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1. Gender Roles and the Heroine

Your world is your own; traditional gender roles need not apply. This means that even if your fantasy is inspired by 1300s France, you can still have women being professors at universities or leading armies. A classic image that comes to mind of a woman in history is the passive homemaker waiting for her husband to come back from war. There were certainly quite a few of those, but that image doesn’t account for what these women actually did while waiting. The result is a picture where a lady stands at the threshold of her manor looking wistfully out the horizon to catch a shadow of her husband. In reality, she was probably too damn busy making sure her crop yield would cover both her taxes and the food needs of her household. Since stories tend to focus on the epic, and since fantasy in particular isn’t usually about actual, historical daily life, the public perception of gender roles in history is still a little stuck in this romanticized notion of passive and desperate reliance on men. The people that read these stories then go on to write their own, continuing the vicious, misinformed cycle that can even go so far as to influence society’s perception of present-day reality. Literature is an extremely powerful brainwashing tool.

Here’s the thing. Only you can break this oversaturation and constant recycling of “women had no power back then.” A good way to do that is by doing some research in unbiased gender history and exposing the public to the shocking notion that humans didn’t have the luxury to lock fifty percent of the population into an ivory tower.

Another way to do it is to write an awesome book where you totally reinvent gender roles within your world. And you can start as small as with your main character’s background story.

Alter the Intention

If you have a girl whose character arc depends on her being extremely sheltered at the start, don’t let the reason she’s sheltered rely on the fact that she’s female. Not only is it kind of lazy, it’s dependent on exactly the sort of cultural norm you’re trying to steer away from. Instead, it could be that a kidnapping attempt in her early childhood led to her parents overreacting. If she’s not allowed to learn swordplay, it could be because her family believes she’d never have use for it since they’d always be protecting her. If she’s being forced to marry against her will, it’s because they want to make sure she’s always provided for. The idea is that the driving forces behind her important life events will have little to do with the basic fact that she’s female. If you change the intention and complicate the reasoning from “because she’s a girl” to something less gender-related, it becomes actual logic that can be used in plot and character development: The story starts with her running away from the arranged marriage, arranged because her family’s misguided but genuine concern for her well-being is blinding them to her misery. Just as she’s trying to adjust to the novelty of freedom, the attempted kidnappers resurface, suddenly throwing her into crippling self-doubt. She can’t physically fight back against them because she’s weak; but she’s weak not because she’s a girl, but because she was never taught how to fight. The story that ends up being told is not one about a girl struggling against the patriarchy but one about a girl overcoming insecurity ingrained from childhood by an overprotective family she feels she cannot return to.

Weaknesses Are Allowed

Women are traditionally viewed as the weaker and more submissive sex. Breaking out of this view in your story might lead you to the conclusion that your main girl character has to be physically and emotionally strong. A common thing I come across (and sometimes catch myself writing) is a female character who overcompensates for all those damsels in distress by being ridiculously tough in every way possible. This “strong female protagonist”, often patronisingly described as feisty, turns into a caricature of a person instead of a representation of reality. For example, the girl above who was protected all her life and never learned to fight still probably won’t be able to fight very well just a few months after she’s left home. Maybe she’ll never be able to fight well. Some people are just uncoordinated. This means that she’ll inevitably have to rely on those around her for physical protection. And that’s totally fine. Because again, the reason she’s physically weak is because she just is. That doesn’t mean she’s not crafty and can’t help out in different ways. It just means that when one of those kidnappers shows up, she won’t be the one fighting them; that role will go to the person protecting her. She doesn’t have to have all the qualities of the “strong female protagonist”. She first and foremost has to be a believable person.

Background Characters

By the way, that girl’s protector can easily be a lady. The kidnappers can also be ladies. All of the characters can be ladies. Why not? A lot of times the opposite is true, with men occupying all active roles and women left to the job of “plot device”, up there in importance with Tree #2 in the elementary school play. In an attempt to remedy this, some people, while still having women as mostly weak and submissive, will nevertheless have a couple of ladies in incredibly powerful leadership roles. This is excellent; it shows that women in that writer’s world are able to achieve a position that relies on their intelligence and strength. However, these stories often miss the women in less powerful roles. These women have to climb that ladder somehow. They didn’t get to the top overnight, which means they have to have had a lower status in the past. Regardless, women will often be absent from starting or midrange roles. You don’t usually see a woman as a foot soldier, unless she’s a main character. And even if you do, she’s always something more; undiscovered prodigy bomb technician that diffuses the bomb at the last minute; master sniper that helps them hit their target; top-class martial artist that leads them through a push. She’s never just a bumbling soldier who didn’t clean her gun properly, like so many of the other male peons are.

It all goes back to the initial lack of women in these stories, and the attempt to rectify this lack. During this attempt, the women become special, having skills that are sometimes better than those of most men. At first glance this doesn’t seem bad, because it seems to show women who are powerful and successful in roles traditionally held by men. But there’s a sneaky kind of damage to it: it implies that women can only be in these roles if their skill sets are abnormally high. The best thing you can do for gender equality in your world is to take a bunch of women, put them on the front lines with the men, kill them all, and then have everybody react with equal grief. None of this “Even the women were killed!” None of this “Women and children first!” (…Well, children first, yes.)

Which leads me to my last point.

Don’t Make It a Big Deal

If, in your world, traditional gender roles don’t apply, then you don’t have to justify why one of the best warriors in the land is a woman. Similarly, you have to remember to make some of the most mediocre warriors women as well. The worst thing you can do is have people constantly commenting on how strong she is for a woman, or how she’s the only woman in her class, or how even though she’s a fighter she still knows how to cook. Nobody cares.  The men also probably know how to cook. It’s an important part of being an independent person. Drawing attention to the woman’s gender will take power away from why she’s as successful as she is: because she’s strong, because she’s skilled, and because she learned how to fight. You never hear phrases like, “Yeah he’s a pretty good fighter for a man.” Though, you might hear, “Yeah he sews pretty well for a man.” And that is just as damaging for the other side.

Gender Still Exists

Gender is a thing, and it’s foolish to ignore it…which seems to contradict everything I’ve just said. Still, physically, men and women are different. This will always result in situations where one character might be better at completing a task than another simply because of their gender. The key is that one gender should never be excluded from the possibility of doing that task, excepting in obviously physically limiting situations (because I just know that somebody’s going to say that a man can’t birth a child). And even in a world of equality, there will always be some outlying group of misogynists or misandrists itching to push people down. They can be part of your story too. And if your story is good at putting on display the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, and if those strengths and weaknesses are well-developed and don’t rely on gender, then it can expose the individual and shared features that your characters possess, and most importantly, uncover how absolutely ridiculous those misogynists and misandrists are.

Because oh my god. If you could build a world like the one I’ve described, I would read that book. I would read that book so hard.

So please write it.

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2. The Importance of Respecting Your Own Writing

Recently I received a query in which the author seemed embarrassed about the genre she was writing in. Sadly, I see this a lot and not just from querying authors, but from published authors as well. It's discouraging and disheartening.

See, I love the books I represent and I love the authors I represent. I'm proud of each one and excited to introduce them to new readers. Most importantly, I respect every author of every genre, even those I don't represent.

Sitting down to write a book in any genre, of any length is no easy task. I couldn't do it and I know many in publishing who feel the same way. It's why we aren't writers. So don't let someone else tell you that what you're writing isn't a "real book" or isn't important. It is. And if you can't be proud of your book how are you going to convince other people it's something they want to buy and read? Learn to love what you're writing now and it will show later when you're trying to build your brand.

--jhf

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3. I feel like a proud parent

When I first left my day job and was scrambling a bit for money, I taught an 8-week mystery-writing class at my local bookstore, Annie Blooms Books.  I've also taught one-off classes here and there for a long time, more as a way to give back than to make money.

Sometimes i don't even make any money. For example, on July 18th I'm teaching a class on plotting as a fundraiser for Write Around Portland.  It costs $35 and all the money goes to the organization.

This year, I've also taught that class for Left Coast Crime and for Oregon Literary Arts.  A few years ago, I taught a class on how to start a series.

Well, one of the guys who was in that class, Curtis C. Chen, came up to me after my signing at Powells, and told me he had just made a two-book deal and had been going over the old notes from my series class to help him approach his series.



And then today, I saw that another one of my old students, Lisa Alber, had also made a deal:



And last year, Cindy Brown, a woman from one of my original classes who went on to be my friend, made a three-book deal.  The first book, MacDeath, is laugh-out-loud funny (a rare thing) and I'm in the middle of reading an advance copy of her second, The Sound of Murder, which is even funnier.

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4. GrammoWriMO!

What’s a GrammoWriMo?

Every November, thousands of writers hammer out words in an epic event called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Writers “win” by completing a 50,000 word novel draft in just 30 days. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. To date, over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

But not everyone can manage 50,000 words in a month. That’s one reason why Grammarly, the company behind the popular automated proofreader, created GrammoWriMo in 2013. People around the world use Grammarly software to refine their writing, so the company leveraged their status as a global resource to unite hundreds of writers from dozens of countries and cultures to craft a novel together.

In the first ever GrammoWriMo, about 300 writers collaborated on a group novel they submitted as a part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Not only did they have to weave the voices of hundreds of different writers into one story, but they had just one month to complete the draft. The GrammoWriMo contributors embraced the challenge. The results? A well-written, cohesive novel, The Lonely Wish-Giver, follows the journey of a girl with the unique job of fulfilling wishes. In 2014, 500 new GrammoWriMo participants submitted their contributions. The resulting novel, Frozen by Fire, weaves the perspectives of multiple characters living in the Italian town of Pompeii in 79 C.E. during the time of the disastrous Mount Vesuvius eruption. Both are available as ebooks on Amazon.com, with proceeds benefitting charities.

Putting Grammarly’s Automated Proofreader to the Test

Each year, Grammarly puts their software to the test proofreading the GrammoWriMo draft. In 2014, they analyzed the results, uncovered the most common errors writers made, and summarized them in this infographic.

Grammowrimo five writing mistakes

Grammarly found that writers of all levels tended to misuse commas, which was the number one error. Incorrect capitalization came in a close second, followed by wordiness, and missing determiners such as “a,” “an,” and “the.” 

Why do talented wordsmiths make these pesky gaffes? Fiction writers often set grammar rules aside when they’re trying to stay in the creative flow. Add deadlines and you’ve got a writer who may not have time for the meticulous editing a manuscript requires. Grammarly provides writers with a “second set of eyes” to guide them through the proofreading process after all that fast-and-furious drafting is complete.

You’re the Writer

No program can replace a human editor making artistic and stylistic choices. Grammarly shines when helping the writer sort out the finer details—where to place that comma or how to tighten up a wordy sentence, for example. Whenever it detects an error, it provides an explanation card to guide the writer toward a conscious decision about what to edit and what to leave alone. Removing some of the obstacles to good writing frees the writer to move beyond nit-picking errors to focusing on the bigger picture of style and content. Give it a whirl on your next draft and see for yourself!

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5. I made a Writing Assignment Checklist for you (and it’s as cheap as the Query Tracker one!)

Trying to make a decisionA couple weeks ago I created a Query Writing Checklist, and it flew off the virtual shelves!

Then, while on a road trip (I do my best thinking while driving), I was like—Duh, Linda! Now writers will need a checklist to use when they’re working on a writing assignment! (You know, the assignment they got using the query checklist.)

Whether you’re writing for a magazine, a website, or a paying blog—there’s so much to think about and remember when you’re working on an assignment:

  • Did I get a contract…and did I sign it and send it back?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • What was it the client wanted from me, again? Did she want a sidebar?
  • Who am I interviewing?
  • Oh man, what was that source’s email address?
  • Did I include a source list with my assignment?
  • When did I follow up with the interviewee?
  • Did I remember to proof the article?
  • Is each fact in the article backed up by an outside source?
  • Did I write a compelling lede? A great kicker?
  • Did I remember to thank the client?

So I did it…I created a fillable PDF Writing Assignment Checklist that covers:

Stage 1: Assignment Details
Stage 2: Sources & Research
Stage 3: Proofing the Article
Stage 4: Turning in the Assignment & Onward

Wherever possible, I also included links to websites and blog posts that will deepen your understanding of that particular element—from finding expert sources to creating a source list to writing an amazing kicker.

The Writing Assignment Checklist is a fillable checklist, meaning you can fill in the blanks and check off action items right on your computer.

Download the checklist and create a duplicate copy for each query idea…you can use the Writing Assignment Checklist over and over!

And even better—you can get this helpful checklist for just $1.49. I know…super cheap, right?

If you’d like a copy of a checklist that will help you track assignments and turn out great articles (and blog posts, and case studies…)–here’s where you can get it.

(And if you missed the Query Tracker Worksheet, that’s here!)

Enjoy!

Linda

P.S. If you get the checklist, please download it to your hard drive and make duplicates before you start filling it out. That way you’ll have enough checklists for all your pitches, and will be able to save and print them. (Do not open and fill out the PDF in your browser or you will not be able to save and print!)

P.P.S. Did you know Carol Tice’s and my new e-course Escape the Content Mills is on sale this week? Sale ends Sunday…check it out here!

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6. How I Became An Author

Ralph Fletcher, who is a beloved trade and professional book author, steps into our Author Spotlight.

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7. Not just trimming words, but chopping

Writing a book isn’t easy. I think we can all agree on that. So the realization that you might need to cut chunks — not just little pieces, like I talked about here, but big things — can hurt. I mean, after writing all those words, it can feel like a big waste to cut them!

Here are some reasons to go for it, though:

1. It’ll make the book stronger.

If you’ve already decided that a certain subplot isn’t necessary, or a scene isn’t doing enough work to deserve to stick around, or a conversation has too much blah blah and not enough interesting stuff, then you already know the story will be stronger and better paced without it. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

2. You’re not wasting words.

I know it can feel like that, but you’re not. Sometimes you need to write something just so you know what you don’t need in the story. Or, in my case recently, I needed to see several parts of my characters’ history, but aside from a few important moments, it wasn’t big or interesting or important enough to deserve to stay on the page. I needed to get that part of the story out of my system so could know, but that was iceberg stuff — and not the tip that shows.

As for how to make the cuts?

1. Identify what you need to keep.

Be extremely honest. If there isn’t anything that needs to stay, just highlight and cut the whole thing. (I assume you have a different draft saved somewhere else that has all this stuff. Or, if you’re using Scrivener, you’ve taken a Snapshot and have plenty of backups.)

You probably already know what needs to stay, but some general advice:

a) Can the reader understand the story without this part? If not, keep it!
b) Does it move the story forward and reveal something (motivations/worldbuilding/theme) in a new way? If so, keep it!

In my case, I was cutting a bunch of flashback scenes down to the most important moments. Down from over a thousand (or two thousand!) words to under five hundred. I looked for the meatiest bits. The big, pivotal moments. The one, most important thing I needed to share with the reader.

2. Make the cut.

Yeah. It’s a big step. It gets its own number.

3. Smooth out the edges.

Chances are you chopped up some transitions and messed with your pacing when you snipped out a huge chunk of text, so go through and fix them. Take a careful look at the beginning and end of the cuts for transitions. Read the whole thing through and see how it sounds. Is it too fast now? Maybe add a beat or two to make it feel more natural. (But not too many! You cut for a reason, after all!)

Don’t be shy about going through it a few times! You’ll probably find more and more places to smooth out. It’s a delicate process, so take your time.

4. Eat a cookie.

What? You worked hard. You deserve a reward.


 

What do you guys think? Any tips I missed? What other advice would you give to someone who’s looking at cutting a huge chunk of their beloved book?

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8. Writer Wednesday: When Organization Becomes Clutter

Okay, so I've been keeping a secret from all of you. I've taken on a new job that I can't quite tell you about yet. My contract is signed and delivered, but I'm waiting for the official announcement to tell you all what it is. 

What I can say is that I've become insanely busy! My writing desk looks like a case of Post-It notes threw up on it. Seriously, I'm talking those big Post-It pads with lines on them stuck EVERYWHERE! My desk has three shelves on it, and they are serving as places to stick my notes. Not to mention the notes covering the actual desk portion where I work.

So what I've realized is that my organization has turned into clutter. If you saw my desk (and no, I'm not going to subject you to pictures of my chaos), you'd think I was the messiest writer ever. But…it works for me because I love crossing things off my notes and then ultimately crumpling them up and tossing them when I've accomplished everything on the notes. That's a good feeling.

I guess in a way, the Post-It notes make me feel like I'm somewhat in control and they give me a sense of accomplishment when I can toss them in the trash.

How do you handle being busier than busy? Do you have an avalanche of Post-Its, too?

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9. The Writing Process

I’m about two-thirds of the way through a book I am reading to review for Library Journal. The book is called J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing by David Attwell. It is a sort of writing biography of Coetzee and is quite good. If you are a fan of the writer, this is one you will probably want to look out for.

I am also still working my way through all the lessons in the James Patterson Master Class.

Over the weekend Patterson and Coetzee provided a fascinating opportunity to glimpse and compared the writing process of two well-known writers. The writing process has always fascinated me. Everyone has one and goes about putting words on paper or computer screen in a variety of ways. Some writers fetishize certain objects —they have to write with a particular pen in a certain color on a particular kind of paper, or while pounding away at the keyboard there has to be particular piece by Mozart playing and there has to be a cup of tea/coffee in a certain mug placed just so on the desk — and claim to not be able to write without them. Some writers need to have a title first, or write the last sentence first or start in the middle or always begin a new project on the same date or sit down to write at the same exact time every day.

The actual writing part though, there are only so many ways a person can go about it, nonetheless, it remains a perennial and dreaded question at book readings, the moment someone in the audience stands up and asks, “so how did you go about writing this book?” What is wanted, of course, is the secret that only “real” writers know. The password, the handshake, the mystery revealed, the drug, the prayer, the key to it all so that said audience member can go home and write that novel they have inside them and make millions doing it. No one wants to hear an author say the truth, I sat down and wrote for six hours every day, seven days a week for four months (or more) and wrote and rewrote and wrote some more and tossed out and started over and wrote some more and rewrote over and over until it was done. What’s an author to do? Tell the truth no one wants to hear or make something up? The third option is avoiding answering the question entirely. I have heard all three answers at one time or another.

Of course in Patterson’s online writing class he has to address the question, he is the teacher and it is his job to explain how to write a novel. Patterson takes the truthful route but at the same time he makes it sound rather easy. To write a novel, one must first write an outline, do not begin writing without an outline, your book will be doomed. For Patterson, an outline is not the kind you had to do in school with the Roman numerals and the letters and headings and subheadings. He means a narrative outline. There are still numbers but the numbers correspond to chapters and basically what you are writing is a summary of the chapter. With such an outline you can work out plot and pacing before you get in too deep. You can find the slow bits and the holes and fix them before they grow out of control. That’s the idea anyway.

And it seems like a good idea that is really useful for a plot-driven James Patterson sort of novel. Heck, it is probably a good idea for a variety of novel types. It is neat and tidy. And of course once you have your outline, you know how you are going to get from point A to B to C. You know what happens in each chapter. All you have to do is fill in the details. Easy!

Coetzee’s approach is so much messier. No outline, just write. Draft after draft after draft. He makes notes as he goes. He changes character names and locations and plot and then he changes them back again and then he changes them again to something else entirely. It is organic and labyrinthine. It is a journey in which the ending is not known in advance, but is rather a sort of quest; a quest for a story, a quest for an answer to a question, a quest for understanding, a quest for any number of things. No bones about it, it is a lot of work.

And I find myself wondering, do the two approaches reflect the differences between commercial fiction and Nobel Prize winning fiction? Could an author whose process is like Patterson’s win a Nobel? Could someone whose process is like Coetzee’s be successful at commercial fiction and spend 24 weeks on top of the bestseller lists? Which comes first, the process or the desire to write a certain kind of fiction? Do people who make outlines naturally make a course for more commercial fiction? Do the messy organic writers automatically find themselves in literary fiction? And what about other kinds of writing, genre and nonfiction in all its variety? Is this a chicken or egg question?

Maybe. Probably. Likely the answer is a combination of all sorts of factors but it is interesting to consider.


Filed under: Books, In Progress, Writing Tagged: J.M. Coetzee, James Patterson, writing process

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10. Monday Mishmash 6/29/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Signing at Books-A-Million  I'll be at Books-A-Million in the Stroud Mall (Stroudsburg, PA) this Saturday (July 4th) from noon until 3:00 p.m. signing copies of The Monster Within and The Darkness Within. If you're in the area, come see me.
  2. Fading Into the Shadows Edits  I'm getting edits today for my 2016 title Fading Into the Shadows. I can't wait to dive back into this book.
  3. Fading Into the Shadows Cover  So, my cover is finalized and can I just say WOW? It's awesome guys. The cover reveal probably won't be until September, but I'll keep you posted.
  4. Beth Fred's Blurb Writing Class  Beth is teaching The Art of Blurb Writing again. This time the course will run from July 6 to July 24. For details and to sign up, click here.
  5. Secret Goodness in the Works  I have some things up my sleeve that I'll be sharing soon. Stay tuned.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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11. Co-Writing

Here's how one set of co-authors divvies up the work.

http://writersrumpus.com/2015/05/19/adventures-in-co-writing/

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12. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e June 26th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

First Rights (Neil Clarke)
www.neil-clarke.com/first-rights/

Which Writers’ Conferences are the Best to Attend? (Chuck Sambuchino)
http://thewritelife.com/which-writers-conferences-are-the-best-to-attend/

The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups (Jenny Nash) Jon’s Pick of the week
www.janefriedman.com/2015/06/25/dangers-of-writing-groups/

Writing Mechanics and Grammar Checklist (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/writing-mechanics-and-grammar-checklist/

Business Musings: Why I Love Taylor Swift (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2015/06/24/business-musings-why-i-love-taylor-swift/

Almond Press Short Story Competition: Writing for "Exposure" (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/06/almond-press-short-story-competition.html

Writing About Guns: 10 Errors to Avoid in Your Novel (Benjamin Sobieck)
www.janefriedman.com/2015/06/24/writing-about-guns/

10 Reasons To Draft 10 Times (Peter Derk)
https://litreactor.com/columns/10-reasons-to-draft-10-times

Strange Bedfellows (Therese Anne Fowler)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/06/22/strange-bedfellows/

5 Great Books About the Craft of Writing (George Cotronis)
https://litreactor.com/columns/5-great-books-about-the-craft-of-writing

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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13. How Losing Your Purse Can Improve Your Writing

If you’ve ever visited the DEPARTURES area of the airport, you probably know that it is not exactly an oasis of tranquility. There are cars trying to park; cars trying to double park, cars trying to squeeze out of where they’ve double-parked, orange cones, orange vests, whistles, and general chaos.

I was being dropped off at Burbank Bob Hope Airport by my mom and dad, 74 and 80 respectively, and wanted to debark as efficiently as possible so they could be on their way. Adjusting my new felt hat, I strapped my laptop bag across my chest, hauled out my suitcase, and hugged my parents a quick goodbye.

Approaching the Southwest counter, I reached for my purse.

And felt air.

My stomach dropped to my knees. I had made a big mistake. I left my purse in my parents’ car.

Stacey's troublesome vessel of all things crucial, circa 2004, Anthropologie.

Stacey’s troublesome vessel of all things crucial, circa 2004, Anthropologie.

Frantically, I searched my laptop bag, hoping I had jammed it in without realizing. But, no. My purse was in the carpool lane of the Five freeway, headed down to the OC. How the heck was I getting on a plane without my ID?

I couldn’t make a phone call, as I didn’t have a cell phone. I couldn’t even use a pay phone, as I had no money. (And btw, the sudden absence of money tends to amplify one’s hunger pains).

I could ask someone to loan me change, but would they think I was a panhandler? And my hat, which I thought was stylish, suddenly cast a shadow of suspicion upon me. Suspicious people always wear hats.

I might have started to hyperventilate. My flight was leaving in an hour.

A petite Japanese security guard asked if everything was alright.

“I left my purse in my parents’ car!” I blubbered.

She tsked her tongue, but then fished out a dollar’s worth in coins so I could use a payphone. After profusely thanking her, I dropped two quarters into the first phone. A metallic crunching and gargling followed, which I believe was the sound of the phone eating my change.

Trying not to panic, I moved onto the next phone. This time, the call went through.

But no one picked up. Remember how I mentioned the age of my parents? Well, with old age comes certain …realities, such as, hearing loss. Mom’s voicemail answered, but that didn’t help me because even if she heard the ding of voicemail, she doesn’t know how to check it (another age-related reality). I tried calling my husband collect, like, a billion times. But it turns out, since his company pays for his cell phone, its collect call feature is disabled.

I explained my situation to Southwest. I must have looked honest, as they issued me the ticket, with the caution that security still might refuse me. Shame-faced, I stepped to the security counter and tried to explain why I wasn’t carrying my ID.

He frowned, and I grew smaller. “Where do you work?”

“At home. I mean, I’m self-employed.”

Another frown, another inch shorter. “Occupation?”

“Writer.”

Another frown, this one with an upward flick of his pupils that says, isn’t everyone?

If only I had one of my books on me. I could show him my author picture.

Then it occurred to me, I could show him my author website.

After perusing the site, then conducting a thorough search of myself and my luggage, security finally did let me through.

Stephanie: When Stacey first told me this story, I felt horrible. But since I’m a teacher, I also thought this would make an awesome writing lesson.

The thing I loved about this story (from a writing perspective, because obviously I felt terrible that my friend went through so much stress) was that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. As Stacey said, everyone knows you can’t get on a plane without an ID. And this situation was so much worse because on top of not having her ID:

The hat of suspicion and lawlessness.

The hat of suspicion and lawlessness.

  1. Stacey did not have her phone.
  2. Or money.
  3. The only people who could help her (Stacey’s parents) were impaired, and therefore unable to come to her rescue.
  4. She was hungry.
  5. Her husband wasn’t answering the phone.
  6. On top of not having an ID, she was also wearing a hat, which made her highly suspicious to airport personnel.
  7. And the clock was rapidly ticking. Stacey only had one hour.

Now, imagine you’re writing a character and you’ve put them in this same situation. It could be really tempting to have another character (maybe the husband) make a miraculous appearance and save the day. Perhaps this husband calls in a favor with the head of security. And not only does your character get onto the plane, but they are upgraded to first class and handed a glass of champagne.

Unfortunately that did not happen to Stacey. But I believe what happened was even better. Stacey used her smarts to save herself, by directing the security to her author website, where her photo was able to confirm her identity.

Now if Stacey were a character, not only would readers think, wow this woman is smart! They would also know a little more about her character, because not only did this action save the day, it revealed more about her background, mainly, her profession.

People are always saying, put your characters in the worst situations possible, but then, too often, characters don’t use their intelligence to get out of those miserable scenarios. Because of this, writers often miss great opportunities to deepen their characters, and make their stories richer.

Think about whatever story you’re working on. Are there any scenes where you can pile on more conflicts? Are there scenes where you can show off your character’s strengths, instead of having someone else save the day?

Also, if any of you have stories similar to Stacey’s, we’d love to hear them:

 

 

 

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14. The Bridge: Habits Of Mind For Writing with Jane Higgins

We're excited to welcome to the blog today author Jane Higgins. Jane's The Bridge, has been described as a heart-stopping novel about friendship, identity, and courage. She's here to share with us some habits of mind for writing.


Habits Of Mind For Writing


When the team at Adventures in YA Publishing invited me to write a post, I looked back over recent Craft of Writing posts and thought ‘Wow!’ The discussions here are rich and varied and immensely helpful.  So how, as writers, can we cultivate ‘habits of mind’ that help us make best use of all this wisdom?  Here are some thoughts on that – all easier said than done, of course. They are habits I’d love to practice much more diligently than I actually do!

Turn down the Inner Critic. Ah, but how?  Try ‘morning pages’, as suggested by Julia Cameron in her classic, The Artist’s Way.  They work like this. You get up in the morning. You write. Three pages, on anything at all.

What’s important for the morning pages is to do nothing that will put anything in your head between being asleep and writing your pages. That means no looking at screens of any kind, no radio, no phone calls or texts, no newspapers. No input. Not till you’ve written your three pages.

When I’m writing the pages, I tumble out of bed, make a cuppa, mumble at my husband, and then sit down and write. It takes about twenty-five minutes. I’m no company for anyone until I’ve written those pages. What to write? Whatever comes to mind. I record dream fragments, ponder plot problems in the current work-in-progress, recall yesterday’s activities, and if I’m desperate for material by page three, I write down today’s to-do list.  I’m not “writing” when I do this, I’m not crafting anything, I’m just putting down what’s in my brain first thing in the morning.

I don’t go back and read over what I’ve written. It’s the activity that matters, not the product.  I have friends who use their morning pages as raw material for poetry and some people might find them helpful for pushing through story problems. But the pages don’t have to be ‘useful’ in that way.
What does spilling a jumble of thoughts onto the page achieve? It clears my brain and, somehow, it disarms the Inner Critic because hey, look, I’m writing! Maybe it’s too early for the IC to be up and about. I don’t know. I do know that I write more freely during the day if I’ve written those three pages of ‘anything at all’ first thing in the morning.



Tune out the world. When you get on a plane, you know how you have to turn all your devices to ‘flight mode’, cutting you off from the outside world? That. No Facebook, no Twitter, no internet of any kind. No phone. Well, okay, leave your phone on for emergencies, but turn it to silent and put it in a drawer on the other side of the room. No television or radio. I sometimes have quiet instrumental music in the background – nothing with lyrics because they confuse the language centres of my brain that I need for writing. And, to be honest, when I come out of a writing spell, if it’s been really productive, I find that I’ve tuned out the music and can’t remember hearing it.

Don’t let the outside world fool you into connecting with it – because it will try. It’s tricksy like that. Just that little bit of research that will help you with a plot point? A quick look on the internet to resolve it? Make a note to check it later. It’ll wait. Really.





Get up from your desk and go for a walk. How is this a habit of mind? Well, strangely, it is. When I’m stuck on a plot point or a character conversation, I take the problem for a walk. At the start of my walk I formulate the problem as a question, as clearly as I can – that seems to be an important part of the process. I don’t think hard about it – my subconscious can do that – I just pose the question and walk. I’m constantly surprised by how often a solution has arrived by the end of the walk.  I’ve tried other forms of activity than walking (gardening, for example, or housework), which would be useful because that would be productive on two levels, right? Sadly, no, it doesn’t work so well. They’re too task-oriented. The mindless rhythm of walking seems to tap into the subconscious in mysterious ways.

 Unclutter your writing space. It’s part of sharpening your focus on writing. If you have a dedicated space, well and good, but even if you don’t, try clearing away the non-writing related stuff from your corner of the table while you’re writing. Make a little bubble for yourself that is just about writing, so that even what’s in your line of sight on the desk is writing-related.

Be attentive – to the world, to yourself. Story ideas and solutions to story problems are always lurking, so be ready to catch them when they appear in the corner of your mind’s eye. Ursula Le Guin has a lovely metaphor about this. She says that in writing, particularly in the early stages:
 ‘Your mind is like a cat hunting; it’s not even sure yet what it’s hunting. It listens. Be patient like the cat. Very, very attentive, alert, but patient. Slow. Don’t push the story to take shape. Let it show itself. Let it gather impetus. Keep listening. (Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind, p.227).

I can remember when the first line of The Bridge arrived. I was standing in a bookshop leafing through a book of short stories when my eye flicked past a line which, when I checked back, turned out to be very mundane: ‘We rode to the flat in a taxicab’. But the first time my eye ran over it I read it as, ‘We rode to war in a taxicab.’  My subconscious was playing tricks on me.  War was on my mind. I’d been struggling with a short story about some young people in a war, but it hadn’t worked and I’d shelved it. Clearly, though, the idea wasn’t done with me. It was sitting in my subconscious, biding its time. From that moment, I was off and running with the world of The Bridge. Who was in the taxi? What was the war? I wrote the book to find out.

As I mentioned, it’s all much easier said than done!  It’s a struggle to find uncluttered mental space for writing when there are so many claims on our attention.  But there’s good science now to show that when we think we’re multi-tasking (particularly in things that require conscious thought), we’re not really doing that at all. We don’t – can’t – think about more than one thing at a time. Rather, we switch back and forth between tasks. It only takes a second to check a post on Facebook, but coming back to where you were in your writing before you got distracted takes more time and energy than we once thought.

Writing is mysterious, and a good part of that mystery involves tapping into the subconscious and letting the story emerge. That means sometimes letting your mind just wander about, being attentive and patient. At other times, it means having a close and singular focus on your story. It’s all about giving yourself space to think, ponder and imagine deeply.



About The Book:

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Jane-Higgins/dp/1770494375/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434655668&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bridge+by+jane+higgins
The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.

Nik is still in high school but is destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when the Security Services come recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn't chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now the Security Services are hunting for Nik.

But Nik is on the run, with Sol's sister Fyffe, and Security is hot on their trail. They cross the bridge in search of Sol, and Nik finds answers to questions he had never dared to ask. 
 
The Bridge is a gritty adventure set in a future world where fear of outsiders pervades everything. A heart-stopping novel about friendship, identity, and courage from an exciting new voice in young-adult fiction.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

About The Author:

Jane Higgins is a New Zealand writer of fiction and non-fiction. In her day job she is a sociologist specializing in youth studies, focusing particularly on young people in transition from school. Growing up, she read a lot of classic science fiction, fantasy and myth and she still loves to escape into the other worlds of these stories.  The Bridge is her first novel. It won the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. Havoc, a sequel to The Bridge has recently been published by Text Publishing (Melbourne).






~ posted by Jen Fisher @cupcakegirly

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15. Writer Wednesday: Hello, Old Friend

Have you ever put a manuscript aside for a long time—I'm talking months or even years—and then gone back to it? Maybe it's to revise or edit after it was acquired by a publisher, but either way, you've had time away and all the details aren't at the forefront of your mind because you've been writing other things. For me it's like getting to see an old friend again.

This year I finished writing a book I hadn't looked at in a while (because I got busy editing other books), and it made me fall in love with the story again. Next week, I'll be diving into edits on a book that was acquired a while ago. I haven't looked at the manuscript in probably a year, and I'm really excited to go back and visit these characters. I remember having that feeling of "this is the one" when I wrote the book, and I'm hoping I still have that feeling when I get my first round edits from my amazing editor. I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Have you revisited any "old friends" lately? Was it a good experience?

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16. Why You Don't Need to Worry About Protecting Your Idea

Last week I posted this Tweet:

BookEndsJessica
#MSWL a book based on this crazy story: http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2015/06/lawsuit_bring_me_young_blood_stalker_told_westfiel.html#incart_2box_nj-homepage-featured
6/19/15, 12:16 PM

If you haven't read the article you absolutely must. It's the creepiest thing I've heard in a long time. Since reading it I've thought and thought about what kind of book I'd like to see and then I thought about all of the different types of books that someone could create from this crazy story.

Which is why I think writers sometimes worry a little too much about protecting an idea. The idea in this case is a book based on this particular true story, but what any one writer does with that idea will likely be completely different from what another writer will create.

A YA author might create a story about a young girl who moves with her family into the house and is either possessed by a demon or lives in terror of what is in the walls. Maybe she has supernatural powers, maybe she doesn't.

A suspense or mystery author might create the story of a killer who used live in the house and buried bodies in the walls, or a killer who killed as a child and is now trying to get back in the house because he needs to be there to start killing again.

A romance writer might write the story of a woman who inherits the house and moves in only to be terrorized by these letters, stalked even, when the hero comes to investigate and saves the day, and they fall in love.

A SFF writer could write the story of an alien abduction that happened in or around the house...

Or, even if all of the writers who take my idea and run with it write in the same genre, the possibilities are endless. What's really going to be important isn't the idea (although that's a terrific first step), but the execution. How the idea or the story plays out, who the characters are and the author's voice.

--jhf

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17. 48 days, day 11: standstill


{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

I am stilled by the events in Charleston. Stilled. All the violent events of this past year -- years -- leading up to Charleston. All the hatred and violence. I thought I would say nothing publicly at first. Who am I to say anything? I write fiction about my deepest beliefs; that is enough.

But I couldn't stay silent, so I posted -- on my Facebook author page as well as my Facebook personal page --  links to other people's words about Charleston. Then I needed to include them in a blog post last week.

I also asked the folks assembling the Charleston Syllabus to include REVOLUTION, FREEDOM SUMMER, and THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, all books of mine with a civil rights theme running through them, along with my deepest beliefs, including that every human being is worthy of dignity and respect.

Now, I thought, now I shall get back to the work at hand. But what is the work at hand?

For now, since I am stilled, and quiet, and contemplating, I will link to Claudia Rankine's piece in the NYTimes: The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning. I met Claudia Rankine last November in NYC at the National Book Award events. She was also a finalist. She is beyond impressive, as is her work, and this piece in the Times leaves me absolutely breathless. It asks me for something. It will not leave me.

So I will leave you here today, with some words from Claudia Rankine that describe what I try to do when I am writing as well:

"There are billions of souls in the world and some of us are almost to be touching the depths of how it is and what it is to be human. On the surface we we exist but just beyond is existence. I write to articulate that felt experience... There are some of us who are constantly mending our hearts, I write into that mending, my writing is that mending...."

Peace.

xoxo Debbie



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18. Monday Mishmash 6/22/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Editing  I'm still editing like a crazy woman this week. :)
  2. Secret Ashelyn Drake Project  I've been dying to work on my secret project since I got feedback from a beta reader, but I'm so booked with edits I haven't had time. Hopefully soon. Maybe by the end of the week.
  3. Summer Schedule  I've been very scheduled this summer in order to get my work done while my daughter is home. I work every morning right after breakfast. I get a few solid hours in that way. Then I work again in the afternoon for about an hour. And I work at night when I need to as well. I'm tired. lol
  4. Swimming  The hot weather is returning this week. While I'm not a fan of super hot temperatures, I'm excited to get in some good swimming time.
  5. Book Signing  Books-A-Million in the Stroud Mall called me and asked me to come in on July 4th from noon to 3:00 p.m. to sign The Monster Within and The Darkness Within. Yay! I'm excited.
  6. Fading Into the Shadows Cover  I got to see the rough design for my upcoming 2016 title Fading Into the Shadows. I'm so excited. It's different than all my other covers, and I can't wait until I can share it. I'll let you know when cover reveal signups are in case you are interested.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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19. 48 days, day 7: a bit of inspiration and validation

 {{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }} 

My foot waving hello at 6am
 It's 11am and I am about to plunge into my Rachel revision and finish it. So say I. SO SAY I.

No backing down, now... just do it, Debbie. You've got enough, you've got what you need, and you can finish this revision. Today.

If I am really brave, I will send it to my agent by the end of business today. That is my goal. THAT IS MY GOAL. He lives in California. That gives me a few extra hours. hahahahahaha.

I am a watering fool right now, trying to keep new grass alive, as we near the end of this almost-year of a water management project which evolved into an edible yard and garden project along the way, and Other Stuff.

I can see, I'm falling into a routine, 7 days into this 48. Up early and either write or do correspondence while it's dark... read some, too. Once the sun is up, go outside while it's still bearable and water. This takes two hours. I have to visit everything, plump pillows, tell stories, check on the patients. Something ate my hosta last night. Who does that? Deer? I don't want to talk about it. Big, fat, beautiful hosta leaves, gone.
"The dingo ate your hosta."
What I read this morning provided me with great inspiration to get to the desk and write, which is what happens after the watering, and where I'm about to go right now. Here's what I read:

First, a piece by photographer Sally Mann in the New York Times Magazine. You must read it. It's so strong, so good, so true. Every time I read good writing, it teaches me something. This piece also taught me a little more about being human. I loved it. I have long admired Mann's work, and it was a pleasure to "hear" her talk about it in-depth; the highs, the lows, the scary bits and the calling-us-to-account bits. I read this in the 5am dark this morning. I thought, "I want to write like this." Inspiration.

Then there is this piece that I read as I came in from watering, the writer James Salter interviewed by the Paris Review -- must have been in the '90s -- about writing fiction. Here is the nugget that is sending me back to the page energized:

I find the most difficult part of writing is to get it down initially because what you have written is usually so terrible that it’s disheartening, you don’t want to go on. That’s what I think is hard—the discouragement that comes from seeing what you have done. This is all you could manage?

How many times have I felt like this! Also, on heroes:

There is everyday heroism. I think of Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path,” about a black woman walking miles to town on the railroad track to get some medicine for her grandchild. I think real devotion is heroic.

That's a thought I can use as I write about Rachel Carson, but I will also use it for book 3 of the '60s trilogy. I would also attribute it to Sunny in REVOLUTION, and to most of my characters in my books. I write about everyday struggle and everyday acts of heroism. Uncle Otts in COUNTDOWN. Joe and John Henry in FREEDOM SUMMER. Comfort letting her dog go in order to save her cousin in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. House reading to Mr. Norwood Boyd in ALL-STARS. Even Ruby saving Melba Jane on stage in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER.

So those words inspire me by validating my writing experience. Which makes me feel like a real writer. Validation and inspiration send me back to the page when I think, as I do almost every writing day: this is all you could manage?

I'm going to manage to finish my revision today. What are you up to, one week, 7 days in?



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20. It's Almost Here

Are you ready???





What do you plan to learn?

Perhaps some words in a new language:
         Spanish for Beginners by Helen Davies
         This book not only has plenty of words and pictures but an online website to help you with pronunciation. ¡hurra! (Hooray!)

Or maybe off-the-wall baseball trivia:
            Odd Ball by Timothy Tocher
         This comic book provides funny, surprising, and truly unbelievable facts on America’s favorite summer sport.

 Or how to draw monsters:
         Master monster drawing and amaze your family and friends with your spooky artwork! 
        
Or how to make healthy snacks:
         Holy Guacamole! by Nick Fauchild
         Pass up the sugary snacks for yummy treats you can whip up          yourself.

Or how to write a poem:
         How to Write Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko
         Find lots of tips and techniques that will inspire you to put pen to          paper (and learn about alliteration like in this sentence.)

Or how to write a story:
         Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine
         From beginning to end, this book will help you shape a super story—perhaps even a monster story that you can illustrate!

Whatever you’d like to learn tomorrow—or throughout the summer, remember a good starting place is your local library or bookstore or online sites like For Kids here on my website or at the American Library Associations Great Websites for Kids.  


I’d love to hear about some of the cool stuff you’re learning!

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21. Jane Green on Self-Publishing, Social Media and Her Kickstarter Campaign

GreenIt’s hard to believe that New York Times bestselling author Jane Green leveraged Kickstarter to fund her new cookbook, Good Taste. Although the campaign ends on July 14, devoted fans and celebrities like Martha Stewart and Jodi Picoult have supported her via social media and she easily surpassed her self-publishing goal of $45,000 within the first five days of her campaign. Drawing on stories from her life and the food that runs through them, the book combines recipes with photos and her witty storytelling.

We caught up with the versatile author to chat about venturing outside her comfort zone, leveraging new media to fund her project, and carving out time and space to write amidst her busy schedule.

GalleyCat: As a bestselling author, why did you decide to self-publish your cookbook?

Jane Green: I have been incredibly lucky with my novels but I had absolutely no idea if anyone would be interested in a cookbook. So I started to think about self-publishing.

Mushroom

I then realized that with Kickstarter, I [would] have to put this book together myself. So I did the test recipes and I found the photographer and an art director. I wanted my fingerprints on every page and they really are. Everything about this book has been chosen by me.

GalleyCat: It sounds like you really enjoyed this process. And as a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, was this a passion project? Were you thinking, “I love cooking so let me try this out?”

Green: Yes, 100 percent. I put recipes in a couple of my novels and they’ve always been well-received and this is a long-held dream of mine. I did sort of get into a conversation with my publisher a couple of times about how much I’d love it and they didn’t bite.

GalleyCat: How does it work exactly – will everyone who donated get a book?

Green: We funded in five days which I did not expect at all. That was kind of extraordinary but what it means is that we can now proceed with the printing. We’ll fulfill the books, we’ll be sending them out in October and so it’s the same as pre-ordering a novel in a bookstore. You can buy my book for $25 and you’ll get it in October.Jane-Green-2

This is a limited edition print run, it’ll be a collector’s edition. Because we’ve funded it, we’ll be able to publish all kinds of lovely things. I would love to do another cookbook, maybe a slightly different version. I may either do it myself or I may look for a publisher next time around.

GalleyCat: What are your thoughts on self-publishing? It sounds like you’re really enjoying this process and you’ve gone through the traditional route for so many years.

Green: It’s been a fascinating learning curve. What I’ve come to learn with self-publishing is that if you want to provide readers with something of equal quality, it requires the same amount of time and expense. I could have self-published and thrown something together and turned it up online but I didn’t want to do that; I wanted to create something that looked really beautiful and had lasting value.

GalleyCat: There can be a stigma with self-publishing. You’re an established author, you’re trying this route – has the stigma changed over the years and if so, how?

Green: I think that the stigma is very, very much in place and I think that the entire model of the publishing world has changed and doing what you’ve always done and expecting to get what you’ve always got no longer works.

GalleyCat: Let’s talk about social media because it seems like with the Kickstarter campaign and your Facebook and Twitter feeds, you’re really engaging with the reader. Has social media also changed the face of publishing?

BREAD

Green: The whole thing now is about connection. Ten years ago, you wrote a book and you never expected to find out anything about the author. Now with social media, everyone wants that connection. I think our readers want to be invited into our lives and brought on the journey and be part of this whole process.

GalleyCat: Do you envision more e-books in the future or different ways of publishing houses getting involved beyond traditional books?

Green: My e-books sales have overtaken everything else, so I think all the marketing has become very much driven by the author now because of social media. The way that I run my Facebook and my Instagram [accounts], I can’t have somebody else doing that for me. It’s got to be my voice.

GalleyCat: What advice do you have for writers hoping to leap outside their comfort zone?

Green: When you stay stuck in the same groove, your creativity can dwindle. I definitely felt that I was on a bit of a treadmill and actually, stepping out of my comfort zone and using my creativity in a completely different way has just brought this incredible passion back into my life, which has spilled into every area. I’m energized in a way that I wasn’t before so if you’re a creative person, and we writers tend to be, the more cases we can express that creativity, the better. Actually, my next novel comes out on Tuesday, June 23 – Summer Secrets.

BEEF

GalleyCat: How do you manage to carve out time to sit down and actually write when you’re so busy?

Green: Right now I’m busier than ever before and my whole writing routine has had to change because I have so many things going on. In the old days I’d write during the morning and I’d be done by lunchtime and be mom in the afternoon. I can’t do that now. Sometimes I can get away with a week here or there but now I have to go on these self-imposed writing retreats. Twice a year I’ll go off to a little inn in New Hampshire and I’ll just go and for five days I wouldn’t talk to anyone, I wouldn’t look at anyone, I’d just be in a room with my computer and I will write.

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22. Evilness in Kids' Books

There are many ways to introduce evil characters and situations into a children's book.

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/may/17/top-10-ways-to-be-evil-in-childrens-books-william-sutcliffe

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23. Sustaining a Writing Habit

Do you need help sustaining a writing habit? Take a lesson from Jerry Seinfeld & "don't break the chain."

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24. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e June 19th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Being Your Own Text Doctor (Debby Harris)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2015/06/being-your-own-text-doctor.html

Do You Write Like a Reader? (Glenn Mori)
www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/do-you-write-like-a-reader/

Traits of a Writer on Track for Success (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/traits-of-a-writer-on-track-for-success/

Gaming the System (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
http://kriswrites.com/2015/06/17/business-musings-gaming-the-system/

Using Tricks from Other Writers (Kathleen McCleary)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/06/17/using-tricks-from-other-writers/

Can We Know Too Much About the Publishing Industry? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/06/can-we-know-too-much-about-publishing.html

How to Sell Your Screenplay (for Absolute Beginners) (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/06/16/how-to-sell-your-screenplay/

Publishing Industry Assumptions (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/publishing-industry-assumptions/

How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner for You (Brook McIntyre)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/06/10/find-the-right-critique-group/

Don’t Feed Your Discontent (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/dont-feed-your-discontent/

Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize and Avoid Them (VictoriaStrauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/06/awards-profiteers-how-writers-can.html

The 11 Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/best-books-on-writing/

Mythbuster: Why Contacts Won’t Bring Your Book Media Coverage (Sharon Bially)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/06/08/mythbuster-why-contacts-wont-bring-your-book-media-coverage/

Scheduling Creativity (Jo Eberhardt)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/06/06/scheduling-creativity/


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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25. 48 days, day 8: step out, step back, regroup

 {{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

With Lisa Wise at Dancing Goats Coffee in Decatur, Georgia yesterday.
I didn't finish Rachel, and yet I did make progress. I'm okay with that.

Yesterday I was flattened. I watched Jon Stewart's response to the violence in Charleston. I read those nine names. Say their names. I thought about how I wrote FREEDOM SUMMER and REVOLUTION about a time fifty years in the past that we are still living through today and that we have to face and feel something about and do something about if we want it to change.

I don't know enough to orate, pontificate, opinion-toss, or wring my hands and heart in public on social media channels. But I have a voice and I will continue to use it in the best way I know how. I want to offer readers young and old a path to peace and social justice.

That's my work. Community, kindness, family, peace, kinship, connection. Friendship, heart, safety, belonging, stories. For young and old. Especially for children. I don't care how schmaltzy it sounds in print. These unglamorous work-horse words are the fundamentals of health and happiness and form the bedrock of what it means to be human and to care for one another.

Yesterday I met with Lisa Wise who is the executive director of the Initiative for Affordable Housing here in Atlanta. We talked shop and storytelling possibilities surrounding the Initiative's re:loom project. It felt good to talk about those work-horse words with Lisa, who is steeped in them every day. It's important to find fellow travelers on this unglamorous road. Do you know what I mean?

It rained late Thursday, a crashing, booming thunderclap of rain that washed away the side yard slope of newly planted grass. It wants to be a riverbed over there.

The over-eager thunderstorm chewing up my landscape combined with the recalcitrant bits of Rachel that refused to come together as I listened to the news coming out of Charleston... I gave up for the day and took a nap, and then I went to bed early. Friday I worked but felt like I was slogging through mud, then went to meet Lisa, which lifted my spirits.

I don't know. Sometimes you step out, or step back, and regroup.

That was Thursday (day 7)/Friday (day 8).

How are y'all doing? Can we talk about it?






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