Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blogging from the ABYSS

Here we are at December again. The culminating month of the year and a time for both contemplation and celebration.

This year saw the publication of my second verse novel, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, which has received some lovely critical notices including a star from PW and selection by the Junior Library Guild. Recently, I was delighted to learn that it's been shortlisted for the Pacific Northwest Book Awards. Can I take any credit for this? Well, I did write the book, of course but, in terms of promotion, I have done far less than I did for AUDITION.
This is a photo of salmon swimming upstream,
taken near my home this fall.
Read to the end of the post and you'll get it :)

1.  MOTHERHOOD. This year my youngest started at a new elementary school, my eight-grader has been applying to different high schools, my senior is applying to college and my eldest is a college sophomore. Can you say complex family logistics and massive needs for "mom time"? Yep, I've been busy with the kids.
2. FACING FACTS. After coordinating a cross-country bookstore tour AND an epic blog tour for AUDITION, I have concluded that as a fledgling author who is not also a reality television star, chef, or dog trainer, there is little I can do to push unit sales of my books in any cost-and-time-effective way. (CAVEAT: The AUDITION book tour, called Stages on Pages, regardless of organization, time and travel costs, was an opportunity to make amazing writer friends I have to this day so it was worth it all the same and I'd recommend authors try it at least once.)
3. LIMITS. Without massive effort, constant giveaways and the generation of a great deal of newly-written content, my blog, FB and Twitter follow stats have pretty well plateaued (sp?). At this point, I feel a strong need to conserve my writing energy for a number of fiction projects that are exciting me beyond belief. I AM WRITING STORIES. In support of this decision, you can search the webs for articles about blogger burnout, the pros and cons of social media for authors, and agents reminding writers to focus on producing their very best work.

Yet, I continue to blog, albeit less than before, because I love keeping this online account of my writing journey and occasionally celebrating the work of other writers. I hope some folks out there in the virtual abyss stumble onto my blog and find it useful. I suppose what I most want to convey here is the VALUE of this writing life, no matter the financial outcome, no matter that sometimes we hunch over the keyboard feeling like we're accomplishing little more than salmon struggling upstream. Readers, however you got here, please know that the stories you tell MATTER and that IN YOUR belief in the act of writing as a vital component of the act of living, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Here's the post where I pimp the books of strangers and friends, plus a few non-bookish things I'd also like in case my husband reads this post ;)

These Mountain Hardwear incredibly fuzzy Pyxis fleece pants. Seriously. Beyond fuzzy! Size small, please!

These LL Bean suede driving moccasins. Yes, in RED (it's Christmas). Size 8, medium (and they're on sale)!
And a girl needs her jewels, right? (In support of public television, I'm opting for these glitzy Aurora Borealis earrings from the Signals catalog.


The art of photography in a YA contemp
from Justina Chen. So...yes!
This just looks beautiful. Letters to lost artists--musicians and actors who died too young--are at the core of DellAira's glowingly reviewed debut.
The highly-lauded, less-read debut
How many people have to recommend a book
before you have to buy it? 

The follow-up to Zadoff's 
which I could not put down!
The threat of love separated by college
geography? Been there with my sons--
plus it's a Perkins romance, right?
 Can't seem to get any more pix to upload for this post, but just two more titles: Jenna Fox author Mary E. Pearson's KISS OF DECEPTION and SCBWI-maven extraordinaire Laurie Thompson's great nonfiction contribution to teen libraries, BE A CHANGEMAKER.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

A few years ago, I completed a NaNoWriMo novel. While the product remains (rightfully) in a file
drawer, it was an intense month and an exhilarating experience to pass that 50k word mark in 30 days. I learned lot about myself as a writer. Since then, I've published two novels with Viking, been battered around a bit by the industry, and continue to work with other writers who have books in the pipeline. And I've got a few thoughts and tips to share about the NaNo experience.

1. NaNo is like boot. It's amazing to move your muscles way more than usual, learn your limits, your aptitudes and your optimal style of exercising/drafting.

2. NaNo forces you to avoid line-edits, ignore your inner critic and write with a wonderful amount of freedom.

3. NaNo, like an intense gym work-out, can leave your manuscript (like your muscles) a little sore, imperfect and longing for a slower, more measured pace of work.

4. Please stick the manuscript in a drawer for at least a week (or possible until New Year's) and allow your brain to rest and regain some perspective. While it's marinating, search the web for your favorite 10 (or more) "How to Revise Your NaNo Novel" articles. Print them out. If it's gonna take time, print out your novel, too, so it's ready to read on whatever date you have selected.

5. Trust me. Your NaNo manuscript is not a finished product and does not represent your best work. It may have great potential but SEE #s 3 & 4 above. Do not send this unrevised baby to an agent or editor.

6. Seriously, don't.

7. Be aware that agents and editors get thousands and pages of NaNo novel submissions in December, just before they take a holiday vacation. (Heard any good "Editor walks into a NaNo Write-In... jokes?) They do not enjoy this and it nearly assures your work a nap in the slush pile.

8. Waiting to have a truly ready-to-submit manuscript probably won't slow down your path to publication. Submitting a weak, unedited manuscript will very probably slow down your path to publication. (Not gonna say definitely. I mean, we all know crap gets published sometimes.)

NOW...GOGOGOGOGO and get all you can out of this writing adventure.

It's like broccoli--good for you and someday you may like it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rewarding Courage with a Long Nap

Following up on my previous CHICKEN-HEART post, I am happy to report that last night, after many days of angsting, rereading and tweaking, I sent my completed ms, along with a synopsis and opening chapters of something new, to my editor with the note: 

"Yes, you can read this now." 

This morning, I woke up early, made breakfast for the kids, packed lunches, loaded the dishwasher and...went back to bed for an hour. 

It was a delightful treat and a necessary break from thinking about the fact that I have again let pages fly out into the universe which I find awfully stressful. I am not alone. Scrolling through the social media portals of writers, you will find... 
  • laments over weight gained while revising
  • opuses on the struggle to stay physically active while committing to daily word counts
  • worries about giving up paying jobs to take a risk on one's own fiction
  • panic Tweets about being out on sub
  • and general musings on the tension between writer-life and, well, life.

Being a writer takes courage, people.

In sum, I'm just saying I think I earned my nap. And it was faaaantastic.