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Viewing Blog: WriterBear, Most Recent at Top
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This is my blog on being in and working for an MFA program, my life as a writer and reader, and other fun stuff like Buddhism, bears, the Red Sox, and chocolate.
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1.

Holy moly! I can't believe I haven't written a blog entry since August! I've been busy... yes... working on my Creativity Coaching courses (in the middle of the Advanced Course right now - I've been stuck on my "business name" since I wanted something catchy, but also something evocative - something that wouldn't box me in, but that would be specific. Since I really do want room to grow at this point, I'm thinking of going with "Jana Van der Veer, Writing and Creativity Coach." Maybe I'll think of something catchier at a later point, after I hone in on a particular specialty, but for right now I want to reserve the right to experiment with writing and general creativity coaching. I've been moving slowly with this, but that's okay. I've been working with practice clients, developing a course called Structure Your Story, and mulling over other workshops and courses I can offer. 

I'm also going to do NaNoWriMo with my alumni writing group. At least, I'm going to try. November is always a hard month for me since I'm on the road for half of it. But I get it - that's an excuse. There will always be something that gets in the way. The important thing to teach oneself is that writing can happen at any time we choose. We don't have to (and can't, if we're ever going to get anything done) wait for the Perfect Moment. I've been reading lots of books on the psychology of procrastination, and I've become aware of a lot of the semi-conscious workings of my brain in relation to procrastination: for example, the discomfort of knowing we're procrastinating, followed by the "feel-good" hit we get from pushing off the work until later - mistakenly thinking we will feel more like doing it later than we do right now... lots of good stuff here, that I can use in my coaching work. 

So, I'm trapped in the house until the hurricane passes... with lots and lots of chocolate to eat. At least I won't starve if the power goes out for any length of time... 

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2. A Prestige-Free Zone?

This article from Salon.com is an interesting commentary on the lack of respect YA authors enjoy in the larger culture. Wanna lack prestige? Be a female writer. Wanna really lack prestige? Be a female writer of YA. Because what the article doesn't mention is that, while relatively few men write for the genre, those that do win more awards and yes, prestige within the children's writing community. Even male authors I know comment on this, with a little shrug of apology. What can you do?

But really, what do you expect? Our culture has come a long way, but women in general (and anything that smacks of "the feminine" - jobs, behaviors, etc.) enjoy less respect and prestige then do men and the the things that are masculine. I could write an essay on this, but I have to get back to writing my un-prestigious YA fiction.  

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3. What Grown-Ups Can Learn From Children's Books

From The Atlantic online: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/what-grown-ups-can-learn-from-kids-books/260738/

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4. A Bear After My Own Heart...

A bear broke into a chocolate store... 7 times in 20 minutes. Yeah!

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5.

Well.... okay then. It's been a while. Longer than I'd thought, actually. I did a tiny little draft of a post during the residency, then forgot all about it in the usual busyness of a residency. Two residencies, actually, since the other program I work for had one just after (well, a week of crazy prep in between, but...). It was a non-stop month where I had literally one day off. Afterwards I took a much-needed vacation, and now it's taking me some time to get back in the usual routine, including blogging.

Last night I went to Cheryl Strayed's reading at the Harvard Bookstore. I read her book Wild over vacation, and then went out and got Tiny Beautiful Things. She's not only a fabulous writer, but gives advice from a place of compassion and honesty, as she tells her own stories to show that she is, as she says, giving advice form a place of being "in the mud" with those who write in to Dear Sugar. And in person she seems as gracious, funny, and down to earth as you'd expect from reading her works. 

It seems like we're careering through August at a furious rate. Dear Summer: Please slow down so I can enjoy you before you're gone. Thank you.

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6.

Tony Abbot posted a link to Lee Martin's blog post about getting the most out of an MFA program, and I have to link to it, because it's just so true. It's written from the perspective of a full-residency program, but is also applicable to low-res programs. Maybe even more so, because residencies are the times when community is created. That's when visiting writers come, when seminars happen, when your work is workshopped and you participate in the critique of others' work.

We're all temped to slack off, to not attend everything, to not be fully engaged in seminars and workshops, to not spend quite as much time on critiquing, to not attend readings. The bigger the program, the easier it is to slip under the radar. Some people do it out of a sense of "I'm only going to do what I think I'll get the most out of." Others may simply feel isolated because they haven't made an effort to get to know people, or engage with them.

But Martin is right: to get the most out of a program, you have to make an effort. It's your opportunity, to take advantage of the community and support so many creative people are dying for. It irritates me when I hear students in my MFA program complain that they "didn't hear something" because they weren't there (because they didn't see the immediate relevance, or wanted to go out, or whatever), or complain that someone else "never" does something, so why should they... take responsibility for yourself. You're the only one you can be responsible for, and the only one who can make the effort to get as much out of a program as possible in the short time you'll be there (and it will feel way too short). Focus on your creative journey, suck the marrow out of any opportunity you have to learn or make a connection.      

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7. Writing By Hand

A friend directed me to this post on Heather Sellers' blog, which is an interview about the practice of writing first drafts by hand. It made me think about the difference between writing by hand versus typing directly onto the computer. I should say, it made me re-think the fact that my process for some time now has been to type, never handwrite.

I used to handwrite my stories, back in the days when I used an electric typewriter and do-overs were so much more difficult than they are now. Then I edited as I typed, so my first typed draft was pretty polished. I switched to all-typing when I switched to the computer, because it is faster - I could outrun my inner editor, and I felt the story was cleaner, somehow. Now when I try to handwrite it feels terribly difficult, slow, unwieldy. I trail off in frustration. And it's hard to imagine writing a whole novel that way, although it would be easier to forego mid-draft revising.

After reading the interview, and other articles on how the brain and hand are connected, it makes me wonder what I'm missing. I don't know if I could ever go back to writing by hand, but I may try for my next first draft, and see how it goes.

What are anyone else's thoughts on this? Do you hand-write, or type only? Why?  

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8.

The Weight of Disappointment
The ABC of Anger
The Love That Takes Us
The Day Papa Killed His Old Aunt (true story)

No, these are not some new Proustian-style French novels. They are in fact the titles of French picture books - and these are just the philosophically morose ones. Teeth Trolls, anyone? The Rabbits' Revenge? How about a little death, kidnapping, a surgery-performing clown that looks like it came from an illustrated version of Steven King's It? A hilarious list of some of the most terrifying French kid's books is here, complete with pictures of the covers. These look like they would give most adults the heebie-jeebies, but maybe they just hearken back to the real Grimm's fairy tales, where terrible things happened, and the child protagonists learned to defeat the monsters, or die trying. No saccharine sentimentality here. No idea of protecting the child from life's harsh realities. Read 'em and weep.    
 
 

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9. Suddenly... Something Happened

We all have them... the quirks that make up our "voice" and the quirks that are just bad, lazy writing habits. I always let myself go a bit in the first draft, because I'm focused on the story. Sometimes my quirks jump out at me later, and other times people point them out - especially if they are reading a full draft of something. That's the only way to see them all in their full glory.

Three and a half hours. That's how long it took to search for my bad boys in my manuscript and remove them. What were they?

  • Any version of the word "sudden." Everything seems to happen "suddenly" in my story, which is a weak way to create suspense. This word should be used very rarely. Like any adverb, "suddenly" can weaken the phrase it's supposed to modify. If "something jumped out," we know it was sudden, or we'd use the word "sauntered."

  • Which brings us to... adverbs. Read every sentence that contains an adverb. If you can get rid of it, do so. It's a cardinal rule of good writing, but one I ignore in draft. Later I go back and choose words that punch up the sentence. A strong verb or pungent adjective is always better than an adverb. Not that they all have to be eliminated. They exist for a reason, and there is a place for them. Just not three in every paragraph.

  • "Conjunction junction, what's your function..." That Schoolhouse Rock ditty must have stuck in my head, but I must not have learned anything from it since the function of conjunctions in my manuscript is to begin sentences. Nine times out of ten, they weren't doing their usual job of connecting phrases and clauses. They were meaningless appendages meant to transition the reader into the new paragraph. Cut, cut, cut = stronger sentences. I guess I'm fortunate that "Interjections!" that show "Excitement!" and "Emotion!" "Hallelujah!" didn't stick in my head. 
Between the cutting and rewriting, I removed about five pages - over 1,000 words - from my manuscript. That's astonishing. Such small changes, and my story is already so much better.    

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10. Coulda, Shoulda... Gotta

I've noticed that I use the words "should" and "have to" a lot - especially around things that I also tell myself I want to do. But it pays to be careful of the implication of the words we use.

"Have to" implies some external force, making us do something. And when we "have to" do something, usually the corresponding psychological reaction is resistance. We don't like to "have to" do something. We like to retain some choice.

"Should" has the implication of being followed by "... but I won't." And there is a little thrill in that, right? The thrill of rebellion - even if it's against your own best interests. "I should write today," becomes "... but I won't and you can't make me! Ha ha... oh."

Eric Maisel has the idea of setting a firm intention, in your thoughts and words. "I intend to" is far stronger than "I should," and carries no negative connotation, no implied force. "I will" is stronger still,  but it can also carry an aura of inflexibility. To carry out an intention is an exercise of will - a way of cutting through the mental/emotional clutter, all those internal voices that tell us we don't really want to make art... we want to watch tv. We don't really want to exercise... we want to curl up with a book.  

Words have power, and we need to choose them carefully, even when we only speak them in our minds. They have the power to influence our thoughts, beliefs, and then our actions. This kind of self-talk can be so subtle we don't recognize how negative it is.

An experiment to focus on positive word choice can bring new energy and purpose to our endeavors. Try saying to yourself, "I get to write today." "I can't wait to get to my book today." When we fill our minds with chatter that carries negative baggage, we feel the energy drop. Our will is sapped. When we focus on our art as a gift, we feel the rush of energy and excitement that comes with being open to new possibilities. That can help break through the inevitable anxiety we have about doing the work, that fuels our resistance.

Resistance can't feed on positive energy. Maybe resistance will always be there, like one of those vines you can never fully eradicate, but we don't need to feed it the food it craves. We don't need to let it strangle us. By choosing to focus on something positive ("I'm eager to see how that scene turns out...") we see resistance wither, and our creative energy flourish.  

  

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11. An Idea I Wish I'd Had

I recently saw the documentary 1,000 Journals, which explores the 1,000 Journals project - how it started, where some of the journals ended up, peoples' reactions to them, etc. The artist someguy sent 1,000 journals out into the world, and people write in them, drew in them - created all kinds of art in them, and they became amazing records of thoughts, dreams, and experiences. You can see scans from them at the website, or buy the book. What an incredible way to connect people from all over the world.

There is also the 1001 Journals project, which allows people to sign up to receive ongoing journals, or to create their own to share with the world or a specific group. Journaling as community, as creative expression. I'm thinking of getting one started. Do I choose a group? A theme? Just send it out and see what happens? So many possibilities... as someone who's journaled since childhood, it's fascinating to me to think about the private act of journaling being so public. What changes with the knowledge of an audience, even if you remain anonymous? What would you want to say in a journal that will become a more permanent record than your private journal?

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12.

The past few weeks have been insanely busy work-wise, and don't promise to get any better until, oh, late July... and it's taken a real effort to maintain my writing practice in the face of this. I felt frustrated and angry on the days when I perceived I didn't have the time or energy to devote to my writing life. When I realized my outer circumstances weren't going to change any time soon, I decided I couldn't wait until life presented me with the long hours I felt I needed to really dive into the current book, to think about the story and characters, to revise, and revise again.

The reality is, long hours are nice, but not frequently available. All too often I rationalize that if I don't have X amount of time, it's not worth working. In reality, sometime little chunks of time are all we have. Sometimes we have to wrest those tiny chunks from the avalanche of the everyday. One reason it takes me so long to finish a book is that days go by with no attention paid to the work at all, and then it takes a massive amount of energy to get back into it. I'm so disconnected that I've lost the thread, and it takes that much longer to pick it up again.

I've learned that even on those days when it feels like I have no time or energy, a little effort is better than nothing. Even fifteen minutes spent before bed re-reading the last thing I've written will help me stay connected to the story, and keep it bubbling in my unconscious. Then when I sit down to work on it again, even if I think I don't have anything to write, I often get a "spark" because my brain has been working on it all along. 

Sometimes, it is good to take a break, step back, and then see what you've got. But that doesn't have to mean a total break from all work. It could mean re-reading, making notes or brainstorming for an upcoming scene, or if all else fails, reading a snippet from an inspiring book about writing or creativity. It could mean working on a different story (I've always got several in various stages of development).

Taking those little snippets of time also serves to remind me of my creative self - "oh yeah, I am a writer." It's surprising how easy that gets lost. That reminder serves to reinforce my intention to write. As I've written before, in order to be a writer you don't have to have published a book - but you do need to write. Not talk about writing, not read about writing, but write.     

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13. Good News!

Apparently, the world won't end in December of this year after all. Or if it does, the Mayans won't have predicted it. According to this article, archaeologists have found a Mayan calendar that dates beyond this year. So, big sigh of relief there, right? The article is fascinating... and gives me ideas for another story... but no, enough, I have too many books going on at once as it is. I need to be like one of those Renaissance master painters and have a studio of people who work on my books, and I just give the idea, get it started, and maybe do some of the tricky bits. That way I might get it all done in one lifetime. Or maybe I can have collaborators, like on a film. I need a "pre-production" researcher, and a "2nd Assistant Director/chapter writer", and a "Post-Production" copyeditor/query sender...

Actually, if I just had someone to do the work of researching agents and editors and sending the queries out, that would be great. Yeah, I know you can pay for that kind of service, but it's part of learning the business. Though it's not as much fun as the writing, it's a necessary piece. 

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14.

Has it been two weeks since the NESCBWI conference already? Hard to believe! The conference was definitely time well spent (and I don't say this about all conferences). The Novel Academy was wonderful with great, inspiring teachers and lots of practical advice and exercises - as well as great support from fellow participants. I met with agents and editors who had lots of interesting things to say, and gave me a lot to think about. I am, in fact, contemplating rewriting Bear-Talker from the female protagonist's point of view. Is it her story as written now? No, but it could be. She also has to go on a journey to new understanding and skills, and I'm excited by the prospect of exploring that... as well as daunted by the thought of essentially rewriting a 90,000 word book. I've had enough time away from it, however, to be able to see that maybe it's exactly what the story needs.

That is the most important thing to remember as an author: you are in service to the story. What does the story need? What is it trying to become? Writers sometimes speak of their projects as their "babies," and in a way it isn't far from the truth. Books are time-consuming, frustrating, demanding - and can also provide satisfaction and meaning and joy. They need an attentive, intuitive understanding of how to make them the best they can be, and the skill to nurture them and help them achieve that. If you send them out into the world, there's the anxiety of how they will do, and pride (or disappointment) at the result.

So, I may be looking at a massive rewrite of book #1, but at the moment I am focusing on book #2, which has a complete first draft but now needs revision of its own. I am in the process of re-reading it, and reading all the critiques I have accumulated over the years of writing it, and making lots of notes about what to do next. It's exciting, as I unearth the possibilities. At least I've got something to work with, and now it's all about deepening, fine-tuning, expanding, cutting... again, all in service of the story. And since it's projected as the first in a series or trilogy, I've got to start thinking of it in the context of the larger story as well... I feel like I need massive amounts of hours to just wallow in the story, in thinking, and note-taking, and ruminating, and writing, and re-writing... and of course, the reality is, I have to squeeze it in wherever I can. That will be the topic of my next post, I think.    

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15.

I'm off to the New England SCBWI conference this weekend, where I'll be focusing on two books in different stages, attending sessions on various writerly topics, and meeting with MFA program alums. I have so many meetings scheduled it will be a very full weekend, but hopefully an inspiring and productive one.

Someone forwarded me a link to Justin Larbalestier's excellent and too-funny post, "I'll Know I've Made It as a Writer When..." Sadly, all too true - although I'm only on about step four of the process. Don't think about the rest, only focus on the next step right in front of you...

Although honestly, I made the decision to "know" I was a writer when I started taking my writing seriously. Writing on a regular schedule, working on actual book-length manuscripts instead of "exercises" or projects that went nowhere, doing an MFA... and then, yes, finishing a manuscript, revising it, sending it out, revising again, etc. etc.  Because the problem of waiting until you hit a particular point (such as those on Justine Larbalestier's list) to consider yourself a "real writer" means that you spend a lot of time (years) not taking your writing seriously. You are a writer because you write. And I think that's her point. You have to take yourself seriously as a writer at whatever point you are, because the target is always moving. But if you never make a commitment, you never get to the next level, and it just becomes a hobby. You talk about it, but you're not a writer. You dabble in it, but you're not a writer. You're a writer when you believe you are one, and act accordingly.  

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16.

"Vermont Governor Chased by Four Bears in Backyard."

Exciting headline - but was he really in danger? Most bears will "chase" but not intend to catch - just teach a lesson. That said, don't try to take food away from bears while they are eating. Yes, he does need to get rid of the bird feeders or the bears will learn there's an easy snack there. No, the middle of the night, while the bears are feeding, is not the time to do it.

I've been knee-deep in novel critiques this past couple of weeks - finally got them off to the writers, so now I can look at their critiques of my work and see about digging back into my Egypt book. I'm looking forward to the NESCBWI conference next week. A dinner with Lesley alums, meeting with agents and editors and writers... it all sounds fun and inspiring.

And the Red Sox are blew away their home opener, winning 12-2 over the Rays. About time!

And, thanks to Patriot's Day, I get a long weekend. Hooray!

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17.

Juliet, one of the bears studied by the NABC, had to move her three cubs to a new den because of spring flooding. One of the NABC staff captured these great shots of the process (full story). Juliet is such a calm mother. When I was at the research center, she was perfectly fine with people walking on the porch between her and her cubs while they were napping - but if another bear tried to come up on the porch, forget it.


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18.

This is some of the best advice on being creative I've ever heard. I could watch this at the beginning of every writing day for encouragement and inspiration. And if you like this clip, watch the complete set of videos of "Ira Glass on Storytelling." Brilliant.





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19.

This article, "Can Bells and Whistles Save the E-Book?"  on Salon.com brings up some interesting points about the advantages and limitations of so-called "enhanced" e-books - the ones that come with video, sound effects. and other additions that supposedly enhance the reading experience. But as Laura Miller points out, when we read, we already create a world within our minds, and these supposed enhancements can actually take us away from that world.

My view is that, like anything else, this can be used well or badly. And these days, publishers are still figuring out how to do it right. I worry about kids whose imaginations are stunted by the fact that 3-D experiences are now provided for them at every opportunity - popular books are made into movies, e-books are enhanced with all sorts of sensory input, animations, video, sound, linked online content... are we simply meeting kids where they are today, or creating a situation that is an increasingly passive experience for the reader? Reading is a participatory experience, at its best. You have to use your imagination to help make the world vivid in your mind, and the best stories and characters make us think about them, and what might happen, for a long time after finishing the book.

I am not against e-books, or e-readers; as a frequent traveler, I've found them a godsend, although I tend to read "real" books at home. And although I say "real" tongue in cheek, what matters - and what I don't think is going away - is story, and the human hunger for it. However the stories are presented, people will always enjoy a good story, well told.

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20. New cubs!

This year the NABC has a den cam in Jewel's den, and they are regularly updating their youtube channel with videos. You can watch them here. Jewel is the daughter of June (the bear in the photo on this blog) and she's had her first litter of 2 cubs a week or so ago. They are tiny but very loud and very active! You can view the live den cam here. They won't know whether they are male or female for a while yet - their eyes aren't even open. Lily and Faith, and Honey and Lucky, also have den cams, so check them out to see a mom with a yearling, or two adults of different genders and ages, denning together.

 

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21. The Secret Revealed...

Although I no longer have my creativity blog, I'm still interested in creativity in general - how to encourage it, maintain it - all aspects, really. So I was intrigued to read this article on how, basically, altering your mind state from alert concentration can actually fuel creative thought. The article talks specifically about being drunk or sleepy. I've never tried to write drunk (though the history of literature is full of great writers who were also heavy drinkers) - the problem being, I might have a burst of creativity, then get really sleepy, then... sleep. Alcohol in general just makes me sleepy, with very little creative jolt in between. And obviously, as a creative pump-primer, it's a little hard on the liver.

Writing sleepy, however, is a lot easier for most of us to accomplish. I get up early to write, and since me and mornings don't generally mix, I write sleepy. If I write at all, that is. It's frankly a lot easier to get enthusiastic about drinking a glass of wine than it is to get up on a cold winter morning (or any morning) and stumble to the computer to create brilliant prose. No, I'd much rather curl up in my nice warm bed and sleep... or maybe think about my story. Or any other story. But this research may spur me on to actually get up and get going. I can see the truth in it; and writing - especially first drafts - while you're in a state where your internal editor is still half-asleep, can open up new avenues to those surprises that are essential to good storytelling. It's possible to be too over-controlled, and first drafts should be messy.

I have to continually tell myself this since I tend to want to control everything, to know what's coming and how to do it. I have to remind myself to let the story grow organically, that if I'm not surprised, the reader won't be either. Part of the fun of writing is letting the unconscious pop up surprises - images, phrases, characters, plot points - and then figuring out how to use them.    

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22. Congratulations!

To Jack Gantos, who won the Newbery Medal last month... yes, I'm a bit behind. But this article in the Boston Globe reminded me. He's been a visitor to the MFA residency, and I've been impressed by his sense of humor and down-to earth quality, as well as his writing. I love how his books combine humor and deep character - no matter how absurd the circumstance, the characters feel real.

I also like what he says at the end of the article:
Aspiring writers approach him all the time, Gantos says, and it’s often obvious why they are not working writers.
“People dither away so much time,’’ he says.

A good reminder that in the end, if you want to be a writer, you have to write.

Speaking of which, I've signed up for a novel-critiquing workshop at the New England SCBWI conference, which means I have to finish my latest novel by March 9. No pressure! But honestly, that's one reason I signed up. I've been "dithering" for a while on this - to rearrange this or that plot element, add or delete this or that character... I just need to finish a draft, and then go back in and muck around. With luck, I'll get astute readers who might inspire that "aha" moment where everything will fall into place. 
 

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23. Don't Worry, Mom, It's Nothing Personal

In Ploughshares online literary magazine, Rachel Kadish (MFA faculty at Lesley University) wrote an article about the lack of Moms in children's literature and movies. This isn't the first time I've heard this complaint, argument, observation - call it what you will. It's usually, of course, moms who notice it as they are reading to their kids or watching movies with them - hey, why is mom always dead? It makes them uneasy, and no wonder.

But the fact is, this point has been debated for a long time time in the children's writing community, although every mom discovers this for the first time and so therefore brings it up again - I hear it not just from writer-moms but also non-writers. At least the writers get the storytelling reasons why mom has to disappear. As Rachel Kadish puts it, mom is the adventure-killer. She's the one who is going to keep you safe, and make sure you don't get into trouble over your head.

But therein lies the problem, at least where children's literature is concerned. Reams of paper have been devoted to studies on children's psychology and literature, and the psychological bases of fairy tales. It's not just conflict, that essence of storytelling, that drives the matricide. It's the psychological necessity of metaphorically "killing mom" in order for a child to individuate. Fairy tales and other children's stories allow kids to vicariously try out independence. Sure, they might not literally slay the dragon - but kids have plenty of metaphorical dragons to slay on their way to adulthood, and these stories work on a psychological level to let them know that's it's okay - if someone as lost/clueless/unfortunate as the main character can survive and thrive, so can they. Children's writers are not, on the whole, a bloodthirsty lot with mommy issues.

When I write, not only the mother but the father are conveniently gone. Oh, sure, they may turn up in the very beginning, but from there, the protagonist is on his or her own. And that's the way it is in most children's and young adult literature. Unless the parents are part of the conflict in some way, they have to disappear. They cannot be ever-present, like today's so-called helicopter parents, ready to swoop in and save the day with money, interventions with problematic authority figures or enemies, etc.

But could they be more present? Maybe there is a place for supportive but independence-promoting parents. The ones who can say, I love you, but you have to do this on your own. The problem is, from a storytelling standpoint, it lowers the stakes. In order for a reader to be involved in the story, the stakes have to be raised at every turn. And if you have parents who step in - or are able to step in - when the going gets really tough, then you kill the stakes, or at least make the story unbelievable. Parents don't have to be dead, but they do have to be unavailable, ineffective or threatening in some way. That's the law of storytelling when you write for kids. Break it at your own risk. And if it does, psychologically, teach kids some important lessons about life -  your parents won't always be there to help, but you'll be okay - then why would you want to?

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24.

There's been a firestorm of articles ever since J.K. Rowling announced that her next book would be for adults. Will it be any good? Can it be any good, given that she writes for children? Um, are we forgetting the fact that a good many adults waited as breathlessly for her "children's" books as any kid? At least this article from Open Salon mentions the primacy of good storytelling, but the one thing that strikes me is that this kind of controversy only erupts when a "children's writer" tries to cross over to the "adult" market. When the opposite happens, no one seems to express doubts that the writer will be able to make the transition successfully. And yet, how many of the adult writers become well-known, well-read children's writers? Name one. I think of Sherman Alexie and his hilarious and heartbreaking Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian, which won the National Book Award and I believe was a bestseller and well-loved by readers. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone else - but I'll be the first to admit that my head has been a whirlwind lately owing to family stuff, work, and the attempt to finish my novel in time for the NESCBWI conference.

But my point is that people might wonder why a "real" writer would want to write for children (who apparently aren't "real" people) but they don't doubt that they can. Whereas anyone who's been a successful children's writer (and you can't get more successful than Rowling) is automatically suspect for even thinking of such a thing. Now there are examples of people who have failed at this crossover as well: Stephanie Meyer, for one. R.L. Stine, as the article mentions. I would argue these writers aren't very good writers in the first place. But that doesn't mean anything - there are plenty of "adult" writers who are very popular, and not very good. I won't even begin to list them. No, it's all about lingering prejudice over children's literature, and the people who make it. At least there is some grudging acceptance that there may be some skill involved, but we still have a long way to go.

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25.

This is sort of how I felt about sending my novel draft to the NESCBWI Novel Academy:






This is actually from the NABC website... one of Jewel's cubs. This may rank as the cutest bear cub photo ever.

On a side note, I may have been working too hard on my novel set in ancient Egypt. Written Egyptian rarely uses vowels, and as I'm typing I find myself leaving out vowels more and more. Unfortunately, fun gimmick though it may seem, I dn't thnk I cld gt awy wth a nvl wrtten wtht almst no vwls. On the other hand, modern texting does the same thing, doesn't it? We've now "evolved" to write the way Egyptians did 5,000 years ago.

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