Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Reviews?

I'm having a guilt fest right now because I haven't been writing my own stuff or reviewing books for the blog here.  Instead, I've been READING STUFF FOR WORK.  Alas, I have a number of freelance gigs and this month I've had had to read an average of two novels a week.  Luckily, I am a fast reader but still, after I do this reading and the related writing (educational guides, flap/jacket copy, etc.) I'm pretty well spent. There's a speck of light at the end of the wordy tunnel.  Next Tuesday, my littlest guy heads back to school and I'll have a SCHEDULE again.  With HOURS set aside for reading/writing without having to do it outside while getting a sunburn by the sandbox or guiltily while plopping the poor dude in front of the tube.

So, I guess this is a just a quick SORRY and be back soon and I hope all my writer buddies in Cyberville are gearing up for a happy and productive fall, too.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stupid things about which I fantasize (in no particular order)

Having twice as many Twitter followers as people I follow

Getting to (really, hard-core, with “author stage time”) promote a book of mine at BEA and/or have my arcs distributed at ALA (and maybe sign?).

Rediscovering my lost enjoyment of planning and cooking nightly dinners.

Finishing revisions on and submitting two more manuscripts this year.

Figuring out the meaning of life.

What do you wish for while you’re procrastinating in front of your computer monitor?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to Business: Virtual Soulmates

In the years that I've been traveling the blogosphere as a writer, I have come across a few other writer/bloggers with whom I feel such simpatico.  I love their work, their sense of craft, their attitude toward the business and the community.  For the most part, I have not met these folks in person.  But I want to!

Recently, Katie Couric plugged her new talk show promising a feature on "Is Social Networking Making Our Kids Less Social?"  So far, I have found the opposite to be true.  Social networking enables my teens to make group plans more easily.  Facebook and Twitter seem generally more, not less, inclusive (my boys are pretty much willing to friend anyone they know even if the person isn't some kind of soulmate).

For me, given that I sit alone for hours each day talking out loud in the voices of IMAGINARY CHARACTERS, I can hardly imagine being made LESS social.  Sometimes the virtual writing community is the only thing that draws me out of my own head.  And sure, it is frustrating that I respect and admire but to whose houses I cannot drive.  Some of these people are oceans away.  Still, I am happy they are out there in the world, producing beautiful books, and that once in awhile, I can shoot them an email saying "Hey, hope the writing thing is going okay." Or proofing a synopsis for them.  Or comforting them through a rocky publishing moment. Or vice versa.

Even if we never meet, I am incredibly grateful for my virtual soulmates!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A WRITING TIP: Never let her go...

Okay, okay, it's a lyric from Some Enchanted Evening (Rodgers & Hammerstein, SOUTH PACIFIC) but it's something I need to remember sometimes when I'm deep into the plotting phase of a manuscript.  The cleverness of the story is nothing if I don't LOVE my main character, if I'm not there with her feeling rejection when she is rejected, sparking victory tears when she experiences a triumph.

I'm going back to my manuscript today making sure that I am holding my MC in my heart for every word, line, paragraph, and page.
PS: Because I try to be very careful about not infringing anyone's copyrights and all that, I am not including one of the myriad amazing YouTube videos of the song and its lovely lyrics but I highly reccommend you head over and search "Some Enchanted Evening South Pacific" or just go buy the spectacular original cast recording and hear Georgio Tozzi sing you a lesson about characters and love.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Awesome that is WriteOnCon

Are you ready?  THE free, online, must-attend writing conference for kids and YA authors starts tomorrow.  Agent panels, writing workshops, live online events, career guidance, ninjas (yup!) and so much more.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Word to those Olympic Gold Medal Girls

You are amazing, talented, passionate, driven.  You're also probably exhausted, somewhat injured, and confused by the offers (or lack thereof) from companies who'd like you to grin from their cereal boxes or wear their lip gloss.  You're also kind of done.  Because most gymnasts only get one Olympics.  And, in four years, they'll be the golden, endorsement-gleaning teen cuties and you'll be twenty-ish.
You are not alone.  There are plenty of teen athletes and performers who, without going for Olympic gold, have still given years of their young lives over to a sport or art and who, upon high school graduation, have to face a future that isn't all about rock-hard abs or hitting that high C.

BREATHE.  It's okay.  You're a kid who has accomplished a lot.  But you are not a grown-up yet.  That medal is not who you are.  Gold, silver or bronze, your story is not over.  Allow yourself to embrace new dreams.

Your life is still YOUR story to write.  Don't cry too much.  Live big, live forward, live more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can you explain "SAVE THE CAT"?

Sometimes when you're struggling with a new manuscript, it helps to read a how-to book like Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD or Steven King's ON WRITING.  This past week, I picked up SAVE THE CAT by the late Blake Snyder.  It's really a screenwriting book but is highly recommended by fiction writers I know.

No, this isn't from Snyder's book but it's MY blog post,
so it's MY cat and my cat likes a little cognac.
Also chocolate.  And artichokes.
Clear, concise, filled with easy-to-follow examples, it was just what I needed to read.  In fact, I was so excited, I started trying to explain THE WHOLE TECHNIQUE to a writer friend.  Without Snyder's wit and examples, I think I came off as a very dull half-wit repeatedly saying, "And he's so right about X, Y or Z." (My friend listened patiently all the same.)

Why am I telling you about my retelling? Because as I spoke aloud the points that stayed most firmly in my brain, I realized a weakness in my work.  The erstwhile CAT-SAVE (aka GIVING YOUR MC AN ACTION or CHARACTERISTIC THAT MAKES THEM LIKABLE AT SOME LEVEL (even if s/he's a criminal)) was missing.  Not that my character wasn't relatable, even nice--I just hadn't shown it in any early scene in the manuscript.

Now, I tend to be skittish about discussing works-in-progress because I it sometimes feel like my lovely idea, as I speak it aloud, is dissolving into a mound of ugly, unwritable dust. In the face of my listener I see disbelief, uncertainty or, worst of all, boredom. Yet, talking about Save the Cat in the context of learning about my own writing was helpful.

Herewith I will a draw a few conclusions from my Cat-retelling exercise:

1. Saying aloud what you read helps clarify what you really learned.
2. If you're afraid to share an idea, maybe it really isn't all that great.
3. Sometimes talking through a plot actually helps you see AND FILL some gaps.

What's your favorite how-to book?  What parts of TALKING OUT LOUD help you improve what's on the page?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ever wish you could apply to college all over again?

This weekend, the hubs and I spent hours discussing college applications with our eldest boy. 
Trimming the list of 25 "those look cool" establishments of high learning to a number you can afford to apply to and still have money for groceries is a challenge.  But it's also exciting.  Every ivy-and-brick image-laden website made me sigh with envy for that sense of beginnings.  Of potential.  Of being able to pack your bags and head someplace new with a clean slate and an endless list of could-come-true dreams. 

And, knowing what I know now? Imagine the kick-ass personal essay I'd write for the Common Application!  Image the clever twists my answers to the classic supplemental essay (Why College X?) would take?  Image how much more time I'd spend studying, interning, learning MORE STUFF if I actually GOT IN somewhere and WENT BACK.

But, I like to think the other kids at home would miss me. And I real don't want to give up the hubs as my #1 best roomie :)

So, instead, I research and debate and absorb all of that thrilling anticipation. Then I open my latest YA manuscript and pour all that desire into my characters' hearts.

Thursday, August 2, 2012