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1. Writing Links

DSC_0640

Rejecting Rejection by Sarah Aronson :: The Writing Barn

The Real Job of a Writer :: Chatting at the Sky

Introverted: The Writer’s Power and Downfall :: Darcy Pattison

Dear Soon-To-Be-Published Author :: Writer Unboxed

Self Publishing vs. Traditional: Some Straight Talk :: Nathan Bransford

Picture Books Are for All Ages :: Publishers Weekly

 

The post Writing Links appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl_KingandRice

I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.

I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.

280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!

That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)

But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.

Sheryl_HemingwayErnest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.

… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.

Jennifer Weiner…

Sheryl_Jennifer W“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”

Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day.  She has a ROUTINE.

Jodi Pincolt…

Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”  JUST WRITE… edit later.  

So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…

Rachel Aron…

Sheryl_Rachel Aron bookAron, a sci fi author, figured out how to go from 2,000 words per day to 10,000. That’s right. I said it. 10,000 words per day.

Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.

The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.

Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.

Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:

TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =

BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT

Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.

Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.

Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.

This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.

My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.

So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.

As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.

In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:

ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:

  • A variety of word count meters can be found here.
  • The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
  • The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
  • The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
  • Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
  • And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.

Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!

In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


0 Comments on How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1) as of 8/19/2014 7:43:00 AM
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3. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl_KingandRice

I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.

I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.

280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!

That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)

But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.

Sheryl_HemingwayErnest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.

… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.

Jennifer Weiner…

Sheryl_Jennifer W“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”

Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day.  She has a ROUTINE.

Jodi Pincolt…

Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”  JUST WRITE… edit later.  

So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…

Rachel Aron…

Sheryl_Rachel Aron bookAron, a sci fi author, figured out how to go from 2,000 words per day to 10,000. That’s right. I said it. 10,000 words per day.

Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.

The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.

Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.

Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:

TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =

BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT

Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.

Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.

Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.

This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.

My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.

So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.

As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.

In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:

ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:

  • A variety of word count meters can be found here.
  • The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
  • The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
  • The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
  • Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
  • And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.

Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!

In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarabs

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


7 Comments on How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1), last added: 8/18/2014
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4. Who Gets to Write It?

As regular readers here know, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to write outside my culture. Thank you to Valerie Geary for pointing me to this article at The New York Times.

DMA Genesis mosaic

These two quotes especially spoke to me:

We’re doing what fiction writers have always done: trying to investigate the world, explore human experience, render precisely what it means to be alive. We’re trying to give voice to everyone on the planet. And who has the right to do that? Do I have the right to write my version of your story?

A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful.

– “The Right to Write,” Roxana Robinson

Read the full article here.

The post Who Gets to Write It? appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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5. Upcoming Writing Conferences and Workshops

WorkshopHere’s a little round-up of some upcoming writing conference and workshop opportunities. Keep developing your craft!

Advanced Writer Workshops at The Writing Barn: Writing Outside the Box 

  • Multiple Viewpoints, Unreliable Narrators, Unusual Structures—Oh, My! with top-selling agent/author Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary, and author K. A. Holt
  • WHEN: October 9 to October 12.
  • Event Details: In this interactive, hands-on workshop we’ll take a close-up look at a wide variety of structurally exciting books, dissecting and discussing and teasing out tips and tricks that will help you, no matter how you choose to tell your story. Come ready to brainstorm your work or just to get your thoughts flowing in a new direction—you’re sure to leave this workshop with an entirely new outlook.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Group or Solo Writing Retreats at The Writing Barn

  • On our 7.5 wooded acres located in Austin, TX, we can host from 1 to 17 writers.
  • Contact: info@thewritingbarn.com
  • Website: www.thewritingbarn.com

The Art of the Sale: with best-selling authors Jenny Han and Siobohan Vivian

  • WHEN: December 4 to December
  • Event Details: Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han have collectively published sixteen books, from picture books through young adult, and have over ten years of experience in the book business, from book buyer to librarian to educator to editor. Together, they will get you and your manuscript ready for the real world and give you the very best shot at getting published. For those who are already published, they will guide you in building your career.
  • This intensive will be a mix of formats. For those in the querying trenches,  there will be SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE: How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter, Formulate an Engaging One-sentence Sales Pitch, and Land the Agent of Your Dreams. And for those with agents, there will be NOW WHAT? How to Build your Writing Career, Book by Book, Goal by Goal. These small groups will involve discussion and input from either Jenny or Siobhan.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Teaching Opportunities at The Writing Barn 

  • Opportunities: We hold half day workshops, full day, extended weekend events (Thursday eve through Sunday afternoon), and week long events. We are always adding programming and are NOW looking to build our 2015 schedule. Whether we fly you in or you teach with us while you are on a book tour coming through Texas (We work with Big Austin Indie Book People as well as Round Rock Indie The Book Spot–The Book Spot is good for school visits) we would love to hear from you with your ideas on classes, events, etc.
  • Contact: Bethany Hegedus, Author & Founder, The Writing Barn at bahegedus@gmail.com
  • Dates: Ongoing

YA Novel Writing Intensive in NEW YORK CITY with Nova Ren Suma

  • This is an intensive workshop for writers working on YA novels of any style or genre. During weekly critique sessions, we will focus on constructive feedback with the goal of helping the writer execute his or her intended vision. Participants will critique one another’s work in group discussions, and each writer will have a private conference, with feedback from the instructor on additional pages from their novels. Writers are expected to have a basic knowledge and appreciation of current YA novels, and are welcome to come to this class at any stage in the writing of their own novel: just beginning a first draft, with a novel-in-progress, or with a completed draft in need of focused revision.
  • This workshop is designed for experienced writers. Previous publication is not necessary, but writers should be serious about working on a YA novel, open to critiques and advice, and ready to help their peers succeed.
  • When: 6 Wednesdays, 6:30-9pm, September 24th, 2014-October 29th, 2014. Private conferences will be held in November
  • Where: The Writers Room, 740 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10003
  • Price: EARLY BIRD PRICING: $600 by September 1st, 2014;  $650 after September 1st
  • Contact for any questions: Nova Ren Suma at nova@novaren.com
  • APPLY HERE: http://ideasmyth.com/ya-novel-writing-intensive-with-nova-ren-suma/
  • NOTE: As of AUGUST 11, the workshop is full. Any accepted writers will be added to the waitlist—spaces may still open!

Sanibel Writers Conference with Emily Franklin, Richard Russo, Steve Almond, others

  • Ninth Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference
  • When: November 6-9, 2014
  • Where: BIG ARTS & the Sanibel Island Public Library, Sanibel Island, Fla.

Emily Franklin—Pitch Perfect: Finding Your Voice in Young Adult Fiction

  • Can any story be written for a young adult audience? What makes a YA voice believable?  We will explore dialogue, setting, structure and the key elements of trust in young adult fiction.  Is your story for middle grade readers, teens, or adults (or all of the above)?  Is your novel set in this world or an imagined one? Present day, past, or future?  Does it matter?  With a few writing prompts we examine the best way to tell your story, openings that appeal to teen and adult readers alike, and rules (are there rules?) for keeping your adolescent audience captivated. Emily is also doing individual conferences/meetings for query letters and works-in-progress. 
  • Registration and info: http://www.fgcu.edu/siwc/

0 Comments on Upcoming Writing Conferences and Workshops as of 8/15/2014 4:11:00 PM
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6. Upcoming Writing Conferences and Workshops

WorkshopHere’s a little round-up of some upcoming writing conference and workshop opportunities. Keep developing your craft!

Advanced Writer Workshops at The Writing Barn: Writing Outside the Box 

  • Multiple Viewpoints, Unreliable Narrators, Unusual Structures—Oh, My! with top-selling agent/author Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary, and author K. A. Holt
  • WHEN: October 9 to October 12.
  • Event Details: In this interactive, hands-on workshop we’ll take a close-up look at a wide variety of structurally exciting books, dissecting and discussing and teasing out tips and tricks that will help you, no matter how you choose to tell your story. Come ready to brainstorm your work or just to get your thoughts flowing in a new direction—you’re sure to leave this workshop with an entirely new outlook.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Group or Solo Writing Retreats at The Writing Barn

  • On our 7.5 wooded acres located in Austin, TX, we can host from 1 to 17 writers.
  • Contact: info@thewritingbarn.com
  • Website: www.thewritingbarn.com

The Art of the Sale: with best-selling authors Jenny Han and Siobohan Vivian

  • WHEN: December 4 to December
  • Event Details: Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han have collectively published sixteen books, from picture books through young adult, and have over ten years of experience in the book business, from book buyer to librarian to educator to editor. Together, they will get you and your manuscript ready for the real world and give you the very best shot at getting published. For those who are already published, they will guide you in building your career.
  • This intensive will be a mix of formats. For those in the querying trenches,  there will be SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE: How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter, Formulate an Engaging One-sentence Sales Pitch, and Land the Agent of Your Dreams. And for those with agents, there will be NOW WHAT? How to Build your Writing Career, Book by Book, Goal by Goal. These small groups will involve discussion and input from either Jenny or Siobhan.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Teaching Opportunities at The Writing Barn 

  • Opportunities: We hold half day workshops, full day, extended weekend events (Thursday eve through Sunday afternoon), and week long events. We are always adding programming and are NOW looking to build our 2015 schedule. Whether we fly you in or you teach with us while you are on a book tour coming through Texas (We work with Big Austin Indie Book People as well as Round Rock Indie The Book Spot–The Book Spot is good for school visits) we would love to hear from you with your ideas on classes, events, etc.
  • Contact: Bethany Hegedus, Author & Founder, The Writing Barn at bahegedus@gmail.com
  • Dates: Ongoing

YA Novel Writing Intensive in NEW YORK CITY with Nova Ren Suma

  • This is an intensive workshop for writers working on YA novels of any style or genre. During weekly critique sessions, we will focus on constructive feedback with the goal of helping the writer execute his or her intended vision. Participants will critique one another’s work in group discussions, and each writer will have a private conference, with feedback from the instructor on additional pages from their novels. Writers are expected to have a basic knowledge and appreciation of current YA novels, and are welcome to come to this class at any stage in the writing of their own novel: just beginning a first draft, with a novel-in-progress, or with a completed draft in need of focused revision.
  • This workshop is designed for experienced writers. Previous publication is not necessary, but writers should be serious about working on a YA novel, open to critiques and advice, and ready to help their peers succeed.
  • When: 6 Wednesdays, 6:30-9pm, September 24th, 2014-October 29th, 2014. Private conferences will be held in November
  • Where: The Writers Room, 740 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10003
  • Price: EARLY BIRD PRICING: $600 by September 1st, 2014;  $650 after September 1st
  • Contact for any questions: Nova Ren Suma at nova@novaren.com
  • APPLY HERE: http://ideasmyth.com/ya-novel-writing-intensive-with-nova-ren-suma/
  • NOTE: As of AUGUST 11, the workshop is full. Any accepted writers will be added to the waitlist—spaces may still open!

Sanibel Writers Conference with Emily Franklin, Richard Russo, Steve Almond, others

  • Ninth Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference
  • When: November 6-9, 2014
  • Where: BIG ARTS & the Sanibel Island Public Library, Sanibel Island, Fla.

Emily Franklin—Pitch Perfect: Finding Your Voice in Young Adult Fiction

  • Can any story be written for a young adult audience? What makes a YA voice believable?  We will explore dialogue, setting, structure and the key elements of trust in young adult fiction.  Is your story for middle grade readers, teens, or adults (or all of the above)?  Is your novel set in this world or an imagined one? Present day, past, or future?  Does it matter?  With a few writing prompts we examine the best way to tell your story, openings that appeal to teen and adult readers alike, and rules (are there rules?) for keeping your adolescent audience captivated. Emily is also doing individual conferences/meetings for query letters and works-in-progress. 
  • Registration and info: http://www.fgcu.edu/siwc/

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7. Straight From the Source: Michele L. Hathaway on Writing Historical Fiction

Michele L. Hathaway has an M.A. in Social Anthropology and is a freelance editor and writer. Her stories are in various stages of emergence.

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

My stories vary tremendously, but at their core is a love of culture, past, present, and even mythical. The era and story idea come first, the characters emerge later to make the culture come alive. Sometimes the landscape is the starting point. This is the case for the Navajo stories I am writing. I spent quite a bit of time in the North American Southwest as a child and an adult, so it occupies a large swath of my inner landscape. I feel more alive here than anywhere else on the planet. Sometimes I am captivated by an entire era, such as the first 400 years A.D. of Mediterranean history, along with key historical figures from this period. Then again, I have a story idea that takes my characters around the modern day world, but the research involved with getting these cultures right is almost identical to historical research.

How do you conduct your research?

At the beginning of a project, especially one where I don’t have a large body of knowledge already in place, I’m like a child at a carnival. I careen from one amusement to another until I find myself breathless at the top of the Ferris wheel. From here I look down on the whole journey. When I get back to earth I filling in the blank spaces on a need-to-know basis.

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, here’s the general plan: I go to the library and load up on as many books as I can get my hands on. I scan these, usually finding I am attracted to some more than others. Resources that are most helpful I might buy so I can mark them up and keep them near for reference. I copy the bibliographies of the most helpful to see what inspired the author, where their research originated. I’ve found gems this way. From there I follow trails that branch further and further. If a source is mentioned by several authors, I look at that. I never stop researching, I always have a book or two going as I write. This keeps me in the story, inspires, guides, and corrects. One thing to be aware of is new research coming out. Since I began my Navajo stories, I’ve found a few new books that are gems. So check back with your library from time to time.

DSC01747

Do you have a specific system for collecting data?

No unless you count the carnival method mentioned above, and the aftermath.

What kinds of sources do you use? 

I use any and all resources that apply. I use books, the Internet, travel, experts and interviews. Books may include academic, historical fiction, and picture books. Picture books should not be underestimated. They are great for researching folk tales and imprinting visual details. When I was researching for a forest fire scene, I needed the photos to help me with concrete details.

The Internet is also helpful for visual images as well as hunting down an obscure fact, like the name of the owner of the Thunderbird Trading Post in 1945—Leon Hugh “Cozy” McSparron, by the way. I couldn’t have thought up a better name. Sometimes you need to hear coyote song or the crackle of a forest fire, or see Mexicans harvesting vanilla beans, or Navajos playing string games.

If I find a book that does more than inform, but inspires, I contact the author. This has led to great help and a friendship or two. You’ll find that people who are passionate about their topic are happy to talk about it.

Finally, if I can, I travel and observe the setting of my novel first hand, be it Navajoland or Egypt—what a great excuse to travel, eh?

At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue
once you begin writing?

An author, whose name escapes me, once said, “Write sooner than you think you can.” When I feel, not quite saturated, but too impatient to wait any longer, I begin. Usually my characters are coming alive within the history, the culture, the landscape, or the myth. I write until I find a hole in my knowledge. Then I stop and research until that hole is filled. I continue on as quickly as I can. When I find new information, I add that or rewrite if I need a course correction.
What is your favorite thing about research?

I love to learn new things, and I love to put these things into the framework of a story. Writing historical fiction allows me to be a perpetual graduate student without the exams—the book is my thesis. I haven’t graduated yet, but I can see the day, shimmering in the distance.

DSC01506

What’s your least favorite thing about research?

I wonder if I have done enough, if I am missing something important. I don’t have time to read every book cover to cover, so I worry that I have missed something. Or missed the “right” book.

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

Studying history is time travel. I am transported to places and times I can’t go to any other way. It is one of the most thrilling rides of my life.

What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

I believe the most difficult thing about writing historical fiction is getting the psychology of the period right. It is easy to fall into the trap of dressing a modern American in a toga and calling him a typical Roman. Critics will jump all over that. As they should. A 1940’s Navajo girl in boarding school will not talk back to her teacher, no matter how spunky she is. A Greek-Egyptian Boy from 345 AD is probably not going to see slavery as extreme injustice. Making your story true yet accessible to modern readers is tricky. Check out Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book for a good example of grasping the psychology of medieval England. (warning—this is a devastating book, a Hugo-Nebula Award Winning, wonderful, devastating book. I love it.)

Sometimes it is helpful to read a stratified selection for research. Read writers from as many decades or centuries as you can find to help off-set bias. This is complex and yet fascinating. The reality is there is no way to see history through a pure lens. We bring ourselves, our culture, our social bias to any historical interpretation. We have to do our best here. We have to work hard, work honestly, write the truest story we can.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

Wow! It is hard to pick one and hard to think of one, because at some point the research goes internal and becomes a part of me, transforms me. I can think of one or two things that stand out though. One is the complexity and beauty of Navajo myth and legend. We hear so much about Greek and Roman myth, but have no idea how deep and interwoven Native American literature is with history, culture, creativity, beauty. I could go on and on. Part of why I write these stories is to share this body of wonderful literature.

Has your research ever affected the overall trust of your book? How so?

My research has shown me where I have gone off track, but most often where I need more depth. I find the feedback from “experts” most helpful. Research has not caused me to have to abandon the work, rather it provides course corrections and transforms it, always transforms it, so that I am following a truer path. Not a perfect path. Not a path everyone will agree with, but a truer path. And that is the best all of us can do.

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Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?

When retelling myth, there are almost always different versions of the story because it is from oral tradition. At some point, the writer of fiction has to choose one version (or even blend versions, which does not change the truth of the story, but that is another topic). For example, in Navajo legend, the Hero Twins are sometimes born of one woman, or sometimes they were born of two women but are still twins. This does not present a problem for the Navajo, but the rest of the world can’t reconcile the dissonance. To avoid confusion, I have chosen to have them both born of one woman.

If a historical figure is famous enough, there will be problems. No question. One of mine is a saint. He is revered by millions. I cannot presume to write a biography; few are qualified to attempt it. Therefore, I am writing about him through the eyes of a young protagonist. This way the story is about the boy, but I can open a window on this amazing historical figure, allow for his flaws, but not presume to offer a complete biography.

Why is historical fiction important?

Historical fiction is not only important, it is fantastically important. It is obviously important for its historical content, but there is so much more. I believe, historical fiction is a safe environment to explore modern issues. For children this is critical. Because the story is set in another time, it is not so close that it generates anxiety, but it brings up situations and issues children may have to deal with now or in the future—a sick sibling, an absent father, or even the trauma of war. All of this can provide them with tools to help them cope with their situation, help them discover who they are and who they want to become.

One day I was on a bus driving along the waterfront in Alexandria, Egypt. Two women in head scarves were sitting on the sea wall talking while their toddlers played nearby. It struck me in that moment, in that one scene as the bus sped by, that I was more like them than I was different. They were two friends, with children, having a chat. I’ve been there. They are me and I am them. I’d like others to see the world that way. That we are more alike than we are different.

 

 

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8. Why Books Are Important

Your work is important. What you have to say will change people’s lives.

The following video about how the Harry Potter Series affected one reader has been circling the internet. If you’re a writer and you haven’t seen it yet … you must.

Just watch it.

Books change lives.


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9. Why Books Are Important

Your work is important. What you have to say will change people’s lives.

The following video about how the Harry Potter Series affected one reader has been circling the internet. If you’re a writer and you haven’t seen it yet … you must.

Just watch it.

Books change lives.


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10. The Fuzzy Muse and a BLUE BIRDS Giveaway

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,

second-round edits,

Boo and FPP

and now, with an advance reader copy.

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It seemed fitting that Boo get her own copy of BLUE BIRDS, but seeing as she hasn’t yet learned to read and it’s not as tasty as she first hoped, Boo’s offering to give her copy away.

If you’d like to read the book a full seven months before it’s published, enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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11. The Fear of Writing Outside Your Experience — And Doing It Anyway

July’s the month I take a blogging sabbath. Throughout the course of the month, I’ll re-run some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

Yesterday I turned in my first-round edits on BLUE BIRDS – a verse novel about the Lost Colony of Roanoke told from the perspective of Alis, an English girl, and Kimi, a Roanoke girl. The story didn’t start this way. I initially intended to write solely from Alis’s perspective. But when I realized the forbidden friendship between Alis and Kimi is what the entire story hinges upon, I couldn’t keep things as I first planned.

And that kind of terrified me.

There are a lot of opinions and strong, strong feelings as to who has permission to write certain books. I’m a non-Native author. What gives me the right to try and speak for a thirteen-year-old Roanoke girl?

I’m still not sure. But I’ve been a girl. And I know how profoundly friendship can shape a person. I’ve been in new cultural settings and have learned to see the foreign as familiar and the familiar as foreign. This answer won’t be enough for some readers. I understand that. But I’ve gone ahead and written the book anyway.

In the mean time, I’m drawing courage from the It’s Complicated series at the Children’s Book Council Diversity blog.

What are your feelings about writers working outside their cultural experience?

 

 

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12. Five Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

July’s the month I take a blogging sabbath. Throughout the course of the month, I’ll re-run some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

It was with a bit of reluctance I decided to join in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a month-long challenge to produce 50,000 words on a new piece of writing. I’d tried NaNo in 2009 and failed miserably. I never, ever was going to do it again. But things came together for me this year in a way that joining in made sense:

  • BLUE BIRDS was off with my editor
  • I was at the point with my research for a new novel that I was itching to get started
  • I read this blog post by Darcy Pattison
  • My critique partner, Valerie Geary, promised me peanut butter cookies if I made it through

I didn’t sign up officially. Instead I created a contest of one I called Fake-o NaNo, where I aimed to write 1500 words a day six days a week. I missed one day, had a good number of sessions I didn’t hit 1500 (and a couple I wrote more), and felt finished with the draft a few days before Thanksgiving — the exact day BLUE BIRDS “flew” back to me in a big padded envelope.

Here are five things I learned from the experience:

  1. Slow and steady has been my writing mantra this year. But sometimes fast and furious is just as important. Typically, I write verse novels and picture books. It’s a sloooow process, especially when I’m initially drafting. But with this new novel, I’m trying my hand at prose, something I haven’t poked at for seven or eight years. Throwing words on a page was a very liberating, non-committal way to reintroduce myself to this form. With my first NaNo attempt, I got stuck during the first week and decided to stop. This time around was no different. I faced the same impossible rut one week in. But I kept moving, mainly by sticking to the next lesson I learned.
  2. Sometimes you just have to write about the writing. While I’ve kept a journal for this book since April, I still have a lot of exploring to do. Many days I found myself writing about what was working in the story and what wasn’t. Things I’d have to look further into, characters I needed to add, relationships I needed to develop. Really, the draft became a running commentary, an in-the-moment chance to reflect on my ideas (or lack of them). I know this will be invaluable when I return to the book in a few months.
  3. Practice holds the fear at bay. I’ve written here a lot about how much angst is bound up in my first drafts. The creative process is a scary thing for me, and beginning (and finishing) a first draft is my biggest challenge. By holding myself to a daily goal, I was able to break through some of that fear by simply showing up and doing the work.
  4. Embrace the mess. The “draft” I finished with is quite possibly the messiest, worst thing I’ve ever written. But it’s been such a great experiment in getting words down, feeling out characters, and sometimes learning exactly what I don’t want to write about (by first doing just that). Knowing I could toss it all took me in some directions I might never have discovered if my approach had been more careful.
  5. Did I mention the cookies? Committing out loud to a friend kept me honest. And the cookies were a great pay off!
Did any of you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? What was your experience like?

This post is a part of Chatting at the Sky’s Tuesdays Unwrapped series.

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13. 2013 Writing Goals: Hit, Miss, or Somewhere In Between?

July’s the month I take a blogging sabbath. Throughout the course of the month, I’ll re-run some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

I thought it would be fun to look over the goals I set for my writing this year, to see what worked and what didn’t. And in light of this recent discussion on author output, comparison, and finding peace with my own creative processes, the timing felt right.

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:

  1. research for a new picture book
  2. twelve new picture book manuscripts (!!!)
  3. six months of research for a new novel
  4. three months of drafting this new novel
  5. 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:

  1. I was already waaay off on the picture book goal.
  2. Due to some wonderful news, I needed to change my novel goals.
  3. This was all A-okay.

One of the best things I got from Chris’s talk was information on author Kristi Holl’s Rx for Writers: Managing Your Writing Space and Your Writing Time (a free mini e-book).

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.

A dream that wasn’t in my control changed the course of some of my writing goals this year. Some goals, such as the twelve picture books, were way off track.

Here’s what I actually did in 2013:

  1. research for a new picture book
  2. two new picture book manuscripts
  3. four months of research on a new novel
  4. one month drafting this new novel
  5. work on first and second-round edits for Blue Birds
  6. 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!

 

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14. Writing Links

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How To Kill a School Library in Ten Easy Steps :: School Library Journal

Bestselling YA Authors Share “The Book I’m Most Thankful For” :: Parade Magazine

Why Do Young Readers Prefer Print to eBooks? :: The Guardian

If I Only Had Connections…. :: Rick Riordan

Boys Will Be Boys, and Girls Will Be Accommodating: Why “Boy Books” Aren’t Always the Solution :: Laurel Snyder 

Strong Writers Do This :: Kristi Holl

No one cares about your novel: So writers, don’t be boring! :: Salon

 

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15. Straight From the Source: Katherine Longshore on Writing Historical Fiction

Katherine Longshore is a former travel agent, coffeehouse barista and preschool teacher who has finally found her calling writing novels for teens.  She is the author of GILT, TARNISH and BRAZEN, a series of novels set in the court of Henry VIII, published by Viking and the “Downtonesque” MANOR OF SECRETS published by Scholastic.  After five years exploring castles and country manors in England, she now lives in California with three British citizens and one expatriate dog.  Visit her online at www.katherinelongshore.com.

What typically comes first for you: A character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

I typically begin with character. That said, characters come to me because of the historical era, so it becomes a question of the chicken or the egg. For me, however, the story doesn’t begin without the character, so that’s where I start.

My first book, GILT, came about because I thought, “Catherine Howard was a teenager when she married Henry VIII. She’d be a great character for a YA book!” But my narrator, Kitty Tylney, was born out of a news item about a rape at Richmond High School in California—one observed, but not reported, by as many as twenty other people. And I decided I wanted to write about a character who observed atrocities and wrongdoings, and for whatever reason, didn’t do anything until it was too late.

Anne Boleyn in TARNISH came to me on a long drive one Thanksgiving weekend—I’d been pondering writing about her, but didn’t find the courage until I thought about how she might have felt, as a teenager, being transplanted from her adoptive home of France (where she’d lived for seven years) to the very foreign world of the Henrician court.

The only book where I did the opposite was BRAZEN. I began with the historical figure—Mary Howard—a woman who became quietly independent in later years, avoiding court machinations whenever possible. But I didn’t know who she was—that is, who my fictional character needed to be—until I’d written the first draft. This was definitely a case of the story—and the writing of the novel—informing the character rather than the other way around.

How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?

I like to tell people that I researched Henry VIII, his wives, and the Tudor era for ten years before I started GILT. This is absolutely true, but invites a misconception. I didn’t do the research with the idea of writing a novel in mind, I did the research because I was fascinated and wanted to know more. Ultimately, I wanted to understand the characters, so delving into their psychology through fiction seemed a natural transition.

Once I have made the decision to write a book, however, I usually research for about a month before I begin to write. I reread histories and find new ones to look for new insights. I take notes on index cards, even though I don’t always refer back to them. I’m a visual and tactile learner, so the act of writing something down cements it more firmly in my mind.

I continue to do research throughout every draft, finding specific details like Where was Henry VIII’s court on July 25, 1535? Or What kind of dress would a kitchen maid wear in 1911? Some of the answers can be found online (the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII is an invaluable resource!) and others have to be gleaned from more books. While finishing the third draft of BRAZEN, I read Alison Weir’s wonderful book about Anne Boleyn’s last days, The Lady in the Tower, which helped me write a key chapter using the vivid details Weir is so adept at providing.

What is your favorite thing about research?

The sense of discovery, and being able to pass that on to readers. One of the things I love about reading history and historical fiction is feeling immersed in this world that no longer exists. So discovering bright details that can make the world come alive is utterly inspiring. Which tapestry Henry VIII had hanging in the great hall of Hampton Court. What the upstairs rooms in a country manor smelled like to a downstairs maid. The name of Anne Boleyn’s lap dog, the view from Greenwich Palace…Details give us the greatest impression of the reality of history—that people actually lived and died and loved like we do.

What’s your least favorite thing about research?

Dates and numbers. I was always pretty good at math, and I don’t mind it—in fact, it keeps my mind sharp. But I don’t have an affinity for numbers. I don’t remember them, and sometimes I transpose them (782 can become 287 very easily—in fact, I can look at one number and say the other out loud. Made people very nervous when I ran a cash register!) I’ve been reading about Henry VIII for fifteen years and writing about him for five of those, and I can’t tell you his birth date or year without looking it up. But I can tell you who his mother’s father’s brother’s daughter was (Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury). To me, the real meat of history happens between the people—in the gossip and their personalities and interactions. The numbers and battles never interested me, which is why I think is disliked history as a teen—that’s how our knowledge was tested.

Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?

One of the reasons I love writing historical fiction is to make sense of some of the “muddy” historical characters I’ve come across. You would think Anne Boleyn would be straightforward—after all, there have been biographies, novels, plays, poems, operas, songs and movies made about her. But we still don’t know when she was born. It’s generally believed she was born in 1501, but I had to accept a later date (which some historians support) in order for her to be a teenager during the time period I chose to write about.

Mary Howard’s biography is even muddier. We know she married Henry Fitzroy (Henry VIII’s illegitimate son) at the age of fourteen. But no one knows for sure where she was for the next three years. Was she at court, serving Queen Anne Boleyn? Was she at her father’s (the Duke of Norfolk) home of Kenninghall? Or was she somewhere else entirely? Was she ever allowed even to see her husband? No one knows. There is no record. I decided to keep her at court because of a single mention of her being close to Anne Boleyn—and therefore occasionally coming into contact with Henry Fitzroy. Through this decision, I was able to explore the question, “How do you fall in love with someone you rarely get to see?” It became one of the central questions of the book. So for BRAZEN, history in some ways made the story easier to discover. The very muddiness freed me up to write a story that wasn’t hampered by all those dates I find so frustrating.

Unfortunately, history is also incredibly inflexible. I found it heartbreaking to have to write some events into my books. Deaths, arguments, poor decisions. I have used some choice words to rail at history over the past five years, but I always succumb eventually.

 

 

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16. Almost Five Years of Blogging: What’s Changed, What’s the Same

blog notebook

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.

Though many who started blogging around the time I did have since hung up their fiddles**, I’ve continued on. Not because I’m so great, but because I’ve really fallen in love with it all. After sending manuscripts into the void, sometimes never to be seen again, having immediate feedback from readers was and is the most amazing thing. Some of my most popular posts have been my Running a Book Club for Kids series, this Third-Grade Reading List I created for the said book club, a post on sod houses, and my interview series with author/teacher Donalyn Miller discussing her title, THE BOOK WHISPERER.

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.

**Sometimes only frontier slang will do.

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17. Practice and Art

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s blog for a few months now, and though much of it doesn’t feel like it directly applies to me, I always find something interesting there. While this post is about the business word, I love how it bleeds into the artist’s world, too. And why not? Can’t business also be art?

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Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

Read the rest here.

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18. The Words of Sue Monk Kidd That Are Making Me Brave

Writing outside my own culture has been a challenge, a venue of growth, and an exposure of my writerly insecurities. I’ve drawn encouragement from others who have done the same:

On writing Hetty, her enslaved character, in the first person:

“I didn’t do it lightly. I tried to write her in third person, but it didn’t work. I am intimately drawn to my characters, to see the world through their eyes and to allow the reader to do that.”

About creating a forbidden friendship between two girls, one slave, one free:

“I had to take a deep breath and get the courage to go there. [As a child] I witnessed terrible injustices and racial divides. I didn’t know what to do with that except to write a story that fosters connections across those divides and boundaries.”

Kidd says “the ‘common heart’ philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, an idea that the whole of humanity is connected with intrinsic unity, has inspired her writing career: ‘I try to go there when I am far away from my experience through that mysterious process of empathy.’”

— From the article “Taking Flight,” The Albuquerque Journal, Sunday February 2, 2014

 

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19. School Visits Galore

In the last six weeks I’ve done seventeen presentations in six different schools. Here’s a glimpse into this very busy, very rewarding time.

April 3 – Literacy Night: Truman Middle School, Albuquerque, NM

At Truman I talked to both kids and parents about the writing life: how long it had taken me to sell my first book, the inspiration behind May B., and finding satisfaction in the things we love. The evening ended with students sharing odes. My favorite? Ode to My Running Shoes.

BoBlunch

April 15,16 – School visit: Dexter Elementary School, Dexter, NM

I’d never been to Dexter, NM — a community southeast of Roswell and 1,200 people strong. Let me tell you, I was incredibly impressed with everything happening there. Librarian Nancy Miles has brought thirteen authors to Dexter in the last fourteen years, all funded by proceeds from the school’s Scholastic Book Fair.

On the fist day, I spoke to K-2, doing a new presentation called The Poet’s Toolbox: Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition. On the second I pulled out my tried and true hands-on frontier activity called Buckboards, Bloomers, and Buffalo Chips. Dexter’s Elementary Battle of the Books team hosted a special luncheon for the thirteen “BoB” readers. Check out the gorgeous table display which included May’s apple barrel and  tinned peaches. Nancy printed “The Voice of the Wind” poem as bookmarks and called it courage and hope — the phrase I use when signing May. And speaking of signing… those eager kiddos had me sign those cans of peaches!

As they were leaving the library, a girl shouted, “I love you!” and a boy said, “This is the best day of my life!”

DexterMiddle
17 – School visit: Dexter Middle School, Dexter, NM

Day three in Dexter took me to the middle school, where I ate burgers with the BoB readers and discussed the many things that might have happened to Mrs. Oblinger after she left May. Let’s just say Dexter middle schoolers are very, very creative. I was also informed middle schoolers are definitely not too old for stickers (they gladly took the May B. ones I’d brought along). I once again presented Buckboards, Bloomers, and Buffalo Chips. For one session a BoB team from Roswell came to join the fun.

April 24 – School visit: Chaparral Elementary School, Santa Fe, NM

At Santa Fe’s Chaparral Elementary I led a Poetry 101 writing workshop for fifth graders and met with the BoB kids after school. Here’s a priceless exchange I overheard while setting up for the second presentation:

Student #1: I thought she’d have black hair.

Student #2: I thought she would be sixty.

April 29 and May 6 – School visit: Dennis Chavez Elementary School, Albuquerque, NM

I stopped at Dennis Chavez on two separate occasions, one day to talk about the writing process and another another to talk about the frontier. My favorite part? Several kids asking if I could pull strings to make more copies of May B. show up in the school library.

HolyGhostCatholicSchool

May 1 – School visit: Holy Ghost Catholic School, Albuquerque, NM

This little school reminded me of my beloved St. Matthew’s Episcopal School where I taught in Houma, Louisiana. Along with authors Kimberley Griffiths Little and Stephen McCranie I talked with kids K-8 at the school’s annual Author’s Day. The day began with an assembly celebrating books the children had written. It was a lovely thing.

For those of you interested in some nuts and bolts posts I’ve written about school visits, you can find them here:

School Visits: Seeking Them Out and Setting Them Up
Tis the Season to Skype!
Planning, Preparing, and “Performing” School Visits

 

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20. How to Publish a Successful Book

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To publish a successful book, be sure you’ve got the following:

1. word of mouth (the everyday reader kind)

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)

4. magic

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?

Anything you’d add to my list?

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21. Author A. C. Gaughen’s TEDx Talk

I love Annie, plain and simple.* She’s talented, poised, smart, and going far in this world. Just wanted to share her TEDx talk called Brighter Than a Spark.

Here’s a guest post Annie wrote several years ago about her year in Scotland and how it changed her perspective on writing.

*My neighbor girl loves her, too. When she found out A. C. Gaughen is a writing friend, she swooned.

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22. Writing Links

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9 Reasons to Say Goodbye to Your Critique Group :: Smack Dab in the Middle

Take a Different Approach to Writing : Eat Dessert First :: Adventures in YA Publishing

Why Verse? Poetic Novels for Historical Fiction, Displacement Stories, and Struggling Readers :: School Library Journal

Hope, Optimism, Despair: Writer’s Emotional Roller Coaster :: Darcy Pattison

See Grown-Ups Read :: Wall Street Journal

Behind the Books: Ten Ways Authors Can Help Educators :: Melissa Stewart

11 Indispensable Life Lessons Every Woman Can Learn From ‘Anne Of Green Gables’ :: Huffington Post

 

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23. It Got Me Thinking…

State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

Perseverance.

How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

by Jessica Denhart

My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

Read More…photo-of-jess1

Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

Creative Input and Creative Output

by Heather Strickland

I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

Read More…

Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

Thoughts on Being Professional

by Amy Sundberg

“I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

Read More…

 Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

 


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24. It Got Me Thinking…

State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

Perseverance.

How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

by Jessica Denhart

My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

Read More…photo-of-jess1

Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

Creative Input and Creative Output

by Heather Strickland

I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

Read More…

Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

Thoughts on Being Professional

by Amy Sundberg

“I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

Read More…

 Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

 


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25. A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at BLUE BIRDS

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:

20140428_144722This 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.

20140428_144845Here’s the 1587 manifest (those we know as the Lost Colony), some maps, and a timeline of what happened July and August 1587 on the island of Roanoke.

20140428_144949Here’s some feedback from early readers.

20140428_144924Here are some first draft observations I made (adapted from Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT).

20140428_144808These 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.

edit lettersMy 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!

20140428_143607A page from the manuscript itself. Along with those detailed editorial letters, my editor also mails a printed copy of the manuscript with notes throughout.

20140428_142923The 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?

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