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When we got Boudreaux three years ago, I hoped she’d keep me company while writing, be a warm, faithful soul who’d stay by me as I worked. She’s been that and more.
Boo’s been around since the beginning of BLUE BIRDS, back when I started reading everything I could find on the Lost Colony of Roanoke. She took a special shine to the manuscript, too. Here she is with first-round edits,
Sorry I've been off-air for a while. I am so busy trying to get my sketching book ready for presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, that I have not been able to stop and chat. But I had to tell you about what arrived in the post today...
My advance copies of Jungle Grumble! It was a total surprise, as I wasn't particularlyexpecting them yet, since publication isn't until October. It's looking great. It's got a silk-finish cover, rather than full gloss, which I rather like.
I'll let you know when it's actually available to buy. Not long now! Right, back to work...
At the end of last year, our SCBWI-NM monthly schmooze focused on personal writing goals. During that session, I took a one-page calendar and marked out school holidays, family vacations, and other important dates I knew in advance. And then I aimed high.
Here’s what I wanted to tackle in 2013:
research for a new picture book
twelve new picture book manuscripts (!!!)
six months of research for a new novel
three months of drafting this new novel
blog/reading goal: re-read The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volumes I-V and write about it here
Author Chris Eboch led a second schmooze discussion in July about reassessing our goals. I noticed a few things:
Kristi talks about four terms that are key to a writer’s success:
DREAMS: not under your control
GOALS: under your control
SUB-GOALS: specific to-do steps under each goal
HABITS: daily practices that support your sub-goals
The distinction between what an author can control and what she can’t is key.* For example, while aiming to nab an agent is wonderful, it’s a dream, not a goal. But there are steps (sub-goals) a writer can take to do all that is in her control in this regard, from completing a manuscript, working with critique partners to revise it, taking advantage of contests or grants that might give feedback on her work, researching agents for the best fit, writing and evaluating a query letter, and finally sending it out.
work on first and second-round edits for Blue Birds
blog/reading goal: met! Plus I read the new(ish) LMM biography, THE GIFT OF WINGS by journal co-editor, Mary Rubio
Over all, I’m pleased with this year’s work. As for next year, I’ll consider re-visiting some of those picture book ideas, work on my novels within my editor’s time table, flex when surprises come, and keep re-assessing what’s best for my work and me.
Do you set writing goals? How have you fared this year?
*Unless you’re a local superstar author who recently shared with me she likes to set goals like “I’ll sell two novels and one picture book this year”…and does just that!
I started blogging in September 2009. By then I’d been writing for over eleven years, and though I had no publishing leads, I decided to jump in feet first: I quit my teaching job and started writing full time.
Though opinions have since changed, anyone who was trying to get published “back then” was supposed to blog.* I’ve often been thankful I started writing long before the blogosphere was born. While it was sometimes lonely writing on my own, it was also simpler, too — fewer distractions, no one else’s writing regimen or sales to compare to my own experiences. I sometimes wonder if I’d started writing then how far I would have gotten. How easy it would have been to try and keep up with everyone else on-line and altogether forget about the actual writing thing.
I remember checking out a book about blogging, and though I didn’t understand a lot of it, one thing stuck with me: with so many voices out there, a blogger needed a unique angle. I decided my blog would be called Caroline by line, a name I hoped would be catchy, would be a play on “by line,” and would help people learn I was a CaroLINE and not a CaroLYN (Five years later, I still get LYN-ed as much as before). I opened a free account on Blogger and committed to talking about writing and reading, but also the publication process as I was learning about it. I also threw in some bits and pieces on teaching. These were the things I knew and loved.
Using a weekly planner I got through Writer’s Digest, I kept record of my blog posts. I posted five days a week until I sold May B. (roughly seven months in), then switched to three times a week. In 2010, I took off the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2012 I gave myself a whole month of sabbath in July. It’s a schedule that I’ve stuck to since.
I’ve tried regular features. Some have succeeded, some have fizzled, some I’d like to revive: Classroom Connections, a series meant to introduce teachers to new books; Fast Five, an up-close look at five books that share something in common; On Writing and Why We Read, which are simply quotes on the reading and writing life; Navigating a Debut Year for those new to publication; and most recently, Straight from the Source, a series of interviews with authors of historical fiction. Then there was Carpool Conversations, little nuggets I overheard while driving the neighborhood kids to and from school.
Some of you are new around here, and some of you have stuck around since the very beginning. I’m so grateful for all of you and this journey we’ve been on together, from those first days I stepped into the world as an unemployed, unrepresented author to the present, with one book in the world and four more under contract.
If you haven’t before, I’d love for you to introduce yourself in the comments below, perhaps sharing how long you’ve read in these here parts. If there are any topics you’d like me to blog about in the future, I’d love for you to let me know.
Thanks, friends! This blog wouldn’t exist without you.
*Now it seems those of us who write fiction have been cut some slack. It’s you non-fiction folk who are absolutely required / no excuses / get to it / must blog. Or not. Whatever works for you.
This is kinda-sorta an "author's notes" post but without the spoilers. After a few months of quiet, I have a flurry of writing news. Horror d'oeurves features my flash piece, "Slips of Yew," a title I lifted from Shakespeare's "Scottish play." Okay, Macbeth. I guess it isn't bad luck to reference Macbeth in writing, just theater. Or is it theatre?
When I used to teach Macbeth, I'd show the rather grim and bloody Roman Polanski version. Yes, some moments are silly (e.g., a sleepwalking (in the nude) Lady Macbeth). Thanks for that, executive producer Hugh Hefner. Like anyone slept in the buff in a drafty Scottish castle, but I digress (again). The third of three witches in the film was younger than the others and Polanski/his writers chose to make her mute and assign her lines to the other two. "Slips of Yew" was born as I imagined her voice.
Imagine the excitement when I warned a room full of high school seniors (mostly boys) that we'd see nudity when I showed them the "something wicked this way comes" scene. Now imagine the shock and revulsion when the nudity was a cave full of old hags. Awesome. Those were the days...
Anyway, "Slips of Yew" to Horror d'ouerves marks my third official professional sale (5 cents a word or better)--fourth overall if you count a contest I won a few years ago. Unfortunately, it, added to my other professional sales, runs 1,000 words short of the ascribed 7500 word count/3 pieces threshold to be an active member of the HWA. So be it. I'll keep writing. Thanks to editor Shane Staley for picking up my little bit of darkness.
There's more, too, like "Lucky Numbers" in Dark Moon Digest #16. What's the skinny behind "Lucky Numbers"? Let's just say it might not be a good idea to cast a mask of your recently deceased loved one (post burial, even). And because everyone loves cover art:
The issue isn't officially out yet, but will be soon. Speaking of soon... I'm up at Every Day Fiction again on Wednesday. More soon.
When I was a senior in high school, I dropped Physics at semester to take Forensics. No, not forensic science, but forensics: the art and study of argumentation and debate. This is also known as speech and drama competition, a place where kids recite poetry and prose, preform monologues, or deliver original speeches in front of a judge.
One of the requirements of the class involved attending at least two meets. My coach/teacher provided me with Robert Frost's "The Death of the Hired Man" to read in the oral interpretation of poetry division. I performed one time and tied for fourth (I lost the coin flip and received a fifth place medal--wah wah). It was my only performance of that poem and the only medal I received in forensics. I went on to coach for 12 years as a teacher.
Okay, what does this have to do with "Silas"? Well, the story is available in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of The Rampallian, and it is one of those odd, hard-to-place pieces. It is, in part, inspired by "The Death of the Hired Man" and features an old hired-hand named Silas, just like the poem. While horrrific in subject matter, it isn't "horror" in the commercial sense.
This is your spoiler alert. So please read "Silas" orcontinue with the spoilers. I'm afraid it is one of those tales you'll need to shell out a few bucks to buy the issue, but 50% of the issue's proceeds go to benefit Reading is Fundamental.
. . . . .
My story implies Silas has molested young Rose, the protagonist. I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle such challenging subject matter, but after reading Peter Straub's masterful "The Juniper Tree" I understood the power of challenging subject matter. (I almost put Straub's story down before finishing it--but it's so damn good in the end.) While "Silas" does not touch the hem of Straub's coat, it is born of "The Juniper Tree" and "The Death of the Hired Man" with a good deal of Aaron Polson imagery tossed in the mix. The original title: "The Hired Man is Made of Worms"--I'll let that conjure an image or two without explanation.
Rose is a brave girl in the face of a horrible, harsh reality. In the story, you'll find Silas is the least of her problems. Thanks to The Rampallian and editor Rebecca McKeown, I have the chance to tell her story.
I ran an earlier version of this post right after selling my first book. Because it’s one of my favorites, and because I so often need to hear these words myself, I share them again today. Keep plowing, friends.
It was 2004. While driving to meet my writing group, I happened to catch an interview on NPR with Adrienne Young, a folksinger just starting out. She talked about her first album, inspired by some advice she’d gotten while struggling to make it as a musician:
If you want to do this with your life, stay focused and see this through. You’ve got to plow to the end of the row, girl. That simple phrase – plow to the end of the row – was enough to push Adrienne to continue. It became the title of both her album and lead song. I can’t quite explain what that interview meant to me, hearing an artist choose to create despite the struggle, to push against fear and sensibility and make it “to the end of the row.” I’ve carried this image with me for years, the plant metaphor standing in for artistic endeavor, the plow the unglamorous slog needed to dig deep and make it to the end. Sometimes I find it funny I’d choose a profession so bent on forcing me to wait, so full of uncertainty and disappointment. An almost foolish optimism has kept me working, trusting that the next editor or the next agent or the next story would be the one to launch my career. I’ve haunted mailboxes and inboxes, waiting for something positive to come through. I’ve ceremoniously sent off manuscripts, chanting, “Don’t come back!” (entertaining postal workers, for sure). I’ve journaled again and again “this next editor is a perfect match!”, managing somehow to keep on plowing in midst of little validation. After twelve years of writing and hundreds of rejections, I sold my first book, May B., a historical verse novel about a girl with her own challenging row to hoe. May’s determination carried me through a rocky publication experience: losing my first editor; the closing of my Random House imprint, Tricycle Press; the weeks when my book was orphaned, with no publishing house to claim it and its future uncertain; the swooping in of Radom House imprint, Schwartz and Wade; edit rounds seven, eight, and nine with editor number two; and finally, May B.’s birth into the world only three months behind its original release date. Though each row’s length varies, they’re still mostly lonely, not very straight and loaded with stones. But the soil has gotten better as I’ve worked it, and each little sprout I’ve planted has been stronger than the last. And I keep at it — plowing, planting, hoping, dreaming — because I’m made for this. And knowing this is enough to continue, enough for my work to thrive.
Lately, I’ve noticed how some writers are getting more and
more discouraged because they aren’t able to place their manuscripts with their
long-time publishers or agents.
After many years of writing and publishing, they are becoming
pessimistic about the future of their work. Editors don’t respond to their submissions,
agents no longer call or else tell them that their work isn't current,
Try to have them published, somewhere, so readers can see them. Why would I write silly stories and then sell them for the price of a beer (as I did with "Saint Max" to Phantasmacore)? Because, dear readers, the process of submission makes us all better. I could post this stuff on the blog, but no story will be it's best if it doesn't pass at least some publication muster.
Maybe that's what "Saint Max" is about. Becoming better. As always, there will be spoilers. Please read "Saint Max" if you'd like--it won't even cost you a beer--and head back for the story behind the story.
"Saint Max" started with a man digging holes in his backyard. He didn't know why. I didn't either when I started the story. He just dug. He did what he felt he needed to do. His son, Max, watches him. It's a strange thing which only grows stranger as every morning the yard looks normal.
Max grows in the story. He has to confront a bully named Caleb, and does so with violence. But nothing is solved for Max. His parents are dead when he goes home after confronting his bully. Why? You, dear reader, must decide. Maybe it was domestic violence (they do fight a lot). Maybe they just died. That's how death works. It simply happens.
And that's the hard part of this story. That's what might keep some readers at bay: sometimes life doesn't offer easy solutions. Sometimes bad stuff happens with no explanation. We want that explanation; we want to "know"--especially in fiction. But the real horror is not knowing. The real horror is the unknown, just like good ol' H.P. Lovecraft said. If a monster killed Max's parents, then the monster is the enemy. Max certainly believes in the monster, but it isn't a real thing. It isn't tangible.
I love this story and Max (both the fictional Max and my son), but it won't be accessible to everyone. Some people like the thrill of chase and death and everything else. But this is about Max surviving after his parents have died. This is about Max trying to figure out what to do with death. And... "A horror story cannot simply be about death."
Read "Saint Max" if you would--and if you do, please let me know what you think. Thanks to editor Jason Block for the future beer and giving my story a home.
It’s been a good, long while since I’ve written a post around here. March 5, to be exact. Since then it’s been quick quotes or photos, guest posts or repeats.
March and April have been busy for me. I was on deadline with BLUE BIRDS, taught a Novel Revision class for our local SCBWI chapter, spent a week in Spain, and traveled to Dexter, NM and Santa Fe for school visits.
I thought it would be fun to share about these experiences in detail with you here. I’ll start with my Novel Revision course.
The idea for this course came while I was on a run. I was listening to Cheryl Klein and James Monohan’s Narrative Breakdown podcast on Revision Techniques, and it struck me how perfect this podcast would be as a starting place for a revision class. From there I developed a course for SCBWI members who’d drafted a middle grade or young adult manuscript but weren’t quite sure how to go about revision.
Members were paired with partners and exchanged manuscripts. They focused on big-picture changes (character growth instead of punctuation, for example) and wrote a letter to their partner which focused on three things:
What needs work
What stuck out
Participants also wrote “letters to a sympathetic reader,” a technique Cheryl Klein sometimes uses with her authors when they begin the editing process together. The sympathetic letter focuses on
The real thing / key ideas / effect on reader the author is aiming for
Where the novel started from / idea came from
Big ideas the author is exploring
The things the author loves and wants to keep
The things the author knows are not working
How the author sees their main character (their purpose, journey, etc.)
What the book is now and where it should be
Mission / vision statement for the book
A sympathetic letter helps a writer to get back in touch with their initial ideas. It can also show how ideas have changed over the course of the draft. Though partners exchanged letters, its primary function is to teach a writer about their own work.
Much of our class centered around tips I gleaned from the Revision Techniques podcast and from Cheryl and Darcy’s books. My next two posts will be a collection of quotes and links I shared with my students on revision, plot, and character.
Revision: What is the most dramatic way to tell this story?
“Revisions are the messy route toward powerful stories. …I never tell someone how to revise their story. Instead, I ask you to look at your story in different ways, apply various strategies of revisions, and tell your story, your way. You are in control and will make all the decisions yourself.”
“Competence is a hard-won prize that only comes with lots of study and practice.”
“When you’re writing that first draft, don’t worry about following the rules. Instead, tell yourself the story you’ve always wanted to hear, the story you’ve never read anywhere else, the one that scares you with the pleasure of writing it. Treasure the joy of the work, because it is hard work, but when you can find that just-right word, that perfect plot twist — there are fewer greater pleasures.”
“Editors work forward from the manuscript to make its truth all it can be…paying attention to details that add up to an overall result.”
“Good prose repeats words in close proximity to each other only by strategy or design, not by accident or sloppiness.”
“I test every sentence against the question ‘What purpose doest this serve?’”
“An editor’s greatest joy is a writer who can recognize his own weaknesses and respond with an intelligent revision.”
“For a writer, an artist, making a choice gives you something to work with. You make a choice, get the words on the page, see if it feels right. If it doesn’t, you edit it or go back and make a different decision. The hardest thing is getting past the fear of making a choice at all.”
Saul Bellow: “The main reason for rewriting is not to achieve a smooth surface, but to discover the inner truth of your characters.”
“As you’re sitting down to write, you need to ask yourself: Am I writing a specific story that could only happen to this character in this world, in this time? What am I trying to say with this story? What do I want my readers to think when they put my book down?”
“What questions or mysteries does your first line raise?”
“Just because you put it first doesn’t mean that your current opening section is the real beginning.”
“Be a curator, not a camera…Believe it or not, most beginning writers will transcribe, as if they were a video camera…Another big mistake is focusing on transition scenes because you think you need to show how a character gets from one place to another.”
When revising, it’s essential you study your plot carefully to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some quotes and links I used in my revision class. I hope they point you in the right direction with your own work:
“The connection between the inner and outer arc, the emotional arc and the plot arc, isn’t always easy to see! When you set up an initial plot conflict, you need to immediately ask yourself what obligatory action scene is set up. When the inner conflict is set up, you need to ask what epiphany is set up.”
Good fiction creates “deliberate emotion…through immersing us in the character’s lived experience [via] well-crafted prose: prose where every word has been considered carefully by the author and belongs in the work; prose that communicates clearly.”
WANTS = action plot / NEEDS = emotional plot
“The difference between starting with premise and starting with character is usually that in a premise plot, the character has something done to him or her from the outside; and in a character plot, the character is the one who causes the action, thanks to the Desire.”
Avoiding the infodump: “Information must emerge organically, usually within the context of action.”
“A kid reader, whether he knows it or not, is picking up a book with the following request in mind: Make me care.”
“Fiction runs on friction and trouble.”
“Decide whether we need to see the full action of every instant in your book? …Focus on your most powerful scenes.”
“You are a writer, not a security camera…Shape events and cherry-pick the ones that are going to be the most exciting and most significant for your story.”
Plot Structure :: Ingrid’s Notes (This is an incredible series on classic plot and arch plot, alternative plots and alternative structures) Plotting :: Janice Hardy’s Fiction University (Another comprehensive list of posts on plot)
When revising, it’s essential you study your characters carefully to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some quotes and links I used in my revision class. I hope they point you in the right direction with your own work:
“No description should ever be content to play only on the surface. Whether a reader is aware of it or not, he should always be learning about character on multiple levels, especially at the beginning of your story.”
“We must always know what your characters want (each and every one of them) when we see them in a scene together.”
Unconscious objective (Cheryl would classify this as an unknown need / desire): “Characters struggling with Unconscious Objective shouldn’t be able to articulate them. But those deep desires are something that you, the writer, must absolutely think about.”
“Think of yow you can lend your stories a more complex undertone by always reminding us of your character’s worries and anxieties.”
2. publisher support (this might come from a stellar marketing plan or in-house enthusiasm)
3. mysterious things out of everyone’s control that are often unnameable and unknown (these also can “doom” a book, like having a release in the midst of a blizzard/flood/hurricane)
5. great trade reviews — I’m not convinced everyday readers even know these exist, but librarians and booksellers certainly do (and often base their purchases on them)
6. a great cover
7. a lot of reviews by “regular” people at Goodreads, Amazon, on blogs, and the like (this connects back to #1, but is less organic, more strategic, and less powerful, I think)
8. …and to give your book a second wind, make sure it’s nominated for awards
486. author efforts
How much of a book’s success is in the author’s hands? Is it even possible to measure an author’s promotional reach? The first question is easy: only the author’s efforts are in her control. But do writers really live this way? The second question is the more challenging one. I know of no hard and fast evidence that shows how an author’s promotional work affects overall sales, but I have to believe my one small voice doesn’t have the power to influence as many people as the other things on this list.
So where does that leave me?
Strangely comforted, believe it or not. I can’t make anything I write a hit. No one honestly knows how to make this happen, though we keep trying (and for those of us in publishing, it’s part of our job to do so). What I can do, though, is focus on promotion that excites me and drop the need to try everything.
How much of a book’s success do you think comes from an author’s efforts?
While doing school visits in April I thought it would be helpful for kids to see all the hidden work that goes into writing books. Here are the pictures I shared with them — a peek at the “work behind the work” for BLUE BIRDS:
This is my research notebook along with a few of my books and a scattering of bookmark notes. Plus a hand-drawn map of the way I pictured Fort Raleigh.
These are “quilts” I’d create after each draft — a way for me to see if the dual point of view narrative was working or not.
My three editorial letters. One thing I love to do is pass around my letters to students. There are usually two responses: they laugh (Whoa! These are intense!) or they want to know if the letters hurt my feelings (Whoa! These are intense!).
My response? Editors (and teachers) are like the friend who tells us we have spinach stuck in our teeth. It may feel a little embarrassing at first to see our flaws pointed out, but this is the stuff that makes us look infinitely better. It’s amazing to me how much hard work editors (and teachers) commit to writers (and students) while remaining largely behind-the-scenes. Editors and teachers, you are invaluable!
A page from the manuscript itself. Along with those detailed editorial letters, my editor also mails a printed copy of the manuscript with notes throughout.
The manuscript pile on my office floor. (I’ll reuse these for printing future rough drafts).
So there you have it, a glimpse into the inner workings of BLUE BIRDS. Any questions for me?
So... May has come and gone without a single blog post. Bad writer.
But June brings a few new publications, including "The Summer I Fell in Love" in Niteblade #28. I've had a few other stories in Niteblade in the past, including "Bait Worms" way back in Niteblade #6... nearly six years ago.
"The Summer I Fell in Love" is a personal favorite of mine, originally written for an anthology of southern zombie tales. Yes, I wrote the "z" word. Dirty, dirty "z" word. Only this story is different. (We--meaning writers--all say that, don't we?)
My story is more about a small town's hate and the irrational ends to which people will go in the face of horrible situations thank the "z" word. The narrator, a teenage girl, falls in love with another girl. Some of the details, lipstick tasting of soap, are fragments from my own memory. I dated a girl whose lipstick tasted like soap, but I was a teenage boy. My small town accepted such things (boys and girls together--not the soap-flavored lipstick). Fictional Connelly, somewhat modeled after my own as every other town I imagine, does not accept two girls falling in love.
When things turn sour, when the zombies show up, the town's angry voices need a target. Julie, the narrator's first love, is an outsider, not from "'round here" and therefore an easy mark. The memories and feelings of falling in love are there, even if the words and point of view aren't mine. The narrator's ache is my own.
This story earned one of my favorite titles--a title even more meaningful because the story is easily about the year of the zombie outbreak, the undead plague. But for the narrator, the real story was Julie--falling in love and Julie's sad fate at the hands of the real monsters. It will always be "the summer I fell in love."
I said there would be spoilers, didn't I?
Thanks for reading and thanks to editor Rhonda Parrish for another chance to have my words read. Please consider supporting Niteblade so they can continue to share fiction with the world. You'll find a "donate" button the right side of the site (scroll down a bit).
Have a beautiful summer. I hope it brings you much love but none of the "z" word.
For more than twenty-five years the Drue Heinz Literature Prize has recognized and supported writers of short fiction and made their work available to readers around the world. The contest, which includes a $15,000 prize and publication, is open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals.
The Drue Heinz Literature Prize Call for Submissions 2012
The Drue Heinz Literature Prize recognizes and supports writers of short fiction and makes their work available to readers around the world. The award is open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals.
Manuscripts are judged anonymously by nationally known writers; past judges have included Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Rick Moody and Joan Didion. The prize carries a cash award of $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press under its standard contract.
The winner will be announced by the University Press in January. No information about the winner will be released before the official announcement. The volume of manuscripts prevents the Press from offering critiques or entering into communication or correspondence about manuscripts. Please do not call or e-mail the Press.
The award is open to writers who have published a novel, a book-length collection of fiction or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals of national distribution. On-line publication does not count toward this requirement.
The award is open to writers in English, whether or not they are citizens of the United States.
University of Pittsburgh employees, former employees, current students, and those who have been students within the last three years are not eligible for the award.
Translations are not eligible if the translation was not done by the author.
Eligible submissions include a manuscript of short stories; one or more novellas (a novella may comprise a maximum of 130 double-spaced typed pages); or a combination of one or more novellas and short stories. Novellas are only accepted as part of a larger collection. Manuscripts may be no fewer than 150 and no more than 300 typed pages.
Stories or novellas previously published in book form as part of an anthology are eligible.
Format for Submissions
Manuscripts must be typed double-spaced on quality white paper, unbound, and pages must be numbered consecutively. Clean, legible photocopies on high quality white paper are acceptable.
Each submission must include a list of the writer’s published short fiction work, with full citations.
Manuscripts will be judged anonymously. Each manuscript should have two cover pages: one listing the title of the manuscript and the author’s name, address, e-mail addre
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The bold baby animal illustrations are designed specifically to catch the eye of babies from 1- 3 yrs, but I've worked hard to try and make sure that both books are also a funny read for the poor parents (some baby books can be a little basic in content, so gruelling on the 50th repetition...). I wanted mine to be fun to read aloud and easy to share with baby again and again.
I got the idea for Baby Goes Baaaaa! from noticing that many of my friend's baby's loved making animal noises. I knew that phonics was very important for early language development and learning, so created a book to help readers practise the all the different sounds that all babies enjoy: educational and fun!
0 Comments on Baby Can Bounce!: Bouncing into a Shop Near You... as of 1/1/1900
I recently started my new job as guidance counselor at McLouth Middle/High School. No, it has nothing to do with the latest Triangulation anthology, but I'll get to that. Trust me.
Enrollment took place last Thursday night and Friday morning. I saw what felt like hundreds of parents and students in a small amount of time (it was probably only a few dozen, but the feeling was there). I changed schedules, enrolled new kiddos, and was just there for a few to vent.
I don't remember if I've ever blogged about "the well" before, but as I'm nearing 1,000 posts, I don't remember a lot I've blogged about. The well, the deep place inside a person in which they can feel emotion, has been my greatest ally in the last eight months.
When I coached forensics, I talked to my team about the emotional battery inside all of us--the well--and how they could draw from that to make their performances work. I guess I was teaching method acting; it's just the language which spoke to me. This year, one senior placed 5th at state in serious solo acting, the highest placement in years. His piece, "Griefstruck" by J.J. Jonas, involved a tragic car accident which wiped out a young man's entire family. The morning of the performance, I looked at my student and asked, "Do you need any motivation?"
We went there. He knew. I knew. State forensics came only a month after Aimee's death.
My biggest ally in healing--and not only healing from Aimee's suicide, but her illness and struggles over the past eight years--has been the well. Mine's pretty deep, and I don't mind drawing from it. It helps me hear other people in hurt. It helps me work with teenagers. In helps me be there for my own kids, even when I'm exhausted and stretched too thin. It helps me enjoy life, too. It helps me love.
Yes. The well is deep.
Triangulation: Morning After is now available. It's the fourth Triangulation book in which I've managed to land a story, and I thank Stephen Ramey and the whole crew. "Scar Tissue Wings" is as much about Max's stint in Children's Mercy last December as it is about a man who cannot die in a world which already has. The well helps me go there. Triangulation has always been about telling the truth even with a strange spin. Some of my favorite stories have been graced to find themselves in its pages: "Dancing Lessons," "The Good Daughter," "The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable," and now "Scar Tissue Wings." This may be the last year for the anthology because the price of producing it has stretched limited resources too far. Please buy a copy so future writers can find a venue for their truths.
I spent fourteen years as an author in training, and while I learned many things in that time, I'm finding there are a slew of different lessons on the other side of publication. This spring, I examined the public, private, and writing life I want to cultivate. Right now, I'm trying to learn just how to protect my creativity -- how to let it grow and expand with a new project, how to feed it, how to keep it from being destroyed during the fragile moments a story is unfolding and finding its way. I've yet to figure this out, but here are a few things I'm pondering:
It's not the mind but the emotional self that gives us confidence or causes doubt. We are directly and indirectly taught the mind is a truer compass than the heart. And this is right oftentimes, especially for highly emotional people like me (and I would suspect most other writers, who tend to connect deeply and passionately with people, ideas, stories, and universal truths). The thing is, we writers know in our heads plenty of things that never penetrate our hearts. Whether we realize it or not, the emotional "truths" that occupy our lives influence our creative selves far more than we realize. How can we protect the vulnerable place stories spring from?
Surround yourself with supportive people. Obvious, right? Find a friend or group of people who support and understand you. While non-writing friends and family are wonderful, they don't always understand the writing world. Form a critique group. Become a part of a professional organization like SCBWI. Find people in the same phase of the journey you can encourage and commiserate with. Find people farther along who can show you the way.
Step away from the constant noise of the Internet. Never before have authors been asked to live the writing life so publicly. As soon as a book sells, the solitary falls away. We've got to find ways to protect our creativity in the midst of it all. There are too many ways to lose confidence -- reviews written by professional organizations as well as book bloggers or Goodreads account holders, articles in accessible publications like Publisher's Weekly or GalleyCat that praise our peers or their books and leave us feeling left out, or publications that praise us but leave us feeling like we'll never measure up again.
What are ways authors can protect their creativity?
Think about your absolute favorite book of all time. We all have one. A book we love, one that's practically perfect in every way. Got the book in mind? Now go to GoodReads. Look the book up. Filter the reviews for 1-stars (because I promise you, it does have one stars). And smile. Because if people can rate your favoritest book in the whole world with one star, then of course people can rate your book that way, too.
Few books are perfect. If you read like a writer you must read to gain what you can from each book, so reading then becomes a generous act. I tell my students they must learn to be generous readers, and judge each book not by whether it's the book they would have written but by whether it fulfilled the writer's apparent intention for it.
Words on the page. That’s what was important to us before we were striving to be published...Eventually, all of the glamour and the shine will fade away. The quarter that was dropped into the hype machine will expire, and the machine will go still and cold. But the story will remain. New readers will still find it, even if it’s only available in garage sales. And today’s readers will still remember it. It’s our job as writers to create a story we’ll still be proud of then.
Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make of it what I could; now it is their turn. I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it. It’s a wonderful feeling when readers hear what I thought I was trying to say, but there is no law that they must. Frankly, it is even more thrilling for a reader to find something in my writing that I hadn’t until that moment known was there. But this happens because of who the reader is, not simply because of who I am or what I have done.