Saturday, September 27, 2014

Writing Day

It's overcast and rainy.

My house is full of grey light.

The kids are at the children's museum with their daddy, soaking up his attention, leaving me alone with the hum of my laptop.

My feet are up.

I've got my cozy socks on

And my first thousand words on the page.

Taking a hot chocolate break. 

It's a good day

To be a writer.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Writing a first draft was horrible. It was long, confusing, scattered, and painful to write.

My second draft is putting my book through major reconstructive surgery. More fun than the first, but still a heck of a lot of work.

But you know what's beautiful?

This week I hit the point in the rewrite where I can look back and think, "Yes. This is the real thing."

I see the work that still needs to be done. Trust me, it's a lot. But I can also tell that I've finally struck gold. I'm on the right track in this version. How do I know and what makes this time different than the other drafts? It just feels right. That sounds lame, I know, but I mean it. Everything is coming together the way I want it to this time: voice, description, sense of place, characterization, pacing, all of it.

What I'm writing now will be recognizable in the final product.

Progress feels so good.

I'll have a solid, functioning, completed second draft by Christmas at the latest.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Letter to Myself

I know you've been staring at your manuscript for months now, playing with details, writing and rewriting. Every time you look at your book, you wonder if you've made it better or worse. After changing it so many times, you can't tell.  

Here you are on a three week vacation, but you keep looking for chances to sneak away and write. You pray no one will notice that, although you're trying hard listen to the dinner conversation, you're drowning in details of a world you made up.

You're trying so hard, but you're scared. You doubt you'll ever become a real writer. You're afraid you might be a fake.

Sometimes you buy into the idea that you're not for real unless you publish, but even if you do, there will be people who hate your work. They'll say it isn't any good and point to a million things you should have done differently. It will happen. There is no way you will write a book with universal approval.

It doesn't matter. You are not a fake.

Words make up your life. The need to fill a blank page can cloud your ability to be fully present in a conversation, but it is also the way you immortalize moments that matter. It is the lens you use to interpret the world and understand your place in it.

Writing creates a constant running interior dialogue inside your head that keeps you up late, wakes you up early, and won't shut up or leave you alone.  It's been part of you for such a long time, you can't imagine anything different. It enhances life and makes it beautiful. You will never stop.

It's okay to feel insecure. You will always fear what others think about your work. The quality of your writing will vary day to day, even by your own standards. But the one thing you should never doubt is that you are, in fact, a writer.  

Don't be afraid to say it.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

From My Library: "How Angel Peterson Got His Name"

I grew up with Gary Paulsen's Hatchet and other great adventure books. I didn't discover How Angel Peteterson Got His Name until after I was married.

My husband doesn't read as many kids books as I do, but we read this one out loud together on a car trip. He was driving, I was reading, or at least trying to read. I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh so hard I cried. Really.

In this book, Paulsen shares his most hilarious childhood adventures. Each chapter is a separate tale. I regularly used this book in my seventh grade English classrooms for what we called an ATAWT (activity to avoid wasted time). If there were five extra minutes or so remaining until the bell rang, I'd pull out Angel Peterson and read out loud.

The kids loved it.

Paulsen does a great job sharing experiences from "back in the day" and explaining technology of the time in a way modern children understand and without slowing the story down. His stories are so fun and engaging that I would have students return after school to finish reading the chapter we started on their own. I taught the "reluctant reader" classes, so that's saying something.

Officially classified as YA, it appeals to a much broader range. Older middle grade will love this book, as well as many adults.

And for us writers, it's a great study for anyone writing humor or memoir. 

From My Library

Our home is a children's wonderland. All our furniture was purchased used or given to us free. Nothing is new. And I love it that way.  With children ages two and four, I have the freedom to worry about raising my little ones instead of protecting my things.

All throughout my house, there are books. I have six bookshelves, filled to the brim with children's and YA literature. One book shelf contains classics and "grown up" books, but the vast majority of my library is for kids.

One of my many book cases full of children's and YA literature. I am so proud of my collection!

I love my books!

Sometimes covers are destroyed and pages are torn or scribbled on. Tape can fix many problems, others it can't. The scribble marks and torn pages that appear in my books make me smile. I know these battered treasures are becoming part of my children's history.
None of my book shelves are off limits to the kids, but this is the collection they gravitate to most. The other books are great fun to dump off shelves and scatter across the floor.
The books I collect are the ones I love. Many of them have shaped who I am as a person, and serve as models of writing I admire. And so, I'd like to periodically share with you a favorite book from my bookshelves.  I will call the posts "From My Library".

And I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Best Research

Last Sunday I left for a week long camping trip in California. On the way there, I somehow convinced my family to stop and take a detour at a town I used for the setting of my novel. I'd never been there before. I'd driven past it on the freeway a handful of times, never stopping. Everything I knew about it came from online articles, Google maps, old census surveys, and of course Google images.  

Taking that exit off the freeway was like driving through a portal to my imaginary world. We drove up and down the streets. I scribbled details in a spiral notebook and rolled down the window to take pictures. I scared several residents with my enthusiasm, questions, and video camera.

In my mind, I saw my characters playing out their dramas in the streets, arguing on front porches, walking down the road, working on their cars, playing basketball on a gravel court.

I fell in love with my story all over again.

And I thought of a million revisions.

My book will be so much better because of one little detour on our way to Yosemite. Forget sightseeing at a national park. The 45 minutes I spent wandering through a dusty little nothing town was more thrilling than anything I've done in years.

If you get a chance to visit a location you've used as a model setting for your book, take it. Especially if your setting is fictional. It's amazing research, it will add depth to your writing, and it's more fun than Disneyland.

Not that I wouldn't mind going there next. :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Both of my children are resting in their rooms. It's quiet time. I'm sitting down to write. I've waited all day for this moment-- even took my kids to two different sprinkler parks this morning to wear them out and give me an opportunity to write. It's wonderful to get a few words down before the exhaustion of a long day sets in at night.

But I'm staring at my screen, looking at the 39,000 words that make up my current work in progress, and typing nothing. I feel frozen. And all I can think is how I'm so bad at this.

The crazy thing is, I'm not.
But I am.

The first time I write a new scene or a new conversation into my book I hate what I've written. I have to stare at it, touch it up, shape, and mold it before I start to think that maybe it's not so bad after all.

This works great with short stories. Writing a novel is a different beast.

And all I can do is say that for today, I'm going to try.

At WIFYR, one of the literary agents, John Cusick, gave a great presentation about writing. His advice was to stop worrying about the book and focus on writing a page or a single scene. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how intimidated you might be, everyone can handle a page.

Even if it stinks.

That's what I'm going to do now. I'm going to end this blog post. I'm going to write the stinkiest page of all. And it will be all right because after I've gotten it down, I'll go back and make it amazing.

Someday my whole book will be polished to hilarious middle-grade perfection.

But only if I can force myself write one really awful page today.