses online. I’ve bought books for my own library on the craft of writing. When my son died, I wrote in journal form to sort out my thoughts. My audience for journaling is my current online critique group of six years. They have become my friends. I love you ladies!

Within three years after my husband carried that huge pile of books from the library, I published an article. It was about my husband’s job as a school campus cop. After that, over an eight-year period, I acquired three-dozen magazine clips, including a healthy eating column for teens. I’ve written many works-in-progress of various stages, including the two book-length drafts for middle-graders. One draft I’ve worked on for twelve years. This novel-in-progress has taught me how to write a longer piece. It even won a letter-of-merit from a SCBWI contest.

I never stopped being a writer, even though presently I’m not earning money from my work. As a matter of fact, I’m choosing not to publish articles and short stories. I’m giving my whole heart and attention to writing novels for children. Besides, on the occasions that I’ve worked on shorter pieces, my working novels grow jealous. “Where are you?” they cry out. “Write our story.”

So, I write morning and evening to satisfy my characters need to tell their story, the stories that won’t go away inside my head.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time Wasters That Intrude Into Our Writing

On the last post, I wrote about what I was working on and making the most of winter living by working more on my writing projects. We all know, when the weather turns warmer, we’re outside more and we should be.

No matter what season of year it is, there are time wasters that need to be cleaned out of our lives. Just like the debris that gathers in our houses if we don’t clean from time to time.

The biggest time waster is T.V. When we moved last August, we agreed to not hook up ours. I can’t begin to express what a delight it is to not hear the noise of a T.V. or be tempted to watch it. It no longer steals hours from my writing time.

Other time wasters are window shopping, overeating (who me?), over sleeping (I imagine few of us have that problem, though), talking on the phone (especially if we’re gossiping), and another one I can think of is too much time on the Internet. There is a time for Internet, but we all sense when it falls into the territory of procrastination. Internet should be used mostly for our work.

There are times, in our lonely profession, when we need to correspond with fellow writers or family members. This is different. We need to interact with others to fill that lonely spot in our hearts. Then we’re recharged and can begin again to work.

Next post, I’ll write about ways to grab more writing time from everyday life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter versus Spring Writing

These days I’m working on two stories, full-length novels, both for middle-graders. Since it’s winter, I am able to snuggle in and work every day. And it so happens, I’ve picked up the right books and articles lately, so I’m also on an up learning curve.

This is exactly what I’ve missed all those winters in sunny California, permission to hold up in the house and read and write my heart out. Like I’ve said before, there is a season for everything. God knows what he was talking about, as always.

As spring draws closer, the days will grow longer, eventually allowing for more outdoor work on our one acre property. I must carefully balance with discipline my goal to write several hours daily. Why? First on my farm plan, there’ll be a big garden to put in, a chicken house to build, and chicks to order and prepare for. Which means no time to work crossword puzzles for fun and less reading like I’m doing right this minute.

All in all, I love winter. I want to be like the animals that hibernate, only hibernating for me means sitting longer hours at my computer keyboard and writing. Now, if the electricity goes out for long periods like the neighbors claim, that will put a dent in my plans. Hmmm, maybe my idea of buying an old, but good working, manual typewriter would come in handy in the Oregon woods.

Being known for having a plan B, I’m going to search Craig’s List for that typewriter.

Next post, I'll write about how to make more time for writing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SCBWI’s 2009 Oregon Spring Conference

The Society of Children's Writer's & Illustrators' sponsors the best workshops and conferences in the nation. I helped establish our SLO (San Luis Obispo) workshops when I lived in California, and I can vouch for the wonderful speakers that have helped teach us our craft. A newbie in the writing realm, the lessons I learned facilitating the workshops were priceless to my career. Another big conference is coming up, and I'm already planning the comfortable clothing to pack.

The SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference for writers and illustrators is scheduled for May 15 & 16 and will be held in Portland at Shilo Inn Suites Hotel. The brochure and application for this year's will be posted in March at Until then, you can read about 2008’s to give you an idea what to expect.

After you read last year's conference, you may decide to take advantage of an editorial critique. Be sure to have your pages ready and in the envelope ready to hand deliver to the post office before the brochure is available. This way, you have a chance to get an editorial reading, because the editors take only 12 manuscripts to read and critique. I'm already working on my pages. When I sit before the editor, I am allowed 15 minutes of her time. The expert will tell me how I can improve my pages and possibly give advice as to which publisher may be interested in my story.

Although I’ve been to many workshops and a few conferences, this will be my first conference in my home state. And since I’ve been to Portland once in twenty-five years, I’m excited to visit this beautiful city, again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who’s Afraid of Show, Don’t Tell?

Over the years, I’ve pondered Show, Don’t Tell, wrestled with this, and lost sleep over it. I’ve read many articles and labor over my writing to not tell as much. I still get from my feedback partners, “You’re telling, now show us.”

I even had one expert write, “This is too much telling for my taste.”

Finally, a light bulb clicked in my brain about Show, Don’t Tell. And it all came about because of a dump run.

Our trash had piled up, and then a stray dog broke into a bag and scattered trash. I did my routine of piling the bags in the pickup, and then I filled a fresh bag with the trash on the ground.

Then it was time to go to the dump, and would now normally holler to my husband. Bye. Be right back. This time, he was on his tractor on the far edge of the property. And I was in a hurry.

I didn’t “Tell.”

A little about me as a writer, I write good dialogue. I hear this from folks who read my work. Why is that? Why do I have a problem with Show, Don’t Tell, and yet I write satisfying dialogue?

Now a little about me growing up, I was raised the eldest of eight children with a busy mother who eventually became ill. Guess who took over the job of mother? Me. And I was good at it. I bossed my siblings every day of their lives until I left home and got married.

Then, when I had children, I not only bossed them, I “Told” them what we were going to do, as I did it. I wanted them to not be clueless, hoping they would feel secure with their mother and their narrow world around them.

Back to my object lesson: I didn’t “Tell” my husband I was going to the dump. As I was driving on the curves leading to the waste site, I imagined the clues I left for him and what conclusion he would draw.

1. Absent truck.
2. No garbage on the ground.
3. Clean trash can.

Bingo! It dawned on me that I showed him I was gone and where I went by the clues I left. It is Show, Don’t Tell at its finest.

This just proves true about that other lesson writers are always hearing from the experts: live a lot of life, learn from it, and apply it to our writing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Muse Drives The Writer

Recently, I started a new story. Even though I couldn’t wait to write pages each day, I grew nervous when I felt compelled to write only at night. For many writers, that’s not a problem, but that’s just plain odd for me. I’m a devout morning person. At age 12, I used to get up at five and milk my cow for goodness sake. Even in the snow and rain.

See my problem?

There have been a few days where I knew I wouldn’t get in my committed daily writing on this new project (taking care of seven grandchildren ages 10-seven months), so I wrote early morning. I found, though, the characters weren’t chatty at that hour and I forced a paragraph or two.

Since beginning the new story, I hurry to finish up nightly chores. While I’m working on the chores, I sense the characters urging me to “hurry, hurry, come join us, and write what happens next.”

Wow! This has never happened to me before. Is this normal? Is there something wrong with me? I feel like a child, who's sneaking out at night with a flashlight to find night creatures.

After two weeks and 75 pages of writing later, I wrote my crituqe group. I expressed my concern for these off-the-wall nightly writing sessions. One writer thought this was good. She says my muse is working at night, and the character is talking to me during this time.

But why?

The best explanations I could think of are two fold. My first and older story doesn’t allow competition, so the new story has to work the night shift. And the second reason could be the story begins in the middle of the night.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Author Quote: Dian Curtis Regan

This quote is appropriate to our present day economy, which impacts the larger publishing houses.

Children’s Book Insider interviewed Dian Curtis Regan, author of Princess Nevermore, back in 1996.

CBI asked Ms. Regan, “Do you have any advice for beginners?”

Ms. Regan replied with what she did back in the early 80’s. “I started going to conferences and I heard a lot of gloom and doom about the industry. During those years I felt it was my time to learn how to write and go to conferences. Then when the boom came in the mid-80’s I was ready. This is a cycle that inevitably repeats itself. The industry’s cutting back a bit these days, but if you do your homework now you’ll be ready when they open the doors again.”

In a nutshell, during the late 90’s the industry was cutting back. Now here we are about thirteen years later with the same scenario. Those who may not have the drive to write will throw up their hands and quit. Then there are those who would write even if they never publish a thing. I’m one of those. I have to write.

Recently, I read Agent Nadia Cornier’s post Why 2009 Can Be a Great Year For Books at for January 3rd­­­­­. In it she gives hope for writers during 2009. I agree with Ms. Cormier.

In my opinion, it is not all doom and gloom. After the first reports of lay-offs, I figured it was time to start a new middle grade story. Though, I won’t quit sending out my query letter. I even have my eye on a publisher that will take a complete manuscript and publishes what I’ve been working on for eleven years. I plan to send that publisher my full when it’s ready. For me this is an excuse to do what Ms. Regan did all those years ago.

For beginning writers, this is also a good time to become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ and receive their fantastic newsletter. Like Ms. Regan said, go to conferences. SCBWI has a calendar list for area conferences and workshops.

I highly recommend receiving CBI’s newsletter, also, which is chocked full of industry information. You can receive it by postal or e-mail. Click on CBI’s link below under Professional Websites, and check out their site.

Until next time, write, read, and work hard on both. And never give up.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Writing Through Loss, Again

2008 has been a year of losses, six to be exact, half of them young people under forty. These losses are unsettling to be sure, because isn’t it a law of nature that the old die first? Well, we know that’s not true. Look at what happened to young Abel, Adam’s son.

2008 has also been a high top experience for my husband and I. In January, we sold our home when the market said we couldn’t. The day after we got our house money, I flew to Oregon to say goodbye to my ex-sister-in-law, who was also my friend. I believe I will see her in heaven. Three weeks later, my baby brother, Eric, a sergeant in the Army, died. Those two deaths happened within days of one another, and they hit our family hard like rock shattering glass.

Did I stop writing? No, although I got stuck unable to write a thing for a month. I prayed for God to help me. Write Where You Are, is what I felt the Lord saying to me. Once I wrote about my brother, I could work on my novel, again.

Somewhere between January and August, we lost two young cousins. One was even Eric’s friend. I know what it’s like to lose a son, and so I was grieving for my dad, aunt, and uncle. I didn’t stop writing, though, and somehow it has helped saved me from dropping off the face of the earth.

In August, we found a small property and moved to Oregon. This was a long time dream of my husband’s and mine. We worked hard winterizing our place before the snowstorms. Then in December, my husband’s father, James Thomas Cavitt Williams, was pronounced terminal with days to live. We waited out a snowstorm, and in between storms, we drove to California to say goodbye to him. Within the week, we buried James and went back to his house where it was vacant of his smile and glow.

Surprisingly, the night before we left to go back home (in between storms, again) Mom said one line that sounded just like a blurb from a middle grade novel. She said something that I added to and our granddaughters added to, until I announced, “This is like a story. I shall write it.” That turned every head my way and smiles, too. I could see the hope in their eyes.

I’ve been hitting the keyboard keys every day since, writing a story that came from an old woman’s stubborn resolve to be independent. A story I hope will show the courage it takes to live even when the one we adore most is gone.