JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans. Join now (it's free).
Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.
Blog Posts by Tag
In the past 30 days
Blog Posts by Date
Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
I'm a writer & artist. I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband Jim (also an artist) and two old doggies. My first novel, Blackbringer, is coming out from Penguin/Putnam in June, and I'm currently writing the sequel, Silksinger. My first licensed product line, Laini's Ladies, launched nationwide in 05.
Statistics for Grow Wings
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 15
New year, new decade, new thoughts and plans, it seemed a new blog was in order. Please come visit me in my new home, where things are bigger and brighter, still in the works, and with room to grow. I'm loving it there!
Well, hello there. If you are seeing this, thank you for stopping by after my mysterious disappearance! I meant to post that I would be traveling in December, but the post never got written, and I can count the minutes I've been near a computer in the past month on one hand! But I am back! Back from, to be specific, Morocco and Italy.
Hey guys, have you ever seen this painting? It's by Jim, and it is an alternate Lips Touch cover he did during the whole cover conception process. I love it. It is actually hanging in my writing room! It is also now up for auction -- as a 13x20 print on canvas (mounted on stretcher bars; it looks like an original painting on canvas; FYI there *is* no "original" of this because it was finished digitally, so it exists in its purest form in the ether.) -- to benefit Bridget Zinn, our lovely Portland writing friend who has been valiantly battling stage IV colon cancer for nearly two years -- that's nearly two years of constant chemo, and now a new treatment for which she is traveling to Arizona a week of every month. There are a lot of totally awesome items up for auction, including this painting, which includes a signed copy of Lips Touch.
Browse, bid, and help Bridget and Barrett out with their medical costs.
Thank you! And really, this Thanksgiving, give deepest and most heartfelt thanks for your health. Because, boy o boy. Not everyone is so lucky.
This is not new, and I may be the last person to hear about it, but my mom just emailed me the story which I find verrry interesting. See here:
In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.
At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.
This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..
How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
Enjoy life NOW .. it has an expiration date
* * * * * *
I Snope's it and it's true (story here), and it makes me think a couple of things:
1) Classical musical literacy in this country is all but nil (myself included). We don't know great from good when we hear it. Heck, I scarcely know great from bad! This is sad. I wish I'd had an education in classical music. I know it's not too late, of course. It's all priorities. But ... our priorities, our educational system ... so much is lost. As a culture, we put our time into the most medio
Oh such a shameful shocking lapse in blogging. I just can't get my blogging act together. Some things that are going on:
--Clementine under the weather. A little cold plus a little teething = a little misery :-(
-- Starting a new book. Wooo hooooo! So exciting! So scary, inspiring, and wonderful! Have come up with some ideas that totally set my brain on fire. I am currently in love with the opening scene.
-- Laini's Ladies emergency. That is, I find myself with a sudden deadline and new designs to produce in the midst of much else going on.
-- Assorted "much else" in the way of life stuff -- good stuff, but busy-making.
-- Impending copy-edits. Eeek! Will be receiving tomorrow!
-- Revisiting the title of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which just isn't quite right. Wracking my brain for a kick-a** title.
--Preparing to go on a trip! Yay!!!!!! Guys, we're finally going to Morocco!!!!!!! Yippeeeeee! I have been in a daydream-land of kasbahs and camels, zellij tiles and carpet souks, tajines and caftans, mountain, desert, beach, city. Seriously: the Atlantic, the Sahara, the Atlas Mountains, and Marrakesh. Oooooooh, names out of fairy tales. I am SO EXCITED I CAN'T SEE STRAIGHT. I want to see the goats in the argan trees. Date oases on the fringe of the Sahara, with mud-brick castles baking in the winter sun. Leather slippers in every color, all lined up, gorgeous as candies. Mountains of oranges in the Jemaa el-Fna.
How cool of a UNESCO designation is this: "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". I think that that designation was created specifically for the Jemaa el-Fna, which the heart of Marrakesh, this big madhouse of a square filled with acrobats and henna artists, snake charmers, musicians, street dentists (ouchy!), storytellers, and more more more. And food, of course. Here it is at night:
And here is one of the most famous kasbahs, Ait benhaddou. It may be familiar to you from being in many movies, including Gladiator:
And oh the luxury, the luxury. Part of the awesomeness of traveling in Morocco is that even the hotels are destinations, and I don't mean just the expensive ones. Here are some pictures of the "modest" riad where we will be staying:
(Look at this ceiling!!! And the tilework! Oh my oh my. Camera, I think you are going to get some use :-)
So I'm totally in love with this Dutch artist, Jane something (her last name is not anywhere! I have come across it, but can't find it now. Starts with an 'S'. Schouten? Anyway, find her HERE). Is she even Dutch? I don't know. Maybe she just lives in the Netherlands. You see, I know nothing. But check out this colorful wonderfulness:
(Love this pillow. And there's a how-to for these vases here.)
Wonderful: modern chairs and stools reupholstered in vintage blankets that she has embroidered and appliqued. WANT.
I've been feeling decoratey lately. Dreamy-decoratey. Dreaming of a new house, which may or may not happen in the near future. We'll see. But you start thinking about it, you start dreaming of decorating. So it goes. And so I have this little folder on my desktop for inspiration, and this is what's in it. Just ... pretty. A random selection. Most of these come via the fabulous decor8: Such cute craftiness! I love this Anthropologie display, the way they have the random drawers on the bookcase for organization? How cute is that? Love Anthropologie. Love love love. This, apparently, is done by cutting designs out of big floral wallpaper and decoupaging onto a cabinet. Cute! I think that I would love to have a space filled with giant colorful poufs. I think kids would love it too.
8 Comments on Just because ... it's pretty, last added: 11/8/2010
So, you know how awesome it is to write a book? To finish a book? If you don't yet know this, I can tell you: it is the awesomest. I just want to keep reading it over and over and gloating. I wrote another book. Yay, me!!!
But. There's a downside. The downside of finishing a book is that you have to -- ulp! -- start writing another book. Just like that. Out of thin air! Don't get me wrong: this is its own awesome, but the beginning, the huge blankness, it's ... well, you probably know. It's the most magical and terrifying of things. The perfect gleam of possibility, like a newly snowed field as yet unmarked by tracks. Daunting!
I've written four novels now. FOUR! (If you don't count the god-awful misbegotten thing I clawed out of my brain one fateful NaNo several years ago and have been trying ever since to forget). And it some ways, it DOES get easier each time. In the sense that you know you can do it. And this last book, it was a revelation and education to me in efficiency. The first book I've written as a mom. Written in time available. Okay, I'm lucky there -- I have work hours; I have 4-5 hours a day to just write. Once upon a time, that seemed like nothing. Now, I know it is enough. If I use it to write, that is, and not blog. (Ahem.)
So, here I go, starting another book. I've got a brand new Scrivener project doc going, complete with a "Working Doc" in which I have begun to spill my brainstorming thoughts and plans for this book. I had thought I would give myself some time -- weeks, even -- to just do that: What if this? What if that? Just brainstorm, write about the book, because it's easier than actually diving in and writing scenes, and it's a good way to ease in. But after a few hours of brainstorming, and with a solid idea of how I want to start the book, I'm thinking I ought to just ... start the book.
Planning is great. Brainstorming is great. I love it because it is this huge world to wander in. I can think up anything, and it is a zero-stress environment. It is an environment I return to again and again and again throughout the writing of a book. What now? and once again, What now?
But ... it's in the writing that the magic happens. That's the time of pure creation. It's kind of like the Miller-Urey experiment in which you create the conditions for life and then zap it with simulated lightning and see what happens. The joy and excitement and terror are here, in the primal soup of story. If I have an idea of how to begin, I should just do it right? The only reason not to is: FEAR.
Stupid fear. Fear is not a good enough reason!
As far as just diving in and starting to write, I have found that it helps to think of this phase as the creation of raw material, and not as "the book." In the last book, I did this a fair amount, early on, and I found that later -- even much later -- in the writing, I was able to plunder that raw material and use it. It was not for nothing! The thing is, writing about the story (which I totally condone, in its place), you are on the outside looking in. Writing the story, you are in it. And only when you are in it, do "things happen" -- mystical unexpected things, like flashes of lightning animating chemicals to produce amino acids out of slush. Get into a scene and go, make the characters talk to each other and do things. It might be something you can use, it might not. If it's not, just keep going: create more raw material, until you "find" it.
Remember: you're writing to find the story just as much as you are writing to tell the story.
I'm pep-talking myself right now to begin doing just this. There's this part of me that still thinks that writing a book is something you have to build up to, a monumental task you have to gird yourself for. But really, you can just do it. Start it. It's like dieting: you tell yourself you're starting next we
So, it turns out that Clementine is a fan of Halloween. Shocker! Man, we had so much fun yesterday! It's been a long time since I trick-or-treated, obviously, and I think it isn't what it used to be. So many houses did not participate! It seems like when I was a kid, every single house had a pumpkin on the porch and was open for business. Not so these days, but still, we had a wonderful time, and Clementine caught on quick! Here she is at her very first porch, getting her first treat ever, and from Ginny Weasely no less! Yes, she was Superman. We figure next year the years of fairy princesses will begin, so why not? Plus which, we needed a simple costume involving no head pieces to be yanked off. She was not the only Superman in town. Yesterday morning, Portland Children's Museum was the safest place in the Universe: Clementine has not had a lot of chocolate in her life, but the few times she has tasted it, her little hands started frantically making the sign language for "MORE! MORE!" She is a fan. Yesterday, while trick-or-treating, she had a wrapped Kit Kat in her hands, and we didn't notice she had gnawed through the wrapper and was happily devouring herself some Kit Kat! And maybe a little wrapper too. When I tried to take it away to roll the wrapper down so she could actually have it, her one Halloween treat (no, not a whole Kit Kat!), she made feral animal sounds and bit my hand off at the wrist. Hee hee. Here, Kit Kat evidence in hand: Sigh. So fun :-)
8 Comments on Halloween isn't so bad ..., last added: 11/3/2010
Guess what. THE BOOK IS FINISHED! Final draft sent off at midnight! Yippeeeee! During my final read-through/futz, I did a random word-count and discovered that at that moment, the manuscript was exactly 100,000 words, which is kind of like looking at the clock exactly at 2:22 or something. It seems kind of cool, but is totally random and meaningless. So after that I kept checking, for no reason, as the book swung just below and just above the 100K mark, with the final coming in at 100,021. There's a perverse part of me that wants to cut 21 words in copyediting, ha ha!
But the important point is: it is finished!!! I am so so happy! It has been delightful working with Alvina Ling and her assistant Bethany, and that work is not over, of course, there are many phases yet ahead, but the meat of the edit is now ... hm, you start a meat metaphor, and then what? Do you just go with it? The meat of the edit is now chewed. Lovely. I should be a writer, snork snork.
So you know what I did to celebrate? I cleaned the kitchen! Am I wild or what? I cannot be controlled! Don't even try! Ha ha. But seriously. There are things that don't get high priority during deadline times, and I do so love a clean house. *happy sigh*
Obviously the blog is something else that has not gotten high priority! It's been a while since I posted any pictures of the Clementine, so here are some recents: She's walking like a maniac now, not running yet, not fast, but I am sure that is only a matter of days. Climbs everything. Fascinated by dirt -- future gardener? Knows all her body parts and can say most of the words for them, the cutest being "elbow" which sounds kind of like "bolbow!" and is said with more glee than any elbow really merits :-) She helps us put groceries away and make the bed, handing us each item one by one, very serious about the whole procedure. Loves music like crazy. First thing in the morning, she toddles herself over the Jim's computer to wait for itunes to come up and someone to dance with her. That's the Clementine update, at 14.5 months of awesomeness.
One thing you need for revisions: a screwdriver. Not a real screwdriver. A language screwdriver. I read through the manuscript today on the lookout for unnecessary words. Maybe singletons, maybe whole paragraphs. One chapter, which incidentally was the first scene written and is now Chapter 13 (The Graverobber, in case the numbers change), went from 3500 words (it was the longest chapter in the book) to 2900. There was just stuff that had been in it for so long, I was used to looking at it. I'd forgotten to wonder whether every word was singing for its supper. Turns out: nope. Ciao. Tighten tighten.
A lot of it is just super-simple stuff like this:
before: The long mustache that had once been his pride hung lank and tangled.
after: The mustache that had been his pride hung lank and tangled.
before: The elevator door closed, and she was alone with herself and her reflection
after: The elevator door closed, and she was alone with her reflection
before: She sensed from the tenor of Z’s voice that
after: She sensed from Z’s agitation that
(Here's a doozy. Youch. To think this clunker might have snuck into the book.) before: A look of dismay edging on horror slowly spread over his face as understanding dawned.
after: Dismay spread over his face as understanding dawned.
Those cuts add up! You can slice hundreds of words like this and never even miss them. This is an easy, restful part of revisions. That whole "writing new scenes" malarkey is so much harder, and I'm not *quite* done with that bit yet. I have one lingering section that needs some new material written to seam some stuff together. It makes my brain feel tired just thinking about it. Can't I just fiddle with my screwdriver instead? Well. I'm almost there. So close! Another day or two of this, and it's off into the ether again!
* * * By the way, cool news: I am going to be a guest of honor at the 2011 Sirens Conference in Vail, Colorado! I'm so excited about this! It's a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature, and it just happened last weekend -- wish I could have been there! The theme this year was "fairies" about which I have a thing or two to say :-) Next year, oh, this is so cool. Next year the theme is MONSTERS. Mwahahahahahahaha! In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, as in, I think, all my books, the idea of what really makes a monster is central theme. It's a whole year off, but I'm psyched. Also psyched about the other two guests of honor: Justine Larbalestier and Nnedi Okorafor, who are both AWESOME!
I'm curious :-) Do you have a favorite Lips Touch story? There's a little discussion going over at Readergirlz, if you would like to input your input.
I *might* say in comments which one *might* be my favorite.
I also *might* hint that I want to write more Druj stories. I was kind of stoked to have a google alert pop up a few hours after this hint that alerted me that, ahem, there are people in the world (or at least a person) excited by that prospect! Which is totally exciting to ME. Thank you Fantasy Cafe! To be clear, there is not an immediate Druj sighting on the horizon -- the horizon is all about Daughter of Smoke and Bone and sequel right now, but Druj are out there, all creepy with their pale eyes, waiting. My head has plans.
Please come over to Readergirlz and weigh in! Thank you!
Yeah, look at me, all vanishing again for a week, popping up with no coherent thoughts. Just: "Oog. Brain fuzzy." My brain is fuzzy. You know how the inside of your mouth feels kind of ... furry ... after eating cooked spinach? My head is like that. On the bright side, my head is now host to newly pink hair. Oh, my roots were so atrocious! Last hair appointment, we got all sidetracked and forgot to make my next appointment, and then by the time I realized it, my stylist was all booked! It was dire, seriously dire. So that I was wearing hats, and they were squeezing my brain and I was torn whether to take them off in public or not. Brain squeeze, roots, brain squeeze, roots.
I eventually chose in favor of brain comfort, and exposed my roots to the world. Or the world at the cafe where I was writing, anyway. As far as I know, everyone survived.
My lovely hair stylist pinked me at her house this evening, while Jim and Clementine hung out inside with her husband -- who was our first friend in Portland -- and kids. I am no longer a disgrace to the color pink, thank god!
You see what matters of incredible importance I blog about? Here's another one: I keep finding random things in my shirt. Shoved there by furtive baby fists. I think I catch, like, 85% of them going in, but there's that 15% or so that happen while I'm distracted and then fall out later. Like, a game piece, or a whole block. Things have fallen unceremoniously out of my bra that I would have sworn to you could never have gone unnoticed. And yet.
There's a whole food component too, but those tend to be in the 85%, especially the really awesome stuff, like sliced peaches. I might occasionally come across a cheerio though.
Brain had just notified me that it has exactly three coherent sentences left in it. That was one. There went another. Dog had to drive uphill but that's okay I like root beer don't you? Warm cheerios and then I waffle iron halleluja shut up. I've come to the end and kept talking you see what happens? So just. Stop. Talking. Blueberry.
I'm kinda ready to be done now! See, sometimes revisions are all cozy futz-futz, tinker-tinker, and other times, the need to write a new scene falls out of the sky, and my brain does not want to write a new scene. My brain is nonplussed. It's like, "I thought all that writing malarkey was over. I thought we were revising here." Yeah. Dirty secret: revising involves writing. It's like when you just mopped and somebody runs over your floor with muddy feet. You clap your hands to your cheeks and scream, "NOOOOOOOO!"
At least, that's my reaction to muddy feet.
Who am I kidding? I rarely mop. And the scene-writing is fine. It's just that as one nears the end, one gets so ready to be DONE. But it is hugely satisfying to take the almost-book and polish it to a high gloss. Just, sometimes, a deep breath must be taken. A whole new scene. So you go write a blog post instead. At least, that is what I do. Ha ha.
Really think about the term "revision." Re-vision. This is your chance to see if you've got everything running at full awesome. Don't be afraid to make drastic changes. I am not making drastic changes. Not now, but over the course of writing this book, there was much drastickness. Drasticity.
On a happier note, a couple of things. First, Lips Touch is an honor book for the Oregon Spirit Book Award! This is awesome; it's an award given by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, and I love English teachers!
Secondly, Lips Touch is up as the October title for Readergirlz! Thank you, Readergirlz! This is so cool. Check it out. There are guidelines for a book party, if you are inclined, including discussion questions, a play list, and recommendations for what kind of food to make, invitations, and even what movies to watch. This was SO FUN. The live chat will be October 20, if you want to put together a little gathering for that night. I'll be blogging more about it, of course. But go check it out :)
Thanks to Steph for this awesome link in her comment to my last post. It was inspired by a combination of Morocco color + me having mentioned that I was revising to the music of Jonsi -- check out THIS: Oh wow. This is SO my cup of tea! It is GLORIOUS. This project--the Let's Colour Project--paints neighborhoods around the world in vibrant color.
After having seen the island of Burano, the lace-making island in the Venetian lagoon, and how it was COLOR that really made that place come alive (that, you know, plus being in the Venetian lagoon!). But check it out. The architecture itself is very plain. Imagine if these buildings were white or tan or grey, like so many houses in the US: See what I mean?
So I've always thought it would be a great idea to pep up neighborhoods with rainbows of paint, and lo and behold, some mad geniuses have actually started to DO it. You can even get involved, which I assume would mean helping paint. And HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE???
Oh yes. My, my yes. Thank you to the brilliant Levni Yilmaz for summing it all up, and to Patrick Rothfuss for posting it, and Stephanie Perkins for sending me the link. That is a lovely chain of brilliant: Levni Yilmaz, and two of my favorite writers, Patrick Rothfuss and Stephanie Perkins ;-)
By the way, Pat had a FABULOUS post on revision lately, in which he tries to explain, at the request of a non-writer, just what exactly it is we writers DO when we are "revising." So good. So so good. As much of a pain as revising can be, I am YEARNING to be there. There is little that I can think of (in the realm of work, that is) as pleasurable as sitting down with a big fat freshly printed manuscript, a new pack of post-its, and a good pen. Oh, the love, the love. And I am nearly there. Salty tears of joy, my friends, are soon to be streaming down my face. But now, I am still something like the above video.
Yesterday was not the most productive of days. It was more of a getting lost in my own storytelling day, trying to get some things to come together just right and feel like they happened that way inevitably, elegantly, like nothing else could possibly have happened but that. (That is the trick, because, you know, at any moment in writing a story, literally anything could happen, and choosing the thing that does happen and making it seem REAL, that is a big part of this gig. So. I am still working this particular thing out. I'm getting it. Yesterday it felt kind of like I had just dropped a handful of pickup sticks and was staring at them in dismay, knowing I needed to get down on my knees and start gathering them up again, but, you know, not wanting to. You just have to do it.)
Anyway. What should I NOT be doing? a) watching videos. b) blogging videos.
(Thanks a lot, Steph. No really: thanks. That was awesome. Steph, by the way, is blogging every day right now, which is not easy. Go cheer her on!)
Wow. I think I've forgotten how to blog. And I miss it! I've been trying to write a catch-up post for the past week. There are several saved versions in my blogger archive that I poked away at but that never coalesced -- in my deadline addled brain -- into any kind of sense. So. No guarantees here, either.
The monumentalness (monumentality, if you want to be strict about it) of having finished the book has given way to a feeling of weightlessness. Floating. The book is not in my head any more. It is not even just in my computer any more. It is on paper, fatly bound at Kinko's into proto-bookness, and it has also zipped through the ether to various large cities -- New York, London, Los Angeles. Weaverville, North Carolina, ha ha. It exists in the world in its unpolished state. Up next: polishing. Which is a job that I relish. I have a polisher's heart. I love to tinker. Bring on the tinkering! And if there are changes and fixes too big to be called tinkering, that's okay too. I love all of revision. (But ask me about it in late October and we'll see how I feel then.)
(To Katie, who enquired if this was yet another book after Daughter of Smoke and Bone: no. This was that book. Next up = the sequel! Actually, next up, today, is polishing a script to an illustrated project for younger readers that Jim and I have in the works. I wrote it last fall with a sleeping newborn in my lap and it has had a fairly interesting life so far, taken a number of journeys, lived temporarily in a number of houses, and now it is home like a college kid with a duffel bag full of laundry, soon to be sent on its way again :-)
So. Today I am auditioning a new writing cafe. Because of this tragedy: Boo hoo hoo! My cafe closed. Three days after I finished the book! Isn't that eerie? I have this crazy idea that it is a drifting cafe of the mind (like the Treehouse of the Mind in Horns) that is there when you most need it. Right now, it is opening its doors in some little corner of Cincinnati or Boise or Sassafras (come on, there is probably a town in the US called Sassafras) where someone is in need of a quiet place to write.
To that person, I say: Give it back. It's mine.
Boo hoo hoo!
This new cafe is bigger and shinier, and not too busy or noisy, but a) the service wasn't friendly, and b) it's a 17-minute walk from my house, versus three. Which will be exceedingly unpleasant in the coming rains. I actually liked my three-minute umbrella walks to my old cafe, but I think the fun would wear off somewhere around minute five or six. I could (and probably will) get a bike, but then there's the whole glasses-in-the-rain thing. I never wear my contacts for staring at words. Ouchy.
There is another cafe closer to home, maybe ten minutes walk, but it is really busy and noisy and also so full of delicious baked goodness that I would ... increase ... if I went there every day. It's possible that I would prove powerless against coffee cake. Like, yesterday: I woke up from an afternoon nap filled with the pure conviction that if I didn't have cake immediately, I would die. Luckily, there was cake at hand, and so I live on.
Oh sigh. I may have to revert to my writing room for winter, and just barricade the door against cuteness and plug in my earbuds and pretend I'm in a cafe. It'll be cheaper. Plus, my writing room is awesome! I miss it! I
Writers need different things from different people. They need feedback, help, snack-making, coffee-pouring, advice, editing, encouragement, encouragement, encouragement, enthusiasm, encouragement, and encouragement.
Writers need cheerleaders. Before feedback. Before editing. Before almost anything else but snack-making, we need to be convinced and reminded that we are GOOD. Feedback of the critical sort, however constructive and wise, can be deadly if it comes too soon. Possibly the most important person in our community, is our cheerleader. Do you have one? Several? Have at least one.
And no. You can not be your own cheerleader. At least, not your only one.
Here is how it goes:
In the beginning of working on a novel, everything shimmers with your genius. The newness, the never-beforeness, the unmitigated awesome, it cannot be repressed. You do not need a cheerleader yet. Just work. Enjoy this time, because it will not last.
It gets harder. You keep working. It is not as delightful to draw up your chair each day and get started. You think wistfully of the wonderful, uncomplicated dishes that need to be washed. And did you once think that character was so unique? Whatever made you think that? Delusional.
Wow. This theme is so tired. Will anyone care? I barely care anymore. And this scene seemed so cool the first twelve times I rewrote it. Have I killed it? Or is it just in a coma? Or am I in a coma? Huh. What is a coma? I think I'll google it and learn all about comas today . . .
There comes a time when you cannot summon even the phantom of the enthusiasm you once had for your great idea. You have to trust that you had it, and that is was genuine and deserved. I actually recommend making a list, while you are still in the throes of passionate love with your incipient book, of all the things you love about your idea. Be detailed. Later you can look at it and trust that you knew what you were talking about. This helps a little, but there is nothing that I have discovered that can rejuvenate your enthusiasm like wild and heartfelt PRAISE.
I think every writer I know has this wish at some point: that they could temporarily wipe their brain clean of their book and read it fresh, like a reader. We can't, of course, be we can experience that vicariously through our first readers, or as I have heard them called lately, "beta readers." It might work for you to wait until you have a finished draft. I usually need propping up well before then, and will give over chunks of partial book. I am blessed with a few wonderfully gifted praise-givers, without whom I am certain I would never finish anything. My wonderful husband Jim gives great praise, as does my best friend Alexandra, who gives only praise, and no criticism -- and she is not withholding anything, she is just an enthusiastic reader with a very generous heart and open mind, and she has revived my flagging spirits and brain so many times, like injections of writing adrenalin right to my heart, Pulp Fiction style. Stephanie Perkins is also an amazing reader, both for praise-giving and, later, for feedback. Thanks, guys!
If you don't have a cheerleader, get one. You cannot trust yourself to see your book clearly when you have been deep inside it for a long time. You are not to be trusted.
Do you have a cheerleader? And how about this: are YOU somebody's cheerleader? When a friend gives you something to read, consider carefully what they need at that moment. It might be that they need critical feedback, but maybe they aren't ready for it yet. They might know themselves well enough to tell you exactly what they need, and they might not. Do not ever be the one to kill someone's book by giving them critical feedback too soon. Bite your tongue. Nurture. Cheer. Drop off snacks. Rave. And be specific. Writers love to know which parts y
Each morning when I'm leaving for the cafe to work (I'm currently alternating between two), I do a quick rundown of the stuff I need. Laptop, check. Manuscript (currently using hard copy for revisions, and that sucker is heavy to carry), check. Notebook, check. Phone, wallet, keys, umbrella, power cord. I think that's it. I frequently forget one of these things. Usually it's the wallet or the power cord, which was not a big deal when the cafe was so close to my house -- plus they knew me and would let me pay for my coffee the next day. Now I have to be more organized. I almost left without my wallet this morning, but remembered at the door (it was on the floor where *somebody* had been playing with it, picking at its felt flower), and felt all smug. Ha.
So what's missing, now that I'm here? A tiny thing. Two tiny things: the little rubber covers of my ear buds! *Somebody* has newly started to pick them off while pursuing her favorite hobby of emptying my purse out item by item, so I had to put them out of her reach so she didn't, you know, eat them. And they remain out of reach. Joke's on me.
What I've learned from this is that you can still wear ear buds without the covers, but they don't block out ambient noise anymore. And that's kind of the whole point. So drat and blast.
Anyway. This next part here is probably obnoxious, but I can't help myself. In response to my last post (which was not, I swear, a desperate plea for praise!), young reader Katherine sent me a wonderful email, and I am not going to get in the habit of preening over praise emails here, but I can't help it this time. Here it is: Hi Laini!!! I was reading your blog and heard you needed encouragement!!! (Prepare yourself, for I shall be ranting about how much I love your characters..)
I'm 14. I read a LLOOOOOTT of books, on average, 2 books a week. And I can say with complete certainty that your books are my favorite and you are MOST DEFINITELY my favorite author. None of the others even come CLOSE. I LOOOOOVE YOUR CHARACTERS!!!!! Specially Magpie :D and I was actually telling my friend the other day how cute Hirik and Whisper were as a couple!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D (*fangirl squeal*) And it's not just your characters I love. The way you write it??? So much beautiful detail, the perfect combination of adventure, love, magic, sadness/heartbreak, anger, fantasy, everything!!! I love it all and you balance it all perfectly. And also, your ideas are so original. SHEER GENIUS. The tapestry, the Djinns, and the one I thought was the coolest? Silksingers. I never would ever have thought of that and I don't know anyone who could. Spinning magic carpets with their voices!!! I'm a singer, so I probably got more excited about it than most would, but STILL....wow. Just wow.
On a completely unrelated note, you're so funny as a person :D not funny as in, laughing at you but as in your jokes are HILARIOUS :D And I remember reading one of your old short stories about a ghost girl who put beetles in matchboxes with jewels and pretended they were robbing banks...... that made me laugh so hard and I loved it so much!!!
Anyways, I just wanted to say you are my idol and don't feel down. And just know that your characters are pure genius and you should never think otherwise.
Oh man, thanks Kat. That email made my entire head smile. You should have seen it. My big smiling head :-) Thank you. I love getting emails from readers. In the three years since my first book was published, the amazement has not diminished one bit that there are people out there with my books in their hands and what's more they like them. This is the coolest thing ever, and every day I am grateful I went for it, this dream, that has made my life so rich and fun.
Also, I love Kat's note because it affirms for me that my books do what I hope they do (for some readers, at least), and that they are the kind of books I w
Have you heard about the horrifyingly stupid op-ed piece by a university professor attempting to set in motion a ban Laurie Halse Anderson's book Speak? Lots of bloggers have been writing about this, and since I need to be revising right now, I will refer you to Stephanie's post about it. I hope you will check it out. Book banning is always a horror, and in this case, it is just so . . . so . . . evil, so evil-stupid, and such a perfect encapsulation of the horrors of censorship. I mean, the book is about finding one's voice to speak up about rape, and this idiot masquerading as an educator (shudder shudder) is trying to silence it and keep it out of the hands of the very victims who might find it and be helped by it. AUGGGHHHHH!!!
Shannon Hale also blogged about it here, which is where I first heard about it. There's an excerpt in her post from a reader about a library copy of Speak and its poignant last page that really testifies to the importance of this book.
Also, I saw in Stephanie's post that a school district has banned Sherman Alexi's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I am reeling over that. National Book Award winner! Brilliant! Brilliant! On what grounds was it banned? It's not sexually explicit, and that's the usual culprit? Is it because of the alcoholism? Because oh sure, we shouldn't let young people read about the devastation of alcoholism.
You may know: I love revisions. This is the part of writing my brain can really cuddle up to. The safe part? In Not For Robots I have this bushwhacking metaphor: writing first drafts with a machete; unexplored jungle! Dangers! Beasties! Excitement! Extending that metaphor, revisions are like building a snug cottage in that jungle and setting out tea saucers of little biscuits for the monkeys. All civilized, like.
Well. You know. No exactly like that. But kinda.
So. Here in a nutshell is my revision process. First thing I did was read and internalize my editor's letter, make notes on the main areas of work she proposed, and then set about reading my (hard copy) manuscript over with those things in mind. I marked it up liberally, and then, once that was done, I took it to the computer and input any "easy" changes, those things that can be fixed right there locally, within a line or two. The bigger things, ideas, themes, I asterisked and post-it'ed for later. Later being now.
The REAL work of revisions. Not the line edits, but the reconstruction, the deepening of significance, tightening of threads, clarifying of characterization, all that. So I've got this fat old book bristling with post-its of how to make it better, and I have to winnow down those post-its, one by one, until they're all gone. Winnow winnow. Once they're all gone, then I'll read the whole thing fresh for flow and to catch anything I might have missed, and to futz happily with language until I run out of time, then I'll send it on in to my lovely editor and see what she thinks.
After that? Another pass. And then? Copy edits. And then?
Whew. On it goes until the very sight of one's own book triggers the gag reflex. It's sad, but by the time the book is in print, the author has read it to death and probably won't be able to enjoy it again for like twenty years. But that does not mean that holding it in its actual bookness is not the hugest thrill ever, because it IS. Just please don't make us read it again! Ha ha.
Anyway. In revisions, you should have a clear picture of what it was you were trying to do with the book (a thing you might not entirely know until you've finished that first draft). And then hopefully you can read your manuscript with some objectivity and get a clear picture of what you have actually accomplished. So. What needs to be done to bring the actual up to the ideal? That's what revisions are about. Perfecting. Realizing the promise of your idea.