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Blog of Author Sarah Aronson. Sarah received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College in July 2006. Currently, she works for Jewish Lights Press in Woodstock, Vermont. Head Case is her first novel.
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1. blogging in other places!

This week, I've been back on [info]thru_the_booth blogging about GREAT ADVICE.  If you don't know about this great community, it is a site dedicated to craft.  All the writers are graduates of Vermont College's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

I'm also blogging once a week on the LILITH Blog.  

Find it here:


About Lilith:

Published since 1976, LILITH magazine charts Jewish women’s lives with exuberance, rigor, affection, subversion and style. Now you can read the musings of LILITH contributers outside the pages of the magazine. 

Check them out!!

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2. Check out my fabulous husband...

or at least his first film:

On bike messengers in Amsterdam.


We'd love to hear your feedback!

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3. IRA

I am in Atlanta, enjoying the post-podium high of a panel presentation: Reach Don't Preach! with Teri Lesesne, Tanya Lee Stone, Laura Ruby, and Sonya Somes.  

We had a wonderful time!

(If anyone who took a picture, please email!  I always forget my camera.)

The audience had so many great questions--I felt like we could have talked for another hour.  It was really inspiring--talking to teachers on "the front line," trying new things, looking to recognize their students and mentor them.  They had great stories--about the effect of books in the classroom.  It was great to meet so many readers interested in YA fiction.

And the thai food at SPOON, is worth the taxi-ride across town!

I go home tomorrow...hopefully, to warm weather!


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4. My To-Do List

I have a big weekend of photo finishes.  

I'm almost done with my revision and I'm putting the finishing touches on my lectures for next week's 
New England SCBWI Conference.

Are you going to be there?  

Do you want to?

Check it out!!


My daughter (who just got her braces taken off) will also be dancing in City Center Ballet's production of Cinderella.


which means my parents are coming....so I have to finish my thank you notes.  (Yes, I know....they are really late.....)

On Monday, I intend to have a clean slate!

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5. What is a community to do????

Last night I was lucky enough to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin speak about the moral leadership of Abraham LIncoln.  (If you can ever hear her speak--do it.  She was engaging and smart.)

After, I checked my email.  (Never a good thing.)  There was a message from my daughter's high school principal.  To the community.  Never a good sign.

This year has been a tough one for my daughter's high school.  

A cheating incident continues to make the headlines.

Now a student has listed the "fifty people you need to hate" on Facebook.

The school's response so far:  to talk to the students "who are upset by this."

As a former principal (of a religious school...not exactly the same thing), I always erred on the side of outreach.  Especially when there was outrage.  When something like this happened--and it did--at least once a year--I gathered every student and discussed the moral and social issues.  I don't know if it helped the kids who were guilty, but I tried to hold them accountable and put my own feelings--of inclusion--on the table.

It seems that we spend a lot of time talking about covert bullying and what to do when it reaches disastrous proportions.  We now discuss disaster responses in our communities.  

But when these smaller things happen, should we be more proactive?  Is this enough?


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6. Bad Timing!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Sex and the YA Novel on my MFA blog 


Since then, there have been studies about one in four girls having STD's, Elliot Spitzer is now the former governor, and other politicians are lining up to confess.

Now an article sums it up.


It doesn't say anything we don't know, but I thought it was worth a link!

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7. A great school visit!

Last week, before I was hit by the monster flu, I had a great school visit with the writing group at our local high school's March Intensive.

This was a new experiment.  For four days, students got to choose one "intensive" topic of study.  Some went on trips to England or Costa Rico.  My daughter learned how to make stained glass windows.  There was dancing, art, science, politics, and of course, writing.  (Next year, I'm signing up for figure drawing!)

Anyway, the writers invited me for pizza and Q and A, and I thought their questions were a lot of fun to answer.  They made me justify my decisions, which really hasn't happened in a while.  And when I went home to write, I coughed up twenty pretty good pages.

So I'm passing them forward!  

The first out of the box:  Why do some writers describe their characters' physical appearance, while others don't?

Where do you find your settings?  Do you have one particuar place in mind, or do you always just make it up?  (This was a really great, since I've been struggling with setting...)

What does it mean, to become your protagonist?  How do you actually do that?

Do you have a writing routine?

How do you know you are done?

What happens when you don't know what to write next?

Do you ever throw away your work?  (big smile)

Their interests covered all genres.  It was really cool about sitting with a bunch of kids and listening to them recommend your friends' books!  We talked about film (of course) and the connection of writing and film directing (another of course).  They already knew all the mantras: show, don't tell, kill your darlings....we talked as writers talked.  

A great day!

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8. This week....

I will be posting on the Vermont College MFA Blog, [info]thru_the_booth. Check it out! I will be discussing my thesis, CINEMATIC TECHNIQUES IN NOVEL WRITING!!! Perfect, as we get ready for Oscars!

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9. 2008 starts off with a BANG!!!! Got internal arc??????

Good morning!

A school day has pre-empted a local book group from discussing HEAD CASE, so here I am.  I can post!  I have time!

Let's start with a little BSP!!

I am so thrilled that HEAD CASE was listed as a 2008 QUICK PICK FOR RELUCTANT READERS.  I am so proud!  This list means a lot to me, because as many of you know, I was a reluctant reader. 

See the list here;


Anyway, check it out!  So pleased to also see [info]jbknowles on this list...YAY Lessons!!!!

Now that we have that out of the way,,,,,

If you are looking for a retreat where you can talk


If you are free May 16-18.

We are accepting applications for the FIFTH ANNUAL NOVEL WRITING RETREAT AT VERMONT COLLEGE!!!!!

Louise Hawes
Marsha Qualey
Julie Romeis (Chronicle Books)

will be there.

Our theme is EMOTION!!!  

Want an internal arc????

Email me for a brochure........

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10. Looking back, looking ahead

Good morning!

I'm only a little late with my new year's resolutions, so here goes!  We'll make it short....ah, the power of THREE!


Looking back:
This year, I enjoyed a lot of FIRSTS.
....my son's bar mitzvah
....my novel released
....my wedding

Looking ahead:
....relaxation.  I VOW to rest.  To be good to myself.  To take time off!


Looking back:
I read some excellent books.  My favorites include:
Barry Lyga's Boy Toy
Gail Giles' Right Behind You
Emily Smith Pearce's Isabel and the Miracle Baby
AND OF COURSE, the amazing


...what great books and great people, all of them.  Too many to post.

Looking ahead:
I need to read MORE.
I can't wait to read THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE, by


which was released TODAY.  (more on that soon.....)
And I love being part of


....which everyone should check out.
and I need to update my website:  www.saraharonson.com...

check in soon...

NUMBER THREE (and last)

Eat more chocolate, but less of other things.
Feel good about the process, welcome new ideas.
clean the desk, clean the desk, clean the desk......

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11. Big Thrill

I am so pleased to tell you that the wonderful, Cynthia Leitich Smith, interviewed me.

Read it here!


Thanks so much, Cynthia!  I am thrilled and humbled to be included!

You can check out my interview of Cynthia (It is worth bookmarking) on the MFA blog:  [info]thru_the_booth 

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12. Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

 Hi everyone,

I just posted a great interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith on my MFA blog, thru_the_booth.

Find it at:



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13. Cross posting....with cut and paste!

If you have not seen my new LJ community:


please go check it out.

For those of you who would rather not click again, here is my post.  I'll be posting there all week on selling books.......

Let's Take A Detour

Good morning!

Up until now, the toll booth has focused on craft issues, so I thought it would be fun to use my week to take a DETOUR and explore what happens after you sell your book.

I work for Jewish Lights Publishing on the Sales/Marketing Team.  Essentially, my job is to get our books in the hands of readers: consumers AND booksellers.  Every week, I spend my time trying to get books out of the warehouse.  I help make programs and readers' guides.  I work directly with program organizers, teachers, and retail salespeople.

So let's start our week with a few observations about the bookselling world!

1.  No matter where a person buys a book--be it a store or Amazon--they usually buy it AFTER they see it on a bookstore or library shelf.  

2.  Consumers WANT to read your book.  Your sales and marketing staff is made up of people who LOVE books--who take pride in getting YOUR book into stores.  Reaching adults who work directly with kids is also important and fun. We have a great community.  I have yet to meet a librarian, teacher, writer, or bookseller who does not LOVE books!  They just need to find out about YOURS!  They WANT to know what you wrote.  (really!)

3.  Your publisher does A LOT--not a little--to sell your book.  They put your book in a catalog.  They attend shows.  They send your book out for reviews.  They hire salespeople to visit large and small booksellers.  They invest in YOU!

Are you smiling yet?
Or are you still feeling shy?

Let me tell you a story:

I attended a writing conference.  The organizer introduced every published author by name--and included the title of each book.  With each introduction, I watched the author stand half-way up and give a half-hearted, modest wave.  

This does not make this salesgirl happy!

I know we are all shy (well, not all of us...), but we need to be PROUD.  When it was my turn to speak, I told everyone to stand up.  Smile.  Shake hands.  Because the first rule of selling your book:

BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR BOOK.  (I'm not shouting, just being emphatic)

Don't stand half-way up! 

Introduce yourself as a writer.  Stand up tall.  Smile.  This doesn't mean you should brag.  There is a fine line (we'll talk about that later in the week), but remember...you have done an extraordinary thing--a miracle, really!  You have published a book.  Carry a business card with your bookjacket.  Tell people about your book.  Get a website!  Think about where the people who you want to read your book can find out about it--myspace?  livejournal? CLN? Jacketflap?

Shy? No time? 

Do one of those things.  Give people an easy way to find out about you and your book.  Thank the people who have bought your book.  Thank the people in the office who help sell your book.  (Sales staffs, in general, LOVE chocolate.)  

Don't get intimidated by the word, sales.  I don't think of myself as a sales person--I think of myself as a person who helps people find the resources they need.......that resource may be YOUR book.

So are we all feeling confident?  Excited?  Ready to do something to sell your book????

(That is my cliffhanger.)

This week:

Tomorrow:  specifics on what YOU can do to help your book
Wednesday: Interview with CYNTHIA LEITICH SMITH
Thursday:  Crossing the fine line--when to know you've gone too far  And impressions from San Diego (I'll be at a rabbinical convention selling books)
Friday: Answers to YOUR questions...post, please!  And if there are librarians, teachers, and booksellers out there, tell us: How do you find books?????

Have a great morning!
No speeding on the New England ice!

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14. Signings, speeches, and other stuff

Even though October was supposed to be the busy month, November is shaking up to be even more crazy.  Between wedding plans, signings, work travel, and three bar mitzvahs, I'm seriously scheduled.

Take a look!

Nov 6 (TONIGHT):  New Voices Reading at the Dartmouth Bookstore, Hanover, NH.  I'll be reading with ACE Bauer, Heather Tomlinson, Carrie Jones, Jo Knowles, and Greg Fishbone!

Nov 7:  We do it again at THE FLYING PIG, Elizabeth Bluemle's amazing bookstore in Essex, VT!!!  And she is bringing PIZZA!!!

NCTE goings on:  I'll be signing at the ROARING BROOK PRESS booth at 3pm on Saturday, Nov 18.  Prior to that, come hear an interesting lecture on Teaching with a Social Conscience.  

And on Sunday, Nov 19, I'll be wearing all three of my hats: writer, sales person, and consumer, in a lecture, "It's not what your publisher can do for you, but what you can do for your publisher," at the JEWISH CHILDREN'S WRITERS BOOK CONFERENCE at the 92nd St Y!  (If I didn't have a podium, I would have worn all my different SHOES....)

Dec 11-17: I'll be working the floor at the URJ Biennial in San Diego.  I have free time on Friday night and Saturday, so if anyone out there would like to talk books, please let me know!


Know a great DJ in Portsmouth, NH?  Please let me know.

This week, the official planning for the 4th (where does the time go) Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College begins..
So mark your calendars:  May 16-18.  

Get FREE copies of HEAD CASE!  Check out Book Chic on myspace or TeensReadToo for info!

And last: here is E's sermon!  I think it is awesome.  Enjoy the day!

Abraham’s binding of Isaac is one of the most confusing and discussed stories in the Torah.  In the parsha, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his youngest son, to God.  Abraham does not argue with God.  He doesn’t complain one bit.  He doesn’t ask God questions.  Instead, Abraham simply follows God’s commands.  He gets Isaac and takes him alone up the mountain.  The only thing he says to God is Hineini—Here I am.  Isaac asks where is the sacrifice.  When Abraham says, “God will provide,” Isaac goes along.  Without any argument, he follows his father up the mountain to be sacrificed to God.

It makes no sense.  God had told Abraham that he would found a whole generation—how could you do this if your only child was dead?  Abraham was already old—too old to have another son.  What kind of father would kill his own son?  What kind of son would walk up the hill knowing that he was going to be killed by his father?

It seems wrong, but no one says anything.

In the end, it works out.  A messenger of God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac.  A ram appears and Abraham sacrifices the animal instead of Isaac to God.

          I think Abraham must have felt extremely sad and scared.  He loved God, but he was Isaac’s father.  He had already sent his other son, Ishmael, away.  How could God ask him to do this?  How could God have thought that Abraham would do it?  God was not being fair.  He was asking something completely unreasonable.  It’s like they were both daring the other and neither one of them would back down.

          Do you think God wanted Abraham to back down?

          Do you think Abraham wanted God to back down?

          Luckily for us, the angel stopped Abraham.  I have a theory about this.  I think Sarah was the Angel.  Although we can’t know this for sure, I bet Abraham told his wife what he had been asked to do.  Or maybe God talked to Sarah.  We know that Sarah is dead when Abraham returns.  I think she died during the Akeda and rescued her son. 

          Moms do a lot of things to help their children.  Even in Harry Potter, Harry stays alive thanks to the magic of his mother’s love.  The only way Sarah could convince Abraham not to be obedient was to become a messenger of God—an angel.

          I think Abraham was a bit too obedient.  It’s good to be obedient, but not obedient enough to kill someone.  I think he took it too far, and that he was lucky that the Angel showed up.  I think the Torah is telling us that it’s dangerous to always just say yes. 

          I try to live by the rules.  I like rules, because without them, we would be disorganized.  I would be disorganized.  But sometimes, the rules are hard to follow.  Sometimes, they need to be challenged.  No one likes to admit they made a mistake, but sometimes we have to.  I think this parsha shows that God is okay with that.

          When you’re becoming a bar mitzvah, there are a lot of rules.  There are a lot of things you have to practice.  And you can’t always do what you want to do.  But you get a lot of joy from being part of the community and getting the task done.  When you get a bar mitzvah, you also earn the responsibility to ask questions.    

          I would like to thank:

          My mom and dad

          The rabbi

          All my teachers

          My sister, Michael and my entire family

          Everyone who came to share this day with me.




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15. The Boy Did It!

This weekend was E's bar mitzvah.

the baby is a man....well, technically.  

We had a great weekend.


The service.  He chanted beautifullly (I always wondered why we choose the exact moment when a kid's voice is changing to put him up on the bima all by himself....but really, it was endearing and honest and completely from the heart.)
His speech.  So good.  I might post it.  On not being TOO obedient.  And why he knows that Sarah was the Messenger of God who stopped Abraham from sacrificing their son, Isaac.
The party. We rented the entire bowling alley.  Pictures when they are ready.....
Seeing family.  And friends.  Special thanks to T and K for spending the weekend.....

And now.....

I can relax.

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16. Greetings from the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop!!!

Hi Everyone!

I am writing from the Himelaya Institute in Honesdale, PA, on a break from the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop.  I am lucky enough to be working as a TA under Tim Wynne-Jones and Carolyn Coman.  Tami Brown and Zu Vincent are here as well, along with some GREAT writers.  

It has already been VERY intense.

I am running the workshop.

It is a huge responsibility.  It is so easy to let a group get out of control, and when you are stuck in a cabin with no computer and no phone, you really need SUPPORT.  So we are giving out the LOVE as well as the suggestions, and I think everyone is thriving.  As a writer, I have taken this week to set new goals (to go along with my new part time work schedule--three cheers one more time).

We've also been focusing on teaching moments, and this has been really great.

But most, this is about friends.  And community.  And supporting each other in the process....

Anyway, I completely recommend doing this kind of thing.  Being able to hand over your SHITTY rough draft to a trusted reader is a privilege....and now I finally feel on my way..... Read the rest of this post

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17. You CAN come home again...

If you are in Eastern Pennsylvania this Thursday night,

come say HI at THE MORAVIAN BOOKSHOP in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

(my home town independent bookstore).

I am so excited to announce that I will be there with BARRY LYGA and classmate and pal, LAURA BOWERS.

Check my website: www.saraharonson.com to see the amazing poster!

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18. Democrats everywhere!!!

Last night, the Democrats came to my town for the big debate.

My observations:

SIGNAGE MATTERS.  The Hillary signs were big.  The Obama signs said HOPE.  Next to the Hilary signs, they looked like Hope for Hillary.  Not Obama.  My favorite sign: Stop Sununu.

Note: nothing on CHOICE.  Last night, it was all health care and spending.

PEOPLE ARE PSYCHED.  There was lots of media and lots of people.  M and I had a long talk with NBC's Tom MOnahan (Hartford syndacite).  Nice man.  Thoughtful.  (If you're reading, Tom, READ THE BOOK!!)


FRONT RUNNERS ARE CAUTIOUS.  The candidates with nothing to lose are free to say exactly what they want to.  (I loved Biden's comments on Guiliani.  Actually, I liked a lot of what he had to say.)

I stayed up too late.  I didn't clean my desk.  My "Henry Miller" chair should arrive today or tomorrow.  

Much to do...... Read the rest of this post

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19. Book Champions

Today at work we are discussing our season's book champions, or push books, and what we need to do to get the marketing going.

Of course, as a writer, I have mixed tummy rumbling feelings.

YES--a big book is a necessity for any house's success and actually does propel the sales of the other books.
YES--there are some books that simply lend themselves to programming and outreach, while others are more quiet and personal and require handselling, one book at a time.

NO--you can't push EVERY book with equal marketing power.


So I thought I would write today about how I determine a push book.  And I'm going to talk more about God's To-Do List, which I mentioned on Tuesday.
1.  There is a program that makes sense that encourages people to buy IN BULK.  Ron structured his book into ten chapters, one for each day of the Days of Awe.  Communities reading the book together are asked to read a chapter a day.  During Yom Kippur, the rabbi can talk about the book, the process, and the community's goals, which are built into the book.
2.  The author is dynamic.  Ron is amazing.  He travels.  He speaks well. People relate to him.
3.  The message of the book strikes a timely chord.  I didn't realize how true this was for GTDL until I heard Ron speak at the recent CAJE conference.  People were nodding, crying, laughing, holding each other.  They  had been clearly looking for a way to express the sentiments of the book.  Now they had a way.

Is that helpful to anyone?  Ask your q's.  I'll add more thoughts next week...

CHEERS!  Have a great weekend! 

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20. The book is out, the hiatus is over

It's a big day.
Head Case is available!!  You can buy it!!!  (If you see it on an actual shelf, please let me know...pictures would be appreciated, but not mandatory!)  I'm so grateful to all my writing friends, teachers, and the people at Roaring Brook. 

Also, not so momentous to anyone but myself:
After a very much needed hiatus from all things internet, it is time to blog again.  My decision not to blog was not political at all (as many people have asked)...just a need to rest.  Seriously,  I really needed to rest.  After so many months of constant work, it felt great to get away and play.  With the kids. And words.  

I think I was feeling something like burn-out.  When volunteers over do it, I call it "the liability of caring."  People who volunteer too much often experience stress and thus bitterness when their sacrifice begins to carve into their lives.  They begin to resent the place we care about the most.

I didn't want to feel that way!  But I knew the signs!

So my Jewish New Year resolution goes like this: Achieve BALANCE.  Write.  Work.  Play.  Rest.  Read the books on the gigantic pile next to my bed.   This year, as many of you know, I've had the pleasure of helping to market and sell Ron Wolfson's GOD'S TO DO LIST.  It's a great book that talks about what we can do to repair the world.  We can do the very things God does in the Torah to make our world better.  It's a simple message, one that is appropriate this time of year and for all people, for all faiths.

Part of the balance: Make this blog purposeful!
Tuesdays: I'll stick to craft.
Thursdays: REading and my other hat, the shop girl's life....

Enjoy the week!

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21. Greetings from St Louis!!!!!

I am selling books this week at the CAJE conference, always a great event, always filled with tons of people who LOVE books.

It is a lot of fun helping people find the right book.  And seeing people who, for the rest of the year, I work with over the phone.

I'm sure I posted this last year, but here are my observations (and pardon me, if they are totally naive!):

People love to touch books, but they never buy the one they're touching, unless it's the last one.
People leave a mess!
They ask questions about one book, then buy another.
The discount..what's the discount?
People worry more about the bargain box books--they really study it--more than the full price books.
NO ONE has left saying, "I can get this at Amazon!"
After our most exciting author spoke, our booth like we're the Rolling Stones! 

So how do you become that most exciting author?

It was really great listening to Ron speak last night.
What I heard:
He is sincere/He believes what he is saying and what he has written/ He has come up with a program that people really want to use.  They really love it! They don't have to be sold.  It makes sense!/ He knows his audience./ Did I say he is the nicest guy????/He gave me, the sales staff, a program we could develop and market.

Two more days to go.  I'm wiped, but it's fun.  
Home on Friday!!!

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22. Flying first class

Well, if you have to spend an entire day in an airplane (well,,,actually three airplanes), it's nice to fly first class.  Especially when you are feeling a little older than you did the day before.  (Yesterday, I picked up my first pair of PROGRESSIVE LENSES.)


All the cookies you can eat.
Drinks, even before the plane takes off.
Room to stretch.
Time to read.  I've been saving K A Nuzum's A SMALL WHITE SCAR, for this flight.  By all accounts, it is wonderful.

If you need something wonderful to read this weekend, I just finished THE WEDNESDAY WARS, by Gary Schmidt.  It was one of those books I did not want to finish--it was a pleasure to read.  Great protag.  Lots of texture.  Vivid and meaningful sense of place.  I just found out that Gary is teaching at Hamline.  This week, I'll be selling many copies of a pb he wrote with Larry Kushner, IN GOD'S HANDS.  A wonderful retelling of an old tale.

And cross your fingers for good air conditioning in St Louis.....

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23. Flying first class

Well, if you have to spend an entire day in an airplane (well,,,actually three airplanes), it's nice to fly first class.  Especially when you are feeling a little older than you did the day before.  (Yesterday, I picked up my first pair of PROGRESSIVE LENSES.)


All the cookies you can eat.
Drinks, even before the plane takes off.
Room to stretch.
Time to read.  I've been saving K A Nuzum's A SMALL WHITE SCAR, for this flight.  By all accounts, it is wonderful.

If you need something wonderful to read this weekend, I just finished THE WEDNESDAY WARS, by Gary Schmidt.  It was one of those books I did not want to finish--it was a pleasure to read.  Great protag.  Lots of texture.  Vivid and meaningful sense of place.  I just found out that Gary is teaching at Hamline.  This weekend, I'll be selling many copies of a pb he wrote with Larry Kushner, IN GOD'S HANDS.  A wonderful retelling of an old tale.

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24. Interesting article.

Here's the

What do you do to stimulate unconscious thought for your writing?

Some things that I do:

collect props that remind me of my character.  I put them on the window sill in front of my desk before I start writing.
find a word that captures the main emotional arc or drive of the book
music (right now, I'm listening to a lot of Mozart and odd jazz!)
Walk.  Look around.  Use what I see to help stimulate a sticky chapter/scene.

I have four quiet days before the crazy month of August begins.

Which leads me to a second question:

Do you know of any great restaurants in St Louis?

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25. Whole Novel Workshop

You know there is nothing I like more than an intense writing retreat, so I am THRILLED to be able to make this announcement:

This October, Carolyn Coman and Tim Wynne-Jones will be offering a whole novel workshop at the Highlights Foundation.

It is a fantastic opportunity to jump into the writing/revision process with two masters of the craft.

Lucky me--I will be the TA for the week!

If you are interested, please check out the website now. They will only take eight writers, and applications and writing samples are due soon.

Please ask me any questions about this opportunity to develop as a writer!   And according to good sources, Honesdale is gorgeous.  The food is great, and the experience inspiring and motivating.

Email me with questions.....

The link:

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