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1. Monday Mishmash 2/8/16


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. Blues Bones Cover Reveal  I couldn't be more excited to share the cover of Blues Bones by Rick Starkey because this is the first book I offered on as an acquisitions editor for Leap Books, Seek. It's an AMAZING story, and the cover is just as awesome. Check it out and preorder the book here for a special discounted price. The book releases March 7th.
  2. Into the Fire's New Cover  Into the Fire's new cover has been revealed as well. This book has been heavily edited AND new content has been added. I'm really happy with the end result and think readers will be too. For now, check out my gorgeous cover designed by Deranged Doctor. And thank you to everyone who participated in the social media cover reveal this weekend.
     
    Preorder it here.
  3. Editing  More client edits and edits for Leap this week. :)
  4. The S-word  No, I don't mean spring, though I wish I did. I'd like snow if it was warm and melted within a few hours. ;) We're getting two storms this week and I'm not thrilled.
  5. Drafting  Because my editing schedule is crazy, I got an idea for another adult romantic suspense. Of course! So I'm literary jotting down snippets of dialogue and scenes while cooking, lying in bed at night, and any other time when I can spare a few minutes.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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2. Writing Books

With so many craft books from which to choose, how do you decide?

http://writershelpingwriters.net/recommended-writing-books/

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3. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e February 5th, 2016



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

13 Productivity Apps to Help Keep Your Writing Goals on Track (Jett Farrell-Vega)
www.thewritelife.com/13-productivity-apps-writing/

Adding Conflict to Your Scenes (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/11/find-your-plot-fridays-forcing-issue.html

Filling the Silence (Donald Maass)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/02/03/filling-the-silence/

Why These 6 Catchy Headlines Work — And How to Re-Create Them (Nicole Dieker)
www.thewritelife.com/why-these-6-catchy-headlines-work/

How Research Amps Up Your Story (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/how-research-amps-up-your-story/

Reading the Market (Wendy Lawton)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/reading-the-market/

Finding Comparable Books (Rachelle Gardner)
www.rachellegardner.com/finding-comparable-books/

Research is the Spice of Life (Aimie K. Runyon)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/01/31/research-is-the-spice-of-life/

The Ten Events of the Highly Successful Writer (James Scott Bell) [Jon’s Pick of the week]
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/01/the-ten-events-of-the-highly-successful-writer.html

The Fair Contract Initiative (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-fair-contract-initiative.html


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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4. So, Why Do I Write? Discovering the Writer’s Life

When the co-authors of Two Writing Teachers invited me to join the team, I was overwhelmed. When Julie Johnson asked me to co-author an iBook through the Columbus Area Writing Project, I was again submerged in fear. I found myself wondering if these writers had read my writing. I mean, if they had read my ramblings on my personal blog they wouldn't be inviting me, right? Do writers ever lose their doubts?

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5. Writer Wednesday: Into the Fire Street Team Revealed!



Applications have been carefully reviewed and the official Into the Fire street team has been selected. Before I share the list of people who made the team, let me just say that this experience was very surreal for me. I was amazed at how many people submitted applications and how excited people were at the prospect of being selected. I want to thank everyone who applied, and know that even if you weren't selected (because we committed to only taking 20 people to keep the group small—and I still took one extra because narrowing down this list was SO hard!), you made my day and have my gratitude for wanting to help me promote this series.

Okay, without further ado, here is the official Into the Fire street team!

Keren Hughes ~ Gothic Angel Book Reviews
Jennifer Helms ~ @JenBibiHelms 
Shieka Doctor ~ Doctor's Notes
Stephanie Belden ~ @smbmar 
Veray Carter ~ @pinkladyroses 
Michelle Willms ~ Michelle Willm's Blog
Janera Holt ~ Booknut101: Once Upon a Time
FSMeurinne ~ Book Enticer
Rachel Andrews ~ Rachel's Book Reviews
Elizabeth Thiele ~ Crazii Bitches Blog
Maghon Thomas ~ Happy Tails and Tales
Jessica Porter ~ Crossroad Reviews
Denise Cayetano ~ I Am Shelfless
Beth Consugar ~ @eaconsugar
Stephanie Faris ~ Stephanie Faris
Kat Romeo ~ Living in a Fictional Reality
G. Donald Cribbs ~ G. Donald Cribbs Books
Kristen Chandler ~ Shelf_Life
Rachel Gunter ~ Bookish Wonderland
Ashley Kemp ~ Mama Reads
Brie Chelton ~ @Chapter_Break

Some of these amazing people have supported my other books and some are completely new to me, but they are all equally incredible for wanting to be part of this series. I thank them all immensely.

First up for promo of Into the Fire is the cover reveal happening this Saturday through Monday. And guys, it's so GORGEOUS!!!!! I can't wait for you to see it. So, that means my usual Friday Feature post will actually be on Saturday so I can share the cover. Be sure to stop back on Saturday. :)

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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6. The difference between writing and brain surgery

I keep reminding myself of the above as I'm working on the first draft of my middle grade novel.

If you like the image above, I've made it available as a free print-ready PDF in my For The Love Of Reading resource (where you can find lots of other print-ready posters and activity sheets).

0 Comments on The difference between writing and brain surgery as of 2/2/2016 9:40:00 AM
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7. How Much Interiority Should I Use?

This is a great question that came via email from Matt:

Is there a writing principle about how much interiority should be within a scene?

As with all great writing debates, I’m here to say that there’s no set guideline. Womp womp. Sorry to not have something more concrete, but I do have some food for thought that might help you choose your own approach.

My rule of thumb, however, is to use what’s necessary and find a balance. As with anything, balance doesn’t come easily. Some writers err on the side of too much interiority, some writers barely scratch the surface of their character’s rich inner lives, even in first person.

The imbalance of too much interiority is especially apparent when nothing is happening, plot-wise. Alternately, nothing happens because there’s too much interiority, or internal conflict, rather than external conflict. If you have your character thinking about everything, maybe you’re on this end of the spectrum. Know that, while a level of interiority is desirable, you also need to focus on the things that come less naturally to you, namely pacing and plot. It’s very important to know how a character reacts to what’s happening, but it can’t be the end-all and be-all. To be fair, I see this imbalance less than its opposite.

The more common imbalance is seeing little interiority in big moments, when connection to the character should naturally increase in order to keep from alienating the reader. Writers who fall into this category tend to be very comfortable with plot. When they do talk about emotion, maybe they simply name what a character is feeling, or talk about the feelings by using clichés that detail emotions in a character’s body. These are offshoots of telling, and, as you’ve heard me say many times, interiority is quite different from telling, though the distinction can be subtle for a lot of people. Characters with too little interiority are also prone to being stuck, or to being in denial.

As you can see, there are many more links discussing a lack of interiority or issues with inadequate interiority than there are dealing with too much of it. This is yet another reflection of the fact that I see writers end up toward this end of the issue a lot more.

If that’s not the case for you, and you think you’re somewhere in the middle as an interiority-user, I would still suggest analyzing how you’re striking that balance. Make sure the reader feels connected to important moment, and use enough interiority to highlight the things that are truly important. When something big happens that your character should be reacting to, ask yourself: And? So? Some recent thoughts questions that help develop interiority can be found here.

Next, think about how interiority and plot intersect. Use interiority to plant the seeds of tension as you develop your plot. It’s not enough to have a character feel afraid, for example. They’re usually afraid of something very specific, or a worst case scenario. To help tension along, let their minds go to those darker places, especially if the plot hasn’t caught up yet. More thoughts on that here.

This is such an important facet of the fiction writing craft that I really hope you never stop exploring this fascinating topic, and figuring out how to best use this tool.

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8. Style Sheets

Keep track of all the important details in your story with a style sheet.

http://annerallen.com/2015/09/style-that-doesnt-go-out-of-fashion.html

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9. Make Every Day a Vacation


2015 was so travel-filled for me that I'm actually looking forward to staying home as much as possible this year. There are dozens of fun things to do in here in Albuquerque and never enough hours in the day (or night) to fit them all in. But as much as I love seeking out new museum displays, creative groups, or shops and restaurants, it can also be too easy to to become complacent and take them for granted. This year I want to change that.

One of the things I was most aware of while I was traveling was how different everything felt to me--from the air I breathed to the way the light struck a windowpane, and how quickly I stopped noticing those little nuances once I was back home. Around Christmas-time I was desperate to know why that was. 

Beyond the obvious answers such as, "Well, you don't have to wash the windows when you're on vacation," or, "Each day abroad is a chance to re-invent yourself," I realized that when I travel I put a lot more effort into what I can only call mindfulness, probably because I know it might be my only chance to experience that particular travel destination ever again.

So my major question for the year is: How can I cultivate that same travel mindset here at home and not just when I'm riding a tour bus? How can I make every day a vacation day? To get the ball rolling, I made a list while I was writing out some morning pages and here's what I came up with.

Have afternoon tea. One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to have afternoon tea either in a tea shop or right in my hotel room. I especially like trying out different flavors and brands that are foreign to me. Lesson learned: relax, savor, and enjoy some new tea brands (yay, oolong . . .).

Get up early, even when I don't have to. When I travel, I can't wait to get up and get out the door. All those places to see! Here at home, struggling to wake up before it's entirely necessary can be torture, especially in the winter. Then I remembered how much I love those fancy little shampoos and body washes the hotels provide. Stocking my bathroom shelves with spa toiletries has made my mornings a lot easier to face and far more luxurious--just like when I'm on vacation.

Sketch, sketch, sketch. Take photos. Of anything and everything. Sketching and photographing my surroundings lets me to see the world with new eyes--even the places I already know. Having a sketch plan or goal before I leave the house each day reminds me to take the time to look.

It's okay to draw like a little kid. When I sketch in my travel journal, I don't care how it turns out. I'm just going for first impressions and ways to capture the memories. The same applies to my daily journal entries. It's a viewpoint that cuts out the angst and makes creativity a joy to pursue and express.

Love the day without expectations. It's impossible to know in advance what you'll encounter in another country outside your own, yet, somehow, that never seems to matter. As far as I'm concerned, if it's a vacation, it's all good--exactly how I want to experience my day wherever I am.

Trust I am being taken care of. Goal: Give up daily worry, anxiety, everything negative that keeps me fretting and wastes my energy. The bus driver knows where we're going--so let him drive. My one and only job is to enjoy the view.

Eat well, eat small. Thanks to my vegetarian lifestyle, it isn't as easy as it should be to find a wide array of food choices when I'm on the road. And that is probably a good thing--less chance of stomach upsets, less chance of over-eating, and less chance to spend/waste money on not-so-great meals. This year I want to stay more conscious of only eating when I truly need to, rather than because "it's so yummy I can't resist and I don't care about stupid old calories." 

Walk more. Walking in Albuquerque (at least for me) isn't always a great idea: lots of traffic (and drivers who run red lights), broken and uneven sidewalks and streets with potholes, and the neighborhood shops aren't close enough to home to bring back groceries, etc. on foot. What we do have to counter that, though, are beautiful parks, open-air shopping malls, and a number of museums worth visiting throughout the year. It's no problem to drive to these places and then go for a good long walk once I'm there--with my sketchbook in hand. A wonderful way to stay in a holiday mood.

Travel light. I've always been a big fan of down-sizing, minimizing, and de-cluttering, but even when I think I've done my best, sure enough I find something more to give away, toss out altogether, or purchase yet another storage bin for. This year I am going to put a lot of thought into what I buy, asking myself: will it fit into my suitcase (i.e., my house/life) and how heavy will it be? And do I really need it? The answer, just like when I dithered over purchasing an entire set of Portuguese tiles last year, will probably be "no." And that's fine with me.

Tip of the Day: Whenever I travel I like to immerse myself in learning about the history, the food, the art, the entertainment, and of course, the people of each new place. One way to make every day a vacation is to do the same in my own backyard. A concentrated "course of study" about subjects as diverse as New Mexico's santos or native plants will go a long way to make being at home more interesting to me. I'm sure you'll find just as many fascinating topics in your own home town!

0 Comments on Make Every Day a Vacation as of 1/29/2016 1:44:00 PM
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10. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e January 29th, 2016



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

Finding Your Best Beta (Liz Michalski)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/01/29/finding-your-best-beta/

10 Places to Find Awesome Free Stock Photos for Your Blog (Marian Schembari)
www.thewritelife.com/7200-2/

Surviving Writer Envy (Heather Webb)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/01/28/the-haves-and-the-have-nots-surviving-writer-envy/

Stay Focused (Meg Dowell)
www.thewritelife.com/stay-focused-4-ways-to-delete-writing-distractions-from-your-life/

Indie Contracts (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/01/27/business-musings-indie-contracts/

When to stop redoing (Jennifer R. Hubbard)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2016/01/when-to-stop-redoing-jennifer-r-hubbard.html

How to Talk with Publishers and Agents (Rachelle Gardner)
www.rachellegardner.com/talk-with-publishers-and-agents/

25 More Hard Truths About Writing And Publishing (Chuck Wendig)
www.terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/01/25/25-more-hard-truths-about-writing-and-publishing/

Self Publishing as a Lemonade Stand (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/01/self-publishing-as-a-lemonade-stand.html

10 Mistakes (Almost) Every Rookie Writer Makes (Susan DeFreitas)
https://litreactor.com/columns/10-mistakes-almost-every-rookie-writer-makes



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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11. Sketching People: My Book is Here!


The advance copies of my urban sketching book just arrived - hurrah! They should have been here a couple of weeks earlier it turns out, but they went astray in the mail and the publisher didn't realise I hadn't had them. 


It's been a bit fraught with technical hitches to be honest because, when they resent my package this week, someone put in the American edition and one by a Singapore publisher (below), but left out the UK one (above). Never mind - they look gorgeous and glossy and I am very pleased. The contents on the inside of the different editions are more or less the same, it's just odd words and grammatical variations - it's mainly the covers which look different.


It's lovely to see how all the content looks, in it's proper form. I spent so long putting it all together and now here it is, looking like a real book! 

I thought I'd take some snaps to give you a sneak preview, though you probably have a pretty good idea by now, since I've talked about it in progress often enough (hit the Sketching People label on the right, if you're interested). 

There a section which looks at art materials, with a specific eye on how you choose tools which are appropriate to the problems of drawing people out on location:


I look at how you choose your subject, which is hugely important. There are some locations and activities which are virtually impossible, but plenty of others which make things a lot easier for you, especially if you are cutting your teeth:


Then there are the different possible angles to tackle. I would rarely advise drawing people front-on. It's much more interesting and far easier on the whole, to tackle them in profile or in three-quarter view, particularly when you are concentrating on faces:


I write a fair bit on techniques to deal with the fact that people move about a lot, which is of course one of the main things which makes them so tricky. I can't stress enough the benefits of trying contour drawing, both for warming up your arm and eye and for tackling your subject as swiftly as possible:


Plus another technique, handy particularly if you are drawing groups of people or people passing by, is using composites - sketches made up of a little of one person and a bit of another, with maybe the head of someone else again!


There is a lot more too, of course. I tried to think of everything I know. It's hard when you have been doing something for so very many years. It all becomes second-nature. Writing the book has been really interesting, because it has helped to make me analyse what I know. Which has actually really helped for when I am teaching workshops, like the ones I am doing at the moment for the Morgan Centre as part of my Artist-in-Residence year, and of course the work I do with Urban Sketchers.

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12. Do We Need a Patronage System for Writers?

I came across an interesting article by Maggie Doherty in Dissent Magazine the other day via Arts and Letters Daily that discusses how and by whom a writer is paid might affect how and what they write. For instance, if you are being paid by a big commercial publisher and your compensation and future book publication is tied to how many copies of your current book sells, how much money it makes the publisher, then you are more likely to write the kind of fiction that caters to the mass market. And that is fine if that is what you want to do. What, however, happens to the genre of literature we call art? What happens to experimentation?

today’s writers must meet market demands. Those who succeed often do so by innovating no more than is necessary. Many of today’s most celebrated writers marry experimentalism with accessibility; they produce prize-winning fiction with just a dash of formal excitement, enough to catch the eye of cultural gatekeepers but not so much that it renders a work unmarketable. They forge aesthetic compromise and favor political consensus. Their work reassures readers more often than it unsettles them. This isn’t so much bad literature as boring literature. After all, what’s more exhausting than reading, time and again, experimentation you’ve come to expect?

The article provides a thoughtful look at the history of public funding of literature in the United States, mostly through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but other organizations as well such as the Federal Writer’s Project (FWP) during the depression. When public funding was high, literature thrived, there was a diversity in viewpoint and a wider engagement with issues. Think Zora Neal Hurston and Ralph Ellison both of whom received funding from the FWP. Think Tillie Olsen and Raymond Carver, both of whom received grants from the NEA when they were just starting out as writers. But thanks to Ronald Reagan and the 1980s, public funding has been cut back to a pittance and the NEA has to be extremely careful in who it gives grants to so it doesn’t ruffle conservative feathers and lose even more funding.
 
What about universities you may ask since many writers support themselves these days by teaching:

many of today’s writers have retreated from the public sphere and are holed up in private and increasingly corporatized universities. Endowment managers are their patrons now, rather than representatives of the public. More and more writers cycle through temporary faculty appointments, teaching at the undergraduate level and in MFA programs. At a time when some English departments must make do without a medievalist or an eighteenth-century specialist, creative writing is flourishing. Since 1975, the number of MFA programs across the nation has increased tenfold. Some critics have also complained about the standardizing of literary style, while others, such as Junot Díaz, have voiced concerns about the lack of diversity among MFA faculty and students.

So while universities may offer some support, they are clearly not the answer either. After all, there are only so many jobs to go around and if you don’t have an MFA you are completely out of luck unless you have already made a name for yourself as a writer.
 
I’ve sometimes wondered what the big deal was with most writers not being able to actually make a living from their work. I mean all of us regular people who write manage to do it. Sure it takes a long time but we keep at it anyway because it is important to us. Even the likes of Kafka and Hawthorne had jobs that were not related to writing and they seemed to do just fine.

But that is short-sighted of me. Because the single mother who has to work two jobs to make ends meet and take care of her children and everything else is not going to have the time or energy to write even if she wants to. What a gift it would be for her to have all her expenses covered for a year or two! But even if she has shown talent, published a few pieces that prove her potential, she is not the sort of person who gets grants these days. Grants tend to go to writers like Jonathan Franzen and Jhumpa Lahiri after they have won major awards, after they have begun to make a name for themselves, rarely new and unknown, unproven writers.
 
All things considered, Doherty says we can’t fault writers for “selling out.” But the results are a literature that appeals to the mainstream and is aesthetically compromised, a literature that reassures rather than unsettles, a literature that flirts with innovation and excitement but never truly is innovative or exciting. In short, a literature that is boring.

What might a literature that is not beholden to anyone look like? Wouldn’t it be interesting and exciting to find out? Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though that will happen any time soon. Doherty suggests we need a return to a patronage type of system, preferably a public one like the NEA used to be. There is no political will for that in the US.
 
I wonder though what enterprising authors might not be able to achieve with crowdfunding? I contributed to a crowdfunded novel a few months ago and actually received the book in the mail a week ago. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet but I am looking forward to it whether or not it is good. As if writing isn’t hard enough already for writers looking to do something truly innovative, to have to do a Kickstarter or similar campaign just adds to the burden. But it does seem a possible viable alternative from my perspective because it would offer a kind of freedom they might not otherwise have. As Doherty says,

When writers are forced to conform to consensus positions, either political or aesthetic, the literary world starts to look depressingly monochrome. Literature that appeals to the mainstream isn’t just politically anodyne—it’s aesthetically predictable. We need a literary world, and a political order, in which writers, from a range of social positions, feel encouraged to surprise their readers. We need fiction and poetry that will confuse us and trouble us, challenge us and incite us.

A range of social and political positions, surprises, challenge and incitement. Yes please!


Filed under: Books, Writing Tagged: public patronage of the arts, Writers gotta eat and pay the rent

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13. Writer Wednesday: Handling Conflicting Feedback

Today's Writer Wednesday topic comes from Mirka Breen. She wants to know how you approach contradictory feedback on your WIP.

If you're getting feedback on your work, you're doing the right thing as far as taking measures to improve your manuscript. But that doesn't mean it will be easy. Getting contradictory feedback from beta readers, agents, or even editors can throw you for a loop. If this happens, there are two things you should do.

First, remember that reading is subjective. If the feedback is about something that could be personal preference, then there is likely no need to fix it. If one reader doesn't like a character quirk or the way a character handled a situation, then that's reader preference, not necessarily something you did wrong as the author. Similarly, if a reader hates that you ended with a cliffhanger, that's personal preference again. I happen to love cliffhangers. ;) So basically this kind of feedback is preparing you for future reviews and how different readers will have different reactions to your book. There's nothing wrong with that.

The second thing you should do is look at the feedback and decide if you agree or not. It's YOUR book. Let me repeat that. It's YOUR book. You know the world and the characters best. If you feel you did what is best for your book and only one person questioned it, you're fine. Now, if you reflect on that feedback and think there's a possibility that reader is right, then you should try making adjustments and seeing if those adjustments improve the story. They just might.

So really, you have to decide what feedback you listen to and what feedback you chalk up to personal opinion.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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14. To do Feb 9: Marc Tyler Nobleman talks about Bill Finger

We recently noted that writer Marc Tyler Nobleman was on the hunt for a video of a particular panel from WonderCon about Bill Finger. He writes to tell us that he has a Finger-related event coming up in NYC on February 9th: As you know, 9/18 was the day DC Comics announced that (after 76 […]

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15. Writing Unit: How to Build a Snowman, with Stranger in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

If you're a teacher, and you live somewhere in the general vicinity of the northeast United States, you may be reading this from underneath a giant pile of blankets, cocoa in hand, enjoying at least one unexpected day off from school.

And if you're reading this, then you may be browsing for what to do when school is back in session, because your kiddos' focus will most likely still be on the gigantic piles of snow outside, and not on whatever you originally had planned.

Second graders who are still marveling at the biggest snowstorm of their little lifetimes might have a good time writing about snow: Specifically, writing about how to build a snowman. So, here is a set of plans you might like to use, focusing on temporal words and how-to writing.


Some technical notes: 

  • I wrote these plans based on Sailing Through First Grade's How to Build a Snowman: Instructional Writing Mini-Pack. Clicking on the link in the previous sentence will take you to the Teachers Pay Teachers store page, where you can download the packet for free!
    • These plans use only pages 1-5 and 17-18 of the packet, but feel free to adjust and tweak as you like.
  • The plans are aligned with Pennsylvania Common Core standards, but you can easily adapt to the standards in use in your state.
  • The plans are for second grade. However, they can be easily adapted for first and third grade - just adjust your core standards and tweak the plans accordingly to fit.
  • The plans use the book below as an anchor text. (But if you don't have it and are pressed for time, any book about snowmen, or ideally, building a snowman, should do):
    • Title: Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy (Nature)
      Author and photographer: Carl R. Sams II, Jean Stoick
      Pages: 48
      Reading Level: Ages 5 and up
      Publisher and Date: Carl R. Sams Photography, November 1999
      Edition: 1st 
      Language: English
      Published In: United States
      Price: $16.52
      ISBN-10: 0967174805
      ISBN-13: 978-0967174808

And finally, the plans:

Thank you for visiting, and happy reading and writing :)


0 Comments on Writing Unit: How to Build a Snowman, with Stranger in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick as of 1/25/2016 10:02:00 PM
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16. Trying to Publish Novel Excerpts

I’ve been on a roll with some really good reader questions lately. As a reminder to anyone out there who may be new to the blog, I do open myself up to general inquiries about writing and publishing via email. Sometimes these exchanges end up on the blog, sometimes they’re between you and me. Information on how to reach me is available in the sidebar. I regret that I can’t answer very specific questions or review work…that’s reserved for my freelance editorial clients. But questions Kate’s, below, are more than welcome!

What are your feelings about submitting an excerpt from an as-yet unrepresented novel for publication in a literary magazine? My concern is that on the off-chance that the excerpt would be published I would thereby render the whole novel unsellable to a publisher. In my case I’ve rewritten the submission to make it work better as an excerpt, but I’m not sure if there’s enough difference between it and the version in the manuscript, or whether that even matters. Thanks!

This is a great question, and one I see from time to time. I didn’t find out the exact circumstances until later, and it turns out I was right. Because I imagined a few things about Kate’s situation that would lead her down this path of reasoning. First, Kate is frustrated by a novel that’s not getting picked up. She later reported submitting to agents for quite some time and not getting where she wants to go. Second, she has likely started thinking…Well, what else can I do with this thing? Is there a shortcut to getting to getting noticed? Hence the literary magazine idea. And it’s not a bad idea, in theory. But would I recommend it? This was my response. Read on:

Good question. I’ll answer, but start my answer with another (blunt) question: Why? What’s the point? If you want to get a novel published, it is very, very, very unlikely that you’re going to get there by publishing something in a literary magazine from it that an agent will see or that will otherwise draw attention to your efforts. That’s a very circuitous route. And getting published in a literary magazine involves learning about good literary magazines to submit to, submitting to them, getting immersed in that, etc. If your big goal is to get a novel published, your energy is much better used focusing on the DIRECT route: writing a kickass novel and getting immersed in the novel/agent submission process.

While, yes, writing credits are kinda sorta important to collect when you’re trying to make your name as a writer*, they are not the determining factor. And literary agents and literary magazine people don’t spin in the same worlds some of the time. You’d think they would be connected, and some definitely are, but agents have so much to read that when a literary magazine lands on their desks, on top of everything else, it may or may not get attention. For me, even if someone is published in The Paris Review, one of the most noteworthy journals and pretty impossible to get into, if I hate the novel they’re submitting, the credit is impressive, but meaningless to me because, as an agent, I am looking to sell you as a novelist, not a literary magazine writer. So, you could be doing all that UNRELATED work for very dubious payoff. If the journals even want you.

The thing is, lit mag demand for unpublished novel excerpts is quite low compared to standalone articles, short stories, and poems. They’d rather publish those because they’re more satisfying for the reader, rather than some random piece of something that, who knows, nobody may ever hear from again. Unless they’re inspired to contract you for a serial series, I wouldn’t imagine that this type of piece is hot property. And if they do, you may have more problems publishing it eventually because more will have appeared in print.

So the print rights issue is certainly one to consider, and some publishers might be jerks about it, saying that since you’ve already exploited some rights by putting the excerpt in print, the property is less attractive, etc. It has happened. But that’s honestly not why I’d reconsider this idea. Finally, what about when you revise your manuscript, as you’re bound to do, because you wake up one day and realize the piece you’ve been missing? It happens all the time. And then you have this excerpt floating around that’s now horribly broken, in your eyes. And that’s your “sales piece” that’s now immortalized in print.

I know that you are probably very eager to do something, anything to move your chances forward. Think of taking the more direct path. Write the best manuscript you can. Write a killer query. Research agents. If you really have enough free time to also research literary journals, more power to you. But to me, that’s not going to be your strongest potential path to success.

  • I know many of you are going to find this statement interesting. I will cover clips and writing credits in a subsequent post!

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17. Monday Mishmash 1/25/16


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. Scholastic Book Fair  I'm working the book fair at my daughter's school this week. I always love getting to browse all the books, and I'm the crazy woman who has to fix the shelves because series are never together.
  2. Editing  My editing schedule is packed! I'm booking for the summer already.
  3. Into the Fire Cover Reveal  If you'd like to sign up for the cover reveal, which is a social media blitz (so you don't need to have a blog), you can do so here. It will run February 6th-8th.
  4. Into the Fire Street Team  If you haven't been able to apply for the INTO THE FIRE street team but you want to, I'm extending applications until 1/28 due to the demand! You can apply here.
  5. Reading  Even though my editing schedule is busier than ever, I've kept to my 2016 goal of making time to read. I've read some great books lately too.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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18. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e January 22nd, 2016



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

Amazon Pushing Quality Control (Elizabeth Spann Craig)
www.elizabethspanncraig.com/3877/amazon-pushing-quality-control/

To Blog or Not To Blog, That is the Question (Rachelle Gardner)
www.rachellegardner.com/to-blog-or-not-to-blog-2/

Writing Advice for Children and Teens (Jane Friedman) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
https://janefriedman.com/writing-advice-for-children-and-teens/

What to Expect From Your First Writing Residency (Ben Shattuck)
www.thewritelife.com/what-to-expect-first-writing-residency/

Should Published Authors Attend Conferences? (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/authors-attend-conferences/

The Perils of Self-Publishing (Dave King)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/01/19/the-perils-of-self-publishing/

10 Ways to Do Over Your Story or Novel (Alissa Grosso)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2016/01/10-ways-to-do-over-your-story-or-novel.html

What Are Your Characters Ashamed Of? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/01/what-are-your-character-ashamed-of.html

How to Find and Work with Beta Readers (Kristen Kieffer)
https://janefriedman.com/find-beta-readers/

A Day in the Life of an Agent (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-agent-2/

Who Are You Trying To Delight? (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/01/9150.html



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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19. Ten Rules for Writers

Elmore Leonard shares his writing rules including, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

http://memoirabilia.ca/elmore-leonards-10-rules-for-writers/

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20. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e January 15th, 2016



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

6 Common Punctuation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) (Laurisa White Reyes)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/01/6-common-punctuation-mistakes-and-how.html

How to Start Writing a Book: Use This Trick to Find the Time (Anita Evensen)
www.thewritelife.com/7080-2/

Edit Your Book to Perfection (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/edit-your-book-to-perfection/

Business Musings: Authors Guild 2016 Letter (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/01/13/business-musings-authors-guild-2016-letter/

Five Storytelling Lessons From The Force Awakens (Chuck Wendig)
www.terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/01/13/five-storytelling-lessons-from-the-force-awakens/

Pardon Me, But Your Modifier is Dangling (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/01/writing-basics-pardon-me-but-your.html

Instead of Bugging Your Family and Friends, Try These Writing Critique Groups (Meryl Williams)
www.thewritelife.com/instead-of-bugging-your-family-and-friends-try-these-writing-critique-groups/

What You Need to Know About Show, Don't Tell (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/01/what-you-need-to-know-about-show-dont.html

The $30* Four Hour Writing Workshop (Larry Brooks)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/01/the-30-four-hour-writing-workshop.html

Obtaining Reversions of Publishing Rights: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly (Susan Spann)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/01/10/obtaining-reversions-of-publishing-rights-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/

Blog Basics: 5Ws and an H (Michelle Ule)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/blog-basics-5ws-h/


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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21. Comics Wriitng how-to with Kieron Gillen

There exist on the internet a good few resources on how to break into writing comics—many of them linked at The Beat’s own resource page—but there is always room for more, especially more by The Wicked + The Divine’s Kieron Gillen, who is writing some of the best comics out there these days. But if […]

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22. Formatting Interiority

Based on last week’s interiority post, I got a great question in the comments from Kyle:

Mary, I love your thoughts on developing interiority both on your blog and in your book. I have a formatting question though: should those inner thoughts be set off in italics?

This is a small issue, but one I’ve been meaning to address. Lo and behold, I haven’t gotten around to it until this handy reminder. Thanks, Kyle! The straight answer to the question is quite simple: whenever you render verbatim thoughts in text, you do want to use italics. For example:

Wow, time has sure flown by. The holidays are over and it’s halfway through January! I should probably throw out those Thanksgiving leftovers, she thought, giving the fridge a wary look.

Super easy. Just put the thought in italics, avoid any kind of quotation marks (those are for spoken dialogue), and either add a “thought” tag, as you would a “said” tag in dialogue, or don’t. It all depends. If you’re citing verbatim thoughts a lot, you won’t need to do this after the first few times, because the reader will know that italics mean thoughts.

But this question does raise a bigger one. Does interiority have to exist purely as verbatim thought, or are there other ways to render it in narration? In my view, interiority can absolutely exist as part of regular narration, meaning that you don’t have to stick something into italics/thought in order for it to be a thought. If that makes sense.

Perhaps an example would clarify. Compare this with the verbatim thought that appears above:

Mary gazed over at the fridge and, with a pang, realized that there was still Thanksgiving gravy congealing in a Tupperware somewhere on the bottom shelf. Where had the days gone? Only yesterday, it seemed, they were getting the house ready for guests and turkey, stumbling over one another in a cleaning frenzy. Now it was almost time to write Valentines.

The tone is a little bit different. Both examples are in close third person, but the former is directly in the character’s thoughts, while the other takes a step back. It stays close, obviously, but doesn’t put anything in thought formatting. “Where had the days gone?” could easily be a verbatim thought, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, because it matches the voice in either configuration.

(As you can tell from the examples, I am feeling the rush of time passing, especially as Baby’s due date approaches…and I should probably clean my refrigerator! :) )

Basically, this is a very nitpicky distinction to make, and what you decide is ultimately up to you. It boils down to style. I personally prefer the latter example, but that’s just me. The reason I would advocate for this over sticking everything into thought formatting is that it looks a bit cleaner on the page, you’re not presenting block after block of italics. But it really is up to you. I’m simply so happy to have people playing around with interiority and thinking critically about it that I say you should follow your bliss and do anything that makes sense to you.

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23. When a Book You Need Finds You

Isn’t it a really wonderful thing when a book you didn’t know you needed to read unexpectedly comes into your life? Last week Sigrun at Sub Rosa mentioned a really good book she is reading, The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo. She mentioned it in the frame of thinking about the ideal writing life and Virginia Woolf’s “room of one’s own,” how this room is something that is pretty close to a fantasy for most of us.

I commented that DeSalvo’s book sounded interesting. Sigrun provided a link to the publisher description of the book and I thought, I should read that sometime! In the process of checking to see if it was something my library has, I decided to request it. Even though I am not looking to publish a novel or anything, I always enjoy a good book about the craft and process of writing and the idea of slow writing had an interesting sound to it.

The book arrived and I started reading it.

At this same time I have been struggling to write my next essay for Vocalis, that essay website I created with the lofty goal of publishing a new essay to it every week. How quickly that schedule has crashed! Because it turns out that even though I am great at writing a blog post in around an hour, essays take a bit more time. Go figure.

The process of writing an essay is an entirely different one that a blog post or book review or even an essay for class back when I was in library school about six years ago (wow has it been that long?!). I was surprised by this discovery and then I was surprised that I was surprised. And then I started worrying about timelines and whether or not I should shut down Vocalis now before I got too attached.

But then DeSalvo told me to not be so stupid. Most of the kind of writing I do is not exactly the creative sort and here I am expecting to produce creative essays in the same way I do everything else. I had forgotten how much time and extra work it takes, how different it is to dashing off a blog post. And I was getting frustrated. But DeSalvo reminded me:

We can take as much time as we need in our projects’ initial stages, allowing ourselves to be unsure of what we’re doing or whether we’ll succeed. We can commit to the process of learning and honoring our craft even as we acknowledge the anxiety and frustration that often occur early on. We can commit to working slowly, taking time to figure out our work, one slow step at a time.

That turned out to be exactly what I needed! Permission to learn a new process, to not rush but take the time I need.

I began writing a new essay last week but didn’t get far before I discovered I needed to do a bit of research. Research accomplished I then had to figure out how to use the research because, while it supports what I want to say, it also changes the scope of things and possibly even the direction I had thought I wanted to go.

I worked on the essay for about three hours Sunday and only stopped because I was starting to feel stuck and noticed my stomach was growling. Instead of an almost complete first draft, I had not even two pages. Disappointed. But also exhilarated because during that time I had found that place you go when you are fully focused and time and the world fall away.

DeSalvo talks about working at writing, how the process from project to project is not going to be the same, how we have to find our own rhythm and routine. All that and I have only read through page 22! She is right about what she says and I know she is right, I had just forgotten all these things in the regular routine and rhythm of blogging that has become so familiar, so comfortable and very close to easy.

Thanks to DeSalvo I am working at getting past the layers of disappointment from not being able to hit the ground running with this essay writing thing. I did, after all, want to try something new and different. I did want a challenge. I knew there were things to learn. That I am surprised, impatient and a bit vexed that I got exactly what I wanted makes me laugh. What? You mean I’m not a secret super genius writer?

Nope. But then most people aren’t. I guess I can be okay with that. It certainly isn’t a reason to give up and pull the plug on Vocalis. I wanted to be the hare but it turns out I am the tortoise. Slow and steady. Writing is not a race and there is no true finish line anyway. What’s the hurry?


Filed under: Books, In Progress, Writing

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24. Writer Wednesday: Decoding the Positive Rejection

On Monday, Fi Phillips was nice enough to suggest a topic for this week's Writer Wednesday. Here's Fi's question:

If you keep getting your book back from agents saying that it's great, they enjoyed reading it, keep sending it out, but it's not for them (with the additional phrase that it's all subjective), does that mean that the book isn't good enough or simply that I haven't found the right agent yet?

The hardest thing about a rejection like this one is that it means exactly what it says. You're doing everything right, except finding the right agent. This is actually a good rejection to get, but it can break your heart too. What you should take from this is that someone (maybe more than one agent) likes your work. That's a good thing. The problem is, and I can say this from experience as an acquisitions editor, you need to find the person who loves your book as much as you do. I read a lot of good manuscripts. I'm only open to agented submissions right now, so these manuscripts got the attention of agents. That must mean they're pretty good, right? Yes, but it doesn't mean I'll love them.

Me, specifically. I read each book I work on countless times. I have to still love it after I've poured over each word and practically memorized the book. If I don't, I can't work on it. An agent is much the same. They have to love your book so much they'll cry if they don't get to work with you on it. (Okay, maybe not cry, but you know what I mean.)

So this rejection means just what it says. You're doing everything right. You wrote a great book. Now find that agent who loves it as much as you do. He or she is out there somewhere.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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25. Why I Love Writing (and Drawing) in Cafes


This past weekend found me in two cafes: Saturday drawing and painting in the Albuquerque History Museum cafe, and Sunday writing with my writer's group in a bookstore coffee shop. Bliss! 

Ever since I first read Natalie Goldberg's advice in Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind about writing in cafes, I've been hooked on following her example. I can't think of a better environment than a cozy--and often noisy--cafe to help writers and artists at all levels relax, focus, and get some work done all at the same time. It's a practice I've been following for years, and one I've come to rely upon to get me out of the house and filling the blank page. 


Some of my top reasons for choosing cafes over, say, the library or the laundromat as a makeshift office/studio include:

1. As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. And the cafe scene is always changing.


2. Someone else makes the coffee.

3. You have instant “material.” All those strange people sitting around chatting, arguing, reading, slurping . . .

4. You get used to writing with distractions and even a certain amount of discomfort. Great for learning to switch off from the "real world" and concentrate on the project at hand.

5. Discipline. You’ve made the effort to travel all this way, so stay there!

6. Ritual. Same place + same time = familiar and comforting routine.

7. Writing by hand is good for the heart and soul.

8. Or if you prefer, plug in. Many cafes have free WiFi, great for the budget-conscious.

9. If you're close enough to a local cafe, you can walk there. An excellent workout!

10. You can buy yourself a treat for “good behavior” and pages written. (And it doesn't have to be cake. If you're in a bookstore, museum, or gift shop cafe, how about a new book, magazine, pen, or journal?)

11. You have the opportunity to hold meetings with other artists and writers without using--or cleaning--your house.

12. Busily working away in your journal or sketchbook in public sends the message that you are a Professional, helping you to be exactly what you want to be.


Tip of the Day: Writing or drawing surrounded by a crowd can sometimes be daunting. To overcome any shyness or self-consciousness you may feel, especially if you're a newbie to cafe creativity, try sitting with your back to the wall. That way no one can easily look over your shoulder--something people love to do when you're sketching. (It's taken me a long time to simply smile and keep going whenever that happens. And believe me, they soon get bored and leave.) Another tip is to use a journal or sketchbook with a firm fold-over cover so you can write or draw while the book is propped on your lap rather than on the table, a good way to maintain your privacy and confidence. Latte, anyone?



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